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Title:      The  Courtship of Morrice Buckler
Author:     A. E. W. Mason
eBook No.:  0500871.txt
Edition:    1
Language:   English
Character set encoding:     Latin-1(ISO-8859-1)--8 bit
Date first posted:          September 2005
Date most recently updated: December 2007

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Title:      The  Courtship of Morrice Buckler
Author:     A. E. W. Mason


It chanced that as I was shifting the volumes in my library this morning,
more from sheer fatigue of idleness than with any set intention--for,
alas this long time since I have lost the savour of books--a little
Elzevir copy of Horace fell from the back of a shelf between my hands. It
lay in my palm, soiled and faded with the dust of twenty years; and as I
swept clean its cover and the edges of the leaves, the look and feel of
it unlocked my mind to such an inrush of glistening memories that I
seemed to be sweeping those years and the overlay of their experience
from off my consciousness. I lived again in that brief but eventful
period which laid upon the unaccustomed shoulders of a bookish student a
heavy burden of deeds, but gave him in compensation wherewith to reckon
the burden light.

The book fell open of its own accord at the Palinodia at Tyndaridem. On
the stained and fingered leaf facing the ode I could still decipher the
plan of Lukstein Castle, and as I gazed, that blurred outline filled
until it became a picture. I looked into the book as into a magician's
crystal. The great angle of the building, the level row of windows, the
red roofs of the turrets, the terrace, and the little pinewood pavilion,
all were clearly limned before my eyes, and were overswept by changing
waves of colour. I saw the Castle as on the first occasion of my coming,
hung disconsolately on a hill-side in a far-away corner of the Tyrol, a
black stain upon a sloping wilderness of snow; I saw it again under a
waning moon in the stern silence of a frosty night, as each window grew
angry with a tossing glare of links; but chiefly I saw it as when I rode
thither on my last memorable visit, sleeping peacefully above the
cornfields in the droning Sabbath of a summer afternoon. I turned my eyes
to the ode. The score of my pencil was visible against the last verse

Nunc ego mitibus
Mutare qunro tristia don mihi
Fias recantatis amica
Opprobriis animumque reddas.

On the margin beside the first line was the date, Sept 14, 1685, and
beneath the verse yet another date, Sept. 12, 1687. And as I looked, it
came upon me that I would set down with what clearness I might the record
of those two years, in the hope that my memories might warm and cheer
these later days of loneliness, much as the afterglow lingers purple on
yonder summit rocks when the sun has already sunk behind the Cumberland
fells. For indeed that short interspace of time shines out in my
remembrance like a thick thread of gold in a woof of homespun. I would
not, however, be understood to therefore deprecate the quiet years of
happiness which followed. The two years of which I speak in their actual
passage occasioned me more anxiety and suffering than happiness. But they
have a history of their own. They mark out a portion of my life whereof
the two dates in my Horace were the beginning and the end, and the verse
between the dates, strangely enough, its best epitome.

It was, then, the fourteenth day of September, 1685, and the time a few
minutes past noon. Jack Larke, my fellow student at the University of
Leyden, and myself had but just returned to our lodging in that street of
the town which they call the Pape-Graft. We were both fairly wearied, for
the weather was drowsy and hot, and one had little stomach for the
Magnificus Professor, the more particularly when he discoursed concerning
the natural philosophy of Pliny.

"'Tis all lies, every jot of it it!" cried Larke. "If I wrote such
nonsense I should be whipped for a heretic. And yet I must sit there and
listen and take notes until my brain reels."

"You sit there but seldom, Jack," said I, "and never played yourself so
false as to listen; while as for the notes--!"

I took up his book which he had flung upon the table. It contained naught
but pictures of the Professor in divers humiliating attitudes, with John
Larke ever towering above him, his honest features twisted into so
heroical an expression of scorn as set me laughing till my sides ached.

He snatched the book from my hand, and flung it into a corner. "There!"
said he. "It may go to the dust-hole and Pliny with it, to rot in
company." And the Latin volume followed the note-book. Whereupon, with a
sigh of relief, he lifted a brace of pistols from a shelf, and began
industriously to scour and polish them, though indeed their locks and
barrels shone like silver as it was. For my part, I plumped myself down
before this very ode of Horace; and so for a while, each in his own way,
we worked silently. Ever and again, however, he would look up and towards
me, and then, with an impatient shrug, settle to his task again. At last
he could contain no longer.

"Lord!" he burst out, "what a sick world it is! Here am I, fitted for a
roving life under open skies, and plucked out of God's design by the want
of a few pence."

"You may yet sit on the bench," said I, to console him.

"Ay, lad," he answered, "I might if I had sufficient roguery to supply my
lack of wits." Then he suddenly turned on me. "And here are you," he
said, "who could journey east and west, and never sleep twice beneath the
same roof, breaking your back mewed up over a copy of Horace!"

At that moment I was indeed stretched full-length upon a sofa, but I had
no mind to set him right. The tirade was passing old to me, and replies
were but fresh fuel to keep it flickering. However, he had not yet done.

"I believe," he continued, "you would sooner solve a knot in Aristotle
than lead out the finest lady in Europe to dance a pavan with you."

"That is true," I replied. "I should be no less afraid of her than you of

"Morrice." said he solemnly, "I do verily believe you have naught but
fish-blood in your veins."

Whereat I laughed, and he, coming over to me,--"Why, man," he cried,
"had I your fortune on my back--"

"You would soon find it a ragged cloak," I interposed.

"And your sword at my side--"

"You would still lack my skill in using it."

Larke stopped short in his speech, and his face darkened.

I had touched him in the tenderest part of his pride. Proficiency in
manly exercises was the single quality on which he plumed himself, and so
he had made it his daily habit to repair to the fencing-rooms of a noted
French master, who dwelt in Noort-Eynde by the Witte Poort. Thither also,
by dint of much pertinacity, for which I had grave reason to thank him
afterwards, he had haled me for instruction in the art. Once I got there,
however, the play fascinated me. The delicate intricacy of the movements
so absorbed brain and muscle in a common service as to produce in me an
inward sense of completeness, very sweet and strange to one of my halting
indifference. In consequence I applied myself with considerable
enthusiasm, and in the end acquired some nimbleness with the rapier, or,
to speak more truly, the foil. For as yet my skill had never been put to
the test of a serious encounter.

Now, in the previous day Larke and I had fenced together throughout the
afternoon, and fortune had sided with me in every bout; and it was, I
think, the recollection of this which rankled within him. However, the
fit soon passed--'twas not in his nature to be silent long--and he
broke out again, seating himself in a chair by the table.

"Dost never dream of adventures, Morrice?" he asked. "A life brimful of
them, and a quick death at the end?"

"I had as lief die in my bed," said I.

"To be sure, to be sure," he replied with a sneer. "Men ever wish to die
in the place they are most fond of;" and then he leant forward upon the
table and said with a curious wonder: "Hast never a regret that thy sword
rusted in June?"

"Nay," I answered him quickly. "Monmouth was broken and captured before
we had even heard he had raised his flag. And, besides, the King had
stouter swords than mine, and yet no use for them."

But none the less I turned my face to the wall, for I felt my cheeks
blazing. My words were indeed the truth. The same packet which brought to
us the news of Monmouth's rising in the west, brought to us also the news
of his defeat at Sedgemoor. But I might easily have divined his project
some while ago. For early in the spring I had received a visit from one
Ferguson, a Scot, who, after uttering many fantastical lies concerning
the "Duke of York," as he impudently styled the King, had warned me that
such as failed to assist the true monarch out of the funds they possessed
might well find themselves sorely burdened in the near future. At the
time I had merely laughed at the menace, and slipped it from my thoughts.
Afterwards, however, the remembrance of his visit came back to me, and
with it a feeling of shame that I had lain thus sluggishly at Leyden
while this monstrous web of rebellion was a-weaving about me in the
neighbouring towns of Holland.

"Art more of a woman than a man, Morrice, I fear me," said Jack.

I had heard some foolish talk of this kind more than once before, and it
ever angered me. I rose quickly from the couch: but Jack skipped round
the table, and jeered yet the more.

"Wilt never win a wife by fair means, lad," says he. "The muses are
women, and women have no liking for them. Must buy a wife when the time

Perceiving that his aim was but to provoke my anger, I refrained from
answering him and got me back to my ode. The day was in truth too hot for
quarrelling. Larke, however, was not so easily put off. He returned to
his chair, which was close to my couch.

"Horace!" he said gravely, wagging his head at me. "Horace! There are
wise sayings in his book."

"What know you of them?" I laughed.

"I know one," he answered. "I learnt it yesternight for thy special
delectation. It begins in this way.--

"Quem si puellarum choro inseres."

He got no further in his quotation. For he tilted his chair at this
moment, and I thrusting at it with my foot, he tumbled over backwards and
sprawled on the ground, swearing at great length.

"Wilt never win a wife by fair means for all that," he spluttered.

"Then 'tis no more than prudence in me to wed my books."

So I spake, and hot on the heels of my saying came the message which
divorced me from them for good and all. For as Larke still lay upon the
floor, a clatter of horse's hoofs came to us through the open window. The
sound stopped at our door. Larke rose hastily, and leaned out across the

"It is an Englishman," he cried. "He comes to us."

The next moment a noise of altercation filled the air. I could hear the
shrill speech of our worthy landlady, and above it a man's voice in the
English dialect, growing ever louder and louder as though the violence of
his tone would translate his meaning. I followed Larke to the window. The
quiet street was alive with peeping faces, and just beneath us stood the
reason of the brawl, a short, thick-set man, whose face was hidden by a
large flapping hat. His horse stood in the roadway in a hither of spume.
For some reason, doubtless the excitement of his manner, our hostess
would not let him pass into the house. She stood solidly filling the
doorway, and for a little it amused us to watch the man's vehement
gesticulations; so little thought had we of the many strange events which
were to follow from his visit. In a minute, however, he turned his face
towards us, and I recognised him as Nicholas Swasfield, the body-servant
of my good friend, Sir Julian Harnwood.

"Let him up!" I cried. "Let him up!"

"Yes, woman, let him up!" repeated Larke, and turning to me: "He hath
many choice and wonderful oaths, and I fain would add them to my store."

Thereupon the woman drew reluctantly aside, and Swasfield bounded past
her into the passage. We heard him tumble heavily up the dark stairway,
cursing the country and its natives, and then with a great bump of his
body he burst open the door and lurched into the room. At the sight of me
he brake into a glad cry,--"Sir Julian, my master," he gasped, and
stopped dead.

"Well, what of him?" I asked eagerly.

But he answered never a word; he stood mopping his brows with a great
blue handkerchief, which hid his face from us. 'Tis strange how clearly I
remember that handkerchief. It was embroidered at the corners with
anchors in white cotton, and it recurred to me with a quaint irrelevancy
that the man had been a sailor in his youth.

"Well, what of him?" I asked again with some sharpness. "Speak, man! You
had words and to spare below."

"He lies in Bristol jail," at last he said, heaving great breaths between
his words, "and none but you can serve his turn."

With that he tore at his shirt above his heart, and made a little
tripping run to the table. He clutched at its edge and swayed forward
above it, his head loosely swinging between his shoulders.

"Hurry!" he said in a thick, strangled voice. "Assizes --twenty-first--

And with a sudden convulsion he straightened himself, stood for a second
on the tips of his toes, with the veins ridged on his livid face like
purple weals, and then fell in a huddled lump on the floor. I sprang to
the stair-head and shouted for some one to run for a doctor. Jack was
already loosening the man's shirt.

"It is a fit," he said, clasping a hand to his heart.

Luckily my bedroom gave onto the parlour, and between us we carried him
within and laid him gently on my bed. His eyelids were open and his eyes
fixed, but turned inwards, so that one saw but the whites of them, while
a light froth oozed through his locked teeth.

"He will die." I cried.

A ewer of water stood by the bedside, and this I emptied over his head
and shoulders, drowning the sheets, but to no other purpose. Our landlady
fetched up a bottle of Dutch schnapps, which was the only spirit the
house contained, but his jaws were too fast closed for us to open them.
So we stood all three watching him helplessly, while those last words of
his drummed at my heart. Jeffries! I knew enough of the bloody work he
had taken in hand that summer to assure me there would be short shrift
for Julian had he meddled in Monmouth's affairs. On the other hand, I
reflected, if such indeed was my friend's case, wherein could I prove of
effectual help? "None but you can serve his turn," the fellow had  said.
Could Julian have fallen under another charge? I was the more inclined to
this conjecture, for that Julian had been always staunchly loyal to the
King, and, moreover, a constant figure at the Court.

However, 'twas all idle guess-work, and there before my eyes was
stretched the one man who could have disclosed the truth, struck down in
the very tolling of his story! I began to fear that he would die before
the surgeon came. For he breathed heavily with a horrid sound like a dog

All at once a thought flashed into my mind. He might have brought a
letter from Julian's hand. I searched his pockets on the instant; they
held nothing but a few English coins and some metal charms, such as the
ignorant are wont to carry on their persons to preserve them from

While I was thus engaged the doctor was ushered into the room, very
deliberate in manner, and magnificent in his dress. Erudition was marked
in the very cock of his wig. I sprang towards him.

"Make him speak, Mynheer!" I implored. "He hath a message to deliver, and
it cannot wait."

But he put me aside with a wave of his hand and advanced towards the bed,
pursing his lips and frowning as one sunk in a profundity of thought.

"Can you make him speak?" I asked again with some impatience. But again
he merely waved his hand, and taking a gilt box from his pocket, inhaled
a large pinch of snuff. Then he turned to Larke, who stood holding the
bottle of schnapps.

"Tell me, young gentleman," he said severely, "what time the fit took
him, and the manner of his seizure!"

Larke informed him hastily of what had passed, and he listened with much
sage bobbing of his head. Then to our hostess,--

"My assistant is below, and hath my instruments. Send him up!"

He turned to us. “I will bleed him," he said. "For what saith the learned
Hippocrates?" Whereupon he mouthed out a rigmarole of Latin phrases,
wherein I could detect neither cohesion nor significance.

"Leave him to me, gentlemen!" he continued with a third flourish of his
wrist. "Leave him to me and Hippocrates!"

"Which we do," I replied, "with the more confidence in that Hippocrates
had so much foreknowledge of the Latin tongue."

And so we got us back to the parlour. How the minutes dragged! Through
the door I could still hear the noise of the man's breathing; and now and
again the light clink of instruments and a trickling sound as of blood
dripping into a basin. I paced impatiently about the room, while Jack sat
him down at the table and began loading his pistols.

"The twenty-first!" I exclaimed, “and this day is the fourteenth. Seven
days, Jack! It have but seven days to win from here to Bristol."

I went to the window and leaned out. Swasfield's horse was standing
quietly in the road, tethered by the bridle to a tree.

"Canst do it, Morrice, if the wind holds fair," replied Jack. "Heaven
send a wind!" and he rose from the table and joined me. Together we
stretched out to catch the least hint of a breeze. But not a breath came
to us; not a tree shimmered, not a shadow stirred. The world slumbered in
a hot stupor. It seemed you might have felt the air vibrate with the
passage of a single bird.

Of a sudden Larke cried out,--"Art sure 'tis the fourteenth to-day?"

With that we scrambled back into the room and searched for a calendar.

"Ay, lad!" he said ruefully as he discovered it; "'tis the fourteenth,
not a doubt of it."

I flung myself dejectedly on the couch. The volume of Horace lay open by
my hand, and I took it up, and quite idly, with no thought of what I was
doing, I wrote this date and the name of the month and the date of the
year on the margin of the page.

"Lord!" exclaimed Jack, flinging up his hands. "At the books again? Hast
no boots and spurs?"

I slipped the book into my pocket, and sprang to my feet. In the heat of
my anxiety I had forgotten everything but this half-spoken message. But,
or ever I could make a step, the door of the bedroom opened and the
surgeon stepped into the room.

"Can he speak now?" I asked.

"The fit has not passed," says he.

"Then in God's name, what ails the man?" cries Larke.

"It is a visitation," says the doctor, with an upward cast of his eyes.

"It is a canting ass of a doctor," I yelled in a fury, and I clapped my
hat on my head.

"Your boots?" cried Larke.

"I'll e'en go in my shoes," I shouted back.

I snatched up one of Jack's pistols, rammed it into my pocket and so
clattered downstairs and into the street. I untied Swasfield's horse and
sprang on to its back.


I looked up. Jack was leaning out from the window.

"Morrice," he said whimsically, and with a very wining smile, "art not so
much of a woman after all."

I dug my heels into the horse's flanks and so rode out at a gallop
beneath the lime-trees to Rotterdam.


AT Rotterdam I was fortunate enough to light upon a Dutch skipper whose
ship was anchored in the Texel, and who purposed sailing that very night
for the Port of London. For a while, indeed, he scrupled to set me over,
my lack of equipment--for I had not so much with me as a clean shirt--
and my great haste to be quit of the country firing his suspicions.
However, I sold Swasfield's horse to the keeper of a tavern by the
waterside, and adding the money I got thereby to what I held in my
pockets, I presently persuaded him; and a light wind springing up about
midnight, we weighed anchor and stood out for the sea.

That my purse was now empty occasioned me no great concern, since my
cousin, Lord Elmscott, lived at London, in a fine house in Monmouth
Square, and I doubted not but what I could instantly procure from him the
means to enable me to continue my journey. I was, in truth, infinitely
more distressed by the tardiness of our voyage, for towards sunrise the
wind utterly died away, and during the next two days we lay becalmed,
rocking lazily upon the swell. On the afternoon of the third, being the
seventeenth day of the mouth, a breeze filled our sheets, and we made
some progress, although our vessel, which was a ketch and heavily loaded,
was a slow sailer at the best. But during the night the breeze quickened
into a storm, and, blowing for twelve hours without intermission or
abatement, drove us clean from our course, so that on the morning of the
eighteenth we were scurrying northwards before it along the coast of

The last misadventure cast me into the very bottom of despair. I knew
that if I were to prove of timely help in Julian's deliverance, I must
needs reach Bristol before his trial commenced, the which seemed now
plainly impossible; and, atop of this piece of knowledge, my ignorance of
the nature of his calamity, and of the service he desired of me, worked
in my blood like a fever.

For Julian and myself were linked together in a very sweet and intimate
love. I could not, an I tried, point to its beginning. It seemed to have
been native within us from our births. We took it from our fathers before
us, and when they died we counted it no small part of our inheritance.
Our estates, you should know, lay in contiguous valleys of the remote
county of Cumberland, and thus we lived out our boyhood in a secluded
comradeship. Seldom a day passed but we found a way to meet. Mostly
Julian would come swinging across the fells, his otter-dogs yapping at
his heels, and all the fresh morning in his voice. Together we would
ramble over the slopes, bathe in the tarns and kelds, hunt, climb, argue,
ay, and fight too, when we were gravelled for lack of arguments; so that
even now, each time that I turn my feet homewards after a period of
absence, and catch the first glimpse of these brown hill-sides, they
become bright and populous with the rich pageantry of our boyish fancies.

But my clearest recollections of those days centre about Scafell, and a
certain rock upon the Pillar Mountain in Ennerdale. A common share of
peril is surely the stoutest bond of comradeship. You may find exemplars
in the story of well-nigh every battle. But to hang half-way up a sheer
cliff in the chill eerie silence, where a slip of the heel, a falter of
the numbed fingers, would hurl both your companion and yourself upon the
stones a hundred yards below--ah, that turns the friend into something
closer than even a frère d'armes. At least, so it was with Julian and me.

I think, too, that the very difference between us helped to fortify our
love. Each felt the other the complement of his nature. And in later
times, when Julian would come down from the Court to Oxford, tricked out
in some new French fashion, and with all sorts of fantastical conceits
upon his tongue, my rooms seemed to glow as with a sudden shaft of
sunlight; and after that he had gone I was ever in two minds whether to
send for a tailor, and follow him to Whitehall.

But to return to my journey. On the nineteenth we changed our course, and
tacked back to the mouth of the Thames. But it was not until the evening
of the twentieth that we cast anchor by London Bridge. From the ship I
hurried straight to the house of my cousin, Lord Elmscott, who resided in
Monmouth Square, to the north of the town, being minded to borrow a horse
of him and some money, and ride forthwith to Bristol. The windows,
however, were dark, not a light glimmered anywhere; and knock with what
noise I might, for a while I could get no answer to my summons.

At last, just as I was turning away in no little distress of mind--for
the town was all strange to me, and I knew no one else to whom I could
apply at that late hour--a feeble shuffling step sounded in the passage.
I knocked again, and as loudly as I could; the steps drew nearer the
bolts were slowly drawn from their sockets, and the door opened. I was
faced by an old man in a faded livery, who held a lighted candle in his
hand. Behind him the hall showed black and solitary.

"I am Mr. Morrice Buckler," said I, "and I would have a word with my
cousin, Lord Elmscott."

The old man shook his head dolefully.

"Nay, sir," he replied in a thin, quavering voice, "you do ill to seek
him here. At White's perchance you may light on him, or at Wood's, in
Pall Mall--I know not. But never in his own house while there is a pack
of cards abroad."

I waited not to hear the rest of his complaint, but dashed down the steps
and set off westwards at a run. I crossed a lonely and noisome plain
which I have since heard is named the pest-field, for that many of the
sufferers in the late plague are buried there, and came out at the top of
St James' Street. There a stranger pointed out to me White's

"Is Lord Elmscott within?" I asked of an attendant as I entered.

For reply he looked me over coolly from head to fool.

"And what may be your business with Lord Ehnscott?" he asked, with a

In truth I must have cut but a sorry figure in his eyes, for I was all
dusty and begrimed with my five days' travel. But I thought not of that
at the time.

"Tell him," said I, "that his cousin, Morrice Buckler, is here, and must
needs speak with him," Whereupon the man's look changed to one of pure
astonishment. "Be quick, fellow," I cried, stamping my foot; and with a
humble "crave your pardon," he hurried off upon the message. A door stood
at the far end of the room, and through this he entered, leaving it ajar.
In a moment I heard my cousin's voice, loud and boisterous,--"Show him
in! 'Od's wounds, he may change my luck."

With that I followed him. 'Twas a strange sight to me. The room was
small, and the floor so thickly littered with cards that it needed the
feel of your foot to assure you it was carpeted. A number of gallants in
a great disorder of dress stood about a little table whereat were seated
a youth barely, I should guess, out of his teens, his face pale, but very
indifferent and composed, and over against him my cousin. Elmscott's
black peruke was all awry, his cheeks flushed, and his eyes bloodshot and

"Morrice," he cried, "what brings you here in this plight? I believe the
fellow took you for a bailiff, and, on my life," he added, surveying me,
"I have not the impudence to blame him." Thereupon he addressed himself
to the company. "This, gentlemen," says he, "is my cousin, Mr. Morrice
Buckler, a very worthy--bookworm."

They all laughed as though there was some wit in the ill-mannered sally;
but I had no time to spare for taking heed of their foolishness.

"You can do me a service," I said eagerly.

"You give me news," Elmscott laughed. “'Tis a strange service that I can
render. Well, what may it be?"

"I need money for one thing, and--" A roar of laughter broke in upon my

"Money!" cried Elmscott. "Lord, that any one should come to me for
money!" and he leaned back in his chair laughing as heartily as the best
of them. "Why, Morrice, it's all gone--all gone into the devil's
whirlpool. Howbeit," he went on, growing suddenly serious, "I will make a
bargain with you. Stand by my side here, I have it in my mind that you
will bring me luck. Stand by my side, and in return, if I win, I will
lend you what help I may."

"Nay, cousin," said I, "my business will not wait."

"Nor mine," he replied, "nor mine. Stand by me! I shall not be long. My
last stake's on the table."

He seized hold of my aim as he spoke with something of prayer in his
eyes, and reluctantly I consented. In truth, I knew not what else to do.
'Twas plain he was in no mood to hearken to my request, even if he had
the means to grant it.

"That's right, lad!" he bawled, and then to the servant: "Brandy! Brandy,
d'ye hear! And a great deal of it! Now, gentlemen, you will see. Mr
Buckler is a student of Leyden. 'Tis full time that some good luck should
come to us from Holland."

And he turned him again to the table. His pleasantry was received with an
uproarious merriment, which methought it hardly merited. But I have noted
since that round a gaming-table, so tense is the spirit which it
engenders, the poorest jest takes the currency of wit.

I was at first perplexed by the difference of the stakes. Before my
cousin lay a pair of diamond buckles, but no gold, not so much as a
single guinea-piece. All that there was of that metal lay in scattered
heaps beside his opponent.

Lord Elmscott dealt the hands--the game was écarte --and the other
nodded his request for cards. Looking over my cousin's shoulder I could
see that he held but one trump, the ten, and a tierce to the king in
another suit. For a little he remained without answering, glancing
indecisively from his cards to the face of his player. At last, with a
touch of defiance in his voice,--"No!" he said. 'Tis no hand to play on,
but I'll trust to chance."

"As you will," nodded the other, and he led directly into Elmscott's
suit. Every one leaned eagerly forward, but each trick fell to my cousin,
and he obtained the vole.

"There! I told you," he cried.

His opponent said never a word, but carelessly paid a tinkling pile of
coins across the table. And so the play went on; at the finish of each
game a stream of gold drifted over to Lord Elmscott. It seemed that he
could not lose. If he played the eight, his companion would follow with
the seven.

"He hath the devil at his back now," said one of the bystanders.

"Pardon me!" replied my cousin very politely. "You insult Mr.Buckler. I
am merely fortified with the learning of Leyden;" and he straightway
marked the king. After a time the room fell to utter silence, even
Elmscott stopped his outbursts. A strange fascination caught and enmeshed
us all; we strained forward, holding our breaths as we watched the hands,
though each man, I think, was certain what the end would be. For myself,
I honestly struggled against this devilish enchantment, but to little
purpose. The flutter of the cards made my heart leap. I sought to picture
to myself the long dark road I had to traverse, and Julian in his prison
at the end of it. I saw nothing but the faces of the players, Elmscott's
flushed and purple, his opponent's growing paler and paler, while his
eyes seemed to retreat into his head and the pupils of them to burn like
points of fire. I loaded myself with reproaches and abuse, but the words
ran through my heads in a meaningless sequence, and were tuned to a clink
of gold.

And then an odd fancy came over me. In the midst of the yellow heap, ever
increasing, on our side of the table, lay the pair of diamond buckles. I
could see rays of an infinite variety of colours spirting out like little
jets of flame, as the light caught the stones, and I felt a queer
conviction that Elmscott's luck was in some way bound up with them. So
strongly did the whim possess me that I lifted them from the table to
test my thought. For so long as took the players to play two games, I
held the buckles in my hands; and both games my cousin lost. I replaced
them on the table, and he began to win once more with the old regularity,
the heaps dwindling there and growing here, until at length all the money
lay silted at my cousin's hand. You might have believed that a spell had
been suddenly lifted from the company. Faces relaxed and softened, eyes
lost their keen light, feet shuffled in a new freedom, and the heavy
silence was torn by a Babel of voices. Strangely enough, all joined with
Elmscott in attributing his change of fortune to my presence. Snuff-boxes
were opened and their contents pressed upon me, and I think that I might
have dined at no cost of myself for a full twelve months had I accepted
the invitations I received. But the cessation of the play had waked me to
my own necessities, and I turned to my cousin.

"Now," said I, but I got no further, for he exclaimed,--"Not yet,
Morrice! There's my house in Monmouth Square."

"Your house?" I repeated.

"There's the manor of Silverdale."

"You have not lost that?" I cried.

"Every brick of it," says he.

"Then," says I in a quick passion, "you must win them back as best you
may. I'll bide no longer."

"Nay, lad!" he entreated, laying hold of my sleeve. "You cannot mean
that. See, when you came in, I had but these poor buckles left. They were
all my fortune. Stay but for a little. For if you go you take all my luck
with you. I am deadly sure of it."

"I have stayed too long as it is," I replied, and wrenched myself free
from his grasp.

"Well, take what money you need! But you are no more than a stone," he

"The philosopher's stone, then," said I, and I caught up a couple of
handfuls of gold and turned on my heel. But with a sudden cry I stopped.
For as I turned, I glanced across the table to his opponent, and I saw
his face change all in a moment to a strangely gray and livid colour. And
to make the sight yet more ghastly, he still sat bolt upright in his
chair, without a gesture, without a motion, a figure of marble, save that
his eyes still burned steadily beneath his brows.

"Great God!" I cried. "He is dying."

"It is the morning." he said in a quiet voice, which had yet a very
thrilling resonance, and it flashed across me with a singular uneasiness
that this was the first time that he had spoken during all those hours.

I turned towards the window, which was behind my cousin's chair. Through
a chink of the curtains a pale beam of twilight streamed full on to the
youth's face. So long as I had stood by Elmscott's side, my back had
intercepted it; but as I moved away I had uncovered the window, arid it
was the gray light streaming from it which had given to him a complexion
of so deathly and ashen a colour. I flung the curtains apart, and the
chill morning flooded the room. One shiver ran through the company like a
breeze through a group of aspens, and it seemed to me that on the instant
every one had grown old. The heavy gildings, the yellow glare of the
candles, the gaudy hangings about the walls, seen in that pitiless light,
appeared inexpressibly pretentious and vulgar; and the gentlemen with
their leaden cheeks, their disordered perukes, and the soiled finery of
their laces and ruffles, no more, than the room's fitting complement. A
sickening qualm of disgust shot through me; the very air seemed to have
grown acrid and stale; and yet, in spite of all I stayed--to my shame be
it said, I stayed. However, I paid for the fault--nay, ten times over,
in the years that were to come. For as I halted at the door to make my
bow--my fingers were on the very handle--I perceived Lord Elmscott with
one foot upon his chair, and the buckles in his hand. My presentiment
came back to me with the conviction of a creed. I knew--I knew that if
he failed to add those jewels to his stake, he would leave the
coffee-house as empty a beggar as when I entered it. I strode back across
the room, took them from his hand, and laid them on the table. For a
moment Elmscott stared at me in astonishment. Then I must think he read
my superstition in my looks, for he said, clapping me on the back,--"You
will make a gambler yet, Morrice," and he sat him down on his chair. I
took my former stand beside him.

"You will stay, Mr.Buckler?" asked his opponent.

"Yes," I replied.

"Then," he continued, in the same even voice, "I have a plan in my head
which I fancy will best suit the purposes of the three of us. Lord
Elmscott is naturally anxious to follow his luck; you, Mr.Buckler, have
overstayed your time; and as for me--well, it is now Wednesday morning,
and a damned dirty morning too, if I may judge from the countenances of
my friends. We have sat playing here since six by the clock on Monday
night, and I am weary. My bed calls for me. I propose then that we settle
the bout with two casts of the dice. On the first throw I will stake your
house in Monmouth Square against the money you have before you. If I win
there's an end. If you win, I will set the manor of Silverdale against
your London house and your previous stake."

A complete silence followed upon his words. Even Lord Elmscott was taken
aback by the magnitude of the stakes. The youth's proposal gained,
moreover, on the mind by contrast with his tone of tired indifference. He
seemed the least occupied of all that company.

"I trust you will accept," he continued, speaking to my cousin with
courteous gentleness. "As I have said, I am very tired. Luck is on your
side, and, if I may be permitted to add, the advantage of the stakes."

Elmscott glanced at me, paused for a second, and then, with a forced
laugh,--"Very well; so be it," he said. The dice were brought; he
rattled them vigorously, and flung them down.

"Four!" cried one of the gentlemen.

"Damn!" said my cousin, and he mopped his forehead with his handkerchief.
His antagonist picked up the dice with inimitable nonchalance, barely
shook them in the cup, and let them roll idly out on to the table.


Elmscott heaved a sigh of relief. The other stretched his arms above his
head and yawned.

'Tis a noble house, your house in Monmouth Square," he remarked.

At the second throw, Elmscott discovered a most nervous anxiety. He held
the cup so long in his hand that I feared he would lose the courage to
complete the game. I felt, in truth, a personal shame at his indecision,
and I gazed around with the full expectation of seeing a like feeling
expressed upon the features of those who watched. But they wore one
common look of strained expectancy. At last Elmscott threw.

"Nine!" cried one, and a low murmur of voices buzzed for an instant and
suddenly ceased as the other took up the dice.


Both players rose as with one motion. Elmscott tossed down his throat the
brandy in his tumbler--it had stood by his side untasted since the early
part of the night--and then turned to me with an almost hysterical

"One moment."

It was the youth who spoke, and his voice rang loud and strong. His
weariness had slipped from him like a mask. He bent across the table and
stretched out his arm, with his forefinger pointing at my cousin.

"I will play you one more bout, Lord Elmscott. Against all that you have
won back from me to money, your house, your estate--I will pit my docks
in the city of Bristol. But I claim one condition," and he glanced at me
and paused.

"If it affects my cousin's presence--" Elmscott began.

"It does not," the other interrupted. “'Tis a trivial condition--a whim
of mine, a mere whim."

"What is it, then?" I asked, for in some unaccountable way I was much
disquieted by his change of manner and dreaded the event of his proposal.

"That while your cousin throws you hold his buckles in your hands."

It were impossible to describe the effect which this extraordinary
request produced. At any other time it would have seemed no more than
laughable. But after these long hours of play we were all tinder to a
spark of superstition. Nothing seemed too whimsical for belief. Luck had
proved so tricksy a sprite that the most trivial object might well take
its fancy and overset the balance of its favours. The fierce vehemence of
the speaker, besides, breaking thus unexpectedly through a crust of
equanimity, carried conviction past the porches of the ears. So each man
hung upon Elmscott's answer as upon the arbitrament of his own fortune.

For myself, I took a quick step towards my cousin; but the youth shot a
glance of such imperious menace at me that I stopped shamefaced like a
faulty schoolboy. However, Elmscott caught my movement and, I think, the
look which arrested me.

"Not to-day," he said, "if you will pardon me. I am over-tired myself,
and would fain keep to our bargain." Thereupon he came over to me. Now,
Morrice," he exclaimed, "it is your turn. You have the money. What else
d'ye lack? What else d'ye lack?"

"I need the swiftest horse in your stables," I replied.

Elmscott burst into a laugh.

"You shall have it--the swiftest horse in my stables. You shall e'en
take it as a gift. Only I fear 'twill leave your desires unsatisfied."
And he chuckled again.

"Then," I replied, with some severity, for in troth his merriment struck
me as ill-conditioned, "then I shall take the liberty of leaving it
behind at the first post on the Bristol Road."

"The Bristol Road?" interposed the youth. "You journey to Bristol?"

I merely bowed assent, for I was in no mood to disclose my purpose to
that company, and caught up my hat; but he gently took my arm and drew me
into the window.

"Mr.Buckler," he said, gazing at me the while with quiet eyes, "Fortune
has brought us into an odd conjunction this night. I have so much of the
gambler within me as to believe that she will repeat the trick, and I
hope for my revenge."

He held out his hand courteously. I could not but take it. For a moment
we stood with clasped hands, and I felt mine tremble within his.

"Ah," he said, smiling curiously, "you believe so, too." And he made me a
bow and turned back into the room.

I remained where he left me, gazing blindly out of the window; for the
shadow of a great trouble had fallen across my spirit. His words and the
concise certainty of his tone had been the perfect voicing of my own
forebodings. I did indeed believe that Fortune would some day pit us in a
fresh antagonism; that somewhere in the future she had already set up the
lists, and that clasp of the hands 1 felt to be our bond and surety that
we would keep faith with her and answer to our names.

"Morrice," said Elmscott at my elbow, and I started like one waked from
his sleep, "we'll go saddle your horse.

And he laughed to himself again as though savouring a jest. He slipped an
arm through mine and walked to the door.

"Good-morning, gentlemen," he said. "Marston, au revoir!" And with a
twirl of his hat, he stepped into the outer room. His servant was
sleeping upon a bench, and he woke him up and bade him fetch the money
and follow home.

The morning was cold, and we set oft at a brisk pace towards Monmouth
Square, Elmscott chatting loudly the while, with ever and again, I
thought, a covert laugh at me.

I only pressed on the harder. It was not merely that I was vexed by his
quizzing demeanour; but the moment I was free from that tawdry hell, and
began to breathe fresh air in place of the heavy reek of perfumes and
wine, the fullness of my disloyalty rolled in upon my conscience, so that
Elmscott's idle talk made me sicken with repulsion--for he babbled ever
about cards and dice and the feminine caprice of luck.

"What ails you, Morrice?" at length he inquired, seeing that I had no
stomach for his mirth. "You look as spiritless as a Quaker."

"I was thinking," I replied, in some irritation, for he clapped me on the
back as he spoke, "that it must he sorely humiliating for a man of your
age either to win money or lose it when you have a mere stripling to
oppose you."

"A man of my age, indeed!" he exc]ajmed. "And what age do you take to be
mine, Mr.Buckler?"

He turned his face angrily towards me, and I scanned it with great

"It would not be fair," I answered, with a shake of the head. "It would
not be fair for me to hazard a guess. Two nights at play may well stamp
middle age upon youth, and decrepitude upon middle-age."

At this he knew not whether to be mollified or yet more indignant, and so
did the very thing I had been aiming at--he held his tongue. Thus we
proceeded in a moody silence until we were hard by Soho. Then he asked
suddenly,--"What drags you in such a scurry to Bristol?"

"I would give much to know myself," I answered. "I journey thither at the
instance of a friend who lies in dire peril. But that is the whole sum of
my knowledge. I have not so much as a hint of the purport of my service."

"A friend! What friend?" he inquired with something of a start, and
looked at me earnestly.

"Sir Julian Harnwood," said I, and he stopped abruptly in his walk.

"Ah!" he said; then he looked on the ground, and swore a little to

"You know what threatens him?" said I; but he made me no answer and
resumed his walk, quickening his pace.

"Tell me!" I entreated. "His servant came to me at Leyden six days ago,
but was seized by a fit or ever he could out with his message. So I learnt
no more than this--that Julian lies in Bristol jail, and hath need of

"But the assizes begin to-day," he interrupted, with an air of triumph.
"You are over-late to help him."

"Ah, no!" I pleaded. "I may yet reach there in time. Julian may haply be
amongst the last to come to trial?"

"'Twere most unlikely," returned he, with a snap of his teeth. "My Lord
Jeffries wastes no time in weighing evidence. Why, at Taunton, but a
fortnight ago, one hundred and forty-five prisoners were disposed of
within three days. The man does not try; he executes. There's but one
outlook for your friend, and that's through the noose of a rope. Jeffries
holds a strict mandate from the King, I tell you, for the King's heart is
full of anger against the rebels."

"But Julian was no rebel," I exclaimed.

"Tut, tut, lad!" he replied. "If he was no rebel himself, he harboured
rebels. If he didn't flesh his sword at Sedgemoor, he gave shelter to
those that did. And 'tis all one crime, I tell you. Hair-splitting is
held in little favour at the Western Assizes."

"But are you sure of this?" I asked. "Or is it pure town gossip?"

"Nay," said he, "I have the news hot from Marston. He should know, eh?"

"Marston?" said I.

"Yes! The"--and he paused for a second, and smiled at me--" the man who
played with me. 'Tis his sister that's betrothed to Harnwood."

His sister! The blood chilled in my veins. I had been aware, of course,
that Julian was affianced to a certain Miss Marston of the county of
Gloucestershire. But I had never set eyes upon her person and knew little
of her history, beyond that she had been one of the ladies in attendance
upon the Queen prior to her accession to the throne; I mean when she was
still the Duchess of York. Miss Marston was, in fact, a mere name to me;
and since consequently she held no place in my thoughts, it had not
occurred to me to connect her in any way with this chance acquaintance of
the gaming-table. Now, how ever, the relationship struck me with a
peculiar and even menacing significance. It recalled to me the few words
Marston had spoken in the window; and, lo! not half an hour after their
utterance, here was, as it were, a guarantee of their fulfilment. Between
Marston and myself there already existed, then, a certain faint
accidental connection. I felt that I had caught a glimpse of the cord
which was to draw us together.

Elmscott's voice broke in upon my imaginings. "So, Morrice, I have sure
knowledge to back my words. No good can come of your journey, though harm
may, and it will tall on you. 'Twere best to stay quietly in London. You
may think your hair gray, but you will never save Julian Harnwood from
the gallows."

My cheeks burned as I heard him, for my thoughts had been humming busily
about my own affairs, and not at all about Julian's; and with a bitter
shame, "God," I cried, "that I should fail him so! Surely never was a man
so misused as my poor friend! He is the very sport arid shuttlecock of
disaster. First his messenger must needs fall sick; then my boat must
take five days to cross to England. And to cap it all, I must waste yet
another night in a tavern or ever I can borrow a horse to help me on my

By this time we had got to Elmscott's house. He drew a key from his
pocket and mounted the steps thoughtfully, and I after him. On the last
step, however, he turned, and laying a hand upon my shoulder, as I stood
below him, said, with a very solemn gravity: "There is God’s hand in all
this. He doth not intend you should go. In His great wisdom He doth not
intend it. He would punish the guilty, and He would spare you who are

"But what harm can come to me?" I cried, with a laugh; though, indeed,
the laugh was hollow as the echo of an empty house.

"That lies in the dark," said he. "But 'tis no common aid Julian Harnwood
asks from you. He has friends enough in England. Why should he send to
Holland when his time's so short?" And then he added with more insistent
earnestness : "Don't go, lad! If any one could avail, 'twould be Marston.
He has power in Bristol. And, you see, he bides quietly in London."

"But methinks he was never well-disposed to Julian," said I, remembering
certain half-forgotten phrases of my friend. "He looked but sourly on the

"Very well," said he, with a shrug of the shoulders. "Must make your own
bed;" and he opened the door, and led me through the hall and into a
garden at the back. At the far end of this the stables were built, and we
crossed to them. "The rascals are still asleep," he remarked, and
proceeded to waken them with much clanging of the bell and shouts of
abuse. In a while we heard a heavy step stumbling down the stair.

"I had meant to have a fine laugh at you over this," said he with a
rueful smile. "But I have no heart for it now that I know your errand."

Au ostler, still blinking and drowsy, opened the door. He rubbed his eyes
at the sight of his master.

"Don't stand gaping, you fish!" cried my cousin. "Whom else did you
expect to see? Show us to the stables!"

The fellow led us silently into the stables. A long row of boxes stood
against the wall, all neatly littered with straw, but to my astonishment
and dismay, so far as I could see, not one of them held a horse.

"She's at the end, sir," said the groom; and we walked down the length of
the boxes, and halted before the last.

"Get up, lass!" and after a few pokes the animal rose stiffly from its
bed. For a moment I well-nigh cried from sheer mortification. Never in all
my comings and goings since have I seen such a parody of Nature, not even
in the booths of a country fair. 'Twas of a piebald colour, and stood
very high, with long thin legs. Its knees were, moreover, broken. It had
a neck of extra ordinary length, and a huge, absurd head which swung
pendulous at the end of it, and seemed by its weight to have dragged the
beast out of shape, for the line of its back slanted downwards from its
buttocks to its shoulders.

"This is no fair treatment," I exclaimed hotly. "Elmscott, I deserve
better at your hands. 'Tis an untimely jest, and you might well have
spared yourself the pleasure of it."

"And the name of her's Phoebe." he replied musingly. "'Tis her one good

He spoke with so droll a melancholy that I had some ado to refrain from
laughing, in spite of my vexation.

"But," said I, "surely this is not all your equipage?"

"Nay," returned he proudly, "I have its caddie and bridle. But for the
rest of my horses, I lost them all playing basset with Lord Culverton. He
took them away only yesterday morning, but left me the mare, saying that
he had no cart for her conveyance."

"Well," said I, "I must e'en make shift with her. She may carry me one

And I walked out of the stables and back into the hall. Elmscott bade his
groom saddle the mare and followed me, but I was too angry to speak with
him, and seated myself sullenly at a table. However, he fetched a pie
from the pantry and a bottle of wine, and set them before me. I had eaten
nothing since I had disembarked the night before, and knowing, besides,
that I had a weary day in store, I fell to with a good appetite. Elmscott
opened the door. The sun had just risen, and a warm flood of light poured
into the hall and brightened the dark panels of the walls. With that
entered the sound of birds singing, the rustle of trees, and all the
pleasant garden-smells of a fresh September morning. And at once a great
hope sprang up in my heart that I might yet be in time to prove the
minister of Julian's need. I heard the sound of hoofs on the road

"Lend me a whip!" I cried.

"You are still set on going?"

"Lend me a whip!"

He offered me an oak cudgel.

"Phoebe has passed her climacteric, and her perceptions are dull," he
said, and then with a sudden change of manner he laid his hand on my
shoulder. "'Twere best not to go," he declared earnestly. "Those who
bring luck to others seldom find great store of it themselves."

But in the sweet clearness of the morning such thoughts seemed to me no
more than night vapours, and I sprang down the steps with a laugh. The
mare shivered as 1 mounted, and swung her head around as though she would
ask me what in the devil's name I was doing on her back. But I thwacked
her flanks with the cudgel, and she ambled heavily through the square. I
turned to look behind me. Elmscott was still standing on the steps.

"Morrice," he called out, "be kind to her! She is an heirloom."


AT length, then, I was fairly started on my way to Bristol. For my
direction over this first stage of my journey I had made inquiries of
Elmscott, and I rode westward towards the village of Knightsbridge,
thanking Providence most heartily for that the city still slept. For what
with my disordered dress, my oak cudgel, and the weedy screw which I
bestrode--I scruple to dignify her with the name of mare, for I have
owned mares since which I loved, and would not willingly affront them--I
could not hope to pass unnoticed were any one abroad, and, indeed, should
esteem myself well-used to be counted no worse than a mountebank. Thus I
crossed Hounslow Heath and reached Brentford without misadventure. There
I joyfully parted with my Rosinante, and hiring a horse, rode post. The
way, however, was ill-suited for speedy travelling, and my hope of seeing
Julian that night dwindled with my shadow as the sun rose higher and
higher behind my shoulders. Ruts deep and broad as new furrows trenched
the road, and here and there some slough would make a wide miry gap,
wherein my horse sank over the fetlocks. Some blame, moreover, must
attach to me, for I chose a false turn at the hamlet of Colnbrook, and
journeyed ten miles clean from my path to Datchet; so that in the end
night found me blundering on the edge of Wickham Heath, some sixty-one
miles from London. I had changed horses at Newbury, and I determined to
press on at least so far as Hungerford. But I had not counted with

I was indeed overwrought with want of sleep, and the last few stages I
had ridden with dulled senses in a lethargy of fatigue. At what point
exactly I wandered from the road I could not tell. But the darkness had
closed in before I began to notice a welcome ease and restfulness in the
motion of the gallop. I was wondering idly at the change, when of a
sudden my horse pops his foot into a hole. The reins were hanging loose
on his neck; I myself was rocking in the saddle, so that I shot clean
over his shoulder, turned a somersault in mid-air, and came down flat on
my back in the centre of the Heath. For a while I lay there without an
effort or desire to move. I felt as if Mother Earth had taken pity on my
weariness, and had thus unceremoniously put me to bed. The trample of
hoofs, however, somewhat too close to my legs roused me to wakefulness,
and I started up and prepared to remount. To my dismay I found that my
horse was badly lamed; he could barely set his foreleg to the ground.

The accident was the climax of my misfortunes. I looked eagerly about me.
The night was moonless, but very clear and soft with the light of the
stars. I could see the common stretching away on every side empty and
desolate; here a cluster of trees, there a patch of bushes, but never a
house, never the kindly twinkle of a lamp, never a sign of a living
thing. What it behoved me to do, I could not come at, think as hard as I
might. But whatever that might have been, what I did, alas I was far
different. For I plumped myself down on the grass and cried like a child.
It seemed to me that God's hand was indeed turned against my friend and
his deliverance.

But somehow into the midst of my lament there slipped a remembrance of
Jack Larke. On the instant his face took shape and life before me,
shining out as it were from a frame of darkness. I saw an honest scorn
kindle in his eyes, and his lips shot "woman" at me. The visionary
picture of him braced me like the cut of a whip. At all events, I thought
I would make a pretence of manhood, and I ceased from my blubbering, and
laying hold of the horse by the bridle, led him forward over the Heath.

I kept a sharp watch about me as I walked, but it must have been a full
two hours afterwards when I caught a glimpse of a light far away on my
left hand, glimmering in a little thicket upon a swell of the turf. At
first I was minded to reckon it a star, for the Heath at that point was
ridged up against the sky. But it shone with a beam too warm and homely
to match the silver radiance of the planets. I turned joyfully in its
direction, and quickening my pace, came at length to the back of a house.
The light shone from a window on the ground floor facing me. I looked
into it over a little paling, and saw that it was furnished as a kitchen.
Plates and pewter-puts gleamed orderly upon the shelves, and a row of
noble hams hung from the rafters.

I hurried round the side of the house and found myself, to my great
satisfaction, on a bank which overlooked the road. I scrambled down the
side of it and knocked loudly at the door. It was opened by an elderly
man, who stared at me in some surprise.

"You travel late, young sir," said he, holding the door ajar.

"I have need to," I replied. "I should have been in Bristol long ere

"'Tis strange," he went on, eyeing me a thought suspiciously. "I caught
no sound of your horse's hoofs upon the road."

"'Twould have been stranger if you had," said I. "For I missed my way
soon after sundown, and have been wandering since on the Heath. I saw the
light of your house some half an hour agone over yonder," and I pointed
in the direction whence I had come.

"Then you are main lucky, sir," he returned, but in a more civil tone.
"This is the ‘Half-way House,’ and it has no neighbours. In another hour
we should have gone to bed--for we have no guests to-night--and you
might have wandered until dawn."

With that he set the door back against the wall, and stood aside for me
to pass.

"You must pardon my surliness," he said. "But few honest travellers cross
Wickham Heath by dark, and at first I mistook you. I have never held
truck with the gentry of the road, though, indeed, my pockets suffer for
the ease of my conscience. However, if you will step within, my wife will
get you supper while I lead your horse to the stables."

"The beast is lame," said I, "and I would fain continue my way to-night.
Have you a horse for hire?"

Nay, sir," said he, shaking his head. "I have but one horse here besides
your own, and that is not mine."

"I need it only for a day," I urged eagerly; "for less than a day. I
could reach Bristol in the morning, and would send it you back

I plunged my hand into my fob, and pulled out a handful of money as I

"It is no use" he declared. "The horse is not mine. 'Twas left here for a
purpose, and I may not part with it."

"It would be with you again to-morrow," I repeated.

"It may be needed in the meanwhile," said he. "It may be needed in an
hour. I know not."

I let the coins run from my right hand into the palm of my left, so that
they fell clinking one on the top of the other. For a second he stood
undecided; then he spoke in a low voice like a man arguing with himself.

"I will not do it. The horse was left with me in trust--in trust.
Moreover, I was well paid for the trust." And he turned to me.

"Put up your money, sir," said he stubbornly. "You should think shame to
tempt poor folk. You will get no horse 'twixt here and Hungerford."

I slipped the money back into my pocket while he moved away with the
horse. It limped worse than ever, and he stopped and felt up his foreleg.

"It is no more than a strain, I think," he called out. "The wife shall
make a poultice for it to-night, and you can start betimes in the

It was a poor consolation, but the only one. So I made the best of it,
and, taking my supper in the kitchen, went forthwith to bed. I was indeed
so spent and tired that I fell asleep in the corner by the fire while my
ham was being fried, and after it, was almost carried upstairs in the
arms of my landlord. I had not lain in a bed since I left Leyden, and few
sights, I think, have ever affected me with so pleasant a sense of rest
and comfort as that of the little inn-chamber, with its white dimity
curtains and lavender-scented sheets. I have, in truth, always loved the
scent of lavender since.

The next morning I was early afoot, and, despatching a hasty breakfast,
made my way to the stables. The innkeeper had preceded me in order to
have all ready for my start; but he stood in the yard with the horse

“'Tis no use, sir," he said. "You must e'en walk to Hungerford."

I had but to see the horse take one step to realise the truth of his
words, for it limped yet worse than the evening before. The foot,
moreover, was exceeding hot and inflamed.

"Take it back," said I. "The poor beast must bide here till I return."

I followed him into the stable and inquired of the road.

"You go straight," he said, "till you come to Barton Court, opposite the
village of Kintbury--" when of a sudden I stopped him. There were but
two stalls in the building, and I had just caught a glimpse of the horse
which was tied up in the second. It was of a light chestnut in colour,
with white stockings, and a fleck of white in its coat at the joint of
the hip. The patch was like a star in shape, and very unusual.

"Why, this is Sir Julian Harnwood's horse," I cried, leaping towards it--
"his favourite horse!"

"Yes," he said, looking at me with some surprise, "that was the name--
Sir Julian Harnwood. "'Tis the horse I told you of last night."

And in a flash the truth came upon me.

"It waits for me," I said. "Quick, man, saddle it! Sir Julian's life
hangs upon your speed."

But he planted himself sturdily before me.

"Not so fast, young master," he said. "That trick will not serve your
turn. 'Tis Sir Julian's horse, sure enough, and it waits its rider, sure
enough; but that you are he, I must have some better warrant than your

"My name may prove it," I replied. "It is Buckler--Morrice Buckler, Sir
Julian's servant came to me in Holland."

"Buckler!" the man repeated, as though he heard it for the first time.
"Morrice Buckler! Yes, sir, that may be your name. I have nothing against
it beyond that it is unfamiliar in these parts. But a strange name is a
poor thing to persuade a man to forgo his trust."

I looked at the man. Though elderly and somewhat bent, he was of a large
frame, and the sinews stood out in knots upon his bared arms. Plainly I
was no match for him if it came to a struggle; and a sickening feeling of
impotence and futility surged up within me. At every turn of the road
destiny had built up its barrier. I understood that the clue to the
matter lay hidden in that untold message which had been vainly conveyed
to Leyden that Swasfield had some password, some token to impart,
whereby I might make myself known along the road.

"The horse waits for me," I cried, my voice rising as I beseeched him.
"In very truth it waits for me. Doubtless I should have some proof of
that. But the man that bid me come fell in a swoon or ever he could hand
it me."

The innkeeper smiled, and sat him down on a corn-bin. Indeed, the
explanation sounded weak enough to me, who was witness of its truth. I
should hardly have credited it from another's lips.

"Oh, can't you see," I entreated, in an extremity of despair, "can't you
feel that I am telling you God's truth?"

"No, master," he answered slowly, shaking his head, "I feel naught of
that sort."

His words and stolid bumpkin air threw me into a frenzy of rage.

"Then," cried I, "may the devil's curse light on you and yours! That
horse was left with you in trust. You have dinned the word into my ears;
there's no gainsaying it. And I claim the fulfilment of your trust.
Understand, fellow!" I went on, shaking my hand at him, for I saw his
mouth open and his whole face broaden out into a laugh. "it's not a horse
you are stealing; it is a life--a man's innocent life!"

Thereupon he broke in upon my passion with a great gust of mirth that
shook him from head to foot.

"Lord, master!" said he, "that be mighty fine play-acting. I don't know
that I ever saw better in Newberry Market,"and he slapped a great fist
upon his thigh. "No, I'll be hanged if I did. Go on! Go on! Lord, I could
sit here and laugh till dinner." And he thrust his feet forward, plunged
his hands in his breeches pockets, and rolled back against the wall. I
watched him in an utter vacancy of mind. For his stupid laughter had
quenched me like a pailful of cold water. I searched for some device by
which I might outwit his stubbornness. Not the smallest seed of a plan
could I discover. I sent my thoughts back to the morning of the
fourteenth, and cudgelled my memory in the hope that Swasfield might have
dropped some hint which had passed unnoticed. But he had said so little,
and I remembered his every word. Then in a twinkling I recollected the
charms which I had found upon his person. Perchance one of them was the
needed token. No idea was too extravagant for me to grasp at it. What had
I done with them? I thought. I tipped my hand into the pocket of my coat,
and my fingers closed, not on the charms, but on the barrel of the pistol
which Lathe had handed to me at the moment of my setting out. In an
instant my mind was made up. I must have that horse, cost what it might.
'Twas useless to argue with my landlord. Money I had made trial of the
night before. And here were the minutes running by, and each one of them,
it might be, a drop of Julian's blood!

I walked quickly to the door, at once to disengage the pistol secretly
and to hide any change in my countenance. But the cock must needs catch
in the flap of my pocket as I drew the weapon out. I heard a startled cry
behind me, a rattle of the corn-bin, and a clatter of heavy shoes on the
ground. I took one spring out of the stable, turned, and levelled the
barrel through the doorway. For a moment we stood watching one another,
he crouched for a leap, I covering his eyes with the pistol.

"Saddle that horse," I commanded, "and bring it out into the road!"

It was his turn now to argue and entreat, but I had no taste at the
moment for "play-acting."

"Be quick, man!" I said. "You have wasted time enough. Be quick, else
I'll splatter your head against the wall!"

The fellow rose erect and did as I bid, while I stood in the doorway and
railed at him. For, alas! I was never over-generous by nature.

"Hurry, you potato!" I exclaimed. Why that word above all other and more
definite terms of abuse should have pained him I know not. But so it was;
"Potato" grieved him immeasurably, and noting that, I repeated it more
often, I fear me, than fitted my dignity. At length the horse was

"Lead it out!" I said; and walked backwards to the road with my pistol
still levelled.

He followed me with the horse, and I bade him go back into the stable and
close the door. Then I put up my pistol, sprang into the saddle, and
started at a gallop past the inn. I had ridden little more than a hundred
yards when I chanced to look back. My host was standing in the centre of
the way, his legs firmly apart, and a huge blunderbuss at his shoulder. I
flung my body forward on the neck of the horse, and a shower of slugs
whistled through the air above my head. I felt for my pistol to return
the compliment, but 'twould have been mere waste of the shot; I should
never have hit him. So I just curved my hand about my mouth and bawled
"Potato" at the top of my voice. It could have done no less hurt than his

The horse, fresh from its long confinement, answered gladly to my call
upon its speed, and settled into a steady gallop. But for all that,
though I pressed on quickly through Marlborough and Chippenham, the
nearer I came to Bristol the more lively did my anxieties become. I began
to ponder with an increasing apprehension on the business which Julian
might have in store for me. The urgency of his need had been proved yet
more clearly that morning. The horse which I bestrode was a fresh and
convincing evidence; and I could not but believe that similar relays were
waiting behind me the whole length of the road from London.

At the same time, as Elmscott had urged, I could bring him no solace of
help in the matter of his trial. It would need greater authority than
mine to rescue him from Jeffries' clutches. I realised that there must be
some secret trouble at the back, and the more earnestly I groped after a
hint of its nature, the more dark and awe some the riddle grew. For, to
my lasting shame I own it, Elmscott's forebodings recurred to me with the
mystical force of a prophecy,

"There is God's hand in all this. He doth not mean you should go."

The warning seemed traced in black letters on the air before me. Fear
whispered it at my heart, and the very hoofs of the horse beat it out in
a tinging menace from the ground.

At last, when I was well in the grips of a panic, over the brow of a hill
I saw a cluster of church-spires traced like needles against the sun, and
in a sudden impulse to outstrip my cowardice I drove my heels into  my
horse's flanks, and an hour later rode through Lawford's Gate into
Bristol town. I inquired of the first  person I met where the Court was
sitting. At the Guildhall, he told me, and pointed out the way. A clock
struck four as he spoke, and I hurriedly thanked him and hastened on.

About the Guildhall a great rabble of people swung and pressed, and I
reined up on the farther side of the street, but as nearly opposite to
the entrance as I could force my way. In front of the building stood a
carriage very magnificently equipped, with four horses, and footmen in
powdered wigs and glistening liveries.

From such converse as went on about me, I sought to learn what prisoners
had been tried that day. But so great was the confusion of voices,
curses, lamentations, and rejoicings being mixed and blended in a common
uproar, that I could gather no knowledge that was particular to my
purpose. Then from the shadow of the vestibule shot a gleam of scarlet
and white, and at once a deep hush fell upon the crowd. Preceded by his
officers, my lord Jeffries stepped out to his carriage, a man of a royal
mien, with wonderfully dark and piercing eyes, though the beauty of his
face was much marred by spots and blotches, and an evil smile that played
incessantly about his lips. He seemed in truth in high good humour, and
laughed boisterously with those that attended him; and bethinking me of
his savage cruelty, and the unholy lustfulness wherewith he was wont to
indulge it, my heart sank in fear for Julian.

The departure of his carriage seemed to lift a weight from every tongue,
and the clamour recommenced. I cast about for some one to approach, when
I beheld a little man with a face as wrinkled and withered as a dry
pippin, pressing through the throng in my direction. I thought at first
that he intended speech with me, for he looked me over with some care.
But he came straight on to the horse's head, and without pausing walked
briskly along its side to my right hand and disappeared behind me. A
minute after I heard the noise of a dispute on my left. There was my
little friend again. He had turned on his steps, and moving in the
contrary direction had come up with me once more. In the hurry of his
movements he had knocked up against a passer-by, and the pair straightway
fell loudly to argument, each one accusing the other of clumsiness. I
turned in my saddle to watch the quarrel, and immediately the little man,
with profuse apologies, took the blame upon himself and continued his
way. I followed him with my eyes. He had proceeded but ten yards when his
pace began to slacken, then he dropped into a saunter, and finally stood
still in a musing attitude with his eyes on the ground, as though he was
debating some newly question. Of a sudden he raised his head, shot one
quick glance towards me, and resumed his walk. The street was thinning
rapidly, and I was able to pursue him without difficulty. For half a mile
we went on, keeping the same distance between us, when he sharply turned
a corner and dived into a narrow side-street. I checked my horse,
thinking that I had mistaken his look; for he had never so much as turned
round since. But the next minute he reappeared, and stood loitering in
his former attitude of reflection. There could be no doubt of the man's
intention, and I gathered up the reins again and followed him. The
side-street was narrow and exceeding dark, for the stories of the houses
on each side projected one above the other until the gables nearly met at
the top. The little man was waiting for me about twenty yards from the
entrance, in an angle of the wall.

"It is Mr.Buckler?" he asked shortly.

"Yes," I answered. "What news of Julian?"

"You have but just arrived?"

"The clock struck four as I rode through Lawford's Gate. What news of

He gave a sharp, sneering laugh. "Ay, ay," he said. "No one so fustered
as your loiterer." And he stepped out from the shadow of the house. "Sir
Julian?" he cried hastily. "Sir Julian will be hanged at noon to-morrow."

I swayed in the saddle; the houses spun round me. I felt the man's arm
catch at and steady me.

"It is my fault?" I whispered.

"No, lad!" he returned, with a new touch of kindliness in his tone.
"Nothing could have saved him. I should know; I am his attorney. Maybe I
spoke too harshly, but this last week he has been eating his heart out
for the sight of you, and your tardiness plagued me. There, there! Lay
hold of your pluck! It is a man your friend needs, not a weak girl."

There was pitying contempt in the tone of these last words which stung me
inexpressibly. I sat up erect, and said, with such firmness as I could
force into my voice,--"Where does Sir Julian lie?"

"In the Bridewell to-night. But you must not go there in this plight," he
added quickly, for I was already turning the horse. "You would ruin all."
He glanced sharply up and down the lane, and went on,--"We have been
together over-long as it is." Then he tapped with his foot for a moment
on the pavement. "I have it," said he. "Go to the Thatched House Tavern,
in Lime Kiln Lane. I will seek you there. Wait for me; and, mind this,
let no one else have talk with you. Tell the people of the house I sent
you.--Mr.Joseph Vincott. It will commend you to their care."

With that he turned on his heel, ran up to the opening of the street, and
after a cautious look this side and that, strolled carelessly away. I
gave him a few moments' grace, and then hurried with all despatch to the
tavern, asking my direction as I went. There I ordered a private room,
and planting myself at the window, waited impatiently for Vincott's

It must have been an hour afterwards that I saw him turn into the lane
from a passage almost opposite to where I stood. I expected him to cross
the road, but he cast not so much as a glance towards the inn, and walked
slowly past on the farther side. I flung up the window, thinking that he
had forgotten his errand, and leaned out to call him. But or ever I could
speak he banged his stick angrily on the ground, raised it with a quick
jerk and pointed twice over his shoulder behind him. The movement was
full of significance, and I drew back into the shadow of the curtain. Mr.
Vincott mounted the steps of a house, knocked at the door, and was
admitted. No sooner had he entered than a man stepped out from the
passage. He was of a large, heavy build, and yet, as I surmised from the
litheness of his walk, very close-knit. His face was swarthy and bronzed,
and he wore ear-rings in his ears. I should have taken him for an English
sailor but that there was a singular compactness in his bearing, and his
gait was that of a man perfectly balanced. For a while he stood loitering
at the entrance to the passage, and then noticing the inn, crossed
quickly over and passed through the door beneath me.

My senses were now strained into activity, and I watched with a quivering
eagerness for the end of this strange game of hide-and-seek. I had not
long to wait. The little lawyer came down the steps, stopped at the
bottom, took a pinch of snuff with great deliberation, and blowing his
nose with unnecessary noise and vehemence, walked down the street. He had
nearly reached the end of it before his pursuer lounged out of the inn
and strolled in the same direction. The moment Vincott turned the corner,
however, he lengthened his stride; I saw him pause at the last house and
peep round the angle, draw back for a few seconds, and then follow
stealthily on the trail.

The incident reawakened all my perplexed conjectures as to the business
on which I was engaged. Why should the fact of my arrival in the town be
so studiously concealed? Or again, what reason could there be for any one
to suspect or fear it? The questions circled through my mind in an
endless repetition. There was but one man who could answer them, and he
lay helpless in his cell, adding to the torture of his last hours the
belief that his friend had played him false. The thought stung me like
Ino's gadfly. I paced up and down the room with my eyes ever on the
street for Vincott's return. My heart rose on each sound of a nearing
step, only to sink giddily with its dying reverberation. The daylight
fell, a fog rolled up from the river in billows of white smoke, and still
Vincott did not come. The very clock by the chimney seemed to tick off
the seconds faster and faster until I began to fancy that the sounds
would catch one another and run by in one continuous note. At last I
heard a quick pattering noise of feet on the pavement below, and Vincott
dashed up the stairs and burst into the room.

"I have shaken the rascal off," he gasped, falling into a chair; "but
curse me if it's lawyer's work. We live too sedentary a life to go
dragging herrings across a scent with any profit to our bodies."

"Then we can go," said I, taking my hat. But he struck it from my hands
with his cane.

"And you!" he blazed out at me. "You must poke your stupid yellow head
out of the window as if you wanted all Bristol to notice it. Sit down!"

"Mr.Vincott!" I exclaimed angrily.

"Mr.Buckler!" he returned, mimicking my tone, and pulling a grimace.
There was indeed no dignity about the man. "It may not have escaped your
perceptions that I have some desire to conceal your visit to this town.
Would it be too much to ask you to believe that there are reasons for
that desire?"

He spoke with a mocking politeness, and waited for me to answer him.

"I suppose there are," I replied; "but I am in the dark as to their

"The chief of them," said he, "is your own security."

"I will risk that," said I, stooping for my hat. "'Tis not worth the
suffering which it costs Julian."

"Dear, dear!" he gibed. “'Tis strange that so much heart should tarry so
long. Let me see! It must be full eight days since Swasfield came to you
at Leyden." And he struck my hat once more out of my grasp.

"Mr.Vincott," said I--and my voice trembled as I spoke--"if you have a
mind to quarrel with me, I will endeavour to gratify you at a more
seasonable time. But I cannot wrangle over the body of my friend. I came
hither with all the speed that God vouchsafed me." And I informed him of
my journey, and the hindrances which had beset my path.

"Well, well," he said, "when I had done, "I perceive that my thoughts
have done you some injustice. And, after all, I am not sure but what your
late coming is for the best. It has caused your friend no small anxiety,
I admit. But against that we may set a gain of greater secrecy."

He picked up my hat from the floor, and placed it on the table.

"So," he continued, "you will pardon my roughness, but I have formed some
affection for Sir Julian. 'Tis an unbusinesslike quality, and I trust to
be well ashamed of it in a week's time. At the present, however, it
angered me against you." He held out his hand with a genuine cordiality,
and we made our peace.

"Now," said he, "the gist of the matter is this. It is all-essential that
you be not observed and marked as a visitor to Sir Julian. Therefore
‘twere best to wait until it is quite dark and meanwhile we must think of
some disguise."

"A disguise?" I exclaimed.

"Yes," said he. "You must have noticed from that window that there are
others awake beside ourselves."

I stood silent for a moment, reluctantly considering a plan which had
just flashed into my head. Vincott drew a flint and steel from his
pocket, and lighted the candles --for the dusk was filling the room--
and drew the curtains close. All at once the dizzy faintness which had
come over me in the side-street near the Guildhall returned, and set the
room spinning about me. I clutched at a chair to save myself from
falling. Vincott snatched up a candle, and looked shrewdly into my face.

"When did you dine?" he asked.

"At breakfast time," said I.

He opened the door, and rang a bell which stood on a side-table. "Lucy!"
he bawled over the banisters.

A great buxom wench with a cheery face answered the summons, and he bade
her cook what meats they had with all celerity.

"Meantime," said he, "we will while away the interval over a posset of
Bristol milk. You have never tasted that, Mr.Buckler? I would that I
could say the same. I envy you the pleasure of your first acquaintance
with its merit."

The "milk," as he termed it, was a strong brewage of Spanish wine,
singularly luxurious and palatable. Mr.Vincott held up his glass to the
light, and the liquid sparkled like a clear ruby.

“'Tis a generous drink," he said. "It gives nimbleness to the body, wealth
to the blood, and lightness to the heart. The true Promethean fire!" And
he drained the glass and smacked his lips.

"That is a fine strapping wench," said I. "She must be of my height, or

The lawyer cocked his head at me. "Ah!" said he dryly, “a wonderful thing
is Bristol milk."

But I was thinking of something totally different.

The girl fetched in a stew of beef, steaming hot, and we sat down to it,
though indeed I had but little inclination for the meal.

"Now, Mr.Vincott," said I, "I will pray you, while we are eating, to help
me to the history of Julian's calamities." I think that my voice broke
somewhat on the word, for he laid his hand gently upon my arm. "I know
nothing of it myself beyond what you have told me, and a rumour that came
to me in London."

The lawyer sat silent for a time, drumming with his fingers on the table.

"Your story," I urged, "will save much valuable time when I visit

"I was thinking," he replied, "how much I should tell you. You see,
merely the facts are known to me. Of what lies underneath them--I mean
the motives and passions which have ordered their sequence--I may have
surmised something" (here his eyes twinkled cunningly), "but I have no
certitude. That part of the business concerns you, not me. 'Twere best,
then, that I show you no more than the plain face of the matter."

He pushed away his plate, leaned both arms upon the table, and, with a
certain wariness in his manner, told me the following tale.

"In the spring of the year, Miss Enid Marston fell sick at Court. The air
of St. James's is hardly the best tonic for invalids, and she came with
her uncle and guardian to the family house at Bristol to recruit. Sir
Julian Harnwood must, of course, follow her; and, in order that he may
enjoy her company without encroaching upon her hospitality, he hires him
a house in the suburbs, upon Brandon Hill. One night, during the second
week of August, came two fugitives from Sedgemoor to his door. Sir Julian
had some knowledge of the men, and the story of their sufferings so
worked upon his pity that he promised to shelter them until such time as
he could discover means of conveying them out of the country. To that end
he hid them in one of his cellars, brought their food with his own hands,
and generally used such precautions as he thought must avert suspicion.
But on the morning of the 10th September he was arrested, his house
searched, and the rebels discovered. The rest you know. Sir Julian was
tried this afternoon with the two fugitives, and pays the penalty
to-morrow. 'Tis the only result that could have been looked for. His best
friends despaired from the outset--even Miss Marston."

"I had not thought of her," I broke in. "Poor girl!"

"Poor girl!" he repeated, gazing intently at the ceiling. "She was indeed
so put back in her health, that her physician advised her instant removal
to a less afflicting neighbourhood."

As he ended, he glanced sideways at me from under half-closed lids; but I
chanced to be watching him, and our eyes crossed. It seemed to me that he
coloured slightly, and sent his gaze travelling idly about the room,
anywhere, in short, but in my direction, the while he hummed the refrain
of a song.

"You mean she has deserted Julian?" I exclaimed.

"I have no recollection that I suggested that, or indeed anything
whatsoever," he returned blandly. "As I mentioned to you before, I merely
relate the facts."

"There is one fact," said I, after a moment's thought, "on which you have
not touched."

"There are two," he replied; "but specify if you please. I will satisfy
you to the limit of my powers."

"The part which I shall play in this business."

He wagged his head sorrowfully at me.

"I perceive," says he, "with great regret that they teach you no logic at
the University of Leyden. You are speaking, not of a fact, but of an
hypothesis. The part which you will play, indeed! You ask me to read the
future, and I am not qualified for the task."

It became plain to me that I should win no profit out of my questioning;
there could be but one result to a quibbling match with an attorney; so I
bade him roughly tell me what he would.

"There are two facts," he resumed, “which are perhaps of interest. But I
would premise that they are in no way connected. I would have you bear
that in mind, Mr.Buckler. The first is this it has never been disclosed
whence the information came which led to the discovery of the fugitives.
Sir Julian, as I told you, used great precautions. His loyalty, moreover,
had never been suspected up till then."

"From his servants, most like," I interposed.

"Most like," he sneered. "The remark does scanty credit to your
perspicacity, and hardly flatters me. I examined them with some care, and
satisfied myself on the score of their devotion to their master. 'Tis
doubtful even whether they were aware of Sir Julian's folly. 'Tis most
certain that they never betrayed him. Besides, my lord Jeffries rated
them all most unmercifully this afternoon. He would not have done that
had they helped the prosecution. No, the secret must have leaked out if
the information had come from them."

"And you could gather no clue?"

"Say, rather, that I did gather no clue. For my client forbade me to
pursue my inquiries. 'Tis strange that, eh? 'Tis passing strange. It
points, I think, beyond the servants."

"Then Julian himself must know," I cried.

“'Tis a simple thought," said he. "If you will pardon the hint, you
discover what is obvious with a singular freshness."

I understood that I had brought the rejoinder upon myself by my
interruption, and so digested it in silence.

"The second point," he continued, "is interesting as a--" he made the
slightest possible pause "--a coincidence. Sir Julian Harnwood was
arrested at six o'clock in the morning, not in his house, but something
like a mile away, on the King's down. 'Tis a quaint fancy for a gentleman
to take it into his head to stroll about the King's down in the rain at
six o'clock of the morning; almost as quaint as for an officer to go
thither at that hour to search for him."

An idea sprang through my mind, and was up to the tip of my tongue. But I
remembered the fate of my previous suggestions, and checked it on the
verge of utterance.

"You were about to proffer a remark," said Mr.Vincott very politely.

"No!" said I in a tone of indifference, and he smiled.  Then his manner
changed and he began to speak quickly, rapping with his fist upon the
table as though to drive home his words.

"The truth of the matter is, Mr.Buckler, Sir Julian went out that morning
to fight a duel, and his antagonist was Count Lukstein, who came over to
England six months ago in the train of the Emperor Leopold's ambassador.
Ah! you know him!"

"No!" I replied. "I know of him from Julian."

"They were friends, it appears."

"Julian made the Count's acquaintance some time ago in Paris, and has, I
believe, visited his home in the Tyrol."

"However that may be, they quarrelled in Bristol. Count Lukstein came
down from London to take the waters at the Hotwell, by St. Vincent's rock,
and has resided there for the last three months. 'Twas a trumpery
dispute, but naught would content Sir Julian but that they must settle it
with swords. He was on the way to the trysting-place when he was taken."

And with a final rap on the table, Mr.Vincott leaned back in his chair,
and froze again to a cold deliberation.

"That," said he, "is the second fact I have to bring to your notice."

"And the first," I cried, pressing the point on him, "the first is that
no one knows who gave the information!"

"I observed, I believe," he replied, returning my gaze with a mild
rebuke, "that between those two facts there is no connection."

At the time it seemed to me that he was bent on fobbing me off. But I
have since thought that he was answering after his fashion the innuendo
which my words wrapped up. He took out his snuff-box as he spoke, and
inhaled a great pinch. The action suddenly recalled to me the man which I
had watched from the window.

"It was a foreigner." I said, starting up in my excitement, "it was a
foreigner who dogged your steps this afternoon?"

"I like the ornaments of the ceiling," says he (for thither had his eyes
returned); and, as though he were continuing the sentence: "I may tell
you, Mr.Buckler, that Count Lukstein left Bristol eleven days ago."

"Did he take his servants with him?" I asked; and then, a new thought
striking me: "Eleven days ago! That is, Mr.Vincott, the day after
Julian's arrest."

"Mr.Buckler," says he, "you appear to me to lack discretion."

"I only re-state your facts." I answered, with some heat.

"The facts themselves are perhaps a trifle indiscreet," he admitted, "I
shall certainly have that ceiling copied in my own house." And with that
he rose from his chair. "'Tis close on eight by the clock, and we must
hit upon some disguise. But, Lord! how it is to be contrived with that
canary poll of yours I know not, unless you shave your head and wear my

"I have a better device than that," said I.

"Well, man, out with it!" For I spoke with hesitation, fearing his irony.

"You can trust the people of the inn?"

He nodded his head.

"Else I should not have sent you hither. They are bound to me in
gratitude. I saved them last year from some pother with the Excise."

"And Lucy--what of her?"

"She is the landlord's daughter."

Thus assured, I delivered to him my plan--that I would mask my person
beneath one of Lucy's gowns.

Vincott leaped at the notion. "Od rabbit me!" he cried, "I misliked your
face at first, but I begin to love it dearly now. For I see 'twas given
you for some purpose."

Once more he summoned Lucy, invented some story of a jest to be played,
and bound her to the straitest secrecy. She gained no inkling from him,
you may be sure, of the business which we had in hand. I stripped off my
coat, and with much lacing and compressing, much exercise of vigour on
Vincott's part, much panting on mine, and more roguish giggling upon
Lucy's, I was at last squeezed into the girl's Sunday frock. It had a
yellow bodice bedecked with red ribbons, and a red canvas skirt.

"But, la!" she exclaimed, "your feet! Sure you must have a long cloak to
hide them." And she whipped out of the room and fetched one. My feet did
indeed but poorly match the dress, which descended no lower than my

By good fortune the cloak had a hood attached, which could be drawn well
forward, and blurred my features in its shadow.

"So!" said I. "I am ready." And I strode quickly to the door. For Lucy's
glee and my masquerading weighed with equal heaviness upon me. I was
full-charged with sorrow for the coming interview. The old days in
Cumberland lived and beat within my heart; the old dreams of a linked
future voiced themselves again with a very bitter irony. 'Twas the last
time my eyes were to be gladdened with the sight of my loved friend and
playmate. I looked upon this visit as the sacred visit to a death-bed;
nay, as something yet more sad than that, for Julian lay a-dying in the
very bloom of health and youth, and the grotesque guise in which I went
forth to him seemed to mock and flout the solemnity of the occasion.

"Stop, lad!" said Vincott. "You must never walk like that. Your first
step would betray you. Watch me!"

With a peacock air, which at another time would have appeared to me
inimitably ludicrous, the little attorney minced across the room on the
tips of his toes. Lucy leaned against the wall holding her sides, and
fairly screamed with delight.

"What ails you, lass?" said he very sternly.

"La, Mr.Vincott," she gulped out between bubbles of laughter, "I think
you have but few honest women among your clients."

Mr.Vincott rebuked her at some length for her sauciness, and would have
prolonged his lecture yet further, but that my impatience mastered me and
hastened him from the room. The girl let us out by a small door which
gave on to an alley at the back of the house. The night was pitch-dark,
and the streets deserted; not even a lamp swung from a porch.

"Stay here for a moment," whispered Vincott. "I will move ahead and

His feet echoed on the cobbles with a strange lonely sound. In a minute
or so a low whistle reached my ears, and I followed him.

"All's clear," he said. "I little thought the time would ever come when I
should bless his late Majesty King Charles for forbidding the citizens of
Bristol to light their streets."

We stepped quickly forward, threading the quiet roads as noiselessly as
we could, until Vincott stopped before a large building. Light streamed
from the windows, piercing the mirk of the night with brownish rays, and
a dull muffled clamour rang through the gateway. "The Bridewell"
whispered Vincott. "Keep your face well shrouded, and for God's sake hide
your feet!" He drew a long breath, I did the same, and we crossed the
road and passed beneath the arch.


MR. VINCOTT knocked at the great door within the arch, and we were
presently admitted and handed over to the guidance of a jailer.

The fellow led us across a courtyard and into a long room clouded and
heavy with the smoke of tobacco.

"Keep the hood close!" whispered my companion a second time.

I muffled my face and bent my head towards the ground. For a noisy
clamour of drunken songs and coarse merriment and, mingled with that, a
ceaseless rattle of drinking cans, rose about me on all sides. It seemed
that the Bridewell kept open house that night. We traversed the room,
picking out a path among the captives, for even the floor was littered
with men in all imaginable attitudes--some playing cards, some asleep,
and most of them drunk. My presence served to redouble the uproar, and
each moment I feared that my disguise would be detected. I felt that
every eye in the room was centred upon my hood. One fellow, indeed, that
sat talking to himself upon a bench, got unsteadily to his feet and
reeled towards us. But or ever he came near, the jailer cut him across
the shoulders with his stick and sent him back howling and cursing.

"Back to your kennel!" he shouted. “'Tis an uncommon wench that would
visit the lousy likes o' you." At the far end of the room he unlocked a
door which opened on to a narrow flight of stairs. On the landing above
he halted before a second door of a more solid make, the panels being
strengthened by cross-beams, and secured with iron bars and a massive
lock. The jailer unfastened it and threw it open.

"You have half an hour, mistress," he said, civilly enough. A startled
cry of pain broke from the inside, I heard a sharp clink of fetters, and
Julian confronted me through the doorway, his eyes ablaze with passion,
and every limb strained and quivering.

"What more? What more, madam?" he asked, in a hoarse, trembling voice.
"Are you not satisfied?"

He stopped suddenly with a gasping intake of the breath, and let his head
roll forward on his breast like a fainting man. Vincott pushed me gently
within the room, and I heard the door clang behind me. For a moment I
could not speak. The tears rose in my throat and drowned the words.
Julian was the first to recover his composure.

"I crave your pardon," he said, and his voice sounded in my ears with a
sad familiarity like the echo of our boyhood. "I mistook you for
another." And he sat down on a bench and covered his face with his hands.

"Julian!" I said, finding at length my voice, and I held out my hands to
him. He uncovered his face and stared at me in sheer incredulity. Then
with a cry of joy he sprang forwards, stumbling pitifully from the
hindrance of his fetters.

"Morrice at last!" He lifted his hands and clapped them down into mine,
and the quick movement jerked the chain between his handlocks so that it
fell cold across my wrists. So we stood silent, memory speeding to and
fro between our eyes and telling the same wistful tale within the heart
of each of us. But in that brumous cell, lit only by a smoky lamp which
served rather to deepen the shadows of the space which it left obscure
than to illumine the circle immediately about it, such thoughts could not
beguile one long; and a strange, unaccountable fear began to creep up in
my mind like a mist. It seemed to me that the chain pressed ever tighter
and tighter about my wrists, and grew cold like a ring of ice. The chill
of it slipped into the marrow of my bones. I came almost to believe that
I myself was manacled, and with that I felt once again that premonition
of evil drawing near, which had numbed my spirit in the gray dawn at
London. Now, however, the warning came to me with a clearer and more
particular message. I had a penetrating conviction that this cell
prefigured some scene in the years to come wherein I should fill the
place of Julian; and, seeing him, I saw a dim image of myself as when a
man looks into a clouded mirror, So thoroughly, indeed, did the fancy
master me that I too became, as it were, the shadow and reflex of
another, a mere counter and symbol representing one as yet unknown to me.

"I thought you would never come," said my friend, and I woke out of my

"I started at once from Leyden," I replied; but Julian cut short my

"I am sure of it. I never doubted you. We have but half an hour, and I
have much to tell."

He turned away and flung himself down on the bench, which was broad and
had a rail at the back, such as you may see outside a village ale-house.

"Vincott has told you the history of my arrest?"

"Yes!" said I. The lamp stood upon a stool beside the bench, and I lifted
it up and placed it on a rough bracket which was fixed to the wall above.
The light fell full upon his face, which had grown extraordinary thin,
with the skin very bloodless and tight about his jaws, so that the bones
looked to have sharpened. Only around his eyes was there any colour, and
that of a heavy purple. I sat down upon the stool, and Julian gave
something like a sigh of content.

"I am glad you have come, Morrice," he said. "It has tired me so, waiting
for you."

He closed his eyes wearily, and appeared to be falling asleep. I touched
him on the shoulder, and he sprang to his feet like one dazed, brushing
against the bracket and making the flame of the lamp spirt up with a
sudden flare. Once or twice he walked to and fro in the room, as though
ordering his speech.

"Here is the kernel of the matter," said he at last, coming back to the
bench. "I was arrested to serve no ends of justice, but the vilest
treachery and cowardice that man ever heard of. The tale, in truth, seems
well nigh inconceivable. Even I, who have sounding evidence of its
truth," and he kicked one of his feet, so that the links of the fetters
rattled on the floor, "even I find it hard to believe that 'tis more than
a monstrous fable. The man called himself my friend."

"It was Count Lukstein, then?"

"How did you find out that? Vincott could not have told you."

"He did not tell me, but yet he gave me to know it."

"Yes, it was Count Lukstein. He laid the information to spare himself a
duel and to get rid of--well, of an obstacle. I meant to kill him. I
should have killed him, and he knew it. The duel was arranged secretly on
the afternoon of Saturday, the ninth; the spot chosen--a dip in the
hill, solitary and unfrequented even at midday, for the descent is steep
--and the time six o'clock on the Sunday morning. And yet there I was
taken, on the very ground, at six o'clock on a Sunday morning--raining,

"There seems little doubt."

"There is no doubt. 'Twas his life or mine. The dispute was the mere
pretext and occasion of the duel."

"So I understood."

I was beginning to understand, besides, that the facts which Mr.Vincott
had intended to impart to me were somewhat more numerous than he thought
fit to admit.

"The cause--but I can't speak of that. In any case, 'twas his life or
mine, and he knew it, so deemed it prudent to take mine, since he had the
power, without risking his own."

"But," I objected, "could you trust your seconds? They knew the time, the

"But they did not know I was sheltering Monmouth's fugitives. Lukstein
knew it."

"You told him?"


He stopped abruptly, and his eyes foil from my face to the ground. And
then he said, in a very sad and quiet voice,--"But I have none the less
sure proof he knew." He sat silent with bowed head, labouring his breath,
and his hands lying clasped together upon his knees. I noticed that the
tips of his fingers were pressed tight into the backs of his palms, so
that the flesh about them looked dead.

I leaned forward and took him gently by the arm. "You must deliver me
that proof, Julian," said I. For I began to have a pretty sure inkling of
the service he had it in his mind to require of me.

He shifted his eyes to my face and then back again to the floor.

"I know, I know," he replied unsteadily, "I disclosed my secret to but
one person in the world." And as I held my peace wondering, he flashed on
me a tortured face. "Don't force me to give the name!" he cried. "Think!
Think, Morrice! Who should I have told? Who should I have told?"

The words seemed wrung from his soul. I understood what that first
outburst meant when the jailer had bidden me enter, and my gorge rose
against this woman who could make such foul sport of her lover's trust.
He read my thought in my face, and though he might upbraid his mistress
himself, he would not suffer me to do the same.

"You must not blame her," he said earnestly, laying a hand upon my knee.
"Blame me! Blame us who wantoned the days away at Whitehall, and cloyed
the very air with our flatteries. You chose the right part, Morrice, a
man's part--work. As for us," he resumed his restless walk about the
chamber, beating one clenched fist into the palm of the other, "as for
us, a new fashion, a new dance, were our studies, cajoling women our
work. The divine laws were sneered at, trampled down. They were meet for
the ragged who had naught but hope in the next world to comfort them for
their humiliation in this. But we--we who had silk to wear and money to
spend, we needed a different creed. Sin was our God, and we worshipped
and honoured it openly. When I think of it, I, a Catholic, can find it in
my heart to wish that Monmouth's cause had won. No, Morrice, you must not
blame her. The fault is ours, and I am rightly punished for my share in
it. Constancy was a burgess virtue, fit for a tradesman. We despised it
in ourselves; what right had we to expect it in the women we surrounded?"

He checked the vehement flow abruptly, and came and stood over me.

"And yet, Morrice," he said, with a smile that was infinitely tender and
sad, "and yet I loved her, with a sweet purity in the love, and a humble
thankfulness for the knowledge of it, loved her as any country bumpkin
might love the girl who rakes a furrow at his side."

"And in return," I said bitterly, "she betrayed you to Count Lukstein?"

He nodded "yes," and sat down again on his bench.


"Long before the duel. She had no suspicion of the consequences of her
words," he said hastily. "She had no hand in this plot."

"Why?" I repeated.

He looked at me, imploring mercy.

"I understand," said I.

"Ah, no!" he said quickly; "your suspicions outstrip the truth. I think
so," and again with a curiously pleading voice, "I think so. The man
purred more softly than the rest, and so she--"

He broke off in the middle of the sentence and began anew. "I must lay
the whole truth bare, I see that. Only the shame of it cuts into me like
a knife."

He paused, and great beads of sweat broke out upon his forehead.

"I have told you that my dispute with Lukstein was no more than the
pretext of our quarrel. She was the cause. How long their acquaintance
had lasted I know not, or to what length of intimacy it had gone.
Lukstein was as secret as a cat, and he taught her his duplicity. 'Twas
I myself presented him to her formally when he came first to the Hotwell,
but I think now the pair had met before in London. 'Twere too long to
describe how my fears were aroused--an exchange of glances noted here, a
letter in his hand dropped from a sachet there, a certain guarded
hesitation she evinced when Lukstein and I were both with her, a word
carelessly dropped showing knowledge of his movements; all trifles in
themselves, but summed together a very weighty argument. So on the
morning of the ninth, worn out with disquiet, I resolved to bring the
matter to an issue, and I rode over to St. Vincent's rock. Lukstein was
seated at an escritoire as I entered the room. I saw his face blanch and
his hand fly to an open drawer, close, and lock it. He rose to greet me,
and drew me to the window, which pleased me the more for that a bell
stood upon the escritoire. I got between him and the bell and taxed him
with his treachery. He denied it, larding me with friend protestations. I
backed to the escritoire and repeated the charge. He laughed at me for my
unmanly lack of faith. With a sudden wrench I tore open the locked
drawer. He bounded towards the bell; my sword was at his breast, and we
stood watching one another while I rummaged with my left hand in the

" 'You shall pay for this,' says he, very softly.

" 'One of us will pay,' says I.

" 'Yes, you! You!' and he smiled, with his lips drawn back so that I saw
the gums of his teeth on both jaws. If only I had known what he meant! I
had him there at my sword's point. I had but to lean forward on my arm!

" 'Get back to the window!’ I ordered, and he obeyed me with an affected
jauntiness. Out of the drawer I drew a small gold box of an oval shape. I
had given it but a fortnight agone to--to--you will understand; and it
contained my miniature. The box fastened with a lock, and I forgot to ask
him for the key. He has it still. There were letters besides in the
drawer, and I made him burn them before my eyes. Then I took my leave and
sent my seconds."

"Are you sure the box was the same?" I asked, when he had done. He
slipped his hand into his pocket, and brought it out and placed it in my
hand. His coat of arms was emblazoned on the cover.

"Keep it!" he said. I tried the lid, but the box was locked. "Until I
recover the key," I answered, and we clasped hands.

"Thank you!" he said simply. "Thank you!"

The smell of the Cumberland gorse was in my nostrils, my friend lay
before me traitorously fettered, and this poor, belated adjustment of his
wrong seemed the very right and fitting function of the love I bore for
him. There was, however, still one point on which I still felt need to be
assured. For I knew the timidity of my nature, and I was minded to leave
no fissure in this wall of evidence through which after-doubts might leak
to sap my resolution.

"And the proof?" I asked. "The proof that she informed Count Lukstein!"

"She confessed that to me herself. She came to me here on the evening of
the day that I was taken."

I placed the gold box in the fob of my waistcoat, and as I did so I felt
a book. I drew it out wondering what it might be. 'Twas the small copy of
Horace which I had thrust there unwittingly when I waited for the
doctor's report at Leyden. I held it in my hands and turned over the
pages idly.

"Count Lukstein has left Bristol," I said.

"Ay; he got little good out of his treachery beyond the saving of his
carcass. But he left his servant here--Otto Krax. That is why I bade you
come disguised. He knew I could not make the matter public for--for her
sake. But I suppose that he feared I might reveal it to some friend if
the trial went against me, entrust to him the just work I am forced to
leave undone. Perchance he had some hint of Swasfield's departure; I know
not. This only I know: Krax has been at Vincott's heels, keeping close
watch on all who passed in with him to me; and should he find out that
you had come from Holland in this great haste, it might prove an ill
day's work for you, and, in any case, Lukstein would be forewarned."

"He lives in the Tyrol?"

"At Schloss Lukstein, six miles to the east of Glurns, in the valley of
the Adige. But, Morrice, he is master there. The spot is remote, there's
no one to gainsay him. You must needs be careful. He hath no love for
honest dealing, and you had best take him privately."

He spoke with so sombre a warning in his tone that the shadows appeared
to darken about the room.

"He is cunning," Julian went on; "you must match him in cunning. Nay,
over-match him, for he has power as well."

"You have visited this castle?"

"Yes. 'Tis built in two wings which run from east to west, and north to
south, and form a right angle at the north-east corner. At the extreme
end of the latter wing there is a tower; a window opens on to the terrace
from a small room in this tower. There are but two doors in the room;
that on the left gives on to a passage which leads to the main hall. The
servants sleep on the far side of the hall. The other door opens on to a
narrow stairway which mounts to the Count's bedroom. 'Tis his habit of a
night to sit in this small room."

"I understand. And the entrance to this terrace?"

"That is the danger, for the place is built upon a rock sheer and
precipitous. However, there is one spot where the ascent may be
contrived. I discovered the way by chance. The climb is hazardous, yet
not more so than some that we attacked out of mere sport on Scafell
crags. Ah, me! Morrice, those were the best days of my life. I wonder
whether 'twill be the same with you!"

Something like a shiver ran through me, but before I could answer him the
key grated in the lock and the door was flung open. I turned, and saw in
the shadow of the entrance the sombre figure of a priest. He was tall,
and the cassock which robed him in black from head to foot made him show
yet taller. In his hand he held a gleaming crucifix. He raised it above
his head as he crossed the threshold, and in the twilight of the room it
shone like a silver flame.

Julian sprang from his bench; his shoulder caught the bracket, the lamp
rocked once or twice, and then crashed to the ground. In the darkness no
one spoke; the rustle of our breathing was marked like the ticking of a

After a while the jailer fetched in a taper. Julian looked at me in some
embarrassment. The priest waited patiently by the door, and it was
impossible for us to renew our discourse. In rising, however, I had let
fall the Horace on to the floor, and the book lay open at my feet. Julian
caught sight of it, and a plan occurred to him. He fumbled in his pocket
for a pencil, picked the volume up, and drew a rapid sketch upon the open

"That will make all clear," he remarked.

I took the book from him, and we clasped hands for the last time.

"At this hour to-morrow?" he said, with a little catch in his voice. I
was still holding his hand. I could feel the blood beating in his
fingers. At this hour to-morrow! It seemed incredible. "Morrice!" he
cried, clinging to me, and his voice was the voice of a child crying out
in the black of the night. In a moment he recovered his calm, and dropped
my hand. I made my reverence to the priest, and the door clanged between

Vincott was waiting for me at the foot of the stairs, and we hurried
silently to the gates. The porter came forward to let us out, but I
noticed that he fumbled with his keys which he carried upon an iron ring.
He tried first one and then another in the lock, as though he knew not
which fitted it. His ignorance struck me as strange until Vincott pulled
me by the sleeve.

"Turn your back to the hutch," he whispered suddenly. Instinct made me
face it instead, and I perceived, gazing curiously into my face, the very
man who had tracked Vincott in the afternoon: Otto Krax, as I now knew
him to be, Count Lukstein's servant. So startled was I by the unexpected
sight of him, that I let the volume of Horace fall from my fingers to the
ground. On the instant he ran forward and picked it up. I snatched it
from his hand before he could do more than glance at its cover, where
upon he made me a polite bow and returned to the embrasure. At last the
porter succeeded in opening the door, and we got us into the street.
Vincott was for upbraiding me at first in that I followed not his
directions, but I cut him short roughly, and bade him hold his peace. For
the world seemed very strange and empty, and I had no heart for talking.
So we walked in silence back towards the inn.

Of a sudden, however, Vincott stopped.

"Listen!" he whispered.

I strained my ears until they ached. Behind us, in the quiet of the
night, I could hear footsteps creeping and stealthy, not very far away.
Vincott drew me into an angle of the wall, and we waited there holding
our breaths. The footsteps slid nearer and nearer. Never since have I
heard a sound which so filled me with terror. The haunting secrecy of
their approach had something in it which chilled the blood--the sound of
a man on the trail. He passed no more than six feet from where we stood.
It was Otto Krax; and we remained until we could hear him no more.
Vincott wiped his forehead.

"If he had stopped in front of us," I said, "I should have cried out."

"And by the Lord," said he, "I should have done no less."

A hundred yards farther on, Vincott stopped again.

"He has found out his mistake," he exclaimed in a low, quavering voice.

We listened again; the footsteps were returning swiftly, but with the
same quiet stealth.

"Quick!" said Vincott, "against the wall!"

"No," said I, "he is tracking along the side of it. Let us face and pass

We walked on at a good pace, and made no effort at concealment. The man
stopped as soon as we had gone by, turned, and came after us. My heart
raced in my breast. He quickened his pace and drew level. "'Tis a strange
time for women to run these streets?"

He spoke with a guttural accent, and his face leered over my shoulder. In
a passion of fear I swung my arm free from the cloak, and hit at the face
with all my strength. The dress I was wearing ripped at the shoulder as
though you had torn a sheet of brown paper. My blow by good fortune
caught him in the neck at the point where the jaw curves up into the
cheek, and he fell heavily to the ground, his head striking full upon a
rounded cobble. I waited to see no more, but tucked up my skirts and ran
as though the fiend were at my heels, with Vincott panting behind me. We
never halted until we had reached the alley which led to the back-door of
the inn.

I invited Vincott to come in with me and recruit his energies with a
second dose of Bristol milk.

"No! no!" he returned. “'Tis late already, and you have to start betimes
in the morning."

"There is the ceiling," I suggested.

He laughed softly.

"Mr.Buckler, I exaggerated its beauties," he said, "and I fear me if I
went in with you I should be forced to repeat my error. It is just that
which I wish to avoid."

"There are other and indifferent topics," I replied, "on which we might
speak frankly." For a change had come over my spirit, and I dreaded to
be left alone. Vincott shook his head.

"We should not find our tongues would talk of them." However, he made no
motion of departure, but stood scraping a toe between the stones. Then I
heard him chuckle to himself.

"That was a good blow, my friend," he said; "a good, clean blow, pat on
the angle of the jaw. I would never have credited you with the strength
for it. The man has been a plaguy nuisance to me, and the blow was a very
soothing compensation. Only conduct your undertaking with the like energy
throughout, and I do believe--" He pulled himself up suddenly.

"What do you believe?" I asked.

"I believe," he replied sententiously, "that Lucy will need a new Sunday
gown;" and he turned on his heel and marched out of the alley.

The next morning came a foreigner to the inn, and made inquiry concerning
a woman who had stayed there over-night. Lucy, faithful to her promise,
stoutly declared that no woman had rested in the house for so little as
an hour, and, not content with that asseveration, she must needs go on to
enforce her point by assuring him that the inn had given shelter to but
one traveller, and that traveller a man. But the traveller by this time
was well upon his way to London, and so learnt nothing of the inquiry
until long afterwards.


DEW jewelling the grasses in the fields, the chatter of birds among the
trees, a sparkling freshness in the air, and before me the road running
white into the gold of the rising sun. But behind! On the top of St
Michael's hill, outlined black against the pearly western sky, rose the
gaunt cross-trees of the gallows. 'Twas the last glimpse I had of
Bristol, and I lingered as one horribly fascinated until the picture was
embedded in my heart. In London I tarried but so long as sufficed for me
to repair the deficiencies of my dress, since my very linen was now
become unsightly and foul, and, riding to Gravesend, took ship for

I had determined to join Larke with me in my undertaking, for I bethought
me of his craving for strange paths and adventures, and hoped to discover
in him a readiness of wit which would counteract my own scrupulous
hesitancy. For this I implicitly believed that it was not so much the
wariness that Julian bespoke which would procure success, as the instinct
of opportunity, the power, I mean, at once to grasp the fitting occasion
when it presented, and to predispose one's movements in the way best
calculated to bring about its presentment. In this quality I knew myself
to be deficient. 'Twas ever my misfortune to confuse the by-ways with the
high-road. I would waste the vital moment in deliberation as to which was
shortest, and alas! the path I chose in the end more often than not
turned out to be a cul-de-sac. In the particular business in which I was
engaged such overweening prudence would be like to nullify my purpose,
and further, destroy both Jack and myself. For beyond a description of
Count Lukstein's person which I had from Julian some while ago, I knew
nothing but what he had told me in the prison; and that knowledge was too
scanty to serve as the foundation for even the flimsiest plan. The
region, the Castle, the aggregate of servants, and their manner of life--
it behoved me to have certain information on all these particulars were I
to pre-arrange a mode of attack. As things were, I must needs lie in
ambush for chance, and seize it with all speed when it passed our way.

At Leyden I found Jack, very glum and melancholy, poring over a folio of
Shakespeare. 'Twas the single author whom he favoured, and he read his
works with perpetual interest and delight. "This is the book of deeds,"
he would say, smacking a fist upon the cover. "There is but one bad play
in it, and that is the tragedy of Hamlet. The good Prince is too
speculative a personage."

"You reached Bristol in time?" he asked, springing up as I entered the

"In time; but not a moment too soon," I replied, and sat mum.

"Then Sir Julian Harnwood is safe?"

"No! There was never a hope of that."

The old smile, half amusement, half contempt, flashed upon his lips; the
old envy looked out from his eyes. I,  of course, had bungled where a man
of vigour might have accomplished.

"It was not for that end that he sent for me," I hastened to add, and
then I stuck. I had determined to relate to Jack forthwith the story of
my mission, and to engage his assistance, but the actual sight of him
overturned my intentions. I felt tongue-tied; I dared not tell him lest
my resolution should trickle away in the telling; for I read upon his
face his poor estimation of my powers, and I dreaded the ridicule of his
comments upon my unfitness for the task to which I had set my hand. I had
sufficient doubts of my own upon that score. Indeed, since I had entered
the room, they had buzzed about me importunate as a cloud of gnats; for
Larke had never been sparing of his homilies upon my incapacity. I think
every article I possessed, at one time or another, had been twisted into
a text for them; and now they all came flocking back to me, as my eyes
ranged over the familiar objects they had been based upon. They seemed,
in truth, to saturate the very air.

Hence, I confided to Larke no more than the fact of our journey into the
Tyrol; its reason and purpose I kept secret to myself. And to this
self-distrust, trivial matter though it was. I owed my subsequent
misfortunes. It was the first link in the chain of disaster, and I forged
it myself unwittingly.

"Jack," said I, "you were ever fond of adventures. One lies at your

"Of what kind?" he asked.

"A journey into the Tyrol."

"For what purpose!"

"I cannot tell you. You must trust me if you come?" He looked at me
doubtfully. "Your life will be risked," I urged; "I can gratify you so

He closed the Shakespeare with a bang. "When do we start?"

"As soon as ever we are prepared. To-morrow."

“'Twere a pity to waste a day."

I assured him that so far from wasting it, we should have much ado to get
off even the next morning. For there were a couple of stout horses to be
purchased, besides numberless other arrangements to be made. The horses
we bought of a dealer in the Rapenburg, and then, enlisting the
fencing-master to aid us, we sought the shop of an armourer in the Hout
Straat. From him we bought a long sword and a brace of pistols each,
whereupon Larks declared that we were equipped cap-à-pie, and loudly
protested against further hindrance. I insisted, however, in adding a
pair of long cloaks of a heavier cloth than any we possessed, and divers
other warm garments. For we were now in the last days of September and I
knew that winter comes apace in upland countries like the Tyrol. Then
there were maps to be procured, and a route to be pricked out, so that it
was late in the evening before we had completed our preparations.

Meanwhile I inquired of Larke how it had fared with Swasfield. It
appeared that it was not until some hours after I had ridden off that the
man regained his senses, and then he was still too weak to amplify his
tidings; in fact, he had only recovered sufficiently to depart from
Leyden two days before I returned. Doubtless to some extent his
convalescence was retarded by grief for that he had not fulfilled his
errand. For he was ever lamenting the omission of his message, and more
particularly of that portion which referred to the road between Bristol
and London. For swift horses had been stabled at intervals of fifteen
miles along the whole stretch, and in order to make sure that no one but
myself should have the profit of them, as Swasfield said, or rather, as I
think, in order that my name might not transpire if Count Lukstein's
spies were watching the road and became suspicious at this posting of
relays, it was arranged that they should be delivered only to the man who
passed the word "Wastwater," that being the name of the lake in
Cumberland on which my lands abutted.

Of our journey into the Tyrol I have but faint recollections. We set off
the next morning with no more impediments than we could carry in valises
fixed upon our saddles. Even Udal, my body-servant, I left behind, for he
had neither liking nor aptitude for foreign tongues, a few scraps of
French and a meagre knowledge of Dutch forced on him by his residence in
the country being all that he possessed. He would, therefore, have only
hindered our progress, and, besides, I had no great faith in his
discretion. I was minded, accordingly, to secure some foreigner in
Strasbourg who would think we were engaged upon a tour of pleasure; which
I did, and dismissed him at Innsbruck.

For the rest I rode with little attention or regard for the provinces
through which we passed. The very cities wherein we slept seemed the
cities of a dream, so that now I am like one who strives to piece
together memories of a journey taken in early childhood. An alley of
trees recurs to me, the shine of stars in a midnight sky, or, again, the
comfortable figure of a Boniface; but the images are confused and void of
suggestion, for I rode eyes shut and hands clenched, as a coward rides in
the press of battle.

At times, indeed, when we halted, I would turn industriously to my
Horace. The book had fallen open at the Palinodia when I dropped it in
the prison, so that Julian's sketch was on the page opposite to the date
September 14.

I append here the diagram which was to enable me to find an entrance into
the Castle, and it will be seen that I had much excuse for studying it.
In truth, I could make neither head nor tail of its signification.

'Twas ever this outline of Lukstein Castle that I pondered, though Jack
knew it not, and when he beheld the book in my hands would gaze at me
with a troubled look of distrust. On the instant I would fall miserably
to taking count of myself. "Here are you," I would object to myself, "a
bookish student of a mean stature and a dilatory mind. You have faced no
weapon more deadly than a buttoned foil, and you would compel a man of
great strength and indubitable cunning to a mortal encounter in the
privacy of his own house, that is, supposing you are not previously done
to death by his serfs, which is most like to happen." Then would my
courage, a very ricketty bantling, make weak protest: "You faced a
blunderbuss and a volley of slugs, and you were not afraid."

"But," I would answer hotly, "you did not face them, you were running
away. Besides, you had called your assailant a potato, and therefore had
already a contempt for him. This time it is you who will be the potato,
as you will most surely discover when Count Lukstein spits you on his
skewer;" and so I would get me wretchedly to bed.

There were, indeed, but two thoughts which served to console me. In the
first place, I was sensible that I had acquired some dexterity with the
foils, and if I could but imagine a button on the point of the Count's
sword I might hope to hold my own. In the second, I remembered very
clearly a remark of Julian's. "The man's a coward," he had said, and I
hugged the sentence to my breast. I repeated the words, indeed, until
they fell into the cadence of a rhythm, and lost all meaning and comfort
for me, sounding hollow, like the tapping of an empty nut.

Of what Larke suffered during that period I had no suspicion, but from
subsequent hints I gather that his distress, though based upon far other
grounds, was no whit inferior to my own. His behaviour, indeed, when I
came to consider it, revealed to me new and amiable aspects of his
character; for while he firmly disbelieved in my ability to captain an
expedition, he never once pestered me for an explanation. I had entrusted
the purse to his care, and at each town he made the arrangements for our
stay, looked after the welfare of our horses, and, in short, took
modestly upon himself the troublesome conduct of our travels. Knowing
nothing of my purpose but its danger, and distrustful of its achievement,
he yet rode patiently forward, humming over a French song, of which the
refrain ran, I remember--Que toutes joies et toutes honneurs Viennent
d'armes et d'amours.

For he possessed that delicate gift of sympathy which keeps the friend
silent when the acquaintance multiplies his questions.

Thus we journeyed for over a month. It was, I fancy, on the 12th November
that we reached the town of Innsbruck, the weather very shrewd and
bitter, for snow had fallen in great quantities and a cutting wind blew
from the hills. That night I told my companion of our destination, but
disclosed no more of the business than that I had a private message for
Count Lukstein's ear, which must needs be delivered secretly if we were
to save our lives. We stayed here for two days that we might rest our
horses, and early on the 14th set off for Glurns,  which lay some eighty
miles away in a broad valley they called the Vintschgau. The snow,
however, was massed very deep, and though the road was sound, for it was
the highway into Italy, we did not come up with the village until two
o'clock on the third afternoon. Beyond Glurns the road traversed the
valley in a diagonal line through a dreary avenue of stunted limes, which
in their naked leaflessness looked in the distance like a palisade. Into
this avenue we passed, and were well-nigh across the dale and under its
northern barrier of mountains, when Larke suddenly reined up.

“Childe Roland to the dark tower came," he sang out. "Heaven send there be
no one to complete the quotation!"

I followed the direction of his gaze. Right ahead of us the Castle, the
rock whereon it was pinnacled, and the village, huddled on a little
plateau at its base, stood out from the hill-side like a black stain upon
the snow. A carriage-way, diverging from our road a hundred yards farther
on, ran up towards it in long zigzags, and to this point we advanced.

"Look!" suddenly cried Larke. "We are not the first  to visit the worthy
Count to-day."

From both directions carriages or sledges had turned into this track, so
that the snow at its entrance was trampled by the hoofs of horses, and
cut by intersecting curves.

“'Tis not certain," I said, "that the marks were made to-day."

"It is," he replied, "else would the ruts have frozen."

The thought that the Count had company doubled my disquiet. For there was
the less chance of finding him alone, and I was anxious to have done with
the matter.

The first angle made by the zigzags was thickly covered with a boskage of
pines. Into this we led our horses, and fastening them in the heart of it
where the trees were most dense, we crept towards the west corner. At
this point the track bent back upon itself and mounted eastwards to the
border of the village, turned again, threading the houses at the bottom
of the cliff, struck up thence at a right angle in a clear, open stretch
beneath the west face of the rock, and finally curved round at the back
to the gates. For the entrance to the Castle fronted the hill-side and not
the valley.

I took my Horace from my pocket, and in an instant the diagram became
intelligible to me. The long curving line represented the road, and the
way of ascent, marked by the cross, was to be found on the western wall
of rock, and above the open stretch of road. Of this we now commanded an
unimpeded view, for the corner of the road at which we stood was situated
to the west of the Castle.

"I see it!" I exclaimed, and I handed the book to Larke.

"So this is the secret of the poet's fascination," he answered. "But I
see no path. The cliff is as smooth as an egg-shell, save for that one
projecting rib."

"That is the path," I replied.

A shoulder of rock with a ribbon of snow upon its ridge jutted out from
the summit of the cliff, and descended in an unbroken line to the road.

"'Tis impossible to ascend that," said he. "We should break our necks
for a surety or ever we were half-way up."

"It shows steeper than it is," I answered. "We are not well-placed for
judging of its incline; for that we should see it in profile. But where
snow lies, there a man may climb."

Jack raised no further objection; but ever and again I noticed him gazing
at me with a puzzled expression upon his face. We crouched down in the
undergrowth until such time as the night should fall, blowing on our
fingers and pressing close against each other for warmth's sake. But
'twas of little use; my body tingled with cold, and I began to think my
muscles would be frozen stiff, before the darkness gave us leave to move.
The valley, moreover, looked singularly mournful and desolate in its
shroud of white. As far as the eye could travel not a living thing could
be seen, nor could the ear detect a sound. The region brooded in a
sinister silence. I verily believe that I should have loosed my horse and
fled but for the presence of my companion.

Jack, however, was in no higher spirits than myself, and from the
continual glances of his eyes I think that he was infected with a
wholesome fear of the rib of rock. At last the dusk fell; the lights
began to twinkle in the village and in the upper windows of the Castle.
For a wall, broken here and there by round turrets, circled about the
edge of the cliff and hid the lower story from our sight.

We looked to the priming of our pistols, buckled our swords tighter about
the waist, shook the snow from our cloaks, and cautiously stepped out on
to the path. At the edge of the village we stopped. 'Twas but one street;
but that very narrow and busy. Not a moment passed but a door opened, and
a panel of orange light was thrown across the gloom, and the figures of
men and women were seen passing and repassing. The village was astir and
humming like a hive. But there was no other way. For on our right rose
the tooth of rock in a sheer scarp; on our left the ground broke steeply
away at the backs of the houses.

"We must make a dash for it," said Larke. We waited until the street
cleared for a moment, and then ran between the houses as fast as our legs
would carry us. The snow deadened the sound of our feet, and we were
well-nigh through the village when Larke tripped over a hillock and
stumbled forward on his face with a curse. The next instant I dropped
down beside him, and covering his mouth with my hand, forced him prone to
the ground. For barely twenty feet ahead a door had suddenly opened, and
a man dressed in the jacket and short breeches of the Tyroler came out on
to the path. He stood with his back towards us and exchanged some jest
with the inmates of the house, and I recognised his voice. I had heard it
no more than once, it is true, but the occasion  had fixed the sound of
it for ever in my memories. It was the voice of the spy who had tracked
us in the streets of Bristol. He turned towards the door, so that the
light streamed full upon his face, shouted a "God be with you."  and
strode off in the direction of the Castle. The sight of him left me no
room for doubt. That he had outstripped us caused me, indeed, little
surprise, for we had travelled by a devious way, and had, moreover,
delayed here and there upon the road.

Larke commenced to sputter and cough.

 "Quiet!" I whispered, for the man was yet within hearing.

"Loose your hand, then!" he returned. "'Tis easy enough to say quiet, but
'tis not so easy to choke quietly."

In my fluster I was holding his head tightly pressed into the snow, so
that he could only have caught the barest glimpse of the man. "Who was
it?" he asked.

"One of Lukstein's servants."

"You know him?"

"I have seen him, and he has seen me. Maybe he would know me again."

We got safely quit of the houses and turned into the upward stretch of
road, towards the buttress of rock, It jutted out across our path, and
was plainly distinguishable, for the night was pure and clean, and
appeared to be tinctured with a vague light from the snow-fields. I
noticed, too, that on the far side of the valley a pale radiance was
welling over the brim of the hills with promise of the moon. 'Twas a very
sweet sight to me, since climbing an unknown rock-ledge in the dark hath
little to commend it, unless it be necessity.

At the foot of the rib we halted and prepared to ascend. But nowhere
could I find a cranny for my fingers or a knob for my boot. The surface
was indeed, as Jack had said, as smooth as an egg-shell. I stepped back
to the outer edge of the road and examined it as thoroughly as was

For the first twelve feet it was absolutely perpendicular; above that
point it began to slope. It was as though the lowest portion of the rib
had been cut purposely away.

And then I remembered! Julian had spoken only of a descent. Now a man may
drop twelve feet and come to no harm, but once at the bottom he must bide
there. There was but one way out of the difficulty, and luckily Larke's
shoulders were broad.

"You must lend me your back," I said. "I will haul you up after me."

He planted himself firmly against the rock, with his legs apart, and I
climbed up his back on to his shoulders.

"You teach me mercy to my horse," he said quietly.

"Why? What have I done?" I asked.

"Jabbed your spurs into my thighs and stood on them," he replied in a
matter-of-fact voice. "But 'tis all one. Blood was meant to be spilled."

Being now more than five feet from the ground, I was able to worm my
fingers into a crack at the point where the ridge began to incline, and
so hoist myself on to an insecure footing. But it was utterly beyond my
power to drag Larke after me, for the snow was thin and shallow, and
underneath it the rock loose and shattered. I should most surely have
been pulled over had I made the attempt. I ascended the ridge in the hope
of discovering a more stable position, whence I could lower my cloak to
my companion. But 'twas all slabs at a pretty steep slope, with here and
there little breaks and ledges. I could just crawl up on my belly, but I
could do no more. There was never a yard of level where you could secure
a solid grip of the feet. So I climbed back again and leaned over the

"Jack," I said, "I can't give you a helping hand. It would mean a certain

"I shall need little help, Morrice--very little," he answered in a tone
of entreaty.

"I can't even give you that. The ridge is too insecure."

"Ah! Don't say that!" he burst out. "You have not come all these miles to
be turned back by a foot or two of rock. It is absurd! It is worse than
absurd. It is cowardly."

"Hush!" I whispered gently. For I could gauge his disappointment, and
gauging it, could pardon his railing.

"I have no thought of turning back."

"Then what will you do? Morrice, this is no time for dreaming? What will
you do?"

"Jack," I said, "you and I must part company. I must win through this
trouble by myself."

I heard something like a sob; it was the only answer he made.

"Wait for me by the horses in the wood! Give me till dawn, but not a
moment longer! If I am not with you then--well, 'tis the long good-bye
betwixt you and me, Jack, and you had best ride for your life."

Again he made no answer. For a moment I fancied that he had stolen away
in a fury, and I craned my head over the rock, so that I could look down
into the road. He was standing motionless with bent shoulders just
beneath me.

"Jack!" I called. For it might well be the last time I should speak to
him. We had been good friends, and I would not have him part from me in
anger. "There is no other way. It can't be helped."

He turned up his face towards me, but it was too dark for me to read its

"Very well, Morrice," he said, and there was no resentment in his tone.
"I will wait for your coming, and God send you come!"

And with a dull, heavy step he walked back along the path.

I turned and set my face to the cliff. After a while the ridge widened
out, and the snow overlaid it more firmly, insomuch that a sure foot
might have walked along by day. In the uncertain light, however--for the
moon as yet hung low in a gap of the hills--I dared not venture it, and
crept up on my hands and knees, testing carefully each tooth of rock or
ever I trusted my weight to its stability. Towards the summit the rib
thinned again to a sharp edge, and I was forced to straddle up it as best
I could, with a leg dangling on either side. Altogether, what with the
obstacles which the climb presented and numbing of my fingers, since the
snow quickly soaked through my gloves, I made my way but slowly.

At the top I found myself face to face with the Castle wall, which was
some ten feet in height, and quite solid and uncrumbled. Between it and
the rim of the crag, however, was a strip of level ground about half a
yard broad, and I determined to follow it round until I should reach some
angle at which it would be possible to climb the wall. On this strip the
snow was heavily piled, and for security's sake I got me again to my
hands and knees, flogging a path before me with the scabbard of my sword.
I began to fear that I might be foiled in my endeavour for want of a
companion; for again I bethought me, Julian only descended, and a man
might drop from any portion of the wall, whereas the scaling of it was a
different matter. I proceeded in the opposite direction to the Castle
gates, and so came out above the south face of the precipice. Below me
the houses of Lukstein village glimmered like a cluster of glow-worms; I
had merely to roll over to fall dump among the roof-tops. I could even
hear a faint murmur of brawling voices, and once I caught a plaintive
snatch of song. For in that still, windless air sounds rose like bubbles
in a clear pool of water.

The wall on my left curved and twisted with the indents of the cliff, and
a little more than half-way across the face I came to a spot where it ran
in and out at a sharp angle. Moreover, one of the turrets which I had
remarked from the wood bulged out from the line, and made of this angle a
sort of crevice. Into the corner I thrust my back, and working my elbows
and knees, with some help from the roughness of the stones, I managed to
mount on to the parapet. The Castle lay stretched before me. In front
stood the main body of the building; to my right a shorter wing, ending
in a tower, jutted off towards the wall on which I lay. A broad terrace,
enclosing in the centre a patch of lawn, separated me from the building.

I fixed my eyes upon the tower. The window of the lower room was dark,
and, strangely enough, 'twas the only window dark in the house. From the
upper room there shone a faint gleam as of a lamp ill-trimmed. But all
the other windows in the chief façade and the more distant part of this
wing blazed out into the night. I could see passing figures shadowed upon
the curtains, and music floated forth on a ripple of laughter, gavotte
being linked to minuet and pavane in an endless melody.

Every now and then some couple dainty with ribbons and jewels would step
out from the porch, and with low voices and pensive steps pace the
terrace until the cold froze the sweetness from their talk. They were
plain to me, for the moon was riding high, and revealed even the nooks of
the garden. Indeed, the only obscure corner was that in which I lay
concealed. For a little pavilion leaned against the wall hard by me, and
cast a deep shadow over the coping.

But I hardly needed even that protection to screen me from these truants.
I might have stood visible in the lawn's centre, and yet been asked no
question. For such as braved the frost came not out to spy for strangers;
their eyes sought each other with too intimate an insistence.

I had indeed timed my visit ill. The revels of the village were being
repeated in the Castle.

The sharp contrast of my particular purpose forced its reality grimly
upon me, and made this vigil one long agony. I had planned to tell Larke
the true object of my coming during the hour or so we should have to
wait, and to thaw some solace from his companionship. Now, however, I was
planted there alone with a message of death for my foe or for myself, and
the glamour of life in my eyes, and it seemed to me that all the tedium
of my journey had been held over for these hours of waiting.

To cap my discomfort I found occasion to prove to myself that I was a
most indisputable prig. I had often discoursed to Larke concerning the
consolations to be drawn from the classics in moments of distress. Now I
sought to practise the precept, and to that end lowered a bucket into the
well of my memories. But alas! I hauled up naught but tags about Cerberus
and Charon and passages from the sixth book of Virgil.

To tell the honest truth, I was dismally afraid. The very stars in the
sky flashed sword-points at my breast, and the ice upon the hills
glittered like breast-plates of steel. Moreover, my hands were swollen
and clumsy with the cold, and I dreaded lest I might lose the nervous
flexibility of their muscles, and so the nice command of my sword. I
stripped off my gloves which were freezing on my fingers, and thrust my
hands inside my shirt to keep them warm against my skin.

Somehow or another, however, the night wore through. The stars and the
moon shifted across the mountains, the music began to falter into breaks,
and the murmurs grew louder from the village. I heard sledges descend the
road with a jingle of bells, first one, then another, then several in
quick succession. Iron gates clanked on the far side of the Castle, the
windows darkened, and finally a light sprang up in the lower of the
chambers which I watched.

I turned over on my face and dropped on to the snow. But my spurs rattled
and clinked as I touched the ground, and I stooped down and loosed them
from my feet. I cast a hurried glance around me. Not a shadow moved; the
world seemed frozen to an eternal immobility. I crept across the lawn, up
the terrace steps to the sill of the window, and peered into the room. It
was small and luxuriously furnished, the roof, panels, and floor being
all of a polished and mellow pine-wood. Warm-coloured rugs and the skins
of chamois were scattered on the floor, and four candles in heavy sconces
blazed on the mantel. Sunning himself before the log-fire sat Count
Lukstein. I knew him at once from Julian's account: a big, heavy-featured
man with a loose dropping mouth. He was elaborately dressed in a suit of
gray satin richly laced with silver, which seemed somewhat too airy and
fanciful to befit the massive girth of his limbs. These he displayed to
their full proportions, and the sight did little to enhearten me. For he
sat with his legs stretched out and his arms clasped behind his head, the
firelight playing gaily upon a sparkle of diamonds in his cravat.

I noted the two doors of which Julian had spoken--that on my right
leading to the bedroom, that on my left to the hall--and in particular a
small writing-table which stood against the wall facing me. For a silver
bell upon it caught the light of the candles and reflected it into my
eyes. And I remembered Julian's story of his visit to the Hotwell.

Whether it was that I rattled the frame of the window, or that chance
turned the Count's looks my way, I know not; but he suddenly turned full
towards me. My face was pressed flat to the glass. I drew back hastily
into the shadow of the wall. One minute passed, two, three, the window
darkened, and the Count, lifting his hands to his temples to shut out the
light at his back, laid his forehead to the pane. Instinctively I clapped
my hand to the pistol in my pocket and cocked it. The click of the hammer
sounded loud in my ears as though I had exploded the charge. Count
Lukstein flung open the window and set one foot outside.

"Who is it?" he cried; and yet again, "who is it?"

I drew a deep breath, stepped quickly past him into the room, and turned
about. The two doors and the writing-table were now behind me.

He staggered back from the window, and his hand dived at the hilt of his
sword. But before he could draw it he raised his eyes to my face; he let
go of his sword and stared in sheer bewilderment.

"And in the devil's name," he asked, "who are you?"

'Twas a humiliating moment for me. He spoke as a master might to an
impudent schoolboy, and it was with a quavering schoolboy's treble that I
answered him.

"I am Morrice Buckler."

"An Englishman?" he questioned, bending his brows suddenly; for we were
speaking in German.

"Of the county of Cumberland," I replied meekly. I felt as if I was
repeating my catechism.

"Then, Mr.Morrice Buckler, of the county of Cumberland," he began, with
an exaggerated politeness. But I broke in upon him.

"I have some knowledge of the county of Bristol, too," I said, with as
much bravado as I could muster. But 'twas no great matter. The display
would have disgraced a tavern bully. The words, however, served their
turn. Just for a second, just long enough for me to perceive it, a
startled look of fear flashed into his eyes, and his body seemed to
shrink in bulk. Then he asked suddenly,--"How came you here?"

"By a path Sir Julian Harnwood told me of," says I. He stretched a finger
towards the window.

"Go!" he cried in a low voice. "Go!"

I stood my ground, for I noted with a lively satisfaction that the quaver
had passed from my voice into his.

"Have a care, Master Buckler!" he continued. "You are no longer in
England. You would do well to remember that. There are reasons why I
would have no disturbance here to-night. There are reasons. But on my
life, if you refuse to obey me, I will have you whipped from here by my

"Ah!" says I, "this is not the first time, Count Lukstein, that some one
has stood between you and the bell."

He cast a glance over my shoulder. I saw that he was going to shout, and
I whipped out the pistol from my pocket.

"If you shout," I said, "the crack of this will add little to the noise."

"It would go ill with you if you fired it," he blustered.

"It would go yet worse with you," I answered.

And there we stood over against one another, the finest brace of cowards
in Christendom, each seeking to overcome the other by a wordy
braggadocio. Indeed, my forefinger so trembled on the trigger that I
wonder the pistol did not go off and settle our quarrel out of hand.

"What does it mean?" he burst out, screwing himself to a note of passion.
"What does it mean? You skulk into my house like a thief."

"The manner of my visit does in truth leave much to be desired." I
conceded. "But for that you must thank your reputation."

"It does, in truth," he returned, ignoring my last words. "It leaves much
--very much. You see that yourself, Mr.Buckler. So, to-morrow! Return by
the way you came, and come to me again to-morrow. We can talk at leisure.
It is over-late to-night."

"Nay, my lord," said I, drawing some solid comfort from the wheedling
tone in which he spoke. "Your servants will be abroad in the house
to-morrow, and, as you were careful to remind me, I am not in England. I
have waited for some six hours upon the parapet of your terrace, and I
have no mind to let the matter drag to another day."

His eyes shifted uneasily about the room; but ever they returned to the
shining barrel of my pistol.

"Well, well,” said he at length, with a shrug of the shoulders, and a
laugh that rang flat as a cracked guinea, "one must needs listen when the
speaker holds a pistol at your head. Say your say and get it done."

He flung himself into a chair which stood in the corner by the window. I
sat me in the one from which he had risen, drawing it closer to the fire.
A little table stood within arm's reach, and I pulled it up between us
and laid my pistol on the edge.

"I have come," said I, "upon Sir Julian Harnwood's part."

"Pardon me!" he interrupted. "You will oblige me by speaking English, and
by speaking it low."

The request seemed strange, but 'twas all one to me what language we
spoke so long as he understood.

"Certainly," I answered. "I am here to undertake his share in the quarrel
which he had with you, and to complete the arrangement which was
interrupted on the Kingsdown."

"But, Mr.Buckler," he said, with some show of perplexity, "the quarrel
was a private one. Wherein lies your right to meddle with the matter?"

"I was Sir Julian's friend," I replied. "He knew the love I bore him, and
laid this errand as his last charge upon it."

"Really, really," said he, "both you and your friend seem strangely
ill-versed in the conduct of gentlemen. You say Sir Julian laid this
errand upon you. But I have your bare word for that. It is not enough.
And even granting it to be true, my quarrel was with Sir Julian, not with
you. One does not fight duels by proxy."

He had recovered his composure, and spoke with an easy superciliousness.

"My lord," I answered, stung by his manner, "I must ask you to get the
better of that scruple, as I have of one far more serious, for, after
all, one does not as a rule fight duels with murderers."

He started forward in his chair as though he had been struck. I seized
the butt of my pistol, for I fancied he was about to throw himself upon

"I know more than you think," said I, nodding at him, "and this will
prove it to you."

I drew the oval gold box from my fob and tossed it on to his knees. His
hands darted at it, and he turned it over and over in his palms, staring
at the cover with white cheeks.

"How got you this?" he asked hoarsely, and then remembering himself, "I
know nothing of it. I know nothing of it."

"Sir Julian gave it into my hands," said I. "I visited him in his prison
on the evening of the 22nd September."

He stared at me for a while, repeating "the 22nd September" like one busy
over a sum.

"The 22nd September," said I, "the 22nd September. It was the day of his

At the words his face cleared wonderfully. He rose with an indescribable
air of relief, flung the box carelessly on the table, and said with a
contemptuous smile.--"Ah, Mr.Buckler! Mr.Buckler! You would have saved
much time had you mentioned the date earlier. How much?" and he shook
some imaginary coins in the cup of his hand.

"Count Lukstein!" I exclaimed.

I had not the faintest notion of what he was driving at, and the surprise
which his change of manner occasioned me obscured the insult.

"Tut, tut, man!" he resumed, with a wave of the hand. "How much? Surely
the farce drags."

"The farce," I replied hotly, "is one of those which are best played
seriously. Remember that, Count Lukstein!"

"Well, well," he said indulgently, "have your own way. But, believe me,
you are making a mistake. I have no wish to cheapen your wares. That you
have picked up some fragments of the truth I am ready to agree; and I am
equally ready to buy your silence. You have but to name your price."

"I have named it," I muttered, locking my teeth, for I was fast losing my
temper, and feared lest I might raise my voice sufficiently to be heard
beyond the room.

"Let me prove to you that you are wasting time," said he with insolent
patience. "You have been ill-primed for your work. You say that you
visited Sir Julian on the night of the 22nd. You say that you were Sir
Julian's friend. I would not hurt your feelings, Mr.Buckler, but both
these statements are, to put it coarsely, lies. You were never Sir
Julian's friend, or you would have known better than to have fixed that
date. But two people visited him on the 22nd, a priest and a woman, the
most edifying company possible for a dying man." He ended with a smooth

I looked up at him and laughed.

"Ah!" said he, "we are beginning to understand each other."

I laughed a second time.

"She was over-tall for a woman, my lord," said I, "though of no great
stature for a man."

 I rose as I spoke the words and confronted him. We  were standing on
opposite sides of the little table. The smile died off his face; he
leaned his hands upon the table and bent slowly over it, searching my
looks with horror-stricken eyes.

"What do you mean?" he asked in a hoarse whisper.

"I was the woman. How else should I have got that box?"

"You, you!" He spoke in a queer matter-of-fact tone of assent. All his
feeling and passion seemed to have gathered in his eyes.

So we stood waging a battle of looks. And then of a sudden I noticed a
crafty, indefinable change in his expression, and from the tail of my eye
I saw his fingers working stealthily across the table. I dropped my hand
on to the butt of my pistol. With a ready cunning he picked up the gold
box and began to examine it with so natural an air of abstraction that I
almost wondered whether I had not mistaken his design.

"And so," says he at length, "you would fight with me?"

"If it please you, yes," says I.

"Miss Marston, it seems, has more admirers than I knew of," he returned,
with a cunning leer which made my stomach rise at him.

He seemed incapable of conceiving a plain open purpose in any man. Yet
for all that I could not but admire the nimbleness of his wits. Not
merely had he recovered his easy demeanour, but he was already, as I
could see, working out another issue from the impasse. I clung fast to
the facts.

"I have never seen Miss Marston," said I. "I fight for my friend."

"For your friend? For your dead, useless friend?" He dropped the words
slowly, one by one, with a smiling disbelief. "Come, come, Mr.Buckler!
Not for your friend. We are both men of the world. Be frank with me! Is
it sensible that two gentlemen should spill honest blood for the sake of
a feather-headed wanton?"

"If the name fits her, my lord," I replied, "who is to blame for that?
And as for the honest blood, I have more hope of spilling it than faith
in its honesty."

The Count's face grew purple, and the veins swelled out upon his ample
throat. I snatched up the pistol, and we both stood trembling with
passion. The next moment, I think, must have decided the quarrel, but for
a light sound which became distinctly audible in the silence. It
descended from the room above. We both looked up to the ceiling, the
Count with a sudden softness on his face, and I understood, or rather I
thought I understood, why he had not raised the alarm before I produced
my pistol, and why he bade me subsequently speak in English. For the
sound was a tapping, such as a woman's heels may make upon a polished

I waited, straining my ears to hear the little stairway creak behind the
door at my back, and cudgelling my brains to think what I should do. If
she came down into the room, it was all over with my project and, most
likely, with my life, too, unless I was prepared, to shoot my opponent in
cold blood, and make a bolt for it. After a while, however, the sound
ceased altogether, to my indescribable relief. The Count was the first to
break the silence.

"Very well, Mr.Buckler," said he; "send your friends to me in the
morning. Let them come like men to the door and give me assurance that I
may meet you without loss of self-respect, and you shall have your way."

"You force me to repeat," said I, "that the matter must be disposed of

"To-night!" he said, and stared at me incredulously. "Mr.Buckler, you
must be mad."

"To-night," I repeated stubbornly. For, apart from all considerations of
safety, I felt that such courage as I possessed was but the froth of my
anger, and would soon vanish if it were left to stand. The Count began to
pace the room between the writing-table and the window. I set my chair
against the wall and leaned against the chimney, and I noted that at each
turn in his walk he drew, as though unconsciously, nearer and nearer to
the bell.

He spoke in a queer matter-of-fact tone; his feeling and passion seemed to
have eyes.

"Mr.Buckler," he said, "what you propose is quite out of the question. I
can but attribute it to your youth. You take too little thought of my
side of the case. To fight with one whom I have never so much as set eyes
on before, who forces his way into my house in the dead of night--you
must see for yourself that it fits not my dignity."

"You are too close to the bell, Count Lukstein, and you raise your
voice," I broke in sharply. "That fits not my safety."

He stood still in the middle of the room and raised a clenched fist to
his shoulder, glaring at me. In a moment, however, he resumed his former

"Besides," he went on, "there is a particular reason why I would have no
disturbance here to-night. You got some inkling of it a moment ago." He
nodded to the ceiling.

I blush with shame now when I remember what I answered him. I took a leaf
from his book, as the saying is, and could conceive no worthy strain in

"The good lady," I said, "whom you honour with your attentions now must
wait until the affairs of her predecessor are arranged."

The Count came sliding over the floor with a sinuous movement of his body
and a very dangerous light in his eyes.

"You insult my wife," he said softly, and as I reeled against the hood of
the fire-place, struck out of my wits by his words, he of a sudden gave a
low bellowing cry, plucked his sword from his sheath, and lunged at my
body. I saw the steel flash in a line of light and sprang on one side.
The sword quivered in the wood level with my left elbow. My leap upset
the table, the pistol clattered on the floor. I whipped out my sword,
Count Lukstein wrenched his free, and in a twinkling we were set to it. I
think all fear vanished from both of us, for Count Lukstein's face was
ablaze with passion, and I felt the blood in my veins running like strong


By these movements we had completely reversed our positions, so that now
I stood with my back to the window, while the Count held that end of the
room in which the doors were set. Not that I took any thought of this
alteration at the time, for the Count attacked me with extraordinary
fury, and I needed all my wits to defend myself from his violence. He
was, as I had dreaded, a skilled swordsman, and he pressed his skill to
the service of his anger. Now the point of his rapier twirled and spun
like a spark of fire; now the blade coiled about mine with a sharp hiss
like some lithe, glittering serpent. Every moment I expected it to bite
into my flesh. I gave ground until my hindmost foot was stopped against
the framework of the window; and there I stayed, parrying his thrusts
until he slackened from the ardour of his assaults. Then in my turn I
began to attack; slowly and persistently I drove him back towards the
centre of the room, when suddenly, glancing across his shoulder, I saw
something that turned my blood cold. The door leading to the staircase
was ajar. I had heard no click of the handle; it must have been open
before, I argued to myself, but I knew the argument was false. The door
had been shut; I noted that from the garden, and it could not have opened
so silently of itself. I renewed my attack upon the Count, pressing him
harder and harder in a veritable panic. I snatched a second glance across
his shoulder. The door was not only ajar; 'twas opening--very slowly,
very silently, and a yellow light streamed through onto the wall beside
the door.

The sight arrested me at the moment of lunging--held me petrified with
horror. A savage snarl of joy from Lukstein's lips warned me; his sword
darted at my heart, I parried it clumsily, and the next moment the point
leaped into my left shoulder. The wound quickened my senses, and I settled
to the combat again, giving thrust for thrust. Each second I expected a
scream of terror, a rush of feet. But not a sound came to me. I dared not
look from the Count's face any more; the hit which he had made seemed to
have doubled his energies. I strained my ears to catch the fall of a
foot, the rustle of a dress. But our own hard breathing, a light rattle
of steel as swords lunged and parried, a muffled stamp as one or the
other stepped forward upon the rugs--these were the only noises in the
room, and for me they only served to deepen and mark the silence. Yet all
the while I felt that the door was opening--opening; I knew that someone
must be standing in the doorway quietly watching us, and that someone a
woman, and Count Lukstein's wife. There was something horrible, unnatural
in the silence, and I felt fear run down my back like ice, unstringing my
muscles, sucking my heart. I summoned all my strength, compressed all my
intelligence into a despairing effort, and flung myself at Lukstein. He
drew back out of reach, and behind him I saw a flutter of white. Through
the doorway, holding a lighted candle above her head, Countess Lukstein
advanced noiselessly into the room. Her eyes, dark and dilated, were
fixed upon mine; still she spoke never a word. She seemed not to perceive
her husband; she seemed not even to see me, into whose face she gazed.
'Twas as though she was looking through me, at something that stood in
the window behind my head.

The Count, recovering from my assault, rushed at me again. I made a few
passes, thinking that my brain would crack. I could feel her eyes burning
into mine. I was certain that some one was behind me, and I experienced
an almost irresistible desire to turn my head and discover who it might
be. The strain had become intolerable. There was just room for me to leap

"Look!" I gasped, and I leaned back against the window-pane, clutching at
the folds of the curtain for support.

Count Lukstein turned; the woman was close behind him. A couple of paces
more, and she must have touched him. He dropped his sword-point and
stepped quickly aside.

"My God!" he said in a hoarse whisper. "She is asleep!" My whole body was
dripping with sweat. It seemed to me that a full hour must have passed
since I had seen her first, and yet so brief had been the interval that
she was not half-way across the room.

Had she come straight towards me I could not have moved from her path.
But she walked betwixt Count Lukstein and myself direct to the open
window. She wore a loose white gown, gathered in a white girdle at the
waist, and white slippers on her naked feet. Her face even then showed to
me as incomparably beautiful, and her head was crowned with masses of
waving hair, in colour like red corn. She passed between us without cheek
or falter; her gown brushed against the Count. Through the open window
she walked across the snowy terrace towards the pavilion by the Castle
wall. The night was very still, and the flame of the candle burnt pure
and steady.

I looked at the Count. For a moment we gazed at one another in silence,
and then without a word we stepped side by side to follow her. Our
dispute appeared to have been swallowed up in this overmastering event,
and I experienced almost a revulsion of friendliness for my opponent.

“'Tis not the first time this has happened, I am told," said he, and as I
looked at him inquiringly, he added, very softly: "We were only married

"Only to-day." I exclaimed, and not noticing where I trod, I stumbled
over a wolf-skin that lay on the floor with the head attached. My foot
slipped on the polished boards beside it, and I fell upon my left knee.
The Count stopped and faced me, an ugly smile suddenly flashing about his
mouth. I saw him draw back his arm as I was rising. I dropped again upon
hand and knee, and his sword whizzed an inch above my shoulder. I was
still holding my own sword in my right hand, and or ever he could recover
I lunged upwards at his breast with all my force, springing from the
ground as I lunged, to drive the thrust home. The blade pierced through
his body until the hilt rang against the buttons of his coat. He fell
backwards heavily, and I let go of my sword. The point stuck in the floor
behind him as he fell, and he slid down the blade on to the ground.
Something dropped from his hand and rolled away into a corner, where it
lay shining. I gave no thought to that, how ever, but glanced through the
window. To my horror I saw the Countess Lukstein was already returning
across the lawn. The Count had fallen across the window, blocking it. I
plucked my sword free, and lugged the body into the curtains at the side,
cowering down myself behind it. I had just time to gather up his legs and
so leave the entrance clear, when she stepped over the sill. A little
stream of blood was running towards her, and I was seized with a mad
terror lest it should reach her feet. She moved so slowly and the stream
ran so quickly. Every moment I expected to see the white of her slippers
grow red with the stain of it. But she passed beyond the line of its
channel just a second before it reached so far. With the same even and
steady gait she recrossed the room and turned into the little stairway,
latching the door behind her.

For a while I remained kneeling by the body of the Count in a numbed
stupor. All was so quiet and peaceful that I could not credit what had
happened in this last hour, not though I held the Count within my arms.
Then from the floor of the room above there came once more the light
tapping sound of a woman's heels. I looked about me. The table lay
overturned, the rugs were heaped and scattered, and the barrel of my
pistol winked in the sputtering light of the fire. I rose, snatched up my
sword, and fled out on to the snow.

The moon was setting and the moonlight gray upon the garden, with the
snow underfoot very crisp and dry.

I sheathed my sword and clambered on to the coping. I turned to look at
the Castle--how quietly it slept, and how brightly burned the lights in
those two rooms!--and then dropped to the ledge upon the farther side of
the wall.

I had reached the top of the ridge of rock, when a cry rang out into the
night--a cry, shrill and lonesome, in a woman's voice--a cry followed
by a great silence. I halted in an agony. 'Twas not fear that I felt;
'twas not even pity. The cry spoke of suffering too great for pity, and I
stood aghast at the sound of it, aghast at the thought that my handiwork
had begotten it. 'Twas not repeated, however, and I tore down the ridge
in a frenzy of haste, taking little care where I set my hands or my feet.
How it was that I did not break my neck I have never been able to think.

The village, I remember, was dark and lifeless, save just one house,
whence came a murmur of voices, and a red beam of light slipped through a
chink in the shutter and lay like a rillet of blood across the snow.

Once clear of the houses, I ran at full speed down the track. At the
corner of the wood, I stopped and looked upwards before I plunged among
the trees. The moon had set behind the mountains while I was descending
the ridge, and the Castle loomed vaguely above me as though at that spot
the night was denser than elsewhere. 'Twas plain that no alarm had been
taken, that the cry had not been heard. I understood the reason of this
afterwards. The two rooms in the tower were separated by a great interval
from the other bedrooms. But what of the Countess, I thought? I pictured
her in a swoon upon the corpse of her husband.

Within the coppice 'twas so black that I could not see my hand when I
raised it before me, and I went groping my way by guesswork towards the
trees to which we had tethered our horses. I dared not call out to Larke;
I feared even the sound of my footsteps. Every rustle of the bushes
seemed to betray a spy. In the end I began to fancy that I should wander
about the coppice until dawn, when close to my elbow there rose a low
crooning song

"Que toutes joies et toutes honneurs
Viennent d'armes et d'amours."

"Jack!" I whispered.

The undergrowth crackled as he crushed it beneath his feet.

"Morrice, is that you? Where are you?"

A groping hand knocked against my arm and tightened on it. I gave a

"Are you hurt, Morrice? Oh, my God! I thought you would never come!"

"You have heard nothing?"


"Not a sound? Not--not a cry?"


"Quick, then!" said I. "We must be miles away by  morning."

He led me to where our horses stood, and we untied them and threaded
through the trees to the road.

"Help me to mount, Jack!" said I.

He pulled a flask from his pocket and held it to my lips. 'Twas neat
brandy, but I gulped a draught of it as though it were so much water.
Then he helped me into the saddle and settled my feet in the stirrups.

"Why, Morrice," he asked, "what have you done with your spurs?"

"I left them on the terrace," said I, remembering. "I left my spurs, my
pistol, and--and something else. But quick, Jack, quick!"

'Twould have saved me much trouble had I brought that "something else"
with me, or at least examined it more closely before I left it there.

He swung himself on to the back of his horse, and we set off at a canter.
But we had not gone twenty yards when I cried, "Stop!" 'Twas as though
the windows of the Castle sprang at us suddenly out of the darkness, each
one alive with a tossing glare of links. It seemed to me that a hundred
angry eyes were searching for me. I drove my heels into my horses' flanks
and galloped madly down the road in the direction of Italy. A quarter of
a mile farther, and a bend of the valley hid the Castle from our sight;
but I knew that I should never get the face of Countess Lukstein from
before my eyes, or the sound of her cry out of my ears.


From Lukstein we rode hot-foot down the Vintschgau Thal to Merau, and
thence by easy stages to Verona, in Italy. I had no great fear of pursuit
or detection after the first day, since the road was much frequented by
travellers, and neither my spurs, nor my pistol, nor the miniature of
Julian bore any marks by which Jack or myself could be singled out At
Verona an inflammation set up in my wounded shoulder, very violent and
severe, so that I lay in that town for some weeks delirious and at
death's door. Indeed, but for Jack's assiduous care in nursing me, I must
infallibly have lost my life.

At length, however, being somewhat recovered, I was carried southwards to
Naples, and thence we wandered from town to town through the provinces of
Italy until, in the year 1686, the fullness of the spring renewed my
blood and set my fancies in a tide towards home. Jack accompanied me to
England and took up his abode in my house in Cumberland, being persuaded
without much difficulty to abandon his pretence of studying the law, and
to throw in his lot with me for good and all.

"My estates need a steward," said I, "and I--God knows I need a friend."
And with little more talk the bargain was struck.

During all this time, however, I had not so much as breathed a word to
him concerning the doings of that night in Castle Lukstein. At first the
matter was too hot in my thoughts, and even afterwards, when the horror
of my memories had dimmed, I could not bring myself to the point of
speech. Had it not been for the appearance and intervention of the
Countess, doubtless I should have blurted out the tale long before. But
with her face ever fixed within my view, I could not speak; I could only
picture it desolate with grief, and washed with a pitiful rain of tears.
Moreover, I knew that Jack would account my story as the story of a
worthy exploit, and I shrank from his praise as from a burning iron.

'Twould have, nevertheless, been strange had not my ravings in my
delirium disclosed some portion of the night's incidents, and that they
did so I understood from a certain speech Jack once made me. 'Twas when I
was yet lying sick at Verona. One morning when I was come to my senses
after a feverish night, he walked over to my bedside from the chair where
he had been watching.

"I have been a common fool," says he, and repeats the remark, shifting a
foot to and fro on the floor; and then he claps his hand upon mine. "God
send me such a friend as you, Morrice, if ever trouble comes to me!" says
he, and so gets him quickly from the room.

Often did I wonder how much I had betrayed, but I had reason subsequently
to believe that 'twas very little; just enough to assure him that I had
not flinched from the conflict, with probably some revelation of the fear
in which I engaged upon it.

'Twas in the last days of March that I saw once more the rolling slopes
of Yewbarrow, streaked here and there with a ribbon of snow, and my house
at the base of it, its gray tiles shining in the sunset like glass; and a
homely restfulness settled upon my spirit, and looking back upon the last
months of purposeless wandering, I resolved to pass my days henceforward
in a placid ordering of my estate.

This feeling of peace, however, stayed with me no great while, the very
monotony of a quiet life casting me back upon my troubled recollections.
As a relief, I sought diversion with Jack's ready assistance in the
pleasures of the field. Hawking, hunting, and climbing--for which
somehow my companion never acquired a taste--filled out the hours of
daylight. We chased the fox on foot along ridges of the hills: we hunted
the red deer in the forests about Styhead; we walked miles across fell
and valley to watch a wrestling-match or attend a fair. In a word, we
lived a clean, open-air life of wholesome activity.

But alas! 'Twas of little profit to me. I would get me tired to bed only
to plunge into a whirlpool of unrestful dreams, and toss there until the
morning. Some times it would be the door of the little staircase to the
Count's bedroom. I would see it opening and opening perpetually, and yet
never wide open; or again, it would grow gigantic  in size, and swing
back across the world is though it were hinged betwixt the poles. Most
often, however, it would be Count Lukstein's wife. I beheld her, tall
and stately, with her glorious aureole of hair and her dark, unseeing
eyes eating through me like a slow fire as she advanced across the room;
now I followed her as she moved through the moonlit garden with the taper
burning clear and steady in her hand. But, however, the dream began,
'twould always end the same way. The fiery windows of Castle Lukstein
would leap upon me out of the darkness, and I would wake in a cold sweat,
my body a-quiver, and her lone cry knelling in my ears.

A strange feature of these nightmare fancies, and a feature that greatly
perplexed me, was that the Count himself played no part in them. Were my
dreams the test and touchstone of the truth, I could never so much as
have set eyes upon him. The encounter, the conversation which preceded
it, the last cowardly thrust. and the dead form huddled up in my arms
among the curtains--of these things I had not even a hint. They became
erased from my memory the moment that I fell asleep. Then 'twas always
the woman who was pictured to me; in no single instance the man. I
wondered at this omission the more, inasmuch as I frequently thought of
Count Lukstein during the day-time, remembering with an odd sense of envy
the softness of his voice when he spoke concerning his wife.

Spent with the double fatigue of the day's exertions and the night's
phantasmal horrors, I betook myself at length to my library, seeking
rest, if not forgetfulness, among my old companions. But the delight and
joy of books had gone out from me, and nowise could I recover it. Once
the very covers had seemed to me to answer the pressure of my fingers
with a friendly welcome; now I applied myself straightway to the text as
to a laborious and uncongenial task. I had looked so deeply into a tragic
reality that these printed images of life appeared false and distorted,
like reflections thrown from a convex mirror; and I understood how it is
that those who act are but seldom their own historians, and when they
are, content themselves with a simple register of deeds. However, I
persevered in this course for a while, hoping that some time my former
zest and liking would return to me, and I should taste again the fine
flavour of a nicely-ordered sentence or of a discriminate sequence of

But one May morning, coming into the study shortly after sunrise, I sat
me down, with my limbs unrefreshed and aching, before the Religio Medici
of the Norwich doctor, and I fell immediately across this passage: --

"I have heard some with deep sighs lament the lost lines of Cicero;
others with as many groans deplore the combustion of the library of
Alexandria. For my own part, I think there be too many in the world, and
could with patience behold the urn and ashes of the Vatican, could I,
with a few others, recover the perished leaves of Solomon."

The words chimed so appositely with my thoughts that I resolved there and
then to put the theory into practice, and closing the book, I made a
beginning with Sir Thomas Browne. Outside the window the birds piped
happily from vernal branches; the shadows played hide-and-seek upon the
grass, and the beck babbled and laughed as it raced down behind the
house: I locked the door of the library, and taking the key in my hand,
walked to the side of the beck. At this point the stream spouted in a
fountain from a cleft of rock, and fell some twelve feet into a deep
basin. A group of larches overhung the pool, and the sunlight, sprinkling
between the leaves, dappled the clear green surface with an ever-shifting
pattern. Into this basin I dropped the key, and watched it sink with a
sparkling tail of bubbles to the bottom.

'Twas of a bright metal, so that I could still see it distinctly as it
rested on the rock-bed. A large stone lay upon the bank beside me, and
with a sudden, uncontrollable impulse I stripped off my clothes, picked
up the stone, and diving into the cool water, set it carefully atop the
key. Many months passed before I came again to the pool, and found the
key still hidden safe beneath the stone; and during these months so much
that was strange occurred to me, and I wandered along such new and
devious paths, that when I held it again, all rusty and corroded, in my
hand, I felt as though it could not have been myself who had dropped it
there, but some one whose memories had been transmitted to me and
incorporated in my being by a mysterious alchemy.

It was on that very afternoon that the letter was brought to me. Jack and
I were sitting at dinner in the big oak dining-room about four of the
clock; the great windows were open, and the sunny air streamed in laden
with fresh perfumes. I can see Jim Ritson now as he rode up the drive--
'twas part of his duty to meet the mail at the post town of Cockermouth--
I can almost hear his voice as he gave in the letter at the hall-door.

"There's a letter for t'maister," he said.

Jim is grown to middle age by this time, and owns a comfortable fat face
and a brood of children. But when ever I pass him in the lanes and fields
I ever experience a lively awe and respect for him as for the accredited
messenger of fate.

The letter came from Lord Elmscott and urged me to visit him in town.

"Come!" he wrote. "To the dust of Leyden you are superadding the mould of
Cumberland. Come and brush yourself clean with the contact of wits! There
is much afoot that should interest you. What with Romish priests and
English bishops, the town is in ferment. Moreover, a new beauty hath come
to Court. There is nothing very strange in that. But she is a foreigner,
and her rivals have as yet discovered no scandal to smirch her with.
There is something very strange in that. Such a miracle is well worth a
man's beholding. She hails from the Tyrol and is the widow of one Count
Lukstein, who was in London last year. She wears no mourning for her
husband, and hath many suitors. I have of late won much money at cards,
and so readily forgive you for that you were the death of Phoebe."

The letter ran on to some considerable length, but I read no more of it.
Indeed, I understood little of what I had read. The face of Countess
Lukstein seemed stamped upon the page to the obscuring of the
inscription. I passed it across to Jack without a word, and he perused it
silently and tossed it back. All that evening I sat smoking my pipe and
pondering the proposal. An over-mastering desire to see her features
alive with the changing lights of expression began to possess me. The
more I thought, the more ardently I longed to behold her. If only I could
see her eyes alert and glancing, if only I could hear her voice, I might
free myself from the picture of the blank, impassive mask which she wore
in my dreams. That way, I fancied, and that way alone, should I find

"I shall go," I said at last, knocking the ashes from my pipe. "I shall
go to-morrow."

"You shan't!" cried Jack vehemently, springing up and facing me. "She
knows you. She has seen you."

"She has never seen me," I replied steadily, and he gazed into my face
with a look of bewilderment which gradually changed into fear.

"Are you mad, Morrice?" he asked, in a broken whisper, and took a step or
two backwards, keeping his eyes fixed upon mine.

"Nay, Jack," said I; "but unless God helps me, I soon shall be. He may be
helping me now. I trust so, for this visit alone can save me."

"She has never seen you?" he repeated. "Swear it Morrice! Swear it!"

I did as he bade me.

"What brings her to England?" he mused.

"What kept us wandering about Italy?" I answered. "The fear to return

"Twill not serve," said he. "She wears no mourning for her husband."

I wondered at this myself, but could come at no solution, and so got me
to bed. That night, for the first time since I left Austria, I slept
dreamlessly. In the morning I was yet more determined to go. I felt,
indeed, as though I had no power to stay, and, hurrying up my servants, I
prepared to set out at two of the afternoon. Udal and two other of my men
I took with me.

"Morrice," said Jack, as he stood upon the steps of the porch, "don't
stay with your cousin! Hire a lodging of your own!"

"Why?" I asked, in surprise.

"You talk overmuch in your sleep. Only two nights ago I heard you making
such an outcry that I feared you would wake the house. I rushed into your
room. You were crouched up among the bed-curtains at the head of the bed
and gibbering: ‘It will touch her. It flows so fast Oh, my God! My God!’"

I made no answer to his words, and he asked again very earnestly-- "The
Countess has never seen you? You are sure?"

"Quite!" said I firmly, and I shook him by the hand, and so started for


IN London I engaged a commodious lodging on the south side of St. James'
Park, and with little delay, you may be sure, sought out my cousin in
Monmouth, or rather Soho, Square--for the name had been altered since
the execution of the Duke. 'Twas some half an hour after noon, and my
cousin, but newly out of bed, was breakfasting upon a bottle of Burgundy
in his nightcap and dressing-gown.

"So you have come, Morrice," said Elmscott languidly. "How do ye? Lord
Culverton, this is my cousin of whom I have spoken."

He turned towards a little popinjay man who was fluttering about the room
in a laced coat, and powdered periwig which hung so full about his face
that it was difficult to distinguish any feature beyond a thin, prominent

"You should know one another. For if you remember, Morrice, it was
Culverton you robbed of Phoebe."

"Phoebe?" simpered Lord Culverton. "I remember no Phoebe. But in truth
the pretty creatures pester one so impertinently that burn me if I don't
jumble up their names. What was she like, Mr.Buckler?"

"She was piebald," said I gravely, "and needed cudgelling before she
would walk."

"And Morrice killed her," added Elmscott, with a laugh.

"Then he did very well to kill her, strike me speechless! But there must
be some mistake. I have met many women who needed cudgelling before they
would walk, but never one that was piebald."

Elmscott explained the matter to him, and then, with some timidity, I
began to inquire concerning the Countess Lukstein.

"What! bitten already?" cried my cousin. "Faith, I knew not I had so
smart a hand for description."

"The most rapturous female, pink me!" broke in Lord Culverton. "She is
but newly come to London, and hath the town at her feet already. Egad!
I'm half soused in love myself, split my windpipe!" and he flicked a
speck of powder from his velvet coat, and carefully arranged the curls of
his periwig. "The most provoking creature!" he went on. "A widow without
a widow's on-coming disposition."

"Ay, but she hath discarded the weeds," said Elmscott.

"She is a widow none the less. And yet breathe but one word of tender
adoration in her ear, and she strikes you dumb, O Lard! with the most
supercilious eyebrow. However, time may do much with the obstinate dear--
time, a tolerable phrase, and a je ne sais quoi in one's person and
conversation." He pointed a skinny leg before the mirror, and languished
with a ludicrous extravagance at his own reflection.

I had much ado to restrain myself from laughing, the more especially when
Elmscott replied, with a wink at me,--"Oh, if you have entered the
lists, the rest of us may creep out with as little ignominy as we can.
They say that every pretty woman has a devil at her elbow, and 'tis most
true, so long as Culverton lives."

"You flatter me! A devil, indeed! You flatter me," replied the fop,
skipping with delight. "You positively flatter me. The ladies use me--no
more. I am only their humble servant in general, and the Countess
Lukstein's in particular."

The remark had more truth in it than Culverton would have cared for us to
believe. For the Countess did in very truth use this gossipy
tittle-tattler, and with no more consideration than she showed to the
humblest of her servants. However, he was born for naught else but to
fetch and carry, and since he delighted in the work, 'twas common
kindness to employ him.

"Then we'll drink a health to your success," says Elmscott, pouring out
three glasses of his Burgundy.

"I never drink in the morning," objected Culverton. “'Tis a most
villainous habit, and ruins the complexion irretrievably, stap my

However, I was less squeamish on the subject of mine, and draining the
glass, I asked,--"Is she come to London alone?"

"She hath a companion, a very faded, nauseous person: a Frenchwoman,
Mademoiselle Durette. She serves as a foil;" and Culverton launched forth
into an affected estimation of Countess Lukstein's charms. Her eyes
dethroned the planets, the brightness of her hair shamed the sunlight;
for her mouth, 'twas a Cupid's bow that shot a deadly arrow with every
word. When she danced, her foot was a snow-flake upon the floor, and the
glint of the buckle on her instep, a flame threatening to melt it; when
she played upon the harp, her fingers were the ivory plectrums of the

"You make me curious," I interrupted him, "to become acquainted with the

"Then let me present you," said he eagerly.

"You see, Morrice," said Elmscott, "he has such solid grounds for
confidence that he has no fear of rivals."

"Nay, the truth is, she has a passion for fresh faces."

"Indeed!" said I.

"Oh, most extraordinary! A veritable passion, and no one so graciously
received as he who brings a stranger to her side. For that reason," he
added naively, "I would fain present you." and then he suddenly stopped
and surveyed me, shaking his head doubtfully the while.

"But Lard! Mr.Buckler," he said, "you must first get some new clothes."

"The clothes are good enough," I laughed, for I was dressed in my best
suit, and though 'twas something more modest than my Lord Culverton's
attire, I was none the less pleased with it on that account.

"Rabbit me, but I daren't!" he said. "I daren't introduce you in that
suit. I daren't indeed! My character would never survive the imputation,
strike me purple if it would! 'Tis a very yeoman's habit, and reeks of
the country. I can smell onions and all sorts of horrible things, burn

"I will run the risk, Morrice," interposed Elmscott. "Dine with me to-day
at Lockett's, and I will take you to the Countess's lodging in Pall Mall
afterwards. But Culverton's right. You do look like a Quaker, and that's
the truth."

However, I paid little attention to what they said or thought concerning
my appearance. The knowledge that I was to meet Countess Lukstein and
have speech with her no later than that very evening, engendered within
me an indescribable excitement. I got free from my companions as speedily
as I could, and passed the hours till dinner-time in a vague expectancy;
though what it was that I expected, I could not have told even to myself.

About seven of the clock we repaired to her apartments. The rooms were
already filled with a gay crowd of ladies and gentlemen dressed in the
extreme of fashion, and at first I could get no glimpse of the Countess.
But I looked towards the spot where the throng was thickest, and the
tripping noise of pleasantries most loud, and then I saw her. Elmscott
advanced; I followed close upon his heels, the circle opened, magically
it seemed to me, and I stood face to face with her at last.

Yet for all that I was prepared for it, now that I beheld her but six
steps from me, now that I looked straight into her eyes, a strange sense
of unreality stole over me, dimming my brain like a mist; so incredible
did it appear to me that we who had met before in such a tragic
conjunction in that far-away nook of the Tyrol, should now be presented
each to the other like the merest strangers, amidst the brightness and
gaiety of London town. I almost expected the candles to go out, and the
company to dissolve into air. I almost began to dread that I should wake
up in a moment to find myself in the dark, crouched up upon my bed in
Cumberland. So powerfully did this fear possess me that I was on the
point of crying aloud, "Speak! speak!" when Elmscott took me by the arm.

"Madame," said he, "I have taken the liberty of bringing hither my
cousin, Mr.Morrice Buckler, who is anxious --as who is not?--for the
honour of your acquaintance."

"It is no liberty," she replied graciously, in a voice that was
exquisitely sweet, and she let her eyes fall upon my face with a quick
and watchful scrutiny.

The next instant, however, the alertness died out of them.

"Mr.Buckler is very welcome," she said quietly, and it struck me that
there was some hint of disappointment in her tone, and maybe of a touch
of weariness. If, indeed, what Culverton had said was true, and she had a
passion for fresh faces, 'twas evident that mine was to be exempted from
the rule.

It might have been the expression of her indifference, or perchance the
mere sound of her voice broke the spell upon me, but all at once I became
sensible to the full of my sober, sad-coloured clothes. I looked about
me. Coats and dresses brilliant with gold and brocade mingled their
colours in a flashing rainbow, jewels sparkled and winked as they caught
the light, and I felt that every eye in this circle of elegant courtiers
was fixed disdainfully upon the awkward intruder.

I faltered through a compliment, conscious the while that I had done
better to have held my tongue. I heard a titter behind me, and here and
there some fine lady or gentleman held a quizzing-glass to the eye, as
though I was some strange natural from over-seas. All the blood in my
body seemed to run tingling into my face. I half turned to flee away and
take to my heels, but a second glance at the sneering countenances around
me stung my pride into wakefulness, and resolving to put the best face on
the matter I could, I attempted a sweeping bow. Whether my foot slipped,
whether some one tripped me purposely with a sword, I know not--I was
too flustered to think at the time or to remember afterwards--but
whatever the cause, I found myself plumped down upon my knees before her,
with the titter changed into an open laugh.

"Hush!" lisped one of the bystanders, "don't disturb the gentleman; he is
saying his prayers."

I rose to my feet in the greatest confusion.

"Madame," I stammered, "I come to my knees no earlier than the rest of
your acquaintances. Only being country-bred, I do it with the less

She laughed with a charming friendliness which lifted me somewhat out of
my humiliation.

"The adroitness of the recovery, Mr.Buckler," she said, "more than atones
for the maladresse of the attack."

"Nay," I protested, with what may well have appeared excessive
earnestness, "the simile does me some injustice, for it hints of an
antagonism betwixt you and me."

She glanced at me with some surprise and more amusement in her eyes.

"Are not all men a woman's antagonists?" she said lightly.

But to me it seemed an ill-omened beginning. There was something too
apposite in her chance phrase, I remembered, besides, that I had stumbled
to the ground in much the same way before her husband, and I bethought me
what had come of the slip.

'Twas but for a little, however, that these gloomy forebodings possessed
me, and I retired to the outer edge of the throng, whence I could observe
her motions and gestures undisturbed. And with a growing contentment I
perceived that ever and again her eyes would stray towards me, and she
would drop some question into Elmscott's ear.

The Countess wore, I remember, a gown of purple velvet fronted with
yellow satin, which to my eyes hung a trifle heavily upon her young
figure and so emphasised its slenderness, imparting even to her neck and
head a certain graceful fragility. The rich colour of her hair was hidden
beneath a mask of powder after the fashion, and below it her face shone
pale, pale indeed as when I saw her last, but with a wonderful clarity
and pureness of complexion, so that as she spoke the blood came and went
very prettily about her cheeks and temples. The two attributes, however,
which I noted with the greatest admiration were her eyes and voice. For
it seemed to me well beyond belief that the eyes which I now saw flashing
with so lively a fire were the same which had stared vacantly into mine
at Lukstein Castle, and that the voice which I now heard musical with all
the notes of laughter was that which had sent the shrill, awful scream
tearing the night.

After a while the company sat down to basset and quadrille, and I was
left standing disconsolately by my self. I looked around for Elmscott,
being minded to depart, when her voice sounded at my elbow, and I forgot
all but the sweetness of it.

"Mr.Buckler," she asked, "you do not play?"

"No," I replied. "I have seen but little of either cards or dice, and
that little has given me no liking for them."

"Then I will make bold to claim your services, for the room is hot, and
my ears, perchance, a little tired."

'Twas with no small pride, you may be sure, that I gave my arm to the
Countess; only I could have wished that she had laid her hand less
delicately upon my sleeve. Indeed, I should hardly have known that it
rested there at all had I not felt its touch more surely on the strings
of my heart.

We went into a smaller apartment at the end of the room, which was dimly
lit, and very cool and peaceful. The window stood open and showed a
little balcony with a couch. The Countess seated herself upon it with a
sigh of relief, and leaning forward, plucked a sprig of flowers which
grew in a pot at her side.

"I love these flowers," said she, holding the spray towards me.

'Twas the blue flower of the aconite plant, and I answered,--"They
remind you of your home."

"Then you know the Tyrol, and have travelled there." She turned to me
with a lively interest.

"I learnt that much of botany at school."

"There should be a fellow-feeling between us, Mr.Buckler," she said,
after a pause; "for we are both strangers to London, waifs thrown
together for an hour."

"But there is a world of difference, for you might have lived amongst
these gallants all your days, while I, alas! have no skill even to hide
my awkwardness."

"Nay, no excuses, for I like you the better for the lack of that skill."

"Madame," I began, "such words from you--"

She turned to me with a whimsical entreaty. "Prithee, no! To tell the
honest truth, I am surfeited with compliments, and 'twould give me a
great pleasure if during these few minutes we are together you would
style me neither nymph, divinity, nor angel, but would treat me as just a
woman. The fashion, indeed, is not worth copying, the more especially
when, to quote your own phrase, one copies it without discretion."

She laughed pleasantly as she spake, and the words conveyed not so much a
rebuke as the amiable raillery of an intimate.

“'Tis true," I replied, "I do envy these townsmen. I envy them their grace
of bearing and the nimbleness of their wits, which ever reminds me of the
sparkle in a bottle of Rhenish wine."

She shook her head, and made room for me by her side.

"The bottle has stood open for me these two months since, and I begin to
find the wine is very flat." She dropped her voice at the end of the
sentence, and leaned wearily back upon the cushions.

"You see, Mr.Buckler," she explained, "I live amongst the hills," and
there was a certain wistfulness in her tone as of one home-sick.

"Then there is a second bond between us, for I live amongst the hills as

"It is that," said she, "which makes us friends," and just for a second
she laid a hand upon my sleeve. It seemed to me that no man ever heard
sweeter words or more sweetly spoken from the lips of woman.

"But since you are here," I questioned eagerly, "you will stay--you will
stay for a little?"

"I know not," she replied, smiling at my urgency; and then with a certain
sadness, "some day I shall go back, I hope, but when, I know not. It
might be in a week, it might be in a year, it might be never." Of a
sudden she gave a low cry of pain. "I daren't go home," she cried, "I
daren't until--until--------"

"Until you have forgotten." The words were on the tip of my tongue, but I
caught them back in time, and for a while we sat silent. The Countess
appeared to grow all unconscious of my presence, and gazed steadily down
the quiet street as though it stretched beyond and beyond in an avenue of
leagues, and she could see waving at the end of it the cedars and
pine-trees of her Tyrol.

Nor was I in any hurry to arouse her. A noisy rattle of voices streamed
out on a flood of yellow light from the farther windows on my left, and
here she and I were alone in the starlit dusk of a summer night. Her very
silence was, sweet to me with the subtlest of flatteries. For I looked
upon it as the recognition of a tie of sympathy which raised me from the
general throng of her courtiers into the narrow circle of her friends.

So I sat and watched her. The pure profile of her face was outlined
against the night, the perfume of her hair stole into my nostrils, and
every now and then her warm breath played upon my cheek. A fold of her
train had fallen across my ankle, and the soft touch of the velvet
thrilled me like a caress; I dared not move a muscle for fear lest I
should displace it.

At length she spoke again, almost in a whisper. "I have told you more
about myself than I have told to any one since I came to England. It is
your turn now. Tell me where lies your home!"

"In the north. In Cumberland."

"In--in Cumberland," she repeated, with a little catch of her breath.
"You have lived there long?"

"'Twas the home of my fathers, and I spent my boyhood there. But between
that time and this year's spring I have been a stranger to the
countryside. For I was first for some years at Oxford, and thence I went
to Leyden."

She rose abruptly from the couch, drawing her train clear of me with her
hand, and leaned over the balcony, resting her elbow on its baluster, and
propping her chin upon the palm of her hand.

"Leyden!" she said carelessly. "'Tis a town of great beauty, they tell
me, and much visited by English students."

"There were but few English students there during the months of my
residence," said I. "I could have wished there had been more."

A second period of silence interrupted our talk, and I sat wondering over
that catch in her breath and the tremor of her voice when she repeated
"Cumberland." Was it possible, I asked myself, that she could have learnt
of Sir Julian Harnwood and of his quarrel with her husband? If she did
know, and if she attributed the duel in which her husband fell to a
result of it, why, then--Cumberland was Julian's county, and the name
might well strike with some pain upon her hearing. But who could have
informed her? Not the Count, surely; 'twas hardly a matter of which a man
could boast to his wife. I remembered, besides, that he had asked me to
speak English, and to speak it low. There could have been but one motive
for the request--a desire to keep the subject of our conversation a
secret from the Countess.

I glanced towards her. Without changing her attitude she had turned her
head sideways upon her palm, and was quietly looking me over from head to
foot. Then she rose erect, and with a frank and winning smile, she said,
as if in explanation,--"I was seeking to discover, Mr.Buckler, what it
was in you that had beguiled me to forget the rest of my guests. However,
if I have shown them but scant courtesy, I shall bid them reproach you,
not me."

"Prithee, madame, no. Have some pity on me. The statement would get me a
thousand deadly enemies."

"Hush!" said she, with a playful menace. "You go perilous near to a
compliment," and we went back into the glare and noise of the

"Ah, Ilga! I have missed you this half-hour." 'Twas a little woman of, I
should say, forty years who bustled up to us on our entrance.

"You see?" said the Countess, turning to me with a whimsical reproach.
"You must blame Mr.Buckler, Clemence, and I will make you acquainted that
you may have the occasion."

She presented me thus to Mademoiselle Durette, and left us together. But
I fear the good woman must have found me the poorest company, for I paid
little heed to what she said, and carried away no recollection beyond
that her chatter wearied me intolerably, and that once or twice I caught
the word "convenances," whence I gather she was reading me a lecture.

I got rid of her as soon as I decently could, and took my leave of the
Countess. She gave me her hand, and I bent over and kissed it. 'Twas only
the glove I kissed, but the hand was within the glove, as I had reason to
know, for I felt it tremble within my fingers and then tug quickly away.

"One compliment I will allow you to pay me," she said, "and that is a
renewal of your visit."

"Madame permits," I exclaimed joyfully.

"Madame will be much beholden to you," says she, and drops me a mocking

I walked down the staircase in a prodigious elation. Six step from the
floor of the ball it made a curve, and as I turned at the angle I stopped
dead of a sudden with my heart leaping within my breast. For at the foot
of the stairs, and looking at me now straight in the face as he had
looked at me in the archway of Bristol Bridewell, I saw Otto Krax, the
servant of Count Lukstein. The unexpected sight of his massive figure
came upon me like a blow. I had forgotten him completely!

I staggered back into the angle of the wall. He must know me, I thought.
He must know me. But he gazed with no more than the stolid attention of a
lackey. There was not a trace of recognition in his face, not a start of
his muscles; and then I remembered the difference in my garb. 'Twould
have been strange indeed if he had known me.

I recovered my composure, drew a long breath of relief, and was about to
step down to him when I happened to glance up the stairway.

The Countess herself was leaning over the rail at its head, with the
light from the hall-lamp below streaming up into her face. I had not
heard her come out on the landing.

"I knew not whether Otto Krax was there to let you out." She smiled at
me. "Good-night!"

"Good-night," said I, and looking at Otto, I understood whence she might
have got some knowledge of Sir Julian Harnwood.

Once outside, I stood for a while loitering in front of the house, and
wondering how much 'twould cost to buy it up. For I believed that it
would be a degradation should any other woman lodge in those same rooms

In a few minutes Elmscott came out to me.

"You have seen the Countess Lukstein before?" he asked, and the words
fairly startled me.

"What in Heaven's name makes you think that?"

"I fancied I read it in your looks. Your eyes went straight to her before
ever I presented you."

"That proves no more than the merit of your description."

"Well, did I exaggerate? What think you?"

I drew a long breath. 'Twas the only description I could give. There were
no words in the language equal to my thoughts.

"That will suffice." said Elmscott, and he turned away.

"One moment," I cried. "I need a service of you."

He burst out into a laugh.

"A thousand pounds to a guinea I know the service. 'Tis the address of my
tailor you need. I saw you looking down at your clothes as though the
wearing of them sullied you. Very well, one of my servants shall be with
you in the morning with a complete list of my tradesmen." And he swung
off in the direction of Piccadilly, laughing as he went, while I, filled
with all sorts of romantical notions, walked back to my lodging. Though,
indeed, to say that I walked, falls somewhat short of the truth; to speak
by the book, I fairly scampered, and arrived breathless at my doorstep.

My servants had unpacked my baggage, and with a momentary pang of
misgiving, I observed, lying on the table, my ill-omened copy of Horace.

"How comes this here?" I inquired sharply of Udal, taking the book in my

It opened at once at the diagram, and the date upon the leaf opposite. So
often had this outline been scanned and examined that the merest
fingering of the cover served to make the book fall open at this
particular page. I doubt, indeed, whether it had been possible to lift or
move the volume at all without noticing the diagram.

Udal told me that Jack himself had placed the book in my trunk. He
intended it as a hint for my conduct, I made certain, and, newly come as
I was from the presence of Countess Lukstein, I felt no gratitude for his
interference. I tossed the book on to a side-table by the chimney, where
it lay henceforward forgotten, and proceeded to light my pipe.

'Twas late when I mounted to my bedroom. The moon was in its last
quarter, and the park which my window overlooked lay very fair and quiet
in the soft light. What nonsense does a man con over and ponder at such
times! Yet 'tis very pleasant nonsense, and though it keeps him out of
bed o'nights, he may yet draw good from it--ay, and more good than from
quartos of philosophy.


THE next morning, and while I was still in bed drinking a cup of
chocolate, came Elmscott's servant to me, and under his guidance I set
forth to purchase such apparel as would enable me to cut a more passable
figure in the eyes of Countess Lukstein. Seldom, I think, had the shop
keepers a customer so nice and difficult to please. Here the wares were
too plain and insignificant; there too gaudy and pretentious, for while I
was resolved to go no longer dressed like a Quaker, I was in no way
minded to ape the extravagance of my lord Culverton. At last I determined
upon a dozen suits, rich but of a sober colour, and being measured for
them, went from the tailor's to the hosier's, shoemaker's,
lace-merchant's, and I know not what other tradesmen. Muslin jabots,
Holland shirts, ruffles of Medium and point de Venise, silk stockings,
shoes with high red heels, which I needed particularly, for I was of no
great stature, laced gloves--I bought enough, in truth, to make fins
gentlemen of a company of soldiers.

Needless to say, when once my purchases were delivered at my lodging, I
let no long time slip by before I repeated my visit to the house in Pall
Mall. The Countess welcomed me with the same kindliness, so that I
returned again and again. She distinguished me besides by displaying an
especial interest not merely in my present comings and goings, but in the
past history of my uneventful days. Surely there is no flattery in the
world so potent and bewitching as the questions which a woman puts to a
man concerning those years of his life which were spent before their
paths had crossed. And if the history be dull as mine was, a trivial,
homely record of common acts and thoughts, why, then the flattery is
doubled. I know that it intoxicated me like a heady wine, and I almost
dared to hope that she grudged the time during which we had been

Her bearing, indeed, towards me struck me as little short of wonderful,
for I observed that she evinced to the rest of her courtiers and friends
a certain pride and, stateliness, which, while it sat gracefully upon
her, tempered her courtesy with an unmistakable reserve.

The summer was now at its height, and the Countess --or Ilga, as I had
come to style her in my thoughts--would be ever planning some new
excursion. One day it would be a water-party to view the orangery and
myrtelum of Sir Henry Capel at Kew; on another we would visit the new
camp at Hounslow, which in truth, with its mountebanks and booths,
resembled more nearly a country fair than a garrison of armed men; or
again on a third we would attend a coursing match in the fields behind
Montague House. In short, seldom a day passed but I saw her and had talk
with her; and if it was but for five minutes, well, the remaining hours
went by to the lilt of her voice like songs to the sweet accompaniment of
a viol.

One afternoon Elmscott walked down to my lodging, and carried me with him
to see a famous comedy by Mr.Farquhar which was that day repeated by the
Duke's players. The second act was begun by the time we got to the
theatre, and the house, in spite of the heat, very crowded. For a while I
watched with some interest the packed company in the pit, the
orange-girls hawking their baskets amongst them, the masked women in the
upper boxes, and the crowds of bloods upon the stage, who were
continually shifting their positions, bowing to ladies in the side-boxes,
ogling the actresses, and airing their persons and dress to the great
detriment of the spectacle. Amongst these latter gentlemen I observed
Lord Culverton combing the curls of his periwig with a little ivory comb,
so that a white cloud of powder hung about his head, and I was wondering
how long his neighbours would put up with his impertinence when Elmscott,
who was standing beside me, gave a start.

"So he has come back," said he. I followed the direction of his gaze, and
looked across the theatre. The Countess Lukstein and Mademoiselle Durette
had just entered one of the lower boxes; behind them in the shadow was
the figure of a man.

"Who is it?" I asked.

"An acquaintance of yours."

The man came forward as Elmscott spoke to the front of the box, and
seated himself by the side of Ilga. He was young, with a white face and
very deep-set eyes, and though his appearance was in some measure
familiar to me, I could neither remember his name nor the occasion of our

"You have forgotten that night at the H. P.?" asked Elmscott.

In a flash I recollected.

"It is Marston," I said, and then after a pause: "And he knows the

"As well as you do; maybe better."

"Then how comes it I have never seen him with her before?"

"He left London conveniently before you came hither. We all thought that
he had received his dismissal. It rather looks as if he were out of our
reckoning, eh?"

Marston and the Countess were engaged in some absorbing talk with their
heads very close together, and a sharp pang of jealousy shot through me.

"'Tis strange that she has never mentioned his name," I stammered.

"Not so strange now that Hugh Marston has returned. Had he been no more
than the discarded suitor we imagined him, then yes--you might expect
her to boast to you of his devotion. 'Tis a way women have. But it seems
rather that you are rivals."

Rivals! The word was like a white light flashed upon my memories. I
recalled Marston's half-forgotten prophecy. Was this the contest, I
wondered, which he had foretold in the chill dawn at the tavern? Were we
to come to grips with Ilga for the victor's prize? On the heels of the
thought a swift fear slipped through my veins like ice. He had foretold
more than the struggle; he had forecast its outcome and result.

It was, I think, at this moment that I first understood all that the
Countess Lukstein meant to me. I leaned forward over the edge of the box,
and set my eyes upon her face. I noted little of its young beauty, little
of its wonderful purity of outline; but I seemed to see more clearly than
ever before the woman that lurked behind it, and I felt a new strength, a
new courage, a new life, flow out from her to me, and lift my heart. My
very sinews braced and tightened about my limbs. If Marston and I were to
fight for Ilga, it should be hand to hand, and foot to foot, in the
deadliest determination.

Meanwhile she still spoke earnestly with her companion. Of a sudden,
however, she raised her eyes from him, and glanced across towards us. I
was still leaning forward, a conspicuous mark, and I saw her face change.
She gave an abrupt start of surprise; there appeared to me something of
uneasiness in the movement. She looked apprehensively at Marston, and
back again at me; then she turned away from him, and sat with downcast
head plucking with nervous fingers at the fan which lay on the ledge
before her, and shooting furtive glances in our direction.

Elmscott for some reason began to chuckle. "Let us make our compliment to
the Countess," he said.

We walked round the circle of the theatre. At the door of the box, I
stopped him.

"Marston heard nothing from you of my journey to Sir Julian Harnwood?" I

"Not a word! He knows you were travelling to Bristol; so much you said
yourself. But for my part, I have never breathed a word of the matter to
a living soul." And we went in. The Countess held out her hand to me with
a conscious timidity.

"You are not angered?" she said, in a low voice.

The mere thought that she should take such heed of what I might feel,
made my pulses leap with joy. She seemed to recognise, as I should never
have dared to do myself, that I had a right to be jealous, and her words
almost granted me a claim upon her conduct. For answer I bent over her
hand and kissed it, and behind me again I heard Elmscott chuckling.

Hugh Marston had risen from his chair as we entered, and stood looking at
me curiously.

"You have not met Mr.Marston," she said. "I must make my two best friends

I would that she had omitted that word "best," the more especially since
she laid some emphasis upon it. It undid some portion of her previous
work, and set us both upon a level in her estimation.

"We have met before," said Marston, and he bowed coldly.

"Indeed? I had not heard of that."

Marston recounted to her the story of the gambling-match, but she
listened with no apparent attention, fixing her eyes upon the stage.

"I fancied, Mr.Buckler, you had no taste for cards or dice," she said
carelessly, when he had done.

"Mr.Buckler in truth only stayed there on compulsion," replied Marston.
"He came from Leyden in a great fluster without any money in his pockets,
and so must needs wait upon his cousin's pleasure before he could borrow
a horse to help him on his way."

I threw a glance of appeal towards Elmscott, and he broke in quickly.--
“'Twas Lord Culverton lent him the horse, after all." But the next moment
the Countess herself, to my great relief, brought the conversation to an

"Gentlemen, gentlemen!" she said abruptly, with a show of impatience. "I
fear me I am as yet so far out of the fashion as to feel some slight
interest in the unravelling of the play, and I find it difficult to catch
what the players say."

After that there was no more to be said, and we sat watching the stage
with what amusement we might, or conversing in the discreetest of
whispers. For my part I remembered that Ilga had shown no great interest
in the comedy while she was alone with Marston, and I began to wonder
whether our intrusion had angered her. It was impossible for me to see
her face, since she held up a hand on the side next to me and so screened
her cheek.

Suddenly, however, she cried,--"Oh, there's Lord Culverton!" and she
bowed to him with marked affability.

Now Culverton had ranged himself in full view with an eye ever turned
upon our box, so that it seemed somewhat strange she had not observed him
till now. He swept the boards with his hat, and looking about the
theatre, his face one gratified smirk, as who should say, "'Tis an
everyday affair with me," immediately left his station, and disappearing
behind the scenery, made his way into the box. The Countess received him
graciously, and kept him behind her chair, asking many questions
concerning the players, and laughing heartily at the pleasantries and
innuendos with which he described them. It seemed to me, however, that
there was more scandal than wit in his anecdotes, and, marvelling that
she should take delight in them, I turned away and let my eyes wander
idly about the boxes.

When I glanced again at my companions I perceived that though Culverton
was still chattering in Countess Lukstein's ear, her gaze was bent upon
me with the same scrutiny which I had noticed on the evening that we sat
together in her balcony. It was as though she was taking curious stock of
my person and weighing me in some balance of her thoughts. I fancied that
she was contrasting me with Marston, and gained some confirmation of the
fancy in that she coloured slightly, and said hastily, with a nod at the

"What think you of the sentiment, Mr.Buckler?"

"Madame," I replied, “for once I am in the fashion, for I gave no heed to

I had been, in truth, thinking of her lucky intervention in Marston's
narrative, for by her impatience she had prevented him from telling
either the date of the gambling-match or the name of the town which I was
in such great hurry to reach. Not that I had any solid reason to fear she
would discover me on that account, for many a man might have ridden from
London to Bristol at the time of the assizes and had naught to do with
Sir Julian Harnwood. But I had so begun to dread the possibility of her
aversion and hatred, that my imagination found a motive to suspicion
lurking in the simplest of remarks.

"'Twas that a man would venture more for his friend than for his
mistress," she explained. "What think you of it?"

"Why, that the worthy author has never been in love."

"You believe that?" she laughed.

"'Twixt friend and friend a man's first thought is of himself. Shame on
us that it should be so; but alas, my own experience has proved it. It
needs, I fear me, a woman's fingers to tune him to the true note of

"And has your own experience proved that too?" she asked with some
hesitation, looking down on the ground, and twisting a foot to and fro
upon its heel.

"Not so," I answered in a meaning whisper. "I wait for the woman's
fingers and the occasion of the sacrifice." She shot a shy glance
sideways at me, and, as though by accident, her hand fell lightly upon
mine. I believed, indeed, that 'twas no more than an accident until she
said quietly: "The occasion may come, too."

She rose from her chair.

"The play begins to weary me," she continued aloud. "Besides, Mr.Buckler
convinces me the playwright has never been in love, and 'tis an
unpardonable fault in an author."

Marston and myself started forward to escort her to her carriage. The
Countess looked from one to the other of us as though in doubt, and we
stood glaring across her. Elmscott commenced to chuckle again in a way
that was indescribably irritating and silty.

"If Lord Culverton will honour me," suggested the Countess.

The little man was overwhelmed with the favour accorded to him, and with
a peacock air of triumph led her from the box.

“'Tis a monkey, a damned monkey!" said Marston, looking after him.

The phrase seemed to me a very accurate description of the fop, and I
assented to it with great cordiality. For a little Marston sat sullenly
watching the play, and then picking up his hat and cloak, departed
without a word. His precipitate retreat only made my cousin laugh the
more heartily; but I chose to make no remark upon this merriment,
believing that Elmscott indulged it chiefly to provoke me to question
him. I knew full well the sort of gibe that was burning on his tongue,
and presently imitating Marston's example, I left him to amuse himself.
In the portico of the theatre Marston was waiting. A thick fog had fallen
with the evening, and snatching a torch from one of the link-boys who
stood gathered within the light of the entrance, he beckoned to me to
follow him, and stepped quickly across the square into a deserted alley.
There he waited for me to come up with him, holding the torch above his
head so that the brown glare of the flame was reflected in his eyes.

"So," he said, "luck sets us on opposite sides of the table again, Mr
Buckler. But the game has not begun. You have still time to draw back."

For the moment his words and vehement manner fairly staggered me. I had
not expected from him so frank an avowal of rivalry.

"The stakes are high," he went on, pressing his advantage, "and call for
a player of more experience than you."

"None the less," said I, meeting his gaze squarely, "I play my hand."

Instantly his manner changed. He looked at me silently for a second, and
then with a calmness which intimidated me far more than his passion,--
"Are you wise? Are you wise?" he asked slowly.

"Think! What will the loser keep?"

"What will the winner gain?"

We stood measuring each other for the space of a minute in the flare of
the torch. Then he dropped it on the ground, and stamped out the sparks
with his heel. 'Twas too dark for me to see his face, but I heard his
voice at my elbow very smooth and soft, and I knew that he was stooping
by my side.

"You will find this the very worst day's work," he said,  "to which ever
you set your hand;" and I heard his footsteps ring hollow down the
street. He had certainly won the first trick in the game, for he left me
to pay the link-boy.


Two days later the Countess paid her first visit to my lodging. I had
looked forward to the moment with a great longing, deeming that her
presence would in a measure consecrate the rooms, and that the memory of
what she did and said would linger about them afterwards like a soft and
tender light.

We had journeyed that morning in a party to view the Italian Glass-house
at Greenwich, and dining at a hostelry in the neighbourhood, had returned
by water. We disembarked at Westminster steps, and I induced the company
to favour me with their presence and drink a dish of bohea in my

Now the sitting-rooms which I occupied were two in number and opened upon
each other, the first, which was the larger, lying along to the front of
the house, and the second, an inner chamber, giving upon a little garden
at the back, Ilga, I noticed, wandered from one room to the other,
examining my possessions with an indefatigable curiosity. For, said she,
--"It is only by such means that one discovers the true nature of one's
friends. Conversation is but the pretty scabbard that hides the sword.
The blade may be lath for all that we can tell."

"You distrust your friends so much?"

"Have I no reason to?" she exclaimed, suddenly bending her eyes upon me,
and she paused in expectation of an answer. "But I forgot; you know
nothing of my history."

I turned away, for I felt the blood rushing to my face. "I would fain
hear you tell it me," I managed to stammer out.

"Some time I will," she replied quietly, "but not to-day; the time is
inopportune. For it is brimful of sorrow, and the telling of it will, I
trust, sadden you."

The strangeness of the words, and a passionate tension in her voice
filled me with uneasiness, and I wheeled sharply round.

"For I take you for my friend," she explained softly, "and so count on
your sympathy. Yet, after all, can I count on it?"

I protested with some confusion that she could count on far more than my

"It may be,” she replied. "But I believe, Mr.Buckler, the whole story of
woman might be written in one phrase. 'Tis the continual mistaking of
lath for steel."

"And never steel for lath?" I asked.

"At times, no doubt," she answered, recovering herself with an easy
laugh. "But we only find that error out when the steel cuts us. So either
way are we unfortunate. Therefore, I will e'en pursue my inquiries," and
she stepped off into the inner room, whither presently I went to join

"Well, what have you discovered?" I asked.

"Nothing," she replied, with a plaintive shake of the head. "You
disappoint me sorely, Mr. Buckler. A student from the University of
Leyden should line his walls with volumes and folios, and I have found
but one book of Latin poems in that room, and not so much as a pamphlet
in this."

I started. The book of poems could be no other than my copy of Horace,
and it contained the plan of Lukstein Castle. I reflected, however, that
the plan was a mere diagram of lines, without even a letter to explain
it, and with only a cross at the point of ascent. The Countess, moreover,
had spoken in all levity; her tone betrayed no hint of an afterthought.

A small package fastened with string lay on the table before her; and
beside of it a letter in Elmscott's handwriting. She picked up the
package. "And what new purchase is this?" she asked, with a smile.

"I know nothing of it. It is no purchase, and I gather from the
inscription of the letter it comes from my cousin."

"I shall open it," said she, "and you must blame my sex for its

"Madame," I replied, "the inquisitiveness implies an interest in the
object of it, and so pays me a compliment."

“'Tis the sweetest way of condoning a fault that ever I met with," she
laughed, and dropped me a sweeping curtsey.

I broke the seal of Elmscott's letter while she untied the parcel.

"Marston's conversation at the theatre," he wrote. "reminded me of these
buckles. They belong of right to you, and since it seems your turn has
come to need luck's services, I send them gladly in the hope that they
may repeat their office on your behalf."

The parcel contained a shagreen case which Ilga unfastened. The diamond
buckles from it flashed with a thousand rays, and she tipped them to and
fro so that the stones might catch the light.

"Your cousin must have a great liking for you," she said. "For in truth
they are very beautiful."

"Elmscott is a gambler," I laughed, "with all a gambler's superstitions,"
and I handed her the letter.

She read it through. "These buckles were your cousin's last stake, Mr
Marston related," she said. "Do you believe that they will bring you

"To believe would be presumption. I have no more courage than suffices me
to copy Elmscott's example, and hope."

She returned me no answer, giving, so it seemed, all her attention to the
brilliant jewels in her hands. But I saw the colour mounting in her

"Meanwhile," she said, after a pause, with a little nervous laugh, "you
are copying my bad example, and leaving your guests to divert

Not knowing surely whether I had offended her or not, I deemed it best to
add nothing further or more precise to my hints, and got me back into the
larger room. Ilga remained standing where I left her, and through the
door way I could see her still flashing the buckles backwards and
forwards. Her evident admiration raised an idea in my mind. My guests
were amusing themselves without any need of help from me. Some new
scandal concerning the King and the Countess of Dorchester was being
discussed for the tenth time that day with an enthusiasm which expanded
as the story grew, so that I was presently able to slip back unnoticed.
The inner room, however, was empty; but the glass door which gave on to
the garden stood open, and picking up the shagreen case, I stepped out on
to the lawn. Ilga was seated in a low chair about the centre of the
grass-plot, and the sun, which hung low and red just above the ivied
wall, burnished her hair, and was rosy on her face.

"Madame," said I, advancing towards her, "I have discovered how best to
dispose of the buckles so that they may bring me luck"

"Indeed?" she asked indifferently. "And which way is it?"

"They are too fine for a plain gentleman's wearing, said I. "Sweet looks
and precious jewels go best together." With that, and awkwardly enough, I
dare say, for I always stumbled at a compliment, I opened the case and
offered it.

She looked at me for a space as though she had not understood, and then,
--"No, no," she cried, with extraordinary vehemence, repulsing my gift so
that the case flew out of my grasp, and the buckles sparkled through the
air in two divergent arcs, and dropped some few feet away into the grass.
She rose from her seat and drew herself up to her full height, her eyes
flashing and her bosom heaving. "How dare you?" she exclaimed, and yet
again, "How dare you?" Conscious of no intention but to please her by a
gift which she plainly admired, I stared dumbfounded at the outburst.

"Madame!" I faltered out at last; and, with a great effort, she recovered
a part of her self-control.

"Mr.Buckler," she said, speaking with difficulty, while the blood swirled
in and out of her cheeks, "the present hurts me sorely, even though--
nay, all the more because, it comes from you. It is the fashion, I know
well, to believe that a few gems will bribe the good-will of any woman.
But I hardly thought that--that you held me in such poor esteem."

I protested that nothing could have been further from my designs than the
notion which she attributed to me, and went so far as to hint that there
was something extravagant and unreasonable in her anger. For, said I, the
gift was no bribe but a tribute, and, I continued, with greater
confidence as her pride diminished, if either of us had a right to feel
hurt, it was myself, whom she insulted by the imputation of so mean a

"Then I am to beg your pardon, I suppose," she cried with another flash
of anger.

"Oh, there's no arguing with you," I burst out in a heat no less violent
than her own. "Who bids you beg my pardon? What makes you suppose I need
you should, unless it be your own proper and fitting compunction? There's
no moderation in your thoughts. You jump from one extreme to the other as
nimbly as--as--"

I was turning away with the sentence unfinished, when,--"I could supply
the simile you want," she said, with a whimsical demureness as sudden and
inexplicable as her  wrath, "only 'tis something indelicate," and she
broke  into a ringing laugh.

To a man of my slow disposition, whose very passions have a certain
economy which delays their growth, the transitions of a woman's humours
have ever been confusing, and now I stood stockish and dumb, gazing at
the Countess open-mouthed, and vainly endeavouring, like a fool, to
reduce the various emotions she had expressed into a logical continuity.

"And there!" she continued, "now I have shocked you by lack of breeding!"

And once more she commenced to laugh with a mirth so natural and
infectious that presently it gained on me, and for no definite reason
that I could name I found myself laughing to her tune and with equal
heartiness. 'Twas none the less a wiser action than any deliberation
could have prompted me to, for here was our quarrel ended decisively, and
no words said.

For a while we strolled up and down the lawn, Ilga interspacing her talk
with little, spirts of laughter, as now and again she looked at my face,
until we stopped at the end of the garden, just before a small
postern-door in the wall.

"It leads into the Park?" she asked.

"Yes! Shall we slip out?"

She looked back at the house.

"The host can hardly run away from his guests."

"There is no one in the room to notice us."

"But the room above? 'Twould look strange, whoever saw us."

"Nay, there can be no one there, for it is my dressing-room."

She took hold of the handle doubtfully and tried it.

"It is locked."

"But the key is on the mantelshelf. I will get it."

"In this little room?"

"No, 'tis in the larger room, but--"

"Nay," she interrupted, "our absence will be enough remarked as it is.
Clemence will read me a lecture on the proprieties all the way home."

Consequently we returned to the house, and the Countess took her leave
shortly with the rest of the company; but as I conducted her to the door,
she said a strange thing to me.

"Mr.Buckler," she said, "you should be angry more often," and so with
another laugh she walked away.

That night, as I sat smoking a pipe upon the lawn, I saw something flash
and sparkle in the rays of the moon, and I remembered that Elmscott's
buckles still lay where they had fallen. Picking them up, I returned to
my seat and fell straightway into a very bitter train of thought. 'Twas
the recollection of the Countess's indignation that set me on it, for
since the mere gift could provoke so stormy and sincere an outburst, how
would it have been, I reflected, had she really known who the giver was?
The thought pressed in upon me all the more heavily for the reason which
she had offered to account for her anger. She set a value upon my esteem,
and no small value either; so much she had told me plainly. Now it had
been my lot hitherto to meet with a half-contemptuous tolerance rather
than esteem; so that this unwonted appreciation shown by the one person
from whom I most desired it filled me with a deep gratitude, and obliged
me in her service. Yet here was I requiting her with a calculating and
continuous deception. 'Twas no longer of any use to argue that Count
Lukstein had received no greater punishment than his treachery merited;
that but for his last coward thrust he would have escaped even that; that
the advantage of the encounter had been on his side from first to last,
since I was chilled to the bone with my long vigil upon the terrace
parapet. Such excuses were the merest thistledown, and it needed but a
breath from her to blow them into air. The solid stalk of my thoughts
was: "I was deceiving her." And it was not merely the knowledge of my
concealments which tortured me, but an anticipation of the disdain and
contempt into which her kindliness would turn, should she ever discover
the truth.

For so closely had the idea and notion of her become inwoven in my being
that I ever estimated my actions and purposes by imagining the judgment
which she would be like to pass on them, and, indeed, saw no true image
of myself at all save that which was reflected from the mirror of her

I came then to consider what path I should follow.

There were three ways open to my choice. I might go on as heretofore,
practising my duplicity; or, again, I might pack my trunks and scurry
ignominiously back to my estate; or I might take my courage between my
two hands and tell the truth of the matter to the Countess, be the
consequences what they might.

Doubtless the last was the only honest course, and if I did not bring
myself to adopt it--well, I paid dearly enough for the fault. At the
time, however, the objections appeared to me insurmountable. In the first
place, my natural timidity cried out against this hazard of all my
happiness upon a single throw. Then, again, how could I tell her the
truth? For it was not merely myself that the story accused, nor indeed in
the main, but her husband. His treachery towards me in the actual
fighting of the duel I might conceal, but not his treachery to Julian,
and I shrank from inflicting such shame upon her pride as the disclosure
must inevitably bring.

I deem it right to set out here the questions which so troubled me, with
a view to the proper understanding of this story. For on the very next
day; while I was still debating the matter in great abasement and
despondency, an incident occurred which determined me upon a compromise.

It happened in this way. I had ridden out into the country early in the
morning, hoping that a vigorous gallop might help me to some solution of
my perplexities, and returning home in the evening, chanced to be in my
dressing-room shortly after seven of the clock.

My valet announced that Lord Culverton and my cousin were below, and I
sent word down that I would be with them in the space of a few minutes.
Elmscott, however, followed the servant up the stairs, and coming into
the room entertained me with the latest gossip, walking about the while
that he talked. In the middle of a sentence he stopped before the window
which, as I have said, overlooked the Park, and broke off his speech with
a sudden exclamation. I crossed to where he stood, wishing to see what
had brought him so abruptly to a stop. The walks, however, were empty and
deserted, at being the fashion among the gentry of the town rather to
favour Hyde Park at this hour. A chair, certainly, stood at no great
distance, but the porters were smoking their pipes as they leaned against
the poles, and I inferred from that that it had no occupant.

"Wait," said Elmscott; "the wall of your garden hides them for the

As he spoke, two figures emerged from its shelter and walked into the
open. I gave a start as I saw them, and gripped Elmscott by the arm.

"Lord!" said he, "are you in so deep as that?"

The woman I knew at the first glance. The easy carriage of her head, the
light grace of her walk, were qualities which I had noted and admired too
often to make the ghost of a doubt possible. The man, who was gaily
dressed in a scarlet coat, an instinct of jealousy told me was Hugh
Marston. Their backs were towards the house, and I waited for them to
turn, which they did after they had walked some hundred paces. Sure
enough my suspicions were correct. The Countess was escorted by Marston,
her hand was upon his aim, and the pair sauntered slowly, stopping here
and there in their walk as though greatly concerned with one another.

"Damn him!" I cried, "Damn him!"

Elmscott burst into a laugh, "The pretty Countess," said he, "would be
more discreet did she but know you overlooked her."

"But she does know," I returned. "She knows that I lodge in the house;
she knows also that this room is mine."

"Oh!" he exclaimed, in a tone of comprehension, "she knows that!"

"Ah; and 'twas no further back than yesterday that she discovered it. I
told her myself."

Elmscott remained silent for a while, watching their promenade. Again
they disappeared within the shelter of the wall; again they emerged from
it, and again they promenaded some hundred paces and turned.

"I thought so," he muttered; “'tis all of a piece."

I asked what his words meant.

"You remember the evening at the Duke's Theatre, when she caught sight of
you across the pit? One might have imagined she would not have had you
see her on such close terms with our friend; that she feared you might
mistake her courtesy for proof of some deeper feeling."

"Well?" I asked, remembering how he had chuckled through the evening. For
such in truth had been my thought, and I had drawn no small comfort from

"Well, she saw you long ere that; she saw you the moment she entered the
box, before I pointed her out to you. For she looked straight in your
direction and spoke to the Frenchwoman, nodding towards you."

"No, it is impossible!" I replied. I recollected how her hand had fallen
upon mine, and the musical sound of her words--'the occasion may come
too.' "There is no trace of the coquette about her. This must be a

"It is you who are making it. Add her behaviour now", he waved his hand
to the window, "to what I have told you! See how the incidents fit
together, Yesterday she finds out your room commands the Park, to-day she
 walks in Marston's company underneath the window, and backwards and
forwards, mark that! never moving out of range. 'Tis all part of one

"But what purpose?" I cried passionately. "What purpose could she serve?"

 "The devil knows!" he replied, with a shrug of his shoulders. "it is of
a woman we are speaking--you forget that."

I flung open the window noisily, in a desire to attract their attention
and observe how the Countess would take our discovery of her interview.
But she paid not the slightest heed to the sound. Elmscott made a sudden
dash to the door.

"Culverton!" he cried over the baluster.

I tried to check him, for I had no wish that Culverton's meddlesome
fingers should pry into the matter. I was too late, however; he entered
the room, and Elmscott drew him to the open window.

"Burn me, but 'tis the oddest thing!" he smirked.

For a minute or so we stood watching the couple in silence. Then the
Countess dropped her fan, and as Marston stooped to pick it up she shot
one quick glance towards us. Her companion handed her the fan, and they
resumed the promenade. But they took no more than half a turn before the
Countess signalled to the porters, and getting into the chair, was
carried off. Marston waited until she was out of sight, with his hat in
his hand, and then cocking it jauntily on his head, marched off in the
opposite direction. The satisfaction of his manner made my blood boil
with rage.

"The conceited ass!" I cried, stamping my feet.

"She heard the window open after all," said Elmscott.

As for Culverton, he tittered the more.

"The oddest thing!" he repeated. "The very oddest thing! Strike me purple
if I know what to make of the delightful creature!"

“'Tis as plain as my hand," replied Elmscott roughly. "No sooner did she
perceive that you were watching her than she gave Marston his congé. He
had done his work, and she had no further use for him. She is a woman--
there's the top and bottom of it. A couple of men to frown at each other
and grimace prettily to her! Her vanity demands no less. She is like one
of our Indian planters who value their wealth by the number of their
slaves; so she her beauty."

"Nay," interposed the fop. "If that were the whole business, one would
hear less concerning Mr.Buckler from her rapturous lips. But rat me if
she ever talks about any one else."

"Do you mean that?" I asked eagerly.

"Oh, most inquisitive, on my honour! In truth, your name is growing
plaguy wearisome to me. Why, but the other night, when she selected me to
lead her to her carriage at the theatre, 'twas but to question me
concerning you, and whether you gambled, and the horse of mine you rode,
and what not. And there was I with a thousand tender nothings to whisper
in her ear, and pink me if I could get one of 'em out!"

"Then I give the riddle up," rejoined Elmscott, though I would fain have
heard more of this strain from Culverton. "I make neither head nor tail
of the business, unless, Morrice, she would bring you on by a little
wholesome jealousy." He looked at me shrewdly, and continued: "You are a
timid wooer, I fancy. Why not go to her boldly? Tell her you are going
away, and have had enough of her tricks! 'Twould bring your suit to a

"One way or another," said I doubtfully.

"If Mr.Buckler would take the advice of one who has had some small
experience of ladies’ whims," interposed Culverton, "and some
participation in their favours, he would buy some new clothes."

"These are new," I said. "I followed your advice before, and bought
enough to stock a shop."

"But of such a desperate colour," he replied. "Lard, Mr.Buckler, you go
dressed like a mute at a funeral! The ladies loathe it; stap me, but
they loathe it! A scarlet coat, like our friend wears, a full periwig,
an embroidered stocking, makes deeper inroads into their affections than
a year's tedious love-making. The dear creatures’ hearts, Mr. Buckler, are
in their eyes."

With that the subject of Countess Lukstein dropped. For Culverton, once
started upon his favourite topic, launched forth into a complete
philosophy of clothes. The colour of each garment, according to him, had
a particular effect upon the sex; the adjustment of each ribbon conveyed
a particular meaning. He had, indeed, ingeniously classified the various
coats, hats, breeches, vests, periwigs, ruffles, cravats and the other
appurtenances of a gentleman's wardrobe, with the modes of wearing them,
as expressions of feeling and emotion. The larger and more dominant
emotions were voiced in the clothes, the delicate and subtler shades of
feeling in the disposition of ornaments. In short, 'twould be a very
profitable philosophy for a race which had neither tongues to speak nor
faces and limbs to act their meaning. This incident, as I have said,
determined me upon a compromise, for it set my heart aflame with
jealousy. I had not taken Marston into my calculations before; now I
reflected that if I retired to the North, I should be leaving a free
field for him, and that I was obstinately minded I would not do. On the
other hand, however, this promenade in front of my windows, whether under
taken of set purpose or from sheer carelessness, seemed to show that
after all I had no stable footing in Ilga's esteem, and I feared that if
I disclosed to her the deception which I had used towards her, there
could be but one result and consequence.

I determined then to forward my suit with what ardour and haste I might,
and to unbosom myself of my fault in the very hour that I pleaded my

The Countess, however, gave me no heart or occasion for the work. Her
manner towards me changed completely of a sudden, and where I had
previously met with smiles and kindly words, I got now disdainful looks
and biting speeches. She would ridicule my conversation, my person, and
my bearing, and that, too, before a room full of people, so that I was
filled with the deepest shame; or again, she would shrink from me with
all the appearances of aversion. Mademoiselle Durette, it is true, sought
to lighten my suffering. "It is ever love's way to blow hot and cold,"
she would whisper in my ear. But I thought that she spoke only out of
compassion. For 'twas the cold wind which continually blew on me.

At times, indeed, though very rarely, she would resume her old
familiarity, but there was a note of effort in her voice as though she
subdued herself to a distasteful practice, and something hysterical in
her merriment; and as like as not, she would break off in the middle of a
kindly sentence and load me with the extremity of scorn.

Moreover, Marston was perpetually at her side, and in his company she
made more than one return to the Park; so that at last, being fallen into
a most tormenting despair, I made shift to follow Elmscott's advice, and
called at her lodging one morning to inform her that I intended setting
my face homewards that very afternoon.


IT was a full week since I had last waited on my cruel mistress, and I
hoped, though with no great confidence, that this intermission of my
visits might temper and moderate her scorn. I had beside taken to heart
Culverton's advice as well as that of my cousin. For I was in great
trepidation lest she should take me at my word, and carelessly bid me
adieu, and so caught eagerly at any hint that seemed likely to help me,
however trivial it might be, and from whatever source it came.

Consequently I had had my own hair cropped, and had purchased a
cumbersome full-bottomed peruke of the latest mode. With that on my head,
and habited in a fine new brocaded coat of green velvet and
lemon-coloured silk breeches and stockings, I went timidly to confront my
destiny. How many times did I walk up and down before her house, or ever
I could summon courage to knock! How many phrases and dignified
reproaches did I con over and rehearse, yet never one that seemed other
than offensive and ridiculous! What in truth emboldened me in the end to
enter was a cloud of dust which a passing carriage caused to settle on my
coat. If I hesitated much longer, I reflected, all my bravery would be
wasted, and dusting myself carefully with my handkerchief, I mounted the
steps. Otto Krax opened the door, and preceded me up the staircase.

But while we were still ascending the steps, Mademoiselle Durette came
from the parlour which gave on to the landing.

"Very well, Otto," she said, "I will announce Mr.Buckler."

She waited until the man had descended the stairs, and then turned to me
with a meaning smile.

"She is alone. Take her by surprise!"

With that she softly turned the handle of the door, and opened it just so
far as would enable me to slip through. I heard the voice of Ilga singing
sweetly in a low key, and my heart trembled and jumped within me, so that
I hesitated on the threshold.

"I have no patience with you," said Mademoiselle Durette, in an
exasperated whisper. "Cowards don't win when they go a-wooing. Haven't
you learnt that? Ridicule her, if you like, as she does you--abuse her,
do anything but gape like a stock-fish, with a white face as though all
your blood had run down into the heels of your shoes!"

She pushed me as she spoke into the room, and noiselessly closed the
door. The Countess was seated at a spinet in the far corner of the room,
and sang in her native tongue. The song, I gathered, was a plaint, and
had a strange and outlandish melancholy, the voice now lifting into a
wild, keening note, now sinking abruptly to a dreary monotone. It
oppressed me with a peculiar sadness, making the singer seem very lonely
and far-away; and I leaned silently against the wall, not daring to
interrupt her. At last the notes began to quaver, the voice broke once or
twice; she gave a little sob, and her head fell forward on her hands.

An inrush of pity swept all my diffidence away. I stepped hastily forward
with outstretched hands. At the sound she sprang to her feet and faced
me, the colour flaming in her cheeks.

"Madame," cried I, "if my intrusion lacks ceremony, believe me--"

But I got no further in my protestations. For with a sneer upon her lips
and a biting accent of irony,--"So," she broke in, looking me over, "the
crow has turned into a cockatoo." And she rang a bell which stood upon
the spinet. I stopped in confusion, and not knowing what to say or do,
remained foolishly shifting from one foot to the other, the while Ilga
watched me with a malicious pleasure.

In a minute Otto Krax came to the door.

"How comes it," she asked sternly, "that Mr.Buckler enters unannounced?
Have I no servants?"

The fellow explained that Mademoiselle Durette had taken the duty to

"Send Mademoiselle Durette to me," said the Countess. I was ready to sink
through the floor with humiliation, and busied my wits in a search for a
plausible excuse. I had not found one when the Frenchwoman appeared.

Countess Lukstein repeated her question.

Mademoiselle Durette was no readier than myself and glanced with a
frightened air from me to her mistress, and back again from her mistress
to me. Remembering what she had said on the landing about my
irresolution, I felt my shame doubled.

"Madame," I stammered out, "the fault is in no wise your companion's. The
blame of it should fall on me."

"Oh!" said she, "really?" And turning to Mademoiselle Durette, she began
to clap her hands. "I believe," she exclaimed in a mock excitement, "that
Mr.Buckler is going to make me a present of a superb cockatoo. Clemence,
you must buy a cage and a chain for its leg!"

Clemence stared in amazement, as well she might, and I, stung to a
passion,--"Nay," I cried, and for once my voice rang firmly. "By the
Lord, you count too readily upon Mr.Buckler's gift. Mr.Buckler has come
to offer you no present, but to take his leave for good and all."

I made her a dignified bow and stepped towards the door.

"What do you mean?" she asked sharply.

"That I ride homewards this afternoon."

She shot a glance at Mademoiselle Durette, who slipped obediently out of
the room.

"And why?" she asked, with an innocent assumption of surprise, coming
towards me. "Why?"

"What, madame?" I replied, looking her straight in the face. "Surely your
ingenuity can find a reason."

"My ingenuity?" She spoke in the same accent of wonderment. "My
ingenuity? Mr.Buckler, you take a tone--" She came some paces nearer to
me and asked very gently: "Am I to blame?"

The humility of the question, and a certain trembling of the lips that
uttered it, well nigh disarmed me; but I felt that did I answer her, did
I venture the mildest reproach, I should give her my present advantage.

"No, no," I replied, with a show of indifference; "my own people need

She took another step and spoke with lowered eyes. "Are there no people
who need you here?"

I forgot my part.

"You mean--" I exclaimed impulsively, when a movement which she made
brought me to a stop. For she drew back a step, and picking up her fan
from a little table, began to pluck nervously at the feathers. Her action
recalled to my mind her behaviour at the Duke's Theatre and Elmscott's
commentary thereon.

"None that I know of," I resumed, "for even those whom I counted my
friends find me undeserving of even common civility."

"Civility! Civility!" she cried out in scorn. "'Tis the very proof and
attribute of indifference--the crust one tosses carelessly to the
first-comer because it costs nothing."

"But I go fasting even for that crust."

"Not always," she replied softly, shooting a glance at me. "Not always,
Mr.Buckler; and have you not found at times some butter on the bread?"

She smiled as she spoke, but I hardened my heart against her and
vouchsafed no answer. For a little while she stood with her eyes upon the
ground, and then. "Oh, very well, very well!" she said petulantly, and
turning away from me, flung the fan on to the table. The table was of
polished mahogany, and the fan slid across its surface and dropped to the
floor. I stepped forward, and knelt down to pick it up.

"What, Mr.Buckler!" she said bitterly, turning again to me, "you
condescend to kneel. Surely it is not you: it must be some one else."

I thought that I had never heard sarcasm so unjust, for in truth kneeling
to her had been my chief occupation this many a day, and I replied hotly
bethinking me of Marston and the episode which I had witnessed in the

"Indeed, madame, and you may well think it strange, for have I not seen
you drop your fan in order to deceive the man who picks it up?" With that
I got to my feet and laid the fan on the table

She flushed very red, and exclaimed hurriedly,--"All that can be

"No doubt! no doubt!" I replied. "I have never doubted the subtlety of
madame's invention."

She drew herself up with great pride, and bowed to me. I walked to the
door. As I opened it, I turned to take one last look at the face which I
had so worshipped. It was very white; even the lips were bloodless, and
oddly enough I noticed that she wore a loose white gown as on the
occasion of our first meeting.

"Adieu," I said, and stepped behind the door.

From the other side of it her voice came to me quietly,--"Does this
prove the sword to be lath or steel?" I shut the door, and went slowly
down the stairs, slowly and yet more slowly. For her last question
drummed at my heart.

"Lath or steel?" Was I playing a man's part, or was I the mere bond-slave
of a petty pride? 'That can be explained,' she had said. What if it
could? Then the sword would be proved lath indeed! Just to salve my
vanity I should have wasted my life--and only my life?

I saw her lips trembling as the thought shot through me. What if those
walks with my rival beneath my window had been devised in some strange
way for a test--a woman's test and touchstone to essay the metal of the
sword, a test perhaps intelligible to a woman, though an enigma to me? If
only I knew a woman whom I could consult!

My feet lagged more and more, but I reached the bottom of the stairs in
the end. The hall was empty. I looked up towards the landing with a wild
hope that she would, come out and lean over the balustrade, as on the
evening when Elmscott first brought me to the house. But there was no
stir or movement from garret to cellar. I might have stood in the hall of
the Sleeping Palace. From a high window the sunlight slanted athwart the
cool gloom in a golden pillar, and a fly buzzed against the pane. I
crossed the hall, and let myself out into the noonday. The door clanged
behind me with a hollow rattle; it sounded to my hearing like the closing
of the gates of a tomb, and I felt it was myself that lay dead behind it.

As I passed beneath the window, something hard dropped upon the crown of
my hat, and bounced thence to the ground at my feet. I picked it up. It
was a crust of bread. For a space I stood looking at it before I
understood. Then I rushed back to the entrance. The door stood open, but
the hall was empty and silent as when I left it. I sprang up the stairs,
and in my haste missed my footing about half-way up, and rolled down some
half a dozen steps. The crash of my fall echoed up the well of the
staircase, and from behind the parlour door I heard some one laugh. I got
on to my legs, and burst into the room.

Ilga was seated before a frame of embroidery very demure and busy. She
paid no heed to me, keeping her head bent over her work until I had
approached close to the frame. Then she looked up with her eyes

"How dare you?" she asked, in a mock accent of injury.

"I don't know," I replied meekly.

She bent once more over her embroidery.

"Humours are the prerogative of my sex," she said.

"I set you apart from it."

"Is that why you cannot trust me even a little?"

The gentle reproach made me hot with shame. I had no words to answer it.
Then she laughed again, bending closer over her frame, in a low joyous
note that gradually rose and trilled out sweet as music from a thrush.

"And so," she said, "you came all trim and spruce in your fine new
clothes to show me what my discourtesy had lost me! What a child you are!
And yet," she rose suddenly, her whole face changing, "and yet, are you a
child? Would God I knew!" She ended with a passionate cry, clasping her
hands together upon her breast; but before I could make head or tail of
her meaning she was half-way through another mood. "Ah!" she cried, "you
have brought my courtesy back with you." I had not noticed until then
that I still held the crust in my hand. "You shall swallow it as a

"Madame!" I laughed.

"Hush! you shall eat it. Yes, yes!" with a pretty imperious stamp of the
foot. "Now! Before you speak a word!"

I obeyed her, but with some difficulty, for the crust was very dry.

"You see," she said, "courtesy is not always so tasteful a morsel. It
sticks in the throat at times;" and crossing to a sideboard, she filled a
goblet from a decanter of canary and brought it to me.

"You will pledge me first," I entreated.

Her face grew serious, and she balanced the cup doubtfully in her hand.

"Of a truth," she said, "of a truth I will." She raised it slowly to her
lips; but at that moment the door opened. "Oh!" cried Mademoiselle
Durette, with a start of surprise. "I fancied that Mr.Buckler had gone,"
and she was for whipping out of the room again, but Ilga called to her.
The astonishment of the Frenchwoman made one point clear to me concerning
which I felt some curiosity. I mean that 'twas not she who had set the
hall door open for my return.

"Clemence!" said the Countess, setting down the wine untasted, as I
noticed with regret, "will you bid Otto come to me? I ransacked Mr.
Buckler's rooms, and it is only fair that I should show him my poor
treasures in return."

She handed a key to Otto, and bade him unlock a Japan cabinet which stood
in a corner. He drew out a tray heaped with curiosities, medals and
trinkets, and bringing it over, laid it on a table in the window.

“I have bought them all since I came to London. You shall tell me whether
I have been robbed."

"You come to the worst appraiser in the world," said I, "for these
ornaments tell me nothing of their value, though much of your industry."

"I have a great love for these trifles," said she, though her action
seemed to belie her words, for she tossed and rattled them hither and
thither upon the tray with rapid jerks of her fingers which would have
made a virtuoso shiver. "They hint so much of bygone times, and tell so
provokingly little."

"Their example, at all events, affords a lesson in discretion," I

"Which our poor sex is too trustful to learn, and yours too distrustful
to forget."

There was a certain accent of appeal in her voice, very tender and sweet,
as though she knew my story and was ready to forgive it. Had we been
alone I believe that I should have blurted the whole truth out; only Otto
Krax stood before me on the opposite side of the table, Mademoiselle
Durette was seated in the room behind.

Ilga had ceased to sort the articles, and now began to point out
particular trinkets, describing their purposes and antiquity and the
shops where she had discovered them. But I paid small heed to her words;
that question --did she know?--pressed too urgently upon my thoughts. A
glance at the stolid indifference of Otto Krax served to reassure me.
Through him alone could suspicion have come, and I felt certain that he
had as yet not recognised me.

Besides, I reflected, had she known, it was hardly in nature that she
should have spoken so gently. I dismissed the suspicion from my mind, and
turned me again to the inspection of the tray.

Just below my eyes lay a miniature of a girl, painted very delicately
upon a thin oval slip of ivory. The face was dark in complexion, with
black hair, the nose a trifle tip-tilted, and the lips full and red, but
altogether a face very alluring and handsome. I was most struck, how
ever, with the freshness of the colours; amongst those old curios the
portrait shone like a gem. I took it up, and as I did so, Otto Krax
leaned forward.

"Otto!" said Ilga sharply, "you stand between Mr.Buckler and the light."

The servant moved obediently from the window.

"This," said I, "hath less appearance of antiquity than the rest of your

"It was given to me," she replied. "The face is beautiful?"

Now it had been my custom of late to consider a face beautiful or not in
proportion to its resemblance to that of Countess Lukstein. So I looked
carefully at the miniature, and thence to Ilga. She was gazing closely at
me with parted lips, and an odd intentness in her expression. I noticed
this the more particularly, for that her eyes, which were violet in their
natural hue, had a trick of growing dark when she was excited or

"Why!" I exclaimed in surprise. "One might think you fancy me acquainted
with the lady."

"Well," she replied, laying a hand upon her heart, "what if I did--fancy
that?" She stressed the word "fancy" with something of a sneer.

"Nay," said I, "the face is strange to me."

"Are you sure?" she asked. "Look again! Look again, Mr.Buckler!"

Disturbed by this recurrence of her irony, I fixed my eyes, as she bade
me, upon the picture, and strangely enough, upon a closer scrutiny I
began gradually to recognise it: but in so vague and dim a fashion, that
whether the familiarity lay in the contour of the lineaments or merely in
the expression, I could by no effort of memory determine.

"Well?" she asked, with a smile which had nothing amiable or pleasant in
it. "What say you now?"

"Madame," I returned, completely at a loss, "in truth I know not what to
say. It may be that I have seen the original. Indeed I must think that is
the case--"

"Ah!" she cried, interrupting me as one who convicts an opponent after
much debate, and then, in a hurried correction: "so at least I was

"Then tell me who informed you!" I said earnestly, for I commenced to
consider this miniature as the cause of her recent resentment and scorn.
"For I have only seen this face--somewhere--for a moment. Of one thing
I am sure. I have never had speech with it."

"Never?" she asked, in the same ironical tone. "Look yet a third time, Mr.
Buckler! For your memory improves with each inspection."

She suddenly broke off, and "Otto!" she cried sternly--it was almost a

The fellow was standing just behind my shoulder, and I swung round and
eyed him. He came a step forward, questioning his mistress with a look.

"Replace the tray in the cabinet!"

I kept the miniature in my hand, glancing ever from it to the Countess
and back again in pure wonder and conjecture.

"Madame," I said firmly, "I have never had speech with the lady of this

She looked into my eyes as though she would read my soul.

"It is God's truth!"

She signed a dismissal to Otto. Clemence Durette rose and followed the
servant, and I thought that I had never fallen in with any one who showed
such tact and discretion in the matter of leaving a room.

The Countess remained stock-still, facing me.

"And yet I have been told," she said, nodding her head with each word,
"that she was very dear to you."

"Then," I replied hotly, "you were told a lie, a miserable calumny. I
understand! 'Tis that that has poisoned your kind thoughts of me."

She turned away with a slight shrug of the shoulders.

"Oh, believe that!" I exclaimed, falling upon a knee and holding her by
the hem of her dress. "You must believe it! I have told you what my life
has been. Look at the picture yourself!" and I forced it into her hands.
"What do you read there? Vanity and the love of conquest. Gaze into the
eyes! What do they bespeak? Boldness that comes from the habit of
conquest. Is it likely that such a woman would busy her head about an
awkward, retiring student?"

"I am not so sure," she replied thoughtfully, though she seemed to relent
a little at my vehemence; "women are capricious. You yourself have been
complaining this morning of their caprice. And it might be that--I can
imagine it--and for that very reason."

"Oh, compare us!" I cried. "Compare the painted figure there with me! You
must see it is impossible."

She laid a hand upon each of my shoulders as I knelt, and bent over me,
staring into my eyes.

"I have been told," said she, "that the lady was so dear to you that for
her sake you fought and killed your rival in love."

"You have been told that?" I answered, in sheer incredulity; and then a
flame of rage against my traducer kindling in my heart, I sprang to my

"Who told you?"

"I may not disclose his name."

"But you shall," said I, stepping in front of her. "You shall tell me! He
has lied to you foully, and you owe him therefore no consideration or
respect. He has lied concerning me. I have a clear right to know his
name, that I may convince you of the lie, and reckon with him for his
slander. Confront us both, and yourself be present as the judge!"

Of a sudden she held out her hand to me.

"Your sincerity convinces me. I need no other proof, and I crave your
pardon for my suspicion."

I looked into her face, amazed at the sudden change. But there was no
mistaking her conviction or the joy which it occasioned her. I saw a
light in her eyes, dancing and sparkling, which I had never envisaged
before, and which filled me with exquisite happiness.

"Still," I said, as I took her hand, "I would fain prove my words to

"Can you not trust me at all?"

She had a wonderful knack of putting me in the wrong when I was on the
side of the right, and before I could find a suitable reply she slipped
out of my grasp, and crossing the room, took in her hand the cup of wine.

"Now," said she, "I will pledge you, Mr.Buckler;" which she did very
prettily, and handed the cup to me. As I raised it to my lips, however,
an idea occurred to me.

"It is you who refuse to pledge me," she said.

"Nay, nay," said I, and I drained the cup. "But I have just guessed who
my traducer is."

She looked perplexed for a moment.

"You have guessed who--" she began, in an accent of wonder.

"Who gave you the picture," I explained.

She stared at me in pure astonishment.

"You can hardly have guessed accurately, then," she remarked.

"Surely," said I, "it needs no magician to discover the giver. I know but
one man in London who can hope to gain aught by slandering me to you."

Ilga gave a start of alarm. It seemed almost as though I were telling her
news, as though she did not know herself who gave her the picture; and
for the rest of my visit she appeared absent and anxious. This was
particularly mortifying to me, since I thought the occasion too apt to be
lost, and I was minded to open my heart to her. Indeed, I began the
preface of a love-speech in spite of her preoccupation, but sticking for
lack of encouragement after half a dozen words or so, I perceived that
she was not even listening to what I said. Consequently I took my leave
with some irritation, marvelling at the flighty waywardness of a woman's
thoughts, and rather inclined to believe that the properest age for a man
to marry was his ninetieth year, for then he might perchance have
sufficient experience to understand some portion of his wife's behaviour
and whimsies.

My mortification was not of a lasting kind, for Ilga came out on to the
landing while I was still descending the stairs.

"You do not know who gave me the picture," she said, entreating me; and
she came down two of the steps.

"It would be exceeding strange if I did not," said I stopping.

"You would seek him out and--" she began.

"I had that in my mind," said I, mounting two of the steps.

"Then you do not know him. Say you do not! There could be but one result,
and I fear it."

A knock on the outer door rang through the hall; this time we took two
steps up and down simultaneously.

"Swords!" she continued, "for you would fight?"

I nodded.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, "swords are no true ordeal. Skill--it is skill, not
justice, which directs the thrust."

I fancied that I comprehended the cause of her fear, and I laughed

"I have few good qualities," said I, "but amongst those few you may
reckon some proficiency with the sword." I ascended two steps.

"So," she replied, with an indefinable change of tone, "you are skilled
in the exercise?" But she stood where she was.

Otto Krax came from the inner part of the house and crossed to the door.

"It is my one qualification for a courtier."

Since Ilga had omitted to take the two steps down, I deemed it right to
take four steps up.

She resumed her tone of entreaty.

"But chance may outwit skill; does--often."

We heard the chain rattle on the door as Krax unfastened it. Ilga bent
forward hurriedly.

"You do not know the man!" and in a whisper she added: "For my sake--you
do not!"

There were only four steps between us. I took them all in one spring.

"For your sake, is it?" and I caught her hand.

"Hush!" she said, disengaging herself. Marston's voice sounded in the
entrance. "You do not know! Oh, you do not!" she beseeched in shaking
tones. Then she drew back quickly, and leaned against the balustrade. I
looked downwards. Otto was ushering in Marston, and the pair stood at the
foot of the staircase. I glanced back at the Countess. There were tears
in her eyes.

"Madame!" said I, "I have forgotten his name."

With a bow, I walked down the steps as Marston mounted them.

“'Tis a fine day," says I, coming to a halt when we were level.

"Is it?" says he, continuing the ascent.

"It seems to me wonderfully bright and clear," said the Countess from the
head of the stairs.


Outside the house I came face to face with the original of the miniature.
So startled and surprised was I by her unexpected appearance that I could
not repress an exclamation, and she turned her eyes full upon me. She was
seated upon a horse, while a mounted groom behind her held the bridle of
a third horse, saddled, but riderless.

'Twas evident that she had come to the house in Marston's company, and
now waited his return. My conviction that Marston had handed the
miniature to Ilga was, I thought, confirmed beyond possibility of doubt,
and I  scanned her face with more eagerness than courtesy,  hoping to
discover by those means a clue to her identity. For a moment or so she
returned my stare without giving a sign of recognition, and then she
turned her head away.

It was clear, at all events, that she had no knowledge or remembrance of
me, and though her lips curved with a gratified smile, and she glanced
occasionally in my direction from the tail of her eye, I could not doubt
that she considered my exclamation as merely a stranger's spontaneous
tribute to her looks.

Indeed, the more closely I regarded her, the less certain did I myself
become that I had ever set eyes on her before, I was sensible of a vague
familiarity in her appearance, but I was not certain but what I ought to
attribute it to my long examination of her likeness. However, since
Providence had brought us thus opportunely together, I was minded to use
the occasion in order to resolve my perplexities, and advancing towards

"Madam," I said, "you will, I trust, pardon my lack of ceremony when I
assure you that it is no small matter which leads me to address you. I
only ask of you the answer to a simple question. Have we met before

"The excuse is not very adroit," she replied, with a coquettish laugh,
"for it implies that you are more like to live in my memory than I in

"Believe me!" said I eagerly, "the question is no excuse, but one of some
moment to me. I should not have had the courage to thrust myself wantonly
upon your attention, even had I felt--"

I broke off suddenly and stopped, since I saw a frown overspread her
face, and feared to miss the answer to my question.

"Well! Even had you felt the wish. That is your meaning, is it not? Why
not frankly complete the sentence? I hear the sentiment so seldom, that
of a truth I relish it for its rarity."

She gave an indignant toss of her head, and looked away from me, running
her fingers tough the mane of her horse. I understood that flattery alone
would serve my turn with her, and I answered boldly,--"You are right,
madam. You supply the words my tongue checked at, but not the reason
which prompted them. In the old days, when a poor mortal intruded upon a
goddess, he paid for his presumption with all the pangs of despair, and I
feared that the experience might not be obsolete."

She appeared a trifle mollified by my adulation, and replied archly,
making play with her eyebrows,--”'Tis a pretty interpretation to put upon
the words, but the words came first, I fear, and suggested the

"You should not blame me for the words, but rather yourself. An awkward
speech, madam, implies startled senses, and so should be reckoned a more
genuine compliment than the most nicely-ordered eulogy."

"That makes your peace," said she, much to my relief, for this work of
gallantry was ever discomforting to me, my flatteries being of the
heaviest and causing me no small labour in the making. "That makes your
peace. I accept the explanation."

"And will answer the question?" said I, returning to the charge.

"You deserve no less," she assented. "But indeed, I have no recollection
of your face, and so can speak with no greater certainty than yourself.
Perchance your name might jog my memory."

"I am called Morrice Buckler," said I.

At that she started in her saddle and gathered up the reins as though
intending to ride off.

"Then I can assure you on the point," she said hurriedly. "You and I have
never met."

I was greatly astonished by this sudden action which she made. 'Twas as
though she was frightened; and I knew no reason why any one should fear
me, least of all a stranger. But what she did next astonished me far
more; for she dropped the reins and looked me over curiously, saying with
a little laugh,--"So you are Morrice Buckler. I gave you credit for
horn-spectacles at the very least."

Something about her--was it her manner or her voice? --struck me as
singularly familiar to me, and I exclaimed,--"Surely, surely, madam, it
is true. Somewhere we have met."

"Nowhere," she answered, enjoying my mystification.

"Have you ever been presented to Lady Tracy, wife of Sir William Tracy?"

"Not that I remember," said I, still more puzzled, "nor have I ever heard
the name."

"Then you should be satisfied, for I am Lady Tracy."

"But you spoke of horn-spectacles. How comes it that you know so much
concerning me?"

"Nay," she laughed. "You go too fast, Mr.Buckler. I know nothing
concerning you save that some injustice has been done you. I was told of
a homespun student, glum and musty as an old book, and I find instead a
town-gallant point-de-vice, who will barter me compliments with the best
of them."

"You got your knowledge, doubtless, from Hugh Marston," I replied, with a
glance at the door; "and I only wonder the description was not more

"I did not mean him," she said slowly. "For I did not even know that you
were acquainted with"--she paused, and looked me straight in the face--
“with my brother."

"Your brother!" I exclaimed. "Hugh Marston is your brother?" And I took a
step towards her. Again I saw a passing look of apprehension in her face,
but I did not stop to wonder at it then. I understood that the indefinable
familiarity in her looks was due to the likeness which she bore
her brother--a likeness consisting not so much of a distinct stamp of
features as of an occasional and fleeting similarity of expression.

"I understand," said I, more to myself than to her.

She flushed very red in a way which was unaccountable, and broke in
abruptly,--"So you see we have never seen one another before to-day. For
the last year I have been travelling abroad with my husband, and only
came to London unexpectedly this morning."

Her words revealed the whole plot to me, or so I thought. Secured from
discovery by the pledge of secrecy which he had exacted from Ilga,
Marston had shown this miniature of his absent sister, and invented a
story which there was no one to disprove. Looking back upon the incident
with the cooler reflection which a lapse of years induces, I marvel at
the conviction with which I drew the inference. But although now I see
clearly how incredible it was that a man of Marston's breeding and family
should so villainously misuse the fair fame of one thus near to hand, at
the time I measured his jealousy by the violence of my own, and was ready
to believe that he would check at no barriers of pride and honour which
stood between him and his intention. Events, moreover, seemed to jump
most aptly with my conclusion.

So, full of my discovery of his plot, I said a second time, "I
understand;" and a second time she flushed unaccountably. I spoke the
words with some bitterness and contempt, and she took them to refer to

"You blame me," she began nervously. "for marrying so soon after Julian
died. But it is unfair to judge quickly."

The speech was little short of a revelation to me. So busy had my thoughts
been with my own affairs, that I had not realised this was in truth the
woman who had been betrothed to Julian, and who had betrayed him to his
shameful death, I looked at her for a moment, stunned by the knowledge.
She was as her portrait showed her to be, very pretty, with something of
the petted child about her; of a trim and supple figure, and with
wonderfully small hands. I remarked her hands especially, because her
fingers were playing restlessly with the jewelled butt of her
riding-whip; and I did not wonder at her power over men's hearts. A
small, trembling hand laid in a man's great palm! In truth, it coaxes him
out of very pity for its size. For my part, however, conscious of the
evil which her treachery had done to Julian, and to myself, too, I felt
nothing but aversion for her, and, taking off my hat, I bowed to her
silently. Just as I was turning away, an idea occurred to me. She knew
nothing of her brother's plot to ruin me in Ilga's estimation. Why should
I not use her to confound his designs?

"Lady Tracy," said I, returning to her side, "it is in your power to do
me a service."

"Indeed?" she asked, her face clearing, and her manner changing to its
former flippancy. "Is it the new fashion for ladies to render services to
gentlemen? It used to be the other way about."

"As you have sure warrant for knowing," I added.

The look of fear which I had previously noticed sprang again into her
eyes; now I appreciated the cause. She was afraid that I knew something
of her share in Julian's death.

"It has been my great good fortune," she replied uneasily, "when I needed
any small services, to meet with gentlemen who rendered them with
readiness and forbearance."

She laid a little stress upon the last word, and I took a step closer to

"You cannot be aware, I think, who lodges in this house."

"I am not," she replied. "Why? Who lodges here?"

"Countess Lukstein."

She gave a little faltering cry, and turned white to the lips.

"You need have no fear," I continued. "I said Countess Lukstein, the
wife, or rather, the widow. For a widow she has been this many a month."

"A widow!" she repeated. "A widow!" And she drew a long breath of relief,
the colour returning to her cheeks. Then she turned defiantly on me. "And
what, pray, is this Countess Lukstein to me?"

"God forbid that I should inquire into that!" said I sternly, and her
eyes fell from my face. "Now, madam," I went on, "will you do me the
favour I ask of you?"

"You ask it with such humility," she answered bitterly, "that I cannot
find it in my heart to refuse you."

"I expected no less," I returned. "Let me assist you to dismount."

She drew quickly away.

"For what purpose? You would not take me to--to his wife?"

"Even so!"

"Ah, not that! Not that! Mr.Buckler, I beseech you," she implored
piteously, laying a trembling hand upon my shoulder, "I have not the

"There is nothing to fear," I said, reassuring her. "Nothing whatever.
Your brother is there. That guarantees no harm can come to you. But,
besides, Countess Lukstein knows nothing of the affair. No one knows of
it but you and I."

She still sat unconvinced upon her saddle.

"How is it you know, Mr.Buckler?" she asked, in a low tone.

"Julian told me," I answered, perceiving that I must needs go further
than I intended if I meant to get my way. "Cannot you guess why? I said
the Count was dead. I did not tell you how he died. He was killed in a

She looked at me for a moment with a great wonder in her eyes.

"You!" she whispered. "You killed Count Lukstein?"

"It is the truth," I answered. "And the Countess knows so little of the
affair that she is even ignorant of that."

"Are you sure?"

"Should I come here a-visiting, think you, if she knew?"

The words seemed somewhat to relieve her of apprehension, and she asked,
--"To what end would you have me speak to her? What am I to say?"

"Simply that you and I have met by chance, for the first time this

"Then she couples your name with mine," she exclaimed, in a fresh alarm.
"Without ground or reason! Your name--for you killed him--with mine.
Don't you see? She must suspect!"

"Nay," I answered. "It is the strangest accident which has led her to
link us together in her thoughts. She can have no suspicion."

"Then how comes it that she couples us who are strangers?"

I saw no object in relating to her the device of her brother, or in
disclosing my own passion for the Countess. Moreover, I bethought me that
at any moment Marston might take his leave, and I was resolved that Lady
Tracy should speak in his presence, since by that means he would be
compelled to confirm her words, So I broke in abruptly upon her

"Lady Tracy, we are wasting time. You must be content with my assurances.
'Tis but a little service that I claim of you and one that may haply
repair in some slight measure the fatal consequences of your disloyalty."

She slipped her foot from the stirrup, and, without touching the hand I
held out to assist her, sprang lightly to the ground. It may be that I
spoke with more earnestness than I intended.

"What mean cowards love makes of men!" she said, looking at me

The remark stung me sharply, because I was fully sensible that I played
but a despicable part in forcing her thus to bear testimony for me
against her will, and I answered angrily,--"Surely your memory provides
you with one instance to the contrary;" and I mounted the steps and
knocked at the door.

Otto Krax answered my summons, and for once in his life he betrayed
surprise. At the sight of Lady Tracy, he leaped backwards into the hall,
and stared from her to me. Lady Tracy laid a hand within my arm, and the
fingers tightened convulsively upon my sleeve; it seemed as though she
were on the point of fainting. I bade the fellow, roughly, to wait upon
his mistress, and inquire whether she would receive me, and a friend whom
I was most anxious to present to her. With a curiosity very unusual, he
asked of me my companion's name, that he might announce it. But since my
design was to surprise Hugh Marston, I ordered him to deliver the message
in the precise terms which I had used.

So changed indeed was the man from his ordinary polite impassivity, that
he abruptly left us standing in the ball, and departed on his errand with
no more ceremony than a minister's servant shows to the needy
place-seekers at his master's levee. We stood, I remember particularly,
in a line with the high window of which I have already spoken, and the
full light of the noontide sun fell athwart our faces. I set the
circumstance down here inasmuch as it helped to bring about a very
strange result.

"Who is the man?" whispered Lady Tracy in an agitated voice. "Does he
know me?"

"Nay," said I, reassuring her. "It may be that he has seen you before, at
Bristol, for he was Count Lukstein's servant. But it is hardly probable
that the Count shared his secret with him. And the matter was a secret
kept most studiously."

"But his manner? How account for that?"

"Simply enough," said I. "The person who slandered us to the Countess,
gave her, as a warrant and proof, a miniature of you."

"A miniature!" she exclaimed, clinging to me in terror.

"Oh, no! no!"

"Gott im Himmel!"

The guttural cry rang hoarsely from the top of the stairs. I looked up;
Otto was leaning against the wall, his mouth open, his face working with
excitement, and his eyes protruding from their sockets. I had just
sufficient time to notice that, strangely enough, his gaze was directed
at me, and not at the woman by my side, when I felt the hand slacken on
my arm, and with a little weak sigh, Lady Tracy slipped to the floor in a

I stooped down, and lifting her with some difficulty, carried, or rather
dragged her to a couch.

"Quick, booby!" I shouted to Otto. "Fetch one of the women and some

My outcry brought Ilga on to the landing.

"What has befallen?" she asked, leaning over the rail.

“'Tis but a swoon," I replied: "nothing more. There is no cause for

"Poor creature!" she said tenderly, and came running down the stairs.
"Let me look, Mr.Buckler. Ailments, you know, are a woman's province."

I was kneeling by the couch, supporting Lady Tracy's head upon my arm,
and I drew aside, but without removing my arm. Ilga caught sight of her
face, and stopped.

"Oh!" she cried, with a gasping intake of the breath; then she turned on
me, her countenance flashing with a savage fury, and her voice so bitter
and harsh that, had I closed my eyes, I could not have believed that it
was she who spoke.

"So you lied! You lied to me! You tell me one hour that you have never
had speech with her, the next I find her in your arms."

"Madame," I replied, withdrawing my arm hastily, "I told you the truth."

The head fell heavily forward upon my breast, and I sought to arrange the
body full-length upon the couch.

"Nay," said the Countess. "Let the head rest there. It knows its proper

"I told you the truth; believe it or not as you please!" I repeated,
exasperated by her cruel indifference to Lady Tracy. "I never so much as
set eyes upon this lady before to-day. I know that now. For the first
time in my life, I saw her when I left you but a few minutes ago. She was
waiting on horseback at your steps, and I persuaded her to dismount and
bear me out with you."

"A very likely plausible story," sneered Ilga. "And whom did your friend
await at my steps?"

"Her brother," I replied shortly. "Hugh Marston."

"Her brother!" she exclaimed. "We'll even test the truth of that."

She ran quickly to the foot of the stairs, as though she would ascend
them. But seeing Otto still posted agape half-way up, she stopped and
called to him.

"Tell Mr.Marston that his sister lies in the hall in a dead faint!"

Otto recovered his wits, and went slowly up to the parlour, while the
Countess eyed me triumphantly. But in a moment Marston came flying down
the stairs; he flung himself on his knees beside his sister.

"Betty!" he cried aloud, and again, whispering it into her ear with a
caressing reproach, "Betty!" He shook her gently by the shoulders, like
one that wakes a child from sleep. "Is there no help, no doctor near?"

One of the Countess's women came forward and loosed the bodice of Lady
Tracy's riding-habit at the throat, while another fetched a bottle of

"It is the heat," they said. "She will soon recover."

Marston turned to me with a momentary friendliness. "It was you who
helped my sister. Thank you!" He spoke simply and with so genuine
cordiality that I could not doubt his affection for Lady Tracy; and I
wondered yet the more at the selfish use to which he had put her

After a while the remedies had their effect, and Lady Tracy opened her
eyes. Ilga was standing in front of her, a few paces off, her face set
and cold, and I noticed that Lady Tracy shivered as their glances met.

"Send for a chair, Hugh!" she whispered, rising unsteadily to her feet.

"'Twere wiser for you to rest a little before you leave," said the
Countess, but there was no kindliness in her voice to second the
invitation, and she did not move a step towards her.

"I would not appear discourteous, madame," faltered Lady Tracy, "but I
shall recover best at home."

"I will fetch a chair, Betty," said Marston, and made as though to go;
but with a terrified "No, no!" Lady Tracy caught him by the coat and drew
his arm about her waist, clasping her hand upon it to keep it there.

'Twas the frankest confession of fear that ever I chanced upon, and I
marvelled not that Ilga smiled at it. However, she despatched Otto upon
the errand, and presently Marston accompanied his sister to her home.

Ilga and myself were thus left standing in the hall looking each at the
other. I was determined not to speak, being greatly angered for that she
had not believed me when I informed her Lady Tracy was Marston's sister,
and I took up my hat and cane and marched with my nose in the air to the
door. But she came softly behind me, and said in the gentlest of
contrition,--"I seem to spend half my life in giving you offence and the
other half in begging your pardon."

And contrasting her sweet patience with me against the cold dislike which
she had evinced to Lady Tracy, I, poor fool, carried home with me the
fancy yet more firmly rooted than before, that her antagonism to the
original of the miniature was no more than the outcome of a woman's


ONE detail of this mischancy episode occasioned me considerable
perplexity. Conjecture as I might, I could hit upon no cause or
explanation of it that seemed in any degree feasible. The astonishment of
Otto Krax I attributed, and, as I afterwards discovered, rightly
attributed, to the appearance of Lady Tracy so pat upon the discussion of
her picture, and to my expressed desire to present her to the Countess
within a few minutes of strenuously denying her acquaintance; and I
deemed it not extravagant. That he recognised her as the object of his
master's capricious fancy at Bristol, I considered most improbable. For I
remembered how successfully the intrigue had been concealed; so that even
Julian himself came over-late to the knowledge of it. His second
exclamation on the stairs I set down to the probability that he had
perceived Lady Tracy was on the point of swooning.

It was indeed the fact of the lady's swoon which troubled me. Her natural
repugnance to meeting the Countess was not motive enough. Nor did I
believe her sufficiently sensible to shame for that feeling to work on
her to such purpose. It seemed of a piece with the terror which she had
subsequently shown on her recovery. The miniature, I conjectured, had
something, if not everything to do with it. Resolving wisely that I had
best ascertain the top and bottom of the matter, I called upon Marston at
his house in Lincoln's Inn Fields, close to the new college of
Franciscans, and asked where his sister stayed, on the plea that I would
fain pay my respects to her, and assure myself of her convalescence.

“I can satisfy you on the latter point," he returned cordially, "but at
the cost of denying you the pleasure of a visit. For my sister left
London on the next day, and has gone down into the country."

"So soon?" I asked in some surprise. For Lady Tracy hardly impressed me
as likely to find much enjoyment in the felicities of a rural life.

"Her illness left her weak, and she thought the country air would give
her health."

For a moment I was in two minds whether to inquire more precisely of her
whereabouts and follow her; but I reflected that I might encounter some
difficulty in compassing an interview, for it was evident that she had
fled from London in order to avoid further trouble and concern in the
matter. And even if I succeeded so far, I saw no means of eliciting the
explanation I needed, without revealing to her the unscrupulous use which
her brother had made of her miniature; and that I had not the heart to
do. The business seemed of insufficient importance to warrant it. There
was besides a final and convincing argument which decided me to remain in
London. If I journeyed into the West, I should leave an open field for my
rival, and no ally with the Countess to guard against his insinuations;
and I reflected further that there were few possible insinuations from
which he would refrain.

On this point of his conduct, however, I was minded to teach him a
lesson, which would make him more discreet in the future, and at the same
time effect the purpose I had in view when Lady Tracy inopportunely
swooned. For when I came to think over the events of that morning, I
recollected that after all Lady Tracy had not spoken as I had asked her,
and though the last words Ilga had said to me as I left the house seemed
to show me that she no longer believed the calumny, I was none the less
anxious to compel Marston to disavow it.

Now it was the fashion at the time of which I write for the fine ladies
and gentlemen of the town to take the air of a morning in the Piazza of
Covent Garden; and choosing an occasion when Marston was lounging there
in the company of the Countess and her attendant, Mademoiselle Durette, I
inquired of him pointedly concerning his sister's health, meaning to lead
him from that starting-point to an admission that Lady Tracy was until
that chance meeting a complete stranger to me.

But or ever he could reply, Ilga broke in with an air of flurry, and
calling to Lord Culverton, who was approaching, engaged him in a rapid
conversation. She was afraid, I supposed, that I meant to break the
promise which I had given her upon the stairs, and tax Marston with his
treachery; and I was confirmed in the supposition when I repeated the
question. For she shot at me a look of reproach, and said quickly,--"I
was telling your friend when you joined us," she said, "of my home in the
Tyrol." She laid some stress upon the word 'friend.' "'Twere hard, I
think, at any season to find a spot more beautiful."

"'Twere impossible," rejoined Culverton, with his most elegant bow. “For
no spot can be more beautiful than that which owns beauty for its queen."

"The compliment," replied Ilga, with a bow, "is worthy of the playhouse."

"Nay, nay," smirked my lord, mightily gratified; "the truth, madame, the
truth extorted from me, let me die! And yet it hath some wit. I cannot
help it, wit will out, the more certainly when it is truth as well."

"Lady Tracy, then--" I began to Marston.

"But at this time of the year," interrupted the Countess immediately,
"Lukstein has no rival. Cornfields redden below it, beeches are
marshalled green up the hillside behind it, gentian picks out a mosaic on
the grass, and night and day waterfalls tumble their music through the
air. Yet even in winter, when the ice binds it and gags its voices, it
has a quiet charm of silence whereof the memory makes one homesick."

As she proceeded the anxiety died out of her face, and she grew absorbed
in the picture which her memories painted.

"Madame," said Marston, "I should appreciate the description better if it
spoke less of a longing to return."

"It is my kingdom, you see," she replied. "Barbarous, no doubt, with a
turbulent populace, but still it is my kingdom, and very loyal to me."

Culverton paid her the obvious flattery, but she took no heed of it.

"The tiniest, compactest kingdom," she went on in a musing tone,
"sequestered in a nook of the world." She seated herself on a chair which
stood at the edge of the Piazza. "Indeed, I shall return there, and that,
I fancy, soon."

"Countess!" replied Culverton. "That were too heartless. 'Twould decimate
London, let me perish! For never a gallant but would think himself to
death. Oh, fie!"

Marston joined eagerly in the other's protestations. For my part,
however, I remained silent, well content with what she had said. For I
recollected the evening when I first had talk with her, and the
construction which I had placed upon her words; how she would never
return to Lukstein until she was eased of the pain which her husband's
disaster had caused her. The notion that her memories had lost their
sting thrilled me to the heart, and woke my vanity to conjecture of a

"Then," said the Countess, "would my friends be proved heartless. For it
is their turn to visit me, and I would not be balked of requiting them
for their kindness to me here. 'Tis not so tedious a journey after all."

"I can warrant the truth of that," said Culverton. "For I have been as
far as Innspruck myself."

"Indeed?" said the Countess. She looked hard at him for a second, and
then laughed to herself. "When was that?" she asked.

"Some six years ago. I was on the grand tour with a tutor--a most
obnoxious person, who was ever poring over statues and cold marble
figures, but as for a fine woman, rabbit me if he ever knew one when he
saw her. He dragged me with him from Italy to Innspruck to view some
figures in the Cathedral."

"Then you must needs have passed beneath Lukstein," said the Countess,
"for it hangs just above the high-road from Italy."

Culverton would not admit the statement. Some instinct, some angelic
warning, he declared, would surely have bidden him stop and climb to the
Castle as to a holy shrine. The Countess laughingly assured him that
nevertheless he had passed her home, and with a fond minuteness she
described to him its aspect and position.

Then the strangest thing occurred. She leaned forward in her chair, and
with the tip of the stick she carried, drew a line on the gravel edge of
the pavement.

"That represents the road from Meran," she explained. "The stone yonder
is the Lukstein rock, on which the Castle stands." She briefly described
the character of the village, and marked out the windings of the road
from the gates at the back of the Castle down the hill-side, until she had
well-nigh completed a diagram in all essentials similar to that which
Julian had sketched for me in my Horace.

"From the village," she said, "the road runs in a zigzag to join the

She traced two long, distinct lines, but stopped of a sudden at the apex
of the second angle, where the coppice runs to a point, with her face
puckered up in a great perplexity. Culverton asked her what troubled her.

"I was forgetting," she said. "I was forgetting how often the road
twisted," and very slowly she drew the final line to join with that which
she had marked to represent the highway in the bed of the valley.

It struck me as peculiar for the moment that, with her great affection
for Lukstein, she should forget so simple and prominent a detail as the
number of angles which the road made in its descent. But I gave little
thought to the matter, being rather engrossed in the strange coincidence
of the diagram. It brought home to me with greater poignancy than ever
before the deceit which I was practising upon my mistress. For I compared
the use to which I had put my plan of the Castle with the motive which
had led her unconsciously to reproduce it, I mean her desire that her
friends should appreciate the home in which she took such manifest

But while I was thus uneasily reproaching myself, I perceived Marston
separate from the group, and being obstinately determined that he should
admit before Ilga the tenuity of my acquaintance with his sister, I
called him back and asked him at what period Lady Tracy might be expected
again in town.

This time the Countess made no effort to divert me. Indeed, she seemed
barely to notice that I had put the question, but sat with her chin
propped on the palms of her hands gazing with a thoughtful frown at the
outline which she had drawn; and I believed her to be engrossed in the
picture which it evoked in her imagination.

"It appears that you feel great interest in my sister, Mr.Buckler," said
Marston curiously.

Doubtless my question was a clumsy one, for I was never an adept at
finesse; but this was the last answer which I desired to hear. "Nay,
nay," I said hurriedly, and stopped at a loss, idly adding with my cane a
line here and there to Countess Lukstein's diagram.

To my surprise, however, Ilga herself came to my rescue, and in a
careless tone brought the matter to an issue.

"Perhaps, Mr.Buckler," she remarked, "is an old friend of Lady Tracy's."

I raised my eyes from the Countess, fixing them upon Marston to note how
he took the thrust, and with a quick sweep of her stick she smoothed the
gravel, obliterating the lines. That I expected to see Marston
disconcerted and in a pother to evade the question, I need not say, and
'twas with an amazement which fell little short of stupefaction that I
heard him answer forthwith in a brusque, curt tone,-- "That can hardly
be. For my sister has been abroad all this year, and Mr.Buckler in the
same case until this year."

I turned to Ilga. But she seemed more interested in Lady Tracy than in
the fact of the admission.

"Ah! Lady Tracy was abroad," she said. "When did she leave England?"

"In September."

"The very month that I returned," I exclaimed triumphantly.

The Countess turned quickly towards me. "I fancied you only returned this

"I was in England for a short while in September," said I, regretting the
haste with which I had spoken.

"September of last year?"

"Of last year."

"Anno domini 1685," laughed Culverton. "There seems to be some doubt
about the date."

"September, 1685," repeated the Countess with a curious insistency.

"There is no doubt," returned Marston hotly. "I could wish for Betty's
sake we had not such cause to remember it. She was betrothed to one of
Monmouth's rebels, curse him! and Betty was so distressed by his capture
that her health gave way."

I was upon tenterhooks lest Ilga should inquire the name of the rebel.
But she merely remarked in an absent way, as though she attached no
significance to his words,-- "'Tis a sad story."

"In truth it is, and the only consolation we got from it was that the
rebel swung for his treachery. Betty was ordered forthwith abroad, and
she left England on the fourteenth of September. I remember the day
particularly, since it was her birthday."

"September the fourteenth!" said the Countess; and I, thinking to make
out my case beyond dispute, cried triumphantly,--"The very day whereon I
bade good-bye to Leyden." The words were barely on my lips when Ilga rose
to her feet. She stood for a moment with her eyes very wide and her bosom

"I am convinced," she whispered to me, with an odd smile. "I ought not to
have needed the proof. I am convinced."

With that she turned a little on one side, and Marston resumed.

"That proves how little Mr.Buckler is acquainted with Lady Tracy."

I spoke as though I had been endeavouring to persuade the company that I
was intimate with his sister; he almost challenged me to contradict him.
I could not but admire the effrontery of the man in carrying off the
exposure of his falsity with so high a head, and I surmised that he had
some new contrivance in his mind whereby he might subsequently set
himself right with Ilga.

One thing, however, was apparent to me: that he had no suspicion of his
sister's acquaintance with Count Lukstein.

"It was on the fourteenth that Betty set out for France," he once more
declared, and so walked away.

"Where she married most happily three months later," sniggered Culverton.
"As you say, madame, it is a very sad story."

The Countess laughed.

"She was not over-constant to her rebel."

"In the matter of the affections," replied Culverton, "Lady Tracy was
ever my Lady Bountiful."

It seemed to me that the Countess turned a shade paler, but any inference
which I might have drawn adverse to myself from that was prevented by a
proposal which she presently mooted. For some other of our friends
joining us about this time, she proposed for a frolic that the party
should take chairs and immediately invade my lodgings. Needless to say, I
most heartily seconded the proposition, apologising at the same time for
the poor hospitality which the suddenness of the invitation compelled me
to offer.

Since by chance I had the key in my pocket, we entered from the Park by
the little door in the wall of the garden. I mention this because I was
waked up about the middle of the night by the sound of this door banging
to and fro against the jambs, and I believed that I must have failed to
lock it after I had let my friends into the garden, the door having
neither latch nor bolt, but was secured only by the lock. For a while I
lay in bed striving to shut my ears to the sound. But the wind was high,
and, moreover, blew straight into the room through the open window, so
that I could not but listen, and in the end grew very wakeful. The sounds
were irregularly spaced according to the lulls of the wind. Now the door
would flap to three or four times in quick succession, short and sharp as
the crack of a pistol; now it would stand noiseless for a time while I
waited and waited for it to slam. At last I could endure the worry of it
no longer, and hastily donning some clothes, I clattered downstairs.

The moon was shining fitfully through a scurrying, rack of clouds, but as
I always placed the key of the door upon the mantelshelf of the larger
parlour, and thus knew exactly where to lay my hand on it, I did not
trouble to strike a light, to which omission I owed my life, and, indeed,
more than my life. I stumbled past the furniture, crossed the garden,
locked the door, and got me back to bed.

In a few moments I fell asleep, but by a chance association of ideas--
for I think that the banging of the postern must have set my thoughts
that way--I began, for the first time since I came to London, to dream
once more of the door in Lukstein Castle, and to see it open, and open
noiselessly across the world. For the first time in the history of my
nightmare fancies, that door swung back against the wall. It swung
heavily, and the sound of the collision shook me to the centre. I woke
trembling in every limb. It was early morning, the sun being risen, and,
to my amazement, through the open window I heard the postern bang against
the jamb.


OUTSIDE the boughs tossed blithely in the golden air; the wind piped
among the leaves, and the birds called cheerily. But for me the morning
was empty of comfort. For the recurrence of this dream filled me with an
uncontrollable terror; I felt like one who gets him to bed of a night in
the pride of strength, and wakes in the morning to see the stains of an
old disease upon his skin. I looked back upon those first months of agony
in Italy; I remembered how I had dreaded the coming of night and the
quiet shadows of evening; how each day, from the moment I rose from bed,
appeared to me as no more than night's forerunner. Into such desperate
straits did I fall that I was seized with a wild foreboding that this
period of torture was destined to return upon me again and again in some
inevitable cycle of fate.

There seemed indeed but one chance for me: to secure the pardon of Ilga!
It was only on her account that I felt remorse. I had realised that from
the beginning. And I determined to seek her out that very day, unbosom
myself of my passion, and confess the injury which I had done her.

It may be remembered that I was on the brink of the confession when
Marston ascended the stairs at the apartment of the Countess, and
interrupted me. Since then, though I had enjoyed opportunities enough, I
had kept silence; for it was always my habit, due, I fancy, to a certain
retiring timidity which I had not as yet thoroughly mastered, to wait
somewhat slavishly upon circumstances, rather than to direct my wits to
disposing the circumstances in the conjunction best suited to my end.
Before I spoke or acted, I needed ever the "confederate season," as
Shakespeare has it. Now, however, I determined to take the matter into my
own hands, and tarry no longer for the opportune accident. So, leaving
orders with my servants that they should procure a locksmith and have the
lock of the garden door repaired, I set out and walked to Pall Mall.

To my grief I discovered that I had tarried too long. Countess Lukstein,
the servant told me--he was not Otto --had left London early that
morning on a visit into the country. A letter, however, had been written
to me. It was handed to me at the door, since the messenger had not yet
started to deliver it. With the handwriting I was unfamiliar, and I
turned at once to the signature. It was only natural, I assured myself,
that Mademoiselle Durette should write; Ilga would no doubt be busy over
the arrangements for her departure. But none the less I experienced a
lively disappointment that she had not spared a moment to pen the missive
herself. Mademoiselle Durette informed me that news had arrived from
Lukstein which compelled them to return shortly to the Tyrol, and that
consequently they had journeyed that morning into the country, in order
to pay a visit which they had already put off too long. The Countess
would be absent for the space of a fortnight, but would return to London
without fail to take fitting leave of her friends.

The first three days of her absence lagged by with a most tedious
monotony. It seems to me now that I spent them entirely in marching
backwards and forwards on the pavement of Pall Mall. Only one thing,
indeed, afforded me any interest--the door in my garden wall. For there
was nothing whatever amiss with the lock, and on no subsequent night did
it fly open. I closely examined my servants to ascertain whether any one
of them had made use of it for egress, but they all strenuously denied
that they had left the house that night, and I was driven to the
conclusion that I had turned the key before closing the door, so that the
lock had missed its socket in the post.

On the fourth day, however, an incident occurred which made the next week
fly like a single hour, and brought me to long most ardently, not merely
that the Countess might lengthen her visit, but that she would depart
from England without so much as passing through London on her way. For as
I waked that morning at a somewhat late hour, I perceived Marston sitting
patiently on the edge of my bed. He was in riding-dress, with his boots
and breeches much stained with mud, and he carried a switch in his hand.
For a while I lay staring at him in silent surprise. He did not notice
that I was awake, and sat absorbed in a moody reverie. At last I stirred,
and he turned towards me. I noticed that his face was dirty and leaden,
his eyes heavy and tired.

"You sleep very well," said he.

"Have you waited long?"

"An hour. I was anxious to speak to you, so I came up to your room."

"We can talk the matter over at breakfast," said I cheerfully, though, to
tell the truth, I felt exceedingly uneasy at the strangeness of his
manner. And I made a movement as though I would rise; but he budged not
so much as an inch.

"I don't fancy we shall breakfast together," said he, with a slow smile,
and after a pause: "you sleep very well," he repeated, "considering that
you have a crime upon your conscience."

I started up in my bed.

"Lie down!" he snarled, with a sudden fierceness, and with a queer sense
of helplessness I obeyed him.

"That's right," he continued, with a patronising smile. "Keep quiet and

For the moment, however, there was nothing for me to listen to, since
Marston sat silent, watching with evident enjoyment the concern which I
betrayed. He had chosen the easiest way with me. The least hint of
condescension in another's voice always made me conscious in the extreme
of my own shortcomings, and I felt that I lay helpless in some new toils
of his weaving.

At last he spoke.

"You killed Count Lukstein."

I was prepared for the accusation by his previous words. "Well?" I asked,
in as natural a tone as I could command.

"Well," he returned, "I would not be too hard with you. What if you
returned to Cumberland to-day, and stayed there? Your estates, I am sure,
will thrive all the better for their master's supervision."

"My estates," I replied, "have a steward to supervise them. Their master
will return to them at no man's bidding."

"It is a pity, a very great pity," said he thoughtfully, flicking his
switch in the air. "For not only are you unwise in your own interests,
but you drive me to a proceeding which I assure you is very repugnant and
distasteful to my nature. Really, Mr.Buckler, you should have more
consideration for others."

The smooth irony of his voice began to make my anger rise.

"And what is this proceeding?" I inquired.

"It would be my duty," he began, and I interrupted him.

"I can quite understand, then, that it is repugnant to your nature."

He smiled indulgently.

"It is a common fault of the very young to indulge in dialectics at
inappropriate seasons. It would be my duty, unless you retired obediently
to Cumberland, to share my knowledge with the lady you have widowed."

"I shall save you that trouble," said I, much relieved, "for I am in the
mind to inform the Countess of the fact myself. Indeed, I called at her
lodging the other day with that very object."

"But the Countess had left, and you didn't." He turned on me sharply; the
words were more a question than a statement. I remained silent, and he
smiled again. "As it is, I shall inform her. That will make all the

I needed no arguments to convince me of the truth of what he said. The
confession must come from me, else was I utterly undone. I sat up and
looked at him defiantly.

"So be it, then!  It is a race between us which shall reach her first."

"Pardon me," he explained, in the same unruffled, condescending tone;
"there will be no race, for I happen to know where the Countess is
a-visiting, and you, I fancy, do not. I have the advantage of you in that

I glanced at him doubtfully. Did he seek to bluff me into yielding, I
wondered? But he sat on the bedside carelessly swinging a leg, with so
easy a composure that I could not hesitate to credit his words. However,
I feigned not to believe him, and telling him as much, fell back upon my
pillow with a show of indifference, and turned my face from him to the
wall, as though I would go to sleep.

"You do believe me," he insisted suavely. "You do indeed. Besides, I can
give you proof of my knowledge. I am so certain that I know the lady's
whereabouts, and that you do not, that I will grant you four days' grace
to think the matter over. As I say. I have no desire to press you hard,
and to be frank with you, I am not quite satisfied as to how my
information would be received." I turned back towards him, and noticing
the movement, he continued: "Oh, make no mistake, Mr.Buckler! The
disclosure will ruin your chance most surely. But will it benefit me?
That is the point. However, I must take the risk, and will, if you
persist in your unwisdom."

I lay without answering him, turning over in my mind the only plan I
could think of which offered me a chance of outwitting him.

"You might send word to me, four days from now, which alternative you
prefer. Today is Monday. On Thursday I shall expect to hear from you."

He uncrossed his legs as he spoke, and the scabbard of his sword rattled
against the frame of the bed. The sound, chiming appositely to my
thoughts, urged me to embrace my plan, and I did embrace it, though
reluctantly. After all, I thought, 'twas a dishonourable wooing that
Marston was about. So I said with a sneer,--"Men have been called
snivelling curs for better conduct than yours."

"By pedantic schoolboys," he replied calmly. "But then the schoolboys
have been whipped for their impertinence."

With that he drew the bed-clothes from my chest, and raised his whip in
the air. I clenched my fists, and did not stir a muscle. I could have
asked for nothing that was more like to serve me. I made a mistake,
however, in not feigning some slight resistance, and he suddenly flung
back the clothes upon me.

"The ruse was ingenious," he said, with a smile, "but I cannot gratify
you to the extent you wish. In a week's time I shall have the greatest
pleasure in crossing swords with you. But until then we must be patient."

My patience was exhausted already, and raising myself upon my elbow, I
loaded him with every vile epithet I could lay my tongue to. He listened
with extraordinary composure and indifference, stripping off his gloves
the while, until I stopped from sheer lack of breath.

"It's all very true," he remarked quietly. "I have nothing to urge
against the matter of your speech. Your voice is, I think, unnecessarily
loud, but that is a small defect and easily reformed."

The utter failure of my endeavour to provoke him to an encounter,
combined with the contemptuous insolence of his manner, lifted me to the
highest pitch of fury.

"You own your cowardice, then!" I cried, fairly beside myself with rage.
"You have plotted against me from the outset like a common, rascally
intriguer. No device was too mean for you to adopt. Why, the mere lie
about the miniature--"

I stopped abruptly, seeing that he turned on me a sudden questioning

"Miniature?" he exclaimed. "What miniature?"

I remembered the pledge which I had given to Ilga, and continued
hurriedly, seeking to cover up my slip,--"I could not have believed
there was such underhand treachery in the world."

"Then now,” said he, "you are better informed," and on the instant his
composure gave way. It seemed as though he could no longer endure the
strain which his repression threw on him. Passion leaped into his face,
and burned there like a flame; his voice vibrated and broke with the
extremity of feeling: his very limbs trembled. "'Tis all old talk to me--
ages old and hackneyed. You are only repeating my thoughts, the thoughts
I have lived with through this damned night. But I have killed them.
Understand that!" His voice shrilled to a wild laugh. "I have killed
them. Do you think I don't know it's cowardly? But there's a prize to be
won, and I tell you"--he raised his hands above his head, and spoke with
a sort of devilish exaltation--" I tell you, were my mother alive, and
did she stand between Ilga and me, I would trample her as surely as I
mean to trample you."

"Damn you!" I cried, wrought to a very hysteria by his manner. "Don't
call her by that name!"

"And you!" he said, and with an effort he recovered his self-control.
"And you, are your hands quite clean, my little parson? You kill the
husband secretly, and then woo the wife with all the innocence and
timidity in the world. Is there no treachery in that?"

I was completely staggered by his words and the contempt with which they
were spoken. That any one should conceive my lack of assurance in paying
my addresses to be a deliberate piece of deceit, had never so much as
entered my head. I had always been too busy upbraiding myself upon that
very score. Yet I could not but realise now how plausible the notion
appeared. 'Twas plain that Marston believed I had been carefully playing
a part; and I wondered: Would Ilga imagine that too, when I told her my
story? Would she believe that my deference and hesitation had been
assumed to beguile her? I gazed at Marston, horror-stricken by the

"Ay!" said he, nodding an answer to my look, "we have found each other
out. Come, let us be frank! We are just a couple of dishonest scoundrels,
and preaching befits neither of us."

He moved away from the bedside, and picked up his whip which he had
dropped on the floor. It lay close to the window, and as he raised
himself again, he looked out across the garden.

"You overlook the Park," he said in an altered tone. "It is very

At the time I was so overwhelmed by the construction which he had placed
upon my behaviour, that I did not carefully consider what he meant.
Thinking over the remark subsequently, however, I inferred from it, what
indeed I had always suspected, that Marston had no knowledge his
interviews and promenades with the Countess had taken place within sight
of my windows.

He took up his hat, and opened the door.

"I told you fortune would give me my revenge," he said.

"You are leaving your gloves," said I, awakened to the necessity of
action by his leave-taking.

The gloves were lying on the edge of the bed. Thanking me politely, he
returned, and stooped forward to take them. I gathered them in my hand
and tossed them into his face. His head went back as though I had struck
him a blow; he flushed to a dark crimson, and I saw his fingers tighten
about his whip. The next moment, however, he gave a little amused laugh.

"There is much of the child lingering in you, Mr.Buckler," he said. “'Tis
a very amiable quality, and I wonder not that it gets you friends.
Indeed, I should have rejoiced to have been reckoned among them myself,
had such a consummation been possible."

He spoke the last sentence with something of sincerity; but it only
served to increase my rage.

"You cannot disregard the insult," I cried.

"Why not? There are no witnesses."

"There shall be witnesses and to spare on the next occasion," I replied,
baffled by his coolness. He shrugged his shoulders.

"You have four days to bring about that occasion. Afterwards I shall seek
it myself."

I had four days wherein to discover the whereabouts of Countess Lukstein,
or to compel Marston to an encounter. The one alternative seemed
impossible; the other, as I had evidence enough, little short of

Four days! The words beat into my brain like dull strokes of a hammer. I
could not think for their pressing repetition. I was, moreover, bitterly
sensible that I had myself placed the weapon for my destruction into
Marston's hand. For there was no doubting that he had obtained his
knowledge from his sister. I had plumed myself somewhat upon my diplomacy
in revealing my secret to her, and in using it as a means to force her to
deny my acquaintance. Now, when it was all too late, I saw what a mistake
my cleverness had been. For not only through Lady Tracy's swoon had I
missed my particular aim, but I had presented to my antagonist a
veritable Excalibur, and kept not so much as a poniard for my own
defence. Even then, however, I did not realise the entirety of the
mistake, and had no inkling of the price I was to pay for it.

The first step which I took that morning was to make inquiries at the
lodging of Countess Lukstein. The servants, however, whom she had left
behind, knew--or rather pretended to know--nothing of their mistress's
journey, beyond what they had previously told me.

Since, then, it was impossible to search the length and breadth of
England within four days, I was thrown back upon my last resource. It was
discreditable enough even to my fevered mind; but I could see no other
way out of the difficulty, and at all costs I was resolved that Marston
should not relate his story to the Countess until I had related mine. For
even if he was minded to speak the truth, it would make all the
difference, as he justly said, which of us twain spoke the first. I felt
certain, moreover, that he would not speak the truth. For, to begin with,
he would ascribe my timidity to a carefully-laid plan, since that was his
genuine conviction; and again, remembering the story which I believed him
to have invented concerning the miniature, I had no doubt that he would
so embroider his actual knowledge that I should figure on the pattern as
a common assassin. How much of the real history of Count Lukstein's death
he knew, of course I was not aware, nor did I trouble myself to consider.

My conclusion, accordingly, was to fix upon him within the next four days
an affront so public and precise that he must needs put the business
without delay to the arbitrament of swords; in which case, I was
determined, one or the other of us should find his account.

To this end I spent the day amidst the favourite resorts of the town,
passing from the Piazza to the Exchange in search of him; thence back to
St, Paul's Church, thence to Hyde Park, from the Park across the water to
the Spring Garden at Lambeth, and thence again to Barn Elms. By this time
the afternoon was far advanced, and bethinking me that he might by chance
be dining abroad, I sought out the taverns which he most frequented:
Pontac's in Abchurch Lane, Locket's, and the "Rummer." But this pursuit
was as fruitless as the former, and without waiting to bite a morsel
myself, I hurried to make the round of the chocolate-houses. Marston,
however, was not to be discovered in any of them, nor had word been heard
of him that day. At the "Spread Eagle," in Covent Garden, however, I fell
across Lord Culverton, and framing an excuse persuaded him to bear me
company; which he did with great good-nature, for he was engaged at
ombre, a game to which he was much addicted. At the "Cocoa Tree" in Pall
Mall, I secured Elmscott by a like pretext, and asked him if he knew of
another who was minded for a frolic, and would make the fourth. He
presented me immediately to a Mr.Aglionby, a country gentleman of the
neighbouring county to my own, but newly come to town, and very
boisterous and talkative. I thought him the very man for my purpose,
since he would be like to spread the report of the quarrel, and joining
him to my company, I summoned a hackney coach, and we drove to the
Lincoln's Inn Fields. A hundred yards from Marston's house I dismissed
the coach and sent Elmscott and the rest of the party forward, myself
following a little way behind. I had previously instructed Elmscott in
the part which I desired him to play. Briefly, he was to inquire whether
Marston was within; and if, as I suspected, that was the case, to seek
admittance on the plea that he wished to introduce a friend from the
country, in the person of Mr.Aglionby. Whereupon I was to join myself
quietly to the party, and so secure an entrance into the house in company
with sufficient witnesses to render a duel inevitable upon any insult.

Marston, however, was prepared against all contingencies, for four
servants appeared in answer to my cousin's knocking; and as they opened
the door no farther than would allow one person to enter at a time, it
was impossible even to carry the entrance by a rush. My friends, however,
had no thought of doing that, since one of the servants came forward into
the street and gravely informed them that his master had fallen suddenly
sick of an infectious fever, and lay abed in a frenzy of delirium. Even
as the fellow spoke, a noise of shouts and wild laughter came through the
open door. My companions shuddered at the sounds, and with a few hasty
expressions of regret, hurried away from the neighbourhood. I ran after
them, shouting out that it was all a lie; that Marston had not one-tenth
of the fever which possessed me, and that his illness was a coward's
dissimulation to avoid a just chastisement. However, I had better have
spared my breath; for my words had no effect but to alienate their
good-will, and they presently parted from me with every appearance of

I walked home falling from depth to depth of despondency. The summer
evening, pleasant with delicate colours, came down upon the town; the air
was charged and lucent with a cool dew; the sweet odours of the country--
nowhere, I think, so haunting, so bewitching to the senses as when one
catches them astray in the heart of a city--were fragrant in the
nostrils, so that the passers-by walked with a new alertness in their
limbs, and a renewed youth in their faces; and as I stood at the door of
my lodging, a great home-sickness swept in upon my soul, a longing for
the dark fields in the starshine and the silent hills about them. I was
seized with a masterful impulse to saddle my horse and ride northwards
through the night, while the lights grew blurred and misty behind me, and
the fresh wind blew out of the heavens on my face. I doubt not, however,
that the desire would have passed ere I had got far, and that I should
have felt much the same desolate home-sickness for the cobbles and dust
of London as I felt now for Cumberland.

However, I did not test the strength of my impulse; for while I stood
upon the steps debating whether I should go or stay, I perceived one of
Marston's servants coming towards me down the street. With a grave
deference, under which, rightly or wrongly, I seemed to detect a certain
irony, he gave me his master's compliments, and handed me a little stick
of wood. There was a single notch cut deep into the stick. I understood
it to signify that one day out of the four had passed, and--so
strangely is a man constituted--this gibing menace determined me to
stay. It turned my rage, with its fitful alternatives of passion and
despair, into a steady hate, just as one may stir together the scattered,
spurting embers of a fire into one glowing flame.

Late that evening came Lord Elmscott to see me, and asked me with a
concern which I little expected, after his curt desertion of a few hours
agone, what dispute had arisen between Marston and myself. I told him as
much as I could without revealing the ground of our quarrel; that Marston
had certain knowledge concerning myself which he was minded to impart to
Countess Lukstein; that I was fully sensible the Countess ought to be
informed of the matter, but that I wished to carry the information
myself; that I doubted Marston would speak the truth, but would
distort the story to suit his own ends. The rest of the events I related
to him in the order in which they had occurred.

 "But it may be," he objected, "that Marston has really fallen sick."

For reply, I handed him the stick of wood, and told him how it had been

"The fellow's cunning," he observed, "for not only is he out of your
reach, but he locks your mouth. You cannot urge that a man refuses to
meet you when he lies abed with a fever, and you cannot prove that the
sickness is feigned."

For a while he sat silent, drumming with his fingers on the table. Then
he asked,--"How comes it that Marston knows of this secret?"

"His sister must have told him," I replied.

"His sister!" he repeated. "Why you never met her before this month."

"I told her on the first occasion that I met her. She was in some measure
concerned in it."

He looked at me shrewdly. "She was engaged to Sir Julian Harnwood," said
he. I nodded assent. He brought his fist down on the table with a bang.
"The trouble springs from that cursed journey of yours to Bristol. I
warned you harm would come of it. Had Lady Tracy any reason to fear you?"

"None," I replied promptly.

"Had she any reason to fear Countess Lukstein?"

"None," I replied again; but after a moment's thought I added: "But she
did fear her. I am sure of it."

He sprang to his feet.

"Three days!" he cried. "Three days! We may yet outwit him."

"How?" I asked with the greatest eagerness.

"I'll not tell you now. 'Tis no more than a fancy. Wait you here your
three days. Keep a strict watch on Marston's house. 'Tis unlikely that he
will move before the time, since he would rather you spared him the
telling of the story; but there's no trusting him. On Thursday I will
come to you here before midnight; so wait for me, unless, of course,
Marston leaves before then. In that case, follow him, but send word here
of your direction. You must be wary; the fellow's cunning, and may get
free from his house in some disguise."

With that he clapped his hat on his head, and rushed out into the street.
For the next three days I saw no more of him. About Marston's house I
kept strict watch as he enjoined. There were but two entrances: one in
the façade of the building towards the Square, and the second in a little
side-street which ran along a wall of the house. Few, however, either
came in or out of these entrances, for the rumour of his sickness was
spread abroad in the town, and even his tradesmen dreaded to catch the
infection. I was, moreover, certain that he had not escaped, since each
evening his servant came to my lodging and left a stick notched according
to the number of days.

On the morning of the Thursday, being the fourth day and my last of
grace, I doubled the sentinels about the house, hiring for the purpose
some fellows of whom my people had cognisance. At the entrances, however,
I planted my own men, and bidding them mark carefully the faces of such
as passed out, in whatever dress they might be clothed, I retired to a
coign of vantage at some distance whence I could keep an eye upon the
house, and yet not obtrude myself upon the notice of those within it. In
a little alley hard by I had stationed a groom with the swiftest horse
that I possessed, so that I might be prepared to set off in pursuit of my
antagonist the moment word of his departure was brought to me.

Thus, then, I waited, my heart throbbing faster and faster as the day
wore on, and every nerve in my body a jerking pulse. At last my
excitement mastered me; a clock in a neighbouring belfry chimed the hour
of four, and I crept out of my corner and mingled with the gipsies and
mountebanks who were encamped with their booths in the centre of the
Square. Amongst this motley crowd I thought myself safe from detection,
and moved, though still observing some caution, towards the front of
Marston's house. It wore almost an air of desertion; over many of the
windows the curtains were drawn, and never a face showed through the
panes of the rest. I could see that my men were still stationed at their
posts, and I began to think that we must needs prolong our vigil into the
night. Shortly after six, however, the hall-door was opened, and the same
servant who brought me the sticks of an evening came out on to the steps.
He looked neither to the right nor to the left, but without a moment's
hesitation stepped across the road, and threading the tenth and booths,
came directly towards me. It was evident that I had been remarked from
some quarter of the house, and so I made no effort at further
concealment, but rather went forward to meet him. With the same grave
politeness which had always characterised him, he offered me a letter.

"My master," said he, "bade me deliver this into your hand two hours
after he had left."

"Two hours after he had left!" I gasped, well-nigh stunned by his words.

"Two hours," he replied. "But I have been a trifle remiss, I fear me, and
for that I would crave your pardon. It is now two hours and a half since
my master departed."

He made a low bow and went back to the house, leaving me stupidly staring
at the letter.

"My fever," it ran, "is happily so abated that I am to be carried this
instant into the country. There will be no danger, I am assured,
providing that I am well wrapped up. Au revoir! Or is it adieu?--Hugh

The sarcasm made my blood boil in my veins, and I ran to the sentinels I
had posted before the entrances, rating them immeasurably for their
negligence. They heard me with all the marks of surprise, and
expostulated in some heat. No one, they maintained, who in any way
resembled Mr.Marston had left the house; they had watched most faithfully
the day long, without a bite of food to stay their stomachs. Somewhat
relieved by their words, I took no heed of their forward demeanour, but
gave them to understand that if their words were true, they should eat
themselves into a stupor an they were so disposed. For I began to fancy
that the letter was a ruse to induce me to withdraw my watchmen from the
neighbourhood, and thus open a free passage for my rival's escape.

With the view of confirming the suspicion, I ordered them to give me a
strict and particular account of all persons who had come from the house
that day. For those who had kept guard before the front-door the task was
simple enough. A few gentlemen had called; but of them only one, whom
they imagined to be the physician, had entered the house. He had
reappeared again within half an hour or so of his going in, and, with
that exception, no person had departed by this way.

The side-door, however, had been more frequently used. Now and again a
servant had come out, or a tradesman had delivered his wares. At one time
a cart had driven up, a bale of carpets had been carried into the house,
and a second bale fetched out.

"What!" I cried, interrupting the speaker, "A bale of carpets? At what

He knew not exactly, but 'twas between three and four, for he heard a
clock chime the latter hour some while afterwards.

"You dolt!" I cried. "He was in the carpets."

"I know naught of that," he answered sullenly. "You only bade me note
faces, and I noted them that carried the carpets. You said nothing about
noting carpets."

The fellow was justly indignant, I felt; for, indeed, I doubt whether I
should have suspected the bale myself but for Marston's letter. So I
dismissed the men from their work, and rode slowly back to my lodging.
Marston had three hours' start of me already; by midnight he would have
nine, even supposing that Elmscott arrived with trustworthy intelligence.
What chance had I of catching him?

I walked about the room consumed with a fire of impatience. I seemed to
hear the beat of hoofs as Marston rode upon the way; and the farther he
went into the distance, the louder and louder grew the sound, until I was
forced to sit down and clasp my head between my hands in a mad fear lest
it should burst with the racket. And then I saw him--saw him, as in a
crystal, spurring along a white, winding road; and strangely enough the
road was familiar to me, so that I knew each stretch that lay ahead of
him, before it came in view and was mirrored in my imaginings. I followed
him through village and wood; now a river would flash for a second
beneath a bridge; now a hill lift in front, and I noticed the horse
slacken speed and the rider lean forward in the saddle. Then for a moment
he would stand outlined against the sky on the crest, then dip into a
hollow, and out again across a heath. At last he came towards the gate of
a town. How I prayed that the gate would be barred! We were too distant
to ascertain that as yet. He drove his spurs deeper into the flanks of
his horse. The gate was open! He dashed at full gallop down a street;
turned into a broad lane at right angles; the beat of hoofs became louder
and louder in my ears. Of a sudden he drew rein, and the sound stopped.
He sprang from his horse, mounted a staircase, and burst into a room. I
heard the door rattle as it was flung open. I knew the room. I recognised
the clock in the corner. I gazed about me for the Countess--and
Elmscott's hand fell upon my shoulder.

"Why, lad, art all in the dark?"

"I have just reached the light," I cried, springing up in a frenzy of
excitement. "The Countess Lukstein lies at the Thatched House Tavern, in
Bristol town."

"Damn!" said Elmscott. "I have just ridden thither and back to find that

And he fell swearing and cursing in a chair, whilst I rang for candles to
be brought.


I had previously given orders that my horse should be kept ready saddled
in the stable, and I now bade the servant bring it round to the door.

"Nay, there's no need to hurry." said Elmscott comfortably, throwing his
legs across a chair. "Marston will never start before the morning."

"He has started," I replied. "He has seven hours to the good already. He
started between three and four of the afternoon."

"But you were to follow him," he exclaimed, starting up. "You knew the
road he was going. You were to follow him."

"He slipped through my fingers," said I, with some shame, for Elmscott
was regarding me with the same doubtful look which I had noticed so
frequently upon Jack Larke's face. "And as for knowing his road, 'twas a
mere guess that flashed on me at the moment of your arrival."

"Well, well," said Elmscott, with a shrug, "order some supper, and if you
can lend me a horse we will follow in half an hour."

Udal fetched a capon and a bottle of canary from the larder, and together
we made short work of the meal. For, in truth, I was no less famished
than Elmscott, though it needed his appetite to remind me of the fact.
Meanwhile, I related in what manner Marston had escaped me, and handed
him the letter which the servant had delivered to me in the Lincoln's Inn

"In a bale of carpets!" cried Elmscott, with a fit of laughter which
promised to choke him. "Gadsbud, but the fellow deserves to win! Well
wrapped up! Morrice, Morrice, I fear me he’ll trip up your heels!"

Elmscott's hilarity, it may easily be understood, had little in it which
could commend it to me, and I asked him abruptly by what means he had
discovered that the Countess Lukstein was visiting in Bristol.

"I'll tell you that as we go," said he, with a mouth full of capon. "At
present I have but one object, to fill my stomach."

After we had set forth, which we did a short while before midnight--for
I heard a clock tell that hour as we rode through the village of
Knightsbridge--he explained how the conjecture had grown up in his mind.

"Marston came to you in the early morning, a week after the Countess had
left London. He was muddied and soiled, as though he had ridden hard all
night. In fact, he told you as much himself, and gave you the reason:
that he had been fighting out his battle with him. I reasoned, therefore,
that he had only heard of this secret, whatever it may be, which put you
at his mercy, the evening before. Now that information came from his
sister. It concerned Countess Lukstein. Lady Tracy, you told me, for some
reason feared the Countess. I argued then that it could only be this fear
which made her write to her brother. But then she had been in England a
month already. How was it that she had not revealed her anxiety before?
And further, how was it that Marston knew what you and every one else was
ignorant of--where Countess Lukstein was staying? Lady Tracy, I was
aware, had gone down to the family estate near Bristol; and I inferred in
consequence that she had seen the Countess in the neighbourhood, that her
alarm had been increased by the sight, and that she had promptly
communicated her fears to her brother; which fears Marston made use of as
a weapon against you. The period of Countess Lukstein's departure jumped
most aptly with my conjecture, and I thought it would be worth while to
ride to Bristol and discover the truth."

The notion seemed to me, upon his recounting it, so reasonable and clear
that I wondered why it had never occurred to me, and expressed as much to

He laughed in reply.

"A man in love," said he, "is ever a damned fool. He smothers his mind in
a petticoat."

The night was very open, the moon being in the last quarter, and the
road, from the dry summer, much harder than when I had travelled over it
in the previous year; so that we made a good pace, and drew rein before
the "Golden Crown" at Newbury about seven of the morning. There we
discovered that two travellers had arrived at the inn a little after
midnight with their horses very wearied; but, since Thursday was
market-day, and the inn consequently full, they had remained but a little
while to water their beasts, and had then pushed on towards Hungerford.
Elmscott was for breakfasting at the "Golden Crown," but I bethought me
that Hungerford was but nine miles distant, and that Marston was most
like to have lain the night there. Consequently, if we pressed forward
with all speed, there was a good chance that we might overtake my rival
or ever he had started from the town; in which case Elmscott, at all
events, would be able to take his meal at his leisure. To this view my
companion assented, though with some reluctance, and we set off afresh
across Wickham Heath. In a short time we came in view of the "Half-way
House," and I related to Elmscott my adventure with the landlord. As we
rode past it, however, I perceived the worthy man going towards the
stable with a bucket of water in his hand, and I hastily reined up.

"What is it?" asked Elmscott.

"The fellow has no horses of his own," I replied. "It follows he must
needs have guests."

I dismounted as I spoke, and hailed the man.

"Potato!" I cried to him.

For a moment he looked at me in amazement, and then,--"Dang it!" he
shouted. "The play-actor!" And he dropped the bucket, and ran towards me
doubling his fists.

"I have a pass-word for you," I said, when he was near. "It lags a year
behind the time, it's true--Wastwater. So you see the mare was meant for
me no less than your slugs."

He stopped, and answered doggedly,--"Well, 'twas your fault, master. You
should have passed the word. The mare was left with me in strict trust,
and you were ready enough with your pistol to make an honest man believe
you meant no good."

Elmscott broke in impatiently upon his apology with a demand for
breakfast. His wife, the landlord assured us, was preparing breakfast
even now for two gentlemen who had come over-night, and we might join
them if they had no objection to our company. I asked him at what hour
these gentlemen had ridden up to the inn, and he answered about one of
the morning. I could not repress an exclamation of joy. Elmscott gave me
a warning look and dismounted; he bade the landlord see the horses
groomed and fed, and joined me in the road.

"Their faces will be a fine sight," said he, rubbing his hands, "when we
take our seats at the table. A guinea-piece will be white in comparison."
And he fell to devising plans by which our surprise might produce the
most startling effect.

Strangely enough, it occurred to neither of us at the time that the
surest method of outwitting Marston was to leave him undisturbed to his
breakfast and ride forward to Bristol. But during these last days the
anxiety and tension of my mind had so fanned my hatred of the man, that I
could think of nothing but crossing swords with him. We were both, in a
word, absorbed in a single quest; from wishing to outstrip, we had come
to wish merely to overtake.

Elmscott gave orders to the innkeeper that he should inform us as soon as
the two travellers were set down to their meal; and for the space of half
an hour we strolled up and down, keeping the inn ever within our view. At
the end of that time I perceived a cloud of dust at a bend of the road in
the direction of Hungerford. It came rolling towards us, and we saw that
it was raised by a berlin which was drawn at a great speed by six horses.

"They travel early." said Elmscott carelessly. I looked at the coach
again, but this time with more attention.

"Quick!" I cried of a sudden, and drew Elmscott through an opening in the
hedge into the field that bordered the road. The next moment the berlin
dashed by.

"Did you see?" I asked. "Otto Krax was on the box."

"Ay," he answered. "And Countess Lukstein within the carriage. What takes
her back so fast, I wonder? She will be in London two days before her

We came out again from behind the hedge, and watched the carriage
dwindling to a speck along the road.

"If you will, Morrice," said my cousin, with a great reluctance, "you can
let Marston journey to Bristol, and yourself follow the Countess to

"Nay!" said I shortly. "I have a mind to settle my accounts with Marston,
and not later than this morning."

He brightened wonderfully at the words.

"'Twere indeed I more than a pity to miss so promising an occasion. But
as I am your Mentor for the nonce, I deemed it right to mention the
alternative--though I should have thought the less of you had you taken
my advice. Here comes the landlord to summon us to breakfast."

We followed him along the passage towards the kitchen. The door stood
half-opened, and peeping through the crack at the hinges, we could see
Marston and his friend seated at a table.

"Gentlemen," said Elmscott, stepping in with the politest bow, "will you
allow two friends to join your repast?"

Marston was in the act of raising a tankard to his lips; but save that
his face turned a shade paler, and his hand trembled so that a few drops
of the wine were spilled upon the cloth, he betrayed none of the
disappointment which my cousin had fondly anticipated. He looked at us
steadily for a second, and then drained the tankard. His companion--a Mr
Cuthbert Cliffe, with whom both Elmscott and myself were acquainted--
rose from his seat and welcomed us heartily. It was evident that he was
in the dark as to the object of our journey. We seated ourselves opposite
them on the other side of the table. Elmscott was somewhat dashed by the
prosaic nature of the reception, and seemed at a loss how to broach the
subject of the duel, when Marston suddenly hissed at me,--

"How the devil came you here?"

"On a magic carpet," replied Elmscott smoothly. "Like the Arabian, we
came upon a magic carpet."

Marston rose from the table and walked to the fireplace, where he stood
kicking the logs with the toe of his boot, and laughing to himself in a
short, affected way, as men are used who seek to cover up a
mortification. Then he turned again to me.

"Very well," he said, with a nod, "and the sooner the better. If Lord
Elmscott and Mr.Cliffe will arrange the details, I am entirely at your

With that he set his hat carelessly on his head, and sauntered out of the
room. Mr.Cliffe looked at me in surprise.

"It is an old-standing quarrel between Mr.Buckler and your friend,"
Elmscott explained, "but certain matters, of which we need not speak,
have brought it to a head. Your friend would fain have deferred the
settlement for another week, but Mr.Buckler's engagements forbade the

So far he had got when a suspicion flashed into my head. Leaving Elmscott
to arrange the encounter with Mr.Cliffe, I hurried down the passage and
out onto the road. On neither side was Marston to be seen, but I
perceived that the stable door stood open. I looked quickly to the
priming of my pistol--for, knowing that the Great West Road was infested
by footpads and highwaymen, we had armed ourselves with some care before
leaving London--and took my station in the middle of the way. Another
minute and I should have been too late; for Marston dashed out of the
stable door, already mounted upon his horse. He drove his spurs into its
flanks, and rode straight at me. I had just time to leap on one side. His
riding-whip slashed across my face, I heard him laugh with a triumphant
mockery, and then I fired. The horse bounded into the air with a scream
of pain, sank on its haunches, and rolled over on its side.

The noise of the shot brought our seconds to the door.

"Your friend seems in need of assistance," said Elmscott. For Marston lay
on the road struggling to free himself from the weight of the horse.
Cliffe loosened the saddle and helped Marston to his feet. Then he drew
aside and stood silent, looking at his companion with a questioning
disdain. Marston returned the look with a proud indifference, which, in
spite of myself, I could not but admire.

"There was more courage than cowardice in the act," said I, "to those who
understand it."

"I can do without your approbation," said Marston, flushing, as he turned
sharply upon me. Catching sight of my face, he smiled. "Did the whip
sting?" he asked.

I unsheathed my sword, and without another word we mounted the bank on
the left side of the road and passed on to the heath.

The seconds chose a spot about a hundred yards from the highway, where
the turf was level and smooth, and set us facing north and south, so that
neither might get advantage from the sun. The morning was very clear and
bright, and just here and there a feather of white cloud in the blue of
the sky; and our swords shone in the sunlight like darting tongues of

The encounter was of the shortest, since we were in no condition to plan
or execute the combinations of a cool and subtle attack, but drove at
each other with the utmost fury. Marston wounded me in the forearm before
ever I touched him. But a few seconds after that he had pinked me, he
laid his side open, and I passed my sword between his ribs. He staggered
backwards, swayed for a moment to and fro in an effort to keep his feet;
his knees gave under him, and he sank down upon the heath, his fist
clasping and unclasping convulsively about the pommel of his sword.
Cliffe lifted him in his arms and strove to stanch the blood, which was
reddening through his shirt, while Elmscott ran to the inn and hurried
off to Hungerford for a surgeon.

For a while I stood on my ground, idly digging holes in the grass with
the point of my rapier. Then Marston called me faintly, and I dropped the
sword and went to his side. His face was white and sweaty, and the pupils
of his eyes were contracted to pin-points.

I knelt down and bent my head close to his.

"So," he whispered, "luck sides with you after all. This time I thought
that I had won the vole."

He was silent for a minute or so, and then,--"I want to speak with you

I took him from Cliffe's arms and supported his head upon my knee, he
pressing both his hands tightly upon his side.

"Betty is afraid," he continued, with a gasp between each word, as soon
as Cliffe had left us. "Betty is afraid, and her husband's a fool."

The implied request, even at that moment, struck me as wonderfully
characteristic of the man. So long as his own desires were at stake he
disregarded his sister's fears; but no sooner had all chance of gaining
them failed, than his affection for her reasserted itself, and even drove
him to the length of asking help from his chief enemy.

"I will see that no harm comes to her."


I promised, somehow touched by his trust in me.

"I knew you would," he said gratefully; and then, with a smile: "I am
sorry I hit you with my whip--Morrice, I could have loved you."

Again he lay silent, plucking at the grass with the fingers of his left

"Lift me higher! There is something else."

I raised his body as gently as I could; but nevertheless the rough
bandage which Cliffe had fastened over the wound became displaced with
the movement, and the blood burst out again, soaking through his shirt.

"You spoke of a miniature--" he began, and then with a little gasping
sob he turned over in my arms, and fell forward on the grass upon his

I called to Cliffe, who stood with his back towards us a little distance
off, and ran to where I had laid my coat and cravat before the duel
commenced. For the cravat was of soft muslin, and might, I fancied, be of
some use as lint. With this in my hand, I hurried back. Cliffe was
lifting Marston from the ground.

"Best let him lie there quietly," I said.

He turned the body over upon its back.

"Ay!" he answered, "under God's sky."

I dropped on my knees beside the corpse, felt the pulse, laid my ear to
the heart. The sun shone hot and bright upon his dead face. Cliffe took a
handkerchief from his pocket, and placed it gently over Marston's eyes.

"This means a year on the Continent for you, my friend," he said.

When Elmscott and the surgeon arrived some half an hour later, they found
me eating my breakfast in the kitchen.

"Where is he?" they asked.

"Who?" said I.

I remember vaguely that the surgeon looked at me with a certain anxiety,
and made a remark to Elmscott. Then they went out of the room again. How
long it was before they returned I have no notion. Elmscott brought in my
coat, hat, and sword, and I got up to put them on; but the doctor checked
him, and setting me again in my chair, bound up my arm, not without some
resistance from me, for I saw that his hands were dabbled with Marston's

"Now," said he to Elmscott, "if you will help, we will get him upstairs
to bed."

"No!" said I, suddenly recollecting all that had occurred. "I made
Marston a promise. I must keep it! I must ride to town and keep it!"

"It will be the best way, if he can," said Elmscott. "He will be taken
here for a surety. I have sent a messenger to Bristol with the news."

The surgeon eased my arm into the sleeve of my coat, and made a sling
about my shoulders with my cravat. Elmscott buckled on my sword and led
me to the stables, leaving me outside while he went in and saddled a

"This is Cliffe's horse," said he; "yours is too tired. I will explain to

He held the horse while I climbed into the saddle.

"Now, Morrice," he said, "you have no time to lose. You have got the
start of the law; keep it. Marston's family is of some power and weight.
As soon as his death is known, there will be a hue and cry after you; so
fly the country. I would say leave the promise unfulfilled, but that it
were waste of breath. Fly the country as soon as you may, unless you have
a mind for twelve months in Newgate jail. I will follow you to town with
all speed, but for your own sake 'twere best I find you gone."

He moved aside, and I galloped off towards Newbury. The misery of that
ride I could not, if I would, describe. The pain of my wound, the utter
weariness and dejection which came upon me as a reaction from the
excitement of the last days, and the knowledge that I could no longer
shirk my confession, so combined to weaken and distress me, that I had
much ado to keep my seat in the saddle. 'Twas late in the evening when I
rode up to Ilga's lodging. The door, by some chance, stood open, and
without bethinking me to summon the servants, I walked straight up the
staircase to the parlour, dragging myself from one step to the other by
the help of the balustrade. The parlour door was shut, and I could not
lay my fingers on the handle, but scratched blindly up and down the
panels in an effort to find it. At last some one opened the door from
within, and I staggered into the room. Mlle. Durette--for it was she--
set up a little scream, and then in the embrasure of the window I saw the
Countess rise slowly to her feet. The last light of the day fell gray and
wan across her face and hair. I saw her as through a mist and she seemed
to me more than ordinarily tall. I stumbled across the room, my limbs
growing heavier every moment.

"Countess," I began, "I have a promise to fulfil. Lady Tracy--" There I
stopped. The room commenced to swim round me. "Lady Tracy--" I repeated.

The Countess stood motionless as a statue, dumb as a statue. Yet in a
strange way she appeared suddenly to come near and increase in stature--
suddenly to dwindle and diminish.

"Ilga," I cried, stretching out my hands to her. She made no movement. I
felt my legs bend beneath me, as if the bones of them were dissolved to
water, and I sank heavily upon my knees. "Ilga," I cried again, but very
faintly. She stirred not so much as a muscle to help me, and I fell
forward swooning, with my head upon her feet.


WHEN consciousness returned to me, and I became sensible of where I lay,
I perceived that Elmscott was in the room. He stood in the centre,
slapping his boot continually with his riding-crop, and betraying every
expression of impatience upon his face. But I gave little heed to him,
for beside me knelt Ilga, a bottle of hartshorn salts in her hand. I was
resting upon a couch, which stood before the spinet; the lamps were
lighted, and the curtains drawn across the window, so that my swoon must
have lasted some while.

As I let my eyes rest upon the Countess, she slipped an arm under my head
and raised it, taking at the same time a cup of cordial, which Clemence
Durette held ready. ’Twas of a very potent description, and filled me
with a great sense of comfort. Ilga moved her arm as though to withdraw
it. "No," I murmured to her, and she smiled and let it remain.

"Come, Morrice," said Elmscott. "You have but to walk downstairs. A
carriage is waiting."

He moved towards the couch. I tried to raise my arm to warn him off, but
found that it had been bandaged afresh, and was fastened in a sling. For
a moment I could not remember how I had come by the hurt; then the
history of it came back to me and with that the promise I had made to my
dying antagonist. For while I believed that Lady Tracy could have no
grounds for her apprehensions, seeing that the Countess must needs be
ignorant of her relations with the Count, whatever they might have been,
I felt that the circumstances under which the request was uttered gave to
it a special authority, and laid upon me a strict compulsion to obey it
to the letter. The request, moreover, fitted exactly with my own
intention. Ilga believed now that I had never seen Lady Tracy until that
morning when she fainted, and so by merely confessing that the death of
Count Lukstein lay at my door, and at my door alone, I should divert all
possibilities of suspicion from approaching Lady Tracy; so I whispered to
Ilga,--"Send every one away!"

"Nay," she replied; "your cousin has told me."

"It is not that," said I. "There is something else--something my cousin
could not know."

"Does it follow," she answered, lowering her eyes, "that I could not know
it? Or do you think me blind?"

The gentle, hesitating words nearly drove my purpose from my mind. It
would have been so easy to say just. "I love you, and you know it." It
became so difficult to say, "I killed your husband, and have deceived
you." However, the confession pressed urgently for utterance, and I said
again: "Send them away!"

"No," she replied, "you have no time for that now. You must leave London
to-night. Everything is ready; your cousin's carriage waits to take you
to the coast. To-morrow you must cross to France. But if you still--
still wish to unburden your mind--"

"Heart," I could not refrain from whispering; and, indeed, my heart
leaped as she faltered and blushed crimson.

"Then," she continued, "come to Lukstein! You will be welcome," and with
a quiet gravity she repeated the phrase: "You will be very welcome!"

Every word she spoke made my task the harder. I trust that the weakness
of my body, the pain of the wound, and my great fatigue, had something to
do with the sapping of my resolution. But whatever the cause, an
overwhelming desire to cease from effort to let the whole world go,
rushed in upon me. The one real thing for me was this woman who knelt
beside the couch; the one real need was to tell her of my love. I felt as
though, that once told, I could rest without compunction, without a
scruple of regret, just like a tired child.

"Come to Lukstein!" she repeated.

"Hear me now!" I replied with a last struggle, and got to my feet. I was
still so weak, however, that the violence of the movement made me sick
and dizzy, and I tottered into Elmscott's arms.

"Come, Morrice!" he urged. "A little courage; 'tis only a few steps to

I steadied myself against his shoulder. In a corner of the room, rigid
and impassive, was the tall figure of Otto Krax. How could I speak before

"I shall expect you then," said the Countess, "and soon. I leave England
to-morrow myself, and return straight home."

"You leave England tomorrow?" I asked eagerly.

"To-morrow!" she replied.

 I drew a deep breath of relief. All danger to Lady Tracy, all her fears
of danger, would vanish with the departure of the Countess; and as for
my confession--it could wait.

"At Castle Lukstein, then," said I, and it seemed to me that she also
drew a breath of relief.

From Pall Mall we drove to my lodging, where I found my trunks packed,
and Udal fully dressed to accompany me in my flight; for Elmscott, who
had started from the "Half-way House" some two hours later than myself,
had ridden straight thither. On learning that my people had no news of
me, he had immediately guessed where I should be discovered, and,
instructing them to prepare instantly for a journey, had himself hastened
to the apartment of the Countess.

My baggage was speedily placed in the boot, Udal mounted on the box, I
directed my other servants to pay the bill and return to Cumberland, and
we drove off quickly to the coast, just twenty-four hours after we had
set out upon the Great West Road on our desperate adventure.

As we rolled peacefully through the moonlit gardens of Kent, I had time
to think over and apportion the hurried events of the day, and I recalled
the half-spoken sentence which was on Marston's lips at the moment of his
death. I conjectured that he intended some expression of remorse for the
use to which he had put the likeness of his sister, and I began again to
wonder at the strange inconsistency of the man. I had been bewildered by
it before in respect of this very miniature, when I first observed his
genuine devotion to his sister. To-day he had afforded me a second and
corroborating instance, for no sooner had he knowledge of his sister's
fears than he used the knowledge straightway as a weapon against me
leaving it to his antagonist to secure her the safe guarding which she
implored. And yet that his anxiety on her account was very real it was
impossible for me to doubt for I had looked upon his face when he bound
me by a promise to protect her.

At Dover we found a packet on the point of sailing for Calais. Elmscott
bade me good-bye upon the quay and declared that if I would keep him
informed of my movements he would send me word when the affair had blown
over and I might safely return. Then he asked--"Morrice, did you tell
Countess Lukstein of your duel?"

"I had not the time." I replied. "But she said you told her."

"Ay, I told the story though I gave not the reason for the encounter. But
did you say nothing to her, give her no hint by which she might guess

"Nay" said I; "I swooned or ever I got a word of it out. I spoke but two
words to her: ‘Lady Tracy.’ She could have guessed little enough from

"Strange!" said he in a tone of some perplexity. "And yet, some way or
another, she must needs have known. For when I came to seek you, Otto
denied you were there. I was positive, however, and ran past him up the
stairs. The parlour door was locked, and they only gave me entrance when
I bawled my name through the keyhole and declared that I knew you were
within, and for your own sake must have immediate speech with you. I
fancied that the Countess was aware of the duel and meant to conceal

I thought no more of his words at the time, and went presently aboard. A
fair wind filled the sheets and hummed through the cordage of the
rigging. The cliffs lessened and lessened until they shone in the
sunlight like a silver rim about the bowl of the sea; the gulls swooped
and circled in our wake; and thus I sailed out upon my strange
pilgrimage, which was to last so many weary months and set me amid such
perilous surroundings.


It was on the sixth day of June that I arrived in London from Cumberland;
it was on the sixteenth of July that I landed at Calais; and so much that
was new and bewildering to me had happened within this brief interspace
of time, that I cannot wonder how little I understood of all which it
portended. For here was I, accustomed to solitude, with small knowledge
of men and a veritable fear of women, plumped of a sudden amidst the
gayest company of the town, where thought and wit were struck out of
converse sharply as sparks from a flint not reached by my slow methods,
which, to carry on my simile, more resembled the practice of the Indians
who produce fire, so travellers tell, by the laborious attrition of stick
upon stick.

From Calais I journeyed to Paris, where I stayed until a bill of exchange
upon some French merchants, which I had asked Elmscott to procure for me,
came to hand, With it was enclosed a letter from my cousin and yet
another from Jack Larke.

"This letter," wrote Elmscott, "was brought to your lodging the day after
you left London. L'affaire Marston has caused much astonishment, Your
friends almost refused to credit you with the exploit. The family,
however, is raised to a clamorous pitch of anger against you; it has
influence at Court, and the King has no liking for duels."

The letter from Larke recounted the homely details of the country-side,
and dwelt in particular upon the plan of Sir J. Lowther of Stockbridge to
appoint a new carrier between Kendal and Whitehaven, so that the shipment
of Kendal cottons to Virginia might be facilitated. The obstacle to the
scheme, he declared, was that the road ran over Hard Knot, which in
winter and spring is frequently impassable for the snow. I wrote back to
him that he should refund to Elmscott with all despatch the amount of the
bill of exchange, and relating shortly the causes which kept me abroad,
bade him, if he were so minded, join me towards the end of September at
Venice. Of my visit to Lukstein I said never a word, the consequence of
it was too doubtful. I shrank from setting out my hopes and fears openly
upon paper. If I succeeded, I could better explain the matter to him in
speech, and take him back with me again to the Castle. If I failed, I
should avoid the need of making any explanation whatsoever.

From Paris I travelled into Austria; and so one sunset, in the latter
days of August, drove up to the door of "Der Goldener Adler" at Glurns.
From this inn I sent Udal forward with a note to Countess Lukstein,
announcing my arrival in the neighbourhood, and asking whether she would
be willing to receive me. The next day he returned with Otto Krax, and
brought me a message of very kindly welcome. Otto, himself, for once,
unbent from his grave demeanour, saying that it was long since the Castle
had been brightened with a guest, and that for his part he trusted I
would be in no great hurry to depart.

I gathered no little comfort from his greeting, you may be sure, and I
set off forthwith to the Castle. The valley which, when I last rode
through it, showed stark and desolate in its snow drapery, now lay
basking in the lusty summer, and seemed to smile upon my visit. The
lime-trees were in leaf along the road, wild strawberries, red as the
lips of my mistress, peeped from the grasses, on either side cornfields
spread up the lower slopes to meet the serried pines, which were broken
here and there by a green gap, where the winter snows had driven a track.
Behind the ridge of the hills I could see mountains towering up with
bastions of ice, which had a look peculiarly rich and soft, like white
velvet. The air was fragrant with the scent of flowers, and musical with
the voices of innumerable streams. Even Lukstein, which had worn so bare
and menacing an aspect in the gray twilight of that November afternoon,
now nestled warmly upon its tiny plateau, the red-pointed roofs of its
turrets glowing against the green background of firs.

I was received at the Castle by a priest, who informed me that the
Countess was indisposed, and wished him to express her regrets that she
was unable to welcome me in person. I was much chapfallen and chilled by
this vicarious greeting, since on the way from Glurns I had given free
play to all sorts of foolish imaginings. The priest, who was a kinsman of
the Countess, conducted me very politely to the rooms prepared for me.

"Mr.Buckler," said he, "it is only your face that is strange to me; for I
have heard so much of you from your hostess that I made your acquaintance
some while ago." Whereat I recovered something of my spirits.

He led me through the great hall, paved with roughish slabs of stone, and
up a wide staircase to a gallery which ran round the four sides of the
wall. From that he turned off into a corridor, which ran, as I guessed,
through the smaller wing of the building towards the tower. At the
extreme end he opened a door and bowed me into a large room lit by two
windows opposite to one another. One of these commanded the little ravine
which pierced backwards into the hills beside the Castle, and was called
the Senner Thai; the other window looked out on to the garden. Moving
towards this last, I perceived, on the left hand, the arbour of pine-wood
and the parapet on which I had lain concealed; the main wing of the
Castle stretched out upon the right, and I realised, with an uneasy
shiver, that I had been given the bedroom of Count Lukstein. The moment I
realised this my eyes went straight to that corner, where I knew the
little staircase to be. The door of it stood by the head of the bed, and
was almost concealed in the hangings.

"It leads," said the priest, interpreting my glance "to a little room
below; but the room gives only on to the garden, and the door has not
been used this many a month."

He went over to it as he spoke, and tried the handle. The door was
locked, but the key remained in the lock. It creaked and grated when he
turned it, as though it had rusted in the keyhole. Together we went down
the little winding stairway and into the chamber at the bottom. What
wonder that I hesitated on the last step with a failing heart, and needed
the invitation of the priest to nerve me to cross the threshold! Not a
single thing had been moved since I stood there last. But for the clouds
of dust, which rose at each movement that we made, I could have believed
this day was the morrow of our deadly encounter. The table still lay
overturned upon the floor, the rugs and skins were heaped and disordered
by the trampling of our feet, the curtain hung half-torn from the
vallance, where I had cowered in it with clutching hands as the Countess
passed through the window on to the snow. Nothing had been touched. Yes,
one thing; for as I glanced about the room, I saw my pistol dangling from
a nail upon the hood of the fireplace.

"The room, you think, Mr.Buckler, does little credit to our
housekeeping?" said the priest. "But 'tis unswept and uncleansed of a set
purpose. As you see it now, so it was on the fifteenth, night of last
November, and the Countess our mistress wills that so it shall remain."

"There is some story." I replied, with such indifference as I could
assume, "some story connected with the room?"

"Ay, a story of midnight crime--of crime that struck at the roots of the
Lukstein race, that breaks the line of a family which has ruled here for
centuries, and must in a few years make its very name to perish off the
earth. Count Lukstein was the last of his race, and in this room was he
slain upon his bridal night."

Sombre as were the words, the priest's voice seemed to have something of
exultation in its tone, and unwarily I remarked on it.

"God works out His purposes by ways we cannot understand," he explained,
with a humility that struck me as exaggerated and insincere. "Unless
Countess Lukstein marries again, the Castle and its demesne will pass
into the holy keeping of the Church."

He looked steadily at me while he spoke, and I wondered whether he meant
his utterance to convey a menace and warning.

"What if the Countess married a true son of the Church?" I hastened to
answer. "Would he not second and further her intention?"

"I think, Mr.Buckler, that you have more faith in mankind than knowledge
of the world. But 'twas of the room that we were speaking. Until that
crime is brought to light, the room may neither be swept nor cleansed."

"You hope, then, to discover--" I began.

"Nay, nay!" said he. “'Tis not with us that the discovery rests. Look you,
sin is not a dead thing like these tables, to which each day adds a
covering of dust; it is rather a plant that each day throws out fibres
towards the sun, bury it deep as you will in the earth. Surely, surely it
will make itself known--this very afternoon, maybe, or maybe in years to
come; maybe not until the Day of Wrath. God chooses His own time."

Very solemnly he crossed himself, and led the way back to the bedroom

This conversation increased my anxiety to unburden myself to Ilga. For it
was no crime that I had committed, but an act of common justice. But
although the household, apart from the servants and retainers, who made
indeed a veritable army, consisted only of the Countess, Mademoiselle
Durette, and Father Spaur, as the priest was named, I found it impossible
to hit upon an occasion.

In the first place, the Countess herself was, without doubt, ailing and
indisposed. She would come down late in the morning with heavy eyes and a
weariful face, as though she slept but little. 'Twas no better, moreover,
when she joined us, for she treated me, though ever with courtesy as
befitted a hostess, still with a certain distance; and at times, when she
thought I was interested in some talk and had no eyes for her, I would
catch a troubled look upon her face, wherein anger and sorrow seemed
equally mixed. Nor, indeed, could I ever come upon her alone, and such
hints as I put forward to bring such a consummation about were purposely
misunderstood. In truth, the priest stood between us. I set the changed
manner of Countess Lukstein entirely to his account, believing that he
was studiously poisoning her mind against me, and maybe persuading her
that I did but pursue her wealth like any vulgar adventurer. I suggested
as much to Mademoiselle Durette, who showed me great kindness in this
nadir of my fortunes.

"I know not what to make of it," she replied, "for Ilga has shut me from
her confidence of late. But there is something of this kind afoot, I
fear, for Father Spaur is continually with her, and 'twas ever his
fashion to ascribe a secret and underhand motive for all one's doings."

The Father, indeed, was perpetually with either Ilga or myself. If he
chanced not to be closeted with the Countess, he would dance
indefatigable attendance upon me, devising excursions into the mountains
or in pursuit of the chamois, which abounded in great numbers among the
higher forests of the ravine.

On these latter occasions he would depute Otto Krax, who was, as I soon
learned, the chief huntsman of the Castle, to take his place with me,
pleading his own age with needless effusion as an excuse for his absence.
In the company of Otto, then, I gained much knowledge of the locality,
and in particular of the great ice-clad mountain which blocked the head
of the ravine. For the chase led us many a time high up the slopes above
the trees to where the ice lay in great tongues all cracked and ridged
across like waves frozen at the crest; and at times, growing yet more
adventurous with the heat of our pursuit, we would ascend still higher,
making long circuits and detours about the cliffs and gullies to get to
windward of our quarry; so that I saw this mountain from many points of
view, and gained a knowledge of its character and formation which was
afterwards to stand me in good stead.

The natives termed it the "Wildthurm," and approached it ever with the
greatest reluctance and with much commending of their souls to God. For
the spirits of the lost, they said, circled in agony about its summit,
and might be heard at noonday no less often than at night, piercing the
air with a wail of lamentation. It may be even as they held; but I was
spared the manifestation of their presence when I invaded their abode,
and found no denizens of that solitary region more terrible than the
eagles which built their nests upon the topmost cliffs. Towards the
ravine the "Wildthurm" towered in a stupendous wall of rock of thousands
of feet, but so sheer that even the chamois, however encompassed, never
sought escape that way. From the apex of this wall a ridge of ice ran
backwards in a narrow line and sloped outwards on either side, so that it
looked like nothing so much as a gipsy's tent of white canvas.

When we sought diversion upon lower ground, hawking or riding in the
valley, Father Spaur himself would bear me company. In fact, I never
seemed to journey a mile from the Castle without either Otto or the
priest to keep me in surveillance.

Father Spaur, though past his climacteric, was of a tall, massive build,
and, I judged, of great muscular strength. His hair was perfectly white,
and threw into relief his broad, tanned face, which wore as a rule an
uninterested bovine expression, as of one whom neither trouble nor
thought had ever touched. One afternoon, however, as we were riding up
the hillside towards the Castle, I chanced to make mention of the
persecution of the Protestants in France, whereof I had been a witness
during my stay at Paris, and ventured, though a Catholic, to criticise
the French King's action in abrogating the edict of Nantes.

"Cruelty, Mr.Buckler!" he exclaimed, reining in his horse, with his eyes
aglare, and his fleshy face of a sudden shining with animation. 'Twas as
though some one had lit a lamp behind a curtain. "Cruelty! 'Tis the
idlest name that was ever invented. Look you: a general throws a thousand
troops upon certain death. Is not that cruelty? Yet if he faltered he
would fail in his duty. If the men shrank, they in theirs. Cruelty is the
law of life. Nay, more, for with that word the wicked stigmatise the law
of God. Never a spring comes upon these hills but it buries numbers of
our villagers beneath its slipping snowdrifts. You have seen the crosses
on the slopes yourself. They perish, and through no foolhardiness of
their own. Is not that what you term cruelty? Take a wider view. Is there
not cruelty in the very making of man? We are born with minds curious
after knowledge, and yet we only gain knowledge by much suffering and
labour--an infinitesimal drop after years of thirst. Take it yet higher.
The holy Church teaches us that God upon His throne is happy; yet He
condemns the guilty to torment. With a smile, we must believe He condemns
the guilty. Judge that by our poor weak understanding: is it not cruelty?
What you term cruelty is a law of God--difficult, unintelligible, but a
law of God, and therefore good."

'Twas a strange discourse, delivered with a ringing voice of exaltation,
and thereafter my thoughts did more justice to the subtlety of his

Meanwhile the days slipped on and brought me no nearer to the fulfilment
of my purpose. The time had come, moreover, when I must set off into
Italy if I was to meet Larke at Venice as I had most faithfully promised.
I resolved, then, to put an end to a visit which I saw brought no
happiness to my mistress, and wasted me with impatience and despondency.
I was minded to go down into Italy, and taking Jack with me to set sail
for the Indies, and ease my heart, if so I might, with viewing of the
many wonders of those parts. So choosing an occasion when we were all
dining together in the great parlour on the first floor of the Castle, I
thanked the Countess for the hospitality which she had shown me, and
fixed my departure for the next day. For a while there was silence, Ilga
rising suddenly from the table and walking over to the wide-open windows,
where she stood with her back turned and looked out across the waving
valley of the Adige.

"It seems that we have been guilty of some discourtesy, Mr.Buckler, since
you leave us so abruptly," said Father Spaur with a great perturbation.

Upon that point I hastened to set him right; for indeed I had been so
hedged in by attention and ceremony that I should have been well content
with a little neglect.

"Then," he continued, with an easy laugh, "we shall make bold to keep
you. If we bring guests so far to visit us, we cannot speed them away so
soon. Doubtless the Castle is dull to you who come fresh from London and

"Nay," said I with some impatience, for I thought it unfair that he
should attribute such motives to me. "Madame will bear me out that I have
little liking for town pleasures." I turned towards her, but she made no
sign or movement, and appeared not to have heard me, "I am pledged to
meet a friend at Venice, and, as it is, I have overstayed my time."

"Oh! you have a friend awaiting you," said the priest slowly. "You are
very prudent, Mr.Buckler."

The Countess turned swiftly about her eyes wide open and staring like one

"Prudent?" I exclaimed in perplexity.

“I mean," said the priest, flushing a dark red and dropping his voice, "I
mean that if one fixes so precise a limit to one's visit, one guards
against any inclination to prolong it." He spoke with a meaning glance
in the direction of the Countess who had turned away again. "The heart
says 'stay', prudence 'go.' Is it not the case?" he whispered, and he
smiled with an awkward effort at archness, which, upon his heavy face,
was little short of grotesque.

Now his words and manner perplexed me greatly, for at the moment of my
coming to Lukstein, he had seemed most plainly to warn me against
encouraging any passion for Ilga, and his conduct since in disparting us
had assured me that I had rightly guessed his intention. Yet here was he
urging me to extend my stay, and sneering at my prudence for not giving
free play to that passion.

"Besides," he continued, raising his voice again, "if you go to-morrow
you will miss the best entertainment that our poor domain provides. We
are to have a great hunt, wherein some of our neighbours will join us,
and Otto informs us that you have great partiality for the sport, and
extraordinary skill and nimbleness upon mountains. In a week, moreover,
the headsman of our village is to marry. 'Tis a great event in Lukstein,
and indeed, to a stranger well worth witnessing, for there are many
quaint and curious customs to be observed which are not met with

 He added many other inducements, so that at last I felt some shame at
persisting in my refusal. But, after all, the Countess was my hostess,
and she had said never  a word, but had turned back again to the window
as though she would not meddle in the matter. At last, however, she
broke in upon the priest, keeping, however, her face still set towards
the landscape.

"Could you not send forward your servant, Mr.Buckler, to meet your
friend, and remain with us this week? As Father Spaur says, the marriage
will be well worth seeing, and since you are so pressed, you may leave
here that very night."

There was, however, no heartiness in her invitation; the words dropped
reluctantly from her lips, as if compelled by mere politeness towards her

"The most suitable plan!" cried the priest, starting up. "Send your man
to Venice, and yourself follow afterwards."

I explained that Udal was little accustomed to travelling in strange
countries, and had no knowledge of either the German or Italian tongues;
and to put a close to the discussion, I rose from my seat and walked away
to the end of the apartment, where I busied myself over some weapons that
hung upon the wall. In a minute or so I heard the door close softly, and
facing about, I saw that the priest and Mlle. Durette, who had taken no
part in any of this talk, had departed out of the room. The Countess came
towards me.

"I sent them away," she said, with a wan smile, and a voice subdued to
great gentleness. "I have no thought to--to part with you so soon. Stay
out this week. You --you told me that you had something which you wished
to say."

"Madame," said I, snatching eagerly at her hand, "you also told me that
you had guessed it."

"Not now; not now." She slipped her hand from my grasp with an imploring
cry, and held it outspread before my face to check my words. "Not now. I
could not bear it. Oh, I would that I had more strength to resist, or
more weakness to succumb."

Never had I heard such pain in a human voice: never have I seen features
so wrung with suffering. The sight of her cut me to the heart.

"Listen," she went on, controlling herself after a moment, though her
voice still trembled with agitation, and now and again ran upwards into
an odd laugh, the like of which I had never hearkened to before or since.
'Twas the most pitiful sound that ever jarred on a man's ears. "On the
night of the marriage the villagers will come to the Castle to dance in
the Great Hall. That night you shall speak to me, and a carriage shall be
ready to take you away afterwards, if you will. Until that night be

She gave me no time to answer her, but ran to the door, and so out of the
room. I could hear her footsteps falling uncertainly along the gallery,
as though she stumbled while she ran, and a great anger against the
priest flamed up in my breast. 'Strength to resist or weakness to
succumb.' Doubtless the words would have bewildered me, like the oracles
of old Greece, but for what I suspicioned in the priest. Now, however, in
the blindness of my thoughts, I construed them as the confirmation of my
belief that he was practising all his arts upon Ilga to secure Lukstein
for the Church. 'Twas Father Spaur, I imagined, whom she had neither the
strength to resist nor the weakness to yield to, and I fancied that I was
set upon a second contest for the winning of her, though this time with a
more subtle and noteworthy antagonist.

And yet for all my fears, for all Ilga's trouble, with such selfish
pertinacity do a lover's reflections seek to enhearten his love, I could
not but feel a throb of joy for that she had so plainly shown to me what
the struggle cost her.


In accordance, then, with the suggestion of Ilga, I despatched Udal to
Venice, bearing a letter wherein I requested Jack to bide there until
such time as I arrived. To supply my servant's place Father Spur offered
me one, Michael Groder, whose assistance at the first sight I was
strongly in a mind to decline; for he was more than common uncouth even
for those parts, and with his scarred knees, tangled black hair, and
gaunt, weather-roughened face, seemed more fitted for hewing wood upon
the hill-side than for the neater functions of a valet. The priest,
however, pressed his services upon me with so importunate a courtesy that
I thought it ungracious to persist in a refusal. Indeed, Michael Groder,
though of a slight and wiry build, was the unhandiest man with his
fingers that ever I had met with. There was not a servant in the Castle
who could not have done the work better; and I came speedily to the
conclusion that Father Spaur had selected him particularly out of some
motive very different from a desire to oblige me; I mean, in order that
he might keep a watch upon my actions, and see that I gained no secret
advantage with the Countess. However, had I entertained any such design,
the hunting expedition would have effectually prevented its fulfilment. It
lasted the greater part of the week, and we did not return to Lukstein
until the eve of my departure. By this time my anxiety as to the answer
which Ilga would make to my suit when she knew all that I had to tell
her, had well-nigh worked me into a fever. I was for ever rehearsing and
picturing the scene, inventing all sorts of womanly objections for her to
urge, and disproving them succinctly to her satisfaction by Barbara,
Celarent, and all the rules of logic.

Under these speculations, bolster them up as I might, there lurked none
the less a heavy and disheartening fear. 'Twas all vain labour to reckon
up, as I did again and again, the few good qualities which I possessed,
and to add to them those others which my friends attributed to me. I
could not shut my eyes to the disparity between us; I could not believe
but that she must be sensible of it herself. Such a woman, I conceived,
should wed a warrior and hero; though, indeed, 'twas doubtful whether you
could find even amongst them one whose deserts made him a fit mate for
her. As for me, 'twas as though a clown should run a-wooing after a

‘Twill be readily understood that I had in consequence no great
inclination for the hearty fellowship of the neighbours who joined in the
hunt; and since my anxiety grew with every hour, by the time we came back
to Lukstein --for many of them returned thither instead of to their own
homes, meaning to stay over until the following night --'twas as much as
I could do to answer with attention any civil question that was addressed
to me.

The Countess, I found, was in an agitation no whit inferior to my own. I
observed her that afternoon at dinner. At times she talked with a
feverish excitement, at times she relapsed into long silence; but even
during these pauses I noticed that her fingers were never still, but
continually twitched and plucked at the cloth. I inferred from her manner
that she had not yet decided on the course she would take, the more
particularly because she sedulously avoided speech with me. If I spoke to
her she replied politely enough, but at once drew those about her into
the conversation, and herself with drew from it; and if by accident our
eyes met, she hastily turned her head away. I knew not what to make of
these signs, and as soon as the company was risen from table I slipped
away out of the Castle that I might con them over quietly and weigh
whether they boded me good or ill.

The Castle, as I have said, stood upon a headland at the mouth of the
Senner Thal, and turning a corner of this bluff, I wandered by a rough
track some way along the side of the ravine, and flung myself down on my
back on the turf. The sun had already sunk below the crest of the
mountains, and the glow was fast fading out of the sky. The pines on the
hillside opposite grew black in the deepening twilight; a star peeped
over the shoulder of the Wildthurm; and here and there a gray scarf of
cloud lay trailed along the slopes. From a hut high above came clear and
sweet the voice of a woman singing a Tyrolese melody, and so softly did
the evening droop upon the mountains, shutting as it were the very peace
of the heavens into the valleys, that the brooks seemed to laugh louder
and louder as they raced among the stones. The air itself never stirred,
save when some bat came flapping blindly about my face. I became the more
curious, therefore, concerning a bush some twenty yards below me, which
now and again shivered and bent as though with a gust of wind. I had been
lying on the grass some ten minutes before I noticed this movement. The
dwarf oaks and beeches which studded the slopes about me were as still
and noiseless as though their leaves had been carved from metal; only
this one bush rustled and shook. In a direct line with it, and within
reach of my foot, a small boulder hung insecurely on the turf. I
stretched out my foot and pushed it; the stone rocked a little on its
base. I pushed again and harder; the stone tilted forwards and stuck. I
brought my other foot to help, set them both flat against the stone, slid
down on my back until my legs were doubled, and then kicked with all my
strength. The boulder flew from the soles of my feet, rolled over and
over, bounded into the air,  dropped on to the slope about ten yards from
the bush, and then sprang at it like a dog at the throat. I heard a
startled cry; I saw the figure of a man leap up from the centre of the
bush. The stone took him full in the pit of the stomach, and toppled him
backwards like a nine-pin. He fell on the far side of the shrub, and I
heard the boulder go crash-crashing down the whole length of the incline.
Who the man was I had not the time to perceive, and I made no effort to
discover. The Countess had retired a few moments before I slipped away
from the Hall, and I judged that he was no more than a spy sent by Father
Spaur to ascertain whether I had some tryst with her. So deeming that he
had got no more than his deserts, I left him lying where he fell and
loitered back to the Castle.

The company I found gathered about a huge fire of logs at the end of the
Great Hall. Beyond the glow of the flames the Hall was lost in shadow,
and now and again from some corner would come a soft scuffling sound, as
a dog moved lazily across the flags. Thereupon with one movement the
heads would huddle closer together, and for a moment the voices would
sink to a whisper. They were speaking, as men will who are girt with more
of God's handiwork than of man's, concerning the spirits that haunted the
countryside, and told many stories of the warnings they had vouchsafed to
unheeding ears. In particular, they dwelt much upon a bell, which they
declared rang out from the Wildthurm when good or ill-fortune approached
the House of Lukstein, tolling as the presage of disaster, pealing
joyously in the forefront of prosperity. One, indeed--with frequent
glances across his shoulder into the gloom--averred that he had heard it
tolling on the eve of Count Lukstein's marriage, and from that beginning
the talk slid to the manner of his death. 'Twas altogether an eerie
experience, and one that I would not willingly repeat, to listen to them
debating that question in hushed whispers, with the darkness closing in
around us, and the firelight playing upon mature, weather-hardened faces
grown timorous with the awe of children. For this I remarked with some
wonder, that no one made mention either of the things which I had left
behind me, or of the track which I had flogged in the snow about the rim
of the precipice. 'Twas evident that these details of the story had been
kept carefully secret, though with what object I could not understand.

That evening I had no Michael Groder to assist me in my toilet, and so
got me to bed with the saving of half an hour. I cannot say, however,
that I gained half an hour's sleep thereby, for the thought of the
morrow, and all that hung upon it, kept me tossing from side to side in a
turmoil of unrest. It must have been near upon two hours that I lay thus
uneasily cushioned upon disquiet before a faint sound came to my ears,
and made me start up in the darkness, with my heart racing.

'Twas the sound that a man can never forget or mistake when once he has
heard it--the sound of a woman sobbing. It rose from the little
sitting-room immediately beneath me. The staircase door was close to my
bedside, and I reached out my hand and, turning the handle cautiously,
opened it. The sound was louder now, but still muffled, and I knew that
the door at the bottom of the staircase was closed. For a little I
remained propped on my elbow, and straining my ears to listen. The
mourner must be either Clemence Durette or Ilga, and I could not doubt
which of them it was. Why she wept, I did not consider. 'Twas the noise
of her weeping, made yet more lonesome and sad by the black dead of
night, that occupied my senses and filled me with an unbearable pain.

I got quietly out of my bed, and slipping on some clothes crept down the
staircase in my stockings. 'Twas pitch dark in this passage, and I felt
before me with my hands as I descended, fearing lest I might unawares
stumble against the door. At the last step I paused and listened again.
Then very gently I groped for the handle. I had good reason to know how
noiselessly it turned, and I opened the door for the space of an inch. A
feeble light flickered on the wall of the room at my side. I waited with
my fingers on the handle, but there was no check in the sobbing. I pushed
the door wider open; the light upon the wall wavered and shook, as though
a draught took the flame of a candle. But that was all. So I stepped
silently forward and looked into the room.

The sight made my heart bleed. Ilga lay face downwards and prone upon the
floor, her arms outstretched, her hair unbound and rippling about her
shoulders. From head to foot she was robed in black. It broke upon me
suddenly that I had never seen her so clad before, and I remembered a
remark that Elmscott had passed in London upon that very score.

The window was open, and from the garden a light wind brought the
soughing of trees into the room. A single candle guttered on the
mantelshelf and heightened its general aspect of neglect. Thus Ilga lay,
abandoned to--what? Grief for her husband, or remorse at forgetting
him? That black dress might well be the fitting symbol of either
sentiment. 'Twas for neither of these reasons that she wept, as I learned
long afterwards, but for another of which I had no suspicion then.

I closed the door softly and sat me down in the darkness on the stairs,
hearkening to that desolate sound of tears and praying for the morning to
come and for the day to pass into night, that I might say my say and
either bring her such rest and happiness as a man's love can bring to a
woman, or slip out of her life and so trouble her no more.

'Twas a long while before she ceased from her distress, and to me it
seemed far longer than it was. As soon as I heard her move I got me back
to my room. The dawn was just breaking when, from a corner of my window,
I saw her walk out across the lawn, and the dew was white upon the grass
like a hoar-frost. With a weary, dragging step, and a head adroop like a
broken flower, she walked to the parapet of the terrace, and hung on it
for a little, gazing down upon the roofs of her sleeping village. Then
she turned and fixed her eyes upon my window. I was hidden in the
curtains so that she could not see me. For some minutes she gazed at it,
her face very tired and sad. 'Twas her bridal chamber, or rather, would
have been but for me, and I wondered much whether she was thinking of the
husband or the guest. She turned away again, looked out across the valley
paved with a gray floor of mist, and so walked back to the main wing of
the Castle.

The light broadened out; starlings began to twitter in the trees, and far
away a white peak blushed rosy at the kiss of the sun. The one day of my
life had come. By this time to-morrow, I thought, the world would have
changed its colours for me, one way or another; and tired out with my
vigil, I tumbled into bed and slept dreamlessly until Michael Groder
roused me.

I asked I him why he had failed me the night before. "I was unwell," he

"True" said I, with great friendliness. "You got a heavier load upon your
stomach than it would stand."

The which was as unwise a remark as I could have made; for Groder's ill
will towards me needed no stimulus to provoke it.


Themarriage, with its odd customs of the Ehrengang and Ebreutanz, might
at another time have afforded me the entertainment which Father Spaur
promised; but, to speak the truth, the whole ceremony wearied me beyond
expression. My thoughts were set in a tide towards the evening, and I
watched the sun loiter idly down the length of the valley in a burning
fever of impatience.

'Twas about seven of the clock when the villagers flocked up to the
Castle and began their antic dances in the Hall and in the ball-room
which fronted the terrace. They aimed at a display of agility rather than
of elegance, leaping into the air and falling crack upon their knees,
slapping their thighs and the soles of their feet, with many other
barbaric gambols; and all the while they kept up such a noise of
shouting, whistling, and singing, as fairly deafened one.

Ilga, I observed with some heart-sinking, had once more robed herself in
black, and very simply; but the colour so set off the brightness of her
hair, which was coiled in a coronal upon her head, and the white beauty
of her arms, that for all my fears I could not but think she had never
looked so exquisitely fair. However, I had thought the same upon so many
different occasions that I would not now assert it as an indisputable

As you may be certain, I had not copied Ilga's simplicity, but had rather
dressed in the opposite extreme. 'Twas no part of my policy to show her
the disrespect of plain apparel. I had so little to offer that I must
needs trick that little out to the best advantage; indeed, even at this
distance of time, I fairly laugh when I recall the extraordinary pains I
spent that evening upon my adornment. My Lord Culverton could never have
bettered them. A coat of white brocaded velvet, ruffles that reached to
the tips of my fingers, a cravat of the finest Mechlin, pink breeches,
silk stockings rolled above the knees, with gold clocks and garters,
white Spanish leather shoes with red heels and Elmscott's buckles, a new
heavy black peruke; so I attired myself for this momentous interview.

Father Spaur greeted me with a sour smile and a sneering compliment; but
'twas not his favour that I sought, and I cared little that he showed so
plainly his resentment.

"A carriage," he added, "will be in waiting for you at eleven, if you are
still minded to leave us."

I thanked him shortly, and passed on to Ilga, but for some while I could
get no private speech with her. For though she took no part in the
dancing, even when a quieter measure made a break in the boisterous
revelry, she moved continually from one to the other of her villagers
with a kindly smile and affable word for each in a spirit of so sweet a
condescension, that I had no doubt that she had vaunted their loyalty
most truthfully. 'Twould have been strange, indeed, if they had not
greatly worshipped her.

In the midst of the clatter, however, and near upon the hour of nine, a
man burst wildly into the room, faltering out that the "Wildthurm" bell
was now even ringing its message to Lukstein.

On the instant the music was stopped; a great awe fell upon the noisy
throng; women clung in fear to men, and men crossed themselves with a
muttering of tremulous prayers; and then Ilga led the way through the
Hall into the courtyard of the Castle.

The ice-fields of the mountain glittered like silver in the moonlight,
and we gazed upwards towards them with our ears strained to catch the
sound. Many, I know, will scoff at and question what I relate. Many have
already done so, attributing it to a delusion of the senses, a heated
imagination, or any other of the causes which are held to absolve the
spirits of the air from participation in men's affairs.

Against such unholy disbelief it is not for me to argue or dispute, nor
is this the fitting place and opportunity. But this I do attest, and to
it I do solemnly put my name. 'Twas not I alone who heard the bell; every
man and woman who danced that night at Lukstein Castle heard it. The
sound was faint, but wonderfully pure and clear, the strokes of the
hammer coming briskly one upon the other as though the bell was tossed
from side to side by willing hands.

"It speaks of happiness for Lukstein," said Father Spaur, with an evil
glance towards me.

For my part I just looked at Ilga.

"Come!" she said.

And we walked back through the empty echoing Hall, and across the lawn to
the terrace.

A light wind was blowing from the south, but there were no clouds in the
sky, and the valley lay beneath us with all its landmarks merged by the
gray, tender light, so that it seemed to have widened to double its

The terrace, however, was for the most part in shadow, since the moon,
hanging behind a cluster of trees at the east corner of the wall, only
sprinkled its radiance through a tracery of boughs, and drew a dancing
pattern about our feet. As I leaned upon the parapet there came before my
eyes, raised by I know not what chance suggestion, a vivid picture of my
little far-away hamlet in the country of the English lakes.

"You are thoughtful, Mr.Buckler!" said Ilga.

"I was thinking of the valley of Wastdale," I replied, "and of a
carrier's cart stuck in a snowdrift on Hard Knot."

"Of your home? 'Twas of your home that you were thinking?" she asked
curiously, and yet with something more than curiosity in her voice, with
something of regret something almost of pity.

"Not so much of my home," I replied, "but rather from what distant points
our two lives have drawn together." I was emboldened to the words by the
tone in which she had spoken. "A few weeks ago you were here at Lukstein
in the Tyrol, I was at the Hall in Cumberland, and we had never spoken to
one another. How strange it all seems!"

"Nay," she answered simply; "it was certain you and I should meet. Is not
God in His heaven?"

My heart gave a great leap. We had now come to the pavilion, which leaned
against the Castle wall, and Ilga opened the door and entered it. I
followed her, and closed the latch behind me.

In the side of the room there was a square window with shutters, but no
glass. The shutters were open, and through a gap of the trees the
moonlight poured into the pavilion.

We stood facing one another silently. The time had come for me to speak.

"Well," said she, and her voice was very calm, "what is it, Mr.Buckler?"

All my fine arguments and protestations flew out of my head like birds
startled from a nest. I forgot even the confession I had to make to her,
and "I love you!" I said humbly, looking down on the floor.

She gave me no answer. My heart fainted within me; I feared that it would
stop. But in a little I dared to raise my eyes to her face. She stood in
the pillar of moonlight, her eyes glistening, but with no expression on
her face which could give me a clue to her thoughts, and she softly
opened and shut her fan, which hung on a girdle about her waist.

"How I do love you!" I cried, and I made a step towards her. "But you
know that."

She nodded her head.

"I took good care you should," she said.

I did not stop to consider the strangeness of the speech. My desire
construed it without seeking help from the dictionary of thought.

"Then you wished it," I cried joyfully, and I threw myself down on my
knee at her feet, and buried my face in my hands. "Ilga! Ilga!"

She made no movement, but replied in a low voice,--"With all my heart I
wished it. How else could I have brought you to the Tyrol?"

I felt the tears gathering into my eyes and my throat choking. I lifted
my face to hers, and taking courage from her words, clipped my arms about
her waist.

She gave a little trembling cry, and plucked at my fingers. I but
tightened my clasp.

"Ilga!" I murmured. 'Twas the only word which came to my lips, but it
summed the whole world for me then--ay, and has done ever since. "Ilga!"

Again she plucked at my fingers, and for all the calmness, which she had
shown, I could feel her hands burning through her gloves. Then a shadow
darkened for an instant across the window, the moonlight faded, and her
face was lost to me. 'Twas for no longer than an instant. I looked
towards the window, but Ilga bent her head down between it and me.

"'Tis only the branches swinging in the wind," she said softly.

I rose to my feet and drew her towards me. She set her palms against my
chest as if to repulse me, but she said no word, and I saw the necklace
about her throat flashing and sparkling with the heave of her bosom.

It seemed to me that a light step sounded without the pavilion, and I
turned my head aside to listen.

“'Tis only the leaves blowing along the terrace," she whispered, and I
looked again at her and drew her closer.

For a time she resisted; then I heard her sigh, and her hand stole across
my shoulder. Her head drooped forward until her hair touched my lips. I
could feel her heart beating on my breast. Gently I turned her face
upwards, and then with a loud clap the shutters were flung to and the
room was plunged in darkness.

Ilga started away from me, drawing a deep breath as for some release. I
groped my way to the window. The shutters opened outwards, and I pushed
against them. They were held close and fast.

A wooden settle stood against the wall just beneath the window, and I
knelt on it and drove at the shutters with my shoulder. They gave a
little at first, and I heard a whispered call for help. The pressure from
without was redoubled; I was forced back; a bar fell across them outside
and was fitted into a socket. Thrust as I might I could not break it; the
window was securely barricaded

Meanwhile Ilga had not spoken.

"Ilga!" I called.

She did not answer me, nor in the blackness of the pavilion could I
discover where she stood.


The same empty silence. I could not even hear her breathing, and yet she
was in the pavilion, within a few feet of me. There was something
horrible in her quietude, and a great fear of I knew not what caught at
my heart and turned my blood cold.

"This is the priest's doing," I cried, and I drew my sword and made
towards the door.

A startled cry burst from the gloom behind me.

"Stop! If you open it, you will be killed."

I stopped as she bade me, body and brain numbed in a common inaction. I
could hear her breathing now plainly enough.

"This is not the priest's doing," she said, at length. "It is the
wife's." Her voice steadied and became even as she spoke. "From the hour
I found Count Lukstein dead I have lived only for this night."

I let my sword slip from my grasp, and it clattered and rang on the

'Twas not surprise that I felt; ever since the shutters had been slammed
I seemed to have known that she would speak those words. And 'twas no
longer fear. Nor did I as yet wonder how she came by her knowledge.
Indeed. I had but one thought, one thought of overwhelming sadness, and I
voiced it in utter despondency.

"So all this time--in London, here, a minute ago, you were tricking me!
Tricking me into loving you; then tricking my love for you!"

"A minute ago!" she caught me up, and there was a quiver in her voice of
some deep feeling. Then she broke off, and said, in a hard, clear tone:
"I was a woman, and alone. I used a woman's weapons."

Again she paused, but I made no answer. I had none to make. She resumed,
with a flash of anger, as though my silence accused her,--"And was there
no trickery on your side, too?"

They were almost the same words as those which Marston had levelled at
me, and I imagined that they conveyed the same charge. However, it seemed
of little use or profit to defend myself at length, and I answered;--"I have
played no part. It might have fared better with me if I had. What deceit
I have practised may be set down to love's account 'Twas my fear of
losing you that locked my lips. Had I not loved you, what need to tell
you my secret? 'Twas no crime that I committed. But since I loved you, I
was bound in very truth to speak. I have known that from the first, and I
pledged myself to speak at the moment that I told you of my love. I dared
not disclose the matter before. There was so little chance that I should
win your favour, even had every circumstance seconded my suit. But this
very night I should have told you the truth."

"No doubt! no doubt!" she answered, with the bitterest irony, and I
understood what a fatal mistake I had made in pleading my passion before
disclosing the story of the duel. I should have begun from the other end.
"And no doubt you meant also to tell me, with the same open frankness, of
the woman for whose sake you killed my--my husband?"

"I fought for no woman, but for my friend."

She laughed; surely the hardest, most biting laugh that ever man heard.
"Tell me your fine story now."

I sank down on the settle, feeling strangely helpless in the face of her

"This is the priest's doing," I repeated, more to myself than to her.

"It is my doing," she said again; "my doing from first to last."

"Then what was it?" I asked, with a dull, involuntary curiosity. "What
was it you had neither the weakness to yield to nor the strength to

She did not answer me, but it seemed as though she suddenly put out a
hand and steadied herself against the wall.

"Tell me your story," she said briefly; and sitting there in the
darkness, unable to see my mistress, I began the history of that November

"It is true that I killed Count Lukstein; but I killed him in open
encounter. I fought him fairly and honourably."

"At midnight!" she interrupted. "Without witnesses, upon his

"There was blood upon Count Lukstein's sword," I went on doggedly, "and
that blood was mine. I fought him fairly and honourably. I own I
compelled him to fight me."

"You and your--companion."

She stressed the word with an extraordinary contempt.

"My companion!" I repeated in surprise. "What know you of my companion?
My companion watched our horses in the valley."

"You dare to tell me that?" she cried, ceasing from her contempt, and
suddenly lifting her voice in an inexplicable passion.

"It is the truth."

"The truth! The truth!" she exclaimed, and then, with a stamp of her
foot, and in a ringing tone of decision, "Otto!"

The door was flung open. Otto Krax and Michael Groder blocked the
opening, and behind them stood Father Spaur, holding a lighted torch
above his head. The Tyrolese servants carried hangers in their hands. I
can see their blades flashing in the red light now!

Silently they filed into the pavilion. Father Spaur lifted his torch into
a bracket, latched the door, and leaned his back against the panels. All
three looked at the Countess, waiting her orders. 'Twas plain, from the
priest's demeanour, that Ilga had spoken no more than truth. In this
matter she was the mistress and the priest the servitor.

I turned and gazed at her. She stood erect against the wall opposite to
me, meeting my gaze, her face stern and set, as though carven out of
white marble, her eyes dark and glittering with menace.

For, my part, I rose from the settle and stood with folded arms. I did
not even stoop to pick up my rapier; it seemed to me not worth while.

"The proper attitude of heroical endurance," sneered Father Spaur.
"Perhaps a little more humility might become ‘a true son of the Church.’
Was not that the phrase?"

The Countess nodded to Otto. He took Groder's sword and stood it with his
own, by a low stool in the corner near the door.

"'Tis your own fault," she said sternly. "Even now I would have spared
you had you told me the truth. But you presume too much upon my folly."

The next moment the two men sprang at me. The manner of their attack took
me by surprise, and in a twinkling they had me down upon the bench. Then,
however, a savage fury flamed up within me. 'Twas one thing to be run
through at the command of Ilga, and so perish decently by the sword;
'twas quite another to be handled by her servants, and I fought against
the indignity with all my strength. But the struggle was too unequal. I
should have proved no match for Otto had he stood alone, and I before
him, fairly planted on my legs. With the pair of them to master me I was
well as powerless as a child. Moreover, they had already forced me down
by the shoulders, so that the edge of the settle cut across my back just
below the shoulder-blades, and I could get no more purchase or support
than the soles of my feet on the rough flooring gave me.

My single chance lay in regaining possession of my rapier. It lay just
within my reach, and struggling violently with my left arm, in order to
the better conceal my design, I stretched out the other cautiously
towards it.

My fingers were actually on the pommel, I was working it nearer to me so
that I might grasp the blade short, before Groder perceived my intention.
With an oath he kicked it behind him. Otto set a huge knee calmly upon my
chest, and pressed his weight upon it until I thought my spine would
snap. Then he seized my arms, jerked them upwards, and held them
outstretched above my head, keeping his knee the while jammed down upon
my ribs. Groder drew a cord from his pocket, and turning back my sleeves
with an ironic deliberation, bound my wrists tightly together.

"'Twas not for nothing Groder went a-valeting," laughed Father Spaur; and
then, seeing that I was assisted in my struggle by the pressure which I
got from the floor, 'Twere wise to repeat the ceremony with his ankles."

"You, Groder!" said Otto.

"I have no more cord," growled Michael, as he tied the knots viciously
about my wrists.

Something rattled lightly on the ground. 'Twas the girdle of the
Countess, with the fan attached to the end of it. Groder plucked the fan
off, struck my heels from under me, and bound the girdle round and round
my ankles until they jarred together and I felt the bones cracking.

Otto took his knee from my chest, and the two men went back to their
former stations by the door.

Father Spaur came over to where I lay, rubbing his hands gently together.

"Really, really!" said he in a silky voice, "so the cockatoo has been
caged after all."

The words, recalling that morning in London when first I allowed myself
to take heart in my hopes, so stung me that, tied as I was, I struggled
on to my feet, and so stood tottering. Father Spaur drew back a pace and
glanced quickly about him.

"Michael!" he called. But the next instant I fell heavily forward upon
his breast. He burst into a loud laugh of relief, and flung me back upon
the settle.

I looked towards Ilga.

"What have you not told him?" I asked.

"Nothing!" she said coldly. "I, at all events, had nothing to conceal."

She motioned Father Spaur to fall back. Otto and Groder picked up their
swords. Father Spaur unlatched the door, rubbed out the torch upon the
boards, and one after another they stepped from the pavilion. Ilga
followed last, but she did not turn her head as she went out. Through the
open doorway I could see the shadows dancing on the terrace, I could hear
the music pouring from the Castle in a lilting measure. The door closed,
the pavilion became black once more, and I heard their footsteps recede
across the pavement and grow silent upon the grass.


OF the horror which the next two hours brought to me, I find it difficult
to speak, even at this distance of time. 'Twas not the fear of what might
be in store for me that oppressed my mind, though God knows I do not say
this to make a boast of it; for doubtless some fear upon that score would
have argued me a better man; but in truth I barely sent a thought that
way. The savour of life had become brine upon my lips, and I cared little
what became of me, so that the ending was quick.

For the moment the door closed I was filled with an appalling sense of
loneliness and isolation. Heart and brain it seized and possessed me.
'Twas the closing of a door upon all the hopes which had chattered and
laughed and nestled at my heart for so long; and into such a vacancy of
mind did I fall, that I did not trouble to speculate upon the nature of
the story which Countess Lukstein believed to be true. That she had been
led by I knew not what suspicions into some strange error, that she had
got but a misshapen account of the duel between her husband and myself,
was, of course, plain to me. But since her former kindliness and courtesy
had been part of a deliberate and ordained plan for securing me within
her power, since, in a word, she had cherished no favourable thoughts of
me at any time, I deemed it idle to consider of the matter.

Moreover, the remoteness of these parts made my helplessness yet more
bitter and overpowering; though, indeed, I was not like to forget my
helplessness in any case, for the cords about my ankles and wrists bit
into my flesh like coils of hot wire. "A sequestered nook of the world,"
so I remembered, had Ilga called this corner of the Tyrol, and for a
second time that night my thoughts went back to my own distant valley. I
saw it pleasant with the domestic serenity which a man discovers nowhere
but in his native landscape.

And to crown, as it were, my loneliness, now and again a few stray notes
of music or a noise of laughter would drift through the chinks into the
pitch-dark hut, and tell of the lighted Hall and of Ilga, now, maybe,
dancing among her guests.

'Twas a little short of eleven when she returned to the pavilion. I am
able to fix the time from an incident which occurred shortly afterwards.
At first, the steps falling light as they approached, I bethought me my
visitor was either Otto or Groder coming stealthily upon his toes to
complete his work with me; for I never expected to look upon her face

She carried no light with her, and paused on the sill of the door, her
slight figure outlined against the twilight. She bent her head forward,
peering into the gloom of the room, but she said no word; neither did I
address her. So she stood for a little, and then, stepping again outside,
she unbarred and opened the shutters of the window. Returning, she
latched the door, locked it from within, and, fetching the stool from the
corner, sat her down quietly before me.

The moon, which had previously shone into the room almost in a level bar,
now slanted its beams, so that the Countess was bathed in them from head
to foot, while I, being nearer to the window, lay half in shadow, half on
the edge of the light.

She sat with her chin propped upon her hands, and her eyes steadily fixed
upon mine, but she betrayed no resentment in her looks nor, indeed,
feeling of any kind. Then, in a low, absent voice, she began to croon
over to herself that odd, wailing elegy which I had once heard her sing
in London. The tune had often haunted me since that day from its native
melancholy, but now, as Ilga sang it in the moonlight, her eyes very big
and dark, and fastened quietly upon mine, it gained a weird and eerie
quality from her manner, and I felt my flesh begin to creep.

I shifted uneasily upon the settle, and Ilga stopped. I must think she
mistook the reason of my restlessness, for a slow smile came upon her
face, and, reaching out a hand, she tried the knots wherewith I was

"It may well be," she suggested, "that you are better inclined to speak
the truth, since now you know to what falsehood has brought you."

"Madame," I replied wearily, "I know not what you believe nor what you
would have me say. It matters little to me, nor can I see, since you have
reached the end for which you worked, that it need greatly concern you.
This only I know, that I have already told you the truth."

"And the miniature you left behind you?" she asked, with an ironic smile.
"Am I to understand it has no bearing on the duel?"

"Nay, madame," said I; "'tis the key to the cause of our encounter."

"Ah!" she interrupted, with a satisfaction which I did not comprehend.
"You have drawn some profit from the reflection of these last hours."

"For," I continued, "it contained the likeness of my friend, Sir Julian
Harnwood, as, indeed, Otto must needs have told you. 'Twas in his cause
that I came to Lukstein."

"'Twas the likeness of a woman," she replied patiently.

I stared at her in amazement. "Of a woman!" I exclaimed.

She laughed with a quiet scorn.

"Of a woman," she repeated. "I showed it to you in my apartments at

"The portrait of Lady Tracy? It is impossible!" I cried, starting up.
"Why, Marston gave it you. You told me so."

"Oh, is there no end to it?" She burst out into sudden passion, beating
her hands together as though to enforce her words. "Is there no end to
it? I never told you so. 'Tis you who pretended that. You pretended you
believed it, and like a weak fool, I let your cunning deceive me. I was
not sure then that you had killed the Count, and I believed you had never
seen the likeness till that day. But now I know. You own you left the
miniature behind you."

"But the case was locked," I said, "and I had not the key."

"I know not that."

I could have informed her who had possessed the key, but refrained,
bethinking me that the knowledge might only add to her distress and yet
do no real service to me.

"And so," I observed instead, "all your anxiety that I should not tax
Marston with the giving of it was on your own account, and not at all on

She was taken aback by the unexpected rejoinder. But to me 'twas no more
than a corollary of my original thought that the Countess had been
playing me like a silly fish during the entire period of our

"I showed you the portrait as a test," she said hurriedly. "I believed
you guiltless, and I knew Mr.Marston and yourself had little liking for
each other. Any pretext would have served you for a quarrel. Besides--

Besides," I took her up, "you allowed me to believe that Marston had
given you the miniature, and had I spoken of the matter to him I should
have discovered you were playing me false."

"But you knew," she cried, whipping herself to anger, as it seemed to me,
to make up for having given ground: "You knew how the miniature came into
my hands. All the while you knew it, and you talk of my playing you

Suddenly she resumed her seat, and continued in a quieter voice,--"But
the brother found out the shameful secret. You could overreach me, but
not the brother; and fresh from accounting to him for your conduct, you
must needs stumble into my presence with Lady Tracy's name upon your
lips, and doubtless some new explanation ready."

"Madame, that is not so. I came that evening to tell you what I have told
you to-night, but you would not hear me. You bade me come to Lukstein. I
know now why, and 'twas doubtless for the same reason that you locked the
door when I had swooned." She started as I mentioned that incident.
"'Twas not on Lady Tracy's account, or because of any conduct of mine
towards her, that I fought Marston. Against his will I compelled him to
fight, as Lord Elmscott will bear out. He had learned by whose hand Count
Lukstein died, and rode after you to Bristol that he might be the first
to tell you; and I was minded to tell you the story myself."

"Or, at all events, to prevent him telling it," she added, with a sneer.
"But how came Mr.Marston to learn this fact?"

I was silent. I could not but understand that the Countess presumed her
husband, Lady Tracy, and myself to be bound together by some vulgar
intrigue, and I saw how my answer must needs strengthen her suspicions.

"How did he find out?" she repeated. "Tell me that!"

"Lady Tracy informed him," I answered, in despair.

"Then you admit that Lady Tracy knew?"

"I told her of the duel myself, on the very morning that that I first met
her--on the morning that I introduced her into your house."

"And why did she carry the news to her brother?"

Again I was silent, and again she pressed the question.

"She was afraid of you, and she sought her brother's protection." Every
word I uttered seemed to plead against me. "I understand now why she was
afraid. I did not know her miniature was in that case, but doubtless she
did, and she was afraid you should connect her with Count Lukstein's

"Whereas," replied the Countess, "she had nothing to do with it?"

I had made up my mind what answer I should make to this question when it
was put. Since I had plainly lost Ilga beyond all hope. I was resolved to
spare her the knowledge of her husband's treachery. 'Twould not better my
case--for in truth I cared little what became of me--to relate that
disgraceful episode to her, and 'twould only add to her unhappiness. So I
answered boldly,--"She had nothing to do with it."

The Countess sat looking at me without a word, and I was bethinking of me
of some excuse by which I might explain how it came about that Lady
Tracy's portrait and not Julian's was in the box, when she bent forward,
with her face quite close to mine, so that she might note every change in
my expression.

"And the footsteps in the snow; how do you account for them? The woman's
footsteps that kept side by side with yours from the parapet to the
window, and back again from the window to the parapet?"

I uttered a cry, and setting my feet to the ground, raised myself up in
the settle.

"The footsteps in the snow? They were your own."

The Countess stared at me vacantly, and then I saw the horror growing in
her eyes, and I knew that at last she believed me.

"They were your own," I went on. "I knew nothing of Count Lukstein's
marriage. I had never set eyes on him at all. I knew not 'twas your
wedding-day. I came hither hot-foot from Bristol to serve my friend Sir
Julian Harnwood. He had quarrelled with the Count, and since he lay
condemned to death as one of Monmouth's rebels, he charged me to take the
quarrel up. In furtherance of that charge, I forced Count Lukstein to
fight me. In the midst of the encounter you came down the little
staircase into the room. I saw you across the Count's shoulder. The
curtain by the window hangs now half-torn from the valance. I tore it
clutching its folds in my horror. We started asunder, and you passed
between us. You walked out across the garden and to the Castle wall.
Madame, as God is my witness, when once I had seen you, I wished for
nothing so much as to leave the Count in peace. But--but--"

"Well?" she asked breathlessly.

"'Twas Count Lukstein's turn to compel me," I went on, recovering from a
momentary hesitation. I had indeed nearly blurted out the truth about his
final thrust. "And when you came back into the room, you passed within a
foot of the dead body of your husband, and of myself, who was kneeling--

She flung herself back, interrupting me with a shuddering cry. She
covered her face with her hands, and swayed to and fro upon the stool, as
though she would fall.

"Madame!" I exclaimed. "For God's sake! For if you swoon, alas! I cannot
help you."

She recovered herself in a moment, and taking her hands from before her
face, looked at me with a strangely softened expression. She rose from
her seat, and took a step or two thoughtfully towards the door. Then she
stopped and turned to me.

"Lady Tracy, you say, had nothing to do with this quarrel, and yet her
likeness was in the miniature case."

I had no doubt in my mind as to how it came there. 'Twas the case which
Lady Tracy had given to Count Lukstein, and doubtless she had substituted
her portrait for that of Julian. But this I could not tell to the

"'Twas a mistake of my friend," said I. "He gave me the case as a warrant
and proof, which I might show to Count Lukstein, that I came on his part,
telling me his portrait was within it. But 'twas on the night before he
was executed, and his thoughts may well have gone astray."

"But since the case was locked, and you had not the key, who was to open

"Count Lukstein," I replied, being thrown for a moment off my guard.

"Count Lukstein?" she asked, coming back to me. "Then he possessed the
key. You fought for your friend, Sir Julian Harnwood. Lady Tracy was
betrothed to Sir Julian. The case was given to you as a warrant of the
cause in which you came. It contained Lady Tracy's likeness, and Count
Lukstein held the key."

She spoke with great slowness and deliberation, adding sentence to
sentence as links in a chain of testimony. I heard her with a great fear,
perceiving how near she was to the truth. There was, however, one link
missing to make the chain complete. She did not know that Lady Tracy had
owned the case and had given it to Count Lukstein, and of that fact I was
determined she should still remain ignorant.

"My husband loved me," she said quickly, with a curious challenge in her

"I believe most sincerely that he did," I answered with vehemence. I was
able to say so honestly, for I remembered how his face and tone had
softened when he made mention of his wife.

"Then tell me the cause of this quarrel that induced you to break into
this house at midnight, and, on a friend's behalf, force a stranger to
fight you without even a witness?"

There was a return of suspicion in her tone, and she came back into the
moonlight. The temptation to speak out grew upon me as I watched her. I
longed to assure her that I was bound to no other woman, but pledged
heart and soul to her, and the fear that if I kept silent she would once
more set this duel down to some rivalry in intrigue, urged me well-nigh
out of all restraint. Why should I be so careful of the reputation of
Count Lukstein? 'Twas an unworthy thought, and one that promised to
mislead me; for after all, 'twas not his good or ill repute that I had to
consider, but rather whether Ilga held his memory in such esteem and
respect that my disclosures would inflict great misery upon her and a
lasting distress. This postulate I could hardly bring myself to question.
Had I not, indeed, ample surety in the care and perseverance wherewith
she had sought to avenge his death? However, being hard pressed by my
inclinations, I determined to test that point conclusively if by any
means I might.

"Madame," I said, "last night, as I lay in my bed, bethinking me of the
morrow, and wondering what it held in store for me, I heard the sound of
a woman weeping. It rose from the little room beneath me; from the room
wherein I fought Count Lukstein. 'Twas the most desolate sound that ever
my ears have hearkened to--a woman weeping alone in the black of night.
I stole down the staircase and opened the door. I saw that the woman who
wept was yourself."

"'Twas for my husband," she interposed, very sharp and quick, and my
heart sank.

Yet her words seemed to quicken my desire to reveal the truth. They awoke
in me a strange and morbid jealousy of the man. I longed to cry out: "He
was a coward; false to you, false to his friend, false to me."

"And in London?" I asked, temporising again. “The morning I came to you
unannounced. You were at the spinet."

"'Twas for my husband," she repeated, with a certain stubbornness. "But
we will keep to the question we have in hand, if you please--the cause
of your dispute with Count Lukstein."

"I will not tell you it."

I spoke with no great firmness, and on that account most like I helped to
confirm her reawakened suspicions.

"Will not?" says she, her voice cold and sneering. "They are brave words
though unbravely spoken. You forget I have the advantage and can compel

"Madame," I replied, "you overrate your powers. Your servants can bind me
hand and foot, but they cannot compel me to speak what I will not."

"Have you no lie ready? What? Does your invention fail?" and she suddenly
rose from the stool in a whirlwind of passion. "God forgive me!" she
cried. "For even now I believed you."

She ceased abruptly and pushed her head forward, listening. The creak of
wheels came faintly to our ears.

"You hear that? It is Mr.Buckler's carriage, and Mr.Buckler rides within
it. Do you understand? The carriage takes you to Meran; you will not be
the first traveller who has disappeared on the borders of Italy. I am
afraid your friend at Venice will wait for you in vain."

The carriage rumbled down the hill, and we both listened until the sound
died away.

"For the future you shall labour as my peasant on the hill-side among the
woods, with my peasants for companionship, until your thoughts grow
coarse with your body, and your soul dwindles to the soul of a peasant.
So shall you live, and so shall you die, for the wrong which you have
done to me." She towered above me in her outburst, her eyes flashing with
anger. "And you dared to charge me with trickery! Why, what else has your
life been? From the night you went clothed as a woman to Bristol
Bridewell, what else has your life been? A woman! The part fitted you
well; you have all the cunning. You need but the addition of a

The bitterness of her speech stung me into a fury, and, forgetful of the
continence I owed to her,--"Madame!" I said, "I proved the contrary to
your husband."

"Silence!" she cried, and with her open hand she struck me on the face.
And then a strange thing happened. It seemed as though we changed places.
For all my helplessness, I seemed to have won the mastery over her. A
feeling of power and domination, such as I had never experienced before,
grew stronger and stronger within me, and ran tingling through every
vein. I forgot my bonds; I forgot the contempt which she had poured on
me; I forgot the very diffidence with which she had always inspired me. I
felt somehow that I was her master, and exulted in the feeling. Whatever
happened to me in the future, whether or no I was to labour as her
bondslave for all my days, for that one moment I was her master. She
could never hold me in lower esteem, in greater scorn than she did at
this hour, and yet I was her master. Some thing told me indeed that she
would never hold me in contempt at all again. She stood before me, her
face dark with shame, her attitude one of shrinking humiliation. Twice
she strove to raise her eyes to mine; twice she let them fall to the
ground. She began a sentence, and broke off at the second word. She
pulled fretfully at the laces of her gloves. Then she turned and walked
to the door. She walked slowly at first, constraining herself; she
quickened her pace, fumbled with the key in her hurry to unlock the door,
and once out of the pavilion, without pausing to latch or lock it, fled
like one pursued towards the house. And from the bottom of my heart I
pitied her.

In a little while Father Spaur, with the two Tyrolese, returned, and they
carried me quickly through the little parlour and up the staircase to my
bedroom. There they flung me on the bed and locked the door and left me.
Through the open window the dance-melodies rose to my ears. It seemed to
me that I could distinguish particular tunes which I had heard when I
crouched in the snow upon that November night.

Que toutes joies et toutes honneurs
Viennent d'armes et d'amours.

Jack's refrain, which he had hummed so continually during our ride to
Austria, came into my head, and set itself to the lilt of the music.
Well, I had made essay of both arms and love, and I had got little joy
and less honour therefrom, unless it be joy to burn with anxieties, and
honour to labour as a peasant and be deemed a common trickster!

The music ceased; the guests went homewards down the hill, laughing and
singing as they went; the Castle gradually grew silent The door of my
room was unlocked and flung open, and Groder entered, bearing a candle in
his hand. He set it down upon the table, and drew a long knife from a
sheath which projected out of his pocket. This he held and flourished
before my eyes, seeking like a child to terrify me with his antics, until
Father Spaur, following in upon his heels, bade him desist from his

Groder cut the girdle which bound my ankles.

"March!" said he.

But my legs were so numbed with the tightness of the cord that they
refused their office. Father Spaur ordered him to chafe my limbs with his
hands, which he did very unwillingly, and after a little I was able to
walk, though with uncertain and wavering steps.

"Should you suffer at all at Groder's hands," said the priest pleasantly,
"I beg you to console yourself with certain reflections which I shared
with you one afternoon that we rode together."

We proceeded along the corridor and turned into the gallery which ran
round the hall. But at the head of the great staircase I stopped and drew
back. The priest's taunts and Groder's insolence I had endured in
silence. What they had bidden me to do, that I had done; for in the
miscarriage of my fortunes I was minded to bear myself as a gentleman
should, without pettish complaints or an unavailing resistance which
could only entail upon me further indignities. But from this final
humiliation I shrank.

Below me the entire household of servants was ranged in the hall, leaving
a lane open from the foot of the stairs to the door. Every face was
turned towards me--except one. One face was held aside and hidden in a
handkerchief, and since that hour I have ever felt a special friendliness
and gratitude for the withered little Frenchwoman, Clemence Durette.
Alone of all that company she showed some pity for my plight. None the
less, however, my eyes went wandering for another sight. What with the
uncertain glare of the torches, that sent waves of red light and shadow
in succession sweeping across the throng of faces, 'twas some while or
ever I could discover the Countess. That she was present I had no doubt,
and at last I saw her, standing by the door apart from her servants, her
face white, and her eyelids closed over her eyes.

Groder pushed me roughly in the small of the back, and I stumbled down
the topmost steps. There was no escape from the ordeal, and glancing
neither to the right nor to the left, I walked between the silent rows of
servants. I passed within a yard of Countess Lukstein, but she made no
movement; she never even raised her eyes. A carriage stood in the
courtyard, and I got into it, and was followed by Michael Groder and
Otto. As we drove off a hubbub arose within the hall, and it seemed to me
that a ring was formed about the doorway, as though some one had fallen.
But before I had time to take much note of it, a cloth was bound over my
eyes, and the carriage rolled down the hill.

At the bottom, where the track from Lukstein debouches upon the main
road, we turned eastwards in the direction of Meran, and thence again to
the left, ascending an incline: so that I gathered we were entering a
ravine parallel to the Senner Thal, but further east.

In a while the carriage stopped, and Otto, opening the door, told me
civilly enough to descend. Then he took me by the arm and led me across a
threshold into a room. A woman's voice was raised in astonishment.

"Wait till he's plucked of his feathers!" laughed Groder, and bade her
close the shutters.

The bandage was removed from my eyes, and by the gray morning light which
pierced through the crevices of the window, I perceived that I was in
some rough cottage. An old woman stood gaping open-mouthed before me.
Groder sharply bade her go and prepare breakfast. Otto unbound my wrists,
and pointed to a heap of clothes which lay in a corner, and so they left
me to myself.

I had some difficulty in putting on these clothes, since my wrists were
swollen and well-nigh useless from their long confinement. Indeed, but for
a threat which Groder shouted through the door, saying that he would come
and assist me to make my toilet, I doubt whether I should have succeeded
at all.

For breakfast they brought me a pannikin full of a greasy steaming gruel,
which I constrained myself to swallow. Then they bound my hands again.
Groder wrapped up the clothes which I had taken off in a bundle, and
slung it on his back. Otto replaced the bandage on my eyes, and we set
out, mounting upwards by a rough mountain track, along which they guided
me. About noon Otto called a halt, and none too soon for I was ready to
drop with fatigue and pain. There we made a meal of some dry coarse
bread, and washed it down with spirit of a very bitter flavour. 'Twas new
to me at the time, but I know now that it was distilled from the gentian
flower. Groder lit a fire and burned the bundle of clothes which he had
brought with him, the two men sharing my jewels between them.

From that point we left the track and climbed up a grass slope, winding
this way and that in the ascent. 'Twas as much as I could do to keep my
feet, though Otto and Groder supported me upon either side. At the top we
dipped down again for a little, crossed a level field of heather, but in
what direction I know not, for by this I had lost all sense of our
bearings, mounted again, descended again, and towards nightfall came to a
hut. Groder thrust me inside, plucked the cloth from my face and unbound
my hands.

'Tis a long day's journey," said he; "but what matters that if you make
it only once?"


The hut wherein I passed the first month of my captivity was of a more
solid construction than is customary at so great a height, and had been
built by the order of Count Lukstein for a shelter when the chase brought
him hitherwards. For the hillside was covered with a dense forest of
fir-trees in which chamois abounded, and now and again, though 'twas
never my lot to come across one, a bear might be discovered.

The hut had a sort of vestibule paved with cobble-stones and roofed with
pine-wood. From this hall a room led out upon either side, though only
that upon the right hand was used by the wood-cutters who dwelt there. Of
these the were two, and they lived and slept in the one room, cooking the
gruel or porridge, which formed our chief food, in a great cauldron slung
over a rough fireplace of stones in the centre of the floor. There was no
chimney to carry aft the smoke, not so much as a hole in the wall; but
the smoke found its way out as best it might through the door. From the
hall a ladder led up through a trap-door into a loft above, and as soon
as we had supped, Groder bade me mount it, and followed me himself. The
wood-cutters below removed the ladder, Groder closed the trap, and,
spreading some branches of fir upon it,  laid him down and went to sleep.
I followed his example in the matter of making my bed, but as you may
believe, I got little sleep that night. For one thing my arms and legs
were now become so swollen and painful that it tortured me even to move
them, and it was full two days before I was sufficiently recovered to be
able to descend from the loft. By that time Otto had got him back to the
valley, and I was left under the authority of Groder, which he used
without scruple or intermission. Each morning at daybreak the ladder was
hoisted to the loft. We descended and despatched a hasty breakfast; there
upon I was given an axe, and the four of us proceeded into the forest,
where we felled the trees the day long. Through the gaps in the clearings
I would look across the valley to the bleak rocks and naked snow-fields,
and thoughts of English meadows knee-deep in grass, and of rooks cawing
through a summer afternoon, would force themselves into my mind until I
grew well-nigh daft with longing for sight of them. At nightfall we
returned to the hut and partook of a meal, and no words wasted.

When the meal was finished I was straightway banished to my loft, where I
lay in the dark, and heard through the floor the wood-cutters breaking
into all sorts of rough jests and songs now that I was no longer present
to check their merriment. For towards me they consistently showed the
greatest taciturnity and sullen reserve. 'Twas seldom that any one except
Groder addressed a word to me, and in truth I would lief he had been as
silent as the rest. For when he opened his mouth 'twas only to utter some
command in a harsh, growling tone as though he spoke to a cur, and to
couple thereto a coarse and unseemly oath.

For a time I endured this servitude in an extraordinary barrenness of
mind. Not even the thought of escape stirred me to activity. The sudden
misfortune which had befallen me seemed to have numbed and dulled all but
my bodily faculties. Moreover the long and arduous labour, to which I was
set, wearied me in the extreme, and each evening I came back so broken
with fatigue that I wished for nothing so much as to climb into my loft
and stretch myself out upon the branches in the dark, though even then I
was often too tired to sleep, and so would lie hour after hour counting
the seconds by the pulsing of my sinews.

After a couple of weeks had gone by, however, I began to take some notice
of the place of my captivity, and to  seek whether by any means I might
compass my escape. For I recalled, with an apprehension which quickened
speedily, as I dwelt upon it, into a panic of terror, the singular
prophecy and sentence which the Countess had flung at me. I began to see
myself already sinking into a dull apathy, performing my daily task, with
no thought beyond my physical needs, until I became one with these coarse
peasants in spirit and mind. What else, I reflected, could happen? Remote
from all intercourse or companionship, with not so much as a single book
to divert me, labouring with my hands from dawn to dusk, and guarded ever
by ignorant boors who reckoned me not worth even their speech--what else
could I become? 'Twould need far less than a lifetime to work the

But, however carefully I watched, I could by no means come at the
opportunity of an evasion. At night, as I have said, Groder shared the
loft with me, and slept over the trap-door; nor was there any window or
other opening through which I might drop to the ground, since the roof
reached down to the flooring upon every side. This roof consisted of a
thatch of boughs, and of large sheets of bark superimposed upon them, and
weighted down by heavy stones. One night, indeed, when Groder lay
snoring, I endeavoured to force an opening through the thatch; but I had
no help beyond what my hands afforded me--for they took my axe from me
every night as soon as we got back to the hut--and I was compelled,
moreover, to work with the greatest caution and quietude lest I should
awaken my companion; so that I got nothing for my pains but a few
scratches and an additional fatigue to carry through the morrow.

Nor, indeed, was my case any better in the day-time. We all worked in the
same clearing, and at no single moment was I out of sight of my jailers.

But even had I succeeded in eluding them, I doubt whether at this time I
should have been any nearer the fulfilment of my desire. For I knew not
so much as the direction of Lukstein, and I should only have wandered
helpless amongst these heights until either I was recaptured or perished
miserably upon the desolate wastes of snow.

The hut stood in the centre of a little hollow, on the brink of a
torrent, and was girt about by a rim of hills. There was, indeed, but one
outlet, and that a precipitous gully, through which the water gushed with
a great roaring noise, and I gathered from this that it fell pretty
sheer. I was the more inclined to this conjecture, since had the gully
afforded a path it would have been the natural entrance into the hollow,
and I knew that I had not been brought that way, else I must needs have
remarked the roar of the stream sooner than I did. For that sound only
came to my ears when I was but a short distance from the hut.

If you stood with your back to the door of the hut, the noise came from
directly behind you. On your right rose the pine-forest wherein we
laboured, very steep and dense, to the crest of a hill; on your left a
barren wilderness, encumbered by stones, sloped up to the foot of a great
field of snow, which grew steeper and steeper towards its summit. Here
and there great masses of ice bulged out from the incline, like nothing
so much as the bosses of shields. I was rather apt to underrate the size
and danger of these, until one day a fragment, which seemed in comparison
no greater than a pea, broke away from one of these bosses and dropped on
to the slope beneath, starting, as it were, a little rillet of snow down
the hillside. On the instant the hollow was filled with a great thunder,
as though a battery of cannon had been discharged; and I should hardly
have believed this fragment could have produced so great a disturbance,
had not the Tyrolese looked across the valley, and by their words to one
another assured me it was so.

In front of you, the head of this hollow was blocked up by a tongue of
ice, which wound downwards like some huge dragon, and the stream of which
I have spoken flowed from the tip of it, as though the dragon spewed the
water from its mouth. It was then apparent to me from these observations
that I had been carried into this prison by some track through the
pine-forest, and I set myself to the discovery of it. But whether the
wood-cutters kept aloof from it, or whether it was in reality
indistinguishable, I could perceive no trace of it. At one point on the
crest of the hill there was a marked depression, and I judged that there
lay the true entrance; but through the gap I could see nothing but a sea
of white, with dark peaks of rock tossed this way and that, and dreaded
much adventuring myself that way.

It soon came upon me, however, that in whichever way I determined to make
my attempt, I must needs delay the actual enterprise until the spring;
for we were now in the month of November, and the snow falling very
thickly, so that for some while we worked knee-deep in snow. Then one
morning Groder and his comrades once more bound my hands and bandaged my
eyes, and we set off to pass the winter in one of the lower valleys. On
this occasion I took such notice as I could of our direction, and from
the diminishing sound of the waterfall, I understood that we marched for
some distance towards the head of the valley, and then turned to the
right through the pine-forest. Evidently we were making for the gap in
the ridge of the hill, and I determined to pay particular heed to the
course which we followed down the other side. Again, however, I was led
in a continual zigzag, first to the right, then to the left, and with
such irregular distances between each turn that it became impossible to
keep a clear notion of our direction. At times, too, we would retrace our
steps, at others we seemed to be describing the greater part of a circle;
so that in the end, when we finally reached our quarters, I was little
wiser than at the moment of setting out.

There were some five or six cottages in the ravine whither we were come,
and one of them most undeniably an inn; for though I was not suffered to
go there myself --nor, indeed, had I any inclination that way--my
guardians frequently brought back upon their tongues and in their faces
evidence as convincing as a sign swinging above the door. In truth if the
house was not an inn, it possessed the most hospitable master in the
world. None the less strictly, however, on this account was the watch
maintained upon me; for if Groder and his fellows chanced to be
incapacitated for the time, there were ever some peasants from the
neighbouring cottages ready to fill their place; though, indeed, there
was but little necessity for their zeal, for the snow lay many feet deep
upon the ground, and the only path along which one could travel at all
led down to the more populous parts of the valley, through which, at this
time of the year, it would be impossible to escape. One could journey no
faster than at a snail's pace, and would leave, besides, an unmistakable
trail for the pursuers.

The winter months proved the most irksome of my captivity, my sole
occupation being the plaiting of ropes from the flax which was grown
about these parts. At this tedious and mechanic labour I toiled for many
hours a day, in an exceeding great vacancy of spirit, until I hit upon a
plan by which I might exercise my mind without hindering the work of my
fingers. 'Twas my terror lest my wits should wither for lack of use that
first set me on the device; since, indeed, it mattered little how or when
Countess Ilga discovered that I had slain her husband. She had discovered
it; that was the kernel of the matter, and the searching out of the means
whereby she gained the knowledge no more than an idle cracking of the
shell into little fragments, after the kernel has been removed.

Many incidents, of course, became intelligible to, me now that I knew
whose portrait the miniature box contained. The sudden swoon of Lady
Tracy in the hall at Pall Mall was now easily accounted for. The moment
before I had been speaking of the miniature, and Lady Tracy knew--what I
could not know--that Ilga held a proof of her acquaintanceship with the
Count, and would be certain to, attribute it as the cause of his death.
It was doubtless, also, that piece of knowledge which drove her to such a
pitch of fear that, on seeing the Countess at Bristol, she disclosed the
story to her brother and besought his protection. I understood, moreover,
the drift of the words which Marston was uttering when death took him. He
meant to ask a question, not to make an explanation.

Concerning those events, however, which more nearly concerned myself I
was not so clear. I had no clue whereby I could ascertain how the
Countess first came to fix her suspicions upon, me, and in the absence of
that, my speculations were the merest conjectures. Much of course was
significant to me which I had disregarded, as, for instance, the journey
of Countess Lukstein to Bristol, the diagram which she had drawn on the
gravel under the piazza of Covent Garden, the perplexity with which she
had regarded the diagram, and the sudden start she had given when I
mentioned the date of my departure from Leyden. For I remembered that she
had previously remarked the Horace when she came to visit me; and in that
volume the date "September 14, 1685," was inscribed on the page opposite
to Julian's outline of Lukstein.

These details, now that I was aware she suspected me at that time, were
full of significance, but they gave me no help towards the solving of
that first question as to what directed her thoughts my way. It seemed to
me, indeed, as I looked back upon the incidents of our acquaintance, that
the Countess, almost from our first meeting, had begun to set her
husband's death to my account.

One thing, however, I did clearly recognise, and for that recognition I
shall ever be most gratefully thankful. 'Twas of far more importance to
me than any academic speculations, and I do but cite them here that I may
show how I came by it. I perceived that 'twas not so much any
investigation on the part of the Countess which had betrayed me to her,
as my own wilful and independent actions. Of my own free choice I came
from Cumberland to seek her; of my own free choice I brought her to my
rooms, where she saw the Horace; of my own free choice I joined her in
the box at the Duke's Theatre, and so led Marston to speak of my ride to
Bristol; and again of my own free choice I had persuaded Lady Tracy to
enter the house in Pall Mall and confront my mistress. Even in the matter
of the diagram, 'twas my anxiety and insistence to prove that Lady Tracy
and I were strangers which induced me to dwell upon the date of my
leaving Holland, and so gave to the Countess the clue to resolve her
perplexity. In short, my very efforts at concealment were the means by
which suspicion was ratified and assured, and I could not but believe
that Providence in its great wisdom had so willed it. 'Tis that belief
and conviction for which I have ever been most grateful; for it
enheartened me with patience to endure my present sufferings, and saved
me, in particular, from cherishing a petty rancour and resentment against
the lady who inflicted them.

I had yet one other consolation during this winter. For at times Otto
Krax would come up from the valley to inquire after the prisoner. At
first he would but stay for the night and so get him back; but his visits
gradually lengthened and grew more frequent, an odd friendship springing
up between us. For one thing, I was attracted to him because he came from
Lukstein, and, indeed, might have had speech with Countess Ilga upon the
very day of his coming. But, besides that, there was a certain dignity
about the man which set him apart from these rude peasants, and made his
companionship very welcome. He showed his good-will towards me by
recounting at great length all that had happened at Lukstein, and on the
eve of the Epiphany, which 'tis the fashion of this people to celebrate
with much rejoicing, he brought me a pipe and a packet of tobacco. No
present could have been more grateful, and it touched me to notice his
pleasure when I manifested my delight. We went out of the cottage
together, and sat smoking in the starlight upon a boulder, and I remember
that he told me one might see upon this evening a woman in white
clothing, with a train of little ragged children chattering and
clattering behind her. 'Twas Procula, the wife of Pontius Pilate, he
explained. 'Twas her penance to wander over the world until the last day
attended by the souls of all children that died before they had been
baptized, and at the season of the Epiphany she ever passed through the
valleys of the Tyrol. However, we saw naught of her that night.

Early in May Groder carried me back to the hollow, and I began seriously
to consider in what way I should be most like to effect my escape. At any
cost I was firmly resolved to venture the attempt, and during this summer
too, dreading the thought of a second winter of such unendurable monotony
as that through which I had passed.

We were now set to drag from the hillside to the brink of the torrent the
wood which we had felled in the autumn, so that as the stream swelled
with the melting of the snows we might send the timber floating down to
the valley. 'Twas a task of great labour, and since we had to saw many of
the trunks into logs before we could move them, one that occupied no
inconsiderable time. Indeed we had not the wood fairly stacked upon the
bank until we were well into the first days of June. Meanwhile I had
turned over many projects in my mind, but not one that seemed to offer me
a possibility of success. I realised especially that if I sought to
escape by the way we had come, I should, even though I were so lucky as
to hit upon the right path, nevertheless, have to pass through the most
inhabited portion of the district. And did I succeed so far, I should
then find myself in the valley, close by Castle Lukstein, with not so
much as a penny piece in my pocket to help me farther on my way. Besides,
by that route would Groder be certain to pursue me the moment he
discovered my escape, and being familiar with the windings of the
ravines, he would most surely overtake me. Yet in no other direction
could I discover the hint of an outlet. I was in truth like a fly with
wetted wings in the hollow of a cup.

It was our custom to launch the trunks endwise into the torrent, but one
of them, which was larger than the rest, being caught in a swirl, turned
broadside to the stream, and floating down thus, stuck in the narrow
defile, through which the water plunged out of the hollow. The barrier
thus begun was strengthened by each succeeding log, so that in a very
short time a solid dam was raised, the water running away underneath. To
remedy this, Groder bade the peasants and myself take our axes to the
spot and cut the wood free.

Now this defile was no more than a deep channel bored by the torrent, and
on one side of it the cliff rose precipitously to the height of a hundred
feet. On the other, however, a steep slope of grass and bushes, with here
and there a dwarf-pine clinging to it, ran down to a rough platform of
rock, only twenty feet or so above the surface of the current. To one of
these trees we bound a couple of stout ropes, and two men were lowered on
to the block of timber, while the third remained upon the platform to see
that the ropes did not slip, and to haul the others up. So we worked all
the day, taking turn and turn about on the platform.

To this lower end of the dale I had never come before, and when the time
arrived for me to rest, I naturally commenced to look about me and
consider whether or no I might escape that way. Beneath me the torrent
leaped and foamed in a mist of spray, here sweeping along the cliff with
a breaking crest like a wave, there circling in a whirlpool about a
boulder, and all with such a prodigious roar that I could not hear my
companions speak, though they shouted trumpet-wise through their hands,
'Twas indeed no less than I had expected; the stream filled the outlet
from side to side.

Then I looked across to the great snow-slope opposite,  and in an
instant I understood the position of Captivity Hollow, as, for want of a
better name, I termed the place of my confinement. The slope finished
abruptly just over against me, as though it had been shorn with a knife,
and I could see that the end face of it was a gigantic wall of rock. I
saw this wall in profile, as one may say, and for that very reason I
recognised it the more surely. 'Twas singularly flat, and unbroken by
buttresses; not a patch of snow was to be discovered anywhere upon its
face, and, moreover, the shape of its apex, which was like the cupola
upon a church belfry, made any mistake impossible. In a word, the
mountain was the Wildthurm; the wall of cliff blocked the head of the
Senner Thal, and the slope on which I gazed was the eastern side, which I
had likened to one of the canvas sides of a tent.

If I could but cross it, I thought! No one would look for me in that
direction. I could strike into one of the many ravines that led into the
Vintschgau Thal to the west of Lukstein, and thence make my way to
Innspruck. If only I could cross it! But I gazed at the slope, and my
heart died within me. It rose before my eyes vast and steep, flashing
menace from a thousand glittering points. Besides, the early summer was
upon us, and the sun hot in the sky, so that never an hour passed in the
forenoon but blocks of ice would split off and thunder down the incline.

The notion, however, still worked in my head through out the day, and as
we returned to the hut I eagerly scanned the upper end of our ravine, for
at that point the slope of the Wildthurm declined very greatly in height.
Whilst the Tyrolese went in to prepare supper I stayed by the door.

"Come!" shouted one of them at length--it was not Groder. "Come, unless
you prefer to sleep fasting."

And I turned to go in, with my mind made up; for I had perceived, running
upwards beside the tongue of ice which I have described, a long narrow
ridge. 'Twas neither of ice nor snow, and in colour a reddish brown, so
that I imagined it to be a mound of earth, thrown up in some way by the
pressure of the snow. Along that it seemed to me that I might find a

Groder was crouched up close to the fire, shivering by fits and starts,
like a man with an ague. He glanced evilly at me as I entered the room,
but said no word either to me or to his comrades, and kept muttering to
himself concerning "the Cold Torment." I knew not what the man meant, but
'twas plain that he was shaken with a great fear; and even during the
night I heard him more than once start from his sleep with a cry, and
those same words upon his lips, "the Cold Torment."

The next morning, hearing that the barrier was well-nigh cut through, he
ordered only one of the peasants to take me with him and complete the
work. I was lowered on to the dam first, and laboured at it with saw and
axe for the greater part of the morning. About noon, however, I took my
turn upon the platform, and after I had been standing some little while,
bent over the torrent, with my hand ready upon the rope, since at any
moment the logs might give way, I suddenly raised myself to ease my back,
and turned about.

Just above me on the slope I saw Groder's face peering over the edge of a
boulder. 'Twas so contorted with malignancy and hatred that it had no
human quality except its shape. 'Twas the face of a devil. For one moment
I saw it; the next it dropped behind the stone. I pretended to have
noticed nothing, and so stood looking everywhere except in his direction.
The expression upon his face left me no doubt as to his intention. He was
minded to take a leaf from my book, and precipitate the boulder upon me
when my back was turned, in which case I should not come off so cheaply
as he had done, for I should inevitably be swept into the torrent. The
boulder, I observed, was in a line with the spot where I must stand in
order to handle the rope.

What to do I could not determine. I dared not show him openly that I had
detected his design, for I should most likely in that event provoke an
open conflict, and I doubted not that the other peasant was within call
to help him to an issue if help were needed; and even if I succeeded in
avoiding a conflict, I should only put him upon his guard and make him
use more precautions when next he attempted my life.

I turned me again to the torrent and took the rope in my hand, with my
ears open for any sound behind me. I stooped slowly forwards, as if to
watch my companion, thinking the Groder would launch the stone as soon as
he deemed it impossible for me to recover in time to elude it. And so it
proved. I heard a dull thud as the boulder fell forward upon the turf. I
sprang quickly to one side, and not a moment too soon, for the boulder
whizzed past me on a level with my shoulder, leaped across the stream,
and was shattered into a thousand fragments against the opposite cliff.
The man below, who had been almost startled from his footing, began to
curse me roundly for my carelessness, and I answered him without casting
a glance to my rear, deeming it prudent to give Groder the opportunity to
crawl away into cover.

In that, however, I made a mistake, and one that went near to costing me
my life, for when I did turn, after explaining that the boulder had
slipped of its own weight and momentum, Groder was within ten feet of me.
He had crept noiselessly down the bank, and now stood with one foot
planted against it, the other upon the platform, his body all gathered
together for a leap. His teeth were bared, his eyes very bright, and in
his hand he held a long knife. I ran for my hatchet, which lay some yards
distant, but he was upon me before I could stoop to pick it up. The knife
flashed above my head; I caught at Groder's wrist as it descended and
grappled him close, for I knew enough of their ways of fighting to feel
assured that if I did but give his arms free play, my eyes would soon be
lying on my cheeks.

Backwards and forwards we swayed upon the narrow platform with never a
word spoken. Then from the torrent came a great crack and a shout. I knew
well enough what was happening. The barrier was giving, the water was
bursting the timber, and the peasant would of a surety be crushed and
ground to death between the loosened logs. But I dared not relax my grip.
Groder's breath was hot upon my face, his knife ever quivering towards my
throat. I heard a few quick sounds as of the snapping of twigs, and once,
I think, again the cry of a man in distress but the roaring of the waters
was in my ears and I could not be sure.

The labours of my captivity had hardened my limbs and sinews, else had
Groder mastered me more easily; but as it was, I felt my strength ebbing,
and twice the knife pricked into my shoulder as he pressed it down. The
din of the torrent died away. I was sensible of a deathly stillness of
the elements. It seemed as though Nature held its breath. Suddenly a look
of terror sprang into Groder's face. He redoubled his efforts, and I felt
my back give. Involuntarily I closed my eyes, and then his fingers
loosened their hold. He plucked himself free with a jerk, and stood
sullenly looking up the slope. I followed the direction of his gaze, and
saw Otto Krax standing above me. Gradually the torrent became audible to
me again; there was a rustling of leaves in the wind, and in a little I
understood that some one was speaking. Groder advanced slowly across the
grass and reached out the hand which held the knife. Very calmly Otto
grasped it by the wrist, twisted the arm, and snapped it across his knee.
What he said I could not hear, but Groder went up the slope holding his
broken arm, and I saw his face no more.

Otto came down to me. "You have never been nearer your death but once,"
he said.

I made no reply, but pointed to the rope at my feet. 'Twas dragging to
and fro upon the platform, and the thought of what dangled and tossed in
the water at the tag of it turned me sick. Otto walked to the edge and
looked over. Then he drew his knife and cut the rope.

"I saw only the end of the struggle," said he. "How did it begin?"

I told him briefly what had occurred.

"'Twas you taught him the trick," he said, with a laugh; "and he bore you
no good-will for the lesson."

"But what brought you so pat?" I asked.

"I was sent," he replied. "'Twas thought best I should follow."

"Follow? Follow whom?" said I.

He made no answer to my question, and continued hurriedly.

"I asked the fellow at the hut where you were, and he directed me here--
not a minute too soon either. Were you working at the timber yesterday?"

"All day."

"Did Groder help?"

"No! He remained behind."

Otto gave a grunt.

"Alone?" he asked.

"Quite," I replied. "The others were with me." We walked back to the hut
together, and as on the evening before, I stopped in the doorway to
examine the ridge on which my hopes were set. But I watched it to-day
with a beating heart, and, let me own it, with a shrinking apprehension
too, for within the last hour the possibility of my attempt had grown
immeasurably real. Groder, I was certain, I should see no more. 'Twas
equally certain that Otto would not remain to fill his place, and one of
the peasants had been battered to death in the breaking of the dam. 'Twas
doubtless an unworthy feeling, but, much as the nature of the man's end
had horrified me at the time, I could not now find it in my heart to
greatly regret it. I was too conscious of the fact that only a couple of
jailers were left to guard me.

Otto coming from the kitchen to join me, I deemed it prudent not to be
particular in my gaze, and so taking my eyes off the ridge, which was
become to me what Mahomet's bridge is to the Turk, I let them roam idly
this way and that as we strolled forward over the turf. Hence it chanced
that about twenty yards from the door I saw something bright winking in
the verdure. I went towards it and picked it up. 'Twas a little gold
cross, and, moreover, clean and unrusted. A sudden thought breaking in
upon me, I turned to Otto and said,--"Otto, have you ever heard of the
Cold Torment?"

Otto fell to crossing himself devoutly. "The Cold Torment?" he asked, in
awed tones. "What know you of it?" He turned towards the gap in the
hillside upon our right. "Look!" said he. "You see the peak that stands
apart like a silver wedge. On its summit is buried an inexhaustible
treasure, and night and day through the ages seven guilty souls keep ward
about it in the cold. Never may one be freed until another is condemned
in its stead. The Virgin save us from the Cold Torment!"

"Ah!" said I, remarking the fervour of his prayer. "'Tis the text for a
persuasive homily, and Father Spaur I fancy, preached from it yesterday."

Otto started, and glanced about him with some fear, as though he half
expected to see the priest start out of the earth.

"You know not what you say?" he exclaimed.

"Who sent you to follow him?"

"Nay," he protested; "I came not to spy upon Father Spaur. We know not
that he has been here. 'Twere wise not to know it."

I handed him the gold cross, and asked again,--"Who sent you after him?"

"I was not sent after him. I was bidden to come  hither by my mistress."

"Ah, she, sent you!" I cried. "Give the cross back to Father Spaur, and
with it my most grateful thanks.  He has done me better service than ever
did my dearest  friend."

I reasoned it out in this way. Father Spaur was bent on appropriating
Lukstein and its broad lands to the Church. To that end, the Countess
must, at all costs, be hindered from a second marriage. What motive could
he have in prompting Groder to make an end of me, unless--unless Ilga
now and again let her thoughts stray my way? And to confirm my
conjecture, to rid it of presumption, I had this certain knowledge that
she had sent Otto to see that I came to no harm at his hands. I should
add that my speculations during the winter months had in some measure
prepared me to entertain this notion. From constantly analysing and
pondering all that she had said to me in the pavilion, and bringing my
recollections of her change in manner to illumine her words, I had come,
though hesitatingly, to a conclusion very different from that which I had
originally formed. I could not but perceive that it made a great
difference whether or no I had been alone upon my first coming to the
Castle. Besides, I realised that there was a pregnant meaning which might
be placed to the sentence which had so perplexed me: "Would that I had
the strength to resist, or the weakness to yield!" And going yet further
back, I had good grounds from what she had let slip to believe that there
was something more than a regard for herself in the entreaty which she
had addressed to me in London, that I should not tax Marston with
treachery in the matter of the miniature.

Otto gave me back the cross.

"It is a mistake," said he. "Father Spaur has gone from Lukstein on a

"Then," said I, “present it to your mistress. She has more claim to it
than I."

That night Otto slept in the loft in Groder's place.

"You are sure," he asked, "that no one remained behind with Groder
yesterday afternoon?"

"Quite," said I.

"None the less, I should sleep on the trap if I were you, and 'twere wise
to carry your hatchet to bed for company."

"But they take it from me each night," I replied eagerly. "You must tell

"I will. But there's no cause for fear."

'Twas not at all fear which prompted my eagerness; but I bethought me if
I had the loft to myself, and the axe ready to my hand, 'twould be a
strange thing if I could not find a way out by the morning. Thereupon we
fell to talking again of Groder's attempt upon my life, and he repeated
the words which he had used at the time.

"You were never nearer your death but once."

"And when was that once?" I asked drowsily.

He laughed softly to himself for a little, and then he replied; and with
his first sentence my drowsiness left me, just as a mist clears in a
moment off the hills.

"Do you remember one night in London that your garden door kept slamming
in the wind?"

"Well?" said I, starting up.

"You came downstairs in the dark, took the key from the mantelshelf, and
went out into the garden and locked it. That occasion was the once."

"You were in the room!" I exclaimed. "I remember. The door was open again
in the morning. I had a locksmith to it. There was nothing amiss with
the lock, and I wondered how it happened."

Otto laughed again quietly.

"Right. I was in the room, and I was not alone either."

"The Countess was with you. Why?"

"There was a book in your rooms which she wished to see--a poetry book,
eh?--with a date on one page, and a plan of Castle Lukstein on the page
opposite. My mistress was at your lodging with some company that

"True," said I, interrupting him. "She proposed the party herself."

"Well, it seems that she got no chance of examining the book then. But
she unlocked the garden door. You had told her where you kept the key."

I recollected that I had done so on the occasion of her first visit.

"And so Countess Lukstein and yourself were in the room when I passed
through that night."

Otto began to chuckle again.

"'Twas lucky you came down in the dark, and didn't stumble over us. Lord!
I thought that I should have burst with holding my breath."

"Otto," I said, "tell me the whole story; how your suspicions set towards
me, and what confirmed them."

"Very well," said he, after a pause, "I will; for my mistress consulted
me throughout. But you will get no sleep."

"I shall get less if you don't tell me."

"Wait a moment!"

He filled his tobacco-pipe and lighted it. I followed his example, and
between the puffs he related the history of those far-away days in
London. To me, lying back upon the boughs which formed my bed in the dark
loft, it seemed like the weaving of a fairy tale. The house in Pall Mall
--St. James's Park--the piazza of Covent Garden! How strange it all
sounded, and how unreal! The odour of pine-wood was in my nostrils, and I
had but to raise my arm to touch the sloping thatch above my head.


"Of what happened at Bristol," he began, "you know well as much as I do,
in a sense, maybe more; for I have never learnt to this day why my
master, the late Count, left me behind there to keep an eye upon the old
attorney and Sir Julian Harnwood's visitors. There's only one thing I
need tell you. The night you came from the Bridewell, after--well, after
--" He hesitated, seeming at a loss for a word. I understood what it was
that he stuck at, and realising that my turn had come to chuckle, I said,
with a laugh,--

"The blow was a good one, Otto."

"'Twas not so good as you thought," he replied rather hotly, "not by a
great deal; and for all that you ran away so fast," he repeated the
phrase with considerable emphasis, "for all that you ran away so fast, I
found out where you lodged. I passed the lawyer man as he was coming back
alone, and remembering that I had traced him to Lime Kiln Lane in the
afternoon, I returned there the next morning. The ‘Thatched House’ was
the only tavern in the street, and I inquired whether a woman had stayed
there overnight. They told me no; they had only put up one traveller, and
he had left already. I thought no more of this at the time, believing my
suspicions to be wrong, and so got me back to Lukstein. After the
wedding-night I told the Countess all that I knew."

"Wait!" I said, interrupting him.

There was a point I had long been anxious to resolve, and I thought I
should never get so likely an opportunity for the question again.

"Was Count Lukstein betrothed at the time that he came to the Hotwells?"

"Most assuredly," he replied, "and I wondered greatly at the strange
madness which should lead a man astray to chase a pretty face, when all
the while he loved another, and was plighted to her."

Otto resumed his story.

"I told all that I knew: my master's anxiety concerning Sir Julian, his
relief when I brought him the news hither that only a woman had visited
the captive on the night before the execution, and his apparent fear of
peril. My mistress broke open the gold case which you had left behind,
and asked whether the likeness was the likeness of Sir Julian's visitor.
I assured her it was not, but she was convinced that this Bristol pother
was at the bottom of the trouble. We could find no trace of you beyond
your footsteps in the snow, and the footsteps of the woman who was with
you. I have often wondered how she climbed the Lukstein rock."

He paused as though expecting an answer. But I had no inclination to
argue my innocence in that respect with one of Ilga's servants, and
presently he continued,--"Well, a quiet tongue is wisdom where women are
concerned. No one in the valley had seen you come; no one had seen you
go. But my lady was set upon discovering the truth and punishing the
assailant herself. So she said as little as she could to the neighbours,
and the following spring took me with her to London."

"Where I promptly jumped into the trap," said I.

"You did that and more. You set the trap yourself before you jumped into

'Twas my own thought that he uttered, and I asked him how he came by it.

"I mean this. 'Twas my lady's hope to discover the original of the
miniature, and so get at the man who was with her, But we had not to wait
for that. You left something else behind you besides the miniature."

"I did," I replied. "I left a pair of spurs and a pistol, but I see not
how they could serve you."

"The spurs were of little profit in our search. You have worn them since,
it is true, but one pair of spurs is like another. For the pistol,
however--that was another matter. It had the gunmaker's name upon the
barrel, and also the name of the town where it was made."

"Leyden?" I exclaimed.

"That was the name--Leyden."

At last I understood. I recalled that evening when Elmscott presented me
to Ilga, and how frankly I had spoken to her of my life.

"We journeyed to Leyden first of all," he resumed, "and sought out the
gunmaker. But he did not remember selling the pistol, or, perhaps, would
not--at all events, we got no help from him, and went on to London. In
the beginning I believe Countess Lukstein was inclined to suspect Mr.
Marston. You see he came from Bristol, and so completely did this search
possess her that everything which concerned that city seemed to her to
have some bearing upon her disaster. But she soon abandoned that idea,
and--and--well, I know not why, but Mr.Marston left London for a time.
Then you were brought to the house, and on your first visit you told her
that your home was in Cumberland, where Sir Julian Harnwood lived; that
you had been till recently a student at Leyden, and that there were few
other English students there besides yourself. At first I think she did
not seriously accuse you of Count Lukstein's death. It seemed little
likely; you had not the look of it. I did not recognise you at all, and,
further, my mistress herself inquired much of you concerning your
actions, and you let slip no hint that would convict you."

I remembered what interest the Countess had seemed to take in my
uneventful history, and how her questions had delighted me, flattering my
vanity and lifting me to the topmasts of hope; and the irony of my
recollections made me laugh aloud.

"Howbeit," he went on, paying no heed to my interruption--there was no
great merriment in my laughter, and it may be that he understood--
"Howbeit, her suspicions were alert, and then Mr.Marston came back to
London. She learnt from him that you had passed through London in a great
hurry one night, and from Lord Culverton that the night was in September
and that your destination was Bristol. I wanted to ride there and see
what I could discover, but my mistress would not allow me. I don't know,
but at that time I almost fancied she regretted her resolve, and would
fain have let the matter lie."

'Twas at that time also, I remembered, that the Countess treated me so
waywardly, and I coupled Otto's remark and my remembrance together, and I
set them aside as food for future pondering.

"Then she showed you the miniature. You faced it out and denied all
knowledge of it. So far so good. But that same morning you brought Lady
Tracy into the house, and that was the ruin of you. Oh, I know," he went
on as I sought to interrupt him, "I know! You faced that matter out too.
You brought Lady Tracy to bear witness that you and she were never
acquainted. 'Twas a cunning device and it deceived my mistress; but you
did not take me into account. I opened the door to you, and I recognised
Lady Tracy as the original of the miniature. Well, I looked at her
carefully, wondering whether I could have made a mistake, whether it was
she whom I had seen at the Bristol prison after all. I felt certain it
was not, but all the same I kept thinking about it as I went upstairs to
announce you. Lady Tracy was dark; the other woman, I remember, fair and
over-tall for a woman. So I went on comparing them, setting the two faces
side by side in my mind. Well, when I came back again there were you and
Lady Tracy standing side by side--the two faces that were side by side
in my thoughts. The sunlight was full upon you both. Lord! I was
cluttered out of my senses. I knew you at once. Height, face, everything
fitted. I told my mistress immediately after you had gone. She would not
believe it at first; but soon after she informed me that Lady Tracy had
been betrothed to Sir Julian Harnwood. That night we visited your rooms,
as I have told you."

"Ay," said I, "Marston told her of his sister's betrothal in Covent
Garden." 'Twas indeed at the very time that the Countess was tracing that
diagram in the gravel.

"The visit to your rooms convinced Countess Lukstein."

"No doubt," said I, and I explained to him how she had traced the
diagram, and my mention of the date which had given her the clue to my

"But that's not all," he laughed. "'Tis true that my mistress knew that
she had seen that same plan some where. 'Tis true your mention of the
date told her where. But the plan which my lady drew on the gravel was
different from yours in one respect. It lacked the line which showed your
way of ascent, the line which stood for the rib of rock."


"Well, you added that line yourself while you were talking."

"I did!" I exclaimed. I could not credit it; but then I recollected how
Ilga had suddenly stooped forward and obliterated the diagram with a
sweep of her stick. "Ay, Otto!" I said. "You spoke truth indeed. I set
the traps myself."

"The next morning we started for Bristol. We drove to the ‘Thatched House
Tavern,’ and with the help of a few coins wormed the truth from the
chambermaid. She had told me before that a man had stayed at the inn on
that particular night and I had no doubt who was the man. We knew the
story; we merely needed her to confirm it."

With that he laid his pipe aside, and was for settling to sleep. But I
had one more question to ask him.

"When Lord Elmscott came to find me at Countess Lukstein's apartments, he
was informed I was not there, and the door of the room in which I lay was

"We intended to convey you out of the country ourselves," he laughed,
"and that very night. 'Twould indeed have saved much trouble had Lord
Elmscott been delayed an hour or so upon the road. A boat was in waiting
for us on the river."

'Twas long before I could follow Otto's example and compose myself to
sleep. Using his narrative as a commentary, I read over and over again my
memories of those weeks in London, and each time I felt yet more
convinced that this deed had been brought home to me through no cunning
of the Countess, through no great folly of mine, but simply because
Providence had willed it. As Otto said, I had set the traps myself, and
bethinking me of this, I recalled a phrase which I had spoken to Count
Lukstein. "I can fight you," I had said, "but I can't fight your wife."
In what a strange way had the remark come true!

The next morning Otto departed from the hollow, and fearing lest he might
presently despatch two others of Countess Lukstein's servants to fill up
the complement of my guards, I determined to make my effort at
enlargement that very night. I took my axe boldly from the corner of the
room when the time came for me to mount to the loft. The peasants scowled
but said nothing, and 'twas with a very great relief that I understood
Otto had been as good as his word. It had been my habit of late to
secrete about me at each meal some fragment of my portion of bread, so
that I had now a good number of such morsels hidden away among the leaves
of my bed. These I gathered together, and fastened inside my shirt, and
then sat me down, with such patience as I might, to wait until the
peasants beneath me were sound asleep. The delay would have been more
endurable had there been some window or opening in the loft. But to sit
there in the darkness, never knowing but what the sky was clouding over
and a storm gathering upon the heights, 'twas the quintessence of
suspense, and it wrought in me like a fever. I allowed two hours, as near
as I could guess, to elapse, and then, working quietly with my axe, I cut
a hole through the thatch at the corner most distant from the room of my
jailers, and dropped some twelve feet on to the ground. There was no moon
to light me but the sparkle of innumerable stars, and the night was black
in the valley and purple about the cheerless hills. Cautiously I made my
way over the grass towards the ridge, taking the air into my lungs with
an exquisite enjoyment like one that has long been cooped in a sick-room.

Whimsically enough, I thought not at all of the dangers which were like
to beset me, but rather of Ilga in her Castle of Lukstein; and walking
forwards in the lonely quiet, I wondered whether at that moment she was

The ridge, as I had hoped, was entirely compacted of earth and stones.
'Twas thrown up to a considerable height above the ice, and resembled a
great earthwork raised for defence, such as I have seen since about the
walls of Londonderry. I was able to walk along the crest for some way
with no more peril than was occasioned by the darkness and the narrow
limits of my path, and taking to some rocks which jutted out from the
snow, about two hours after daybreak, I reached the top of the hill at
noon. To my great delight I perceived that I stood, as it were, upon a
neck of the mountain. To my left the Wildthurm rose in a sweeping line of
ice, ever higher and higher towards the peak; to my right it terminated
in a ridge of rocks which again rose upwards, and circled about the head
of the ravine. I had nothing to do but to descend; so I lay down to rest
myself for a while, and take my last look at Captivity Hollow and the hut
wherein I had been imprisoned. The descent, however, was not so easy a
matter as I believed it would be. For some distance, it is true, I could
walk without much difficulty, kicking a sort of staircase in the snow
with my feet; but after a while the incline became steeper, and,
moreover, was inlaid with strips of ice, wherein I had to cut holes with
my hatchet before I could secure a footing. Indeed, I doubt whether I
should have come safe off from this adventure but for the many crags and
rocks which studded the slope. By keeping close to these, however, I was
able to get solid hold for my hands, the while I stepped upon the
treacherous ice. Towards the foot of the mountain, moreover, the ice was
split with great gashes and chasms, so deep that I could see no bottom to
them, but only an azure haze; and I was often compelled to make long
circuits before I could discover a passage. Once or twice, besides, when
the ground seemed perfectly firm I slipped a leg through the crust and
felt it touch nothing; and taking warning from these accidents, I
proceeded henceforth more cautiously, tapping the snow in front of me
with the hatchet at each step.

These hindrances did so delay me that I was still upon the mountain when
night fell, and not daring to continue this perilous journey in the dark,
I crept under the shelter of a rock, and so lay shivering until the
morning. However, I bethought me of my loft and its thatch-roof, and
contrasting it with the open sky, passed the night pleasantly enough. I
had still enough of my bread left over to serve me for breakfast in the
morning, and since there was no water to be got, I made shift to moisten
my throat by sucking lumps of ice. Late that afternoon I came down into a
desolate valley, and felt the green turf once more spring beneath my
feet. 'Twas closing in very dark and black. In front of me I could see
the rain stretched across the hills like a diaphanous veil, shot here and
there by a stray thread of sunlight; while behind, the heights of the
Wildthurm were hidden by a white crawling mist. Looking at this mist, I
could not but be sensible of the dangers from which I had escaped, and
with a heart full of gratitude I knelt down and thanked God for that He
had reached out His hand above me to save my life.

For many days I journeyed among these upland valleys, passing from hut to
hut and from ravine to ravine, moving ever westwards from Lukstein, and
descended finally into the high-road close to the village of Nauders.
Thence I proceeded along the Inn Thal to Innspruck, earning my food each
day by cutting wood into logs at the various taverns, or by some such
service; and as for lodging, 'twas no great hardship to sleep in the
fields at this season of the year. At Innspruck, however, whither I came
in the first days of July, I was sore put to it to find employment, which
should keep me from starving until such time as I could receive letters
of credit from England. My first thought was to obtain the position of
usher or master in one of the many schools and colleges of the town. But
wherever I applied they only laughed in my face, and unceremoniously
closed the door upon my entreaties. Nor, indeed, could I wonder at their
behaviour, for what with my torn peasant's clothes, my bare, scarred
knees, and my face, which was burnt to the colour of a ripe apple, I
looked the most unlikely tutor that ever ruined a boy's education. At one
school--'twas the last at which I sought employment--the master
informed me that he "did his own whipping," and wandering thence in great
despondency of spirit, I came into the Neustadt, which is the principal
street of the town. There I chanced to espy the sign of a fencing-master,
and realising what little profit I was like to make of such rusty
book-learning as I still retained, I crossed the road and proffered him
the assistance of my services. At the onset he was inclined to treat my
offer with no less hilarity than the schoolmasters had shown; but being
now at my wits' end, I persisted, and perhaps vaunted my skill more than
befitted a gentleman. 'Twas I think chiefly to disprove my words, and so
rid himself of me, that he bade me take a foil and stand on guard. In the
first bout, however, I was lucky enough to secure the advantage, as also
in the second. In a fluster of anger he insisted that I should engage
upon a third, and thereupon I deemed it prudent to allow him to get the
better of me, though not by so much as would give him the right to accuse
me of a lack of skill. The ruse was entirely successful; for he was so
delighted with his success that he hired me straightway as his
lieutenant, and was pleased to compliment me upon my mastery of the
weapon; not but what he declared I had many faults in the matter of
style, which I might correct under his tuition.

In this occupation I remained for some three months. I wrote a letter
immediately to Jack Larke, but received no answer whatsoever. Each week,
however, I put by a certain sum out of my wages until I had accumulated
sufficient to carry me, if I practised economy, to England. In the
beginning of September, then, I gave up my position; a pupil, on hearing
of my purposed journey, most generously presented me with a horse, which
I accepted as a loan, and one fine morning I mounted on to the animal's
back and rode out towards the gates of the town.


Now the road which I chose led past the Hofgarten, a great open space of
lawns and shrubberies which had been enclosed and presented to the town
by Leopold, the late Archduke of Styria. Opposite to the gates of this
garden stood the "Black Stag," at that time the principal inn, and I
noticed ahead of me four or five mounted men waiting at the door. Drawing
nearer I perceived that these men wore the livery of Countess Lukstein.

My first impulse was to turn my horse's head and ride off with all speed
in the contrary direction, but bethinking me that they would never dare
to make an attempt upon my liberty in the streets of an orderly city, I
resolved to continue on my way, and pay no heed to them as I passed. And
this I began to do, walking my horse slowly, so that they night not think
I had any fear of them.

Otto was stationed at the head of the troop, a few paces in advance of
the rest, and I was well-nigh abreast of him before any of the servants
perceived who passed them. Even then 'twas myself who invited their
attention. For turning my head I saw the Countess just within the gates
of the garden. She was habited in a riding-dress, and was taking leave of
a gentleman who was with her.

On the instant I stopped my horse.

"Here, Otto!" I cried, and flinging the reins to him, I jumped to the

I heard him give a startled exclamation, but I stayed not to cast a
glance at him, and walked instantly forwards to where Ilga stood. I was
within two paces of her before she turned and saw me. She reached out a
hand to the gate, and so steadying herself looked at me for a little
without a word. I bowed low, and took another step towards her, whereupon
she turned again to her companion and began to speak very volubly, the
colour going and coming quickly upon her face. For my part I made no
effort to interrupt her. I had schooled myself to think of her as one
whom I should never see again, and here we were face to face. I remained
contentedly waiting with my hat in my hand.

"You have been long in Innspruck?" she asked of me at length, and added,
with some hesitation, "Mr.Buckler?"

"Three months, madame," I replied.

"But you are leaving?"

She looked across to my horse, which Otto was holding.

A small valise, containing the few necessaries I possessed,  was slung to
the saddle-bow.

"I return to England," said I.

She presented me to the gentleman who talked with her, but I did not
catch his name any more than the conversation they resumed. 'Twas enough
for me to hear the sweet sound of her voice; as, when a singer sings, one
is charmed by the music of his tones, and recks little of the words of
his song. At last, however, her companion made his bow. Ilga stretched
out her hand to him and said,--"You will come, then, to Lukstein?" and
detaining him, as it seemed to me, she added, "I would ask Mr.Buckler to
came, too, only I fear that he has no great opinion of our hospitality."

"Madame," I replied simply, "if you ask me, I will come."

She stood for the space of some twenty seconds with her eyes bent upon
the ground. Then, raising her face with a look which was wonderfully
timid and shy, she said,--"You are a brave man, Mr.Buckler;" and after
another pause, "I do ask you."

With that she crossed the road and mounted upon her horse. I did the
same, and the little cavalcade rode out from Innspruck along the highway
to Landeck. The Countess pressed on ahead, and thinking that she had no
wish to speak with me, I rode some paces behind her. Behind me came Otto
and the servants. Otto, I should say, had resumed his old impenetrable
air. He was once more the servant, and seemed to have completely forgotten our companionship in Captivity Hollow. Thus we travelled until we
came near to the village of Silz.

Now all this morning one regretful thought had been buzzing in my head.
'Twas an old thought, one that I had lived with many a month. Yet never
had it become familiar to me; the pain which it brought was always fresh
and sharp. But now, since I saw Countess Lukstein again, since she rode
in front of me, since each moment my eyes beheld her, this regret grew
and grew until it was lost in a great longing to speak out my mind, and,
if so I might ease myself of my burden. Consequently I spurred my horse
lightly, and as we entered Silz I drew level with the Countess.

"Madame," I said, “I see plainly enough that you have no heart for my
company, neither do I intend any idle intrusion. I would but say two
words to you. They have been on my lips ever since I caught sight of you
on the Hofgarten; they have been in my heart for the weariest span of
days. When I told you that I entered Castle Lukstein alone, God is my
witness that I spoke the truth. No woman was with me. I championed no
woman; by no ties was I bound to any woman in this world. This I would
have you believe; for it is the truth. I could not lie to you if I would;
it is the truth."

She made me no answer, but bowed her head down on her horse's mane, so
that I could see nothing of her face, and thinking sadly that she would
not credit me, I tightened my reins that I might fall back behind her. It
may be that she noticed the movement of my hands. I know not, nor,
indeed, shall I be at any pains to speculate upon her motive. 'Twas her
action which occupied my thought then and for hours afterwards. She
suddenly lifted her face towards me, all rosy with blushes and wearing
that sweet look which I had once and once only remarked before. I mean
when she pledged me in her apartments in Pall Mall.

"Then," says she, "we will travel no farther afield to-day," and she drew
rein before the first inn we came to. I was greatly perplexed by this
precipitate action, also by the word she used, inasmuch as we were not
travelling afield at all, but on the contrary directly towards her home.
Besides, 'twas still early in the afternoon. Howbeit, there we stayed,
and the Countess retiring privately to her room, I saw no more of her
until the night was come. 'Twas about eleven of the clock when I heard a
light tap upon my door, and opening it, I perceived that she was my
visitor. She laid a finger upon her lip and slipped quietly into the
room. In her hand she held her hat and whip, and these she laid upon the

"You have not inquired," she began, "why I asked you to return with me to
Lukstein, what end I had in view."

"In truth, madame," I replied, "I gave no thought to it; only--only--"

"Only I asked you, and you came," she said in a voice that broke and
faltered. "Even after all you had suffered at my hands, even in spite of
what you still might suffer, I asked you, and you came."

She spoke in a low wondering tone, and with a queer feeling of shame I
hastened to reply.

"Madame, if you were in my place, you would understand that there is
little strange in that."

"Let me finish!" she said. "Lord Elmscott and your friend, Mr.Larke, are
awaiting you at Lukstein. When your friend returned to England without
you, he could hear no word of you. He had no acquaintance with Lord
Elmscott, and did not know him at all. He met Lord Elmscott in London
this spring for the first time. It appears that your cousin suspected
something of the trouble that stood between you and me, but until he met
Mr.Larke he believed you were travelling in Italy. Mr.Larke gave him the
account of your first journey into the Tyrol. They found out Sir Julian's
attorney at Bristol, and learned the cause of it from him. They came to
Lukstein two months ago, and told me what you would not. I went up to the
hills myself to bring you home; you had escaped, and your--the men had
concealed your flight in fear of my anger. Lord Elmscott went to Meran, I
came to Innspruck, and we arranged to return after we had searched a
month. The month is gone. They will be at Lukstein now."

So much she said, though with many a pause and with so keen a
self-reproach in her tone that I could hardly bear to hear her, when I
interrupted,--"And you have been a month searching for me in Innspruck?"

She took no heed of my interruption.

"So, you see," she continued, "I know the whole truth. I know, too, that
you hid the truth out of kindness to me, and--and--"

She was wearing the gold cross which I had sent to her by Otto's hand. It
hung on a long chain about her neck, and I took it gently into my palm.

"And is there nothing more you know?" I asked.

"I know that you love me," she whispered, "that you love me still. Oh how
is it possible?" And then she raised her eyes to mine and laid two
trembling hands upon my shoulders. "But it is true. You told me so this

"I told you?" I asked in some surprise.

"Ay, and more surely than if you had spoken it out. That is why I stopped
our horses in the village. It is why I am with you now."

She glanced towards her hat and whip, and I understood. I realised what
it would cost her to carry me back as her guest to Lukstein after all
that had passed there.

I opened the door and stepped out on to the landing. A panel of moonlight
was marked out upon the floor. 'Twas the only light in the passage, and
the house was still as an empty cave. When I came back into the room Ilga
was standing with her hat upon her head.

"And what of Lukstein?"

"A sop to Father Spaur," she said, with a happy laugh, and reaching out a
hand to me she blew out the candle, I guided her to the landing, and
there stopped and kissed her.

"I have hungered for that," said I, "for a year and more."

"And I too," she whispered, "dear heart, and I too," and I felt her arms
tighten about my neck. "Oh, how you must have hated me!" she said.

"I called you no harder name than 'La belle dame sans merci,'" said I.

We crept down the stairs a true couple of runaways. The door was secured
by a wooden bar, I removed the bar, and we went out into the road. The
stables lay to the right of the inn, and leaving Ilga where she stood, I
crossed over to them and rapped quietly at the window. The ostler let me
in, and we saddled quickly Ilga's horse and mine. I gave the fellow all
of my three months’ savings, and bidding him go back to his bed, brought
the horses into the road.

I lifted Ilga into the saddle. "So," she said, bending over me, and her
heart looked through her eyes, "the lath was steel after all, and I only
found it out when the steel cut me."

And that night we rode hand in hand to Innspruck. Once she trilled out a
snatch of song, and I knew indeed that Jack Larke was waiting for me at
Lukstein, for the words she sang were from an old ballad of Froissart:

Que toutes joies et toutes honneurs
Viennent d'ames et d'amours.


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