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Title: The Master of Stair (1907)
Author: Marjorie Bowen
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eBook No.: 0900411.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: June 2009
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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: The Master of Stair (1907)
Author: Marjorie Bowen



NEW YORK
McCLURE PHILLIPS AND CO
1907



To Mark Twain

with deep gratitude for the flattering interest
shown by a great man of letters in
the work of a beginner



CONTENTS

BOOK ONE

I     RONALD MACDONALD
II    THE KISS
III   JOCK O' BREAD ALBANE'S WIFE
IV    DELIA FEATHERSTONEHAUGH
V     THE FOLLY OF DELIA
VI    HATE MEETS HATE
VII   THE POISON OF THE Kiss
VIII  MACCALLUM MORE
IX    ON THE ROAD TO LONDON
X     THE KING'S MESSENGER
XI    THE MASTER OF STAIR
XII   THE LOVE OF DELIA
XIII  THE MASTER'S WIFE
XIV   THE CURSE OF THE DALRYMPLES
XV    THE AVOWAL
XVI   A LAMPOON ANSWERED
XVII  THE BITTERNESS OF DEATH
XVIII AN INNOCENT BETRAYAL
XIX   THE PACT
XX    ON THE VERGE OF MADNESS
XXI   WILLIAM OF ORANGE
XXII  THE RESOLUTION OF DESPAIR
XXIII JAMES FITZJAMES
XXIV  THE LOVE OF MARGARET CAMPBELL
XXV   GLENCOE

BOOK TWO

I     THE RECKONING
II    FOREBODINGS
III   THE TRIUMPHS OF THE CAMPBELLS
IV    THE LIE ACCOMPLISHED
V     A WOMAN'S VICTORY
VI    "THERE WAS No MASSACRE IN GLENCOE"
EPILOGUE THE GLEN O' WEEPING


* * * * *


GLENCOE

In the Glen o' Weeping,
 The Valley o' Glencoe,
Watch the giant hills are keeping
 In their frozen wreaths o' snow.
Tears from out the mists are falling
 And the winds forever sigh
To the lonely eagle calling
 As he circles through the sky,
With the blood o' the Macdonalds
 All red upon his claws,
The blood o' the dead Macdonalds
 Who broke the Campbell laws.

Through the Glen o' Weeping,
 The Valley o' Glencoe,
Where the blighted trees are sleeping
 And black the waters flow,
Where the dead lie in their darkness,
 Their frozen hearth beside,
As the day glooms into darkness,
 Come the living in their pride
Through the lines o' dead Macdonalds'
 Lying naked to the blast,
Through the stern and still Macdonalds
 Come the Campbells riding fast.

Now is the Glen o' Weeping
 The Valley o' Glencoe,
Bright with light o' swords upleaping
 And flashing to and fro;
And gallant is the seeming
 Of man arid horse together
As with flying harness gleaming
 They ride the trampled heather
Through the homes o' the Macdonalds
 Who lie defenseless, dumb,
Through the spilt blood o' the Macdonalds
 The victor Campbells come.

Now shall the Glen o' Weeping,
 The Valley o' Glencoe,
When our noble heirs are reaping
 The deeds that now we sow--
Lie desolate, forsaken,
 Bleak to the brooding mist,
While we our way have taken,
 By winged fortune kissed.
Swept from our path the Macdonalds,
 Swept from our path away:
Now out o' the Glen o' Weeping,
 Into the light o' day!


* * * * *


BOOK ONE



CHAPTER I - RONALD MACDONALD


Some fifty men were making slow progress through the pass of Glenorchy,
which lies in the heart of Invernesshire and so in the very depths of
the wild Highlands. A thick white mist hung over the landscape; it was
the end of October and a raw and chilly day; the dull purple heather,
disclosed now and then by the lifting vapor, the gaunt firs and faded
bracken that grew along the pass, were shivering under the weight of
dripping moisture. The men strained their eyes to pierce the drifting
mist, and drew closer the damp tartans that showed they were of the Clan
of Macdonald; they were all on foot: some led shaggy ponies on whose
rough backs were strapped packages and what appeared to be the plunder
of some great house, for the objects included silver and gilt cups and
goblets tied together by the handles; and, slung across the saddle,
handsome garments such as the Saxons wore, and guns of a make not often
seen in a Highlander's hands.

A drove of fine cattle were driven in the rear of the MacDonalds, and a
man who was obviously the leader walked a few paces ahead of the others.
He was distinguished from his followers by the faded laced cloth coat
under his plaid, the pistols in his belt, and his high cowskin boots,
the others being barefoot and wearing nothing but their tartans and rude
garments of untanned leather.

The mist began to lift a little, the dim forms of the surrounding
mountains became visible; the leading Macdonald stopped his men and
looked about him: the mist had confused even his innate knowledge of the
country. Such of the landscape as they could see was pure desolation,
vast brown hills and tracts of heather: there were no roads, not so much
as a foot-path to guide them.

The only sign of life was an eagle who circled high above their heads,
and now and then swept into view, screaming dismally.

The leader of the Macdonalds shuddered in the damp cold and was making
the signal for his men to continue, when his quick ear caught a distant
sound. He paused, the train of Highlanders motionless behind him.

It was the sound of the jingle of harness, the soft thud of horses'
hoofs on the heather: a party of horsemen riding near.

With the stealthy alertness of men who are always either hunters or
hunted, the Macdonalds drew together in the pass; the foremost threw
themselves flat on the ground and closed their hands round their dirks.
The mist was closing round them again, but it was not so thick that they
could not discern a group of horsemen crossing the pass at a swift trot.
It was impossible to see how many there were; they were very swiftly
gone, and utter silence fell again.

The Macdonalds began to move cautiously. The mist thickened so that they
grew uneasy, their eyes were strained for another sight of the
strangers, their ears for the sound of the bridle bells.

The eagle flew close, then past them and out of sight; they were feeling
their way a step at a time, the ponies stumbled over the wet rocks the
heather concealed, the men could hardly see each other. They began talking
in whispers, wondering who these horsemen might have been, disputing about
the way.

Then it came again, the thud thud of a horse.

The Macdonalds stopped dead; their leader softly cursed the mist and
held himself on the alert.

It seemed to be only one horse now, and very close; they could hear it
slipping among the rocks, the sound of the clinking harness, but they
could see nothing. It died into the distance; the mist rose a little and
they caught a sudden glimpse of a red figure on a dark horse in front of
them, then they lost sight of it again in the thick vapor.

They pushed on slowly, teased with the faint sound of the unseen
horsemen, ready for a stranger and enemy, yet baffled by the mist.

Suddenly the sound grew louder; the Macdonalds looked round fiercely.
Their leader was almost thrown by the swift passing of a huge brown
horse bearing a rider in a scarlet coat, who crossed in front of him and
was swallowed into the mist. He had only a glimpse, and the bells were
again tinkling in the distance; the horseman did not appear to have seen
him, but as he passed a whip had struck Macdonald lightly on the face.

With a fierce cry the Highlander was plunging through the mist after him;
the sound guided him; he ran forward swiftly, maddened by that slash
on the cheek, striving to cleave aside the blinding fog.

All at once he heard it coming again, saw the brown horse looming toward
him, and made a wild dash at the reins. But it swept past him. He
thought he heard the rider say something or give a little cry.

The mist began to lighten, grow thinner; he saw the rider ahead and ran
after him with his dirk undrawn. His strength was almost a match for the
horse which was evidently very jaded and weary; his rider looked back
and urged him faster, but the Macdonald was gaining.

It was clear enough now for him to see who he was pursuing. A slender
figure in a scarlet roquelaure with the collar turned up to his ears,
his beaver and feather hanging limp with the rain; both his dress and
his horse were of the lowlands. The Macdonald's eyes glowed at the
sight of the Saxon; he was too stung to care that he had missed his men
in the pursuit. He came on at a run, silently. The horseman had gained
rising ground and stood outlined against the sky.

The mist changed to a drizzling rain: they were able to see each other
distinctly; the tired horse stumbled and stopped, the rider wheeled him
round and drew up, facing the Highlander. In the vast gloomy scene he
was the only spot of color oh his smooth bright chestnut horse with the
glittering harness, with his vivid red coat and the long draggled brown
feather hanging on his shoulders.

The Macdonald stopped a pace or two away from him that he might see who
this Saxon could be, sitting very still and calm, with his head
lifted--haughtily, it seemed. Then he cried out and fell back a step.

It was a woman who looked down at him from the brown horse: a proud,
still woman's face that showed in the high collar.

She calmly viewed his utter amazement, sitting utterly motionless, very
upright.

After a second she spoke; slowly, in Gaelic.

"What do you want with me?"

Her voice sounded thin and unnatural coming through the vast open space;
she broke her words with a cough and shuddered as if she was very cold.

The Macdonald had stood motionless, eagerly surveying her; when she
spoke he came toward her slowly, with the caution and curiosity of a
wild animal scenting the unknown.

She too looked at him, but covertly, and her face expressed no interest
as her eyes dwelt on his magnificent figure and torn and faded clothes;
she waited for him without a movement or a word.

As he came to her saddle bow he pulled off his bonnet and stood erect in
the straight rain, his frank blue eyes on her face.

"My name is Ronald," he said, "and I am a prince of the Macdonalds of
Glencoe."

The horsewoman coughed and shivered again before she answered; she had
noted the half-sullen, half-proud defiance of his bearing and replied
to that:

"Why do you speak so?" she said. "You give your speech a turn of
bitterness."

He came still closer and laid his hand on her fallen reins.

"I thought you were a Campbell," he said, and watched for the effect of
the loathed name on her; there was none; she merely shook her head.

"I am a stranger," she answered. "I came with my kinsfolk on a mere
family affair--"

His face lightened.

"I saw them through the mist," he said.

She looked round her.

"And now the mist hath gone and I am utterly lost." She shivered.

Suddenly she glanced down at him; he was very young, of a giant's
make; his square cut fresh face, tanned the color of ripe corn,
looked up at her; his clear eyes were very steady under the rough brown
hair; she gave a slow faint smile.

"Are you too lost?" she asked.

"It were not possible for me to lose my way to Glencoe," he answered.
"But I have missed my men."

He was still studying her with a frank absorbed curiosity; she pushed
her heavy rain-soaked hat a little off her face and at sight of her
red-blonde hair, he cried out, fiercely:

"Ye are a Campbell!"

Her face expressed a cold surprise.

"I am Helen Fraser," she said quietly, "and no kin to the Clan of
Campbell."

It would have been difficult to disbelieve her unconcern; Macdonald
hesitated, not knowing what to do.

"Will you put me on my way?" she asked as a probe to his silence. "I am
wet and cold--and most utterly lost."

At the note in her voice all his Highland hospitality woke.

"Will you come to Glencoe?" he asked simply.

She shook her head. "I must find my people," she said resolutely. "Tell
me the way--they ride in the direction of Glenorchy."

Macdonald's eyes flashed.

"Jock Campbell's castle--you go there!" he cried.

"I go that way--not there," she answered, "but to Loch Awe."

He was appeased again. "Glenorchy is three miles from here," he said.
"And Glencoe some ten--as you are a woman I will go with you to find your
people."

She made no show of either gratitude or refusal. "I shall die of cold,"
she said impatiently. "Take the bridle and lead the way."

The drizzle had settled into a steady downpour; the sky was a merciless
even gray; the distant hills wreathed with heavy rain clouds, the gloomy
rocks about them running with water.

Macdonald took the horse's head in silence and led him across the
squelching heather. They were at the top of the ravine; the country
before them was broken and utterly wild, but he had no fear of losing
his way while he had the use of his eyes. The woman shuddered closer
into her coat. "Put me on the road to Glenorchy," she said. "My people
will be looking for me."

"Would you not be afraid alone, Helen Fraser?" he asked.

"No," she answered quietly.

"Are you friendly with the Clan of Campbell?" he said, "for you must
cross their lands."

"I know nothing of them," came the tired voice from the great collar.
"But I say--I--am not afraid."

He was silent again; he knew little or nothing of the distant Clan of
Frasers, he marveled at the dress and refined appearance of this woman:
he had never seen any but the Campbell's women in this Lowland habit.

Neither spoke as they wound through the rocks and heather; he at the
horse's head, heedless of the cold and rain; she huddled on the saddle,
shivering under it.

She spoke at last so suddenly that he turned with a start.

"Who are those?" she said.

He looked in the direction her gloved hand pointed.

From the branch of a great fir-tree two men were dangling, the rain
dripping forlornly from their soaked clothes and the fair hair
that fell over their dead faces.

"Campbells," answered Macdonald. "Would there were more than two."

"She turned her gaze from the dead men; her face was utterly unmoved.

"How you hate these Campbells, Macdonald of Glencoe," she said
curiously.

He was bewildered by her note of wonder, turned it over in his mind and
could think of nothing to say but:

"I am a prince of the Macdonalds."

"God fend me from these feuds!" she cried. "My people live at peace."

"They would not, Helen Fraser, if they were two hundred men alone in the
country of the Campbells." He looked at her over his shoulder, his
color risen. "To one side of us we have MacCallum More himself--to the
other Jock Campbell of Breadalbane and his vassals swarm in their
hundreds--but we do no homage--because there has been no Campbell yet dare
enter Glencoe."

He had stopped with the force of his words and his fierce eyes measured
her narrowly.

She gave her slow smile:

"Well--go on," she said. "I have no call to be the Campbells' friend."

He went on at his steady even pace and she said no more.

They were crossing a level tract of moor; once she looked back at the
men on the fir-tree; the rain was blotting them from sight, but she
could see them faintly, dark against the sky.

Presently the dismal screaming of a bird of prey broke the desolate
stillness.

"There is an eagle--has found a meal," remarked Macdonald.

"How he skrieks!" she answered, and leaning from the saddle peered
forward. "Look--ahead of us--"

A great brown eagle was hovering a few feet off the ground and another
circled slowly above him.

"What have they found?" whispered the woman. She looked half-eagerly,
half-fearfully; they were near enough for her to see a tumbled heap of
plaid in the heather with something smooth and shining white in the
midst.

The eagle wheeled his slow flight closer and she saw that his beak
dripped with blood.

"Who are those he feeds on?" she asked very low.

Macdonald turned the horse's head away from the eagle's orgy.

"It is Campbell's tartan and a Campbell's skull," he said. "What else?"

She was still straining her eyes after the ghastly bundle they were
leaving behind them.

"It is a woman!" she cried.

"Yes," he answered, "we got her yesterday from Jock Campbell's house--we
burnt a house of his two days ago--you could see the flames from here."
His eyes sparkled with pride. "They were three to one," he added, "but
the Campbells always fight like Lowlanders."

She put her hand to a face grown ghastly white.

"You keep your eagles well fed," she said. "I would not be a Campbell in
your hands, Macdonald of Glencoe!"

He looked up, puzzled at her tone; he had not properly seen her face nor
could he see it now for the collar and the hat; it occurred to him that
she did not understand the bitterness of this hate.

"There is the sword and the flame between us two," he said. "A Campbell
has not broken bread with a Macdonald for a thousand years--we are the
older race and by craft they have the mastery."

"Of the whole Highlands, I do think," she put in.

"Yes," he cried fiercely. "But not Glencoe--we have that yet, and we
harry them and goad them to curses and slay them, and thwart them though
we are but two hundred--now my tacksman return home with the plunder of
Jock o' Breadalbane's house--we left his door-step wet with blood, not
for the first time!"

She caught her breath.

"Some day you will pay the price," she said, "for he has the Saxons and
the Southrons behind him--he is a mighty man."

The Highlander flung up his head. "Let the Saxons try to reach Glencoe,"
he said grimly. "Let Jock Campbell turn his claymores out to touch us
here--there will be more blood for the eagles at Strath Tay!"

She lapsed into silence again; the rain was growing colder, changing
into a fine sleet; she was numb and frozen.

"Give me rest," she said faintly, "or I die--is there not one hut in all
this barrenness?"

He looked surprised that her endurance should be exhausted already;
hesitated with a desire to be rid of her encumbrance.

She put out her hand and touched him delicately on the shoulder; for the
first time he saw her eyes, green and very bright, as she leaned
forward.

"Ah," she said very softly. "You would not leave me--when I am lost--or
make me ride when I am like to faint--find me shelter for awhile,
Macdonald!"

"I would not have left you," he answered, "and though I know none of
you, Helen Fraser, I will find you shelter."

There was a wattled hut near by, often used as an outpost by the
Macdonalds in their plundering raids; he turned toward it now; it was
very little off the road to Glenorchy.

Helen Fraser looked at his great figure before her, his resolute
strength, his firm face, and she gave a little inscrutable smile.



CHAPTER II - THE KISS


Ronald Macdonald had kindled a peat fire in the hut and strengthened it
with dried fir boughs from the stack of wood in the corner. A bright
flame leaped up and showed the rude interior, the mud walls, the earth
floor, the roughhewn log seat and the figure of Helen Fraser taking off
her dripping red coat.

She flung it over the log, swept off her hat and stood straight and slim
in her close brown dress, while she held her hands over the flame.

Macdonald, leaning against the wall, looked at her and wondered.

She was young and very slender; eminently graceful; her hands were
perfect; she had an oval, clear white face, a thin scarlet mouth, eyes
narrow and brilliant, arched red brows and a quantity of red-blonde
hair that hung damp and bright onto her shoulders.

Macdonald had never seen a woman of this make before; now he had her
close and could study her at his ease, he found her grace and
self-possession wonderful things. The sight of her hair as she shook it
out to dry made his face cloud for a moment. "'Tis the Campbell color,"
he said.

She smiled over her shoulder. "I did not know that till to-day," she
answered. "Many of the Eraser's women have hair like this."

She took up the long curls in her white hand, and held them in the
firelight where they glittered ruddy gold. Her green eyes surveyed him.

They looked at each other so a full minute--then he spoke.

"Why did you strike me when you rode past?"

She gave a sudden laugh.

"My whip slipped--I meant it for the horse," she said, "not for you,
Macdonald of Glencoe--why should I?"

The thick peat smoke, that circled round the hut before it found the
rude aperture that served as a chimney, made her cough and shudder.

"Where are we now?" she asked.

"By the entrance to Glenorchy," he answered, gazing hard at her.

"Ah," she said, "Jock Campbell's lands his castle lies there, you said?"

She was leaning against the wall; her eyes indifferently on the smoke
and flame; then suddenly she lifted them and Macdonald started; they
were such a vivid color, green as those of a wildcat.

"You are bold to come so near Glenorchy when you have burnt Jock of
Breadalbane's house," she smiled.

"He is in the Lowlands," Macdonald answered. "And I have said--no
Campbell would follow where I go--to Glencoe--though Campbell of
Breadalbane is serpent-cunning and very full of lies."

"You hate him very deeply?" she questioned.

His frank eyes flew wide.

"He is the loathed devil of all the Campbells," he cried, "surely you
know that?"

She gave a little laugh.

"What are his qualities?" she asked. "Why do you hate him so?"

"Ask every soul in the Highlands or the Lowlands," he answered fiercely,
"and if ye find one to say a good word for Jock Campbell--then will I
tell ye of his qualities."

He came across the hut and stood towering over her.

"I do mistrust you," he said. "I think you are over quiet."

She drew herself a little closer against the wall, the green eyes
glittered up at him.

"I think you are a Campbell," said Macdonald, breathing hard.

"By Christ, I am not," she answered resolutely. "Nor any friend of
theirs."

There was a little pause, the heavy sweep of the rain without came
distinctly, mournfully, and a low wind howled through the rough window.

Macdonald gazed into her eyes: she did not wince, but suddenly smiled;
the color came into her cheeks.

"Ye have a wonderful face, Helen Fraser," he said. "Are you a princess
of the clan?"

"I am Lord Eraser's daughter," she answered, "and heiress of our
family."

"They should be proud of you," said Macdonald. "Are you a maid or wife?"

"I am unwed," she said, "and am ever like to be, for I do find it hard
to love."

He turned away from her and pointed to the log.

"Will you sit?" he said with a grave courtesy.

She complied at once with a deepening of her smile.

In one corner was a pile of skins; Macdonald lifted these and brought
out from under them two goblets of pure gold.

As he raised them he looked at the woman; she showed through the cloudy
smoke brown and gold and brilliant; her hair was as vivid as the little
tongues of flame she held her hands over.

"From the Campbells," he said, putting the goblets down, "and this from
the King--in France."

He brought out a slender bottle of wine and stripped off its wicker
covering.

"We keep these things hidden here," he explained, "so that when any
cannot reach the Glen they may find food."

He turned over the skins and heather till he found a rough cake of grain.
Helen Fraser rose and came up behind him.

"Are these your takings from the Campbells?" she asked, and picked the
goblets up. They were very handsomely engraved with the arms of John
Campbell, Earl of Breadalbane.

Macdonald lifted the glittering wine with an eager smile.

"We drink as royally as Jock Campbell with his Lowland luxuries," he
cried. "This is King's wine."

She held out one of the goblets while he filled it and let the other
drop.

He put his lips to it, then held it out to her with something like a
challenge in his eyes.

"Drink with me, Helen Fraser."

She took it, drank, and gave it back to him with the same unmoved smile.

"Now we are pledged friends," he cried. "But wait--ye shall break bread
with me--"

"I cannot eat," she said. "Believe me--I am sick with weariness."

He looked as her keenly over the brim of the brilliant winecup.

"Ye shall do it," he said. "I would be allied with thy clan."

He broke the bread and salt that to him formed a rite impossible to
violate and gave it her with eager blue eyes on her face.

She took it slowly, afraid to show reluctance, and ate a little while he
watched her closely.

Then he put one of the skins on the log and another under her feet, and
stirred up the fire to give her warmth.

She had become very silent; she took his care with no thanks, passively,
but all the while her jewel-like eyes were covertly studying him.

He came and sat opposite to her; his huge shadow dancing behind him.
Between them lay her steaming red coat, the gold wine-cups, and the
elegant French bottle, brilliant on the mud floor.

Outside the rain was coming down less heavily, but the wind had risen
and they could hear the rocking of the fir-trees.

She spoke at last, in her quiet voice: "Do you go to the conference
Breadalbane holds at Glenorchy?" she asked. "You know he calls the
Highlands thither to treat of peace--and loyalty to the new King."

Macdonald laughed:

"And the gold he hath to buy us fills his own coffers--there will be no
peace while Jock Campbell treats," he answered.

"But many great chiefs have gone," she said, "And the whole force of the
new King is behind Breadalbane--"

"We may go," replied Macdonald. "But we will not take the oaths."

Another silence fell; she stirred the smoldering peat with her foot; he
seemed to be utterly absorbed in watching her; she had taken his wild
fancy most suddenly, most completely.

"I must go on," she said at last. "They will be searching for me."

She rose and put back her glittering hair.

"And I will go with you," said Macdonald, rising too.

She looked over her shoulder; seemed to hesitate, a drift of the peat
smoke floated between them, through it he saw her face, white, calm, and
her narrow, brilliant eyes.

She picked up her damp coat and hat.

"I can go alone if you will put me on my road to Loch Awe," she said.
"It cannot be far."

"Too far for you alone," he cried. "You--surely you are afraid?"

Helen Fraser put on her coat and turned up the great collar before she
answered.

"And are not you afraid to go any further through Jock Campbell's lands?"

He was stung by her poise and strangeness. "Helen Fraser, ye are mad to
think to go alone!"

She had caught up her hat and very swiftly opened the rough door.

The first blast of the wind made her shudder, but she stepped out into
the rain with a resolute carriage.

Her horse was tethered close under some fir-trees: his glittering
harness was the only bright thing in the gloomy landscape; he lifted his
head at sight of his mistress and she turned toward him.

But she was stopped by Macdonald's hand on her shoulder.

"Look about ye, Helen Fraser--and think if ye would go alone!"

She glanced at him and then about her; below them the river Orchy,
tumbled through the ravine, about them the mountains towered into the
mist, to either side were great broken spaces of heather, moss and bog;
straight before them ran a strip of dirty white road that wound through
the Glen of Orchy. Over all was the veil of the pitiless rain and the
sound of the tossing fir-trees.

Helen Fraser, erect, bareheaded, looked on it unmoved.

"Where does that road lead?" she asked.

Macdonald's blue eyes flashed.

"To Castle Kilchurn--Jock Campbell's house," he answered. "Not your
way--your kinsfolk can have no business there."

"No," she said, and coughed and shivered. She gave no sign of where she
was going or upon what errand she and her clan were bound, and he,
having broken bread with her, would not deign to question; she might be
concerned in some of the intricate politics or feuds of the Highlands;
he felt it no matter of his, but he also felt he would not lose sight of
her so easily.

She spoke again, suddenly:

"I would rather go alone--I can find my way--I have been here before."

A great color came into Macdonald's face; he put his hands on her
shoulders and turned her round so that she faced him.

"Why do you so loathe my company?" he demanded. "I am a prince."

She breathed a little heavily to feel him holding her but--her face was
unmoved.

"I have a friendship for you and all the Macdonalds," she said.

"Well, prove it," he answered eagerly.

"Let go of me," she said a little unsteadily. "I have broken bread--and
drunk with ye." She shook her head, tossing the damp red curls off her
white forehead and her lips trembled a little.

"Let go of me," she repeated.

He looked at her steadily and smiled: "The witches of the mountains have
brought us together, Helen Fraser--I shall find you again--and as a
pledge--ye shall kiss me."

"I will not," she answered. "Take your hands away, Macdonald of Glencoe!"

But he held her gently against the mud walls of the hut; heedless of her
shudder under his touch.

A great rowan-bush full of dull berries grew close; her scarlet dress
pressed against the dripping leaves as she drew as far as she was able
away from him.

"Ye shall--" he said simply. "Why not?"

She was still and quiet though she saw she was helpless.

"We are strangers," she said quickly.

"I would not have it so," he answered eagerly. "Through war or peace I
would be a friend to thee and thine--and I would have thy kiss on it--so
that there may never be feud between mine and thine--kiss me, Helen
Fraser!"

She crushed further into the rowan-tree and gave one quick glance round
the utter desolation.

"No!" she said. "No! I--"

But her words were stifled, for he had caught her up to him--and kissed
her lightly, full on the mouth.

Like flames piercing ice a sudden passion flared from her calm; she
called out something fiercely in the Lowland language that he could not
understand, and wrenched away with the furious color in her face.

"A Macdonald's kiss will not harm ye!" he cried hotly s roused by her
wrath.

At the sight of his face she controlled herself and set her lips.

"Ye have done what ye wished," she said unsteadily. "Put something
between us that I shall remember." She was trembling; passionately
clasping and unclasping her hands; he came toward her; she clutched at
the reins of her horse and leaped into the saddle.

She flung on her hat, her eyes shone through the floating feather and
hair; she had a perfect seat in the saddle; Macdonald noticed how
gloriously she sat and how her proud look became her face.

"I am very glad to come with ye," he said, his fair face flushed. "I
will not leave ye, Helen Fraser, until ye find your kinsfolk."

She had one hand in the pocket of her coat. Her green eyes were on him;
she suddenly spurred her horse forward.

Macdonald taken by surprise, stood still a moment, then impulsively came
after her. He saw her turn in the saddle with something glittering in
her hand. The next second the report of a pistol rang out; a flash of
fire through the rain.

Ronald Macdonald cried out and fell on his side, shot through the ankle.

A sweep of color came into her face as she saw his plaid prone on the
heather; she thrust the smoking pistol into her holster and turned her
horse's head down the white road that led to Castle Kilchurn.



CHAPTER III - JOCK O' BREADALBANE'S WIFE


Loch Awe lay vast and gloomy under the gray skies; it was twilight and
the sky burnt gold and purple with the last of the setting sun behind
Castle Kilchurn. Though it no longer rained, great black clouds lay over
the distant mountains and a thick mist hung over the placid water. The
castle itself, standing huge and magnificent on the tongue of land that
runs into the loch at the foot of Ben Cruachan, bore on the Gothic
turrets the English standard: a symbol of the authority with which the
government had invested the Earl of Breadalbane.

Along the road that wound by the edges of the loch to the castle, rode a
woman in a scarlet cloak.

The vast expanse of cloudy sky, the huge outlines of misty mountains,
the gloomy castle and the great storm-twisted fir-trees were all tinged
with an air of awe and melancholy.

The woman and her bright brown horse were reflected among the shadows of
the broken clouds in the still water; she rode slowly with her face
lifted to the flaring sky and her red hair blown back from her face.

There were lights in the windows of the Castle Kilchurn, and the outer
gates stood open.

The horsewoman rode through and up to the great entrance, where she
alighted. Before she had time to knock, four or five servants came hurrying
across the courtyard to take her horse, and the door was flung wide.

She silently entered the vast stone hall, and looked about her; a couple
of white hounds came running up to her; a gray-haired butler stepped
forward. She asked him in Saxon:

"Is my lord here yet?"

"Nay, my lady; he is looking for your ladyship, when he found ye were
missing, he returned to find ye, my lady."

"Let one go after him," she answered, "to say I am arrived--is my cousin,
Colin, here?"

"Yea, my lady; and all the other gentlemen."

She flung off her damp coat and ascended the great, bare unfurnished
stairs.

On the first landing she came into a glare of light that fell through an
open door; servants were passing to and fro, and there was the sound of
many voices.

She entered; stood in the doorway looking down the room.

It had been the dining-hall of the old castle; it was a large room with
tapestry on the walls and a huge log fire burning on the hearth.

Round the black oak table a party of gentlemen were dining by the light
of a hundred candles. At sight of the woman in the doorway they all rose
with one exclamation:

"The Countess Peggy!"

She came down the room smiling.

"Ye did expect I had fed the eagles by now?" she asked. "Weel, I'll no
be saying but I was fearfu' of it mysel'--welcome to Kilchurn,
gentlemen--gude even to ye, Colin."

She held out her hand to the gentleman at the head of the table and took
her place beside him, while the others reseated themselves.

"So my lord wanders on the mountains searching for me?" she said. "And
ye'll no be having a great opinion of my wits for getting lost."

The green eyes glanced round; some ten men were seated there; all
fair-haired, unmistakably of one race, her own, Campbells with keen
faces.

"I was no greatly fearing for ye," said her cousin, Colin Campbell of
Ardkinglass. "Ye will be knowing these parts vera weel, I thought ye
could find your way to Kilchurn."

The Countess Peggy laughed.

"Weel, I'm blithe to be out of the mist and wet," she said. "Albeit I
have gotten a great cold."

"Ye didna' come in with any of the murdering Hielandmen?" asked one of
the gentlemen.

The Countess poured out some wine and drank it before she answered.

"Yea--I was put on my way by one of the Glencoe men."

A murmur ran round the table.

"Macdonald o' Glencoe!"

Lady Breadalbane's green eyes flashed: "Ay," she said. "He'd been
thieving an' murdering--burning one of my lord's houses, he said. He
showed me Campbells rotting on the trees and--"

She checked herself abruptly; her keen glance roved round the grim
Campbell faces. "I think we've taken enough from these Macdonalds of
Glencoe," she said slowly.

There was a little deadly pause; it was not easy for a Campbell to voice
his feelings for a Macdonald.

It was the Countess who spoke first: "They're vera simple, these
savages; I told him I was a Fraser."

"It was wise," remarked her cousin dryly. "If he had kenned ye were
Breadalbane's wife, weel, ye would n a' be here noo."

"Indeed, they do hate my lord," she answered. "I had to listen to some
miscalling of Jock Campbell--as they name him." Her thin lips curled into
a bitter smile. "I tried to sound him about this conference--ye ken--this
matter my lord has on hand for quieting the Hielands--'we'll never take
the oaths'--he says--'Jock Campbell's got the money in his coffers for
himsel'--we may come,' he says, 'but we'll enter into no treaty with a
Campbell.'"

"Puir fules," said one of the company. "They think we want them to be
taking the oaths to King William?"

"They're no' so simple as that," answered another. "But they consider
the new government'll need something for its money--an' if a Campbell
can't quiet the Hielands--some one else can try--it's plain they're bent
on ruining the negotiations out of spite to Breadalbane."

The Countess Peggy set her wine-glass down fiercely: "Weel," she said,
"'tis the end of October noo, an' they must take the oaths by
January--they've been dallying for two years--but I'm no' thinking
either we or the government will be taking any more."

"Lochiel and Glengarry show signs of yielding," said Colin Campbell,
"though they demand, ye ken, too much of the money--and Coll a' the Cows,
the ould murdering thief, he'll come in to save his ugly neck--but
Macdonald of Glencoe will na'."

"I dinna think we shall be troubled as how to treat them," answered
another. "They'll be rebels--it'll be a fine chance to be clearing the
country of a den of thieves."

The Countess Peggy's eyes flashed at the speaker a meaning look.

"My lord'll be equal to them," she smiled.

In their hearts they all assented; they knew the Earl of Breadalbane,
ruthless and cunning even for a Campbell; of a fine ability and a power
that made him next to his cousin Argyll, the master of the Highlands;
and these kinsmen of his, a body-guard of Campbells kept always about
him, regarded him with a respect that only great cunning, great
falseness and great power could have engendered in their shrewd souls.

Dinner over, they rose; they had come from Edinburgh that day and were
mostly weary.

The Countess Peggy, whose masterful spirit they obeyed, dismissed them.

She was going to wait up for the Earl, she said, and needed no company.

It was hardly late yet; but the Campbells were never of a roistering
spirit; most of them went to bed; the Countess waited alone in the
dining-hall.

It was full of the mellow light of candles and the bright glow of the
fire; the arms and trophies of the chase on the tapestried walls
glittered in points of light.

She seated herself in a large oak chair that almost concealed her
slender figure; her buckle shoes were held out to the blaze; her fine,
thin face was outlined against the ruby head cushion; she sighed,
finding herself tired.

One of the boar-hounds had found its way in and lay by her side; her
long white hand hung idly down and caressed his silky ears; all her
movements were very graceful; her body as supple as her face was unmoved
and hard.

The heavy clock in the corner had struck ten, but she gave no sign of
impatience; her lids drooped over her brilliant eyes, though her firm,
thin mouth was unrelaxed.

It struck the half-hour. She looked round; the table was set, nothing
was wanting for her husband's welcome; she lapsed into musing again.

Presently she started into alertness; there was a sound without; the
door opened suddenly.

"Jock!" she cried and sprang up.

A slight gentleman in a shining cuirass stood in the doorway.

In a second the dog was at his side and the woman half way down the room
with out-held hands to meet him.

"Jock!" she said again; the change in her was wonderful; she flushed
into an animated color, all hardness left her face; with sparkling eyes
and parted lips she came to him.

"Weel," he smiled, "I didna' think ye would be lost on your own
Hielands." He stooped and kissed her; then with a sudden half-laugh to
hide the unsteadiness in his voice:

"Ye gave me a bitter moment, Peggy, when I found ye had missed us."

"'Twas the mist!" she cried. "I dropped my whip and turned back for
it--then the mist thickened; ah, my dear, ye canna ken how lonesome I
felt alone in the wild hills."

She trembled; her overwrought control leaving her at sight of him; he
led her to the table and drew her down beside him; he was more relieved
at sight of her safe in Kilchurn than he would have cared to put into
words, and it was with a sigh of relief that she looked at him; she had
had disturbing visions of the wild Macdonalds meeting the hated
Breadalbane.

She sank on a little stool beside him while he eat his supper, with her
green eyes, very soft now, on his face.

He was a man of a remarkable appearance; of a very elegant build and
upright carriage, though barely of the middle height; his face was thin
and hollow in the cheeks, his lower jaw projecting gave him a sinister
expression; his nose, a high aquiline, his eyes large, light gray and
very restless; his thick brown hair of a blond so pale that it appeared
gray.

There was an air of great delicacy and dignity about him; he smiled
continually, but taken without the smile the face was hard and cruel.

When he looked at his wife, however, it entirely softened and his
unpleasant eyes flashed into a passion that redeemed them as she caught
his free hand and laid it against her cheek.

"'Tis the last time I lose sight of ye when we cross the Hielands,
Peggy," he said. "Did ye meet any?"

"Yea," she answered under her breath; "a Macdonald o' Glencoe."

The Earl turned in his chair with a flash of steel and gold.

"One of those thieves!" he cried. "What did he do?"

A deep color came into her face.

"He showed me the way," she said. "He showed me also Campbells he'd
slain he showed plunder from your house--he named you devil--and--"

"Ah, he didna' ken ye were a Campbell?" asked Breadalbane.

"Why no, Jock--I told him I was a Fraser--I didna' desire to be murdered."

"Ye will have deceived him," remarked the Earl. "Ye are a bonnie liar,
Peggy."

He gave the strange compliment in all sincerity and so she took it.

"But ye hav'na' heard the finish," she said. "Jock--will ye ever forgive
me?"

She lifted eager glowing eyes and laid her hand on his arm.

Breadalbane put down his wine-glass.

"Weel?" he questioned. "Ye look ower serious, Peggy."

She gave a great shudder as at the remembrance of something loathly.

"I have broken bread with a Macdonald," she cried bitterly. "And--"

"Weel?" he insisted.

"And then by force he kissed me, Jock."

The Earl's hollow face flushed scarlet.

"A Macdonald o' Glencoe kissed ye!" he cried.

"Ay," she answered passionately. "But I dinna think he'll live to boast
of it. I left him on the mountain, shot through the ankle."

"It should have been his heart," said Breadalbane grimly.

"Yes, I ken, but I couldna'--'tis work for you, Jock, not for me--I just
shot to prevent his following me tis likely he'll die of hardship." She
rose restlessly to her feet.

"I wish he hadna' kissed me," she cried. "A Macdonald o' Glencoe!"

Breadalbane's pale eyes flashed and narrowed, but he spoke quietly:

"The Macdonalds and I will come to issues yet, Peggy--and then--by Heaven!
I shallna' forget this."

"Ah, I ken, Jock but--I would he hadna' kissed me."

Her face flushed and trembled; the Earl set his mouth dangerously as he
marked her wrathful distress; he held his hand out to her and she very
passionately caught hold of it.

"We've taken enough from these Macdonalds," she cried. "I saw the
plunder of a house of yours to-day--and murdered Campbells feeding the
eagles--"

She swung round on him with tears gathering in her eyes: "Jock,
ye are almost master in the Hielands; are ye going to leave this knot of
thieves in your midst to harry and insult ye?"

"Nay," cried Breadalbane fiercely. "I'm only waiting, ye ken--ye canna
touch the Glencoe men openly--ye might as weel try to hunt the eagles off
Ben Cruachan as the Macdonalds out o' Glencoe--but if they dinna take the
oaths--" He finished with one of his sudden smiles.

"Yea," said the Countess Peggy breathlessly. "Ye'll have the government
behind ye then, they'll be rebels and proscribed men--ye'll have them in
your hand, Jock. Ah, but do ye think they willna' take the oaths?"

Breadalbane drew her down beside him and kissed her flushed forehead.

"Dinna fear, Peggy; not ane of the Hielanders will take the oaths--or if
Glengarry or Lochiel do, the Macdonalds willna'."

"Ah!" she took a deep breath. "And then ye will have the law to help ye."

"I shall get letters of fire and sword from the government," said
Breadalbane, "and clear the Hielands of the Macdonalds."

There fell a little pause; the two utterly absorbed in themselves and
each other did not notice or heed the falling fire and guttering candles
or the lifting wail of the storm without.

The Countess spoke; under her breath:

"But at Edinburgh--in England, where they want the Hielands quiet will
they no demand an account of ye?--will they support ye?"

The room was growing cold; unconsciously she felt it and shivered,
drawing closer to her husband.

"I have the most powerful man in Scotland behind me," said the Earl
slowly. "And he has great weight in England--is a close friend of the
King--and he is not willing for the Hielands to take the oaths."

"Who do you mean?" she questioned eagerly.

A dying log on the hearth fell and broke into a shower of sparks; a
gust of wind blew down the chimney.

"The Master of Stair," said Breadalbane. "Being the Secretary and a
close friend of the King, he can do what he will with Scotland."

"Yet I do think he is the most hated man in the country," mused the
Countess. "I did notice a fury of hate in Edinburgh against his father
and him he couldna' be more unpopular."

"I dinna care," smiled Breadalbane. "He has the power--and a fine
ability. He wasna' for buying the Hielands. Put the money into powder
and shot, he said--and now, when we've been dealing with them for two
years in vain--he says the same.

"Weel, then," she cried. "All ye have to do is to wait till after the
first day of January. Then get the letters of fire and sword--and the
Master of Stair will support ye."

"Both he and his father," he answered. "Both the Dalrymples. If any
take the oaths, weel, they'll be within the law--but, as the King said to
Balcarras--let those who stay without the law, look to it--as they must
expect to be left to the law."

He rose abruptly and crossed to the fire, where the last light from the
glowing embers was reflected in his cuirass.

His wife followed him with shining eyes; it was the first time even she
had so enjoyed his confidence; the first time he had so spoken of his
affairs, though he had always been assured of her passionate sympathy.
He fell into silence as he leaned against the heavy chimneypiece and she
noticed that his delicate face had fallen into lines of weariness.

"Ye look tired, Jock," she said tenderly.

"Unlace me," he smiled. "This thing is heavy."

She came up and unstrapped his armor; as he shook himself free of it, he
gave a sigh of relief.

"I shallna' need to be riding my own lands armed when the Macdonalds of
Glencoe are--weel, treated as to their desserts," he remarked as he shook
out his crumpled buff coat.

As she laid down his cuirass he spoke again:

"What was the name of this Macdonald to-day?" he asked quietly.

"Ronald--the chief's son he said," she answered.

Breadalbane yawned, then glanced with half-shut eyes at his sword hilt.

"Ronald, the son of Makian," he said--"maybe the laddie will live."

He glanced at his wife.

"Ronald, the son of Makian," he repeated. "Weel, a Campbell always has a
vera gude memory."



CHAPTER IV - DELIA FEATHERSTONEHAUGH


In a small chamber of a quiet house in Glasgow, a girl was standing at
the window and looking down the empty street. The November evening was
closing in; the room somber and gloomy at any time, was in darkness save
for the fire over which a young man sat, writing on a paper that he held
on his knee. The firelight showed a resolute brown face, close-clipped
brown hair and a large figure very plainly clad in a neat, dark cloth
suit.

The scanty furniture consisted of a bureau, a few chairs, and a small
table piled with papers.

"He is late, Perseus," said the girl in a tired voice. "It struck four
some time since."

Both her accent and her face marked her as English; when the man
glanced up it was easy to see he was her brother.

"He will come," he said quietly. "Why not?" And he fell to his busy
writing again.

"Why not?" echoed the girl impatiently. "I think, Perseus, there are
many reasons why a gentleman in King James's service may not cross
England and Scotland in perfect safety."

"I have perfect confidence in Jerome Caryl," answered her brother, this
time without an upward look. "A man who has been an adventurer all his
life knows how to play the spy."

She let the curtain fall.

"I wish you would not use that word, Perseus," she said vexedly.

With a half-humorous sigh Sir Perseus Featherstonehaugh put aside the
writing he could no longer see.

"My sweet Delia," he said. "We--Jerome, you, and I and all our friends
represent a losing or a lost cause--"

"A rightful one," she put in.

"Certainly," he smiled, "but unfortunately at the present, a lost one--we
are, my dear, without the law--in plain English, Jacobite spies dabbling
in high treason--I want you to understand that, Delia."

His voice fell to gravity on the last words, but the girl bit her lip
and tapped her foot impatiently.

"While we have King James's countenance we can never be spies--or guilty
of treason in outwitting his enemies," she said impetuously.

"Nay," answered Sir Perseus, "but we may be hanged, my dear."

Delia Featherstonehaugh flung up her head: "And we may give the King
again his kingdom," she smiled.

"God grant it," answered her brother gently, "but before we go any
further--before we hear Jerome's news, before we make any more plans--I
want you to see it as it is--Delia, we are staking our lives in the
King's service."

"But you would not turn back!" she cried.

"Why, no," he answered. "But you are not bound to follow my fortunes."

Delia swept into the center of the room, her heavy satin dress rustling;
a noble dim figure in the dusk.

"Are you not all I have, Perseus?" she said unsteadily. "Is it so long
ago since father was slain by the Boyne and we vowed to serve the King
he died for? Oh, my dear, why should you think I want to turn aside into
placid safety?"

"Delia!" Sir Perseus held out his hand, "'tis only that sometimes I
think you do not see the danger--"

"Why, I do love it," she interrupted gaily. "The excitement is life to
me--and you forget--are there so few faithful in England? We are only two
of thousands who plot, and wait and long for the rightful King again!"

With a little laugh she came behind him and put her hand on his
shoulder, while she gazed over his head into the fire.

"Yea, we will do it," said Sir Perseus quietly. "We will oust the
Dutchman, I think, Delia--there is a huge discontent everywhere." He
tapped the papers he had been writing, "there--in my reports to his
Majesty, I have to mention many great men who would welcome him back--"
he smiled grimly. "Many of them, those who welcomed William--"

"If his Majesty would but himself come over," sighed Delia. "I think all
England would rise to greet him!"

"Indeed," answered her brother, "William has no friend in England--I
marvel he holds the throne at all--"

"'Twill not be for long," cried Delia, with glittering eyes--"But--hark!"

A knock resounded through the empty house; Sir Perseus rose. "'Tis
Jerome Caryl," he said.

His sister gave a little pant of suppressed excitement; the bold and
restless spirit of Jerome Caryl was akin to her own; he was the soul of
this plot in which she was engaged; of her own religion, her own views;
a man whom next to her brother she admired of all others.

And for six months she had not seen him; the while he plotted in London,
they plotted in Scotland; he might have great news to tell; she was
confident his fervor and ability could remove obstacles that to the
slower mind of her brother seemed insurmountable.

Her fingers shaking, she lit the candles on the chimneypiece; as the
pointed flames sprang up they showed the face of Delia; a strong face
with great brown eyes and a passionate mouth; a low-browed fair face,
very eager and bright with the thick hazel hair falling round the full,
curved white throat and lace collar.

She caught up one of the candles and ran out on to the head of the
stairs.

A man was coming up; she could hear the jingle of his spurs and the drag
of his sword.

"Mr. Caryl!" she cried, leaning over the baluster.

He came now into the circle of the candle-light, a tall figure in steel
and leather, with a long, dark traveling cloak over his shoulder.

"Himself, madam," he answered, and looked up with a smile.

She came running down the stairs to meet him and gave him her hand
between laughing and crying.

"Oh, sir, Mr. Caryl--you have some news?" she panted.

He kissed her hand ceremoniously. "News of a kind, yes," he answered--"and
you?"

"Oh, things go well in Scotland!" she cried, "but--enter--sir--"

He followed her into the room, and while the two men exchanged greetings
she eagerly scanned the countenance of the new-comer.

Jerome Caryl had the figure as well as the dress of a soldier; a quiet,
easy air, a soft voice and the face of a woman saint; a face that seen
alone none would have ever taken for that of a man, so perfect was the
contour of the small, regular features, the sweet mouth, the straight
nose, the dimpled chin, the large, soft, melancholy hazel eyes, the
brilliant, smooth complexion.

Beside the rough blunt appearance of Sir Perseus, his face, pale with
fatigue, looked like that of a musing girl; far more soft and sweet
than the firm features of Delia Featherstonehaugh, all aglow with
excitement.

"How go things in London?" asked Sir Perseus. "We have had few
letters."

"It was not deemed safe to write," answered Jerome Caryl in his low
melodious voice. "Pray, Mistress Delia--sit and hearken--I have dined--I am
in want of nothing save the ear of my friends--yet--have you nothing to
tell?"

Delia was stirring the fire into a blaze; she looked round with an eager
smile.

"Perseus hath been much engaged," she said. "There is great discontent
here--and the Highlands have not taken the oaths to the government--"

Perseus glanced affectionately at his sister. "Is she not a valiant
plotter, Jerome?" he said. "Her spirits are enough to fire a losing
cause--but have we told you--we have here in this house a Highlander--a
Macdonald of Glencoe?" He laughed, but Jerome Caryl looked up puzzled.

"Was it well to trust one of those savages?" he asked.

Sir Perseus shrugged his shoulders.

"He knows naught of us--I found him some weeks ago half-dead upon the
mountains; he had dragged himself, God knows how far, on a broken ankle,
then fallen in a swoon. I could not leave him in that desolation--the
horse I rode was stout: I brought him here."

A smile came on the smooth face of Jerome Caryl.

"Like you," he said, "and Miss Delia nursed him, I suppose?"

She answered quickly, not looking at him: "He is almost mended now--and
wild to return--he is not, I think, very grateful."

"Gaelic is one of Delia's accomplishments," said Sir Perseus; "I do not
understand a word the fellow says."

The subject did not appear to interest Jerome Caryl; he had weightier
matters on his mind.

"What was you doing in the Highlands?" he asked Perseus.

"Why, I was gathering what information I could as to the submission of
the clans--January first is the last day, you know, and not so far away."

Jerome tapped his foot thoughtfully.

"Breadalbane held a conference at Kilchurn, I heard," he remarked. "But
it has come to nothing."

"Of course," said Sir Perseus dryly. "The government had the folly to
send a Campbell--and the most hated of all the Campbells to treat."

"It was thought," answered Jerome, "that it would be to his interest to
quiet the Highlands, but he has, I think, found it more to his interest
to keep the money he was to buy them with."

"God knows," said Sir Perseus. "I think his strongest motive is not
money--but hate."

Delia broke in eagerly: "You cannot guess how the Highlanders hate the
Campbells, Mr. Caryl--this Macdonald goes white to think of them--"

Jerome Caryl lifted his head; his beautiful face was set and hard.

"Yes," he said quietly. "The Highlands hate Breadalbane--the Lowlands
hate the Master of Stair; the English hate William of Orange--in each
case 'tis thousands to one--"

Delia cried joyously:

"Surely that means all hearts turn to the true King--no government can
surely live on hate!"

"Indeed," put in her brother, "I do think this seething discontent looks
well for us--what do you say, Jerome?--the odds are against the
Dutchman."

Jerome looked from one to the other, then gave a bitter little laugh.

"No!" he cried, "the odds are most mightily against King James--and even
with the three kingdoms behind us we could do nothing against these
men--nothing!"

He struck his hand vehemently on his sword-hilt.

"I have seen it--as I intrigued and waited and watched in London--while
half the men of note would go over again to King James and the other
half follow if he was here--while the people grumble and curse the
Dutchman--while promises of anything may be had for the asking, still
three men hold us in check--three men whom every one joins in
loathing--but, by Heaven, they hold the three countries with a power we
cannot shake!"

He stopped, flushed with the force of his words; Delia looked at him
with surprised, indignant eyes; her brother spoke.

"What are these, Jerome?"

"William Carstairs, one; the Master of Stair, two, and three, William of
Orange."

There was a little pause, then Delia made an impatient movement with her
foot.

"Three men, Mr. Caryl!" she cried with flashing eyes. "Have we not many
threes to match them?"

"Miss Delia," said Jerome Caryl, "you remember what the Irish said after
the Boyne?--'Change kings and we will fight it again'--I feel like that
now."

"Oh, shame!" cried Delia.

"You seem turned rank Williamite," remarked Sir Perseus, a little
sourly.

"I am not," was the firm answer, "but I see what a rope of sand we are
without a leader: I see that we have to struggle against a man whose
genius has made him arbitrator of Europe--and he has linked himself
with William Carstairs--"

"A Scotch minister of no birth!" interrupted Delia.

"One of the cleverest men in the kingdom," said Jerome, "and the Master
of Stair is another--if you consider the Highlands, you may add
Breadalbane for a fourth--call them devils, if you will, but they are
men impossible to defeat."

Sir Perseus rose impatiently:

"I think you are wrong, Jerome--why, Sir John Dalrymple, the Master of
Stair, as you call him, hath roused such a storm against himself that he
hardly dares to show himself in Edinburgh--any moment he might be
arrested by the Parliament."

"Nevertheless," answered Jerome, "he holds Scotland in the hollow of his
hand, he is a close friend of William of Orange, all powerful at St.
James's, he is hand and glove with Breadalbane and Carstairs and his
father, Sir James--curse him." He brought the last words out so fiercely
that the others started.

"They defeat me at every turn, these men," he continued passionately.
"But, by God, they shall not get the Highlands!" He turned the soft face
that was at variance with his speech toward Perseus. "That is the
question of issue now," he said. "The Highlanders must take the oaths,
the government decrees it."

"Ay," answered Sir Perseus, "and the government does not want the decree
carried out. The government may, but the Master of Stair and Breadalbane
have other plans--don't you see?"

"Yes," nodded Sir Perseus, "they want the Highlands to put themselves
outside the law."

"So that you may quiet them forever with the cold steel," finished
Jerome. "Breadalbane wants to wipe out the hated clans--the Master of
Stair wants to exterminate this pariah race that harries the
government--but we--we want to keep alive the Highlands for King
James--and we will do it!"

"Then they must take the oaths?" whispered Delia breathlessly.

"And break them when need be," answered Jerome, "but they must take
them--so that those who count upon their refusal may be defeated."

"The Master of Stair does not think they will?" asked Sir Perseus.

"No--nor yet Breadalbane--they count upon them refusing to take the oath
a Campbell administers--they are waiting eagerly for the first of
January--then--letters of fire and sword and war to the death in the
Highlands."

"What can we do?" asked Delia eagerly.

Jerome Caryl lifted his intense eyes to her flushed face.

"Miss Delia--the Highlands must be warned of the vengeance preparing
for them."

The girl nodded, with sparkling eyes; but Sir Perseus questioned:

"How?"

"That," answered Jerome Caryl, "is what I have come to consult with you
about--after I had clearly seen the objects of these men there seemed
but that one thing to do--to warn the Highlands and give them King
James's permission to take the oaths."

"But--" said Sir Perseus, "do we not by that lose the support of the
Highlands--if we should--as I hope to--organize a rising in Scotland?"

"No--a Highlander does not look on an oath as a sacred thing, my dear
Perseus, 'tis said Breadalbane himself tells them to take Prince
William's money to spend for King James--and under what possible pretext
can we continue to ask them to hold out? The King's last gift was a few
bottles of wine--let them take the thousands of the government and buy
muskets with it for our use."

"Do you think," answered Sir Perseus--"that we can overcome the fierce
hate of the Campbells? Will the clans submit to Breadalbane whatever we
say?"

"If they are frightened enough," said Jerome. "If they realize that all
England is behind him they will submit." Delia broke in suddenly:

"And my Highlander shall take the warning," she cried. "He shall carry
home this news."

Jerome looked up interested: "A Macdonald, did you say?"

"Ronald Macdonald," she answered, "and son of the chief of his clan."

"He may be trusted," said Sir Perseus, "for his very simplicity. He
could take letters to Lochiel, Glengarry, Keppoch--I know not about his
gratitude. He is, I think, faithful."

"I will answer for him," said Delia. "Indeed, I can assure you of his
great honesty."

Jerome Caryl smiled.

"Why--you seem to know him very well, Miss Delia."

She answered his look with a straight glance. "I have talked to him--he
has told me things of himself and his people."

"They come from Glencoe?"

"Yes," she answered. "In our tongue, you know, it is the' Glen of
Weeping--they call it so because of the mists that hang there day and
night--'tis an awful place in the heart of the Campbell country."

"And they are murdering thieves, are they not?" questioned Jerome.

Delia lifted her strong face, flushed rosy from the fire: "I think these
Highlanders have other standards than ours," she said quietly. "They own
stronger virtues and franker vices."

"The same," returned Jerome, "may be said of all savages, Miss Delia."

Sir Perseus interposed:

"But I think the fellow is to be trusted, and who but a born Highlander
could traverse this chaotic country with safety and advantage?"

Jerome Caryl shrugged his shoulders and stirred the log on the hearth
with the toe of his boot.

"Well, let the matter rest. Only the thing must be done if we are to
defeat Breadalbane and the Master of Stair."



CHAPTER V - THE FOLLY OF DELIA


Delia Featherstonehaugh shut the door on Jerome Caryl and her brother
and began mounting the stairs of the quiet little house. She could hear
the low murmur of the men's voices through the frail door and a fine
pencil of yellow light fell between the paneling onto the blackness
without. Delia stood still a moment in an attitude of hesitation, then
went on lightly and swiftly.

At the top of the stairs she fumbled in the dark along the wall, found
what she sought, a door-handle, turned it and entered. She was in a
small room with a sloping roof and a deep bow-window; there was no
light, but through this window poured a great flood of moonshine that
showed the plaster walls, the simple wooden furniture and the figure of
a man wrapped in a plaid, who leaned on his elbow at the window and
gazed over the city.

The rough outline of his profile was clear against the square of cold
blue sky, and above the housetops above him hung the great white moon.

Delia let the door slip into its latch with a click, and he turned his
head.

"You are longing to be away," she said in her English Gaelic. "And why
have you no light, Macdonald?"

"I have no need," he said mournfully.

Delia gave a nervous little laugh and came up to him. "Why, you are well
now," she said, "and will soon be free--you have no need to brood in the
dark."

He shook his head gloomily.

"'Tis always dark to me," he answered. "I would I had died."

There was a soft stir of satin as Delia seated herself on a wooden stool
beyond the patch of moonlight; out of the shadows came her hesitating
voice.

"Do not talk so--we have a mission for you, my brother and I."

He made no answer, only dropped his head into his hand and stared at the
moon. Delia locked her fingers together; she seemed to have to make an
effort to speak, at last she told him of the discussion between her
brother and Jerome Caryl, tried to put it forcibly and clearly and ended
by offering him the mission of carrying the warning to the Highlands
that they must take the oaths of submission to King William.

He listened as if she spoke of something of no importance; the names of
the rival kings, of the Master of Stair, had clearly no meaning to him,
but he flushed when she mentioned Breadalbane.

"The others may do what they will," he flung out, "but the Macdonalds of
Glencoe will never, submit to a Campbell."

Delia strove, somewhat falteringly, to show him the unreasonableness of
this; presently he said drearily: "For the sake of your bread that I've
eaten, I will do your errand."

A silence fell. Delia put her foot forward into the moonlight, and
watched the long shadow it made; she shivered once or twice for the room
was cold. Ronald Macdonald seemed to have forgotten her the moment her
voice ceased; she looked up at him and said, faintly:

"You promised to tell me before you left, Macdonald, the adventure that
brought you to the plight my brother found you in."

That appeared to rouse him; he looked round sharply. "Ye found me near
to death, did ye not?" he demanded.

"You have been in great fever," she answered softly. "Yes, very sick."

"Ah!" He drew himself up in the window-seat and frowned reflectively. "I
think she was a Campbell."

"Who?" asked Delia, a little breathlessly.

He did not heed her question. "She was like none I have ever seen," he
went on. "I would have fought a clan for her--she wore a coat of the
Saxon red, but she was of our country--a Campbell--was she a cursed
Campbell?"

"Who was she?" said Delia again, still so faintly that he did not hear.

"Certainly she lied to me," he continued moodily. "And 'fair and false
as a Campbell,' they say--she fooled me. I would I had killed her before
I let her fool me."

It was the first time he had ever spoken of this mysterious woman. Delia
fumbled in vain for the meaning.

"What was she like?" she asked.

He flushed and turned his frank eyes toward her.

"She had hair of the Campbell red, and curly like little Oak leaves
round her face; her eyes were like a wildcat's, that the light runs in
and out of; her mouth was bright as blood, and her face white and sharp;
she coughed and shivered, her voice was very cold. I kissed her and she
would have killed me for it--yet could it have been only that?--I think
she was a Campbell."

He sat up and gazed earnestly into the shadows where Delia sat; his
plaid had fallen back and showed the rough hide coat underneath and the
strong lines of his bare throat. Delia laughed.

"Whoever she was I think you love her, Macdonald," she said.

"I want her," he answered simply. "I want to look at her again, to touch
her, to hear her. If she is a Campbell I hate her--yet I want her--and
I cannot rest for this desire."

Delia stood up; there was a gleam of satin as she moved, a quick rustle;
she had her hands on her bosom and they rose and fell very quickly.

"Did she shoot you?" she asked.

"Yea," he answered. "Against the mist I saw her harness shine, and like
the sun was her yellow hair,--she leaned from the saddle and fired--but
I had kissed her." His breath came fast. He smiled. "I held her back
against the rowan-tree, the berries all mingled with her fallen curls--I
kissed her! She called out in your Southern tongue--then she said, 'You
have put that between us that I shall not forget,' and her white lids
dropped till her red lashes touched her cheek--and I...I cannot rest."

Delia Featherstonehaugh laughed as relief to the effect of the romantic
wording of the soft tongue and the white coldness of the moonlight; she
steadied herself with the thought of her brother and Jerome Caryl
talking (very practically) below.

"You are free to go when you will, Macdonald," she said. "Only--if you
will see my brother first and take his message to the clans."

She saw his eyes open, with a quick delight, she thought. He turned his
face full toward her for the first time.

"I will do anything you wish," he said. "If I may go at once--to-night."

She stiffened and drew further away.

"Why not?" she answered. "You are well enough." Her manner was
unnaturally cold, but he took no heed of her; she waited for her answer
in vain. "Why not?" she repeated at length. "We only kept you here
during your sickness, Macdonald."

Something in her tone seemed to ask for gratitude, the expression of
some thankfulness for his life saved, but the inflection was too
delicate for him to notice it.

"I will take your message," he repeated. "Only you must not ask us to
take the oaths to a Campbell."

"Not to a Campbell," she said. "To the Prince's Government--but will you
come and see my brother?"

Instinctive fear and dislike of the Southern struggled with the
Macdonald's desire for freedom; he reflected a while, then gave a grave
consent.

Delia, watching him, was quick to see that his impulse was to leave
without a word, stride off with no backward look at the hated town. With
her head held very stately high she preceded him down the stairs and
flung open the parlor door.

The two men turned at her entrance. She made a little gesture toward
Macdonald, and spoke in English.

"My Highlander--and he is so eager to leave us, Perseus, he would do
anything--he will take your message."

Crossing to the fire, she seated herself, leaving Macdonald in the
doorway. He eyed the two Saxons with frank interest; his glance rested
long on the beautiful face of Jerome Caryl.

"I am to translate, Perseus," said Delia. "What do you want to say?"

Jerome looked at the huge Highlander with approval.

"Ask him to sit down," he said. "He looks honest."

Delia obeyed with an air almost of disdain; Jerome, glancing at her,
wondered what had damped her eager spirits; she was very grave and pale;
her eyes were fixed with a curious expression on Macdonald; her mouth
had a little lift of scorn.

She sat so, very still, translating her brother's questions and
explanations into Gaelic, and Jerome Caryl watched her.

Macdonald listened with gravity and attention, appeared to understand
what was asked of him and received into his keeping the letters to the
Highland chiefs with a solemn promise to deliver them.

Sir Perseus gave him a rough map of his route from Glasgow to Glencoe, a
pistol and a few crowns.

These last he respected as useless; he was doubtful, too, of the pistol,
but finally stuck it in his belt. Jerome Caryl offered to see him on his
way beyond the town gates.

Macdonald declined, gazing from his high window he had marked the gates
and could well find them. With cordialities on the part of Sir Perseus,
and shy reserve from the Highlander, they took leave of each other.

"I will light you," said Delia.

She rose and took up a candle and led the way down-stairs; Ronald
Macdonald, light-footed as a cat, followed.

In the narrow little hall she turned and faced him; in the circle of the
candle-light her brown hair glittered with threads of gold and the
yellow satin of her gown rippled into reflections and shadows.

"Maybe you will meet the lady with the red curls again," she said.

He looked curiously at the Saxon woman who had nursed him; his blue eyes
held some wonder; he had hardly realized her as yet.

"'Tis late to start on a journey," continued Delia; "dark already."

"Day and night are one to me," he answered.

"And you are very eager to be gone," she finished with a faint smile.

He looked at her half-hesitatingly.

"You have been very hospitable to one not of your race," he said slowly.
"Beyond Dunblane, on the beginning of the Highlands, lives an old
shepherd who knows me well--if you ever need me send to him and I shall
hear."

She lifted her head.

"I shall ask for no gratitude, Macdonald," she said gravely and proudly.
"Nor am I like to need you--I have my own kin."

A puzzled expression crossed his face.

"Your brother is a Saxon," he answered. "Most Saxons would have shot me
where I lay."

Delia Featherstonehaugh smiled faintly:

"My brother is a gentleman."

"And I am a prince of the Macdonalds," said the Highlander, "and I can
bring two hundred men to serve you when you will. They would give their
lives to one who had given Ronald Macdonald his."

This sudden high-handed overpaying of what she had done at a moment when
she was the most considering him ungrateful, brought a quick flush of
shame into her cheeks.

"I pray you do not speak of it," she said faintly.

She was leaning against the wall and the candle shook so in her hand
that her shadow waved and danced behind her on the paneling; she was
very much aware of the nearness of his magnificent presence and the
frank half-wonder of his blue eyes turned on her, though her own were
very resolutely fixed upon her feet.

"Unbar the door," she asked him, "'tis too heavy for me." He bent over
the iron bolts; as he turned his back she glanced once up then down
again.

There was a hoarse creaking and the door swung slowly open on the violet
night; it was bitter cold; beneath the rising moon great masses of gray
clouds lay piled, and a low stinging wind was abroad.

Macdonald stepped over the threshold and set his face toward the gates;
a little wild smile crossed his face.

"Farewell," he said absently, and turned to leave.

A gust of wind blew out the candle and Delia let it drop; with a swish
of skirts she came out into the cobbled road, her hair blown about her
face.

"Macdonald," she said; he turned and gazed down at her; the moonlight
lay on her from head to foot; she was pale and her eyes looked
preternaturally large.

"Macdonald," she repeated, then seemed to fumble for her words, "Do you
understand?--you must take the oaths." She laid her hand on the corner
of his plaid with a timid eagerness that had its effect.

"We will go to Breadalbane's conference," he answered, "and if the
others submit--"

"There must be no 'if'!" she cried impetuously. "Don't you see? Take the
oaths or woe, woe to Glencoe! For the Campbells will get letters of fire
and sword against you, and the whole strength of England would be behind
them!"

He appeared to suddenly give heed to some of the danger threatening; his
serious face darkened.

"Maybe we will take the oaths--" he answered gloomily, "but not to
Breadalbane."

"Lochiel, Glengarry and Keppoch will take them," she said eagerly. "Why
not you P"

He turned on her fiercely: "Ye are Saxon! Ye cannot fathom! We hate the
Campbells!"

He loosened his plaid almost roughly from her grasp and was gone at a
swinging pace down the empty street.

Delia stood where he had left her; she put her loosened hair back and
stared after him; she shivered yet did not know it was cold; a few
houses off a flickering oil lamp hung across the street; she waited for
the great figure to show beneath it, thinking perhaps he might look back
since there he reached the turn of the road.

She saw him pass from the moonlight into the lamplight, then disappear
into the dark shadow of the houses beyond. He had not turned his head,
but with light and quickened pace had gone.

Delia Featherstonehaugh went into the house--shut the door and slowly
mounted the stairs. She could hear her brother and Jerome Caryl talking
in the parlor and the old woman who was their only servant moving about
below; she avoided both and went straight to her own room.

It was a cheerless poor place; as Delia lit the lamp and looked round a
vague, sick longing took her heart.

She had never known a home or wished for one; even when her father was
alive they had been desperately poor and she had alternated between a
foreign convent and a Scotch lodging, according as the fortunes of her
father's master, the Duke of York, had shifted.

There had been some little prosperity for them when the Duke, as King
James, came to the throne; of that now nothing remained save the empty
baronetcy that her brother now held and the memory of her father's death
at the Boyne.

Yet she had been happy.

She went on her knees by her bed and buried her face in the pillows; it
was strange to feel suddenly tired and lonely; she was half-frightened
at the heaviness of her heart.

After a while she rose to her feet with a shudder between shame and
fear; she felt restless, distracted, incapable of any continued thought.

She opened the door and looked out.

The house seemed quiet; she crept down-stairs and entered the parlor.

It was empty, but the light still burning. Delia, suddenly aware that
she was numb with cold, drew a chair to the fire and held her hands to
the flames. Sitting so, she fell into dreams and did not notice when the
fire sank and died and the log fell into ashes at her feet; her thoughts
were more real than the room; she suddenly called out at them aloud and
clasped her hands passionately, then, startled at herself, looked round.

The other side of the hearth stood Jerome Caryl, his melancholy hazel
eyes fixed on her.

"Mr. Caryl!" she cried and flushed scarlet.

His small mouth curved into a smile. "Forgive me," he said softly. "I
startled you--"

She recovered herself with a half-laugh. "I thought you were gone with
Perseus--or abed," she said, "and I--I have let the fire out."

She spoke hurriedly and the color receding from her face, left her very
white.

Jerome seated himself. "Miss Delia," he said, "this is a miserable life
for you."

"Oh, no," she answered. "No."

"Yes," he insisted gently. "For a woman and a lady, a miserable life;
you are very heroic, Miss Delia, to give up so much for King James."

"You forget, Mr. Caryl, that I have no alternative." She smiled frankly
at him "And I am a born plotter," she added, "and sanguine--so content,
Mr. Caryl."

A silence fell between them; she turned her head away and fell to
twisting her fingers together in her lap; he could see her profile in
pure strong lines against the background of shadows, the curve of her
throat into the lace collar and the loosened knot of dull brown curls in
her neck; he studied her with gentle melancholy eyes and his mouth
drooped with lines of musing. Presently the girl spoke, shaking off the
spell of the silence with an effort.

"Mr. Caryl--do you think the Highlands will take the oath?"

"I hope so--most fervently," he answered. "Indeed, I think so--"

"All of them?" she asked, and her voice faltered a little. Jerome Caryl
considered.

"Some might hate the Campbells more than they feared the government," he
said, "but it would, Miss Delia, hardly matter--they would pay the
price--they could not involve the others."

"Pay the price," she repeated. "What would that be?--what would the
government do to those who did not take the oaths?"

She turned full toward him with grave, intent eyes.

"'Tis not a question of the government," answered Caryl. "But of
Breadalbane and the Master of Stair--they are waiting very eagerly, Miss
Delia, for the first of January to pass, and they are preparing a great
vengeance against those who shall then be outside the law."

"They would be pitiless, you think?" she questioned breathlessly.

"Yes," said Jerome Caryl.

She moved impetuously in her chair. "Why?" she asked, "I can understand
Breadalbane--but why the Master of Stair? What has he against the
Highlands?"

"The contempt of the statesman for the savage," Caryl answered with a
half-smile. "The intolerant arrogance of the powerful against those who
oppose him, and the haughty resolution of an imperious soul, Miss
Delia."

"I loathe his make," she cried. "Hard and cruel--I have heard horrid
tales of him--and how he is accursed--he is a fitting servant of William
of Orange!"

The color had come into her face; she set her lips resolutely and flung
up her head.

"Do you think that the Macdonalds of Glencoe will take the oaths?" she
asked abruptly.

"I cannot tell," he answered gravely.

"And if they did not--" she stopped, then went on bravely. "They are in
the heart of the Campbell country--I suppose--I mean, do you
think--Breadalbane would--leave any alive?"

"Nay, I cannot tell," said Jerome Caryl, "I think it is not likely that
he would forego this chance against his ancient enemies."

She rose up suddenly and her clasped hands fell apart and clenched at
her sides.

"Ah!" she cried.

Then she caught his eyes on her and gave a faint laugh.

"Mr. Caryl," she began. She could get no further; her voice broke; she
put her trembling hand to her mouth and stared down at him.

He rose.

"Miss Delia," he said gently, "what is it to you that the Macdonalds
should take the oaths?"

The direct question threw her off her defenses; she gave him a terrified
glance and sank into the chair, turning away her head.

"What is it to you?" he repeated softly.

Her voice came muffled over her shoulder: "Why, nothing--only--you
see--I--"

He saw her shoulders heave, and bent over her. She was sobbing; he could
see the tears glittering on her cheek; with a great effort she tried for
control.

"I am tired--and excited, Mr. Caryl--don't heed me."

He stood still and silent, watching her, his soft mouth curved into a
half-sad smile; the light from the flaring candle and his flickering
shadow rose and fell over her, now obscuring, now revealing her bent
head, and stooping shoulders.

"'Tis nothing," she said, stifling her sobs.

"Miss Delia," said Jerome Caryl, "I think it is a great deal."

She suddenly broke down beyond concealment. "I think my heart is
broken," she whispered between passionate sobs "I think I am
mad--oh,--I am ashamed!--ashamed!"

She struggled up, hiding her scarlet, tear-stained face.

"Think me mad," she whispered through her fingers, "and forget--I am
ashamed--and most unhappy--"

She leaned her forehead against the chimneypiece and sobbed afresh; her
yellow skirt trailed in the dead ashes on the hearth, and from head to
foot she shuddered.

Jerome Caryl was neither discomposed nor confused; he surveyed her
agitation with a tender calmness and his strange melancholy smile
deepened.

"I think we can make the Macdonalds take the oaths, Miss Delia," he
said, "as an old friend you will let me help you--in what I can?"

She lifted her head and looked at him with a half-wonder. "What do you
mean?" she whispered.

His voice sank melodiously low.

"I mean I think you would not care, Miss Delia, for the man who has left
us to be massacred by the Campbells--you would like to think he and his
clan were safe."

Delia went white and clutched at the edge of the mantelpiece; she stared
with widened eyes at the beautiful face of the man opposite.

"You know," she said at length, "you are very gallant with my folly, Mr.
Caryl."

"My sweet friend," he answered, "your folly is a lovely thing--this man
is honored by your consideration and I by leave to help you--you have a
tenderness toward the life you saved; believe me it does you credit."

A look of relief crossed her face, she gave a little gasping sigh.

"You arc generous," she said falteringly, "and I foolish--and ashamed--"

"I have seen strange things in an adventurer's career, Miss Delia," he
smiled, "but never any one ashamed with no cause."

She stood abashed, yet comforted; gratitude that he had not guessed and
fear that he might struggled together at her heart; she resolved on
escape.

"Good-night," she said, and held out her hand.

His cool, firm palm touched her trembling hot fingers; she gave him a
wistful look.

"Thank you--Jerome," she said, and with a sweep of skirts was gone.

He noted the way she gave him his name as a great mark of confidence,
and smiled quietly.

"So she is in love with that Highlander," he said to himself, "and
thinks her heart broken!"

He shrugged his shoulders; then yawned and picked the candle up.

"Perseus is remarkably obtuse," he reflected. "Poor lady!" And he yawned
again.



CHAPTER VI - HATE MEETS HATE


The Earl of Breadalbane bit his pen and stared thoughtfully out of the
window at the gloomy shores of Loch Awe.

He sat in a small chamber contrived by a modern architect out of one of
the Gothic halls of the old castle; it was well furnished and contained
the luxuries (rare in the Highlands), of a carpet, wall-hangings and a
sideboard with a mirror.

These things, however, were none of them new; the Earl's chair showed
the horsehair through the broken leather and the carpet in front of his
bureau was worn threadbare; the Earl was a wealthy man and a proud, but
above everything prudent; he kept his French furniture for Edinburgh and
used here things that had served when he was merely Sir John Campbell of
Glenorchy.

A sheet of paper was before him; clear save for the heading:

"To Sir John Dalrymple, Master of Stair." The Earl was very clear as to
what he wished to write to the Secretary; it was merely to inform him
that there was little likelihood of many of the clans coming in by the
prescribed time; to advise him that the new regiment of his cousin,
Argyll, should be armed and quartered in Glasgow with as little
disturbance as possible.

But it was not so easy to couch this in terms satisfactory to his own
cautious mind; it must be in his own hand, his name attached; there must
be possibility of a perfectly innocent construing of it if ever it were
produced.

Breadalbane had often raised his eyebrows of late at the letters the
Master of Stair put his hand to; the utterly reckless letters of a man
too powerful to heed caution.

"But times change," smiled Breadalbane, "he'd no' be so powerful if
there was a revolution." He opened a drawer and pulled out a packet of
the Master of Stair's letters; written mostly from Kensington and in a
powerful, picturesque style, flowing and eloquent. They set forth a
scheme evidently very passionately dear to the writer's heart, namely,
the utter destruction of that "damnable den of thieves," the
Highlanders.

Breadalbane took up the last and read it over again; it contained these
words:

"Your troops will destroy entirely the country of Lochaber, Lochiel's
lands, Keppoch's, Glengarry's and Glencoe's. Your power shall be large
enough. I hope the soldiers will not trouble the government with
prisoners."

The Earl folded and put the letters away. "You are very confident, Sir
John," he reflected, "that the clans will no' be coming in."

It was now the third of December and none had taken the oaths; there
seemed fair ground for the Master of Stair's eager hope that none would;
who was to warn the remote Highlands of the secret vengeance preparing
against them; of the soldiers sent quietly in readiness for the first
day of the new year, of the Master of Stair, Secretary and Prime
Minister for Scotland, waiting for that day with the terrible calmness
of a black resolve?

The Highlanders saw none of this; only the suave smile of the loathed
Campbell who was the government's instrument, and a demand for the
avowal of submission their haughtiness would not stoop to grant.

Breadalbane put down his pen and pushed his chair back. If the chiefs
were not warned...

His light eyes glistened unpleasantly--certainly he had at least the
Macdonalds in his hand.

He was returning to his letter with a smile on his thin lips when the
door was suddenly opened and he swung round with his swift silent
movement.

It was Campbell of Ardkinglass.

"Weel?" demanded the Earl, and his tone was haughty: his common usage.

Ardkinglass gave him a strange glance. "Macdonald o' Glencoe is below,"
he said dryly. "The chief and his twa sons asking for ye."

Breadalbane rose stiffly:

"Macdonald o' Glencoe--under my roof?" he said with narrowing eyes.

Ardkinglass nodded.

"They will be wishing to take the oaths," he answered. "They've come to
attend the conference."

The Earl, always mindful of his dignity before his henchmen, stifled a
fierce oath. "I'm no' a sheriff," he said. "Let them begone from my
roof--see to it Ardkinglass--tell them I willna' treat with thieves."

"They willna' gang," replied Campbell of Ardkinglass, "they've come,
they say, for their share of the bonnie English siller."

The Earl's control broke at that; he cried out passionately:

"The auld leeing thief! He would be asking me for the siller when he
owes me more for rent and robbery than his share twice ower!"

"I think they will be coming to see ye in your public capacity," was
the answer. "They're no' taking heed of private feuds."

Breadalbane stood silent; the angry color fled from his face and it took
on lines of cunning; his eyes shifted under their blond brows; he
stroked his chin with his delicate hand and coughed musingly; then he
glanced up with a return of his perpetual smile.

"Weel," he said, "I'll come, Ardkinglass." He turned and carefully
locked away his papers; then preceded his kinsman down the great gaunt
stairs.

The Macdonalds stood in the center of the vast dining-hall, the old
chief between his two sons; all three erect with their bonnets in their
hands, all huge in height and build.

The two young men were breathing hard, flushed and defiant, their eyes
roving quickly from door to window; but the elder Makian's fine old face
showed a dignified, placid calm in keeping with his venerable
appearance, a benevolent good-will showed in his bright blue eyes and
his lips were curved to a kindly smile.

Breadalbane, entering, gave him a quick glance, then stepped forward,
motioning to Ardkinglass to stand back against the wall. The two young
men swung round, black with mistrust, but Makian spoke in bland Lowland
Scotch:

"Ye will be wondering, why we make such a tardy appearance," he remarked
gently, "weel, it was the weather--was ower rough."

His manner utterly waived all thought of offense between them; he spoke
as if the Campbells and Macdonalds had been friends for centuries.

Breadalbane hitched his sword over his hip so that it lay nearer his
hand. "Weel," he answered thoughtfully, "I'll no' be denying that I was
expecting Makian, though 'tis ower long since a Macdonald came to
Kilchurn."

Makian waved his hand courteously as if he dismissed even the hint of an
unpleasant subject. "Ye will be guessing our errand?" he said suavely.

There was the slightest pause; Breadalbane measured the three huge
Highlanders in their dark tartans with their dirks stuck through their
belts, and the Highlanders eyed the Earl, slender in his Lowland suit of
gray velvet with his left hand gently pulling his sword backwards and
forwards.

He was the first to speak:

"Yea," he said, "it will be aboot the coos ye have come, Macdonald."

Makian's face was a pleasant blank.

"The coos?" he repeated courteously.

Breadalbane lifted his ash-gray eyes with a sinister flash.

"The coos," he answered, "and the bonnie pasture lands--they have been
keeping ye, Macdonald, this mony year, I ken--I willna' be mentioning
the gould and siller, the plate and furniture and sic details--for I'm
no' doubting ye have come to return the coos."

"I'm no' understanding," said Makian pleasantly. "We hav'na' ane coo in
Glencoe." His two sons emphasized the statement with a scowl, but the
Earl was imperturbable.

"Weel," he remarked, "ye eat a muckle of meat in a fortnight--it is only
that time since ye took a hundred fat coos--but I make no doubt that
since ye have eaten them, Macdonald, ye have brought the siller to pay
for them."

Again there was a slight pause; the venerable Makian's face assumed a
still more amiable expression, but he appeared a little at a loss for an
answer; the sons exchanged fierce glances.

Breadalbane, still fondling his sword-hilt, spoke slowly.

"The market value of the coos is twa pund English apiece."

At this one of the young Macdonalds broke out: "Ye play the fuie, Jock
Campbell! We hav'na' come to prate of coos--but of the oaths to King
Wullie."

Breadalbane looked at him calmly.

"So you're thinking of taking the oaths? Weel, I'm no' a sheriff."

Makian interposed:

"We will gang to the sheriff, Jock Campbell, but there was talk of
siller for those taking the oaths and I'd no' be adverse to my ain
share."

"Weel?" said Breadalbane mildly.

"We'll no' be asking a muckle," said Makian generously. "King Jamie
couldna' do more for us than fine words and a siller bawbee apiece--gie
us twa hundred of King Wullie's money and we'll be taking the oaths."

"I take your meaning, Macdonald," answered Breadalbane. "The twa hundred
pund would just pay for the coos--well, I'll keep it and then you'll be
still owing me the rent."

Makian was silent, recognizing a master-stroke of cunning; Ronald had
little Lowland speech and could only frown angrily; but Ian, his elder,
made a step toward Breadalbane:

"We owe ye neither money nor friendship, Jock Campbell," he cried
fiercely, "we come to ye because ye stand for the government--we'll no'
be considering what there is between us here and noo."

Breadalbane lifted his head with a little laugh. "Keep back," he said.
"Dinna forget that I'm no' ane of your Hieland thieves, but Campbell
o' Glenorchy and Breadalbane! Keep back, I say! Do ye ken that in
Edinburgh the lifting of my finger would hang ye before the Tolbooth?"

His eyes shone with a steady contained hate, and fire flashed in Ian
Macdonald's gaze to meet it.

"Na doot ye could lee awa' a mon's life in Edinburgh, Jock Campbell," he
answered, "but noo we stand on our ain ground."

"Ye stand in Kilchurn Castle!" cried the Earl. "Dinna forget that
Macdonald!"

A passionate reply was on Ian's lips, but the old chief interposed:

"Ay, we stand in your ain castle, Jock Campbell, because we treat ye as
the government's representative--in your public capacity, ye ken. I'll
no' be saying it's greatly to our liking to treat with a Campbell, but I
will be saying it'll no' be greatly to your credit to be remembering ye
are a Campbell."

Breadalbane's hand clutched tightly round his sword-hilt; he struggled
to maintain his wonted dignity of demeanor.

"Take the oaths an' ye will, Macdonald," he said. "But dinna think yell
get ony siller frae me--not a bawbee. Ye owe me in money and kind mony
times your share o' the English siller."

Makian drew himself up with stately gravity.

"Ye are wrong," he said. "'Tis not in your right to withhold the money."

"'Tis in my power," flashed Breadalbane. Ian answered fiercely:

"I fling your word of thief back at ye, Jock Campbell!"

He was striding forward when his brother and father caught him by either
arm.

"We must have no fighting," cried Ronald in Gaelic. "There are a hundred
Campbells here--woe that we ever came!"

Breadalbane, holding himself erect, smiled coldly at them; he had
himself well under control; Makian glancing at his set face felt it had
been a mistake to cross his threshold.

There was an intense pause; Ronald scowled till his blue eyes were
hidden; the wily old chief with one hand tightly on Ian's arm was
considering a means to conciliate or to outwit the Earl.

Breadalbane looked at the silent Ardkinglass behind him, then back at
the three Highlanders and his lids drooped till his eyes were hidden.

The silence was broken by the opening of the heavy door, and the quick
entry of a woman.

It was the Countess Peggy.

She wore a green coat and there was some heavy brown fur about her neck;
she carried her hat in her hand and on her shoulders and in her red
curls was a faint powdering of snow.

At sight of the three Highlanders she stepped back and the color rushed
into her face. And Ronald had seen her; he turned full to where she
stood and cried:

"Helen Fraser!"

The two Macdonalds stared at him; but he, breathing fast and flushing,
took no heed of them; it was as if the mere sight of her had uplifted
him from all thought of aught beside.

The Earl came, very softly, nearer, but he made no attempt to interpose
when Ronald strode up to the woman.

"Helen Fraser!" he cried passionately, "what do ye under a Campbell's
roof? Ah, God, ye broke bread with me and I cannot forget--I forgive
that ye turned on me, Helen Fraser."

She cut him short:

"I am Margaret Campbell," she said, very white, "and that man's wife."
She pointed to Breadalbane with a smile of unutterable pride and before
the glitter of her green eyes Ronald fell back.

"But--ye broke bread with me," he stammered like a stricken man--"and ye
are--Jock Campbell's wife!" He glared round him with bewildered eyes:
they were all silent, held in a tense hush. The Countess glanced at her
husband, then back to the magnificent figure of Macdonald.

He stared at the Earl with wide eyes, stormy and inscrutable; he spoke
very slowly: "So I have kissed Jock Campbell's wife!" and he laughed, as
if there were tears in his voice.

The thing was done; with a sound like a rip of silk the Earl's sword was
out and the light ran down the length of it before the eyes of the
Macdonalds.

"Take the steel's welcome to Kilchurn!" he cried in their own language
"Thieves and liars! do ye think Campbell o' Glenorchy is to be insulted
in his own castle?"

In a second the Highland dirks were out and the Countess had cried to
Ardkinglass: "Call my cousin, Colin--in the name of God haste!"

He dashed from the room and she flung herself forward, with eager eyes
on her husband.

He had his back against the wall and was keeping Makian and his son at
bay with the sweep of his long sword.

The sight drove the Countess wild: "Two to one!" she shrieked, "ye foul
cowards!"

"Hold the woman back!" cried Makian; he had no scruples; what chance
had they for their lives if the Campbells came? and Breadalbane was
before the door. Ronald started at his father's voice.

"Bolt the door!" cried Ian; Ronald obeyed as if he knew not what he did.

The Countess dashed forward to stop him and a second time Makian cried:

"Hold the woman, Ronald!"

This time he turned and caught her by the arm and swung her, not
ungently, back. Under his uplifted arm that held her she saw the
crossing swords of her husband and Makian, and Ian standing grimly by;
she saw Breadalbane hopelessly overmatched and her eyes flashed to the
bolted door.

"Let me go," she said in a quick whisper, staring up into his grave
troubled face. "Oh--take your hands away!"

But he held her as firmly against the castle wall as he had done against
the mud hut; again her green eyes glanced in agony at her husband and
she writhed in Ronald's grip:

"They'll kill him," she said hoarsely.

"And you love him?" said Macdonald in Gaelic.

For answer she, realizing him in a blaze of fury, struck him full across
the face with her free hand; he flushed scarlet but never relaxed his
hold of her.

There was the sound of steps without and a thundering on the door.

"Jock!" cried the Countess, "Jock!"

Breadalbane had been forced back into the window-seat; the huge figure
of Ian almost hid him from her view; Ronald looked over his shoulder at
them.

"Jock Campbell is doomed," he said gravely. "Answer me--do you want him
saved?"

Even in that moment she was arrested by the serious passion of his face.

"Tell me," he insisted.

"What do you think!" she cried fiercely.

"Yes or no?" said Ronald.

With a wrench the answer came from her: "God in Heaven--yes!"

Instantly he loosed her and swung round on the fighting men; not too
soon; the Earl had slipped by the wall and Ian was over him, forcing the
sword from his grip; but Ronald caught him by the shoulder and dragged
him back with a force that shot the dagger from his hand.

"Get up!" he shouted to Breadalbane; and the Earl, dizzy from the fear
of death, staggered to his feet.

The hall was full of Campbells, the Countess had dashed to shoot back
the bolt and Ardkinglass had rushed in with a dozen of his kin at his
heels.

Makian, breathing hard, glanced round and saw the day lost for him; he
had not gathered his son's action; but Ian turned on his brother with
bitter curses.

"Are ye mad or traitor, Ronald, that ye give us to the hands of our
enemies?"

The Earl pushed past him into the center of the room and stood between
the three Macdonalds, sullenly at bay, and the silent Campbells
waiting the signal for slaughter.

"Fool! fool! to come to Kilchurn Castle!" said Makian, then fell into
silence.

"Will ye have us hang them as thieves?" asked Ardkinglass, "or shall we
cut them down noo?"

Breadalbane pushed the blond hair back from his eyes, and glanced round
his tacksmen. In the little pause that followed, Ian broke into a
furious taunt: "Are ye turning tender, Jock Campbell? Dinna fear the
odds--a Macdonald is worth sax Campbells!"

Down from the door came the Countess Peggy into the midst of the men;
the brown fur on her bosom was unclasped and showed the tumbled lace of
her tie; her red hair had fallen into twists of fine curls onto her
shoulders; she was flushed and most beautiful.

"Kill them, Jock," she said.

She held out her hands, red-marked, round the wrist from Ronald's grip.
"Kill them, Jock," she said again, and her gaze went straight and
defiant to Ronald Macdonald.

Breadalbane did not answer her; he spoke to Makian.

"Your son gave me my life, Macdonald, and you're three against a
hundred. I hav'na' need to crush ye by these means and I'll no' be under
a debt to a Macdonald. Take your lives and gang."

The Countess made a fierce little sound under her breath: "Ah, no,
Jock--kill them--while ye have the chance!"

"He saved my life," the Earl answered briefly, then to the Macdonalds,
"leave Kilchurn, and remember I'm no' under a debt to ye."

They came slowly forward, showing little of their surprise in their
faces; Ronald's blue eyes were devouringly on the Countess; she
drew herself up as he passed and her hand clutched into her furs.

"I wouldna' have let ye go," she cried bitterly, but Breadalbane turned
on her:

"Woman, will ye no' remember, I'm master in my ain castle?"

She shrank into herself, submissive under the rebuke; but a hate not to
be controlled flashed from her eyes.

"See them out of the castle, Ardkinglass," commanded the Earl, "see they
gang at once. I'm no wishing to be robbed under my ain eyes."

Makian, afraid for his life, swallowed the insult and without a backward
look or any salutation to the Earl, went heavily from the hall, his sons
at his heels.

Ardkinglass and the Campbells followed.

Now they were alone, the Countess Peggy turned passionately to her
husband.

"Ah, I thought I had died! ah, my ain love, Jock--why didna' ye kill
them?" She caught up his hand and put her cheek to it with a little
caressing movement.

He frowned at her absently and put his free hand to his sword-hilt.

"Jock, Jock," she cried, "ye had your chance--all the hate of these
hundred years might hae been satisfied--ye shouldna' hae let them gang
sae easily--that--Ronald--too," her eyes flashed as she said it,
"escapes more lightly than if he'd kissed a Hieland wench against her
will--is it for naething I am Campbell o' Glenorchy's wife? Ah, Jock,
when ye drew your sword I thought ye had killed him for me--not let him
live to--boast--"

Breadalbane turned impatiently.

"Ye dinna understand," he said, "he saved my life for one thing."

"Not for love o' ye," she interrupted fiercely, "but to win a smile frae
me--an insult and a disgrace--if ye had killed him none had kenned he
spared your life to please your wife!"

The Earl flushed a little at her tone, but he was lapsing into his usual
calm manner.

"Woman, ye dinna ken the larger issues," he said dryly. "If I had slain
these Macdonalds how think ye it would hae sounded in Edinburgh? Sir
John wouldna' hae thanked me for it; it would hae pleased nane but the
Jacobites that hae been glad for this handle against me."

She moved a step away from him.

"Ah, ye hae grown too politic," she answered. "When I wed ye, ye
wouldna' hae done sae--Campbell o' Glenorchy would hae fought for me nor
been dared sae tamely by these thieving Macdonalds!"

Breadalbane looked at her calmly. "I willna' put myself outside the law
when I may be avenged inside the law," he said. "In a while not three,
but all o' the Macdonalds shall be in my power and without scandal can I
use it--dinna ye understand?"

"But they will take the oaths," she answered.

"Not after this--they willna'," said the Earl, grimly

But the Countess Peggy was not appeased; she looked with a frown at the
fading marks on her wrist and rebellion against her lord rose within
her.

"I'm no' convinced," she said, half under her breath. Breadalbane gave
her a cold glance.

"Let a man judge o' a man's affairs," he said curtly, "I'm no' needing
your advice on matters o' policy."

He turned to leave the room but the Countess swung round and caught his
coat.

"Nay, Jock," she cried, with tears in her eyes, "dinna leave me in
anger--forgive me--'tis only that I couldn't bear to think they should
live to--to laugh at ye."

"I'm no' angry with ye, Peggy," smiled the Earl, "and for the
Macdonalds--dinna fear; they willna' lang be troubling us."





CHAPTER VII - THE POISON OF THE KISS


The three Macdonalds trudged in silence over the flat moors beyond Loch
Awe. Behind them lay Kilchurn Castle, black against the vapors of Ben
Cruachan, the mist-soaked standard of England hanging red and gold
above it.

The heavy gray sky seemed to hang low enough to be touched with an
uplifted arm; there was no wind; a few flakes of snow fell slowly.
Makian walked a little ahead of his two sons, and reflected on the
absolute failure of his attempt to wring money from Jock Campbell: it
had been a bold attempt and there was little wonder that it had not
succeeded. Whether they took the oaths or no, Makian was very sure that
they would not get a guinea of the English money; it was a bitter wrong,
he thought, that the government should have chosen for its agent a man
with whom so many clans were at feud. He meant to take the oaths: the
letters Ronald had delivered had frightened him as well as others; he
was shrewd and wily; the tribes favorable to King William; the Frasers,
the Macnaughtens and Grants had warned him that submission would be the
wiser part.

He knew he would have his sons against him, their hate of the Campbells
overweighed every consideration of prudence he could bring forward. He
decided he would wait: there was time yet. Let some of the others come
in first, let Keppoch of Glenroy, Glengarry or Lochiel lend their pride
before he lowered his.

Ian and Ronald followed him in silence; though Makian had condoned his
son's saving of Breadalbane as a piece of prudence that had preserved
their lives, Ian felt bitter about it and turned a sullen face on his
father.

Ronald took no heed of any; his blue eyes were gazing blankly ahead; he
walked in an absorbed gravity with his mouth set sternly.

They had crossed the moor and were entering a ravine between the hills,
when Makian stopped, and looking back, motioned ahead.

A man on horseback with a following on foot was coming toward them.

They were near enough for the Macdonalds to distinguish the tartan of
the Camerons, and the three lifted their bonnets as they drew close. The
horseman raised his hat. He was a magnificent figure, bearing the dress
and manners of a Lowlander, though about him was a Cameron plaid, and he
spoke in pure Gaelic.

"Well met, Macdonald of Glencoe," he said, with a pleasant smile. "You
come from Kilchurn?"

"Yes," frowned Makian. "And you, Ewen Cameron?"

The other laughed. "I go there," he answered. "A tacksman of yours
brought me a letter from King James--I must thank ye for the warning it
contained," he added. "I go now to twist what money I can wring out of
my slippery cousin, Breadalbane."

"Will ye take the oaths?" demanded Ian Macdonald.

Sir Ewen Cameron of Lochiel laughed again, and patted the neck of his
black horse. "It were the wiser thing for ye to do," he said. "Will
you not profit by your own warning?"

Ronald broke in:

"Nay, we will take no oaths to a Campbell."

Lochiel's sharp eyes traveled keenly over the three faces; his own fell
to gravity.

"Why, you would play the fool," he said. "These letters are from Caryl,
an accredited agent of King James, and His Majesty gives us leave to
take the oath to the Dutchman--and to break it."

Ronald's face grew harder.

"It is no question of the kings--I'd see either of them hanged for a
gold piece--it's a question of Jock Campbell of Breadalbane," he said
sullenly.

Lochiel, bred in cities and used to courts, smiled at the young
Highlander's unreasoning venom. "Ye have stubborn stuff there," he said
to Makian. "But let me warn ye--take the oaths before it be too late."

Macdonald was flattered by the friendliness of so great a man, but was
too proud to show it; and sore from his recent encounter with
Breadalbane, spoke with an assurance he was far from feeling.

"I am not afraid," he said loftily. "I will consider about taking the
oaths--and ye, Ewen Cameron, will ye be the first to come in?"

Lochiel drew himself up haughtily and his dark cheek flushed.

"Nay, 'tis a point of honor with me--I will not be the first," he
answered. "But my tacksmen are free to do as they choose, and my
tacksmen understand me. Farewell."

He touched his horse up and the Camerons moved on.

As Lochiel, haughty and splendid, passed the Macdonalds, he turned a
little in the saddle and smiled in the winning way that had won King
Charles's heart.

"I will not be the first, Macdonald o' Glencoe, for my honor's sake," he
said. "But I would not be the last, for my head's sake--look to the
warning."

His gloved hand touched his black horse, and the Camerons passed on over
the wet moor toward Kilchurn.

Ronald scowled after him; Ian cursed impatiently, but Makian resolved
that his prudence would do well to take the hint his pride had received
ungraciously.

Before Lochiel was out of sight they were on their way again.

The snow began to fall faster; it was late afternoon and the light
fading to a heavy grayness; against the hard color of the sky the flakes
showed a dazzling white, and in the hollows of the rocks they began to
lie in tiny drifts. Beside a narrow cave that looked full on the ravine,
the Macdonalds halted.

In the shelter of an overhanging rock, Ian kindled with some difficulty
a fire; and Makian produced provisions from his wallet, and laid them in
silence before his sons.

Ronald sat over the thin smoky flames, morose and sullen; he pushed away
the food offered with the back of his hand, and sat staring over the
blank landscape, while the others ate. But he was not left long alone.
Presently Ian, warmed with his food and forgetting his grievance, came
and flung himself beside him. Ronald eyed him coldly, then turned his
head away. He was desperately out of humor and had no care about the
hiding of it.

Ian, in every respect the same to look on, save that he was darker,
rougher in make and fiercer in manner, was yet of a nature more simple,
more easily pleased if as easily angered; secretly, he greatly admired
his younger brother. He glanced over his shoulder at Makian, sitting
placid in the mouth of the cave with blank blue eyes considering
mischief, and spoke in a whisper to Ronald.

"Did ye mark Lochiel's coat?" he said eagerly. "With the gold braid on
it--and his satin vest and gloves like the King? Lochiel's a great man."

Ronald gave no answer.

"And his sword," continued Ian. "An Andrea Ferrara with a basket hilt--"

"I did not mark it," answered Ronald without looking round, but Ian was
not to be repulsed.

"Macdonald o' Keppoch has a red coat like that--of the fine cloth with
gilt buttons--I saw it when I was in Glenroy--Keppoch got it when he
sacked Inverary and he carries it about with him, valuing it greatly."
His eyes shone with a fierce envy. "I would have a coat like that, and
boots with buckles and fringes."

"Lochiel bought those clothes in King Charlie's time--they're years
old," returned Ronald scornfully.

But Ian cast a wistful glance at his weather-stained plaid. "Glengarry
has an Andrea Ferrara," he said, with eager blue eyes on his brother.

"Let him keep it," returned Ronald shortly. "I am content with my bow
and my dirk."

"You are in an ill mood," said Ian. "I remember when ye could not sleep
for longings such as these--and when ye found nothing o' wearing apparel
in Jock Campbell's burning house ye raged extremely."

Ronald turned fiercely.

"Do not talk to me o' Jock Campbell!" he cried.

"Ye did not maybe mark how he was decked in satin and velvet like a
woman," Ian interrupted.

"I had him under my sword--I had my hand on his wizened throat--when
you, you fool, pulled me away. 'Tis you who, for shame, should not talk
o' Jock Campbell!"

Ronald flushed and his eyes darkened.

"Why,--'for shame'?" he questioned hotly.

Ian flung up his head with a laugh.

"Because the woman cozened ye--it was not for any motives of prudence,
but to please the woman that ye saved his life."

There was a little pause; peering through the gathering dusk Ian marked
his brother's face grow white, and he laughed again, good-naturedly
enough.

"Will ye deny it?" he asked. "And little thanks ye got--'I would kill
ye,' she said, and showed her teeth like a cat."

Ronald stared at him as if he had not heard. "Is it not an awful thing,"
he said very low, "that she should be Jock Campbell's wife?"

"Do ye care?" asked Ian incredulously. "'Tis an ordinary woman--and I
like not green eyes; also she is false to her finger-tips--like a
Campbell."

"Ah, yes," cried Ronald wildly, "she is false and doubly false. She has
the trick of smiling when she lies--there is a poison in her breath that
doth infect her kisses with a deadly sweetness, and in her eyes a
witchcraft lurks to drive the blood too fast for bearing--I would that
she or I were dead!"

A low wind was abroad; it blew the ice-cold snowflakes hissing into the
lazy fire, and shook the tassels of the firs against the darkening trail
of clouds.

Ian drew himself up in silence; Makian was asleep behind them, close
wrapped in his plaid. It was too dark to see more than the outline of
his figure.

The vast forms of the distant mountains were fast absorbed into the
general grayness; it grew colder and a great sense of awe came with the
dark as if an unseen presence whispered: "Hush!"

"I would be fighting," said Ronald suddenly through the dusk, "I would
be in the press and sweep of arms, the lift and music of the
battle-cries--or I would lie dead and careless of the eagles that pluck
at my heart--smiling perhaps--not heedful of the pain that stabs there
now!"

"But ye have had your fill o' fighting," said Ian, shuddering under the
sting of the wind. "At Killicrankie--when Dundee died. I have need to
repine, who stayed guarding Glencoe while ye fought."

Ronald's voice came in answer, melodiously.

"It was most glorious. My God! I would give ten years of peace for such
another fight--but what mattered the victory? Dundee was slain." His
voice fell to gloom. "I loved Dundee, though he was a Lowlander--this
Saxon Caryl that I've told ye of: he had a face like his, a girl's
face, always calm. I would have died for Dundee. He was a great
gentleman, full of courtliness."

He rested his head on his hand and gazed sadly at the slow moving
clouds.

"The day before the battle," he went on, "he called us to his tent:
Keppoch, Glengarry, Lochiel and us--he was writing a letter to the Duke
o' Gordon when we came in. 'How do ye spell the name o' yonder castle?'
he asked; Lochiel told him. 'That's Castle Blair,' and he laughed and
said he had little learning. He told us his plans as he sealed his
letter, and how we were to meet Mackay's men: he was very confident. 'I
was not born to be forgotten,' he said smiling.

"There was a spy-glass on his table, a wonderful thing; as we left I
asked leave to look at it and he showed me how it worked, most patient
and most courteously.

"With the first daylight we were in our ranks; the mist hung over the
pass like the standard o' the Highlands; we could see no further than
each other, but we could hear the rattle o' the Lowland guns as they
dragged them up the pass. They fired, and hideous was the sound of it. I
saw a Cameron drop, close to Lochiel, and Glengarry wince from his
place. We were new to the muskets, but we did what we might; the mist
rose, but up the glen the cannon smoke rolled thick and white, we could
not see. Once I looked up and saw the sky overhead was clear and blue;
it seemed a strange thing and turned me giddy. The sun began to glitter
down our muskets. Dundee came up at the head of his Lowland horse; he
spoke to Lochiel and I saw him strain forward and look down the pass;
then he gave the word. We threw down our plaids and Lochiel tossed his
shoes aside; we gave the war-cry in a great shout. Up from the smoking
glen came a shaking cheer in answer, and Lochiel laughed up at Dundee.
'The thing is done, my lord. Do men who are going to win shout so?'

"'Charge!' cried Dundee; there was a great flush on his face.

"We flung aside the muskets and were out with the dirks. I would have
charged into the cannon's mouth for I felt immortal, but as I rushed I
fell and the flying feet of the Macdonalds bruised me to the earth. I
could not rise. I saw Dundee motion to his men, but they hesitated--the
Lowland cowards hesitated.

"Dundee rose in the saddle; he lifted his hat and the sun glittered,
very brightly, on his hair; from where I lay I shouted at the cowards
behind him, then a cloud of smoke hid him. I struggled to my feet; the
air was full of confusion and cries of victory; the Lowlanders were
running like sheep. I saw the gunners struggling in the press, the
standard o' Lochiel flying through the smoke, and, midst it all,
Dundee's black horse dash riderless down the glen!"

Ronald stopped abruptly, with a shudder of excitement at the remembrance
of that day. Ian, thrilled to forgetfulness of the cold and the dead
fire, waited with eyes eager through the dark.

"One came up to me," continued Ronald, "and asked me for my plaid.
'Dundee is dying,' he said; I followed to where he lay. Dunfermline held
him off the ground; they took my plaid and laid it under him to keep him
off the heather.

"'How goes the day?' he asked faintly.

"Dunfermline answered, very white: 'Well, for King James, but I am sorry
for ye, Jock.'

"'If 'tis well for the King, 'tis the less matter for me,' said Dundee,
but there was an awful look in his eyes and I think he thought of his
wife and the boy he had never seen. He did not speak again; I think he
would not; he turned his face away and died as the victory shout rose up
the glen.

"Dunfermline covered him with my plaid. 'The war is over, he said in a
broken voice. 'Dundee is dead.'

"I helped to carry him to his grave, and I took his spy-glass from his
sash; 'twas broken with his fall, but I kept it for rememberance. I
loved Dundee. Would I lay with him in his nameless grave in Blair
Athol!"

His voice sank miserably into silence, and there was no sound.

The clouds drifted apart over a snowy moon; there was a sense of utter
desolation abroad, the cold peace of loneliness.

Ronald rose and walked away from his brother toward the moonlight with
the wind cool in his face; he shook with a stormy agony and cried out
low and passionately:

"Would I had died with Dundee before I had been poisoned with love
o' thee, Margaret Campbell!"



CHAPTER VIII - MacCALLUM MORE


The Countess Peggy sat in the drawing-room of her lord's handsome house
in Edinburgh and measured out tea with a heavy rat-tailed spoon.

It was a fine chamber with smooth polished cream-colored walls and long
French windows, hung with flowered curtains of a dull pink; the furniture,
black and a little heavy, caught in its clear-cut Jacobean facets the
light from the dozen candles in a silver stand that burnt over the
tea-table. The Countess wore a purple gown with paniers and a fine lace
kerchief fastened with diamonds on her bosom; a screen of drawn red silk
stood between her and the fire and cast a glow over her face and neck,
lay reflected, too, in the hollow of the shining white and pink cups.

There was a fragrant smell of tea and the gentle hiss of boiling water
from the silver kettle; it was a comfortable room, a comfortable hour;
the Countess's green eyes were soft with content like a soothed petted
cat's before a fire.

Her one companion lay back lazily on a low settee and gazed, rather
vacantly, into the fire; he was a slight man with a fretful weak face,
pale eyes too full, and a thin irresolute mouth.

He was handsomely dressed, and for all his unprepossessing appearance,
carried an air of high lineage, wealth, position and power.

The Countess finished mixing the tea, then glanced at the man opposite;
there was impatience and a slow amused scorn in her eyes; she spoke and
it was in the tone of one who speaks down to his hearer.

"Cousin," she said, "I am glad to be out of the Hielands--Kilchurn is
ower damp and cold this weather."

She handed him his tea and he put out a feeble white hand to take it.

"Ye should pull it down," he said half-peevishly. "I canna ken how ye
can live there--I'd as soon step in my grave as live in Inverary in the
winter."

His accent was very slight; he had the speech of a man who had lived
abroad and learned many tongues.

The Countess Peggy smiled.

"Ye are the first Argyll, cousin," she said, "who has disliked Inverary
Castle, and as for pulling down Kilchurn, we're no' intending it. Jock
is ower busy building up what the Macdonalds destroy."

Argyll drew closer to the fire, balancing his tea-cup with the anxiety
of a man to whom a slop in the saucer would be a disaster.

"I'm weary of the name of. Macdonald, cousin," he said. "I marvel
Breadalbane hath let them gain such an upper hand; they should be hanged
and done with."

"My lord--that consummation approaches," she answered, hardening,
through her smile, at his implied slight to her husband. "'Tis no' the
lack o' power but policy has held Jock's hand."

The Earl of Argyll lifted his eyes fretfully.

"Policy! Always this talk of policy! If it had na been for my father's
'policy' in joining Monmouth in '85, he would na have lost his head or
the Campbells the Hielands..."

She interrupted.

"But the triumph o' your return, cousin, made full amends for your
father's downfall."

He shrugged his shoulders, sipping his tea; he had the manner of a man
with a grievance.

"Certainly I return to the Hielands, but what do I find?" he complained.
"The Macdonalds overrunning everything, Campbells hanged at sight, my
houses gone to ruin--long arrears of rent due and the Stewarts o' Appin,
the Camerons, the Macnaughtens, and these cursed Macdonalds refusing to
pay a farthing."

The Countess Peggy gave him a bright glance. "We have our chance noo,"
she said. "Our chance, Cousin Archibald, for our revenge." She offered
him as she spoke a little glass dish of macaroons, and he carefully
selected one not too sugared before he answered.

"We?" he questioned. "You and Breadalbane have little to complain of--I
dinna call to mind any misfortune in your branch."

There was a note of bitterness in his voice; he could not forget that
while he had been living in a Dutch garret his cousin Breadalbane had
managed to keep even with every government and come out at the end with
unimpaired estates and a title as good as his own.

The Countess understood this and smiled.

"Dinna forget that we are Campbells, too," she said. "And we hae had
many wrongs frae the Hielands." She tilted the tea-urn with half-shut
eyes--"Particularly the Macdonalds," she added.

Argyll looked at her a second.

"Does Breadalbane think they willna' come in?" he asked. "Cousin, he is
sure of it--vera few will."

"Ah!" Argyll gave a luxurious little sigh of satisfaction. "I thought
so--I had orders to quarter my regiment at Dunblane--and quietly."

"Orders frae the Master of Stair?"

"Yes."

"He is at Kensington noo?" asked the Countess.

"Yes--he and Carstairs rule Scotland between them--the King gives no ear
to any other."

"And he, the Master--is ane with Jock!" she said eagerly. "And there are
only twa weeks more--cousin--I think the thing is done."

Some animation came into Argyll's languid eyes. "Almost, I think so," he
said. "Breadalbane goes to London soon?"

"He comes up frae Kilchurn to-morrow," she answered, "and will be ready
to accompany ye to Court." Their eyes met. "He will see the King?" asked
Argyll.

"And the Master of Stair," she answered. "And 'twill be done. We shall
come back to the Hielands in the new year. The plans are laid."

A little half-foolish smile crept round Argyll's weak mouth. "'Twill
gratify me vastly to see those Hielanders swept out," he said.

"'Twill be a blow to the hopes of King James ye ken," remarked the
Countess.

Argyll looked up quickly: "Ye think so?" he asked. He always showed a
great respect for his cousin's opinion, consulted her and deferred to
her in a way her husband never did, and she despised him in proportion.
"Ye think there is no hope for King James?" he asked again, half-anxiously.

She looked full at him and laughed. "Cousin, cousin," she cried. "Dinna
gang ower far with the Jacks because I dinna imagine that there is much
hope for King James."

He stared at her, went red and white, and his tea-cup danced in his
hand.

"Madam!" he gasped.

Her look of amusement deepened.

"I ken vera weel," she said, "that ye are tampering with King James's
agents--weel, cousin, we all do the same. A wise man will be keeping
square with both sides."

Argyll, looking agitated and foolish, began to protest. "Cousin, I
assure .ye that I have na engaged in any treasonable plots--"

She cut him short.

"Ye need no' be so cautious with me, Cousin Archibald."

He looked at her, half-reassured, but the memory of his grandfather's
and his father's fate was strong within him. He spoke peevishly.

"Dinna talk so freely o' these dangerous subjects--I hav'na' a wish to
be traveling to Holland again."

"Leave plotting alone then," she answered with flashing eyes; her lord,
she thought, not this poltroon, should have been MacCallum More.

"I hav'na' been plotting," retorted the Earl angrily. "I was approached
by an agent of James--Jerome Caryl--he had some great names--some great
names--he spoke..." His voice sank "Of a rising in the spring--the
French have offered troops and Berwick is coming over."

"And you?"

"Weel, I hedged--I spoke him fair, but I said nothing dangerous--mark
ye, nothing dangerous."

His eyes wandered round the room furtively; he was eager to change the
subject, a little afraid of this sharp wife of his cousin's.

"We're safe with either government," she said calmly. "I've heard of
this rising--Jock will of course wait. There is nae hurry."

"No," assented Argyll, eager to reassure himself of the safety of his
position. "And I dinna doubt that everybody has a finger in the plot.
They say ye can count on one hand the men at Kensington who hav'na'
regular letters from St. Germains."

"And who are those few, cousin?"

"Wed--they say Carstairs, Shrewsbury and the Master of Stair--but I'm
thinking that's merely because they are more cunning than most."

The Countess laughed. At the same moment there was a tap on the door
and as she looked up a servant entered. "Captain Campbell of Glenlyon
to see your ladyship."

"He is frae Kilchurn?" she asked.

"Yes, my lady."

"Bid him come in," she said, and as the door closed again she looked at
her cousin.

"What has happened that Jock sends to me?"

Argyll trifled with his teaspoon in silence and looked at her with a
lazy half-sneer, for she had risen with a changed face, and that any one
should be troubled lest anything should happen to Breadalbane was to his
cousin a most amusing thing.

Captain Campbell of Glenlyon entered and stood a moment abashed by the
light, glowing room, the elegant lady all purple and gold; his master
usually employed him on rougher work than carrying messages to his wife.

"My lord is weel?" asked the Countess swiftly.

"Vera wed, my lady," answered Glenlyon awkwardly. The sneer on Argyll's
face deepened.

"Will ye be closing the door after ye?" he asked sourly. "I'm in a
fearful draught."

With nervous salutations, Glenlyon obeyed; he was a red-haired, florid
man, obviously ill at ease in the presence of Argyll and the Countess.
There was a little pause: the Earl, fretful at having his tea disturbed,
pointedly ignored Glenlyon, who, after delivering his letter, stood
uncomfortably by the door.

Erect and slender in the center of the room stood the Countess, the soft
light glittering on the stiff folds of her silk gown. She broke the seal
of the letter and with eager eyes glanced over it, her fair face anxious
and absorbed. She had her back to Argyll, and he marked with a slow cold
admiration the curve of her neck rising from the webs and blossoms of
her d'Alenšon lace kerchief and the long, fine, gleaming gold curls that
fell over her shoulders; drooping against the soft turn of her cheek
hung the brilliant in her ear: it winked with a thousand colors in the
candle-light and trembled a little with the quick moving of her breath.

There was a silence in the cream-colored room. Glenlyon began to note
the things about him with furtive red eyes, and cautiously shifted his
feet from the edge of the pink carpet onto the polished boards.

Suddenly, the Countess looked up and turned to Argyll.

"Cousin," she cried, "the clans are coming in!"

The paper shook in her hand and her eyes flashed under lifted brows.

"Lochiel's tacksmen are taking the oaths by the hundreds, the
Macphersons and the Frasers, the Munros and the Macleods are come in--"
Her voice was sharp and angry. "'Tis most sudden--most unexpected!" she
cried.

Argyll sat up in his chair, roused from his sneer. "And the Macdonalds
o' Glencoe?" he asked.

"They hav'na' come in yet," she answered. "Nor yet Clanronald or
Keppoch--but it looks ill that these should submit--Jock seems
disturbed."

Argyll put down his tea-cup and rose. "They have been warned," he said.

Their eyes met.

"By whom?" asked the Countess.

Argyll shrugged his shoulders. "By some agent of King James."

"But how could any know?"

"'Tis their business," answered Argyll, "to discover these matters--of a
certainty these men have been warned."

The Countess turned to Glenlyon.

"Captain Campbell, know ye more than is writ here?"

"No, my lady, my lord will be with ye to-morrow, and I've no' any
knowledge. My lord didna' gie me aught but the message."

"Ye may gang, sir," she answered. "Thank ye for your service."

Glenlyon bowed himself from the room, and the Countess turned again to
her letter.

"This will be a blow to the Master of Stair," said Argyll.

"But it is no' all the clans hae come in," she answered quickly.

Argyll smiled.

"But the Master of Stair was reckoning on all, cousin." He drew a letter
from his pocket and unfolded it. "See, the last he wrote me."

He pointed to a sentence and read it aloud.

"'As I wrote to you formerly, if the rest are willing to concur, to pull
down Glencoe's nest this winter, as the crows do--thus destroying him
and his clan, 'twill be as fully acceptable as if he had come in. This
answers all ends and satisfies those who complain of the King's too
great gentleness.' Ye see," commented Argyll, "he is very bitter--he
would like to sweep the Hielands wi' fire and sword. He wrote to me that
if none came in--he hoped six thousand might be slain."

"But they hae come in!" cried the Countess impatiently. "Still--if the
Macdonalds dinna--if we can be freed o' that nest o' murdering thieves,
'twill be somewhat--Keppoch too, and the ither chiefs may stand out."

Argyll put his letter back in his pocket.

"They must not take the oaths," he said peevishly. "If they do it must
be suppressed--surely with the aid o' the Master o' Stair we can do
that?"

"I dinna believe they will take them," answered the Countess. "They hate
us too much and they think themselves ower safe in Glencoe."

"'Tis a fearfu' place to enter," said her cousin.

"But no' impossible ye ken--ye see--they could send the soldiers from
Fort William--and I one side and Breadalbane the other--they would be in
a trap."

He looked thoughtfully into the fire and fondled the arm of his chair,
with restless thin fingers.

"There is ane person we have no' considered," he remarked, "the King."

"William o' Orange?" she questioned.

"Yes--ye ken he is no' a puppet King and has a fearfu' habit o' looking
into his affairs himself--I'm no sure of his gude-will to our scheme."

She lifted her delicate shoulders scornfully.

"The Master o' Stair will manage him--he is deep in his confidence."

"Weel." Argyll looked at her doubtfully, "I have written to the Master
o' Stair that I dinna do anything without the King's name as authority.
I will na put my neck in jeopardy."

"The, King's name!" She lifted her head with a superb contempt. "Who is
king in the Hielands? Ye are MacCallum More--will ye defer to a
foreigner who canna speak your tongue--who hasna' seen your country? By
Heaven, I think the Campbells can rule in the Hielands without a
Dutchman's warrant!"

"Breadalbane is no' o' that mind," sneered Argyll. "He took the oaths
fast enow."

"But he dinna consult William o' Orange every time he wishes to hang a
Macdonald," retorted the Countess.

But Argyll was obstinate.

"I willna' put my neck in jeopardy," he repeated. "Show me the King's
name and I'm content--but I'll no' move without it."

The Countess Peggy's thin lips compressed scornfully. "Vera weel," she
said: "The Master o' Stair will get the King's authority, cousin."

"You're ower fond o' quoting the Master o' Stair," said Argyll sourly;
the news of the clans coming in had frightened his irresolute mind;
he was ready to wash his hands of the whole affair.

"The Master o' Stair!" repeated the Countess. "Cousin, he is the most
powerfu' man in the Lowlands, ye ken, and great in London--he is o' our
views--cousin, I do weel to quote the Master o' Stair!"



CHAPTER IX - ON THE ROAD TO LONDON


It was drawing toward the evening of December twentieth, along the
smooth high road to Carlisle three travelers were riding swiftly, their
faces toward England. The wind blew cold and keen; the trees bordering
the roadside began to show dark and misshapen in the twilight; the walls
of Carlisle ahead of them were a welcome sight.

Delia Featherstonehaugh, riding between her brother and Jerome Caryl,
shuddering drew her hood closer round her face, and whipped her horse up
to keep pace with her companions.

Through the dusk came Jerome Caryl's low musical voice; he was telling
her the reason of this hasty departure for London; she had been loth to
leave Scotland though, with the submission of the greater number of the
Highland chiefs their work in the North had been accomplished.

"My Lord Berwick," Jerome was saying, "is come to England and lives now
in a smuggler's hut on Romney Marsh--we have to see him about the rising
in the spring. Then I have to sound the ministers and nobles and get
what names I can to a letter promising help to King James--for you see,
Miss Delia, the French do not desire to send aid if none will join
them--then I have to meet an agent of His Majesty's--who comes with news
from France--one, Andrew Wedderburn."

Delia made no answer, but her brother spoke.

"Who is that fellow, Jerome? We are getting too many into this plot."

"I have letters from my Lord Middleton assuring me of his perfect
loyalty," answered Jerome. "He hath risked his life before on the King's
service."

"A Scot?" asked Sir Perseus.

"Yes--by the name," smiled Jerome. "'Tis not he that troubles me, but
this getting of signatures. Men are wary of signing papers, and lip
promises are of no service."

They rode in silence a while; it began to snow and the light rapidly
faded.

"'Tis a severe winter," said Delia. "I would we were in Carlisle."

She looked wistfully ahead, toward the city lost now in the gathering
dusk.

Jerome Caryl, following out his thoughts, spoke again.

"I have Hamilton and Athol--I nearly had Argyll--but he is too
fearful--Breadalbane is too cunning to commit himself--of course there
are Montgomery and Cranford--and in England I am sure of Marlborough,
Cornbury, Rochester and Godolphin--but I need others--there are the
common names whose weight is little--whose honor is cheapened with much
false swearing."

Delia responded to the disdain in his even voice:

"That there should be so many traitors!" she cried impulsively.
"Sometimes I loathe them all."

From the dark figure at her side came her brother's practical voice.

"If you could get Devonshire, Halifax and Dorset, Jerome," he said, "it
were enough. Shrewsbury, too..."

"Ah!" said Jerome softly. "Be careful--even on the open road."

Again they pressed on in silence; the snow fell thickly, their hands
were numb upon the bridles, and Delia felt her limbs ache with cold.

"We shall not reach Carlisle to-night," said Jerome suddenly. "You see
those lights ahead, Perseus? 'tis an inn--I remember it; a rough place,
but we will stop there."

Though Caryl was the younger, Perseus never questioned his right to
command; his cold smiling way carried an authority not easy to dispute.
In a few moments more they had drawn up at the inn, a low two-storeyed
house; before it a heavy sign outlined now in snow, on it in straggling
letters the legend:

"The Borderers."

A flickering lamp over the door gave a gusty light. As Jerome dismounted
he saw a huge coach drawn up against the side of the house.

"Ye have guests?" he demanded of the ostler who came forward.

The man nodded. "A lord and his family."

Jerome hesitated, but to turn away now would look suspicious, and the
night was impossible. He helped Delia down from the saddle and the three
entered the low door.

A silent, depressed looking, slatternly woman showed them into a large
room that was at once both kitchen and parlor. It was lit only by a huge
fire that roared up the vast chimney; the floor was tiled in red, the
walls, plaster; heavy red curtains before the windows shut out the
night; kitchen utensils, mostly of brown earthenware, hung against the
walls and were placed about the hearth; a three-legged cauldron was in
the fire and a heavy smell of cooking onions rose from it.

By the low dark table stood a lady, who looked up sharply at the
new-comers.

She was a great contrast to her surroundings; her fur-lined coat lay on
a chair beside her, but she still wore her large beaver hat, and in one
hand she held a black muff; her gray velvet dress was open at the bosom
on a full white bodice; her attitude was elegant and indolent, she
rested against the table with her feet crossed daintily.

Perseus and his sister advanced at once to the fire, showing no heed of
her, but Jerome Caryl remained in the doorway, loosening his cloak; as
it slipped back from his shoulders to the ground, he removed his hat and
the dim red light fell full upon his face and disordered hair.

The Lady looked at him with a frank and slightly insolent admiration;
her green eyes traveled consideringly over his tall figure, evidently
noting his plain attire and the graceful way he wore it; she gave a
quick glance at the two ordinary people by the fire, then stared again
at the beautiful face of Jerome Caryl.

He gave her one look, grave and calm, from his melancholy hazel eyes,
then ignored her obvious scrutiny.

"Perseus," he said quietly, "I must find the woman to know what
accommodation she hath--will you come?"

They went from the room in silence, leaving Delia by the fire. She
glanced with a timid friendliness at the stranger and chafed her numb
hands together.

The lady looked at her, and to Delia the clear-cut white face with the
green eyes and red lips was as sinister as it was lovely;' the cold
expression prevented her from making any attempt to speak; but the
other broke the silence.

"Was that gentleman your husband, madam?" she demanded.

"Oh, neither of them," smiled Delia.

"Your brother then?" asked the lady.

"One," answered Delia. "My brother and his friend, merely, madam. He in
the red coat is my brother."

The other smiled.

"I hav'na' seen before sic a fair face on a man as your friend carries,"
she said. "Who are ye, mistress? I am Margaret Campbell o' Breadalbane."

Delia caught her breath; the position had become suddenly a perilous
one, she reflected swiftly that her name was unknown, and gave it as
frankly as she was able.

"Ah," said the Countess, "and your lovely friend?" Delia collected
herself with an effort.

"Your ladyship must ask him yourself," she answered. "I cannot rob him
of that honor."

The Countess lifted her brows and accepted the rebuff.

"We no' intended to stay here," she remarked with an easy change of
subject. "But the storm coming on and my lord havin' a weak chest that I
should na wish him to catch cold on--we stopped at the first inn we came
to."

So Breadalbane was with her! Delia's heart sank; she wished she could
warn Jerome and her brother, but she was too confused to invent a decent
excuse for leaving the room, and as she stood trying to collect herself
to some definite plan of action the Countess crossed over to the fire
and took off her hat.

"Canna we remove that vile brewis?" she said. "The smell will make my
lord sick."

Delia gave a thin hysterical laugh.

"'Tis all there is in the house belike," she answered.

But the Countess Peggy's keen eyes had marked other food about the room,
bacon, flour, fruit and fowls.

"Help me, mistress," she commanded, and laying delicate, resolute hands
upon a cloth, she lifted off the pot and stood it on the hearth.

"Ah," she said with a disgusted face. "The place reeks."

Her hair had fallen over her face; she flung it back and Delia noticed
dully how it curled round her temples in little red ringlets, then
suddenly it seemed as if her blood stood still; the shock of discovery
held her silent.

This was the woman Macdonald had spoken of; she knew it certainly and
her fingers curled into her palm with hate. This woman--Lady
Breadalbane! With angry eyes she watched the Countess, who all
unconscious was moving about the room among the pots and pans; there
could not be two women with such eyes and hair and lips, and it was a
most likely thing that it should have been Breadalbane's wife riding by
Glenorchy. The discovery nerved her; an angry desire to test this woman,
to prove herself right, took hold of her; her fine face flushed and she
lifted her head.

"Madam, your lord carries good news to London," she said on an impulse.
"I heard all the clans had submitted."

The Countess turned with a slight smile.

"It is no' the truth," she said, "all hav'na'."

"Ah?" said Delia with her heart beating fast. "And who are the unhappy
rebels?"

There was a little pause before Lady Breadalbane answered: "The
Macdonalds o' Glencoe for one. They have na' taken the oaths."

Delia saw the red and shadowy room spin round her and felt the blood
hammering in her temples; before she left Glasgow she had been assured
that the Macdonalds had come in with the other clans; she had never
questioned it; it was such an unlikely thing they, of all, should remain
obstinate; she moistened her lips and tried to frame some reply; she was
saved by Jerome Caryl opening the door.

"I have engaged another chamber, Miss Delia," he said. "We need not
intrude on you, my lady."

He inclined his head toward the Countess.

Delia felt a throb of relief to hear he had discovered the guest's
quality, and hastened toward him.

"Hae ye seen my lord?" asked the Countess calmly.

"Yes, madam, he hath the only habitable room up-stairs," answered
Jerome, "but he hath most generously surrendered it to Miss Delia."

The Countess smiled.

"We are well enough here," she said. "And ye may keep that untidy female
awa'--I wait on my lord myself. We shall gang as soon as it is light."

With a few murmured words Delia followed Jerome into the opposite room,
a dirty dingy place where Sir Perseus sat over a rough supper. She
joined him in a white agitation and glanced from one man to another.

"Delia--what is the matter?" asked Sir Perseus. "This encounter will do
us no harm."

She was silent, one hand over her bosom; with the other she pushed her
plate aside; she was quite white.

"I know," she said faintly, "But I cannot eat--I will go to bed."

"That is folly," answered Sir Perseus curtly. Then he turned to Jerome
and added in a lowered voice: "Did you speak to the Earl?"

"Why not?" asked Jerome calmly. "I asked him for the room and he gave it
me--cold and stiff but courteous. His wife is beautiful--is she not?"

They commenced their supper, but Delia sat miserably silent, with absent
eyes. "The Macdonalds have not taken the oath," beat in her head. "The
Macdonalds have not taken the oath!"

The hostess in clumsy hurry left the door ajar behind her, enough for
them to see across the passage where in the doorway of the opposite room
stood the Countess with her sleeves rolled up over her white elbows, and
flour on her hands, her face was turned to the stairway, upon it a
lovely smile.

Jerome fixed on her his mournful eyes, then, as he watched, Breadalbane
crossed the passage and entered the room. The Countess closed the door.

"I saw a woman like that once--in a dream," said Jerome. "The face was
strangely impressed on my mind."

Sir Perseus, eating lustily, asked

"What was she doing in your dream?"

Jerome gave his grieving smile. "She was strangling me with a long lace
tie," he said slowly.

Sir Perseus laughed, but Delia broke out passionately: "A cold
Scotswoman + I loathe her--she would strangle you if it needed--her eyes
are hard as stones."

"Delia!" cried Sir Perseus. "The place is overrun with Campbells--have a
care--they have a whole body-guard of Highlanders at the back--"

"And yet she does servants' work," said Delia.

"She is devoted to him," answered Jerome.

"A strange thing!" flashed Delia.

"Nay--give her credit for her greatest virtue," he replied. "She would
do anything for Breadalbane. I think he is very fortunate."

Delia bit her lip and dropped her eyes under Jerome's calm gaze; she was
nervous, excited, almost beyond bearing; she rose up impatiently.

"Mr. Caryl--you told me the Macdonalds had taken the oath," she said
with burning cheeks. "And she--this woman--told me they had not--and she
should know."

Jerome turned in his chair to look on her.

"Why--'tis not January yet," he said gently. "There is time--I have
assurance from Lochiel that all the clans will take the oaths."

Sir Perseus put in curtly.

"And what matter for the Macdonalds if the others come in? They had
their warning..."

Delia moved round the room restlessly with her head lifted, her eyes
fixed absently.

"Believe me," said Jerome softly, "we can do no more than we have."

"No, no," she answered hastily, "'tis only it surprised me--they leave
it late."

Jerome caught a questioning look on Sir Perseus's face and delicately
changed the subject.

"I hope Wedderburn will not keep me waiting," he said in a low voice.
"He was to cross from France and arrive at Romney on the twentieth--meet
me in London at 'The Sleeping Queen' on Christmas Eve--where we shall
stay--I told you--'tis ostensibly an inn, but they have a secret press
there."

"Ah--with Breadalbane in the next room--hush!" said Perseus anxiously.

"Breadalbane himself will be one of us before we have finished," smiled
Jerome. "And besides I have faith in the walls--as I was saying, I can
hardly proceed without these instructions from France, and I hope the
storms will not delay Wedderburn."

As he spoke they heard the wind whistle and struggle at the ill-fitting
windows and the snow falling down the chimney hiss into the fire.

"Dangerous weather for the packet to cross," whispered Delia.

"It_ has done it in worse," said Jerome. "And there is less fear of
detection--government spies are not likely to be on Romney Marsh this
time of the year."

Sir Perseus laughed.

"What fools the Dutchman is served with!" he said. "Think of the times
that packet has run to and fro--think of the messages sent--the cargoes
of Jacobites shipped--and no one has ever suspected--"

"Our agent, Hunt the smuggler, is trustworthy--and well-paid," answered
Jerome. "And his hut is desolate enough."

Delia suddenly stopped by the table and caught up her untasted wine.

"God give us luck once more!" she said impulsively. "To the safety of
King James's messenger!"

"Heaven preserve him," cried Sir Perseus, drinking. His sister gave him
a bright defiant glance.

"Him and the Macdonalds o' Glencoe!" she said a little wildly. "God
preserve!"

"Amen!" said Jerome Caryl.



CHAPTER X - THE KING'S MESSENGER


It was snowing fast over Romney Marsh; the whole wide, desolate fenland
sweeping to the sea lay gray under the storm; it was near nightfall and
almost dark; in the landscape one light burning brightly through the
snowflakes; to judge by its steadiness it came from a window, by its
size it was far-off.

There was the steady sound of the thud of the distant waves, now and
then broken by the thin cry of the curlew or the hungry shriek of the
sea-gull.

In the broken marsh-ground grew a group of withered trees; the foremost
bent and blasted by lightning and against this one leaned a man wrapped
in a long cloak.

He was looking toward the sea in an attitude, alert but easy; he
appeared to be affected neither by his isolated position, the gloomy
scene or the bitter storm; now and then he turned toward the distant
light as if to assure himself it was still there, or moved to shake the
snow off his shoulders and hat.

As it grew darker the snow began to cease over the sea, and the heavy
sky broke into a patch of gloomy red and crimson; it was possible now to
discern the dreary line of shore and sand and the dim form of the dark
waves.

The man gazed round him, then made slowly toward the sea. The sodden
earth and wide logs impeded him; he trod cautiously, but for all his
ease sank now and then to his ankles in mud or half-fell over the broke
stones and boulders.

Slowly he made painful progress to the edge of the fen where it dipped
in a sudden slope of clay straight onto the beach.

There halting he stared out to sea; the snow and the rising mist of the
winter night hid all from him save the line of waves breaking on the wet
sand; melancholy and terrible was the perfect loneliness; the watcher
drew himself up and looked back at the light, then round again at the
ghastly yellow sunset that seemed to be far distant; a mere slash of
gloomy color in the mist and gray. Then suddenly he drew back; a little
boat was pushing through the waves; he could hear the grind of the keel
on the pebbles as is struck on the beach and a man leaped from it into
the surf.

The man upon the shore watched him struggling up the beach, saw him turn
and wave to his companion as the boat disappeared again into the mist,
then advance as rapidly as he was able toward the ridge of the fen.

The sun faded to a mere stain; the mist drifted off the sea mingled with
sleet and snow; the man on the beach drew nearer the other, all
unconscious that any soul-was watching him.

With labor and difficulty he threaded his way onward and up the shelving
ledge, the other watching him the while as he drew nearer, nearer.
Suddenly they met--face to face--a few yards apart; the new-comer stood
motionless with surprise and his hand flew to his sword.

"For which King?" cried the man in waiting. His voice sounded strange
and hollow through the damp silence; the new arrival drew a step nearer,
searching the strange figure; he was a slight, fair young man and showed
a face white and strained.

"Which King?" he repeated, moistening his lips.

"Are there two?" came the answer from the folds of the heavy cloak. "I
stand for King James."

"Ah!" with a sigh of relief the young man relaxed the tension of his
attitude. "You were sent to meet me then?"

"Yes," said the other quietly, "to take your papers."

"My papers?" the new arrival again showed alarm. "I am to take them
to London."

"I will take them to London."

"Sir, your authority?"

"The King's."

The messenger smiled, regaining his presence of mind. "Sir, I pray you
show it me--this is a strange request--I go to Hunt's hut; will you
accompany me?"

"Yes--but first your papers."

The Jacobite laughed. "You grow peremptory--let me pass."

"I desire your papers."

"I will not part with them."

"It were wiser."

"Do you threaten me?"

"By God, yes!"

The King's messenger laughed again; his eyes blazed in a white face.

"William of Orange is ill-served in such clumsy knaves as you!" he
cried.

"Give me the papers, damn you!"

"Do you think me a traitor?"

"By God--I know you a fool!"

"Stand out of my way!" and the messenger made a step forward, but the
other seized him by the arm.

"Do you think," he cried fiercely, "that I am going to let you go? By
Heaven--I have not waited here for nothing."

The King's messenger wrenched himself free: "Spy--who betrayed us?" he
burst forth, and he gave a wild glance round the desolate fen; the other
seemed to read his thoughts.

"There is no ambush," he said scornfully, "'tis you and I alone. Who
think you is the better man? Will you try issues with me?"

The King's messenger an instant studied his opponent; he saw a man of
regal height and make, whose face was hidden by his drooping beaver and
whose figure was shrouded in a heavy traveling cloak; a hopeless look
crossed his face; he stepped back desperately.

"You or I," he said through his teeth--"Well--" he put his hand to his
bosom and there was the dull gleam of metal. But the other had marked
his action and instantly his hand flew from his cloak; there was the
flash and report of a pistol-shot and the King's messenger fell
backwards silently into the mist.

"How is William of Orange served now?" cried the man peering forward;
his smoking pistol in his hand, "where are you, you popish dog?"

He sprang forward through the pools and morasses, and confused by the
gathering gloom, stumbled over the body. The King's messenger had fallen
prone, his head down among the mud and stones; his slayer lifted him up,
and taking his face in his hands peered down into it.

The Jacobite was quite dead; from a little hole in his temple the thin
black blood trickled; it had been a true shot; the man who held him smiled.

"I was afraid--in this cursed light," he muttered, "that I might have
bungled." Opening the dead man's coat, he went swiftly through the
pockets. He found papers, sealed and loose; a purse and a few trinkets.

The money he flung out into the marsh; the other matters he thrust
carefully into the breast of his coat; it was not light enough to
distinguish the papers; he took every scrap the dead man carried,
without pausing to select.

Then he rose beside the body and looked round. It would soon be utterly
dark; the snow was recommencing to fall heavily; it was now nearly
completely dark; he had to feel his way cautiously over the marsh as he
turned in the direction of the light that glanced through the
snow-storm.

He made steadily toward it; the snow stinging in his face, and saw it
grow larger till he could discern the snowflakes drifting swiftly
through the faint halo it cast upon the dark.

The ground grew firmer under foot; he had gained a tongue of dry land,
and in front of him, barely visible, was the black outline of the
smuggler's hut with the lamp flaring yellow in the square window; with
this aid he found his way to the door and, using the hilt of his sword,
knocked heavily.

There was a little silence, then the sound of cautious footsteps.

The door was slowly unbolted, opened an inch or so. "Who is it?" said a
woman's voice in a quick whisper.

"Mr. Wedderburn--the King's messenger," he answered. "The password?"

"The white rose and the golden lily--England and France." She opened the
door at that and motioned him to enter.

As he obeyed he found himself face to face with a young girl; she held a
candle in her hand that guttered in the draught and sent a trail of
smoke and flame over her shoulder; round her brown bodice was a kerchief
of vivid scarlet and in her ears hoops of red-gold glittered and swung.

"My father is out looking for you, Mr. Wedderburn," she said with the
calm of one grown easy at a perilous trade, careless and used to danger.

"I am late," he answered. With a heavy step he advanced into the room.
She bolted the door.

"Yes--the boat was expected two hours ago--we were there to meet
you--you missed my father, sir?--he went to the coast; he will be
returning soon."

In silence he flung off his dripping cloak and hat and half-turning,
glanced at Celia Hunt. She looked back at him with a sudden arrested
interest.

It was the most remarkable, the handsomest face that she had ever seen;
both his expression and the carriage of his splendid person indicated an
arrogance that neither speech nor action might express; it seemed as if
he forever contained a surging, passionate haughtiness; it was in the
lines of his clear-cut mouth and in the expression of his dark blue
eyes; eyes whose beauty was marred by a look, strained, slightly
distraught. He wore no peruke and his short hair was black as his heavy
brows; he was of a pale complexion naturally, and now his eyes showed
dark in a face markedly pale.

"Ye are the messenger from St. Germains?" asked Celia Hunt.

"Have I not said so?" demanded Mr. Wedderburn with a curl of his short
upper lip. "Why do you stare so, wench? I am not used to wait for my
welcome."

"Ye are not he who came here last under the name of Andrew Wedderburn,"
said the girl.

"You must be used to feigned names here," was the answer. "Do you doubt
me?--be satisfied." With the slightly grandiloquent magnificence that
was his unconscious manner, he drew forth the papers from his breast and
held them out.

She saw the seal of King James on the topmost. "You will stay the night
here?" she said.

He gave a reckless little laugh and seated himself at the table.

"When did the King's son leave here?"

"This morning."

"I am to meet him in London. And Mr. Caryl; you have heard from him?"

"He told of your coming."

"Ah--he also, I am to meet in London." He leaned back in his chair as if
he was weary and stared into the fire with moody eyes.

The girl, Celia Hunt, set about getting food with an air half-awed,
half-doubting.

Of all the Jacobites, nobles, captains and gentlemen, spies and common
rufflers who had used her father's hut in their passage to and from
France, this man was the most at ease, the most arrogant of manner, as
if his life was in no danger, nor his cause in any fear of failure; yet
at the same time she had seen none with eyes that held such excited
wildness or who kept his hand so continually on his sword. She puzzled
over him; he was no daredevil of a cavalier or knight-errant, eager for
adventure like some of these plotters; there was nothing roistering or
gay about him; he had an air of passionate coldness; like a Puritan who
disdains the worldly things about him and puts a full-blooded strength
into grave desires; he looked past the girl as if she had been an old
woman, a treatment she was not used to; she was handsome enough in her
lean, vivid way to win courtesy at least; and often more from men older
and graver than this one.

The Duke of Berwick had kissed her when he left that morning and given
her the diamond brooch that glittered on her breast; it was the Stuart
way of winning and keeping loyalty; she was shrewd enough to know it was
only a manner of paying a debt, but she liked the implied compliment
that it was not money could buy her services; this man, she thought
scornfully, might likely enough reward her at parting with a handful of
silver. Having spread the remains of the Duke of Berwick's breakfast on
a cloth of smuggled lace and having set beside them some bottles of the
wine brought secretly from France, the girl turned to Mr. Wedderburn.

"Your supper," she said curtly.

He rose, flung himself before the table and began to eat absently.

"You had a rough passage," remarked Celia, eying him. "Yes," he barely
looked at her as he spoke.

"You are often employed by His Majesty?"

"Yes," was his answer, given even more coldly than before.

Celia came closer, resting her firm brown hands on the edge of the table
and, leaning forward, she peered into his face.

The ragged yellow lamplight flickered over her, lighting her eyes and
her dusky hair; she spoke, very low.

"You are a Williamite spy," she said steadily.

Mr. Wedderburn pushed his chair back and his mouth took on the
scornful curve that came there very easily.

"Prove it," he answered quietly.

"I cannot prove it--but I know," said Celia Hunt. "You are that damned
thing--a spy. You dare not lie deep enough to deny it."

He rose up softly; he was outside the circle of the lamplight, but her
straining eyes saw his face was drawn.

"I dare do anything," he said, "but I do not choose to answer."

"There is no need," she said, very erect and taut, "I know."

They faced each other, the table and half the room between them; he
touched his breast lightly; a square-cut diamond ring glistened through
the lace that fell over his hand.

"I carry a something here," he said with a light haughtiness, "that will
serve my turn against anything you may say."

"How did you get them?" she asked. "The papers--how much do you know?"

His lids dropped over his flashing eyes; he lifted his head still
higher.

"Enough," he said.

"To hang us all," said Celia Hunt hoarsely. "My God!"

"Perhaps," he assented. "Now will you try to send a warning to Jerome
Caryl?"

She had fallen back a step.

"No," she said. "I shall prevent you leaving this place--" He laughed.
"Who will stop me?" he asked.

She swayed a little, staring at him.

"You know too much," she panted. "Oh, my God, I would give something to
know what to do." He laughed at her; with a lithe movement he came
close, his right hand was loosely over his sword, the other, shapely and
white, rested on his hip, thrust into the folds of his purple sash; the
carelessness of his attitude stung her like a taunt.

"I am a fool!" she cried passionately. "I should have waited till ye
slept then bid my father settle you--you hireling spy!"

"Slept here!" he answered with curling lip, "and keep a civil tongue,
baggage, or I shall strike you down. I have no ceremony with your kind."

"Ah," she whispered, "you would dare to murder me."

"I have dared God, Himself," he answered wildly, "I know nothing you can
name I would not dare--but I should disdain to murder you--"

Her horror-stricken eyes dwelt on his magnificent face; her angry
courage ebbed before his strangeness.

"Who are you?" she asked.

But he laughed, not heeding her; his eyes showed hazed and vacant.

"Accursed," he muttered--"God knows--accursed--at least one of the
masters of the earth--mad perhaps--you have heard of me, belike--" He
turned a distracted gaze on her; she thought suddenly that he was
mad--or drunk, and cowered against the wall in personal fear.

Again he laughed loudly, and moved unsteadily, lurching toward her, it
was as if some passion of his soul had been suddenly loosed and blinded
him.

"Black magic--and blood--" he said wildly.

"Cursed--always blood--and witchery--you cannot get rid of it--the
thought of Hell--and the faces of your dead who died foully--your
disfigured dead--and your child slaying your child--both damned--and
singeing in Hell!"

He stared at her with his blue eyes vague and fixed; she shrieked out
thinly:

"God's name--who are you?"

"We conjure in the devil's name!" he answered madly. "I am of the cursed
Dalrymples--and I am damned in the name of John, Master of Stair!"




CHAPTER XI - THE MASTER OF STAIR


The sound of his own name seemed to sober the man; he sank down heavily
into a chair, clutching his sword, his wild vacant eyes staring before
him. Celia Hunt stood dumbly regarding him, disbelief and fear in her
face. The Master of Stair!

She had heard of him as the fiercest of Whigs, one of the most powerful
men in the three Kingdoms, the friend of William of Orange--and the
ruler of Scotland--yet he was here doing spy's work and needlessly
revealing himself! It was incredible; yet she had heard that the
Dalrymples were mad--and accursed: if this were not he, why should he
lie: claim so burdensome a title.

She crept a little closer.

"You are the Master of Stair?" she whispered. "You ask me to believe
that?"

He looked up at her and his eyes were not the eyes of any mere ordinary
man, she thought.

"I am John Dalrymple," he said, "what have you heard of me that you
shrink away so?"

"And you do this work!" she cried.

"I would trust no other man to do this work I have in hand," he
answered. "Nobles and princes are among your Jacobite plotters--we do
not send hired scum to combat them. I am the Master of Stair."

"Ah! and why do you tell me?"

"You!" his eyes flickered over her scornfully. "Why should I not tell you?"

"Would you bribe me to your side?" she asked breathlessly.

"No," he answered; "I have accomplished my end. I know all I need to
know. I touched the bottom of their plot days ago." He rose with a
sudden laugh. "Berwick and his fellow-fools! They have been too
secure--did they think we had neither eyes nor ears!"

Celia Hunt moistened her lips slowly with the tip of her red tongue.

"What are you going to do?" she asked.

He hesitated, glanced at her with gloomy scorn. "I am going to London as
Andrew Wedderburn; to-morrow night I shall meet Jerome Caryl and obtain
from him the names of all concerned in this last plot."

"Then?"

"Then, wench, I shall put that list before the King," he answered, "and
the business will be done with--this popish scum will lie quiet a
while."

"Clean work for a gentleman, Sir John," she cried in a clear scorn. "I
know some dirty knaves would not go to such lengths of treachery to save
their necks--"

He swung round on her; but she laughed up into his face without
flinching.

"Why, you can kill me," she said, "I am a Jacobite, a smuggler, I've
helped many a fugitive out of England and many a conspirator in--and if
you are what you say, I am doubly glad to be the enemy of the government
whose ministers are such as you!"

"You are very reckless," said the Master of Stair. "I shall not forget
you are outside the law."

"As you are outside hope of Heaven!" she answered him fiercely.
"Accursed, root and branch--you damned Dalrymples--oh, I have heard some
tales of you--if you indeed he he they call the Master of Stair."

He put his hand to his side and stared down at her; he had grown ghastly
white.

Lithe and quick in her movements she swung close to him, the blood
flushing her dark cheek.

"How did your sister die?" she mocked with the courage of desperation.

"As any man's might have done," he answered hoarsely. "How did your
brother die?" she cried.

"Stop!" cried the Master of Stair, "Stop!"

But she, drew herself up defiantly and flung out "How did your son
die, Sir John Dalrymple! Surely there is a curse on you!"

He stood motionless, staring.

"I think his brother killed him," whispered Celia Hunt. "I think your
brother shot himself for hate of you--I think your sister went mad and
slew her bridegroom--"

"Does all the world know this?" he said in a strange voice. "Your family
has been a fine subject for common talk these many years," she answered.

He gave a vacant laugh and turned on his heel.

"I have borne too much for your tongue to move me much--yet--if you
speak of him again--my God! I shall strike you silent!"

Despite herself his tone awed her; she shrank back into the shadows and
her venom died on her tongue.

There was a silence.

The Master of Stair picked up his hat and cloak and turned toward the
door. He took a whistle from his breast and blew three times into the
night.

Celia Hunt cried as figures formed out of the blackness.

"Arrest this girl for high treason, Captain," said the Master of Stair
in a manner quiet and courteous as a couple of soldiers stepped into the
room, "and search the house--see to it she sends no messages--you will
find me in Romney to-night--to-morrow in London."

"I was glad to hear your signal, Sir John," answered the soldier, "'tis
cold on these fens."

"A vile place," said the Master of Stair. "I think the Jacobites will
use it no more. You have arrested the man, Hunt?"

"Yes, Sir John; we found him on the fens."

"Good-night, Captain." He lifted his hat and was gone into the dark.

Celia Hunt unpinned the Duke of Berwick's brooch and slipped it inside
her bosom before they came to tie her hands.

"Maybe," said the officer, "he or both of you will choose to turn
informer."

Celia flung up her head with a jerk that loosened her hair from its pins
and sent it rippling down her back! she laughed.

Sir John Dalrymple sat in his room in Romney a few hours later writing.

The room was warm and comfortable; a bright fire burned on the red-tiled
hearth; a lamp hung over the table; Sir John wore a scarlet satin
dressing-gown that fell open on his shirt and cravat; a crystal decanter
stood empty beside him and a half-filled wine-glass.

He wrote with a reckless air of carelessness, his hand flew fast over
the paper in a bold trailing writing; as he finished a sheet he tossed
it across the table and took another. He was interrupted by some one
softly entering; he looked up with an absorbed frown to see his
secretary coming toward him with letters in his hand.

Sir John pushed his chair back and flung down his pen; his brilliant
eyes were shadowed underneath and there was a curious drag at the
corners of his mouth as if he had been in great pain.

"From London?" he demanded as he took the letters. "Yes, Sir
John--forwarded by my lord your father to the name you gave him."

"Sit down," said the Master of Stair. "I may need you, Melville."

The secretary, meek and fair, sat down at the further end of the table
and began mending a pen.

Sir John took up the first of his letters and glanced over it eagerly.

"From Breadalbane," he said. "More of these cursed clans have come
in--but the Macdonalds remain obdurate--I am glad of it."

He dashed the letter down.

"Melville, you will get me those maps of the Highlands I spoke of--I
must see Breadalbane--he is in London now--his caution allows him to put
but little on paper."

"Yes, Sir John," answered the secretary and noting his master's angry
tone he gave him a furtive glance and saw him still brooding gloomily
over Breadalbane's letter.

There followed a long pause of utter slience; then the secretary was
roused into a start by a letter being flung down the table with
a force that sent it onto the carpet by his feet; he was used
to sitting quiet under stormy episodes and with an unmoved face he went
on mending the pen; but he gave a covert glance at the letter. It was
one of those he had brought up; the seal was still unbroken and the
inscription was in a woman's hand; a writing the secretary knew very
well since it was that of Sir John's wife.

Another silence broken at last by the Master of Stair:

"A letter from the King," he said, "put it with the others, Melville."

"His Majesty does not know you have left London, Sir John?"

"No--nor need he--I intend to say nothing of this plot till I have
discovered everything. I'll have no more Dangerfield scares to make
the Jacks laugh. You will take heed, Melville, that you do not mention
to any this visit to Romney."

The secretary assented meekly. The Master of Stair leaned back in his
chair; above his red gown his colorless face showed of a ghastly pallor.

"I will write to Breadalbane," he said, "I will dictate the letter."

Melville drew a sheet of paper toward him and dipped his pen in the ink.

"Head it Kensington," said Sir John. "And say--I am sorry Glengarry and
Keppoch are safe--but glad Makian has not come in--it will be a great
work of charity to be exact in rooting out that damnable race--the worst
in all the Highlands. I rejoice that they have not taken the oaths."

The secretary's pen went busily over the paper; Sir John took up his
wine-glass and emptied it slowly.

"That is all," he said. "Fill that out."

The secretary handed the finished letter across the table and Sir John
signed it, then fell back again in his chair. In silence, Melville put
the papers together.

"There in my own hand--for my son in Holland," said the Master of Stair.
"Put them up--maybe the child will never read them, nevertheless send
them." He put his hand to his head and the strange distortion of his
mouth deepened, marring his face.

Melville cleared the table and put the letters neatly into a portfolio;
wiped the pens and took away the inkstands; his quiet movements did not
disturb the silence.

"Give me that letter on the floor," said the Master of Stair, suddenly.

The secretary obeyed; Sir John took it with the tips of his fingers and
laid it on the bare table in front of him.

"You may go now--Melville," he said. "I shall start by daybreak, but
alone--I shall see you in London to-morrow evening--you may come again
presently and help me to undress--"

"Yes, Sir John."

The secretary moved to the door and there stopped, struck by something
utterly tragic and forlorn in the figure of the man he was leaving. The
Master of Stair was leaning back with his head uplifted against the
stiff black back of his chair, his hands lay slackly on the arms and his
eyes were set and vacant:

"Sir John," said the secretary timidly. "Will you not go to bed?"

"No," said the Master of Stair, without moving, "No," Still Melville
lingered.

"You look tired, Sir John," he ventured.

"Why should you care?" was the answer. "Take your own rest, Melville."

The secretary carne back into the room. "Sir, as you ride to London so
early, it would be better if you slept."

Sir John sat up and looked at the speaker with wide eyes.

"If I might choose I would never sleep again," he said. "And I would
never see the dark." He gave a short laugh and took up his wife's
letter; there was a little pause; the secretary waited, ill at ease.

"Melville--" the Master of Stair spoke abruptly, "when did my sister
die?"

A little painful silence, then the secretary answered awkwardly: "It was
before I came to you, Sir John, about twenty years ago, I think."

Sir John turned the unopened letter over in his hands.

"It seems longer," he said gloomily. "''Tis an old tale now--but I had
it flung in my face to-day--that--and other things. I thought I had
forgotten--but I remember now that I can never bear to open a door that
resists--for fear--for fear of seeing again what I saw then. When I
thrust open that resisting door and saw her murdered bridegroom across
the threshold--and her eyes blinking at me over it--Melville, her mad
eyes--that looked as I have seen mine--" He dashed his hand on the table
and his black brows contracted into a frown of agony; his was the fierce
pride that disdains control and restraint; he was reckless of the
watching curiosity of the other man.

"Why did that wench remind me?" he cried bitterly. "I hear Janet's
scream again--and see over her bare arm the--faugh! these things are not
terrible to hear, Melville; they are easily told--but when you see
them--by God! when you see them--I think you do not forget."

He lifted his wild, blue eyes with something almost like appeal in them.

"It makes a tale for common folk to mouth," he said. "Can nothing be
buried too deep for spite to unearth it? Twenty years ago! I remember I
wore my first sword that day--cursed--what sins have we done to be so
cursed? Melville--you were there when they brought my dead son home--"
He leaned across the table and his voice sank. "Tell me," he said
hoarsely, "did he not look terrible?"

Melville shrank away.

"Sir," he faltered, "no more than any dead who die so."

"Who has died so since Cain?" demanded the Master wildly: "slain by his
brother--God and man call it an awful thing."

"Sir--'twas in mimic fight--a most unhappy accident."

"So we call it; so we gloss it over--but you and I know better,
Melville," answered the Master--"They hated each other--like I hated my
brother--but he shot himself--better than if I had done it--yet this
child's guilt is mine--Melville, he was only twelve, but the black
Dalrymple blood rose in him--my sins return to lay my house in ruins and
dishonor me."

"He rose, thrusting his chair back; with his great height emphasized by
the flowing scarlet gown, his white face and his passionate eyes dark
with pain, he looked almost terrible; the secretary drew further outside
the circle of the lamplight.

"Many men, Sir John," he said in his even official voice, "would gladly
have your sorrows to enjoy your fortunes. Worldly greatness such as
yours is a fine balance to private misfortunes."

This smooth axiom was unheeded by the other, but he caught and dwelt on
the sense of what was said.

"What do I live for, Melville? Why have I flung myself into the plot--to
work with my own hands? Why do I plan to sweep the Highlands bare of
thieves--to rein in a kingdom and fly grandly above the breath of
popular hate? It is only that I may forget--even for a while--I wish to
plunge knee-deep through the press of factions, to mount, and ever
mount, to grasp power, and, by Heaven, wield it--that I may cheat myself
into thinking I forget what I shall never forget--unto the end!" As he
spoke he began pacing the room; there was a curious lightness in his
step; as if he feared to walk heavily; as if he dreaded waking echoes;
he still held his wife's letter in his hand.

"Melville, get you to rest," he said over his shoulder and his tone
invited no dallying with his command; the secretary turned and the door
closed softly on his departure.

Sir John stopped under the lamp and broke the seal of his letter.

It was dated from his London house and written in a trembling, much
blotted, hand.

It began:


SIR JOHN,

Indeed you must come home, indeed I cannot bear--I know not where you
are. Was such your commands? My lord, your father, says he will send
this with the other letters, the Lord can alone tell if you will get
this, as my lord, your father, as you know, lies to me without pity, yet
complaints of him are not the reason of my writing, yet I would say few
women would take from him what I do patiently being past long since all
attempts to move either you or him to any consideration for me whose
fate is the heartbroken and neglected, with no friend but one whom you
know--and do not like, I mean Tom Wharton, who is often here now; but I
cannot help it; he knew my boy and the house is killing me with its
emptiness and loneliness; my lord is morose and hates me and therefore,
though God knows I would be willing never to see your face again, I do
ask you to come back if you would not find me mad or flown; perhaps you
do not care that my heart is broken and that since the boy--


The Master of Stair tore the letter savagely across.

"Why did I open it?" he cried passionately. "Why does she reproach me?
Can I give her back her boy?"

He crossed to the dying fire and thrust the half-unread, ill-written
letter into the heart of the flames and his face was very bitter.

"Had I not mated with a fool, my luck might have been better," he said
fiercely. "When I have fought and silenced all the world her wails rise
to unnerve me--the boy!--what does she know what it was to me to lose
that boy! But you shall not forget grief, madam, in the company of Tom
Wharton." He flung himself into his old place at the table; outside a
clock struck three; on the hearth his wife's letter flared into a tall
thin flame above the dead coals.

"God knows I would be willing never to see your face again--"

The sentence recurred to him dully; so utterly alone--who was there that
would care to see him again?

He knew of none; the boy was dead.

"I care not," he muttered to himself. "I am the Master of Stair. I am
Scotland I do not need a home--a woman's affection--those things are for
smaller men and what matter if they point at me as a man accursed--is
not my name stately high above it all? I care not." Yet even as he spoke
his head sank wearily into his hand and the helpless, useless tears were
blinding him.



CHAPTER XII - THE LOVE OF DELIA


Delia Featherstonehaugh sat alone in the back parlor of "The Sleeping
Queen"; it was New Year's Eve, about six o'clock and the quiet little
inn was deserted.

It stood in a dreary back street close to Westminster Abbey and was a
resort well-known to Jacobites and almost unheard of by others; in the
upper rooms was a printing-press that turned out hundreds of the
lampoons and pamphlets that daily strewed the city and in this dull
chamber more than one famous gentleman had drunk to the health of King
James.

Delia had been alone all day, her brother and Jerome Caryl had been
summoned to a meeting with Berwick, who was in hiding in Southwark; she
knew they would return to meet the messenger from France, Mr.
Wedderburn, who was due this evening, but the hour she could not tell.

The room was large and low with plain plaster walls and uncarpeted
floor; on the high chimneypiece two huge white' china dogs grinned at
each other either side a wooden clock; the fireplace was laid with rough
brown Dutch tiles that bore the history of the fall of man in rude bold
figures; Delia sat in one of the well-worn chairs, and stared absently
at the round fat face of Eve who looked up distressfully from the
hearth, glowing red from the fire.

The room was full of the sound of bells, the bells of St. Margaret's and
the Abbey chiming together steadily. The girl listened to them dreamily,
and her thoughts were in Scotland, the desolate Glencoe--the Glen o'
Weeping--were they safe, those Macdonalds?--very far-away they seemed,
helpless, too, and pitiful for all their fierceness; she prayed they
might have taken the oaths; she did not care to think of Ronald
Macdonald as among the dead.

With a little sigh she leaned forward; she wore a long dress of dark
gray silk and in the heavy curls of her hazel hair was a band of velvet
of a bright pure blue; in the plain collar of her gown shone a little
turquoise brooch.

Her eyes, dark brown and brooding, looked soft as pansies under her
smooth white brow, and her mouth strong and gentle was very sweetly set;
it was a fair musing face she rested on her hand; a face calmly
troubled.

Through the bells came the sound of footsteps; she thought it might be
her brother or Caryl, but the step was too light for either.

She rose slowly, her eyes on the door.

It opened and a man stepped in.

"Miss Delia?" he asked softly, "the sister of Sir Perseus?"

"Yes."

He closed the door.

"They sent me here to wait the coming of Mr. Caryl," he said. "I am
Andrew Wedderburn--from France." He came into the room, his hat in his
hand; Delia looked at him in silence, she stood with her hand on the arm
of her chair, the firelight full on her face.

"May I wait here?" asked Mr. Wedderburn. "I have satisfied the host of
my identity--but you--will you see my papers?"

"Sir--we do not question friends," she said. "How should you be here if
you were not the King's messenger?"

His blue eyes dwelt on her a second with a curious look; he laid his hat
on a chair. "Help me with my coat," he said quietly. "Will you not--the
room is warm?"

She came slowly toward him with a half-hesitation.

He wore a light-colored roquelaure that he had unbuttoned and great
riding-gloves that he pulled off to fling beside his hat; as Delia
approached him she was aware of a heavy perfume mingled with the
atmosphere of cold outer air without, that he carried. Timidly she took
his coat by the collar and helped him with it; as she did so his hand,
ice-cold, touched hers and she colored foolishly.

"Thank you," he said and crossed to the fire.

Delia stood still, holding his coat; the strong perfume it was redolent
of seemed to make her giddy; the close contact with his personality had
been as strong, as real a thing as if some one had struck her; she
turned to look at the man with a feeling that her head was spinning.

He had taken some papers from his breast and was looking at them; he
wore a suit of geranium-colored velvet, a waistcoat branched with silver
and buttoned with brilliants; his face and the front curls of his black
peruke were powered; over his lace tie a bow of wide black velvet was
tied under his chin; the scabbard of his sword was gold and he wore a
number of ornaments that glittered as he moved, yet his appearance was
one of gloom not gaiety, and the splendor of his superb face was marred
by a look of wildness, contained and held in.

Delia gave a little half-cry of surprise:

"Sir," she said faintly, "came you in this guise from France?"

He looked up as if he did not understand.

"I came by Romney Marsh," he said. "Hunt's cottage--you know it?"

"I mean," explained Delia with a great flush, "that our messengers are
usually more plainly habited."

He glanced over his clothes.

"Ah!" he gave a sudden smile, "merely the fashion of Paris, Miss
Delia--I have escaped detection--so what matters it?"

"Nothing," she assented. "Only you look more like one of the Prince's
courtiers, Mr. Wedderburn, than the King's friends, who usually go
roughly clad."

He gave her another quick look.

"See my commission, madam--"

"Oh, no--" she protested. "Show it to Mr. Caryl--"

"Is he coming here--soon?"

"Yes--to meet you, Mr. Wedderburn."

She dropped into silence after that; he put his papers back and stared
at the brown tiles, suddenly he looked at her:

"How loud the bells sound," he said, "it is Westminster is it not?"

"Yes," said Delia.

He turned and stood with his back to the fire.

"Why do you remain there?" he asked. "Do I frighten you that you will
not come and sit down?"

"You--a little confuse me," she answered, then feeling the folly of it
was silent again.

Mr. Wedderburn laughed.

"A plotter, Miss Delia, should not so easily be put out--you are an
ardent plotter, are you not?"

With a semblance of ease she crossed over to him. "I know not," she
said. "I have done nothing for my cause--as you have, sir."

"I have served my King well," he answered gloomily There fell a little
silence; they were only a foot apart and the sense of his presence over
her was as strong as if he touched her with both hands; instinctively
she made a sharp movement backwards and something fell with a rattle to
the ground.

"Your brooch," said Mr. Wedderburn and picked it up She put her hand to
her open collar.

"Ah--it is hard to fasten."

"Let me try," said he gravely.

She looked at him in a confused manner.

"Yes; the fastening is difficult," said Mr. Wedderburn with the sapphire
in his hand--"hold up your head."

Obviously nerving herself, Delia obeyed; he bent over her and his tie
brushed her bosom; his hand touched her bare throat as he adjusted the
brooch; at the sensation she gave an uncontrollable start that made the
pin again fly and prick her flesh; with a little cry she stepped back.

"I have hurt you!" cried Mr. Wedderburn; and his white face slightly
flushed--"Forgive me--"

"Ah, no, 'twas mine own fault," said Delia, but if the scratch had been
poisoned she could not have spoken more faintly or with paler lips.

Mr. Wedderburn looked at her keenly and she seemed to know it though her
eyes were downcast, for her face was flushed as suddenly as his and she
set her teeth in her under lip.

"What is your part in these plots?" he asked abruptly. Still looking
down she answered.

"Sir, I do what I am bid--at present little enough--if a chance came I
should pray to be worthy of it--I would give my life for the cause."

"What cause?" demanded Mr. Wedderburn. "The invasion of England and the
assassination of the King?"

"The King?" she echoed, amazed.

"King William--"

"Ah--the Prince!" cried Delia. "Do they, sir, call him King at St.
Germains?"

Mr. Wedderburn looked vexed: "King de facto he is, Miss Delia--even when
you acknowledge James King _de jure_!" Delia smiled.

"We make no count of these lawyer's terms, sir--"

"Nor of the law, I think," he answered. "'Tis my profession."

"You are a lawyer, sir?"

He smiled gloomily.

"Yes--a rare thing, you will say to find a lawyer and a conspirator in
one--"

"Oh, no," said Delia, "but I had rather, sir, you had been a soldier."

"I have been that, too," he answered. "I've trailed a pike in France and
Holland with fine scum for company--" he turned round on her
suddenly--"that must have been before you were born, Miss Delia."

She gave a start of surprise; he seemed a young man; he read her thought
and smiled:

"I am six and thirty; you, I think, not above eighteen; my soldiering
was more than twenty years ago--a dead thing!--but you have not answered
me--are you deeply in this plot--to assassinate the Prince?"

"I have not heard of it," she answered. "They do not tell me
everything--yet I can answer for Mr. Caryl at least that he would
not stain his cause with murder."

He frowned.

"Is he your lover?"

"No," her brown eyes lifted steadily. "I have no lover." Mr. Wedderburn
considered her curiously.

"Well, you are young enough," he said.

"Older than you think," she smiled; her eyelids fell again.

They both became aware of a difference in the room; Mr. Wedderburn went
to the window.

"The bells have stopped," he said; he opened the casement with a
reckless impatient gesture, and a cloud of snow was blown in on him.
"Come here," he said in a lowered voice. "See--'tis so dark 'tis like
looking over the edge of the world--and the flakes go by like
souls--millions of them--and all--I think lost--"

Delia crept up beside him, trembling and silent; he leaned his stately
head against the mullions and stared out on to the utter dark; the
drifting snow clung to the vivid velvet of his coat; Delia saw his
diamonds rise and fall with the quickness of his breathing and felt her
own heart beating thickly; a vague sense of unreality touched her like
the chill of the outer air and made her shiver.

"Hark!" said Mr. Wedderburn.

The bells burst out again and the sharpness of their music was a pain;
the snow went past in a slow rhythm of descent; Mr. Wedderburn turned
and looked at Delia.

"Ah--it is cold--shut the window," she said, and she closed her eyes and
swayed as if she fainted inwardly.

But he stood motionless, the snow drifting over him, his hand on the
open window; the mad, reckless blood of his doomed race rose in him; he
spent his life in trying wild means of forgetting his great unhappiness
and here, in the pale, pure face shrinking away from him, was one way of
distraction; he was as picturesque in his thoughts as in his person and
he imagined her soul, simple, white as the snow without, standing before
him, waiting for a sign to flutter into his hand; he smiled gloomily;
she was not the first to respond to the obvious attraction of his
flaunting personality, but she had the novelty of a singular, gracious
freshness, an almost childlike simplicity of demeanor; it was exquisite
to think she knew nothing of him.

It was as if there lay a way through her soft brown eyes of momentarily
escaping from himself.

She leaned against the wall, he watching her; one little hand rested on
the paneling beside her, her white throat showed through the open
collar; her thick, dull hair cast trembling shadows on her cheeks, he
thought it a pretty color and was gloomily pleased that he could still
admire the tint of a woman's hair.

"Delia," he said quietly.

She looked up, to hear this man speak her name was like seeing it flash
written in stars across the sky; she shrank under it abashed and lifted
timid eyes that to his bitter wretchedness seemed soft as a caress.

He smiled.

"How little you know of me!" he said.

She found slow words to answer him.

"We have one creed, one King, one aim," she said. "I desire to know no
more of you, sir."

"Delia," his voice fell very musically low. "If you knew more of
me--say, if we had known each other years--would you find it possible to
care for me?"

She stared, dumb and scarlet, the terror in her questioning eyes was the
finest compliment ever paid him: he smiled again with his curious
Puritanical haughtiness as if even while he led her on, he despised
himself and her.

"Would you find me a, man easy to care for?" he said again. "I
wonder--for I--"

She interrupted: "Sir--I do not think you have failed to find those who
would answer that question."

"Ah, let me speak," he said gently, "let me say that I do find you made
to be loved--"

"Sir! do you usually so play with words with every stranger?" she cried.

"Why, never before," he smiled, "and are we strangers--did you not say
we had one creed--one King--one aim?"

"Ah, I do think you palter with me!" cried Delia with the distress of
one drawn and netted against her will. "Mr. Caryl is late--"

"I would he were later," said Mr. Wedderburn.

"There is no need for me to keep you company," she answered faintly.

"No need?" His manner flashed into the overbearing. "Not if I ask you to
stay?"

"I will go."

"Why?" His blue eyes lifted imperiously. "Miss Delia--do you dislike me?"

"I do not know you," she faltered.

His face darkened.

"Ah, yes, you know me as much in these moments as you ever will--I know
you--to the bottom of your white heart."

"Know me?" she winced and blushed.

"I know you do not dislike me," he said, studying her curiously. "Though
your lips may say so."

She answered bravely.

"Sir--I have not taught them to lie."

He came a little nearer to her and again she was aware of the strong
perfume he carried, overcoming, stupefying her.

"So," he said, "you cannot lie, and if I said--ah--if I said--" He broke
off with a little reckless laugh; his shadow was upon her; his presence
seemed to fill the world; she could no more escape it than she could the
air about her; she could only shrink away, trembling against the wall.

"If I said--I love you," he asked softly, "you who cannot lie--would
say--some day I might love you--would you not?"

"When you tell me that in seriousness," she answered panting, "in
seriousness I will reply."

His beautiful eyes laughed.

"Sophistry," he said. "Come, is life so long that we may wait years to
say what in one moment we know is true--we have not met for nothing--by
Heaven, no!

"Then leave it at that," faltered Delia. "Say no more--ah, for pity!"

With that gentle little cry it seemed to him that his hand closed over
her and that he held her soul, simple and white, as he pictured it to do
with as he would.

Thinking so he gave her his strange, vacant look, while she crept away and
he fell back into the gloom, surveying her sideways coldly.

The pause, terrible to Delia, was broken by the abrupt entrance of
Jerome Caryl.

"Ah," he said; "I was told you were here." He glanced at Mr. Wedderburn
and his brows went up ever so slightly.

"The password, sir?" he asked, his hand on the door.

Mr. Wedderburn turned and looked at him: "The white rose and the golden
lily--England and France," he said slowly, "and here is my commission."
He took from his pocket a parchment with swinging seals and laid it
sweepingly upon the table.

Jerome Caryl picked it up, looked at it, then turned to Sir Perseus, who
had followed him.

"This is Mr. Wedderburn, the King's messenger," he said gravely, then to
the other: "I am glad, sir, of your safe arrival."

"Good-even," said Sir Perseus, then glancing the stranger over: "they
keep you fine in France, sir," he commented.

Mr. Wedderburn smiled disdainfully.

"My habit is not the matter under discussion," he returned. "I dress as
fits my station--as one of His Majesty's friends."

Sir Perseus shrugged his shoulders; Jerome Caryl seated himself rather
wearily, at the table, with a gentle smile of greeting to Delia and
spoke to the King's messenger:

"The papers you had to deliver?" he said. "I am anxious, sir, for His
Majesty's letter."

Mr. Wedderburn, taking the seat opposite, began the undoing of a packet
he took from his breast, the two men meanwhile observed each other;
Jerome Caryl openly with a calm frankness, the King's messenger covertly,
sideways and very keenly.

Delia, mechanically closing the window at her brother's bidding, noticed
how great a difference between the two at the table and thought that
Jerome Caryl had faded utterly beside the vivid presence of the other.

Quiet, contained, grave and modest in manner, his calm melancholy face
and person were a fine contrast to Mr. Wedderburn with his over-bold
handsomeness, his over-rich dress, his passionate air of impatient
lordship, his too emphasized manner of haughtiness and power; the
bearing of a tragedy emperor, gloomy magnificence. He was not the type
of man to appeal to Jerome Caryl, who set his soft mouth sternly and
drooped his hazel eyes disdainfully to his own delicate hand resting on
the table.

Mr. Wedderburn swung a letter across the table; in silence Jerome Caryl
opened it, and the King's messenger gave a sudden smile at Delia across
the length of the room.

Sir Perseus glanced from one to another, conscious that the silence was
awkward and unaccountable. "We saw my Lord Berwick to-day," he remarked.
"He has had a messenger from Crauford in Scotland."

Delia gave a little start as of one suddenly touched in his sleep.

"Scotland?" she echoed.

Mr. Wedderburn was looking at her.

"Heard ye anything of the submission of the clans?" he asked.

"We heard," said Sir Perseus, "that every clan had come in save the
Macdonalds of Glencoe."

"Ah!" said Delia, and she flushed and paled.

"They bear such a hatred to the Campbells, nothing will induce them to
follow the others," continued her brother, "and--poor fools--there is no
one to trouble to warn them--doubtless you have heard, Mr. Wedderburn,
how we have preserved the Highlands to His Majesty by causing them to
take the oaths?"

"I have heard," was the answer, "you think the government will be
vexed--disturbed at it?"

Jerome Caryl looked up from his letter.

"They were counting on settling the Highlands forever," he smiled. "With
fire and sword--they did not reckon on more than half taking the
oaths--the Master of Stair and Breadalbane intended to massacre them
wholesale."

"You have clever spies, to have discovered that much," said Mr.
Wedderburn, and under the table his hand was clutched tightly on his
sword-hilt.

"I am in England for that," was the answer. "To serve His Majesty. I
have defeated the usurper on that well-planned cruelty."

"There remain the Macdonalds," said Mr. Wedderburn slowly.

Suddenly, up to the table, came Delia.

"They must be saved," she said.

Her words rang in a little pause; she was clasping and unclasping her
hands nervously, she turned her pure eager face to Mr. Wedderburn.

"Sir, you will help us save them?"

He looked at her and laughed.

"I?" he said--"I?--'tis amusing--what power have I to save these
Highland savages?"

She winced and turned to Jerome Caryl.

"You promised me, Mr. Caryl--"

Sir Perseus interrupted:

"Why, Delia, what are these Macdonalds to you?"

Jerome Caryl spared her an answer: "We will do what we can--" he said.
"And they know the risk they run--even yet they may take the oaths."

Delia glanced at him gratefully; she was pale and her brown eyes gleamed
unnaturally bright.

"Good-night, sirs:" she said faintly.

The three men rose; her brother kissed her cheek; Jerome Caryl came to
the door with her, but she looked past him to Mr. Wedderburn, who stared
at her with a curious little smile; her face went even whiter; the door
fell to behind her and they heard her light footsteps hurrying up the
stairs. Jerome Caryl returned to the table.

"Mr. Wedderburn," he said formally, "this is a letter from my Lord
Middleton--signed by the King, charging me to collect such names of
importance as I can and send the signature back by you as a means of
encouraging the French to make a descent on England--"

"His Majesty expects me in a day or so at St. Germains with the
signatures," was the answer. "I assure you 'tis a matter for despatch,
for King Louis will not act without these names as a guarantee of a
rising in England to support him should his men land."

"Lord Middleton also says that you will be the bearer of his grace of
Berwick's despatches and a full account of the plot for His Majesty's
perusal."

Mr. Wedderburn inclined his head.

"Those were my orders."

"A dangerous mission," put in Sir Perseus. "You will carry a vast
responsibility with those papers."

"I have done as dangerous in the service of the King," said Mr.
Wedderburn. He turned to Jerome Caryl. "Sir--what names have you to send
His Majesty?"

"News from all sides is vastly satisfactory," was the answer. "His grace
of Berwick is very confident, the discontent is huge in England; we have
the assurances and the signatures of Marlborough, Godolphin, Rochester,
Clarendon, Lord Russell, Leeds, Cornbury, Dartmouth, Sidney and many
bishops and lords--"

"The whole of the Court ye might say," cried Mr. Wedderburn, with a
curious little laugh. "Tell me, are there any who have not signed?"

"Nottingham," said Jerome Caryl with a smile. "Carstairs, Sunderland,
Shrewsbury, Devonshire, Dorset and the Master of Stair--these have never
to my knowledge meddled with us--Nottingham, because he is a narrow
pedant; Devonshire and Dorset for sheer laziness; Sunderland because we
would not have him in our ranks--Carstairs and the Master of Stair..."

"For honest motives, perchance," said Mr. Wedderburn.

"I do not say so--God knows. Carstairs I believe is honest--the Master
of Stair is not full of scruples. I think he is faithful because he
hates us bitterly and because he is a man of one view--he is 'sworn to
the Whigs and would, I think, sell his soul for them--if it is still on
the market."

"You hate him," remarked Mr. Wedderburn.

"I do--he constantly thwarts me, he is a man to be feared--but to
business, Mr. Wedderburn: these papers you are to carry to France are with
his grace of Berwick--give me two days and I shall have them."

Mr. Wedderburn rose:

"I will call again the day after to-morrow, then," he said, "and start
immediately afterwards for France."

He put his commission back into his pocket.

"You will not disappoint me?" he asked. "In two days--"

"I will answer for it, you have them then," said Jerome Caryl, "where
are you staying?"

"I am undecided, but any message addressed to 'The Blue Posts,' Covent
Garden, will find me."

"I will remember it."

The King's messenger put on his hat and coat in silence; he was not a
man for commonplaces, and his haughty manners prevented them in others.
He saluted the two men very abruptly and turned from the room.

Jerome Caryl made no attempt to accompany him: there was a quiet dislike
in his stiff bow. As the door closed, he remarked to Sir Perseus:

"Middleton is crazed, I think, to trust that man with such a mission."

"I do not like him," was the answer, "but he may be very staunch."

"He knows everything," said Jerome Caryl, frowning. "And his credentials
are such that I must trust him--but I doubt his discretion, and I wish
Middleton could have sent me a man of whom I knew something."

As Mr. Wedderburn was crossing the dark, outer room he felt a timid
touch on his arm; some one fleet and noiseless of foot had overtaken
him. It was Delia Featherstonehaugh,--for the moment he had utterly
forgotten her.

"Would you do me a favor?" she said panting

He turned, but it was too dark to see her face.

"Why, tell it me," he answered.

"I want you to help me save the Macdonalds of Glencoe--I have--a reason."
There was a long pause; she grew frightened.

"Won't you answer?" she said piteously.

"I have no power," he replied sternly.

"Ah, yes, as much as any of them--and I am afraid the Macdonalds--afraid
of--" she paused.

"Of whom?"

"The Master of Stair," she whispered.

He uttered his slight reckless laugh.

"Content ye--I will defend ye from the Master of Stair--on my soul, ye are
a sweet thing--I will see ye next time."

She fell back, panting into the dark and he passed on into the outer room
where a man was busy sorting and arranging Jacobite pamphlets. He rose to
open the door.

"Those are lampoons ye write?" demanded Mr. Wedderburn.

The Jacobite smiled:

"Yes, sir," he said in a low voice, "I do not write them, but they are
lampoons."

"Against whom ?"

"All the Whigs, sir--one in particular."

Mr. Wedderburn held the open door in his hand; he spoke over his shoulder:

"The Master of Stair?" he asked.

The Jacobite answered under his breath.

"Truly that devil--the Master of Stair."

Mr. Wedderburn's eyes flashed dark and fierce.

"Be careful, sir, how ye offend the devil," he said, and, banging the door
furiously in the face of the Jacobite, strode off down the street.




CHAPTER XIII - THE MASTER'S WIFE


Late that evening the Master of Stair entered his mansion in St. James's
Square and passed through the great empty house to the library at the back.

This room was vast, handsomely furnished and gloomy, well-lit by hanging
lamps and a great fire on the massive hearth; the walls were lined with
books, the ceiling domed and painted with dark figures that appeared to
mount into endless space; the chimneypiece, wreathed with heavy garlands
of wooden flowers, supported a huge branched silver stand filled with
candles that were reflected in the mirror behind. Dull red velvet
curtains draped the long windows, and a heavy pile carpet of the same
color covered the floor. In the center of the wall, facing the door,
stood a large black oak desk with a bureau either side; on it lay papers
and books with two grim bronze busts, labeled "Cato" and "Solon" in
lettering that glittered somberly; one of the lamps hung immediately
over the desk and threw a strong light down on the man who sat there
reading a faded calf-bound volume.

He was quietly dressed in dark brown, and his face, wrinkled, as a
walnut shell, was almost hidden by the ringlets of his enormous periwig;
he was thin and bent, sixty of sixty-five and had an indescribable air
of ease and comfort, as if he was in his element and vastly enjoying
himself.

The Master of Stair paused on the threshold and glanced round the somber
room.

"Good-evening, my lord," he said.

The man at the desk looked up, half-reluctantly. "What o'clock is it,
John?" he asked.

"Between twelve and one," answered the Master of Stair. "I am later, my
lord, than I meant to be." He came into the room as he spoke, and seated
himself on one of the stiff-backed chairs by the fire.

"Where is Lady Dalrymple?" he asked drearily. Viscount Stair shut his
book and so turned in his chair that he faced his son.

"Gone to the ball at Kensington," he answered dryly, "accompanied by Tom
Wharton."

"Why did you permit it?" flashed the Master of Stair. The father
shrugged his shoulders.

"You must manage your own wife, John," he answered. "Everybody is at the
ball. Tom Wharton is as good as another."

Sir John interrupted him:

"Tom Wharton is the greatest rake in England," he said. "I do not choose
to have him across my threshold--when I returned from Romney this
morning you told me Lady Dalrymple was at the Toyshop with him--now you
tell me they have gone to the ball together."

"Why didn't you go yourself?" asked the Viscount calmly. "Who do you
think is to take her about?--she must be seen at Court sometimes."

"I was better employed," answered the Master. "You know well enough, my
lord, that I have it in hand to crush this rising--this plot--I am but
now from one of these Jacobite dens where I have been aping the part of
King's messenger from France."

"In those clothes?" asked his father sarcastically.

The Master of Stair answered impatiently: "I forgot them. I had been
dining with Montague, and went straight on to the meeting-place."

Viscount Stair gave an unpleasant smile.

"Well," he said calmly, "you have a fine head, John, you make a good
many slips--a number of false steps. Take care the last isn't up Tower
Hill." He spoke with an air of abstraction, as if, himself indifferent
to everything, he could still feel cynically amused at the blunders of
others.

His son gave him an angry glance.

"I have not deserved this, my lord; I have kept inside the law during
many storms, and now I am the law."

The Viscount leaned a little forward; as he moved it was noticeable that
his neck was wry, a defect that gave him the appearance of leering over
his shoulder as if he listened to some one who whispered there at his
ear.

"I have kept you inside the law," he said. "My advice has guided you so
far--you reckless fool if you had asked me you had not gone among
conspirators in that habit."

He pointed mockingly at the gorgeous dress of his son whose anger rose
the more at his tone.

"Sir," he said. "I have achieved my purpose for all I am such a
fool--they were deceived."

"Being bigger fools," commented the Viscount.

"I say, I am at the bottom of their plot," flashed the Master. "In two
days' time I shall have every detail to put before the King."

The Viscount regarded him unmoved.

"Go warily," he said, and his cunning old face wrinkled into an
unfathomable smile. "You stand dangerously high, John, and you are
dangerously reckless, John."

"And you, my lord?" demanded the Master.

"I? I do not meddle in your schemes, my son. I am a safe spectator--and
I find it amusing--sometimes--now and then it is tiresome--your wife is
tiresome, John."

"You married me to her," cried the Master bitterly. "For God's sake,
sir, remember that you thrust her on me before I was well out of
petticoats."

The Viscount frowned.

"I considered a Dalrymple able to manage a woman," he said dryly. "And
the marriage was very politic."

"I do not doubt it, my lord," answered the Master passionately. "But do
not blame me for a woman not of my choosing."

The father yawned. "I merely commented that she was tiresome," he said.
"And so are you at times--but she--is quite insufferable. I assure you
this house with no other occupant but that sniveling woman is a
miserable place. I cannot write here, I shall have my town house
refurnished."

The Master of Stair rose.

"I do not need you, my lord," he said, still in that tone of passionate
bitterness, "to point out the wretchedness of my home--it is a fact
obvious enough, and by God you should not fling it in my face. I cannot
remember that you ever, by one word, tried to mend the unhappiness--"

"And I," returned the Viscount, "cannot remember ever saying I had--it
is your life"--he shrugged his shoulders--"I have managed my own--now I
only ask to be left in peace. I am not fitted for the part of mentor and
never essayed to fill it."

The Master of Stair laughed.

"Peace!" he echoed with wild eyes on his father. "Did your lordship sow
peace that you expect to reap it? Not in me, at least, not in me or
mine!"

The Viscount had picked up his book again.

"Where is the third volume of Cicero?" he said. "I could not find it.
You have the library of a careless man."

"The servants are at your lordship's service," answered the Master and
turned on his heel, chafing.

"You forget," remarked his father, "it is New Year's Eve, the season I
believe of festivities, good-will and other such antique pleasantries,
and I understand the servants are mostly abroad."

The Master gave a wild look round the gloomy room.

"New Year's Eve! We are spending it in an exemplary way!" he cried.
"This place looks like good-will and festivity, does it not? How many
homes look as gloomy as this tonight!"

"Very few, I should imagine," said the Viscount. "Will you bring me that
book if you have it?"

The Master gave him a bitter glance; before he could answer the entrance
curtain was drawn aside and a lady entered, a gentleman behind her.

She was wrapped in a long purple cloak, the hood drawn over her head.

At sight of the Master of Stair she hesitated, and the man behind,
slipping past her, came into the center of the room.

He was blond, good-humored, elegant; he smiled delightfully as he bowed
to the silent figure by the hearth.

"Good-even, Sir John," he said. "I have brought my lady back from
Kensington."

"Good-even Mr. Wharton," answered the Master, staring past him.

The atmosphere was decidedly' oppressive; the Viscount gave a malicious
smile. Lady Dalrymple came forward in a heavy silence, but Tom Wharton
knew no such word as embarrassment he smiled still more good-humoredly.

"I was not aware Sir John had returned," he said, addressing the
Viscount.

"So I supposed when I saw you enter," said the Master haughtily.
"Good-night, Mr. Wharton."

Tom Wharton bowed.

"I take my--dismissal," he smiled. "I shall hope to see you at
Kensington, Sir John--_au revoir_, my lady."

She made a slight inclination of her head.

"Good-night, my lord." Tom Wharton's face was dimpled with the most
mirthful of smiles; he bowed himself out exquisitely, and when the door
closed on him the room seemed the gloomier by contrast.

The silence remained unbroken; the Viscount was making notes on the
margin of his book; the Master stood with his back to his wife and
stared into the fire; she slowly flung her cloak off with no attempt at
speech.

She was a perfect type of Lely's heroines: he had painted her more than
once and had delighted in her blonde loveliness, her small features, her
great languishing blue eyes, her soft foolish mouth, the pale yellow
hair smooth as satin in its great curls, the white shoulders and rosy
fingers, the full throat and entrancing little dimple in her chin; she
should now have been at the height of her beauty, but unhappiness had
worn her delicate face, dimmed her eyes and dragged her mouth, marring
the whole with an expression of fretful misery.

Still, to-night rouge, powder and patches had made amends for tears; she
was splendidly dressed in flowing white satin, hung about with pearls,
and in this soft light no one could have detected a flaw in her beauty,
as she sat droopingly, with her hands in her lap.

The Master of Stair turned at last.

"Why did you go with Mr. Wharton?" he demanded. "I desired you not to
continue this acquaintance."

"I told you when I wrote," she began.

He interrupted impatiently. "Do you think I have time to read your
letters? You knew my wishes--and when I returned this morning I heard
that you were with Mr. Wharton at the Toyshop--on my soul--a pretty
epitome of your life, I think!--with Tom Wharton at a Toyshop!"

"Everybody goes to them," she answered weakly, "I must do
something--this house is unendurable."

"You do not contribute to its gaiety," he said fiercely.

She dropped her blonde head into her hands and broke into crying. He
turned his back on her again.

"I am so miserable," she sobbed, "so desolate. Oh, I think my heart is
broken."

"You have remarked it before," said her husband bitterly.

She sobbed the louder, crushing her handkerchief to her eyes. "You never
think of me," she wailed. "It's killing me--I think--but you don't
care--no one does. I am utterly alone--since--Harry--died."

At the mention of his dead son, Sir John swung round on her

"On my soul, madam," he said hoarsely, "I will not hear you on that
subject."

She lifted blurred eyes. "No," she panted, "but you can't
--make me--forgive--you can't take away the--empty house--or--my
God!--the pain in my heart!"

"Have the other boy back," he flung out, "I am willing."

"No, no," she shrieked. "Harry's murderer--I will never see him again. I
wish he was dead--I wish I was dead!"

She burst into uncontrolled hysterical sobs and buried her face in the
chair cushions. Her husband's face darkened furiously; he moved away
from her, his teeth in his lip. The Viscount looked up from his desk.

"If you have not a Cicero," he said, "perhaps you have an Epictetus?
This allusion I must verify."

The Master of Stair walked impatiently to the shelves and finding a
volume gave it to his father, then he turned to his wife.

"Madam, cease that wailing," he said. "You will try me beyond
endurance."

She made a show of stifling her sobs, and rose, dabbing at her eyes; her
fair hair and her white dress seemed to gather all the light in the
room; she gleamed from head to foot.

"You take no thought of me," she said wretchedly. "Neither you nor my
lord there seem to think--there--is any pity to be felt for--me." She
gave a bitter glance toward the placid figure of the Viscount. "He does
not care," she panted, "nor do you--what have I done to be so punished?"
She turned her tear-blurred face to her husband. "I do not come of a
cursed family," she said hoarsely. "Why should I be dragged into your
evil fortunes? Why should I pay for your wicked blood, my God, why?"

She clasped her hands passionately in the intensity of the revolt of a
weak thing; her eyes were unnaturedly dilated, her bosom rose and fell
with her struggling breath; terror and aversion were expressed in every
line of her shrinking figure. "I have done nothing that my children should
be cursed," she said wildly. "It is you--you--"

The Master of Stair interrupted her.

"Take care," he said, very white. "You utter the unforgivable--"

"I shall not ask you to forgive," she answered. "I do not want your
favor--you and your blighted race have crazed me--I will say it--I am
haunted--day and night--and it is unjust." Her voice was shrill and
tortured. "It is unjust that I should so pay because I was foolish and
very young--and married you. God knows I never loved you!"

Her words rang cruelly round the vast room and seemed to echo through
the pause that followed; the only sound was the rustle of the leaves of
the Viscount's book as he turned them and the scratch of his pen as he
made a note; the Master of Stair looked sternly before him, his face
hardened to a great bitterness.

Lady Dalrymple shuddered; the reaction of her passion came in the heavy
tears that rolled down her face. With a childish gesture she put up the
back of her hand to hide them, and turned miserably away across the
room.

Down the whole gloomy length she went slowly with a weary air of
hopelessness; the Viscount looked up from his book, watched her and when
the door closed on her gave a little sigh of relief.

"She gets onto a note very irritating to the nerves," he remarked. "It
is astonishing how few women will learn to use their words with
effect--they throw at you all they can think of--then burst into
tears--which is neither logical nor pleasing."

The Master of Stair made no answer; at his feet was a beautiful pink
rose his wife had dropped; he picked it up and flung it into the fire.

The Viscount shut his book and turned with a yawn.

"I saw the King to-day," he said. "He asked where you were--Argyll and
Breadalbane are desirous to see you about these Highlands."

"Yes," said the Master gloomily. "But the damned thieves have all come
in except the Macdonalds of Glencoe--which minds me. I should send those
letters to-night--I have the maps of Glencoe. The pass of Rannoch must
be secured. The Laird of Weem must close Strath Tay--then with
Breadalbane one side, Argyll the other--I think I have the villains."

The Viscount drew a paper out of his desk.

"I had the report from Scotland this morning," he said composedly. "The
Macdonalds have taken the oath." The Master of Stair turned,
incredulous, furious.

"Taken the oath!" he cried.

"Yes." His father twisted his wry neck over the paper. "So the commander
of the forces says."

Sir John stood silent a moment; when he spoke it was in a quiet tone.

"It need make no difference--I have vowed to make an example of those
Glencoe men and will do it."

The Viscount nodded.

"As Lord President of the Court of Session I could suppress this," he
said. "And you as Prime Minister for Scotland should be able to
accomplish the rest."

"Yes," answered the Master. "I must write to Hill who commands in Fort
William--he must be removed--the second in command, Hamilton, is an able
man."

"But first you must see Breadalbane," said the Viscount. "Better go
carefully."

Sir John lifted his shoulders with a magnificent gesture of disregard.

"I have put myself above caution, my lord," he said. "Give me the
letter--" He took it eagerly from his father. "This must be shown to the
King?" he questioned.

"Yes."

"Lend me your pen, my lord."

The Viscount handed him the quill, and Sir John dashed it through the
passage relating to the Macdonalds.

"If it become necessary to show this paper your lordship can do so," he
said. "And I will do the same for the minutes that are to go before the
Council at Edinburgh."

His father laughed.

"A bold way of handling difficulties, John," he commented.

"It needs boldness to deal with these cursed Jacks," answered the Master
fiercely. "I am going to teach them a lesson this time--they have defied
us and laughed at us long enough. This race of thieves goes--utterly."

The Viscount suddenly rose with a little sound of warning. Sir John
turned.

Close behind them stood Lady Dalrymple.

She saw by their faces their thought, and drew herself together
defiantly "I was not spying," she cried feverishly. "You did not hear me
enter."

"You were remarkably quiet, madam," remarked the Viscount dryly.

She gave him a frightened look and in a strained silence crossed to the
hearth.

"I dropped a flower," she said faintly. "I came back for that."

She looked along the floor and in the chair.

"Do not trouble, madam," said her husband, watching her. "I make no
doubt Mr. Wharton's hothouses can supply you with others."

Lady Dalrymple lifted her head, and stared at him with parted lips and
flushed face, and a curious little movement of her hand like horror.

"The Queen gave it to me for Harry's grave," she said simply.

The Master of Stair flushed and started as if from a blow. "You have
burnt it?" asked Lady Dalrymple, with a glance at the fire.

The silence answered her.

"Well, well," she said desperately, "I suppose you do not care that his
little grave should go bare--only--to-morrow was his birthday--good-night,
sir."

She went quietly out of the room.

The Viscount glanced sideways at his son's face, and was silent.



CHAPTER XIV - THE CURSE OF THE DALRYMPLES


The Earl of Breadalbane smiled into the gloomy face of the Master of
Stair.

"They hav'na' taken the oaths," he said. "I'm no' likely to be
deceived. I have clear reports sent by Glenlyon--and certainly the
Macdonalds couldna' take the oaths without his knowledge." He glanced
round on the three men assembled in the massive drawing-room of the
Dalrymples; the Viscount, cool and immovable as himself; Argyll,
restless and ill at ease, the Master of Stair, dark and impatient.

"So we may proceed," he continued, "without any fear o' offending the
law."

"My lord," said the Master of Stair, "we should have proceeded in any
case. I have struck out the statement that the Macdonalds took the oath."

Argyll looked up.

"'Tis a dangerous method, Sir John," he said nervously. "It would look
ugly if it ever came to light, .ye ken, and there are a plenty of people
would gladly turn it about to work our ruin."

Breadalbane answered:

"Hav'na' I said, cousin, that they ha' no' come in? Therefore we are in
our just rights to be punishing avowed traitors."

"My Lord Argyll," smiled the Viscount, "you need not fear to embark on an
enterprise that your cousin's caution deems safe."

Argyll, detecting the sneer, grew peevish.

"Aweel," he replied, "an' the enterprise is so safe and lawful show me
the warrant for it, my lords." The Master of Stair turned impatiently in
his chair.

"I will be your warrant, my lord," he said. "I am the first minister in
Scotland. I take the responsibility."

"Ay?" answered Argyll. "But you are not so high, Sir John, that you
cannot fall. And I'll no' mix in this without other safeguard."

"What?" demanded the Master haughtily.

"The King's command."

"The King's command is in his proclamation that all clans not taking the
oaths are to be dealt with by the law," answered the Master.

"Aweel," said Argyll shrewdly, "then it should be no trouble to ye, Sir
John, to obtain a warrant from His Majesty for the destruction o' the
Macdonalds o' Glencoe."

"It is not needful," frowned Sir John.

But the Viscount leaned forward across the table.

"I think the King's consent is needful," he said; he glanced at
Breadalbane, whose light eyes rested very disdainfully on his cousin.
"What do you think, my lord?"

"As they hav'na' taken the oaths," answered Breadalbane, "we are within
the law--yet I'm no' saying that precautions are onnecessary."

"Unnecessary or not I'll no' move without the King's name," said Argyll
stubbornly.

"My lord, I will obtain it," flashed the Master of Stair. "Consider it
done."

His father lifted his brows.

"Are you so certain of His Majesty?" he asked.

"I am certain of myself," answered Sir John superbly. "I shall, my lord,
obtain the King's consent."

"At the audience I had when I made my report," said Breadalbane, "it
looked to me that the King kenned little o' Scotland. He seemed glad
that so many of the clans had come in--and opposed to violence in
dealing wi' the Hielands; but wi' his cough and his strange English I
kenned little enow o' what he said. I wasna' thinking ower muckle of him
till when I took my leave, I discovered then his wits were where they
should be."

"What did he say?" asked Argyll, half-anxiously. Breadalbane wore an
amused smile.

"He gave me a straight look, 'I'm blithe to hae seen you,' he said
dryly, 'for the appearance o' your lordship is a sure sign o' the
winning cause and as lang as I see you I ken I'm prosperous.'"

"Then he is no' so bad at character reading," commented Argyll.

The Viscount and Breadalbane laughed, but the Master of Stair
peremptorily cut them short:

"My lords, let us understand each other plainly. Once the thing is
resolved upon, let it be swift and sudden--better to leave it alone than
bungle it."

"'Tis the only way," said Breadalbane. "No enemy will enter Glencoe save
by craft."

"I did not say craft, my lord," cried the Master of Stair. "I said let
it be done swiftly and suddenly--I will send a regiment from Fort
William to sweep Glencoe clear of these bandits--another to stop the
passes--you and my Lord Argyll shall hem them in--(yet I hope there will
be no fugitives)--and SO the thing is done. The name of Macdonald will
be cleared from Argyllshire and Invernesshire."

Breadalbane's pale eyes sparkled.

"Will you trust the commander of Fort William?" he asked.

"No--the second in command, Hamilton--a man anxious to make his way. He
will serve our purpose. The soldiers must be Campbells--you will have a
man, my lord, fitted to lead them."

"Glenlyon," said Breadalbane.

"You will know best. There must be no prisoners."

"But the women and children, Sir John?" asked Argyll. "Ye can transport
them to the colonies?"

"No," said the Master of Stair, "no. It shall be fire and sword through
Glencoe. I will not have one left alive. I am glad it is winter; now is
the time to maul the wretches. Those who fly into the hills will this
weather perish."

Then fell a little silence, broken by Argyll.

"The world will call this a massacre, Sir John."

"Maybe, my lord," answered the Master of Stair. "Do ye repent, cousin?"
flashed Breadalbane.

"No," answered Argyll uneasily. "These Macdonalds have been a
plague-spot in our ands for lang enow--but--"

"We have done with 'buts'!" cried Sir John. "I am resolved these thieves
shall go and they go. The government is strong enough to bear the
blame--and you shall have the King's warrant, my Lord Argyll."

He rose and touched the bell.

"I will show you the plan I have made of Glencoe," he continued,
"whereby--securing the pass of Rannoch--we cut off every retreat."

He came back to his seat, frowning.

"But I am sorry Keppoch and Glengarry are safe," he added.

"Weel, they're no' so bad as the Macdonalds," returned Breadalbane.

"Pardon me, my lord; you mean they do not cumber your estates, or thieve
your cattle--" answered the Master.

"But they prey on Scotland as much as do the Macdonalds." The secretary
entered:

"Bring me those maps of the Highlands," said Sir John. Argyll drummed
his fingers on the table; his eyes traveled uneasily round the gorgeous
flamboyant room, in an attempt to avoid the cold glance of his cousin
opposite.

"The Jacobites will try to warn the Macdonalds," he said.

"They will not know that we have determined on severity," answered Sir
John. "Doubtless they consider the Macdonalds came in with the rest."

"And if they do not," smiled the Viscount, "I think few Jacobites would
be devoted enough to journey in this weather to the Highlands with a
warning."

"No," answered his son. "I think the Jacobites are otherwise employed.
They have tha tin hand which will ruin them."

"A plot?" questioned Breadalbane calmly

Sir John's blue eyes narrowed unpleasantly.

"Naturally, my lord--they do nothing else. But I have the threads of
this in my hands."

Argyll began biting his forefinger nervously, when the Master's glance
fell on him he obviously flushed, but his cousin's delicate face was
unmoved.

"Another Bedloe affair, Sir John?" he asked.

"No, my lord. There are great names in it--the greatest. In a few days I
hope to lay them before the King."

Melville had brought him the maps; he began to lay them out on the
table; Argyll gave him a covert look.

"See, my lord," said Sir John, and he handed a paper to Breadalbane. "Is
not this correct?" And as he spoke he leaned forward eagerly and traced
with his pen the route Hamilton should take from Fort William to
Glencoe.

Argyll pushed his chair back from the table, withdrawing himself from
the discussion.

"We're no' needed," he said, with an uneasy smile at the Viscount, and a
motion toward the Master and Breadalbane. Viscount Stair lifted his
shoulders.

"'Tis certainly as wearisome as a Parliament sitting," he answered as he
rose. "John, you must arrange the details of this charming little affair
with my Lord Breadalbane, who seems to be in sympathy with you--we're
even tired of it."

The Master flashed the angry glance his father's mockery never failed to
evoke; but the Viscount laughed as he preceded Argyll from the room.

"My cousin and your son are of a mind," remarked Argyll.

"In some things," smiled the Viscount. They passed through the heavy
carved doors into an adjoining room.

"I must be taking my leave," pursued Argyll weakly, and seemingly now,
when alone with the Viscount, even more ill at ease. "I am due at
Kensington--" he paused, then reached a sudden resolution--"My lord," he
said, "think you your son will get the King's sanction for this--this--"

"Affair--" finished the Viscount dryly. "Well, I think my son can
do a great deal with the King. They are somewhat alike, only,
unfortunately, John lacks the steady purpose, that settled calm, that
has brought His Majesty so far. When the keynote to a man's character is
recklessness, his success may be brilliant, it will hardly be lasting.
My son is absolutely reckless--you marked his allusion just now to this
plot he hoped to discover?"

The Viscount twisted his wry neck with a keen look at Argyll, who
stammered his reply as if it had been frightened out of him.

"I--heard, my lord--he mentioned--"

"'Twas most injudicious," interrupted the Viscount smoothly. "A little
more and he would have mentioned names--he might even have mentioned
yours, my lord."

"Mine!" cried Argyll, stepping back.

"Absurd--is it not?--but even supposing you were in the plot, I assure
you that John, knowing it, is capable of disclosing to you that it was
discovered."

Argyll gave a feeble laugh. "My lord, it is no' a concern of mine--what
the Jacobites may plot."

"Naturally," answered Viscount Stair. "Merely--as my son said--there are
great names imperiled."

Argyll saw clearly enough that the astute old lawyer divined that he was
implicated, and the Viscount, seeing it as clearly his side, waited for
Argyll's nervousness to betray him further.

But the Earl's caution had kept him from giving any written pledge to
the Jacobites and the knowledge of it steadied him now; he fenced warily
with the Viscount's wiliness and took his leave, more hastily than
ceremoniously, leaving the Viscount in a pleasant humor. The little
episode delighted him; he chuckled to himself at the thought of Argyll's
face. He pictured that unfortunate gentleman's agonies as he hurried home;
then his smile deepened as he saw still further. Argyll might warn the
conspirators that the Master was on their track; they might take fright
and escape the net spreading for them; so would the Master's labor go
for nothing; the Viscount finally laughed aloud at the thought of the
storm there would be when Sir John found himself outwitted; his was the
temper that loves to provoke and then standing aside watch the violence
aroused in others.

In these pleasant thoughts he was disturbed by the sound of the opening
door and the slow entry of Lady Dalrymple.

At sight of him she hesitated.

"Where is Sir John?" she asked.

The Viscount pointed to the folding door. "In there, with my Lord
Breadalbane."

She shrank away from the door as if she saw the man behind it.

"What do they talk of?" she asked heavily.

"Why, madam," he answered dryly, "what business is that of yours?"

She shook her head drearily and crossed to the window; in the gray light
of the winter afternoon her face and figure showed one dull whiteness;
her pale hair, her white dress and her pallor made her appear ghostlike
in the somber room. A few flakes of snow were falling across the leaden
sky; Lady Dalrymple stared out at the bleak square and the bare trees.

"Madam, have you no occupation?" asked the Viscount suavely.

"No," she answered, without looking round.

"There are pleasanter ways of doing nothing," he observed, "than
contemplating a dreariness."

"My lord--I see nothing else--wherever I look." She turned her head and
her dim blue eyes rested on him. "An unfortunate disposition," he
remarked.

She came down the room restlessly, her head hanging a little.

"Did you want to see my son?" questioned the Viscount, eying her.

"No," she answered dully.

"You merely questioned, madam, that you might avoid him?"

Lady Dalrymple lifted her head.

"Perhaps," she said, with trembling lips.

The Viscount smiled.

"Will you, madam, do me a like service?"

"What?" she asked.

"Avoid me, madam; the house is large enough."

A faint flush came into her face.

"I strive, my lord, not to trouble you."

"Madam, you are hardly successful."

"Forgive me," she said, very white again. "It is not of my doing that I
am your son's wife."

The Viscount shrugged his shoulders. "I am not responsible for my son's
domestic affairs--"

She turned and faced him.

"Your son is your son," she said bitterly, "and what you made him.
Between you, you have goaded me into something near craziness--but you
shall not dare to judge me--you who know what your son is--without pity,
or charity, or any tenderness--violent beyond reason--mad!"

The Viscount looked at her straightly and smiled, and at his smile she
gave him a wild look and turned hastily, as if frightened, from the
room.

As the door closed behind her she shuddered, then began slowly ascending
the great stairs.

So lonely, so utterly lonely! The vast house was certainly haunted; she
continually glanced over her shoulder at the ghosts catching her skirts.

So lonely, so intolerably lonely! the dark pictures on the walls looked
ominous and threatening; heavy shadows lurked in every corner; she began
to hurry like a guilty thing, starting before every open door with a
frightened glance into the empty room beyond. She came to the very top
of the house; the low attics under the roof.

One of these she entered, catching her breath at her own footsteps. It
was dusty, empty, this garret, yet it would seem as if some one had
recently been there, for a candle in a silver stick stood on the
window-ledge and a broken chair was drawn up under it; in one corner was
a pile of boxes and some old pictures with their faces to the wall.

Lady Dalrymple shut the door and glided softly across the floor; her
face wore a look of expectancy. She lit the candle; it cast a dim light,
showing the cobwebs hanging from the ceiling and the broken plaster of
the walls and throwing great shadows from the boxes in the corner.

It was bitterly cold here, but she did not seem to heed it; carefully
she placed the candle so that it did not gutter in the draught, then,
sinking on her knees beside them, she opened the topmost box.

Out of it with infinite care she took a large jointed doll, the waxen
face beautifully modeled. It was the size of a child and was elegantly
dressed in velvet and lace; Lady Dalrymple set it on the chair and
smoothed out the collar with loving fingers.

In this uncertain light the doll had a ghastly semblance of humanity;
like a dumb and motionless child, its glass eyes stared at the woman
kneeling at its side; the draught from the window blew its black curls
to and fro in lifelike manner.

Lady Dalrymple smiled to herself and stroked the velvet coat
half-timidly, then returning to the box she brought from it a
work-basket and a little shirt and with these she seated herself beside
the chair and began to mend the shirt where the wrist ruffle was torn.

Her delicate hand flew swiftly to and fro; for all the ill-light and
the cold, her face was absorbed, almost contented. When the light task
was completed, she held the garment up before the candle with a little
smile; she was shuddering in the bitter draught that crept round the
attic; but she did not know it; her lips moved as if she spoke to
herself; she drew the doll down and removing its coat, carefully fitted
on the shirt; it was too large and hung stiffly on the unbending figure;
but Lady Dalrymple held the doll out at arm's length with a wistful
face; then caught it to her poor empty heart and rocked it to and fro
with passionate hands clasping the inanimate rag.

"Harry," her cold lips murmured, "so you used to sit--it feels like
you--so--then your arms would go round my peck--slowly."

She quivered into a smile at the recollection.

"Then you would lift your face up--all soft and warm ah, my dear--my
dear--"

Her great moist eyes turned to the thing in her arms; she saw the staring
glassy eyes, the hard wax face and rose, setting it it aside.

"It is a lie," she said with the quiet of agony. "You are dead."

She laid her face against the wall and woe shook her whole body.

"God!--are these things just?" she said with clenched hands "Is it right
these things should be?--that I should live to think upon his grave?"

Her voice echoed through the bare rafters; a sudden gust of wind blew
the window open and the candle out; she gave a cry of terror and rushed
from the room, shutting the door behind her. At a swift regardless pace
she came down the stairs till she reached a landing where a dim lamp
hung.

She paused there a moment as if she had forgotten where she would go,
and while she hesitated a door was opened and the Master of Stair
stepped out. His wife shrank back against the wall, but he stopped and
their eyes met.

He noticed her face, her fallen hair, the dust upon her dress.

"Who are you? Where have you been?" he asked, starting back.

Her side she drew herself still further away; her lips formed a
half-smile; very foolish, very tragic.

He swept past her down the stairs, fiercely as though the Furies were
after him; the clatter of his sword on the marble echoed through the
empty house.

His wife had reminded him of his sister Janet, with her blank blue eyes,
her soft white face and her curious crouching attitude, like an animal
expecting the whip.

He gave a wild laugh; for that one startled moment he had thought it was
his sister, and she dead twenty years! His thoughts were wandering; he
laughed again recklessly and flinging his head back, looked up.

Lady Dalrymple had come to the head of the stairs and was peering down,
her hands clasped behind her--surely it was his sister--and the house was
haunted as he had known--known--

So strong was the feeling that the man felt the word form on his lips,
"Janet!"

The woman suddenly broke into laughter, crazily, an echo of his own and
turned away and disappeared, and the Master of Stair flung on his way with
the sound of it in his ears.



CHAPTER XV - THE AVOWAL


The afternoon service at Westminster Abbey had commenced; Delia
Featherstonehaugh sat in the cloisters and listened to the lift of the
singing. The place was yellow with the late sunshine; through the open
arches glittered the untrodden snow under the faint blue of an English
winter sky.

Save for the sound of the organ and the half-muffled singing there was
such silence that the whirr past of a bird became a notable thing. Delia
gazed down the shadowy cloisters into their dimness, barred with the
gold of the sunshine. She noted the slender stone ribbings rising
perfectly to join like hands in prayer, somewhere in the mystery of the
dark roof, and the Tudor roses each with its golden counterpart on the
gray flagstone, and she sighed, for no reason save the stillness of it
all.

Close under her feet was the brass gravestone of a bishop, who had been
dust for three hundred years; his Latin titles, shining in the sun,
measured many paces; against the wall near by was a tablet to the memory
of one three years dead, and this was all it bore beside her name: "Dear
childe."

Faintly through the Abbey walls came the choir's singing as disembodied,
as grave as angels'; Delia's hands slipped out of her muff and onto the
stone beside her; her lips parted and her head sank back against the gray
old wall; under her red coat her heart was heaving passionately.

Suddenly the singing grew louder; she heard the first outburst of the
Cantate Domino:

"O sing unto the Lord a new song--for He hath done marvelous things."

She sat up and looked round; a man was entering the cloisters from the
Abbey, as he closed the door behind him the singing sank again to
faintness.

Delia sat upright, motionless, looking toward the new-comer; it was Mr.
Wedderburn.

The cloister echoed to his firm footstep as he came toward her; his
riding-cloak was over his arm; he swung his hat and whip in his hand;
seeing her he gave a little start, then came on and halted, his figure
between her and the winter sunlight:

"Delia!" he said, and he half-smiled

She could find no words to answer him; she turned her face away and
stared down at her own still hand.

"You often come here?" he asked.

"Yes."

He came nearer and leaned against the wall beside her easily, as if it
were the most likely thing that they should have met thus.

"I am on my way to 'The Sleeping Queen,'" he said, "to see your
brother--but I have time upon my hands."

She looked up at him; the sunshine touched his face and his plain dark
attire.

He smiled again.

"Will you be sorry when I leave for France?" he said. The brown eyes
widened.

"Why do you ask?" she murmured faintly.

"My faith--I wondered."

"Why, sir, do you, can you care whether it matters to me or no?" cried
Delia, a little wildly.

"Yes, I care," he answered.

There was a pause; the singing had ceased. Delia bent her head and
rested unseeing eyes upon the bishop's tombstone.

"You take, sir, a curious tone for a stranger," she said at last.

"I would not have us strangers, Delia--did not you say, the same King,
the same faith, the same cause?"

She turned as some one standing on defense.

"What do you mean?"

A slight smile crossed his face; it might have been sadness or contempt;
he leaned heavily against the Abbey wall and his shadow was over Delia.

"What do I mean?" he repeated; he looked at her in a very gentle manner.
"I mean I should like to be in your thoughts sometimes--"

She rose, and her muff fell unnoticed between them. "Am I in yours?" she
asked slowly.

"You have the sweetest face I have ever met," he said quietly, "Is it
likely I should forget you?"

She went very pale and put her hands together in a bewildered way; he
surveyed her gravely with a half-sad interest, standing very much at his
ease and carelessly while she was tense and painfully still.

"Delia," he smiled. "Delia."

She stepped back.

"What is it you want with me?" she said.

He moved from his place. "Do you care for me?" he asked. "Could you ever
care for me?"

She fell back before him. "Oh, why do you ask?" she cried. His eyes
rested on her with a curious expression as of yearning.

"Because I care for you," he answered. "Don't you understand, Delia?"

The first notes of the anthem were sounding through the silence as she
answered faintly:

"It cannot be you mean this. . . ."

She sat down heavily and clasped her trembling hands very tightly.

"Well--but if I did mean it?" he inquired.

"If you did mean it?" she whispered, looking up. "Ah, if you did mean
it--"

Her voice died away, she sat silent as if terrified; and now the sun
left him and lay behind her head halo-wise and sparkled in her brown
eyes.

Mr. Wedderburn, looking very intently down at her, bent a little nearer.

"Sweetheart--ye shall 'answer me," he said. "Nay, ye shall--"

"Ah, what will you force me to say?" she answered desperately. "What do
you want?"

He bent till the ringlets on his breast touched her shoulder; he very
delicately smiled into her pale face.

"Delia, answer me."

"Ah, my heart, I cannot!" she cried, with wild eyes on his face.

"Surely I am answered," said Mr. Wedderburn, and a slight flush passed
over his pallor. "Surely you think of me as I of you, Delia--"

With a little cry she rose up against the wall.

"Indeed, I love you," she said, breathing hard. "Ah, indeed--indeed--"

Then she sank down again, hiding her face in her fluttering hands.

He looked at her curiously, his lips touched with his little lazy
half-smile.

"I do not deserve it, Delia," he said; then in a strange voice: "You and
I--by such ways to this! You and I--look up and speak to me."

She dropped her hands and looked at him.

"I may speak," she said hoarsely, "but never shall I tell how utterly I
love you--beyond all reason--all measure. Ah, since I first saw you the
world has stopped about me, and there has been nothing but this one
thought of you!"

He caught his breath.

"Why--are these things possible?" he asked. "And you do not know me."

She rose and turned to him in a triumphant passion, her hand lightly on
her heart.

"No, I only love you," she said. "And that makes it seem as if you had
been one with my life from the first. Ah, can you think of time?"

"God knows, of nothing," he answered; he held his ungloved hand out as
if to take hers, but she fell back.

"Ah, don't touch me," she said unsteadily. "Not yet--not yet. I am so
happy, that I am afraid, and if you touch me you may break the spell,
and my dream go away."

He laughed gently.

"But this is no dream, sweetheart, do you not hear the anthem yonder in
the church? And all around us the graves? There are no graves in
dreams."

"Nor surely often such joy on earth," whispered Delia. "As mine--as
mine--yet what have I said? Shame should hold me silent--but you have
disarmed me and laid me defenseless at your feet--ah, leave me, for I
have said too much!"

He laid his hand very lightly on her shoulder.

"You make mine unworthiness a heavy thing," he said somberly. "If you
are sincere--Delia--"

She thought he doubted her, and her pure face paled and flushed.

"Alas! you had not said that had I been silent longer," she cried. "You
carried my heart too soon to value it--yet if you love me--"

"Delia--if I love you?"

"You will not doubt that my very soul is yours ah, Heaven--forever!"

"I wonder," he said musingly. "Nay, do not turn your face away, for it
is lovely to look upon--and mine--you say forever."

"Yes," she said trembling.

He seated himself beside her and took her cold hands in his; this time
she did not resist; complete silence was about them; the Abbey service
was over; long shadows filled the cloisters and the sunlight had faded
to a mere stain on the wall. Loose gray clouds sped over the sky, and a
chill little wind blew in and out the arches.

Delia rose, drawing her hand away, her face was hidden under the shadow
of her hat, her figure a shadow among shadows. He rose beside her; his
footfall echoed through the emptiness.

"My sweet child," he said, in a voice fallen very low and soft.

She turned without a word and her head lifted slowly, he saw her eyes
were glittering with tears.

"Kiss me," he said gently.

She shrank back.

"Ah, no," she pleaded. "Not that--I love you so--" her voice fell brokenly.
"I mean--I--"

"Why, surely, you may kiss me, Delia?" he answered. Further still into
the shadows she withdrew.

"Love is not kisses," she said faintly.

"Some think so, Delia," he smiled.

"I--I would not," she faltered.

He picked up his hat and whip.

"Sweetheart--I must go."

"Yes," she said softly. "But I have the thought of you, which is company
enough."

He looked at her a moment through the twilight.

"Now will that thought last till next we meet?" he asked. "Why you
know," she said wonderingly, "do we not love each other?"

"Yet you will not kiss me?"

She drooped again in shyness.

"I have said enough--without," she murmured. "Then, Delia--farewell."

She glanced at him timidly.

"I--do not use your name," she whispered. "And yet I know it and yet I
am afraid--and know not--"

"Why, you shall call me by it now," he answered. "And next time it shall
be nothing else--John."

"John!" she echoed, bewildered. "But your name is Andrew."

He stared a second, then laughed.

"But those I love do use my second name."

"Yet I mislike it," she said. "And ever in my thoughts you are Andrew."

"Why do you mislike the name of John?" he asked.

"It is linked for me with the blaster of Stair," said Delia. "He is our
enemy and hateful to me--I would not call you by the name of that
accursed man."

"Then call me what you will," he answered swiftly. "There are strange
names you will use to me yet--God knows! Farewell!"

"Ah, stay--for I have something to say," she whispered.

He stopped, waiting; they stood in so dark a shadow that she could only
see the outline of his figure.

"About the Macdonalds of Glencoe," she said. "I would ask you to help me
save them."

Her voice fell very tenderly.

"I have a great reason to wish to save them," she continued. "There is
one among them whom I thought--ah, I thought--" She laughed happily--"I
thought I cared for till I met you--no one knew--but I believed I
cared--yet it was only pity and loneliness--yet did I vow to save
him--and now--do not you see? Out of loyalty to that old vow of mine, I
am pledged to save him still."

He was silent. She drew timidly a little closer.

"You understand?" she asked anxiously.

"I understand," he said gloomily. "That you should ask me! I have no
power."

"'Twill be a service to the King," she answered. "Ah, as you love me--"

He took the words from her lips.

"As I love you, I will do it," he said recklessly. "Now will you kiss
me?"

She held out her hands.

"If you ask it," she said passionately.

He took her hands in his and stared down into her surrendered face; then
suddenly let her go.

"No," he said, "I will wait till you do offer it. Farewell." He turned
away abruptly into the darkness.

She listened to his footsteps till they had died into the distance, then
she turned and went slowly toward the Abbey.

She entered it on tiptoe; there were lights burning on the altar, but it
was empty; she passed lightly down the chancel till she reached the door
that led into the little chapel of St. Faith. With hushed heart she
entered; here she could think she was in a church undefiled by another
faith; the reformer's hand had passed this corner by; two candles burnt
on the low altar; the air was close and heavy; from the dark walls
leaned wild angel face with parted lips and blown-back hair, as if they
strained out of the stone to cry aloud to those beneath.

Delia sank to her knees on the stone floor, and her fingers fumbled with
the rosary at her breast. She was uplifted, carried out of herself; as
though those candles could burn forever, till the angels' heads should
speak and bursting from their stone, pull the church about them in a
great shout for judgment. Delia felt her senses swoon within her; she
shook and shuddered as she knelt.

"Ah, God, make me worthy of that man's love!" she prayed passionately.
"For I have not deserved this happiness!"



CHAPTER XVI - A LAMPOON ANSWERED


Mr. Wedderburn entered the parlor of "The Sleeping Queen," true to his
appointed time.

He found alone, and busily writing, Sir Perseus, who greeted him
cordially in his pleasant, blunt manner.

Mr. Caryl, he said, had been summoned by his grace of Berwick, but he
expected his return shortly, and though he, Sir Perseus, actually had
the papers Mr. Wedderburn was to carry to France, it would be better if
the emissary would wait and see Mr. Caryl.

Mr. Wedderburn gave a short answer and flung himself into the chair by
the fire; he was obviously in an ill-humor.

Sir Perseus talked of the plot and the promising prospects of success;
he praised Mr. Caryl's vast labor and skill in the cause of King James,
and hinted that the time was not far distant when the devotion of His
Majesty's adherents would be rewarded by seeing him enjoy his own again.

Mr. Wedderburn briefly assented to these remarks and stared moodily into
the fire.

Once they were interrupted by the entrance of the printer, who laid down
a packet of pamphlets and silently withdrew. Sir Perseus began sorting
them.

"Delia is late," he remarked. "You may have seen her if you came through
the Abbey--she often goes there."

"Yes, I saw her," answered Mr. Wedderburn gloomily. "Mr. Caryl, too, is
late."

"Are you pressed for time?" asked Sir Perseus.

The other glanced at the clock.

"The boat is to call for me to-morrow noon," he said, "and I have to get
to Romney--a delay would be impolitic."

"It will be unnecessary," answered Sir Perseus readily. "I have the
papers--I am sure Mr. Caryl would see the desirability of your running
no risk of delay."

He went to a box in the corner, unlocked it and lifted out a flat
leathern case.

Mr. Wedderburn turned in his chair and watched him as he brought it to
the table and showed the contents.

"This, sir--" Sir Perseus laid a bulky sealed packet down, "is the
letter to His Majesty from his supporters in England, assuring him of
their aid should he land an English army--it is what he asked for to show
Louis."

"It contains the names of all the conspirators?" asked Mr. Wedderburn.

"We have all, from the highest to the humblest, signed it," was the
answer, given with a smile of satisfaction. "It should please his
Majesty and satisfy Louis. This is Mr. Caryl's letter and report to the
King--this the Duke of Berwick's--these three papers are all, Mr.
Wedderburn."

"Deadly enough, were they discovered," commented the other, dryly.

"We are confident that His Majesty selected a messenger who would see
they were not discovered," said Sir Perseus, putting the papers back
into their case.

Mr. Wedderburn gave a sudden laugh and rose. "Sir, my life upon their
safe delivery to--the King."

"Sir--it is a weighty trust," answered Sir Perseus gravely.

"The lives and honors of many men--the fate of a kingdom."

Mr. Wedderburn made no answer and presently he began to pace the room in
a manner that at last attracted the other's attention; he began to look
at him curiously; he noticed that the King's messenger appeared
absorbed, gloomy, as if he reined in high passions, that his face was
unnaturally pale and shadowed under his brilliant eyes as if he had been
through great pain or sleeplessness. Sir Perseus studied him covertly,
with a growing uneasiness; he did not look like a man in the mood to
undertake a difficult enterprise.

Mr. Wedderburn meanwhile continued walking heavily to and fro, as if
utterly careless of the impression he might make. It grew late; Sir
Perseus expressed a wish that Mr. Caryl might return.

"It matters not--I have a good horse without," said Mr. Wedderburn, and
fell into his silence again.

A strange and utterly undefinable sense of distrust and fear came over
Sir Perseus; his hand went out and instinctively covered the leathern
case while he eyed his restless companion. The longer he watched this
silent man and noted his lithe strength, his brooding face, his reckless
pose and his strange, wild eyes, the more his unreasoning fear
increased; he began to long for the return of Jerome Caryl, to resolve
that he would not part with the papers until that return.

Mr. Wedderburn broke the silence by ringing the bell and calling for
wine. When it came they drank together in a curious heavy stillness, as
if both knew something was impending, yet could not speak of it.

Mr. Wedderburn drained his glass in a kind of fierce haste, then fell
again to his pacing, the other watching intent and tense.

It struck eight.

Neither remarked on the passing of the time; the man at the table
slipped the leathern ease into the breast of his coat, why, he could not
have told, save that he felt unnerved.

Mr. Wedderburn came at last to a sudden stand on the hearth, the
firelight full on his handsome face.

"What do you write?" he asked.

"Pamphlets--lampoons--" was the answer.

"Ah--on whom?"

"Naturally--the Williamites."

"And you circulate them?"

"Successfully--into Kensington, itself."

"You are daring--and fortunate," frowned Mr. Wedderburn.

Sir Perseus looked at him with an honest, puzzled face; he could neither
understand the man nor his own sense of uneasiness.

"What are these?" asked the other, and crossed to the table; his rich
dark presence coming so close, still further impressed Sir Perseus with
an uuaccountable feeling of mistrust.

"Ah, those are lampoons on the Master of Stair," he answered. "We find
him a fine target."

Mr. Wedderburn's eyes flashed; he poured out more wine and drank it
slowly.

"The Master of Stair!" he said. "I have heard a great deal of the Master
of Stair," he gave a half-smile, "Now what have you to say of him?"

He set his glass down and Sir Perseus marked his strong shapely hand as
it lay round the stem.

"Come," the other insisted in an imperious mariner, leaning a little
across the table, "let me hear your skill in lampoons."

"I do not write them--I merely collect the materials."

"So they are true?"

"God knows, one needs not to invent lies of the Master of Stair."

Mr. Wedderburn's azure eyes narrowed into a steady look; he leaned
forward, his arms folded on the table; there was a little smile on his
curved lips.

"Read this same lampoon to me," he said. "'Twill pass the time till Mr.
Caryl comes--"

Sir Perseus felt as one fumbling in the dark; he could not make this
Wedderburn out; awed, spite of uneasiness and fascinated through all his
watchful mistrust, he decided that the best thing was to wait; he put
his hand over the papers on his breast.

"Why--as you say--it will pass the time," he answered. "Yet it is
foolish doggerel--serving only to sting our enemies. And the truth, you
say?"

"Else it would not sting."

And Sir Perseus picked up the topmost printed sheet and unfolded it; Mr.
Wedderburn fixed upon him his brilliant eyes.

Sir Perseus glanced at the clock, then commenced reading in his
pleasant, even voice:

Of all these men who make the laws,
That they may easy break the laws,
I know no knaves I could compare
With the brood begot by the Viscount Stair.

"A bold beginning," remarked Mr. Wedderburn. Sir Perseus continued:

Of all this race by Heaven cursed,
John, is the eldest and the worst,
A specious knave, whose end will be
A-dancing on the gallows-tree.

He paused, thinking he heard a footstep.

"Go on," smiled Mr. Wedderburn.

There is no deed he would not do
Or readily put his hand thereto
So he might gain this world's gear,
Scruples knows he not nor fear.
Born was he of a witch from Hell,
And Satan knew his father well,
A hideous curse is on his name,
Deep has he drunk of every shame--

Sir Perseus interrupted himself: "Hardly very witty," he remarked, "but
it impresses the people it goes among."

"Go on," was the brief rejoinder.

Sir Perseus caught at the means of filling time that dragged.

His only sister miserably died
A mad and an unwilling bride,
Her husband she did try to slay,
The devil snatched her clear away
And tore her raving limb from limb,
Long had she sold her soul to him--

Mr. Wedderburn suddenly clenched his hand on the table, his eyes were
very dark, his face very pale.

"Fine matter for your hawkers to shout and the gutter scum to read," he
said thickly, "Go on."

His brother, seeing clear his end,
(Indeed he knew that God would send
The same unto them all)
Vowed he would Jack Ketch forestall
And so himself he hanged.

Sir Perseus paused to turn the paper, glancing up he noticed the face of
the man opposite. "Sir," he asked curiously, "why do you so look at me?"

"For what reason save interest," answered Mr. Wedderburn, in no way
altering his steady gaze. "Will you not continue?"

"If it interests you," Sir Perseus spoke uneasily. "Mr. Caryl is late."

"An unpardonable fault," cried the other imperiously. "But I pray
you--continue this pleasant reading." He pushed his chair from the
table, his right hand had slipped to his sword-hilt he was leaning back
very easily, yet something about him made Sir Perseus hesitate, yet
impelled to fill the pause, he recommenced:

His children, were devils born
Who laughed God to scorn
Once, in childish play,
One did the other slay.
Their father came, and smiled to see,
The red blood run so merrily.
Think you it gave HIM pain
To see his son a second Cain?

Sir Perseus paused, watchful of his companion, but Mr. Wedderburn sat
very quietly; as though indeed he was not listening. Sir Perseus,
however, preferred passing the time in reading rather than in further
conversation; with a fervent, silent wish for Jerome Caryl, he droned
on:

His wife too felt little grief
Or else she quickly found relief--
For her youngest newly dead
A merry life she led
And did her consolation take
In loving of a Hell-cat rake
A man with all the vices rife
A lover fit for the Master's wife--

"A moment, sir."

Mr. Wedderburn leaned forward in a manner, that, although still quiet,
stopped Sir Perseus instantly.

"Where do you get your information, sir?" he asked. Sir Perseus put down
the pamphlet.

"Why, from common talk," he said.

"Common talk!" cried the other in a strange voice, "so these things are
common talk! And this last of your gutter lies, is that common, too?"

"So common, sir, that you should know it," answered Sir Perseus, firing.
"'Tis public property, God knows."

Mr. Wedderburn's intense eyes never lost their steadiness; he spoke in
the same suppressed voice:

"I have never heard anything against the fair name of Lady Dalrymple,"
he said.

Sir Perseus, angered and bewildered, gave a short laugh.

"You've lived too long in France, sir, or you would know that Sir John
Dalrymple's wife is no better than the rest of his family--and that Tom
Wharton--"

Mr. Wedderburn rose so abruptly that Sir Perseus sprang also to his
feet, like a man suddenly seeing danger.

"What of Mr. Wharton?" demanded Mr. Wedderburn softly.

"What are these demands?" cried Sir Perseus hotly. "Why are you
championing the Whigs?"

"No matter for that," interrupted the other. "I ask you--what of Mr.
Wharton?"

Sir Perseus shrugged his shoulders.

"Sir, you want it put too plainly--what of my Lady Sunderland and Mr.
Sidney belike, you've heard that tale--even in France? And the part the
Earl takes--a common situation among these canting Whigs."

Mr. Wedderburn came a step nearer.

"Do you couple that woman's name with that of Lady Dalrymple," he said
unsteadily. "Even in your foul libels?"

Sir Perseus flushed angrily.

"What brief have you in this cause? Lady Dalrymple cannot shrink from
the Countess's company. As I said, the situation is the same--Tom
Wharton is as worthless a rake as Harry Sidney--and as fortunate a
lover,--while Sir John is as complacent a husband as the Earl--"

Mr. Wedderburn leaned forward and struck the speaker on the breast with
his clenched hand so fiercely that he staggered and almost fell, struck
him with such fury and unrestrained passion that he gave a cry, thinking
a madman attacked him, struck him with his hand and then with his
crumpled glove full on his wincing face.

"You bring your lies to the wrong market, you Papist cur!" he said
hoarsely. "I am John Dalrymple and I stand here to refute your cursed
slanders!"

He flung aside his gloves and cloak and his sword sprang out in the
candle-light.

"My God!" whispered Sir Perseus, reeling against the wall with a sick
face.

The Master of Stair came toward him; his bared sword glittering as it
shook to the quick breathing of his fury.

"You!" he said with mad eyes, dark and narrow. "You--the Frenchman's
spy--the priest's tool--the mouthpiece of the scandals of the gutter--you,
to drag my name through the mire to make a party cry!"

Sir Perseus drew himself together desperately.

"John Dalrymple!" he cried. "You have betrayed yourself too soon--by God
you have!"

"No," said the Master of Stair, advancing on him. "Think you I need to
use craft--to get those papers from you?"

"Not while I live," answered Sir Perseus firmly, and he made a step
toward the door.

But the Master of Stair stood before it.

"Will you cry for help?" he demanded. "It will make no difference. The
poor knaves here cannot aid you--"

Sir Perseus stepped impulsively back and drew.

"I think you threw--spy at me," he said through his teeth. "What word
then for you--you thief of men's confidence?"

On this last word their swords rose and clashed.

"Did you think," breathed Sir John passionately, above the sword play,
"that we had not men that would do for England what you do for
France--did you not reckon that we might risk and dare something to keep
what we had now--as well as you to regain what you had lost--did you
think we were fools or cowards? You and your crew of broken
schemers--you and your damned French king--ah!" He was rapidly forcing
his adversary back against the wall. Sir Perseus's hurried defense could
not cope with the fury of his attack; he was the stronger man, the
better swordsman; Sir Perseus backed desperately into the window-seat.

"Fools we've been--fools," he muttered, white-lipped.

"Yes, fools," flashed the Master of Stair. "To think you could fit the
Pope's yoke about England's neck again or give us back a King of follies
we flung to make Europe sport--so--"

Their swords crossed close to the hilt; Sir Perseus slipped and fell to
his knees in the shadows of the window.

"Sir--on your knees--" said Sir John. "Take back your lies--"

Sir Perseus, desperate, tried to catch at the descending sword, tried to
rise, to cry out, but Sir John's thrust went through his feeble guard
and his blade quivered at his throat.

"Which King?" cried the Master of Stair. "Which cause? And what think
you now of Lady Dalrymple's champion?"

With that Sir Perseus struggled up, slipped forward and the point of the
Master's sword went a hand's-breadth into his breast.

He went heavily onto his side and Sir John stepped back, elate and
passionate; slipping his sword back with a lift of his shoulders.

"Do you see me, Jacobite?" he said scornfully. "Do you see this?"

He snatched up the pamphlets, three or four at a time, and thrust them
into the candle flame. As they flared up in his hand he flung them on
the hearth and set his heel on the ashes; he turned, looked at the prone
man.

"Do you see?" he repeated. "Do you see, dog, what I make of your work?"

Sir Perseus made a faint movement.

The Master of Stair flung the last papers onto the fire, then crossed to
his prostrate enemy.

"I might have kept you for Tyburn--where your friends will go," he said,
looking down at him with the candle in his hand. "The friends whose
names you have in that paper--"

He dropped to one knee and turned Sir Perseus over; at this the Jacobite
moaned and clutched his fingers together.

Sir John smiled as he drew the leathern case from the blood-stained
shirt.

"I have your plot in the hollow of my hand," said the Master of Stair,
and flashed the candle into the ashy face of Sir Perseus, who stared up
speechlessly.

"You!" he said, still at the white heat of his fury, "you would sell us
to the French! You would utter foul lies of me and mine! My God,
Jacobite, I would you might live to be hanged!"

He crossed to the table and opened the case; it contained the three
papers untouched; with flashing eyes he examined them; then called over
his shoulder to the shadowy window-seat.

"Do you see me, Jacobite dog?"

From the shadow came a faint voice, a little cry.

"Delia!"

Sir John stood arrested.

"Delia," whispered the dying man again.

Sir John stared in his direction; his high flush faded, he started a
little.

"Of course--her brother," he murmured. For a moment he stood still,
gazing at the dark outline now still upon the floor.

"I love you utterly," the words came again as distinctly in his ear as
if she breathed them, "one creed--one King--one cause--"

He roused himself with a reckless laugh; caught up the papers, his hat
and gloves and flinging open the window, stepped out into the street.



CHAPTER XVII - THE BITTERNESS OF DEATH


Delia Featherstonehaugh came home through the quiet dark streets by the
river with a heart so elate that she heeded nothing of the lateness of
the hour, the bitter little wind that whistled through the houses or
the slow falling snow.

A clock striking nine told her that she had lingered in the Abbey longer
than she thought, but what did that matter to-night? Perseus would
forgive her when she told him.

She smiled up at the bleak sky and quickened her pace.

At the corner of a street she noticed an old beggar huddled against a
house; she stopped under the lamp and took out her purse, emptying all
its little silver into the astonished beggar's palm; she felt that she
had come into great riches; she was so happy, the joy within was
inexhaustible; she felt she could have played the prodigal with it and
still have the lightest heart in the world.

The old man called a garrulous blessing after her and she turned lightly
with a dazzling smile, then hurried on down the street.

There was no one abroad; the stillness of the snow lay over everything;
every tenth house alone showed a lamp and between the way was in perfect
darkness; yet Delia found in this dreariness only a strangeness that
heightened the ecstasy of her divine elation. As she turned into the
courtyard of "The Sleeping Queen" she saw Jerome Caryl dismounting by
the light of the ostler's lanthorn.

"Mr. Caryl!" she cried with an impulsive desire to speak to some one.

He turned. "Why, you are out late," he said abstractedly; he looked pale
and anxious had Delia had eyes for that, but she followed him into the
house and into the front parlor in a smiling silence. A serving man set
a lamp upon the table and Jerome Caryl flung him his hat and whip; then
glanced at Delia.

"Why, what has happened?" he asked, struck through his absorption with
her transfigured face. She stood behind the lamp, her hands resting on
the edge of the table and her head a little thrown back; her hazel curls
lay over the open collar of her red coat and her eyes shone softly
brilliant as misted fires.

"Ah, Jerome," she said, trembling passionately. "Ah, I feel above
humanity to-night!"

He looked at her, his melancholy eyes a little wide with wonder.

"Tell me--" he asked.

Blushing, breathing fast, she drew back with low laughter. "Ah--not
yet--I must tell Perseus first."

"I, too, have somewhat to tell Perseus," said Jerome Caryl; he went to
the door and called to the servant. "Is Mr. Wedderburn here?"

"Yes," came the answer. "He is, sir, in the back parlor with Sir
Perseus--"

Jerome Caryl returned to the table.

"I have been detained," he said. "Berwick had heard from Argyll--a
letter in bad cipher--it hinted that the government knew something."

Delia would not be disturbed by this to-night--not tonight. Misfortune
or the hint of misfortune was unbelievable to-night.

"My Lord Argyll is over fearful," she said, with smiling eyes.

Jerome Caryl looked at her curiously; he had never seen her thus:
gloriously smiling, triumphantly glowing with joyous high spirits; she
was beautiful to-night with the beauty of great happiness; she caught
his glance and laughed and blushed; her hand upon the door.

"Perseus will be a-rating us both for this lateness," she said, her
bosom heaving as if she had been swiftly running.

She opened the door and stepped lightly over the threshold, then paused,
still smiling, but a little wondering. The window opposite was set wide
open; of the two candles on the table one had been blown out by the
rising wind, the other had guttered and the wax dripped forlornly down
the stick onto the table; the fire had fallen to a few smoldering
embers.

"There is no one here," said Delia marveling.

Yet the room did not seem empty; she felt that there was some one there,
and peered forward into the shadows. "Perseus!" she cried.

As she advanced she noticed the ashes and charred scraps of paper lying
about the hearth: she stopped abruptly.

"Perseus!" she said again, but her voice was less confident and her
smile had faded; she looked at the table where she had left her brother
writing; there were his inkstand, his pens wine and glasses on a tray;
his chair pushed back and another one knocked over; over this hung a
man's riding-cloak--and not her brother's--

Whose--then--whose?

She picked up the flaring candle and held it over the fallen chair.

Mr. Wedderburn's cloak--she had seen him in it an hour ago.

She turned across the room, the candle shook and dripped in her hand.

"Jerome!" she said faintly, "Jerome!"

He was in the doorway.

"Where are they?" he asked swiftly.

She was nearing the window; the candle cast a ragged light through the
shadows.

"Jerome--" she whispered fast and fearfully. "Come here--there is
something here--"

Backing against the wall she stared down at the window-seat.

"God!" she shrieked suddenly. "It is a man!" The candle clattered from
her slack fingers to the floor; the room was in complete darkness. Delia
turned wildly through the blackness and caught Jerome Caryl's arm.

"Who is it?" she cried. "Whom do you think it can be? Nay, answer
me--could it be--he? Ah, no, my God--it is not possible--"

"Hush! hush!" said Jerome gently. "I must get a light."

"No, no, I could not bear to look," she shuddered wildly. "I will not
bear it--why should you ask me to? It was his cloak--"

Jerome tenderly disengaged her hand.

"Take courage," he said. "If it should be Perseus he may not be--he may
be--living."

She let him go; her hands fell to her sides.

"Perseus," she echoed vaguely. "Do you think it might be Perseus?"

She turned and crept along the wall; falling to her knees, she put her
hands out through the dark, feeling blindly for what she knew was there.

"Andrew, Andrew," she said crazily--"Ah!" She drew back, for she had
touched something--something soft--velvet--a velvet sleeve--she pressed
her face against the wall, her hands over it, and her fallen hair, and
when Jerome re-entered with a lantern she did not look up.

He crossed at once to the window, holding the light; it revealed her
crouching away with hidden face and close beside her Sir Perseus, full
on his back, his hands clutched in his disordered clothes, as if his
last act had been the defense of something he had hidden in his
breast. "Now here is an end of thy work," said Jerome quietly.

He set the lantern on the window-seat and sinking on his knees, lifted
Sir Perseus someway from the floor. "Delia--bring me the wine," he said.
"I think he still breathes--"

She slowly turned a wild face.

"So--it is Perseus--" she said, staring.

"Bring the wine--" said Jerome Caryl.

Mechanically and heavily, she obeyed him; poured it out and handed it.
"So it is Perseus," she repeated.

"I think we are betrayed," said Jerome Caryl evenly. "Now, who was it?"
He laid his hand over the heart of the wounded man; then forced some
wine between his lips.

"Dead?" asked Delia. "Is he dead--dead?"

"Hush!" whispered Jerome Caryl; for the man in his arms had stirred; he
bent his head to catch some whisper.

Sir Perseus moved.

"Who was it?" asked Jerome Caryl. "And the papers?"

Bending close he caught a few struggling breaths. "I did my--best--I
did--" Then with the effort of speaking, the blood rushed to the man's
mouth, choking him, his staring eyes fixed in an agony on the calm face
bending over him.

"The Master of Stair," he gasped, with a ghastly effort and, rolling
over, sank out of Jerome Caryl's arms.

"What does he mean?" sobbed Delia. "Has he been murdered? What has
happened--is he dead?"

Jerome Caryl looked up at her.

"Yes," he said briefly, "and the man who slew him has those papers."

Delia reeled forward into the room and sat down heavily at the table,
her face blank, her fingers at her mouth; there was everything on the
table as it had been; the familiar things of common use about the
room--what had happened that it was all so strange? Nothing--what could
happen? It seemed as if her heart had stopped; all she felt was a little
tired wonder. She was roused by a light touch on her arm, and looked up
dully into Jerome Caryl's face.

He lifted her hand from the table.

"For his sake," he said very softly, "Call up your courage now--"

She stared with an unchanged look.

"Is he dead?" she said. "Perseus?"

"God help thee," he answered, and his voice broke a little. "We are all
undone--"

"But--Perseus?" she repeated. "Is he dead? Can't he see me? Won't he
hear me when I tell him--why--what was I going to tell him? When I came
home I sang for joy, oh, my love, my love!" She dropped her head,
sobbing heavily.

"Come and comfort me," she cried between her bitter tears. "I only want
you--ah, I would have told him--dead--what is it to be dead?"

She looked up.

Jerome Caryl had left her; she rose and crept slowly to where her
brother lay with Jerome's handkerchief across his face.

"Perseus--" she sobbed, "I was so happy--dear--I wanted to make you
happy, too--he loves me! Perseus--do you hear?"

She bent lower.

"Will you never know now?" she asked fearfully. "But he shall avenge
you--he loves me! Oh, Perseus, cannot the wonder of it make you rise and
speak to me?"

A moment she listened with stilled breath, then slowly she shrank back
from the still and stiffened figure on the floor.

"Andrew--" she whispered pitifully, then her gaze fell on his cloak and
she caught it up to her breast for comfort. Suddenly Jerome Caryl
entered; a little paper showed in his hand; his face was strongly moved.

"It is explained!" he cried passionately, "that damned devil has undone
us utterly--see what has come from the man Hunt--in prison in Romney--he
contrived to send this. Look at it--fated fools we are!" He held out to
her a soiled scrap of crumpled paper; her wild eyes fell to it and she
read in scrawling characters:

"Mr. Andrew Wedderburn is the Master of Stair."

She made no movement, spoke no word; Jerome Caryl thought that, in her
grief, she was careless as to what this could mean.

"He has those papers," he said fiercely. "He must have those
papers--Perseus died defending them--"

"Perseus--died?" she said. "He--killed--Perseus?"

"What else?" cried Jerome Caryl. "For what was he here? It all proves
it--Argyll's warning--Hunt's message--and that--"

He pointed to Perseus and her eyes followed his gesture; she was
standing very stiffly, her hand resting on the table edge.

"It is a lie," she said, "a monstrous lie."

"It is the bitter truth and we are ruined."

"No, it is a fearful lie," said Delia slowly. "I know it is a lie."

Jerome Caryl made no answer; he was bending over the charred papers on
the hearth.

"These might be they;" he said, looking up and across at the dead man.
"Now what would I not give for one word from you--one word, yes--or
no--"

Delia gave no hint; she stepped forward suddenly and faced Jerome.

"Tell me," she asked. "What did you say just now? What was that
paper--show it to me." Her voice sank to an intense appeal.

"Ah--show it to me," she cried hoarsely.

He looked at her in a quick pity.

"Forgive me--I have been blunt--poor soul, 'tis terrible for you," he
said gently.

She took no notice of his words; with the same set face she came closer
and caught hold of his sleeve.

"What was it?" she said in a frozen voice. "Some lie rang in my
head--something too horrible--Jerome--what have I ever done that you
should so torture me--will you not tell me?"

So strange was her voice, so disconnected and yet intensely earnest
were her words, that Caryl feared for her reason.

"Delia," he said pityingly. "I would do anything to comfort thee--yet
I can give thee no hope--he is dead."

"Yes!" she cried frantically. "But who killed him?"

"This man--this devilish villain--the Master of Stair--"

"The Master of Stair!" she echoed, clinging to him desperately. "What
has he to do with us; we do not know him--I have never seen him--"

"Nay--he called himself Andrew Wedderburn--"

"No--no," she whispered thickly, "that is not true, and you shall say
so. My God! It is not true. I am mad and all the world is chaos if that
is true--"

"I know it as if I had seen him do it," he answered. "What did your
brother say--the Master of Stair!"

"No! no! he did not!" shrieked Delia.

"Did they not tell us he was in this room with Perseus--did he not quit
by the window in such haste that he left his cloak--there at your feet?"

His cloak! His cloak that she had clutched to her heart for
comfort--this to be cited at evidence against him--"

"I say it could not be!" she cried; she put her hands before her face as
if fire had suddenly struck her blind and cowered and shrank together.

Gently Jerome Caryl put her into the chair by the desolate hearth.

"We must leave here at once," he said. "I must send a warning to Berwick
and destroy the printing-press and all papers--there is a kingdom hanging
on our prudence now."

She looked at him blankly.

"The Master of Stair," she muttered. "The Master of Stair."

She drew herself together in the chair and, half-swooning, dreams
mounted to her brain; reality ebbed away; she was conscious of feeling
cold and yet when she put her hand to her forehead she seemed to touch
fire; she thought the Abbey was about her, the sunlight at her feet,
and--he--stood on the bishop's grave--"call me John," he said--Sir John
Dalrymple, Master of Stair--she repeated the names to herself--it was
written in large characters: "Mr. Wedderburn is the Master of
Stair"--how they lied! Where was Jerome Caryl?

There were people passing, carrying something--it was the Abbey and a
funeral--she was so happy that she could weep for them--death was
curious--irrevocable--irrevocable.

It was Perseus they carried past. They came so heavily--so slowly; one
of his hands hung out and touched the floor.

Perseus--dead.

She rose up and looked at him.

"Dead! Who slew him?"

From infinite distance seemed to come the answer "The Master of Stair."

"Dead! my brother--who killed him?"

"The Master of Stair."

She fell face downwards across the chair and still through her
unconsciousness came:

"Who killed him?"

"The Master of Stair."



CHAPTER XVIII - AN INNOCENT BETRAYAL


Viscount Stair listened with an amused smile to the heavy footsteps
pacing about overhead; he drew himself closer over the fire and surveyed
his lean fingers with eyes twinkling unpleasantly. His son was evidently
in an ill-humor; his restlessness had followed on a message from my Lord
Breadalbane; something was amiss in Scotland.

So the Viscount concluded; he made no attempt to discover what had
occurred, but waited patiently, hugging his amusement, confident that
his son would not leave him long out of his councils. And even sooner
than he had expected the door was flung open and Sir John entered,
stormy and frowning.

"Ill news from Scotland?" asked the Viscount indifferently. His son gave
him a look.

"The Macdonalds have taken the oaths," he answered briefly.

"Ah--more prudence among these savages than one might have expected,"
remarked the Viscount.

"Their prudence will not avail!" cried Sir John.

"They did not come in till the sixth of January."

"How ill-considered!" said the Viscount.

Sir John sat down heavily.

"Breadalbane has sent me the whole tale," he said. "It seems Makian took
fright when he saw the others going in and set out for Fort William to
take the oaths--of course (as the old fool fortunately did not know) the
oaths must be administered to a magistrate, Hill, I said Hill was
untrustworthy--Hill gave him a letter to the sheriff of Argyllshire.
Makian started for Inverary, but did not reach it till the sixth--God
knows why."

"Probably through making himself drunk at every hut he passed," remarked
the Viscount.

"He pleaded the excuse of heavy snow-storms," said Sir John, "and the
sheriff was actually moved by his whinings to administer the oath."

"It will make the Macdonalds feel secure," remarked his father. "I think
that is fortunate."

"But the sheriff has sent a letter to the council at Edinburgh with an
account of the whole transaction."

"Need it ever reach them?" asked the Viscount. "I think if it is
privately submitted to me I can cancel it--what is an oath of surrender
taken on the sixth? Nothing."

Sir John rose.

"It shall make no difference," he said gloomily. "I will make an example
of them, whether they took the oath or no--but this must be kept from
the King."

"Which reminds me," interrupted the Viscount easily, "what of those
Jacobite papers you were to put before His Majesty? It is a good many
days since you announced them as in your hands."

Sir John's blue eyes lifted steadily. "I am waiting for the conspirators
so embroil themselves further," he said thoughtfully.

The Viscount shrugged his shoulders.

"You are giving them a chance to leave the kingdom."

"You mistake, my lord--I am having them watched and Hunt's cottage no
longer stands their refuge." He rose and abruptly left the room.

Hardly had he gone before an inner door was opened and Lady Dalrymple
entered.

The Viscount gave her a sharp look.

"One might be tempted to think that you played the spy, madam," he said
dryly.

"I?" she went white, but glanced at him scornfully. "Can I spy in my
husband's house?"

"I grant, madam, that your means may not equal your will," he answered,
"yet John is reckless--careless--"

Lady Dalrymple's great soft eyes widened. "Wherefore should I spy upon
my husband's affairs?" she said coldly. "I am no politician."

"You are a woman," smiled the Viscount. "I think you have some
curiosity."

"Believe me--none in these affairs of blood--"

He turned on her with a soft quickness. "How do you know that they are
'affairs of blood'?" he asked.

She stood silent with a frightened face.

"Take care," said the Viscount, rising. "If John is imprudent, he is
also violent--the matters that he deals in will bear no meddling of
yours."

She shrank away from him.

"Why do you so goad me, my lord?" she said in a trembling defiance. "I
came here to avoid my husband, since he declared the sight of me irks
him--and then you turn on me--what are you trying to drive me to between
you?"

"Merely prudence," answered the Viscount. "A little prudence and
discretion." And he left the room with an indescribable air of cold
avoidance.

Lady Dalrymple looked after him with fear and loathing, then sank down
into the chair by the fire and gazed listlessly before her, her hands
clasped on her knees; her full pink gown, her undressed pale hair under
the white lace knotted at her chin, the muslin fichu across her bosom
and the glittering gold and purple flowers on her white satin overskirt,
made her a figure of brilliant fairness in the somber gorgeous room.

The diamonds in her ears winked in the firelight and the paste buckles
of her red silk shoes shone beneath her skirt; round her neck hung a
broad mauve ribbon, the end of which was tucked into the gold lace of
her bodice.

She sat so, very still, with the firelight glowing on her soft face,
till she was disturbed by the great doors being opened; she turned in
her seat with a little shrinking movement.

The servant was ushering in a lady, who hesitated on the threshold and
said something in a low voice to the man who answered with a bow and a
stately request for her to be seated.

Upon that the lady entered, and the servant left, closing the door.

Lady Dalrymple looked at the unexpected visitor timidly and rose with an
instinctive courtliness. The lady had paused in the center of the room;
the snow lay over her dark habit and in the full curls of her hair.

"I pray you do not let me trouble you," she said in a manner,
unnaturally quiet and composed. "My business, madam, is with Sir John
Dalrymple--I have been asked to await him here."

"Will you not sit down," said Lady Dalrymple gently. "I do not know your
name, but you are very welcome."

She moved her seat from the fire and in a winning way indicated a chair
opposite; but the coldness of the other's face and voice did not relax.

"My name is Delia Featherstonehaugh," she said. "And I am neither cold
nor tired--only impatient, madam, to get my errand done."

Lady Dalrymple shrank under the rebuff; her soft eyes took in the
stranger; she noted the set face, the proud, contained mouth, the
defiantly upheld head, the girl's whole carriage as if disdaining
everything about her.

"Are you in trouble?" she asked timidly.

Delia's brown eyes swept over her.

"No," she answered coldly, then with sudden force. "Yes--in terrible
trouble--but in want, madam, of neither pity nor comfort."

"Alas!" said Lady Dalrymple. "I would not so repulse either were they
offered me--and do not you be hard to me--for I would help you an' I
could."

"Madam, you cannot--in myself alone lies help--and you--do you lack pity
or sympathy?" The tone was coldly contemptuous, but Lady Dalrymple
answered gently.

"I did not say so, madam--I say I would not refuse them."

"Madam--" said Delia. "Who are you?"

"I am Lady Dalrymple," was the quiet answer, "and at your service."

Delia drew herself together and held her head still higher. "I want not
your help," she said coldly. "Why was I brought here--I did not come to
see you."

"My husband," said Lady Dalrymple gently, "is full of affairs--you must
pardon him if he keeps you waiting."

Delia caught at the chair by which she stood.

"Your husband," she repeated under her breath; and at sight of her wild
white face the other advanced a step. "Madam--did you speak?"

Delia clenched her hands and turned her head with a quick look of
loathing.

"I said naught," she answered.

Lady Dalrymple considered her; she was interested, sure that beneath her
proud containment this girl was in deep distress, and she pitied her.

"Come you on matters of politics?" she asked.

Standing very erect and cold, Delia answered:

"Yes."

"For Scottish affairs?" said Lady Dalrymple.

"Yes," said Delia with wild eyes. "Yes."

Lady Dalrymple again studied her a moment.

"Alas! A matter of life--or death?" she said.

"Yes," answered Delia hoarsely.

"Poor soul!" cried Lady Dalrymple. "Indeed, you must tell it me--"

At the sympathy in her voice and face Delia turned in an agony that
almost broke beyond control.

"You must not ask me," she panted. "I pray you that you do not question
me."

"But I might serve you," said Lady Dalrymple. The fair face framed in
the lace scarce was grieved, tender, a little wondering.

"Doubtless," answered Delia, forcing back her unnatural calm, "Sir John's
wife would have great influence with her lord--yet will I even do without
her favor."

And she smiled very bitterly.

A fine flush crept over Lady Dalrymple's face: "You are hard," she said.

"Maybe," replied Delia. "I am different of late--perhaps I am hard, I do
not know."

She caught the other woman's eyes on her and flushed, then broke
desperately and swiftly into speech.

"I have come to discover if the Macdonalds of Glencoe have taken the
oaths to the government."

"Ah," said Lady Dalrymple. "You have friends among them? These
Macdonalds--who are they?"

Delia bent her head.

"I wish to know if they are safe or no from the vengeance of--the
government."

Lady Dalrymple sank into her chair again, a flutter of ribbons and lace,
her blue eyes held a curious look. "If they have, testified allegiance,
they are beyond the law," she said. "So I have heard; I know little of
it."

"'Tis, madam, what I which to discover: the Secretary for Scotland must
know."

Lady Dalrymple lifted her lovely hand and dropped it again.

"He knows," she said.

"Well," cried Delia, "I want to save those people. If they, despite all
warnings, have remained obdurate, there will be a horned vengeance
taken, you know, belike?"

"I know," said Lady Dalrymple.

"But if they have taken the oaths--and it is blown abroad enough--no
one, for shame, could touch them."

"Do you think Sir John will answer you?"

"I will essay it," answered Delia.

A little silence fell; an unusual look of resolution carne into Lady
Dalrymple's gentle face as she gazed into the fire; Delia, standing with
her hands clasped on the chair-back gazed upon her fairness with sick
aversion that mounted to her brain and set her mouth into lines of
cruelty. At last, with a shiver of satin, Lady Dalrymple moved and
looked at the other.

"The Macdonalds have taken the oaths," she said quietly, "but it will be
suppressed. That is Viscount Stair's work--and the Earl of
Breadalbane's."

"I thought so!" cried Delia fiercely. "The Viscount's work, you say! I
think Sir John has had a hand in it."

"I will not discuss my husband's politics," interrupted Lady Dalrymple.
"I tell you this because I would prevent an injustice and a crime. It is
true, and the Macdonalds are doomed, if you can save them--do so--"

"If I can save them!" flashed Delia, "I tell you this shall be over all
England to-morrow!"

Lady Dalrymple rose and came toward her.

"So you can save your friends," she said gently.

"Will you not thank me a little?"

Delia stared at her.

"Why should I thank you?" she demanded.

"For what Sir John would not have told you," was the answer. "This news
should mean much to you."

"I do thank you, madam," said Delia coldly, drawing back.

Lady Dalrymple came nearer, leaned forward over the table.

"Ah, sit down," she said, sweetly and sadly. "I have few to talk to--"

"Wherefore, madam?" demanded Delia.

"Because--because it is my will, I mean, they are all employed here--"

She put her hands in a troubled manner to her heart and her restless
fingers pulled the mauve ribbon; a closed gold miniature case fell
lightly onto the table.

Lady Dalrymple took it up in silence and looked at it with the air of
some one who holds something very precious, and who, wishful to display
it, yet dreads a scornful reception. She fingered the case a moment in
silence and took a timid glance at Delia, who gazed blankly with a
troubled face.

Lady Dalrymple encouraged by her look, snapped open the case and held it
out hesitating, pleading, making a great effort to be calm:

"My children," she said.

Delia gave one glance, then motioned it away with a gesture of horror.

"How like," she said fearfully.

"How like whom?" asked Lady Dalrymple startled. "They are beautiful
faces--are they not? Why do you turn away? I crave people to gaze on
them--"

"They are like--Sir John," faltered Delia with quivering lips. "It
startled me--"

"Why--you have seen him?"

"Yes."

Lady Dalrymple frowned. "I do not think they are so like," she said, and
shutting the case, put it back into her bosom.

Delia uttered a hard laugh.

"'Tis the same face," she said cruelly.

The other laughed at her.

"We are well hated," she said in a changed tone. "I think he has a name
well loathed--but remember, whatever he had planned against the
Macdonalds, statecraft well requires it--and I have given you the power
to save them."

Delia made no answer; Lady Dalrymple stood by the table, making no
further attempt to speak; the silence was broken by the quiet entry of a
servant.

"Sir John will see you now, madam," he said, and to Lady Dalrymple he
gave a letter.

"Sent by Mr. Wharton's lackey, my lady."

She took it absently; her eyes turned wistfully to Delia, but she, with
the slightest cold inclination of her head, left the room without a
word.

Lady Dalrymple, chilled and repulsed, even more lonely than before this
stranger's coming, sat down again by the fire and the tears welled up
into her large eyes.

Yet she was glad that she had spoken about the Macdonalds; something she
knew and something she guessed of the plans being laid for their
destruction, and it had troubled her; now this girl could see to it that
they were saved.

But she might have to pay the price; she remembered the Viscount's last
words, "John is reckless and violent," still she was glad of what she
had done.

Her glance fell to Mr. Wharton's letter; she broke the seal and opened
it; spread it out in the fading light of the winter afternoon and read:


January 10, 1692.

MY LADY,

I have been away, or I had sooner answered your letter, which giveth me
surprise as well as pain. You ask me to no longer attend you at your
house, as Sir John speaketh of me with increased dislike and cannot bear
even the mention of my name. I cannot understand that you should pay any
attention to a silly prejudice unworthy of a man of sense. Sir John is
at full liberty to tell me himself what he mislikes in my conduct, which
never (as you can bear me witness) has been in any way offensive to him
or wanting in the respect that I, in common with every Whig, have for
his abilities. If any fancied affront irks him, he knows how to obtain
satisfaction, and I trust that he will either take this course or meet
me with the courtesy that I shall always be ready to offer him and that
you will not suffer his whim to interrupt a friendship that I have the
vanity to believe is not displeasing to you, and is the greatest of
honors to your ladyship's humble servant,

THOMAS WHARTON.


Lady Dalrymple folded the letter away slowly; she was not clever at
reading between the lines, and fine phrasing a little confused her; but
she caught the spirit of the writer; she saw that it only needed a word
from her for Tom Wharton to challenge her husband on the first excuse
that came. It was a curious thought; Tom Wharton had fought no duel in
which he had not killed or (through good nature) disarmed his man; his
perfect swordsmanship was a charm that kept men civil to him through all
the offenses of his lax and lazy life, since a duel with him was death
or the disgrace of mercy given; she knew her husband's temper too well
to think he would accept the last.

She sat thinking quietly; she liked Tom Wharton; he was good-natured,
pleasant-mannered, open-hearted, open-handed, he treated her with a
flattering deference; though they had never exchanged confidences, she
felt he understood a little of her position; Harry had liked him.

She read his letter through again; her heart swelled at the thought that
he was forbidden the only pleasant company of which she knew; she
struggled for a moment with rebellion and wild thoughts of swords behind
Montague House, of freedom and release--then she sat down to the
Viscount's desk and wrote to Tom Wharton a gentle letter in which she
desired to be left to obey Sir John's wishes, however unreasonable they
might seem.

She sealed it slowly and with a sigh.



CHAPTER XIX - THE PACT


Delia heard the door closed behind her and lifted her eyes. It was a
beautiful room, all carving and gilt with heavy hangings of stamped
leather and embroidered satin; the chimney-piece was of massive white
marble, carved with fauns and grapes, above it a vast mirror reached to
the ceiling; resting against the chimneypiece stood the Master of Stair.

His back was to the door, but Delia could see his face in the mirror; he
was looking down, nor did he turn or move at her entrance.

He was quietly dressed, yet there was ostentation about his person, that
ostentation from which he was never entirely free; he wore many jewels;
he was like his house, of a cold, splendid appearance, a showy
somberness, the magnificence of gaiety with no heart behind it; and as
his correct manner often had an underlying brutality in it, so his
beauty owned a lurking coarseness that only the usual coldness of his
demeanor concealed.

But now, as he looked down and she stared at his face in the mirror, she
saw the expression of it; a heavy sullenness a fierce impatience barely
under control.

He stood perfectly still, as if he did not know that she was there, or
was indifferent to her presence, and she remained a foot inside the
door, staring at him.

At last he lifted his eyes and the blue of them was painfully vivid in
his flushed face; he looked at her image in the mirror and there their
glance met.

Then he turned slowly.

"It is strange for you to come here," he said moodily. "I wonder, madam,
what you can have to say to me?"

"Do you wonder, Sir John Dalrymple?" answered Delia with a white hard
face. "I come to ask you if you have those papers."

He looked at her curiously.

"Have you those papers?" she repeated, holding herself very still. "We
could not tell--there was ash on the floor--that night--of burnt
paper--"

For all her terrible effort at calm, her voice failed her; Sir John
spoke abruptly:

"I have all the information; all the papers relating to your plot
against His Majesty," he said. "I thought you knew."

"I guessed," answered Delia slowly. "And you have not used your
information yet?"

"Not yet."

"I have come to ask you to give those papers back to me," she said
faintly.

The Master of Stair smiled.

"You are very confident, my fair Jacobite," he said disdainfully. "Those
papers were not lightly got--"

She lifted her eyes with more steadiness.

"No," she said, "you paid deep enough for them, did you not, Sir John
Dalrymple? You stopped at nothing."

"I do for my cause what you do for yours," he answered coldly. "And
this time I win."

"Still I have come to ask you to give me back those papers."

"You are astonishingly simple," said the Master of Stair.

"So you have found me--have you not?" she answered wildly, "a very fool,
Sir John Dalrymple, to follow once the very careless lifting of your
finger, and fool enough now to think you have some honor--some
feeling--some pity for what you have so wantonly destroyed. Those papers
stand for the lives--the honor--of thousands, and you stole them."

She put her hand to her side and came a step forward.

"By all the lies you told me," she said, "give back to me what you
stole."

"The papers?" he asked quietly.

"My brother--" said Delia, "is not in your power to restore--he is
dead--"

"His was a dangerous trade," returned the Master of Stair gloomily. "I
spared him the gallows."

Delia stared at him; the words she had been forming seemed forgotten on
her lips.

"Why did you kill him?" she asked abruptly.

Sir John suddenly moved from the hearth.

"We talk at strange cross purposes," he said. "Your brother insulted
me--I did not murder him," he shrugged his shoulders. "We all take our
chances--I ran some risk to gain my end--and did more mischief than I
need, maybe," he looked at her curiously. "I've earned your curse--have
I not?"

He made a little reckless movement with his hand as if he accepted it
and flung it off.

"I have no curse for you, nor reproaches," answered Delia in an intense
voice. "I have not come to call you what I might. What is done is
done--and I have lived through it. I have come to ask your mercy--because
of what once you said--"

She stopped, he looked at her, saying nothing, with a great effort she
went on:

"Undo a little of what you have done--give me back those papers--"

"It is impossible," he said. "Impossible, you may say what you will of
me--"

"I have nothing to say," she answered unsteadily. "I have dangerous
stuff in me--I know it now. I shall not use a woman's means if you push
me too far--I have it in me to pull your fortunes about your feet if you
should prove too merciless--"

He smiled imperiously.

"I think you, too, did some lying," he said. "You used strong words to
one you talk now of ruining--and half I thought you did not mean--"

But Delia interrupted him. "You lie now," she said in a stifled voice.
"You know I meant it, meant it so that it touched you even through your
falsity."

"Believe I was not insincere--only reckless of the future," he answered
in a lower voice. "I did not play with you--"

"I need no explanations," she cried passionately. "Have I not said that
I have lived through it? Can I not also be reckless and thank you for
the pleasant passing of an hour--can I not, too, forget?"

"I have not forgotten," said the Master of Stair. "Should I have seen
you now if I had? I make no excuses. What I have done I have done, but I
have not forgotten."

"No," answered Delia. "I do not think you can, and so I come to you to
ask your mercy." She moved a step toward him, her head held back, her face
composed and very pale in the shadow of her hat.

"Ye are changed," he said somberly.

"I think I died and have arisen again," said Delia. "I am so changed I
do not know myself; if I had been not changed should I be here now? Will
you give me those papers?"

"No," he said. "No. Though I would do something for you, Delia, still
not that."

"Do you dare to use my name?" she cried.

"Did I not dare more than that?" he answered with a little smile. "Did I
not dare to risk your lifetime hate to win you for that one hour--and
you were won--though you curse me threefold."

"Why did you do it?" she asked.

"I do not know." He gazed upon her moodily. "It is the Dalrymple way to
curse all they touch; yet I did not lie to you. What I said I
meant--though now the moment is past."

He broke off staring at her. "Why did you come here?" he said after a
moment.

"Have I not told you? To obtain those papers--have you read them?"

"No," he spoke abstractedly, his gaze as if his mind was upon her and
not on what she said: "I have not broken the seals; they are for the
King."

"You cannot do it," she cried. "Have you not conquered us? You know that
your spies watch and track us day and night; you know that we are now
powerless--disarmed--is it needful to have blood? Must you know these
names?"

"I guess them now," he said. "I know the smooth-faced lords who eat our
bread and betray us, and by Heaven, this time I will have them exposed!"

"Not lords alone," she answered, breathing hard, "but many folk
throughout the kingdom have signed that paper--all my friends--they are
helpless now--helpless. If you put that paper before the Prince you will
bring to the block and the gallows thousands, yea, there are more in
this than ye wot of--'twill be the bloody Assizes again. Your Prince
cannot and will not overlook it; but 'tis in your power to be merciful
to burn those papers unread and never know the names."

She stopped as though she had put her whole energy into her words and it
had suddenly gone out like a sinking flame; she put her fingers to her
lips and stared at him over them.

"It is a great chance for you," she said very faintly.

"A chance--?" repeated the Master of Stair.

"Of atonement," said Delia, and her wild brown eyes flashed such a
glance of proud misery that he almost winced.

He was fingering with a lazy hand the wreaths that crowned the faun on
the marble beside him; he dropped his glance and again there came over
his face that curious expression of contained sullenness and defiance.

Delia waited in the center of the room; she could not look at him; her
gaze traveled to the long windows and the cheerless prospect of bare
trees without.

"Sir John Dalrymple," she said at last: "Will you do the merciful
thing?"

He lifted his head; his face was flushed, his eyebrows drawn together.

"I will not be a perfect fool," he said haughtily. "All they who were in
this plot shall pay for it as certainly--"

"As you shall pay for what you do, Sir John," she interrupted. "As their
crimes of loyalty and courage in a losing cause shall be punished--so
shall lying treachery and false-heartedness and hard cruelty be
repaid--" she laughed suddenly. "You in the judgment seat--you!" she
cried, with her hand to her side.

"Yes--I," he said imperiously. "When your Jacobites can mount it let
them judge me--meanwhile--I think he who can hold the sword wields the
sword--as I shall do."

She turned from him.

"I have no more to say," she said.

"Nor I," he answered.

With her hand still at her side she crossed to the door; there she stopped
and turned to face him.

"I was wrong," she said steadily. "I have something more to say--there
are those whom I can save without asking your mercy, the mercy that you
have not, Sir John."

He looked at her over his shoulder.

"By to-night," continued Delia, "all London will know that you plan to
massacre the Macdonalds of Glencoe."

The Master of Stair swung round.

"It shall also be known," said Delia, with a terrible composure, "that
the Macdonalds took the oath and that you and your allies suppress the
knowledge that you may not be cheated of your bloody scheme."

The Master of Stair flushed darkly and put his hands to his black velvet
cravat as if he would have torn it in rage.

"Who told you that?" he exclaimed fiercely.

"Does it matter?" she answered. "I know, and all England shall know. And
you will not dare to touch them--not even you."

"Who told you," he repeated thickly. "What spies have I About my affairs?
Who told you?"

Delia laid her hand on the door.

"You can arrest us all," she said quietly. "You can go to the furthest
limits of your law, use your foully-won triumph, but you cannot prevent
this truth from circling London."

"Is this charity toward those savages or--revenge?" he demanded hotly.
"Pity for them or hate of me?"

"Call it what you will," she answered quietly. "Nothing can stop me.
Nay, you can arrest me now, but you cannot close my mouth, nor can you
put me in any prison so close that this truth shall not escape--to the
very footstool of your Prince, who for shame must hear me--"

"Now, if I knew who told you--" said the Master of Stair, "who played
this trick on me." He clenched his hand tightly against the marble
grapes.

Delia opened the door; it seemed as if she was to go without another
word.

"Stop," cried the Master of Stair.

She paused, holding the door ajar, and looked back.

"Who is the dearer to you," asked Sir John, "your Jacobite friends or
these Macdonalds?"

She stared in a slow horror.

"I give you your choice," pursued the Master of Stair. "The Macdonalds
did not take the oath before the appointed time--yet they took it. If
you and your friends will keep this knowledge secret--if you will
neither warn the Highlanders nor rouse the Jacobites--then I will burn
those papers I hold."

The door slipped from Delia's fingers; she moved back and lifted a
colorless face. "What is the punishment you have for the Macdonalds?"
she asked faintly, "what are you going to do with them?"

"Extirpate them," he answered, "the whole race of them. Now choose--your
friends or them."

Delia put her hand to her forehead in a listless weary manner as if the
life had died within her.

"So--you bargain, Sir John," she said. "And I--I have no choice between
a duty and a sentiment--give me my friends."

"It is a high price," he answered with a sudden smile. "Those papers
against your silence."

"Burn them--burn them," cried Delia. "Let me see them burnt."

He laughed.

"Why, I shall keep them," he answered, "and if you speak I shall send
them to His Majesty--but while you are silent you are safe--you have my
word for that."

"Your word!" she echoed, "your word!"

"It is as good as that of other men," he said, "at least you must take
it--or if not--well--speak and the papers go to the King."

He turned on his heel abruptly as if suddenly weary of the situation and
crossed the room to an inner door which he swept through without a
backward look, and closed heavily behind him.

Delia came slowly from her place to where he had stood; slowly she drew
her right glove off and with her bare hand timidly touched the marble
chimneypiece; then her fingers fell to the spot where his had rested and
she caressed the wreathed faun lightly. Her face was flushed and
enthralled; fierce suppressed sobs rose in her throat; she stooped at
last and set her lips to the cold marble, rested her cheek against it an
instant, then drew herself erect, scarlet with shame.

She picked up her glove, her muff, and went from the room, slowly down
the gloomy magnificent stairs and out into the cold waning afternoon.
The Master of Stair, waiting her coming, watched her from an upper
window.

It was beginning to snow and he noticed how she struggled in the teeth
of the driving wind as she passed round the square; she was the only
soul abroad on foot.

As he looked at her, one of his violent impulses seized him to tear to
pieces those papers she asked for and scatter them after her; had he had
them there upon him he would have turned and cast them into the fire;
scheming and intrigue were hateful to him; he wanted the straightforward
action; to crush the Jacobites high-handedly, not hold a terror over a
woman's head.

And the generous action would not in this instance be very costly; as
she had said he had his spies on all the ringleaders. Berwick was
powerless without his French army and Louis would never send an army
till he obtained those letters that would never reach him; the men who
had signed those documents would be too frightened by their loss to sign
others, certainly he could afford to forego a mere vengeance. He
proceeded to act at once on his impulse; he went to the Viscount who had
the papers, and demanded them.

His father looked up and laughed.

"You want to destroy them," he said dryly. "I have been expecting
it--why were you keeping them so long? You are not as adamant as you
suppose, John--some one has moved you."

"Give me the papers, my lord," answered Sir John sullenly.

The Viscount shrugged his shoulders. "It is impossible."

"Why, my lord?"

His father twisted his wry neck and gave a little smile. "I sent them to
His Majesty this morning."



CHAPTER XX - ON THE VERGE OF MADNESS


"You have sent it to the King--the packet?" ejaculated the Master
of Stair.

"I have. It was time," answered the Viscount.

"My lord--why was I not consulted?" flashed his son. Viscount Stair
looked up sideways with a sudden complete drop of his indifferent
manner.

"You fool," he said, "you are not in a position you can play with--you
have three countries full of enemies and not one friend that I know
of--except the King, and what could he do for you if all Scotland
started to pull you down? Ye have discovered this plot (more by good
fortune than by your own wits), and you would fling away the credit of
it for--what? Some rag of sentiment."

"I have not said so," retorted Sir John sullenly.

"Bah!" The Viscount made a grimace. "Why did you delay so long in
sending them to Kensington? Believe me, you cannot afford to lose these
chances of serving the country: if your enemies find one handle against
you--you fall far more quickly than you climbed, my dear son."

"My lord, my lord!" cried the Master of Stair, "the tenure of my office
is not so slight."

"You think not?" smiled his father. "I do not now know you could have
justified yourself if you had kept those papers back and it had been
discovered. It would have looked like complicity with the Jacobites."

Sir John lifted his head impatiently.

"Am I not the only man about the Court whose hands are clean from that
charge?" he cried. "Complicity with the Jacobites! I know no man could
dare accuse me."

"And I know a hundred," returned his father. "Arrogance is strangely
blind--it stands on a hill and heeds not how the foundations are being
sapped till it falls on its face in the mire. And nothing is more
pitiable than fallen arrogance."

"Sir--you speak as if I was a boy to be taught by your parables," cried
Sir John wrathfully. "I say that by this act of yours you have made me
dishonor my word--" Then his angry thoughts flashed to what Delia knew
and he turned to his father. "It may ruin my plans with the Macdonalds."

"Better lose the Macdonalds than the Jacobites," answered the Viscount
calmly. "And who knows of your Highland schemes?"

Maddened and fuming, Sir John's fury fixed itself on the unknown person
who had betrayed him; had Delia known nothing of his scheme he would not
have had to degrade himself by a bargain he was powerless to carry out.

"Yea, who knows?" he demanded. "I only knew myself this morning that the
Macdonalds had taken the oath, and already I am betrayed--now, in the
name of God, who is it?"

The Viscount was cool and sneering again.

"You are absolutely incoherent," he remarked. "But if any one has
betrayed your schemes it is, of course, your dutiful wife."

The Master looked round sharply.

"I do not think," he said bitterly, "that she has either the wit or the
spirit; and she does not know."

"It is you who do not know," smiled the Viscount. "She spies on you,
listens at doors."

Sir John flared into violence.

"She would not dare--I cannot believe, and if I did--"

"Ask her," interrupted his father. "She has a silly habit of speaking
the truth--the result I believe of her bad education. She is a
marvelously ignorant woman."

"I can note her ill qualities plainly enough, my lord," cried Sir John,
goaded now into open fury. "Where is she?"

The Viscount picked up a pen and began cutting it; he eyed the inflamed
countenance of his son with a cold amusement.

"I observed her in here a little while ago," he answered quietly. "She
was engaged in sealing a letter--to Mr. Wharton."

"Tom Wharton!" cried Sir John.

"Maybe she did not mention to you she had received a message from
him--why should she? She knows you have not the friendship for Tom
Wharton that she has--"

"My lord," said the Master of Stair, "forebear." He was trembling in an
agony of rage. He turned away.

"Where are you going?" inquired his father.

"To find her," said Sir John.

"You will, I think--in the drawing-room," remarked the Viscount smiling.

Without another word Sir John left the room. It was almost dark and the
house held the dreariness of winter twilight; as the Master of Stair
entered the drawing-room he was greeted with the faint soft light of
candles, burning high up in their silver sconces against the white walls.

It was a vast room furnished in pale tints, cold, with a look of
desertion, opal-colored curtains shut out the evening, and the slender
furniture cast faint reflections on the polished floor.

On a little gold and cream-tinted couch by the fire sat Lady Dalrymple;
in the dim light, with her delicate hued dress and her pale coloring,
she looked like some dainty figure of wax, some doll set there to
complete the picture, so quiet she was in her desolate splendor.

On a small table beside her stood a bird-cage; she was bending toward it
and in the hollow of her hand lay a little bullfinch; her full blue eyes
gazed at it anxiously; it was sick and lay quite passively in her hand,
its feathers forlornly rough.

"Ah, don't you die, too," she whispered in a kind of horror. "Don't you
die, too."

Then she heard the door close and looking round across the pale room,
saw her husband.

Instantly she put the bird back in its cage, shut the door on it, and
rose.

"Ulrica," said the Master of Stair, "I have something to ask of you."

He came across the room, and at sight of his face the color left her
own; she slipped back onto the gold sofa and clasped her hands tightly.

"What do you know of my affairs?" demanded Sir John. "I tell you
nothing, but do you spy on me?"

He clenched his hand over the gilding behind her, and she shrank
together.

"What do you mean?" she asked. "Why do you speak so to me?"

"Because I desire an answer," he said breathing hard.

"I will give you none," she replied in a trembling indignation.
"This is my lord's work--he has set you on me."

"You had better tell me before I discover for myself," said her husband,
his voice unsteady with suppressed passion.

"Did you see that girl who came asking for me this afternoon?"

She looked away, turning white, but there was that in her could disdain
the lie fear prompted.

"Yes," she answered.

"By Heaven!" cried Sir John softly; he came a little nearer. "Did you
inform her of anything?"

Her eyes met his with a full look of aversion.

"What is the object of this?" she asked. "Why do you take this manner to
me?"

His eye caught a letter lying by the bird-cage, and the sight of it
reminded him of the Viscount's second accusation. "To whom do you
write?" he demanded.

She caught the letter up and rose.

"To Mr. Wharton," she answered.

"Give it to me," flashed Sir John with a step forward. Lady Dalrymple
drew back, the letter held to her bosom. "I give up my friends at your
desire," she said. "This is an insult."

Their eyes exchanged hatred, furious on his side, fear mingled with
hers.

"Give it to me," he repeated hoarsely.

"No," she answered, "you have no right."

"No right!" He half-laughed. "Do you defy me?"

Her spirit rose at his tone.

"You go too far, Sir John," she shuddered. "Stand further away from me,"
and at the same instant she flung the letter into the fire, her eyes
flashing with anger.

"You may think what you will of the contents," she said. "And I did--"

"You did what, madam?"

Her glance winced under his, but she answered disdainfully:

"I told the girl that these people--whoever they are--these
Macdonalds--had taken the oath."

The Master of Stair's face was distorted with a savagery unpleasant to
look upon; he stood motionless with his hand on his hip, gazing at her.

"I would do it again," she said. "Why should I be loyal to your
blood-stained schemes?"

Her husband threw up his hand as if to shut out the sight of her.

"Keep away from me," he cried. "For I know not what I may do."

"Ah, you can do no more to me than you have done," she answered. "You
have--"

He suddenly caught her by the arm, checking what she would have said.

"If you spy on me," he said breathing fast, "if you blow my affairs
abroad--oh, by God, madam, you will try me beyond endurance."

She went white and shivered, straining away.

"Let go of me," she whispered in a terrified voice.

But his grip tightened, and as she looked up into his mad eyes, a horror
seized her.

"You want another murder on your name!" she cried.

He loosened his hold and staggered back against the wall.

"Oh, dear Heaven!" he said under his breath. "Dear Heaven--"

He put his hand to his forehead, staring at her in a wild manner.

"Ye are mad!" whispered Lady Dalrymple in awestruck tones.

"Maybe," he answered hoarsely. "Maybe--keep away from me--take care."

He strode away across the room and she heard the door bang heavily
behind him. She stood still a moment, then, trembling, crossed to the
desk. She thought of the contents of Tom Wharton's letter, and smiled in
mockery at herself. There was one could do what she could not for
herself; she would write another letter in another spirit.

Scandal! What did she care for scandal now!

In a rare mood of recklessness she seated herself at the white and
silver bureau and drew out a sheet of paper. But ere her hand could
trace any of her confused thoughts the sound of the opening door alarmed
her.

In the doorway stood the Countess Peggy, surveying her with sharp green
eyes under the shade of her feathered hat.

"Weel," she said with her usual self-possession, "I will have been saying
for some time now that I would come and see ye, and to-day I came. But
your servant will not be knowing where ye are, and they put me in a
vast room ower dark and I grew weary of waiting, so started to find ye."

Lady Dalrymple could do nothing but look at her in a dazed manner and
falter something below her breath. The Countess crossed over to her,
looking vivid, brilliant and splendid in the pale room; the winter air
had touched her cheeks with an apple-blossom red; her lithe figure carried
regally her green velvet gown and her trailing furs.

She sank onto the little settee and looked across at the white silent
woman at the bureau.

"Why, ye are ill!" she exclaimed.

"Oh, no!" said Lady Dalrymple faintly. "You must, madam, excuse me--you
startled me."

But the sharp eyes of the Countess Peggy were not to be deceived. "What
has happened?" she demanded.

Lady Dalrymple writhed under this intrusion. She fixed her eyes on the
blank sheet of paper as if to encourage herself in an ebbing resolution.

"Madam--I assure you," she began.

Lady Breadalbane rose and came up behind her.

"Ulrica Dalrymple, ye no' tell the truth when ye say ye ar'na' ill--"

The other rose desperately.

"It is naught," she said, and drew her fichu closer round her shoulders.
"I--I--"

"I will be calling your woman or Sir John."

"Oh, no," was the vehement answer, "I beseech you, madam, that you will
not."

So wild and white she looked, so desperately she trembled and clasped
her shaking hands on her bosom, that the other woman stood arrested,
staring at her. The Countess shared the common knowledge of Sir John's
domestic affairs, and as she looked at his wife her thoughts leaped to a
swift conclusion.

"Ulrica--has he been laying hands on ye?" she asked. "Sir John, I mean."

"No, no," answered Lady Dalrymple desperately. "My God, no, how dare you
ask me?"

Lady Breadalbane looked at her unmoved.

"Finish your letter," she said calmly. "I would no' be disturbing ye."

But the-anger of Sir John's wife had flamed up only to die out and leave
the ashes of utter misery behind.

"I will not write it," she replied. "God forgive that I ever thought I
would."

She sank down on the other end of the settee, too overwrought to conceal
her distress, and Lady Breadalbane's clear eyes measured her curiously.

There was a silence of seconds, then the Countess spoke. "Ye are very
unhappy, Ulrica Dalrymple--ye seem to have made a fine confusion of your
life--and I would tell ye that ye will no' be bettering it by puling and
whimpering." Lady Dalrymple turned wild eyes to her.

"What do you know of any of it?" she asked.

"Weel, I ken somewhat," was the composed answer. "And I'm sorry for
ye--but I dinna think that ye will improve your lord's temper with a
gloomy face and a moping manner"

"What do you mean?" asked Lady Dalrymple faintly. The Countess turned to
her sharply.

"Woman, woman," she cried. "Dinna ye ken that a man likes a cheerfu'
face aboot him, and a house that is warm and well-lighted, not a great
auld barn like this, which would disconcert ony but ghosts?"

A faint flush crept into Lady Dalrymple's face.

"And am I to give all the service? I am to supply all the gaiety, the
life, the care against his mere tolerance?"

"Yes," was the calm answer. "It comes to about that if ye want a life
that is worth living--ye must give somewhat your side; remember he has
more on his mind than ye will ever ken."

As she spoke the Countess lifted her eyes to a portrait over the bureau,
it was of Sir John and taken in his May of life; he wore a cuirass and
plumed hat and smiled out of the canvas, as handsome a face as a man may
have.

His wife followed the Countess's glance.

"He is not like that now," she said bitterly. She rose. "Did you ever
hate any one, madam?" she asked. Then, without waiting, she answered
herself. "It is terrible to hate," she said hoarsely. "And terrible to
be hated."

She turned wildly about and caught up the cage of bullfinches. She held
them close to her bosom.

"They eat from my hand," she said wistfully. "I think they like me."

Then she burst into hysterical laughter and hurried from the room,
swiftly, through the folding-doors.

The Countess Peggy looked again at the portrait over the bureau, and
slowly rose and crossed over to it. She studied it for some time in
silence, holding the candle that stood underneath up above her head that
she might see the better. She heard the door open and turned to see the
original of the portrait within a few feet of her.

He paused, arrested by seeing her.

"I did not know that you were here," he said quickly. The Countess Peggy
set the candle down, a little discomposed by his sudden appearance.

"I came to see your lady, Sir John."

It seemed that his pallor deepened.

"She was here--you saw her?"

"Yes, Sir John."

His blue eyes swept over her; she winced under it, a rare thing for her;
she could not look at his proud, gloomy face; her own flushed a little;
she shifted onto common ground.

"Ye hae heard, Sir John, that the Jacobite, Jerome Caryl, is to be examined
privately at Kensington to-morrow?"

He put his hand to his black velvet cravat as if to loosen it. "Yes, I
have heard."

She rose, still not looking at him, and crossed to the door. "Good-even,
Sir John."

Under the influence of his splendid presence her voice was almost timid.

"Good-even, madam."

He opened the door for her in an indifferent manner, and when she had
gone he crossed to the bureau and snatched up the candle she had held,
and gazed at his portrait as she had gazed, with a strange curiosity.



CHAPTER XXI - WILLIAM OF ORANGE


Jerome Caryl was informed that he was to be examined. It was the day after
his arrest, he had been followed to his lodging, taken quietly and
conveyed to the guard-house at Kensington. No chance was his to pass on
warning to any save Berwick, and it was doubtful whether he now would be
able to leave the country. The government was on the alert.

Jerome Caryl had no thought for company save of failure; he had played
for a high stake and the price for losing it was heavy. Personally he
looked ahead with calm eyes; the prospect for him was utterly hopeless:
Tyburn as soon as they could hurry his trial through; his guilt was
obvious, beyond dispute. And when those papers were opened at Kensington
the thousands who had been prompted by his persuasions and their own
rashness to sign them would be sent in his footsteps to glut the
government revenge.

At this reflection Jerome Caryl did flinch, at the bloodshed there would
be; the sneer of the French at his clumsiness, and King James's bewail
that he was so badly served. He knew that his wholesale failure could
not be judged lightly at St. Germains, even though he hanged for it.

He had been fooled; that unforgivable thing that carried the scorn of
his enemies and the curses of his friends: he had fallen headlong to his
own destruction and dragged after him those who had trusted him; a bitter
reflection for his solitude.

Of his dead friend's sister, Caryl could not trust himself to think. He
could not know if she had heard of his arrest, but he did know that
whether warned in time or not, she would stay and share the common fate.

Some might try and fly to France, but not Delia Featherstonehaugh.

But these thoughts he thrust from him as he was conducted from his
solitude along the quiet rooms of the palace. His face grew disdainful
as he reflected the examination he must be put to was a mere flourish.
They knew everything. Did they want him to betray secrets in their
possession already? The government held in its hand the plot and all
concerned in it. Jerome Caryl felt contemptuous of this slow dealing.
Why did they not strike and have done? The power was theirs.

Added to this, the soldier conducting him, a Dutchman, who seemed to
have no English, roused Jerome's ire curiously; the prisoner noticed how
the fellow's uniform sat in creases on his fat figure, how he wheezed
and moaned to himself as he mounted the stairs, and how he eyed his
charge from time to time with a glance of heavy aversion. At every
doorway a sentinel was posted, and with him the fat Dutchman exchanged
slow speech in his own language, while Jerome waited his pleasure,
swordless, helpless, in a cold wrath at these lumpish foreign intruders.

"Have you, sir, no English here?" he demanded at last. "Or is Kensington
entirely filled with your countrymen?"

The Dutchman looked at him insolently and made no answer; it was
doubtful if he understood.

They had reached now a small ante-chamber at the end of a long gallery;
it was very ill-lit; the, soldier's blue uniform showed dimly through
the gloom; a high-nosed, pale-faced young man was engaged in
tying up papers at a side table. He came forward and spoke in
a suppressed manner to the soldier, who, Jerome gathered from the
address, was Count Solmes of the famous "Blues."

The Englishman looked on in disinterested curiosity; the whole
surroundings were as unpretentious as might be the back parlor of a
small merchant's shop: the officials all seemed affected with the same
taciturn manner and somber clothing. Dutch appeared the only language
spoken.

His gossip over, Count Solmes disappeared through an inner door, and the
pale usher turned gloomy eyes on Jerome, who, thinking of the court of
the Second Charles, inwardly smiled and sighed alike.

The Count, returning, was accompanied by another Dutch gentleman who,
remaining on the threshold, beckoned Jerome into the inner room.

This was more cheerful of aspect, being lit by two long windows that
looked on the garden, and so small that the firelight filled it from end
to end.

The two Dutchmen talked together with no heed of the fourth occupant of
the room, a lean man in the prim gown and wig of a Scottish clergyman,
who sat by the window, evidently waiting.

Jerome Caryl knew him at once for Carstairs, chaplain to their Majesties
for Scotland, and confidential adviser to the King. "A drab-hued court,"
he smiled to himself, and while Count Solmes talked to his friend and
the Rev. William Carstairs gazed out of the window at the bare trees,
the Jacobite prisoner idly noted what manner of room he was in.

Floor, walls and ceiling were paneled in highly polished wood; a bureau
stood between the two windows, and before it a chair; a second chair and
a stool similar to that on which Carstairs sat, completed the furniture,
all of the same stiff pattern and absolutely plain.

On the wooden chimneypiece stood two heavy brass candlesticks, polished
till they shone like gold; above hung a dark portrait in a gilt frame of
a fashionably dressed lady, who smiled aimlessly; she was flanked by two
smaller pictures of vases of fruit, stiff but rich in coloring.

Close behind Jerome, on a shelf that appeared to have been affixed on
purpose, stood a curious tall vase of blue and white Delft; from each of
the ten spouts breaking the side, showed the tips of a tulip bulb with
the first points of green; in the opening of the vase itself lay another
larger and ready to burst into flower.

The Dutchmen broke off their converse at last and left the room. Jerome
turned to the silent figure by the window.

"Sir," he said evenly, "can you tell me what is intended toward me: on
what I wait?"

Carstairs showed a solemn face.

"Young man," he replied, "albeit I am not here to answer thy
questioning, yet out of charity will I inform thee, that thou art
shortly to be examined for thy manifold offenses."

Jerome smiled. It was familiar phraseology.

"By whom, sir?"

"By those whom thou hast offended," was the answer. As he spoke
Carstairs rose and his spare figure looked unnaturally tall.

"God turn thee, young man, from the heathenish worship of idols that has
led thee into these errors," he said gravely.

"Thou art one of the Magliants who distract this land yet, although the
Lord has seen fit to remove them from their high places and set up his
lowly servants."

He put out his hand in a gesture of proud humility, and Jerome saw that
his thumb was a mere shriveled stump of bone.

"Maybe there is but a little time left to thee, therefore repent swiftly
lest thou lose the world everlasting as thou hast the world of the
flesh."

With this he turned slowly and left the room.

Jerome leaned against the wall and waited, his feeling a curious one of
disinterest and indifference; a man hopelessly in the hands of his
enemies, a man who has failed and is at the mercy of those whom he hates
and has striven to overthrow, has no chance save to stand silent,
contemptuous of himself.

After a few moments a gentleman entered, and Jerome looked up.

The new-comer wore his hat and passed at once to the chair by the
bureau, where he sat down, and with no heed of Jerome began opening some
letters that lay there.

He wore a black velvet riding-suit, heavily gallooned with gold; a
diamond fastened the long feather in his gray beaver. There was a
quantity of fine lace on his cravat and at his wrists, the gold handle
of his sword was of most beautiful workmanship. He glanced over the
letters, then pulling off his gloves looked up at Jerome. His eyes, of
that hazel that is almost green, were large and very brilliant, his
features aristocratic, clear-cut, composed, and shaded by heavy auburn
curls.

Jerome Caryl knew him at once, and flushed deeply in the suddenness and
unexpectedness of the encounter.

"Good-afternoon, Mr. Caryl," said William of Orange with a little nod.
"Will you sit down? The stool is 'ard, but you save there a chair more
comfortable."

Jerome Caryl bowed.

"I do not look for ease in Kensington, your Highness," he answered, and
remained standing.

The King took a packet from the bureau drawer, and placed it beside his
hand. At sight of it the color came anew into Jerome Caryl's face. He
recognized the familiar leathern case.

"Milor' Stair," said William, "send this me--it is yours--you know
it--_n'est pas_?"

"It is mine," replied Jerome coldly. "It was stolen from me by one of
your Highness' ministers."

The King looked at him steadily.

"Yes, it is so," he said. "You 'ave been outwit'. Mon Dieu! sometime it
is to be expect'! Sir John 'ave not a'ead for plot--but you--you 'ave
behave'--like the fools."

With the same perfect composure and unmoved face, he opened the case and
took out the papers. Jerome noticed that the seals were not yet broken.

"We are prepared to pay for being fools, your Highness," he said coldly.

"It is to be hope'," remarked William dryly. "You can all do that--you
foreigners--when you 'ave play' the fool you can pay for it."

His eyes flashed for a moment to Jerome Caryl's steady presence, then
fell to the letter he held.

"This," he said, "is a letter for my uncle at St. Germains. I believe 'e
get many such--_pourquoi non_?"

He took up the next paper, then put it down and laid his small, high-bred
hand over it; the upper part of his face was hidden in the shadow of
his hat, but Jerome fancied he detected a faint smile on the thin lips,
and it fired his blood.

"Sir," he demanded, "may I ask what you want of me? Where this leads? I
deny nothing."

"It would be mos' foolish," interrupted William. "It is prove'."

"Will your Highness then make an end?"

"That is not the way in this mos' advance' country," answered William,
and now there was no mistaking the smile. "My cousin in France 'as the
_lettres de cachet_--but 'ere we 'ave the trial, the witness, the
lawyer--all mos' fair."

He leaned back on his chair and his smile deepened.

"It is amusin' 'ow you plot for the King you yoursel' throw out. This is
a list for my cousin (or Monsieur de Louvois) signe' by all you could
persuade--n'est pas r"

He sat up with a rattle of his sword-hilt against the chair.

"Who of my courtiers 'ave their names there?" he said, tapping the
sealed paper. "It is mos' amusin', but, monsieur, it is not new to me.
Per'aps you think I am thick head, and do not know who betray me--Mon
Dieu! I think I tell you almos' all the names there."

"Your Highness employs many of the men whose names you will find there,"
said Jerome, "and there are many more whom your Highness has never heard
of, country gentlemen, honest small folk all over England whom you can
ruin at once--you can be revenged on your servants and these others,
your Highness, by merely opening that paper."

"You, monsieur, speak like a enemy of me," said William calmly. "You
think it is my pleasure to shed blood--you are of those who write that
when I was outside Bruxelles I burn, alive my wounded soldiers, and that
I poisone' my Uncle Charles--I 'ave read these things in your leaflets."

Jerome flushed.

"I have had no hand in those," he answered. "I find my cause too good an
one to need lies to support it. I deny that you are King of England,
your Highness,--I am not blind to your qualities."

"Yet, Mr. Caryl, you speak to me of being revenge'--which is a thing for
men like Milor' Mordaunt. This is not, Mon Dieu, the firs' plot I 'ave
discover' since I was child. I 'ave learn' to take insult and betrayal."

He rose and came into the room, the paper in his hand.

"The nobles, I know," he said. "An' they serve me so they stay--if I
send to the Tower all who write to St. Germains--who 'ave I left? And I
will spare them my forgiveness."

"And we pay for your clemency, sir," replied Jerome Caryl bitterly. "We
humbler plotters."

William turned and looked at him. They were standing very near each
other. The King took his hat off and flung it down on the chair beside
him.

"Mr. Caryl," he said, "you are _gentilhomme_--cannot you see that I will
not do something? I will not 'unt down these bourgeois--what are they? I
will not know their name'."

He held the papers out to the Jacobite.

"I am tire' of your plot," he finished. "Put that in the fire and let me
'ear no more of it."

Jerome Caryl stared at him, utterly bewildered and confused; the sense
of what this meant rushed over him, making him giddy.

"Put these in the fire," repeated the King. "I 'ave no more time."

The Jacobite took the papers; with a great rush of crimson to his face,
he thought of Delia and the hundreds to whom this would mean salvation.

"Your Highness is magnanimous," he said unsteadily. "Your generosity
disarms me."

"You 'ave mistake' me," answered William coldly. "Wherefore did you
think I would wish to be revenge'? Sir John think to serve me with this
an' I am indebt' to 'im that he preserve peace, but I do not stoop, Mr.
Caryl, to revenge."

He went back to his seat at the bureau; there was a pause, a silence,
then Jerome Caryl put the papers into the fire; the great flare they
made lit up the pale face of William of Orange and the beautiful flushed
countenance of the Jacobite.

Across the narrow bright room the eyes of the two men met, as if they
measured each other; then the King dropped his glance to the letters
before him.

"You 'ave nothing more to say?" he asked coldly. "Then you may depar'."

"I shall not soon forget your Highness' generosity," said Jerome Caryl
unsteadily, and the sincerity of his voice made amends for the
conventional wording.

"Call it my policy," answered 'William with a slight lift of his green
eyes. "And so, Mr. Caryl, you will be spare' an obligation."

Jerome Caryl waited for him to demand some oath or promise, to attach
some condition to this cold magnanimity; he felt more utterly at this
man's mercy than when those papers lay under his hand.

Suddenly the King looked up.

"For what do you wait?" he demanded. "You are free--go back--to your
plot if you will, only I give you this advice--take care 'ow you sign
paper'--it is dangerous--_n'est pas_?"

Jerome colored painfully.

"My duty to my King," he said, "must make me appear ungrateful, but
without disloyalty to my cause I can assure your Highness that I will
follow no unworthy means of serving your enemies."

"Such as Monsieur Grandval use'?" answered William, with a half-smile.

"By Heaven, no," cried Jerome vehemently, "I have never been of that
kind."

William slightly shrugged his shoulders.

"My cousin of France is _gentilhomme_," he said, "but 'e and my uncle send
Monsieur Grandval to--what would you say?--murder me--_voila tout_."

Jerome Caryl stood silent; mention of the Grandval affair was painful to
any follower of the Stuart cause; the King touched the bell on his desk,
and the high-nosed young man entered. William addressed him in his
fluent French.

"Show out this gentleman," he said, "and if Sir John be here send him
in."

He inclined his head gravely toward Caryl, who bowed slightly, not
knowing what to do, for a strange bewilderment that possessed him, and
without another word on either side they parted.

The King looked after him with a contained face, then gave a glance of
distaste at his pile of unopened letters and pushed his chair back so
that his head rested against the wall; the room was full of pleasant
warm shadows that flickered up and down the shining polished walls; the
candlesticks and the fireirons winked and glittered and the views from
the two windows showed like two pictures in cold grays and blues in great
contrast to the warm light within.

The palace clock struck half past-five. William drew out his watch, a
sapphire in the back glittered as he moved it; it was correct; he put it
back in his pocket.

The door was opened noiselessly by the usher and Sir John Dalrymple
entered with the ease of a man familiar and welcomed. William, still
with his fingers in his watch chain, spoke without moving.

"I 'ave seen your Jacobite, Sir John."

"I was surprised, sir, to meet him leaving Kensington a free man."

The Master of Stair crossed to the hearth and stood there; his face was
set and his manner troubled.

"Your Majesty has received the evidence of this plot from my father?" he
said.

"And I 'ave destroye' it, Sir John," answered William. "This man jus'
now, 'e burnt it."

"Burnt it!" echoed the Master. "Did your Majesty read it?"

"No," said the King. "For what use? For what end should I wish to know
these people? I am tire' of your plot; but they are mos' 'armless--let
them go."

Sir John stood silent. So the King had done what Delia Featherstonehaugh
had asked him to do; the mercy he had refused had been granted by
another; the Jacobites would go unscathed and yet he must bear the odium
of having broken his word; in the mind of that girl he would get no
credit for this; she would know from Jerome Caryl that he was not to be
thanked, yet he would have gained nothing by his seeming perjury; the
lords whose names were on that list would continue to flaunt with their
heads high; his labor had gone for nothing.

These thoughts rushed upon him and his blue eyes lit dangerously.

"Sir, your Majesty is too careless," he said. "This was a far-reaching
conspiracy that with infinite trouble I fathomed--plot within
plot--circle within circle."

"They can do nothing, Sir John, now they are discover'," answered the
King calmly. "They will take warning--if not, Mon Dieu! What good are
they without France? And France--will she move till she get those papers
I burn jus' now?"

"Berwick is in London," cried Sir John.

"I am not afraid of 'im," replied William.

As he thought of the vast shoal escaping the net he had been at such
pains to lay for them, Sir John's rage rose higher.

"There are more in this than you imagine, sir," he said hotly.

"I know mos' of them," answered William with the same unmoved demeanor.
"Every one about the Court I think excep' Milor' Somers, and Milor'
Nottingham--and per'aps pretty little Shrewsbury or Devonshire--but I
say that I am tire' sir, of this subject."

"They plot still," persisted the Master of Stair, "and they plot
assassination."

"Is it not al-way' so?"

"Your Majesty," cried Sir John, "I say again you are too careless; for a
certainty my Lord Marlborough is in this, and Marlborough is the army;
Russell is in it, and Russell is the navy. I think Breadalbane has
meddled, though darkly."

"All this is mos' true, Sir John," returned the King, "but it is al-so
true that while I am at St. Jame' and my uncle at St. Germains they will
do nothing."

"I have said that they plot assassination, and now that you have
destroyed all proof, all evidence, your Majesty's life is not safe. How
can you tell who is in this conspiracy; how judge of the loyalty of the
men about you? Any one of them may be in Berwick's pay to murder your
Majesty!"

William sat up and leaned across the table.

"Sir John," he said, "I am surprise' that a man of your--_esprit_ bring me
these child tale'--I do not think I shall be murder', but I will take
the risk of it--and now we will speak of Scotlan'."

His cold voice was a dismissal of the subject.

The Master of Stair caught his breath in an effort at self-control; he
had served the King at infinite labor and some risk; he had gathered all
the threads of this conspiracy into his hands at the price of two men's
lives, and it had been for nothing. If he could not crush the Jacobites
he wanted at least the glory of sparing them; and he had neither the
satisfaction of one nor the other; his wrath rose against the King, he
did not comprehend his motives. His own impulse was to sweep the country
clear of Jacobites by fire and sword or, if it must be mercy, to
confront them with proofs of their guilt and then forgive them grandly
before all the world.

His passion at this dismal end to his intrigues grew beyond bearing; he
looked up with lowering brows.

"I say it to your face, sir," he said thickly, "that you play a
foolish--and a dangerous game."

William of Orange rose and came round to the other side of the bureau,
where he leaned and looked at the Master of Stair.

"Whatever game I play," he said, "it is not that of being your puppet,
Sir John. I 'ave my own motive'--if you cannot understan' them--very
will--it make' no difference."

His green eyes narrowed a little as he watched the furious face
opposite; he picked up the riding-whip from the table and flicked it
gently to and fro across his high boots.

"I think I am the master," he said, and his tone brought the hot blood
into Sir John's face.

"You are the King," he answered in a constrained voice. "But I am not
one of those who believe, sir, that the King can do no wrong."

"No," said William quietly, "you think the King can be pull' by
strings--per'aps if you 'ave a Stuart or a Bourbon--but I--I 'ave rule'
before I am King--I do not need your title. I am Nassau. I will not be
question'--you understan'?"

Sir John put his hand to his cravat and dragged at it; he was face to
face with a character that he could not understand, and a spirit every
whit as masterful as his own. Rage at his own inferior position, the
fret of the lost chance of glorification, the bitterness of being
overruled, put him into a passion that flushed his face and made his
voice shake.

"Sir--if your generosity to your friends equalled the generosity you show
your enemies, I should have had at least some thanks for my service--you
are as ungrateful, sire, as you--"

Abruptly the King interrupted:

"I'll take no more, Sir John," he cried; he eyes half-shut in a sinister
manner and the whip tapped faster on his boot. "You 'ave forgotten you
are not in your Parliament 'ouse."

The Master of Stair felt he had gone far enough; he acknowledged himself
over-matched, though with no good grace; he turned under the hard gaze
of the King and muttered some words of apology, but only as if William's
cold glance forced him to them against his will; in his heart he hated
the man who overbore him.

Suddenly the King laughed.

"You 'ave not a courteous temperament," he said. "You are too stiff, Sir
John, and too fiery."

The Master of Stair bowed and bit his lip.

The King crossed to the chair by the fire and sank into it with an air
of weariness.

"About Scotlan'," he said disinterestedly. "These 'ighlander' 'ave all
come in?"

He was not looking at the Master, and did not see the glance Sir John
gave him. He answered in a voice unnaturally controlled:

"All save the Macdonalds of Glencoe, your Majesty."

"Ah?" said the King indifferently. "Will you, sir, ring the bell for
the candle?"

Sir John obeyed. His face was hard, his lips set into a curious smile.
He glanced again at the man by the fire and his eyes wore an unpleasant
expression.

There was silence till the entry of the usher, then William turned in
his chair.

"You will find there," he said to him, in French, "letters to Heinsius
and Waldeck--see that they are sent to-night."

Again a pause. A somber servant entered and lit the candles, drew the
curtains; the little room grew golden from end to end. By the table
stood the Master of Stair, motionless; he had drawn a paper from his
pocket and held it down by his side, his handsome face now its usual
pallor and the strange drag about the mouth, a distortion that gave a
certain terror to his expression.

William leaned back in his chair, his profile, with the high nose,
arched brows and sunken cheek, was clearly revealed in the candle-light;
his hands showed startlingly white against his black dress, and a
diamond on his first finger glittered with many colors.

The usher took up the papers and left, the door closed softly behind
him.

Sir John Dalrymple turned slowly to the King.

"I have a paper here for your Majesty's signature," he said quietly. "Of
no importance--merely a letter to the Commander of the Forces in
Scotland, relative to the preserving of the peace."

"And is that all the business you 'ave for me?"

"It is, your Majesty," Sir John spoke with lowered lids.

William sat up in his chair

"Well, 'and it me," he said. "Bring the pen."

Sir John brought a pen and the paper.

"It is nothing of importance?" asked William, looking at the folded
sheet.

"Of none whatever, sir."

The King affixed his great scrawling signature.

"Take it to Milor' Nottingham for the countersign, Sir John."

"Sir, Lord Nottingham is not at the palace to-night, and it is desirable
that this go immediately."

William took the letter, opened it, laid it on his knee, signed it again
at the top, and handed it back to Sir John.

"I thank your Majesty" said the Master of Stair with a little smile.

The King lay back in his chair.

"There is nothing more to-night, I think, Sir John."

"Sire, I take my leave."

"You will come with me to the continent in a few days, _n'est pas_?
Good-evenin', Sir John."

The Master of Stair bowed.

"Take care of the tulip, Sir John--the other day Milor' Devonshire 'e
knock the tips off."

William looked toward the bulbs with the interest of the born gardener;
in the warmth they gave out a faint sickly fragrance, a sense of young
green. "They are very well," remarked the King with satisfaction. "If I
'ad keep them in water they would not smell so--is it not charming? Like
it come through the window at Saint Loo."

He smiled on Sir John, who bowed without a word and left the room.

As he passed down the long gallery, he met Argyll.

"Ye look miserable, my lord," he cried with a hard laugh. "Read this."

He held out the letter the King had just signed.

"Weel," said the Earl peevishly. "What may this be?" Sir John lowered his
voice.

"The authority--the warrant you asked for, my lord. The King saith he is
no man's puppet--but he has served my turn now--he signed and did not
read this--look here--my lord Argyll." He pointed out a clause in the
letter; it ran:

"As for Makian of Glencoe and that tribe, if they can well be distinguished
from the other Highlanders, it will be proper for the vindication of public
justice to extirpate that set of thieves."



CHAPTER XXII - THE RESOLUTION OF DESPAIR


Delia Featherstonehaugh sat in her miserable little lodgings in
Southwark and looked across the gaunt room at Jerome Caryl. He had told
her how the cold clemency of the King had thwarted all the schemes of the
Master of Stair, how all evidence against them was destroyed.

Delia listened with no look of joy or relief; she gave a bitter laugh.

"So it has all been for nothing--nothing," she said. "Why could not he
have been merciful rather than the Prince--why could not he have done
the fine things?"

"It is not in his nature," answered Jerome Caryl.

"No," shuddered Delia; the thought of how he must have gone straight
from the shameful bargain he had made with her to break it, of how he
must have laughed at her simplicity; had he had his way he would have
had her and all of them at Tyburn; the thought was as blasphemy, but it
was true.

"What will you do?" she asked with the listlessness of misery.

Jerome Caryl smiled faintly; he was as a man whose heart has left his
work, there seemed no longer any zest for him in what till now had been
his life-work.

"I must go and put Berwick's mind at rest," he said, "and the others--they
will be with him, I suppose. As for the plot--"

Delia interrupted him "For me the plot is dead--I care nothing what man
reigns. What are Kings and countries when your own heart is touched? Has
not all we have done turned to nothing! Did not Perseus die for nothing?
My God, I have done with plots."

Jerome Caryl made no answer; he thought of his own tangled cause, of the
King he fought for, of the shouting, lying, pushing, intriguing mob that
followed him, of the weapons they stooped to, and he thought of William
of Orange in his little room at Kensington, ruling half Europe and
disdaining even to notice their designs against him and it seemed to him
he had been striving to oppose a rock with a straw.

Delia came suddenly across to him.

"I cannot talk to-night," she said hoarsely, "will you come again
to-morrow, Jerome?"

He looked at her in a pitying, troubled manner.

"You are wondering what is to become of me?" she asked, meeting his
glance. "Well, to-morrow will be soon enough; come again to-morrow."

She sat down and turned her face away as if she dismissed him; Jerome
Caryl rose heavily.

"Do you want money?" asked Delia in a weary voice. "There is plenty--you
know Perseus had the last sent over by the King. I have it here."

"It is all too little for your own needs," he answered. "Keep it,
Delia."

Her head had sunk back against the plaster wall. "To-morrow, then," she
said, and seemed as if she wished to say no more; but when he had his hand
on the latch he was startled by her: she rose, her apathy changed into
sudden passion.

"Oh, Jerome! Jerome!" she cried, hurrying to him. "Thank God for such as
you. Thank God for truth and honor and faithfulness. Give me your hand
and look at me and say--God bless you, Delia!" She swayed toward him
with a little sob and caught his arm; he was greatly moved.

"While I live, sweet soul,". he answered, "I would not have you fear
anything. God bless you truly, dear, God bless you, Delia--"

She bent her head and kissed his hand, then lifted her eyes to his with
a strange took. "Farewell, Jerome," she said in a broken voice, and fell
back against the wall; the contrast of tier pitiful pale youth and the
sordid surroundings touched Jerome Caryl deeply.

"You must leave this place," he said.

She stopped him with that word again. "To-morrow." And so, leaning
against the wall, she stood till he had gone, then turned about,
murmuring to herself.

"An honorable gentleman--why could not I have loved an honorable
gentleman?"

She paced to and fro with unheeding steps.

"False and false--liar and dishonored--yet--" Her tears rose beyond
control; she fell to her knees and wept with hidden face, bitterly and
silently.

The fire dropped to a heap of gray ashes; the light had faded when at
length Delia rose, and moving to the window, set it wider open.

The sun was sinking behind the housetops; heavy snow-laden clouds lay
to the right and left of it and the whole west was golden. A cold wind
touched her tear-stained face and ruffled her tumbled hair; the sun's
reflection burnt like flame in the window-pane and cast a dazzle along
the thin frosting of snow on the ledges opposite.

It was silent as night; she was too high to view the street; but a sign
hanging from one of the houses opposite, she caught sight of, the image
of a peacock in full splendor and the sun glittered on that in vivid
blue and green.

Then gradually the sky faded into a soft violet and the great clouds
closed over the sun.

Delia left the window and taking her cloak from the wall, put it on with
steady hands; then she dragged a small box from the corner into the
light and opened it.

From the many little articles it contained, she selected a plain ring
that had belonged to Perseus, a leathern purse of money and a gilt
button that had once belonged to her father's uniform.

These things she placed carefully within her pocket, then taking pen and
paper from the box, she sat down and wrote across it:

Even had there been no other motive to take me away, I could never have
stayed to be a burden on your charity. I set out to do the one thing
that maketh life worth the holding. Do not regret or pity me and God
keep ye always for the comfort ye have been to me.

She folded this and addressed it to Jerome Caryl, her eyes lifted to the
fast-darkening sky; her lips were resolutely set. With a steady step she
turned from the room and down the narrow stairs.

Calling the woman of the house, she gave her money and the letter for
Caryl.

"He will come to-morrow," she said. "Do not fail to remember to give
him that."

The woman began to whimper.

"Woe is me for the Good cause!" she cried dismally. "Will there be a
tomorrow for any of us?"

"Ye are all safe," answered Delia steadily, "I do not fly for
fear--farewell."

She turned abruptly into the quiet street and turned toward the country.



CHAPTER XXIII - JAMES FITZJAMES


As Jerome Caryl turned up the stairs of the Duke of Berwick's lodging,
he was greeted by a hubbub of noise, above which rose the prolonged
giggle of a man and the interchange of women's voices.

Jerome opened the door without ceremony and stepped in.

The center of the room was occupied by a long table, surrounded by a
varied company, who laughed, talked, and sang with little regard for
each other; at the head of the table sprawled a very tall young man in a
soiled blue satin suit and torn cravat; his wig hung on the knob of his
chair, his fair hair fell untidily over his blond face; his was the
good-humored, high-pitched giggle that rose above all other sounds.

The rest of the company was mostly ill-clad and ill-looking, though a
certain careless good nature redeemed most of the faces; of the two
women present one was a dark-skinned girl with an arched nose and a
quantity of heavy black hair, the other a slim and elegant lady, who sat
a little apart from the others; her companion, a gentleman, better
attired than the others and who showed signs of great agitation,
glancing round, wringing his hands and dabbing his face with his
handkerchief. At Jerome Caryl's entry he gave a great start and
something like a suppressed shriek, an action that brought on him a
glance of contempt from the lady.

"La!" cried the tall young man as he caught sight of the new-comer.
"We wasn't expecting you, Caryl--we thought you was on a visit to little
Hooknose."

"I am free, sir," answered Caryl, advancing into the company, "I thought
your grace had left England," he added briefly.

"Sink me, if I can," smiled Berwick, good-humoredly. "Hunt's cottage
ain't in working; who is going to take me across the Channel? Therefore
here we are--eating, drinking, making merry--for to-morrow we die." And
he giggled again.

Jerome Caryl's melancholy eyes traveled with a faint disgust round the
company; he dropped into the vacant seat beside Berwick and briefly
narrated what had occurred at Kensington.

The gathering listened eagerly, for there had been anxiety under this
daredevil show.

As Caryl ceased there was silence for the space of a second, then the
Duke of Berwick burst into a great laugh.

"I never thought my little cousin was just a fool!" he cried. "La! to
think of it--Oh, la!" His merriment was echoed round the table; relief
and the sense of safety lent a greater zest to the enjoyment; above the
babble rose the scream of a woman's voice.

"A toast, gentlemen! A toast!"

The dark girl climbed onto the table with the aid of her companion and
stood there among the glasses, her own in her hand.

"Here's to the squeezing of the rotten Orange!" she cried, "and may we
be all there to see it done."

Vast applause greeted her from all save the lady and her companion, who
withdrew still further into the background; and Jerome Caryl, who sat
silent.

"Oh, dear, oh, la!" giggled Berwick. "Ain't it amusing? Celia, my dear,
give us another toast!"

Celia Hunt leaped lightly from the table.

"Your turn, your Highness," she cried.

Berwick rose and made her a swaggering bow.

"May every Jack in gaol break free as cleverly as you did," he said,
then slipped back into his chair as the toast was drunk amid yells of
merriment.

Jerome Caryl laid his hand on the Duke's arm. "Sir," he said coldly in a
low tone, "you are aware that our enterprise is done--damned? These
papers on which we staked everything are gone--we shall not rouse France
without them."

Berwick winked.

"We'll manage without France," he said and smiled round the table.

"Your grace knows that is impossible--and we are watched--Sir John
Dalrymple knows much--it will be impossible to mature fresh schemes--to
obtain those signatures again."

"La! we don't want 'em," cried Berwick. "We have a scheme of our
own--suggested by Mr. Porter--" he nodded toward one of the company,'
"it don't want any help of the Frenchies or the Whigs--la! it's mighty
clever!"

"Well, my lord," said Mr. Porter from the other end of the table, "it is
quick--and effectual."

And he laughed across at Celia Hunt.

"I do not understand," said Jerome Caryl.

"There now!" giggled Berwick. "Caryl don't understand--sink me if I did
at first when they started with their hints--certainly, I didn't!"

He made a lazy gesture over his shoulder. "Come here, my lady and help
us explain."

The lady came forward to the table; as the light fell over her face
Jerome Caryl gave a little start; he recognized her as the Countess of
Breadalbane.

She appeared composed, but there was no color in her face; she addressed
Berwick, utterly ignoring the rest.

"Ye ken vera weel, sir," she said in a rapid whisper, "that I and my
cousin are here for the ane purpose of getting back from ye the dutiful
letters my lord and my cousin indited to be sent to King
James--which--seeing the plot is ruined--are better, ye ken, in the
fire."

"I don't know where they are," smiled Berwick vacantly. "I enclosed 'em
in my letter to my father--la! I don't know!"

Lady Breadalbane looked as if she could have shaken him with pleasure;
the even voice of Jerome Caryl broke in:

"I have already told his grace that his grace's letters to France were
burnt with the rest at Kensington by the Prince."

The Countess's green eyes flashed to the speaker's face; she gave him a
long look and flushed.

Berwick's foolish laugh rose in the pause. "That ain't all you came for,
my lady," he said. "You know Breadalbane has promised his aid--"

"Ah, hush," she said with a look at Caryl. "Ye ken that Jock is in the
Hielands and that is why I came to regain the paper--which--since it is
burnt--we will be taking our leave."

Berwick stared.

"La, now, ain't you cautious!" he cried, with his pale blue eyes wide
open. "You ain't afraid of Caryl! Sink me if it don't look like it--why
Jerome Caryl is to be trusted like your own right hand."

"I hav'na' a doot of it," she answered quickly. "But there is na
occasion for ony more than need to be kenning the part my lord takes in
this--"

At this a murmur arose from those who had been hushed to catch her
words; Porter demanded why Breadalbane should always be shielded when
better men came to the fore; and Celia Hunt muttered an audible sneer
about Scottish caution.

The Countess Peggy looked round the company defiantly; her eyes fell
mistrustfully to the unmoved face of Jerome Caryl; an unpleasant pause
was broken by the Earl of Argyll, coming forward.

"I'm awa'," he said, lapsing in his agitation into a broad accent. "I'm
no' meddling any further--I came for a paper--the whilk is burnt and I'm
ganging--I willna' listen to yer treasonable practices--no, but I wish
ye success," he added hastily, "but I'm ganging."

His cousin turned on him.

"Then gang, cousin Archibald," she said angrily. "Take your puir white
face awa'--I willna' come with ye--I'm staying."

This redeemed her with the company who murmured approval, under cover of
which Argyll slipped out.

"Supposing he goes straight to my cousin at Kensington?" asked Berwick,
looking after the Earl.

"He willna'," answered the. Countess hastily, "he has gone too deep--he
willna' dare to open up what will be exposing himself."

"No, but I wish ye success," mocked Berwick. "But I'm ganging!"

They all laughed.

"Even if he did want to inform--there won't be time," cried Porter.
"To-day is Thursday and on Saturday--"

"We shall be meeting on Turnham Green!" shouted another.

"To drink the health of the King over the water!"

"God save His Majesty!"

"Down with little Hooknose!"

"Saturday--and don't be afraid of breaking the glass windows, Mr.
Porter!"

"Nor of frightening the horses!" shrieked Celia Hunt. Through this
hubbub rose Berwick's voice:

"Oh, la! Oh, dear! Ain't it amusing!"

Porter scrambled to his feet and thumping the table with a bottle till
silence was obtained, commenced to sing in a powerful deep voice:

Oh, our loyal hearts were tired
Of a Dutchman on the throne
And an harquebus we fired
To give the King his own
And across the Straits of Dover
Our gallant King came over,
Came triumphantly over to his own!

They caught up the chorus in various keys.

And across the Straits of Dover
Our gallant King came over,
Came triumphantly over to his own!

Berwick rose, excited by the swinging tune, his tall shadow was flung
wavering up the wall and over the ceiling; his under-jawed hair face
with the heavy-lidded eyes was an almost exact likeness of King James in
his youth; Porter looked at him and sung:

Oh, the Dutchman ruled us sourly,
And discontented we had grown,
We watched the Channel hourly
For the King to take his own.

Wildly the chorus rose:

And across the Straits of Dover
Our gallant King came over,
Came triumphantly over to his own!

Jerome Caryl glanced at Lady Breadalbane; she was the only one silent
save himself; she sat still with downcast eyes, but he fancied that she
was in great anxiety.

Again the stalwart voice of Porter rose:
Oh, the Dutchman went to Hell,
And an English flag in England flew,
And England liked it well
When the King o' England got his own.
When across the Straits of Dover
The English King came over,
Came triumphantly over to his own!

Porter sat down amid ringing applause from all save Caryl, who remarked
dryly:

"Surely it should not have been in the past tense, your grace, since
these wonders remain yet to be performed."

Berwick slipped back into his chair.

"La, ain't you glum, Caryl! Wait till Saturday--" The word was echoed
round the table:

"Saturday! Let us drink to Saturday!"

Berwick filled his glass with no very steady hand.

"You drink," he said to Caryl, "to the sticking of the rotten Orange--to
Saturday, Turnham Green--"

Jerome Caryl looked round the flushed, excited faces; there was not
one there completely master of his wits, not one cool head among
them; the only one who sat collected and quiet was Lady Breadalbane.

"You have not explained yourself, sir," said Jerome in a cold disgust.
"I know nothing of these plans formed behind my back. I only know that
the plot I had in hand has fallen through--and that every man engaged in
it is better beyond seas."

Berwick laughed.

"This is none of your labored schemes for landing the French, Caryl--it
is a neat little affair between me--these gentlemen and Breadalbane."

The Countess glanced up at her husband's name and looked quickly at
Caryl as he answered:

"You still speak in riddles, your grace."

"La! ain't you tiresome? Don't you remember the Grandval affair?"

"My God! Is this such another?"

"No--it ain't so clumsy--Grandval was a damned crazy foreigner who
bungled the job--"

"But your intentions, your grace, are the same."

"I tell you--we ain't going to bungle!"

"No firing--the cold steel!" cried Porter.

Jerome Caryl rose from his seat beside Berwick and looked down the
table; the light was strong on his grave face and the Countess Peggy
never took her gaze from him.

"So--you plan to murder the Prince of Orange?" said Jerome calmly.

There was an annoyed silence; a half-sullen uneasiness seemed to pervade
the company, then Berwick said, in an unwilling manner: "It ain't
murder--we're just going to take him off--when he changes coaches at the
river--as he always does on Saturday when he goes hunting--"

"Twenty men to one," answered Jerome. "It is murder."

Berwick flushed to the roots of his hair. "You, use ugly words, Caryl."

"Yet I state your meaning, sir."

"I said nothing of--murder."

"You spoke of making away with the Prince."

"A lucky thrust--a lucky shot."

"Such as might happen any day," finished Porter. "In war," said Caryl.

"Isn't it always war--till the King returns?"

"You plan murder."

"By God, Caryl, you go too far."

"Your grace goes farther,"

"In the service of the King--yes."

"Perhaps--honor is above the King."

"No cant, Mr. Caryl," shouted Porter.

"I will not commit murder."

"Who asked it? We want no help."

"But my silence is to condone it."

"You need know no more--if you arc afraid."

"I know too much already--by Heaven--too much."

"These words of yours spell--traitor!"

"I am not afraid of that imputation."

"Nor we of you--Mr. Caryl."

"I said only this--"

"What?--no shilly-shallying."

"I will not do this thing."

"You will not?"

"No--nor see it done."

"You cannot help it."

"Mr. Porter, I can endeavor to help it."

"That means--traitor!"

"Your insult is powerless."

"Mr. Caryl--you are a coward."

Here Berwick, who, like every one, had been listening intently to the
sharp exchange of words, interposed "I don't think you quite understand,
Caryl--la! It has been tried before, ain't it?"

Jerome Caryl turned to the Duke.

"I think you do not understand," he said calmly.

"You know, sir, that we all owe our lives to the clemency of this man
whom you would assassinate?"

"Bah!" said Berwick fretfully.

Jerome continued steadily.

"He would not even know the names--he would not even lay on us the
humiliation of a pardon. He could have sent us to the gallows by the
lifting of his finger."

"Well, why didn't he do it?" demanded Berwick. "Because he was afraid,
of course; because he didn't dare touch us."

A loud assent went up; Caryl stepped back a little from his place with a
gleam in his eyes.

"This is not the way to win England for the Stuarts," he said.
"Traitor!" yelled Porter again, rising from his seat.

"It is you who soil your cause by these vile suggestions," flung back
Jerome.

Berwick rose; his narrow face crimson; he made as if to speak; but
Porter, in ungovernable fury, had seized one of the candlesticks and
flung it past the Duke at Jerome; as it crashed to the ground, some one
drew his sword and Celia Hunt climbed onto the table, shrieking.

"A pretty fellow you to talk!" she cried. "You who let the Master of
Stair rob you under your nose--I knew him at sight for a spy--and so did
you--you canting rogue!"

Jerome did not look at her, but, in the diversion she caused the whole
company, .glanced round the confusion for Lady Breadalbane; she had
disappeared.

"Speak for yourself, Caryl," said Berwick, through the hubbub. "I ain't
believing that you wouldn't fall in with us."

But ere Caryl could answer Porter, who had fought his way through the
press, struck him full on the chest and Caryl staggering, the two men
closed, struggled together, forcing each other toward the door; a yell
rose from the room; Berwick gave a loud hysterical giggle; now Jerome
Caryl had Porter by the collar, shaking him furiously; he flung him to
the ground, instantly opened the door and darted through it..

There was a bolt on the outside and he slipped it; a confusion of noise
rose from within; laughter seemingly at Porter's discomfiture; he heard
Celia Hunt screaming and Berwick's falsetto rising higher and higher.

"Oh, la! ain't it amusing! Oh, dear, oh, la!"

Waiting for no more Jerome Caryl turned swiftly down the stairs while
behind him rose a drunken shout:

And across the Straits of Dover
Our gallant King came over,
Came triumphantly over to his own!



CHAPTER XXIV - THE LOVE OF MARGARET CAMPBELL


AS Jerome Caryl reached the street, softly closing the door behind him,
a woman's voice fell on his ears out of the darkness.

"Mr. Caryl! Mr. Caryl!"

He looked about him and discerned a shadow among shadows, a huge coach,
a few paces from the house.

In the open door stood the Countess Peggy, the coach light showing her
in a misty radiance.

She beckoned to him and he crossed the cobbles to her side. "Mr.
Caryl--I have been waiting for ye. I slipped awa' when they grew
noisy--I was wondering if they would let ye go." She fixed her eyes on
his face.

"Maybe they will be pursuing ye?"

"I do not think so," Jerome Caryl answered evenly, "their wits are
confused--they hardly know that I have gone."

"Ah--then--come with me--in the coach, it gangs faster--"

"I think, my lady, there is no need," he smiled in some surprise.

But she laid her hand vehemently on his arm. "I want to speak to
you--an' ye will be safer in the coach--"

She made a gesture toward the house.

"They may follow ye--come--I will take it across the river--"

There was so much anxiety, and intensity in her face and words that
Jerome Caryl was impressed; he might as well cross the river in her
coach as not, he quietly assented.

A look of great relief came over her face; she hurried round to the box
where two servants sat, calling to them some instructions in Gaelic,
then returning to Caryl sprang lightly past him into the coach.

He mounted after her and the horses started at a brisk pace.

It was a cold, raw night, and the blinds were drawn tight over the
windows; the interior of the coach was upholstered in a somber red
leather and the one lamp filled it with a gloomy light. The Countess
Peggy had at once drawn herself away into the corner furthest from
Jerome. She was hatless and her red hair in a confusion of curls, lay
spread over her black velvet coat; a gray fur mantle wrapped her about
and fell in heavy folds on the floor; round her throat hung a long lace
scarf reaching to her waist; her gloves and muff lay on the seat beside
her. Something in the situation, the confined strange atmosphere of the
coach, the swift motion and the beautiful, curious face of the woman
opposite, appealed to Jerome Caryl; he was interested, affected by what
he could not tell; he looked at her with no desire to speak and a heavy
silence fell. Gradually the frosty mist penetrated and a hazy ring grew
round the lamp; the coach swung monotonously from side to side. The
Countess Peggy looked up; her green eyes were wild.

"Ye are ganging to Kensington," she said in a voice muffled but steady.

He turned so that he could see her with the greater ease. "Yes, madam."

The words came clearly above the rumbling of the wheels.

"You are going to inform," she said, with the same steadiness.

He leaned forward a little.

"The Prince will not go hunting in Hampton Court on Saturday, madam."

"Ye are ganging to betray us," said the Countess. "I knew it."

"It is not the right word," he answered. "I shall warn the Prince--no
more."

She looked at him quickly and quietly then burst out contemptuously:

"Ye lie! lie! lie! Ye will gie every name ye know to the Prince!"

Jerome Caryl smiled; she sat upright with clasped hands.

"I knew it. When across the room I saw your face as the fule Berwick
spoke of his plans. I saw that ye meant to betray us, Ah, they talk of
their man's sagacity but a woman can see clearer--Berwick did not see--I
did."

"Berwick knows me better, madam."

She took no heed of the quiet words.

"Ye will tell the Prince every name ye know," she said hoarsely. "And if
ye dinna--they will discover once ye have lodged the information."

She shuddered further into her corner; her whole face and figure seemed
misty to Jerome in the wavering light; only her eyes, fixed on him, were
clear and brilliant.

"Will ye do it--will ye no reflect?"

There was no doubting her controlled agitation, the distress in her
accents; Jerome, who had been studying her curiously, spoke now with a
deepening of curiosity; he spoke under his breath softly.

"You are not involved--" he said. "For whom are you afraid?"

Her eyes traveled slowly over him.

"My husband," she said intensely.

He gave a little laugh and lifted his shoulders; Breadalbane was a
byword for cunning hypocrisy; her devotion jarred as strangely out of
place.

"Others beside your husband would fall if I--or any informed," he
answered quietly.

She sat up, shaking her furs to the floor. "I care only for my husband."

The coach rattled and shook and the lamp-wick leaped and flickered.

"Only for my husband--and if his share in this is discovered it means
ruin--if not death--to him."

The very words seemed to come with an effort from her tongue; she
blenched at the bare thought of the possibility she spoke of.

"I shall not mention your husband's name," said Jerome Caryl.

"If ye put them on the track they will discover for themselves."

"Lord Breadalbane has weathered rougher storms."

"He has gone farther than ye ken--and this assassination--"

Her voice trailed off into silence; she sat upright, gazing in front of
her; her hands clasped in her lap; as the coach shook on its way, her
hair was flung back from her face and Jerome Caryl's sword-hilt rattled
against the door; this was the only sound, this and the rattle of the
wheels; he thought she was going to say no more and was marveling at her
containment, when she broke the stillness by leaning over toward him.

"Dinna gang to Kensington."

Her voice, suppressed, with a note of agony in it, made Jerome Caryl
start.

"I can make you rich," she continued quickly. "We can do anything for
you--ask it--anything. Jock can twirl Scotland round his finger. He will
give ye any place ye like if ye will he silent."

A slow flush overspread Caryl's smooth face. "Why--you can hardly know
what you ask," he said. "It is that I should sanction murder and the
murder of a man who spared my life and the lives of all my friends--do
you--a woman--wish to see that done?"

She answered desperately:

"I dinna care--if Jock is engaged in the matter--I am Jock's wife."

She sat silent a moment, then broke forth again:

"We would pay ye vera weel--consider," Jerome Caryl laughed.

"You have utterly mistaken me. I am not a spy to be bought by the
highest bidder. Nothing shall prevent me from warning the Prince."

She flared into a kind of contemptuous despair. "The Prince! What is he
to ye?"

"A man--a gentleman--you cannot say so much for Berwick--or any of his
crew."

"In your eyes a usurper," she cried, striving to goad him, "a foreign
usurper--"

"Madam--he said to me--'there are some things I will not do'--and I say
the same to you now--I will not let that man be murdered."

She was silent again as if she had nothing to oppose against his
resolution; she gazed in a strange terrified manner at his calm, soft
face, his melancholy hazel eyes and the color of excitement leaped into
her cheeks to pale and leaped thither again.

"We must be near the river," he said, and put out his hand to lift the
blind.

But she flung out her arm and intercepted him.

"Nay--not yet--not yet--and keep the night shut out. Oh, God, the
night!" The next second she was on her knees on the floor of the coach.

"For pity--for God's sake--" she cried passionately. "Ye dinna ken what
it means to me--"

He sprang up in his amazement and the shock of seeing her crouching
before him with upturned white face, brought the color to his cheek.

"Lady Breadalbane!"

She clung to him in an eager agony of entreaty.

"Show this mercy now--by all ye ever held dear. I canna find words to
entreat ye deep enough."

"Lady Breadalbane, I must warn the Prince."

"Ye know not what ye are doing!"

Down at his very feet now she pleaded; her white arms and her fallen
hair hid her face as she knelt there, her voice faint with the intensity
of her entreaties, as if she strove for her life--her soul.

He lifted her up, trembling a little, and put her on the seat; her hands
touched his and he found them cold, her head brushed his shoulder for a
moment and her face was close to his.

"Will ye--will ye?" she panted.

"No! no!"

The coach swung on its way groaning. "Where do we ride?" he demanded.
"We go over smooth ground now--a country road--"

"No," she breathed, and clung to him when he would have risen and looked
from the window. "No! we ride aright!"

It was not London's cobbled streets that they sped over now; smoothly
and swiftly they rode along.

"Where do ye take me?" he cried again.

She leaned heavily against his shoulder so that he could not rise.

"Be merciful," she cried. "Dinna gang to Kensington!"

But her emotion, her passionate entreaties, the 'strange hint of warning
in her voice were powerless to touch his set purpose.

"Neither God nor man," he said, "can move me--I have sworn to myself to
warn the Prince."

The coach suddenly stopped.

"I also have sworn," answered Lady Breadalbane.

They both rose; something fell with a clatter on the floor. It was his
sword.

She put her foot on it; he looked in her eyes and saw that she had
unbuckled it while she had lain against him.

"By God--trapped!" he said softly.

The coach door was opened from without and the bitter night mists
floated in. The moon was shining dimly; Jerome Caryl strode to the door;
he saw a vast spread of fields before him; Hounslow Heath.

A frosty vapor lay over everything; now and then the moon was hidden; a
cruel iciness was in the air.

Guarding the door stood the two Highland servants, immovable, waiting
orders.

Jerome Caryl looked from them to the woman behind him.

"Is it to be murder?" he asked with a faint smile.

She shuddered violently.

"Swear on the most sacred thing ye know that ye willna' gang to
Kensington."

"The alternative, madam."

She was silent; she trembled so that his sword jangled under her foot,
yet she held herself straight and there was no flinching in her eyes.

He answered himself: "It is obvious."

He glanced at the three silent faces.

"No one save a woman would have tricked my sword away--give it back
to me."

She caught her breath sharply.

"No--there must be no fighting."

Jerome Caryl's eyes narrowed: "So you are going to have me butchered--like
a dog."

She called out in Gaelic to the Highlanders. They advanced to the coach
door; a wild scorn sprang into Jerome Caryl's soft face. "Give me my
sword," he said fiercely. "I am a gentleman."

Lady Breadalbane made no answer; she never lowered her eyes from his
gaze; nor bent her head nor moved, but she could not speak.

He turned to the coach door and leaped to the ground.

A fine drizzle of rain was falling and the grass was sodden beneath his
feet; the coach lamps shone on the two steaming white horses and showed
a bare branched tree that grew nearby; the place was solitary, silent,
ghostly. Jerome Caryl looked round him and his blood rose strangely.

He turned to the great Highlander who blocked his path.

"Let me pass."

For answer they seized him, each by one shoulder; at the feel of their
hands on him, the blood rushed to his face, but he held himself still.

Lady Breadalbane came to the door of the coach and looked down on him.

"Will ye swear not to warn the Prince?" she shivered. "Then ye may gang
awa' a free man."

His beautiful face turned to her unmoved. "I have answered you."

"Then I hav'na' a choice," she moaned.

Her black figure was outlined against the light interior of the coach as
she stood with a hand on either side to support herself, her eyes were
very resolute, though her voice fell and broke.

"I met you in the inn," said Jerome looking up. "And I had seen you
before--in a dream--I might have known."

She stared at him dumbly; the rain on the roof of the coach made a
light sound.

"Some one will warn the Prince," continued Jerome. "I am content that
this is in vain."

She lifted her hand to her breast.

"Take him away," she said in Gaelic.

She saw the look on his face; she saw his hands clench, look and
movement passed and he walked off quietly between the two huge figures
into the darkness.

With a stifled cry she sank back onto the seat and wrung her hands.

The bitter air streamed in through the open door and she saw the black
heath and the lighter sky in which the moon seemed to swing and dance
behind the clouds like a lantern held unsteadily.

She dragged at her hair with a curious aimless gesture and crouched far
into the corner, hiding her face in the cushions. From the darkness no
sound save the gentle one of the rain and the jingle of harness as one
of the horses moved.

Then suddenly footsteps, and in the open door one of her Highlanders
with blood on his face.

"Ah--so soon! So soon!"

"He has a knife in his pocket--he is fighting for his life like a
devil." The man put his hand to his bleeding forehead.

"What do you want?" she asked in a quick horror, yet resolute still.

"Something to tie his hands--"

Her fingers go to her cravat; she loosens it and flings it through the
door; it is all she has--why does he fight--she thought he was unarmed,
she wanted this to be swift and sudden.

The Highlander catches the twist of lace and is gone.

She stands there staring across the heath, upright in the coach door.

All her senses are quickened; she fancies that she can see even through
the darkness, one man struggling with two, defending himself with a
clasp-knife--she sees them slip a lace scarf over his head, tighten it
round his throat--she sees blood--scarlet as flame, before her eyes and
shakes her hands as if she felt it running from them; then she looks at
the peaceful, tired, white horses standing with drooping heads in the
circle of misty lantern-light; she sees the patches of wet lying on the
clay under their hoofs; the bare thorn-tree behind them, the dim
hurrying clouds above and the whole scene is impressed on her as something
strange and terrible, every little detail to the slender line of the whip
on the empty coachman's seat stands out clearly, never to be forgotten
while she shall live.

Up out of the black mystery of the heath come her two Highlanders.

"Is it done--is--sh!--done?"

They answer her that it is done; they are in no way moved; they have
been sent on fiercer deeds even than this in the Highlands; one is
twisting a rag round his hand.

She takes up the sword from the floor; it feels strange and heavy in her
hands.

"Put that beside him--drawn--as if he died fighting--highwaymen are
common here."

She gives it to them; then picks up her gray fur and puts it about her
shoulders.

"Empty his pockets," she calls after them, and even as she speaks she
looks into the corner of the coach as if she saw him there, staring at
her.

The rain ceases, and the chill, creeping wind blows stronger, ruffles
her hair and the manes of the white horses.

They come back, her silent Highlanders; they lay on the floor of the
coach the contents of his pockets; some money, not much; a handkerchief,
a watch with the face shivered; a little book with a worn blue velvet
cover, some papers tied with a ribbon.

The Highlanders, having done their duty, mount the box.

She stares at these things on the floor, picks up the packet of papers
and opens it; a long lock of pale hair falls out and some dust that
might have been a pressed flower.

"Where shall I drive, Lady Breadalbane?"

"To Scotland--to the Highlands--to Glencoe! Glencoe!"

She flings herself back on the seat and the door is closed; over her
hand hangs the yellow curl and the winter night has fallen in chaos
about her.

"To Glencoe! Glencoe!"



CHAPTER XXV - GLENCOE


It was midday of the thirteenth of February and the snow clouds were
blowing up over the Valley of Glencoe.

The whole landscape, encompassed by vast and steep mountains, lay in a
cold, leaden gray light, there was no human being in sight and the only
living thing visible was the solitary eagle that circled in and out
of the fissures in the hills. The clouds rested like a girdle round
the mountains, the sides and summits of which showed rifts of the
pure melted snow. There were many entries to the valley, desolate
winding pathways between the hills, steep avenues, twisting down the
rocks; and from the mouth through the center ran a flat and silent stream.

There was no sign of the nearing of the spring; it seemed the very depth
of winter; the grass and trees were withered to a uniform tint of
grayness; the vastness of the scene made it awful, its silence made it
melancholy beyond expression, humanity appeared to have no place in this
loneliness; the cry of the eagle echoed like a dismal warning to all who
would intrude on his desolate domain and the silence seemed the greater
as his scream fell to stillness.

Descending into the valley by its mouth were two people: a shepherd
wrapped in a heavy plaid and a woman on a Highland pony. As the valley
closed round them, she raised her face constantly to the sky and the
mountain tops as if their rugged splendor pleased her; her face was pale
and of a calm nobility in the expression; her brown eyes held an intense
look and her curved mouth was firmly set; her gray hood and her heavy,
dull brown hair showed off the pure lines of her uplifted square chin
and full throat; she took little heed of her companion, a tall gloomy
Highlander and when her gaze was not on the stormy sky it was directed
down the desolate Glen.

Once she said:

"What a place to dwell--this wilderness!"

And he answered in his Gaelic:

"The Glen o' Weeping! The Glen o' Weeping!"

As they advanced farther into the Glen, a few scattered dull-colored
dwellings became visible, mostly situated in the windings and twistings
of the steep sides, and as they drew yet nearer the very heart of the
valley they beheld, spread before them twenty or thirty rude huts
gathered in some semblance of order round a central one of more
pretentious size.

They did not seem the habitations of human beings, but more like the
quarries or lairs of some strange wild beasts; there were no people
about, but from some of the roofs a thin curl of smoke arose.

The girl on the Highland pony, Delia Featherstonehaugh, looked long at
the cluster of huts as they neared them.

"The chief of the Macdonalds dwells here?" she asked.

He nodded taciturnly.

They came slowly over the worn and faded heather into the center of the
little colony, then Delia slipped from her horse.

"Makian's house," said the Highlander, pointing to the largest
dwelling, and she followed him to the door, leading her tired
pony; her garments were blown about her in the wind and her long locks
escaped and flew across her face; she lifted her eyes again to the
mountains in their grand solitude and her breast rose with the trembling
of a sigh.

Her guide struck on the door and instantly it was opened; the Highlander
turned with an abrupt gesture to the woman, standing without in the
gray.

"A Saxon woman, Macdonald, with a message for you," he said.

An old man, wrapped in a plaid, stood in the doorway, he stared from one
to the other as the shepherd continued: "She met your son Ronald in the
Lowlands, and he bid her come to me if ever she had need of finding him,
and so she came with news of disaster to you, and I brought her
thither."

"Disaster?" echoed Makian.

Delia Featherstonehaugh stepped over the threshold. She had a glimpse of
a warmly-lighted interior and a group of men playing cards; she stood
silent a moment with her hand on the door-post and Makian stared at her.

Then she spoke:

"I am an emissary of the King," she said; she laid her hand on the old
Highlander's arm and her eager eyes looked straightly up into his. "I
sent you--and all the clans a warning--by your son, you remember,
Macdonald?"

He nodded, the men round the fire had risen and were listening, too; her
voice rose, gaining in steadiness.

"I warned you to take the oaths to the government--I warned you that
the Campbells were preparing a vengeance--"

Makian interrupted.

"We took the oaths--I went through the snows to Inverary and took
the oaths."

"Too late!" she answered bitterly. "Too late! Too long you dallied--and
maybe I also am too late!"

Again he interposed.

"But we are under the government's protection--I was assured of that."

She came a step forward and her glance took in the men assembled against
the background of thick peat smoke; in her gray garments, falling
straight from shoulders to feet with her eager, colorless face, she
looked like some embodiment of the mists from the mountains that had
drifted through their doors; they moved a little away from her as if
they were in an awe of her person that overweighed any anxiety that they
might have felt as to her message; she saw this and trembled in her
desire to convince them of the terrible import of her warning; she
recalled to them the hatred of the Campbells; she spoke of what she knew
of the policy of the government; of how their submission had been
suppressed. She said Breadalbane was at Kilchurn arming his clan, that
Argyll was holding Inverness, that soldiers were quartered in
Argyllshire and were marching even now from Fort William; she related
her own wild journey, the difficulties, the perils, how she had come
from England, hastening, never stopping, that she might warn them of the
doom preparing; that she might arrest a bloody execution, and her eyes
went to the figure of Ronald Macdonald, who leaned quietly against the
rude wall close to her.

When the tide of her words had come to an end she stood with panting
bosom and dilated eyes, waiting.

While she spoke the circle of her audience had grown; men, women
and children, they were gathered round the hut door, while within
stood the old chief and his family with somber faces. But there was
silence and no movement from any of them. The girl turned to Ronald with
a strange smile.

"You know me, Ronald Macdonald?--you think that I speak the truth?"

He answered slowly:

"I know you and I believe."

His father cried out, struck through his apathy at last: "The Campbells
march from Fort William?"

"Ay, I saw them on the road--I slipped past them because my guide knew
the shorter, hidden ways."

A sound like a faint wail arose from the gathered crowd; a portentous
sense of evil, not to be measured either by exact statement or loose
phrasing, possessed them; they all turned their eyes to the Saxon woman
in their midst and she in her turn gazed on the one indifferent face
among them, the face of the young man Ronald, for the memory of whom she
had kept her vow to save him.

"We may fly through Strath Tay," said one.

Delia shook her head.

"The laird of Weem has been secured by the government--ye are
surrounded--every avenue of the Glen is--I think, closed. I have done
little--only ye cannot be murdered unwitting in your sleep."

"They come for that--these Campbells?" demanded Ronald sullenly. "To
slay us in our sleep?"

"They come with full power of sword and fire," she answered.

She rested her weary head against the lintel of the door and again a
curious smile moved her lips; she thought of the last time she had
seen him and the present gray scene, the surrounding figures, the
loud cursing of the Campbell name, the shrill talk of women, fell
away from her. She recalled the little house in Glasgow and the
coming of the Highlander, and Perseus, busy writing, plotting, coming
to and fro, the even round of the days, excitement and the great
hope ahead, the beacon to lead them on, recalled all this with curiosity
and no regret even as she pictured the dead brother whom she
had loved; once waiting idly in some great house, she had noticed
pictures on the walls, a carnival on the ice, a fruit shop, a lady with
a fan, she could remember them now, every detail, and as impersonal
as these did she see her life of a few months ago, quiet, pleasant
pictures, rising in succession, till suddenly they were shattered
into darkness and one rose that blotted them out, one figure, one face.

In her recital she had not named the Master of Stair; she had blamed
Breadalbane, the Campbells, the government, but she had not named the
name of the man whom she knew to be behind it all she had not hinted
that the hand of the Master of Stair was guiding Breadalbane, all of
them, that his will and his power were behind the redcoats marching for
Glencoe.

They brought her to the fire and made her lay aside her cloak and warm
her cold hands; and showed her rough hospitality. She obeyed silently
and sat down meekly in the heavy peat reek with a lassitude not to be
explained; as if there were no momentous hour at hand, as if her life
ran smoothly ahead, as if there were no white faces and eager voices
about her, as if no army was marching nearer, with the slow fading
of the light, nearer.

One of the women brought her some milk, and came and kissed her hand
and blessed her; she took no notice of either; she was picturing a
finely-dressed lady, who held out a miniature from the end of a mauve
ribbon.

"My children."

She heard the words again and saw the action, but again the thrill of
exquisite anguish with which her own words had come:

"How like!--how like!"

So he had looked when he had bargained with her; when he had given her
his word for the safety of her friends; so, too, had he looked when he
had betrayed them, only perhaps then he had smiled, he had contemplated
her hanged or beheaded and most probably had smiled; he had thought of
her utter folly and lifted his shoulders in contempt; and she, the woman
who had the picture of his children hanging round her neck, perhaps he
had told her something and she had also smiled--or pitied.

These thoughts had been her companions during her journey; they would
not be shaken off now. As ghosts they grinned through the peat smoke.
Unbearable, they became at last; she went to the door and watched the
clan assemble.

Over everything was that sense of fear aroused, of wrath held in leash,
before every one was that picture of the passes filling silently with
red-coated Campbells; of strangely-armed soldiers coming from Fort
William, steadily, with bloody purpose, still nearer; in every mind was
there thought of Jock Campbell of Breadalbane, wronged, insulted, moving
at last from his quiet with a terrible revenge. To all the little glens
and colonies messengers went out; Sandy and Ian Macdonald dragged out
ancient guns with watchful eyes up the pass, Makian gave commands
calmly, women looked on grimly and put their children behind them; over
everything that sense of oppression of disaster gathering in silence;
before all that vision of the Cambpells coming steadily.

One man alone stood apart, Ronald Macdonald wrapped in his plaid,
indifferent against the open door.

The gray day was growing grayer; up from rifts and hidden valleys in the
hills came the tacksmen of Macdonald; contained, silent, in a moment
comprehending, in a moment seeing that picture of the Campbells, of
Strath Tay held, of Breadalbane rising in Invernesshire, of Argyll
rising in Argylshire, of themselves surrounded, trapped, sport for the
enemy food for his sword. Small they appeared beneath the vastness of
the hills, the wild splendor of the tossing clouds, the wide spread of
the sky, not more than seventy men, all told, and Delia's heart cried
out within her.

As the daylight faded it grew colder; so cold that the children were
taken back into the huts; a few flakes of snow fell across the grayness
of the sky and drifted lightly onto the shoulders of the men.

Would they wait till it was dark? Would they come tonight?

The question went from mouth to mouth; Makian bitterly cursed the
government that had so foully deceived him; he spoke of the assurances
the sheriff had given him that they were safe. And Delia thought of the
suppressed oath and her cheeks went hot with shame; they misplaced their
curses; one and only one deserved them, but she could not speak his
name.

They were gathered together to leave the valley, packing their few poor
goods, calling up their herds, their ponies--there must be some outlet
to the Glen unguarded, unknown to any.

They said very little; dread and fear were among them as a living devil,
clutching the throat of each; only the little children wailed,
miserably, because of the cruel cold and the strangeness of this
desertion of the fireside for the chill heather.

Delia turned to Ronald who gave no sign.

"You do not come?" she said; she noticed that he was pale, haggard and
preoccupied; he lifted wild eyes to hers.

"Her husband will be among them--I gave him his life once--I shall not
touch him now--I will not fight the clan that holds Margaret Campbell,
though she spurn me for a coward."

Then he added simply: "I shall be very glad to die."

His carelessness threw about him a grandeur, lifting him above the
others, each one eager for his own life; Delia looked at him and laid
her hand on his folded arms.

"I too," she said quietly, "better to be dead than to be--alone. And I
have no purpose in life."

The long line of ponies had come up; the bundles were strapped on them;
the Macdonalds were moving to and fro.

Then it happened Delia dropped her hand from Ronald's arm and cried out:

"The soldiers!"

They had come at a full gallop round a turn in the Glen; at a full
gallop they came over the heather and at a shout from their leader drew
up a few paces off.

As suddenly as the falling snow or the rain will cover the ground, so
suddenly had these soldiers appeared and spread themselves across the
Glen before the Macdonalds could fly or scream or warn each other; before
they could do anything save realize their peril.

The leader of the redcoats was almost in their midst, in the security of
his steel cuirass he defied them; he was a large red man with a freckled
face showing under his black beaver; his horse was panting with the
speed of his gallop, he patted her neck carelessly, while he spoke:

"Macdonald! surrender, in the name of the King--" he swept his glance
over the confused array; he noted the preparations for flight.

"So ye have been warned of my coming!" he said and laughed.

Across the Glen spread the soldiers, cavalry and foot; the last light
gleamed in their steel collars and muskets; Makian, at the head of his
people, looked sternly at the leader who swept off his hat with another
laugh; his red hair was blown back from his face and his light eyes
gleamed as he spoke for the third time: "Ye know me, Macdonald?"

"Ay," answered Makian in an impassive voice. "I know you, Robert
Campbell of Glenlyon. I know not your errand."

Captain Campbell lifted a gauntleted hand against the darkening sky,
beckoning his men nearer.

"I come to root out your cursed den of thieves," he said. "By the
command of Scotland and the King."

"Ye lying Campbell!" cried Makian. "We are under the protection of the
King! I took the oath."

"Too late," smiled Glenlyon. "Ye are approved traitors and rebels,
therefore surrender."

At this Delia Featherstonehaugh came from the side of Ronald and crossed
the wet heather between the Campbells and Macdonald till she came to
Glenlyon's saddle bow.

"Captain Campbell," she said.

He looked down at her in a quick surprise.

"Take care," said Delia. "I know--I know that the submission of these
people has been suppressed. Glenlyon frowned, and his eyes were
curiously intent on her.

"Who are you, mistress?" he asked.

"Does it matter?" Her words came quickly, she put her hand on his rein;
both soldiers and Highlanders watched her in silence. "What authority
have you? Take care how ye satisfy a private feud under cover of the law."

"I obey my commands," answered Glenlyon, still gazing at her, "I have
the letter here," he touched his breast. "Higher than I, mistress, must
answer for this day's work; Hill, Hamilton, Breadalbane and the Master
of Stair."

He smiled at her slow look of horror.

"What are the Macdonalds to you?" he asked.

"I came from London to warn them," said Delia in a vague manner. "But
surely it is in vain--what are you going to do?"

"My orders are to slay every Macdonald under seventy--and pay particular
attention to the old fox and his cubs."

"My God! oh, my God!" she slipped to her knees and clung to his stirrup
in a distracted manner, with her wild eyes staring fixedly; she made no
appeal beyond that cry and the agony of her glance; she knelt there
ready for his horse to trample her to death.

Glenlyon stooped from the saddle and loosened her hands gently; then he
beckoned to one of his soldiers.

"Take her away," he said with a flushed face. "Take care of her," and as
the man lifted Delia from the ground, his gray eyes dwelt on her face in
a troubled manner.

She made no resistance as the man led her away, and Glenlyon turned
fiercely to the Macdonalds. "Lay down yours arms and surrender," he
commanded. "I'll not wait much longer."

They had watched his parley with the girl in silence, knowing well that
there was no escape for them; that on their first movement the soldiers
would fire; so they stood, gathered together with somber faces, fronting
the Campbells. The snow was falling faster; the great clouds had almost
obscured the mountains.

Glenlyon drew out his watch.

"Hamilton said five," he muttered.

It was now five minutes past; he glanced over his men; the Argyllshire
regiment, all Campbells, then repeated his commands to the Macdonalds to
surrender.

Makian refused and a full murmur of scorn went up from the Macdonalds.

"Then I shall fall on ye without mercy--men, women and children," said
Glenlyon.

There was no sound from the Macdonalds save the faint wail of a
frightened child; the chief stood in front of them, his sons beside him.
Ronald was not there.

"Fire!" cried Glenlyon.

The volley of musketry echoed down the Glen; a savage cry of triumph
broke from the Campbells, as, flinging their guns aside and drawing
their swords, they dashed on the Macdonalds.

Delia Featherstonehaugh saw the world about her struck with strange
confusion; she slipped from the soldier who held her and ran blindly
down the Glen through the smoke.

The report of the guns echoed from the mountains, rang in her ears;
she saw smoke curling from the huts and one burst suddenly into a bright
flame that rose heavenwards.

She heard the guns discharge again and a distant answer to them float
from the hills; horsemen flew past her; one fell and his companion
leaped over man and animal and was gone into the smoke; screams rose and
thick cries of triumph and hate; figures formed out of the smoke and
were lost again; a second time came the roll of musketry from the hills,
nearer now. Delia found herself leaning against the rocky side of the
valley, watching, listening, dumb--not blind. A shrieking boy rushed
past her, two soldiers after him; one had a bleeding face.

From the burning hut a woman came running, alight from head to foot;
there was no outcry; she flung up her hands above her blazing hair and
fell forward on her face.

The musketry cracked again; a horseman galloped by with a Highlander
clinging to the saddle; they were striking at each other with knives;
the Macdonald dragged the Campbell from the saddle and the maddened
horse plunged over both.

It was almost dark; Delia stumbled forward from her place and ran along
the rocks, crying to herself.

She came into a circle of light cast by the burning dwelling and
stopped, moaning.

A rider swept up, cried out at sight of her and flung himself from the
saddle. She felt him seize her and drag her away.

"Ye will be slain," he kept saying and he hurried her from the shrieking
confusion into the dark of the cold rocks and wet heather; once her
companion put his arms about her and lifted her over a fallen man. He
held her close against his breast a moment; the musketry still cracked
in their ears and the snow was falling over them.

Delia struggled away to stare into her rescuer's face. It was Glenlyon.

He had her firmly by the arm.

"Ye must come into safety," he said hoarsely, and he drew her along,
supporting her over the rough way; her cloak had fallen and he put it
about her.

At that she spoke.

"Why are ye so careful of me, Robert Campbell? There are women dying
down there." She pointed to the dip of the valley they were leaving
where the red light and the smoke rose through the darkness.

"It is over now," he answered in a troubled manner. "We killed no women
if we could help it--Hamilton is coming--I must get ye into his camp."

"There are others will die of cold this night--let me join them, Robert
Campbell!"

But he held her firmly. "Who have ye among the Macdonalds?" he asked
quickly.

"Robert Campbell--let me go!"

Through the dark his voice came strained and labored.

"I cannot--ye will be hurt--let me be with ye--ye can command me."

She gave her arm such a sudden wrench that his grasp was slackened for a
second and in that second she had freed herself and was running back
through the darkness toward the deadly circle of light.

As she reached the first hut the red glare that lit the way showed
things that made her blood run cold.

The soldiers had left their work to pursue those that had fled into
the mountains; Hamilton was late; it had been bungled; some of the
avenues from the Glen were left unguarded and so many of the Macdonalds
had escaped.

She hurried on through smoking ruins and sinking fires; to right and
left lay the dead, frozen in their blood; stained and torn plaids were
scattered over the heather; here and there a musket was flung down or a
dirk, or a household implement hastily snatched up and cast aside.

The flames of the burning huts were sinking under the snow; the cold
numbed Delia's very senses, horror and dread were frozen into apathy;
the icy air, the bitter soft snowflakes chilled the heat of wrath and
terror in her blood.

She came through the dismantled dwellings to Makian's house; it still
stood; the door was broken off and a man with his plaid over his face
lay across the threshold; by his white beard, blood-stained and trodden
into the mire, she knew it for the old chief.

She crept past him and into his ruined home; the peat fire still
flickered upon the hearth; the place was warm despite the wind that
whined through the torn door.

In the very center of the room a man lay on his back with his hands
outspread.

Delia stole to the fire and stirred it into flame, casting on peat from
the pile beside her; then, as the light leaped up she turned to the
prostrate man and saw that he was Ronald Macdonald; she went on her
knees in silence and lifted his head onto her lap; he made a little
movement and put his hand over his breast; she saw that his coat was
torn and stained and that the sluggish blood was dripping from a cut in
his forehead. With a shudder she looked about her, called aloud till she
grew frightened of her own echoing voice and was silent for very horror.
Half-mechanically she tore off the cambric ruffles from her sleeves and
then gently laying him back upon the floor, crept to the door. In a little
hollow of the rocks she saw the snow had collected; hither she carried
an earthenware pot and filled it and brought it back and set it on the
fire and waited its melting with a silent, wild face and busy fingers
tearing her ruffles into strips.

She searched the hut for wine, but there was none; broken, empty bottles
lay among the fallen cards.

As best she could she washed his wounds and bound them up, made her
cloak into a pillow for him and edged him a little nearer the fire.

Then she fell into sick weeping, shuddering tears as she wiped the blood
from her fingers.

He moved again and spoke:

"Have they gone?"

She caught the whisper and bent over him.

"Yes."

He moaned faintly.

"I am so cold--and sick--lift me up a little."

She took his head onto her lap again; his eyes, a ghastly, icy blue in
his white face, fluttered open.

"Have any escaped?" he whispered.

"God knows--Macdonald."

So cold it was, so cold, and she so helpless; she cast more peat on the
fire and prayed that some one might come; that some one, in this valley
of the dead, might be living and come.

Through the long, bitter night she knelt so, holding him, till her limbs
were stiff with his weight; he spoke no word, only his struggling breath
showed that he lived.

With the first breaking of the pale gray dawn, he turned his head toward
the open door.

"I hear horses," he said.

Delia started from a half-swoon.

"I hear none," she answered.

"They come," he whispered. "I am dying so slowly--"

"God knows," she said wildly.

Another silence as a faint light filled the room and the winter dawn
spread above the mountains; then he spoke:

"When I am dead--take my pouch," he said through labored breaths. "It
holds--Dundee's spy-glass--I want ye to have it--for staying by me
now--"

She cried out in a passionate pity.

"I would not have left a dog, Macdonald!"

"So cold," he whispered. "The world is freezing into death--I see the
mountains changing into snow and falling--I feel the earth dissolve into
an icy sky and all my life ebb from me--so cold--hark!--the horses!"

Delia could hear them now.

"Why, there is hope," she cried, "some help is here."

Even while she uttered the words the entrance was darkened by the
approaching horsemen. Now some one had slipped from the saddle and was
standing on the threshold.

The dying man shuddered in Delia's arms. "Margaret Campbell!" he
murmured.

Lady Breadalbane turned sharply to him.

"So one Macdonald lives!" she said, and shivered through her heavy furs.

"Have ye brought forty Campbells to murder him!" shrieked Delia.

Lady Breadalbane looked in keen curiosity at the haggard woman who held
the Macdonald's head.

"Do not use that word!" she cried. "We are innocent of this night's
work--innocent, I say! Who are you to look so at me?"

"Why have ye come?" asked Delia bitterly.

For answer the Countess swept across the room, dropped on her knees
beside Ronald and took his hand.

"I came," she said in an eager tone, "to find if any lived--to find
you--Ronald--we are innocent, you understand--innocent!"

He was gazing up into her lovely face with a passion even the chill of
death could not quench utterly.

"What do you want--Margaret Campbell!"

She snatched a paper from her bosom and held it with a trembling hand
out to him.

"Put your mark to this," she answered hoarsely, "to prove ye believe
that my lord is guiltless of this--"

"Ah!" burst out Delia, "is not Glenlyon your husband's man?"

"Silence!" commanded the Countess. "I speak to him--"

"What has he to gain from you that his last act should be to testify
to a lie?"

"It is no lie--this is government work not ours!"

Delia raised flashing eyes.

"Then if Breadalbane is innocent--wherefore do ye trouble?" she cried.

"That he may prove to all the world the Macdonalds hold him
guiltless--Ronald--will ye put your mark."

"No," said Delia. "She asks too much--by Heaven, too much!"

"Ronald--I will kiss thee," breathed the Countess. "I will put my arms
about thee--hold thee even as she does--to my bosom--so thou mark'st
this."

He turned from Delia toward her.

"Breadalbane is blood-guilty to the soul," he gasped. "Yet kiss me--and
I will sign--thy lie."

She took a pen and inkhorn from her pocket, dipped the pen and put it
between his slack fingers--while Delia tried to force her back.

"Ye shall not do it!" she cried desperately to Ronald. But he took no
heed of her.

"Kiss me--" he murmured, "Margaret! Margaret!"

She caught hold of him, thrusting Delia aside. "Margaret!"

"Sign!" shrieked the Countess at sight of his face, but he rolled
out of her arms between them.

"Ye are too late!" cried Delia, springing up.

Lady Breadalbane gave one look at his dead face, then rose also.

"Well, we do not care, Jock and I," she said in a quiet fury. "I think
there are no Macdonalds left to harry us--and we can face the world."

She turned to the doorway and beckoned the man who stood there.

"The man is dead," she said, flinging back her red hair. "And he has not
given testimony, Glenlyon."

"No, thank God, thank God!" sobbed Delia wildly. Glenlyon looked from
one to another.

"My lord must bear his own deeds," he said slowly. The Countess's green
eyes blazed.

"This deed is not his," she cried. "But thine, Robert Campbell!"

"Do you deny me, then?" he answered heavily.

"Ay--thee and they works--never look to my lord to share the burden of
the blood that ye have shed to-night!"

"So--ye cast me off?" asked Glenlyon thickly.

She laughed magnificently.

"If you say that my lord bid you do what you have done--why then we
do--cast you off, Glenlyon."

"There are others know the truth."

It was Delia spoke.

Lady Breadalbane glanced at her fiercely.

"You?" she said.

"I--and Jerome Caryl."

The Countess fell back before the name and clutched at the lintel of the
door; then recovered herself and laughed aloud.

"He is dead--your Caryl."

Delia shrieked.

"Dead!"

"Who was he that he should not die?"

"Dead!"

"Have I not said so?"

"How died he?"

Lady Breadalbane put her hand to her bosom and drew herself to her full
height.

"Put the deed down to those who did this work about you--there are those
who did not care to see him go free from Kensington."

"He was--murdered?"

"He was found dead."

"Jerome dead! By whose orders?" Delia's tone had dropped to dullness.
She seemed to be re-acting some old and ghostly dream; she had said
such words before--and now the answer came the same.

"The Master of Stair," said the Countess, looking her full in the
face. "They found him, dead on Hounslow Heath which was the more
likely--highwaymen or the Master of Stair?"

"Ye think that by his orders Jerome Caryl was slain?"

"I leave it to ye," answered the Countess and with a fierce abruptness
she was gone.

They heard the thunder of her escort down the Glen as the Campbells
swept away.

Delia came forward with clenched hands.

"Three," she said in a choked voice, staring down at Ronald. "God bear
witness that it is three that he has taken from me--three men wantonly
slain."

She put her hand over her distorted face and swung round toward
Glenlyon.

"Why have ye stayed?" she asked.

He came slowly near to her, looking at her strangely. "What are you
going to do?" he asked.

"Live. Live to--" she dropped her hand from her face and pressed it to
her bosom. "I am going--to make a man pay the price of the blood he has
shed--to pay the price."

"What is your name?" asked Glenlyon.

"Delia," she said indifferently, and she moved toward the door; the cold
light was full on her pale face and her long fallen hair dark over her
shoulders.

Glenlyon followed, his sword clanking on the floor. "Come with me."

His voice came unsteadily. "You may command me," he said.

As if she suddenly realized him, Delia lifted her head; he flushed under
his tan, and in a troubled way took off his beaver. "Give me--your
hand--if I might."

The brown eyes considered him: "Robert Campbell--what do ye mean?" she
asked wildly. "I have my life's work--I have told you--"

"Will you come with me?" he asked again. "Will you--trust me?"

Delia's glance fell to the dead man; then she looked away down the valley:
slowly back at Glenlyon.

"I think I will," she said, and held out her hand.





BOOK TWO



CHAPTER I - THE RECKONING


It was the very height of spring in Edinburgh; the middle of May, 1695;
the warm sunny day was fading into dusk and the street lamps were lit
and glittering yellow through the twilight. Before a magnificent
mansion in the finest part of the city, a large crowd was gathered, an
angry crowd that surged up and down, murmuring dangerously.

And in the front room of the mansion a man sat alone and listened to
that ominous sound without.

The vast room was unlit and the long windows open to the balcony and
fresh spring air; the heavy furnishing was splendid to excess; its one
occupant sat before a gold harpsichord, leaning against it, with face
turned toward the window; close to his elbow stood a crystal vase of
early white roses and violets and on the white wall behind him was
painted a cluster of hollyhocks and pinks.

He was sumptuously attired in heavy white satin that shimmered in the
dusk; round his neck hung the dull gold knots and roses of the collar of
St. George, and below his knees the bright blue of the Garter showed;
there were patches on his face and his black ringlets were elaborately
curled and powered in the front.

His unbuckled sword lay along the harpsichord; now and then as the
murmur rose to a shout he laid his hand upon it and his black brows
frowned. For John Dalrymple, first Earl of Stair, felt very keenly
to-night what it meant to be the best hated man in Scotland.

After a while he arose with a stir of perfume and crossed midway to the
window.

The crowd below had gathered in numbers; they pressed close against his
iron gates; and from the confusion of voices one word rose distinctly:

"Glencoe! Glencoe!"

The Earl of Stair stepped onto the balcony and at the sight of him there
rose a howl of execration; he frowned down on them with the bitterest
scorn and turned into the room again.

A stone crashed up at the balcony and again came: "Glencoe!"

He glanced at the clock and rang a bell; when the servant appeared in
answer, he asked for lights. "And order the coach," he said.

The man hesitated, stopped.

"My lord--my lord--you will not go abroad?"

"To my Lord Breadalbane's reception," answered the Earl. "My lord--does
your lordship hear the mob?"

The Earl flared with impatience.

"I do not ask your attendance--if there be one man in my service not a
coward let him drive, it .will suffice."

The servant bowed and withdrew, and the Earl stood silent in the center
of the room until the man returned and, lifting the candles, set the
room in a soft glow.

"Draw the curtains," commanded the Earl.

The servant obeyed and as the pink satin was drawn over the dark,
without a low groan rose from the waiting crowd.

The Earl crossed to the harpsichord, picked up his sword and buckled
it on.

The servant softly left the room, and the inner silence was unbroken
till the rattle of the coach into the yard below. The crowd gave it a
low, dangerous greeting as they passed and clamored against the iron
railing.

The Earl turned a glance out of narrowed eyes at the shrouded windows
and his ringed finger shifted his sword up and down in the scabbard.

A light footstep made him turn; it was his wife.

He frowned; she passed in silence to the harpsichord and with an
agitated look at him sank into the seat there.

"Will you not send for the soldiers, my lord?"

She spoke in a troubled way; with halting utterance and a nervous foot
tapping the floor; the Earl considered her a moment; she was pale, her
blonde head set off against the crimson and purple of the painted
flowers behind her; her mauve and gold gown shone in a bright reflection
on the polished boards; a cloak of a delicate opal color was clasped
with diamonds over her bosom, the rich black and white of the ermine
lining showing as it fell apart.

"You are not coming with me?" was his answer, noting her.

"Yes--" she gave back hurriedly. "You see--I am dressed--"

"Yesterday, you said you would not accompany me, madam," he commented
coldly, "and I see no need."

"I should prefer to, my lord."

"Why?" he frowned.

"I--I do not care to be alone--these people outside frighten me."

"There are the servants."

She moved uneasily. "I do not trust servants--indeed, I would rather
come."

He looked at her curiously; it was rare indeed for her to be anxious for
his company; though since his father's death with no one to foment it,
the bitterness between them had grown less active, still he was
surprised that she should so far depart from her usual silent avoidance
of him as to desire to accompany him to-night--to-night when his
servants shrank from driving with him through Edinburgh Town.

She waited his verdict anxiously, her slender fingers pulling heedlessly
at the roses and violets beside her.

"Why not send for the soldiers?" she repeated at length. "They are
dangerous to-night--these people."

He lifted his shoulders contemptuously.

"I am not afraid of them. It is no more than they have done before. I
was never a favorite of the mob."

"Yet these are in earnest--this question of Glencoe--" He turned on her.

"Madam--do not let me hear that word. An insensate party cry--begun by
the Jacobites; spread by my enemies--a meaningless parrot call--what is
Glencoe to me? An act, two years old--a thing cursedly bungled or
Hamilton had not left any alive to start this howl."

"Yet the King has ordered an inquiry and appointed a commission, has he
not?"

The Earl smiled bitterly.

"Madam, my enemies have forced the King to head the stronger party--what
does he know of it? Nothing."

The servant entered with his master's hat and cloak; Lady Stair rose with
a faint color in her cheeks and drew her hood around her face.

They descended the stairs in silence; below the secretary met them with
an attempt to keep the Earl within the house.

The footmen had refused to ride behind the coach (the Earl was not
beloved by his servants). Yet to go unattended: Lord Stair smiled
unpleasantly.

"Dismiss them," he said briefly, and himself opening the door stepped
out into the portico.

Between him and the mob was the cobbled yard, behind the high iron
railings, yet it seemed as if this would little assure him safety so
fierce a shout burst forth when it beheld him.

The Master of Stair had always been hated; though his magnificence, his
generosity with money, his recklessness in politics were qualities
likely to be beloved by the populace, his excessive arrogance, the
horrible tales connected with his house, his aloofness, his lack of
amiable vices, his swift and brilliant rise from a mere advocate to the
most powerful man in Scotland, were things not to be forgiven by either
high or low.

And he had always been on the unpopular side, always served the law not
the people; he was merciless too, and reckless in making enemies; they
who for two years had been working to spread the tale of Glencoe, found
that to give some or any point to the general hate of the Master of
Stair was as easy as putting a match to gunpowder; the mob shouted
"Glencoe!"--as they would have shouted anything that voiced their long
dislike; high and low, all Edinburgh, had combined on this pretext to
pull the Dalrymple down.

The Earl stared at the mob a moment and his blue eyes darkened; he knew
well enough the value of their shout of horror at Glencoe and despised
them the more utterly; he was not afraid that all his enemies together
could accomplish his ruin; he had England behind him; and during these
three years his worldly success had swept him on and up beyond all
meddling with.

He helped his wife into the coach; she had turned even whiter: as the
crowd shouted she trembled: her husband took no heed of her.

One of the servants ran forward to open the gates: the people drew back
quietly, waiting in an ominous hush.

The coachman whipped up his horses and dashed through the gates at a
gallop. Howls, curses, shrieks arose and the mob made a wild onset, but
the hoofs of the four plunging horses kept a passage clear and the coach
swept free. But the crowd followed and closed about it. Lady Stair
cowered in a corner. Stones rattled on the roof and mud was flying at
the windows; stones and sticks struck the coachman, the carriage came to
a standstill and a wild shout burst forth.

The Earl cursed fiercely and flung the window up; they shouted up vile
names at him and mouthed foul versions of his misfortunes till his cheek
was dark with passion.

With a hard face he slipped his hand to his pocket.

"Listen!" he pulled the door open and leaned forward. "If ye do not
leave go of the horses--if one of you come a step nearer--I'll shoot the
dog." And he lifted his white and silver gloved hand closed round the
glitter of a pistol.

For an instant his firm reckless facing of them discomposed the crowd,
yet the sight of his lowering dark face as greatly roused their wrath
anew.

"Ye damned Dalrymple!" shouted one man. "Answer for the bluid o'
Glencoe!"

As he spoke he leaped to gain the open doorway of the coach.

The Earl seized him by the collar and hurled him backwards into the
mass. "By God!" he cried with blazing eyes, "I'll have the law on you,
you hounds--I'll have you whipped and hanged for this."

His fierce voice rose above the clamor and stirred fury beyond awe.
There was a wild dash at the coach and in another moment the mob would
have dragged Earl Stair to his death. But Lady Stair had risen from her
place in the interior, forgotten by her husband, unknown of by the mob.

Now she caught his arm and slipped into view in the doorway.

"Don't fire!" she said; she lifted a beseeching face.

The carriage lamps fell on her bright fairness and the shimmer of her
dress; the night wind blew her hair and ribbons about her; in the sudden
surprise of her appearance the crowd was silent.

The Earl's hand dropped to his side.

"Surely you will let us pass," she said, looking round her in a gentle
way.

There was no one there who had any wish to shed blood before Lady
Dalrymple; she was greatly beloved in Edinburgh and neither her beauty
nor her fearlessness failed of their effect.

"We willna' touch ye, mistress," cried a man. "Stand awa' frae yer
husband."

But she had laid her hand on the Earl's breast and though he sought to
move her, kept her place.

"Ye hae a bad lord!" shouted another. "But ye are a gentle leddy--stand
frae the Earl--"

"Madam--retire!" cried her husband, very white. But she took no heed of
him.

"Give us leave to pass," she said very softly.

They fell away from the carriage door; it was obvious that they would
not touch him while she was there; the horses, suddenly freed, dashed
ahead.

The Earl drew his wife inside and closed the door.

"Now, why, madam, why that?" he demanded breathlessly. She drew away
with a little shudder to the farthest corner of the coach.

The crowd had fallen away to right and left; they were proceeding
unhindered.

"What did you think I should do?" she answered.

He seated himself, leaning towards her. "Did you accompany me, madam,
that you might play my good angel?" She looked away.

"I knew that they would not touch you while I was there." In utter
amazement he stared at her.

"I am much beholden to your--charity," he said haughtily.

She glanced round, saw his expression, and the blood flew into her face.

"Spare your gratitude, my lord," she said bitterly, "I would have done
as much for any."

He frowned. "I did not think that I evoked your peculiar solicitude," he
answered. "Doubtless you like to display your exemption from the hatred
my house is held in."

"My lord!" she cried, "that savors of your father's tongue--and is
unworthy."

"You must pardon me," he said in a proud voice, "but I am not used,
madam, to be an object of pity."

Lady Stair gazed from the window blindly on the dark streets.

"I did not use the word, my lord."

"Madam, you performed the act."

She turned suddenly in a half-desperate manner. "Do you suppose that I
want to see you hurt--or killed?" she asked.

He lifted his eyebrows; his face with wrath was near as white as his
dress.

"I should not have imagined that it would, madam, have greatly afflicted
you."

Her blue eyes glared at him curiously.

"You strangely misunderstand," she said slowly, "you are very hard--but
I--of late, I have grown more passive--what does it all matter? Think,
my lord, what you will." She rested her head against the cushions and
her hands fell together in her lap; her husband turned his head away
sharply; her presence was a fret, her sad face a reproach; she had been
very quiet of late; from one month's end to another he took little
notice of her, but to-night she was forced on him; he could not help
seeing her delicate soft fairness, her drooping mouth; he could not get
away from the unhappiness she was a symbol of.

They drove in silence; idly Lady Stair pulled at her fan and stared out
of the window; moodily he traced patterns on the coach floor with his
scabbard point, his face turned from her. So they galloped through
Edinburgh and thundered into the courtyard of Lord Breadalbane's house.



CHAPTER II - FOREBODINGS


The musicians were playing the delicate melody of a pavan in Lady
Breadalbane's ball-room, the air was heavy with the scent of the white
and pink roses that decorated the walls and the rhythmical movements of
the dancers were reflected in smooth pale floors.

In a little card-room opening on the ball-room sat Breadalbane and the
Earl of Stair, in converse.

Breadalbane appeared ill and anxious; his delicate face was pale and
drawn, his manner strained to composure and quiet. Their discourse lay
round the word now in the mouth of all Scotland, Glencoe.

"Ye hae heard?" said Breadalbane, "that the King's commission appointed
to make the inquiry canna be kept off it ony longer. The feeling is ower
Strang."

The Earl of Stair's foot beat time softly to the pavan; he gazed with an
inscrutable face toward, the distant dancers.

"Tweeddale and the other privy councilors will hold this investigation
in a day or so--even ye, my lord, canna stop them."

Still the other made no answer.

"Ye hav'na'," continued Breadalbane, "the power ye had, my lord, tho' to
the world ye seem at the pinnacle o' fame--but the Presbyterians and the
Jacks together will be too strang for ye noo."

The Earl's blue eyes flashed.

"I do not dread the inquiry," he said. "Albeit it is conducted by my
enemies--my bitter enemies, Johnstone and Tweeddale."

"Ay," answered Breadalbane, "ye hae mony enemies, and they'll ruin ye if
they can, but 'tis ane bitter enemy has wrought this."

"Who mean ye?" frowned Lord Stair.

Breadalbane lifted his shoulders.

"I dinna ken--ye should ken best--some one has been at
work--persistently, during these three years this tale has been abroad,
through the non-jurors, the Jacks--to your enemies in Parliament--till
all Scotland is roused. Who is at the bottom of it?"

Lord Stair turned slowly to the speaker.

"A tale springing from the Jacks," he said scornfully. "Will any believe
it? It does not trouble me. I have not even heard their version."

"Ye are ower sure, Lord Stair--the work has been slow but certain--the
tale is in every mouth."

"What tale, my lord?"

"The tale o' what they call the massacre o' Glencoe."

"What do they say?" asked Lord Stair with a disdainful smile.

"They say that the Macdonalds were murdered by your orders--they say
that the soldiers entered the Glen by black treachery, feigning
friendship, that they lived there ower a fortnicht, feasting and
drinking, that they rose one nicht and murdered the clan in their beds,
butchered them, men, women and children, with every cruelty--that is the
tale they tell, Lord Stair."

"It is a lie."

"Yea--it is a lee--but ye canna, I ken, prove it a lee. The inquiry will
be behind closed doors--it will be conducted by your enemies; ye hae all
Scotland believing this lee--and against ye."

Lord Stair spoke impatiently.

"Every soldier under Glenlyon knows that this was a military
execution--every man among them can disprove this wild tale of the
Jacobites--"

"The Argyllshire regiment is in America," said Breadalbane, "and I
hav'na' seen Glenlyon since he left my service suddenly--disappeared--"

Lord Stair seemed struck into a frowning silence for a moment. At length
he asked:

"Whom will they examine--these commissioners?" Breadalbane lifted his
light eyes.

"Sandy and Ian Macdonald who escaped--Keppoch and Glengarry--I dinna
ken--what others--I am nae in their secrets."

Again in silence Lord Stair looked out across the ballroom; the delicate
melody of the pavan came exquisitely through the roses.

Lord Stair's mouth curved into a little smile; he did not fear; he
despised his enemies; that they had discovered such a weapon as this
against him roused his bitter amusement more than his wrath. He
disdained to be moved by insults raked from the very mud of the gutter;
he cared nothing for tales started in Jacobite pamphlets. No remorse
troubled him with regard to Glencoe; he was too sure of himself, his
great position, the King's friendship, to tremble before the Scottish
Parliament.

"Let them open the commission," he said loftily, "let them listen to the
lies of Highland savages. I shall not lift a finger to prevent them.
They must have a party cry--as well Glencoe as any other."

He took one of the roses from the bowl on the card table and pulled idly
at the curling leaves; his eyes were carelessly following the figure of
his wife as her gold embroideries flashed among the dancers.

Breadalbane watched him curiously.

"Ye are ower easy, Lord Stair. Ye ken the ugly things the inquiry will
reveal? How they took the oath and it was suppressed--for your ain
purpose."

Lord Stair flicked a torn petal from his white sleeve.

"I had authority to suppress what I choose, my lord," he answered
indifferently. "The oath was invalid--as it came in too late, and so I
treated it. Besides, have you forgotten that I had the King's warrant?"

A faint smile touched Breadalbane's thin lips.

"Will the King stand by ye?" he asked. "Will he no' say that he didna'
ken what he signed?"

Lord Stair sat silent. Breadalbane's keen insight had brought him to the
truth. Stair thought of that day at Kensington when William had signed
the order without reading it, and for the first time a vague uneasiness
touched him; he turned at last, half-angrily.

"Why this anxiety on my behalf, my lord?" he demanded. "You had a share
in this business, yet you are safe--thanks to your prudence."

The pavan was over. Lord Stair watched his wife till she had gone
out of sight with her partner; he had pulled the rose away to the
heart and absently he played with the pile of petals on the table
beside him.

"Mae mon's prudence," remarked Breadalbane a little bitterly, "can take
account of such a mischance as this--some one hae been working in the
dark--some black steady malice hae been accomplishing this."

"The malice of the Jacks," suggested Lord Stair with a smile.

"It's mair than that, my lord--is this story that makes England and
France shout shame on us and the mob pelt us as we pass, a mere
invention of the Jacks? Ye hae a bitter secret enemy--my lord--canna ye
guess at one wha might do this thing?"

Lord Stair dragged the pilfered rose across the table, leaving the gold
pollen dust staining the inlaid wood; he still smiled.

"I know of none--my enemies are numerous--but not--my lord, secret."

The violins commenced a gavotte. Lady Stair crossed the floor, Mr.
Wharton was her partner; her husband looked at them and reflected that
Mr. Wharton was too often in Edinburgh; these three years had not
softened his dislike of the good-humored beau.

Breadalbane spoke again.

"Ye are mistaken--the maist deadly of your enemies is the hidden one wha
hae trumped up this tale."

"Maybe it is an enemy of your own," answered Lord Stair. "Maybe you, my
lord, are the object of this spite."

"It is na directed against me--if I fall it will be only in complication
wi' ye--they hav'na' mentioned me--it is always ye, Lord Stair."

A little silence fell; no voices broke the spirited measure of the
gavotte; Lord Stair trifled lazily with the ruined rose; Breadalbane
watched him covertly.

The candle-light gleamed softly on the round arms and bare shoulders of
the women as they passed between their partners and courtesied, each
reflected in the long mirrors lining the room, so that three Lady Stairs
appeared to be dancing, one in profile, one full face, one with her
back, all clad in satin that caught rippling lights and gleaming
shadows, all smiling, faintly.

Lord Stair spoke at length.

"My letters--that I wrote at the time of this affair--you kept them?"

"They were vera imprudent--yes, I kept them."

Lord Stair lifted his blue eyes; they were dark, a little troubled.

"You can give them back to me, my lord, there is no need for them to
serve Tweeddale's turn."

The music crashed to its climax; the three Lady Stair's advanced,
receded, bowed with the glittering shaking of a cloud of gold
embroideries.

"Send me those letters," repeated Lord Stair. "I shall be obliged, my
lord."

A curious look passed over Breadalbane's face.

"They are nae langer in my possession."

"What do you mean?"

"Tweeddale sent for them--to be examined--wi' your letters to the
Commander of the Forces."

Lord Stair flushed and turned quickly in his chair. "And you sent them?"

Breadalbane smiled.

"Yes."

"Now--by heaven, my lord, that was ill done!"

Unmoved, Breadalbane lifted his shoulders.

"I must show my authority--I canna tak' the blame--ye wrote them, ye
must even tak' the--credit, Lord Stair."

"You have treated me unworthily."

The Earl of Stair was breathing fast, he clenched his hand on the rose
petals and his angry eyes glanced disdainfully over his companion; but
Breadalbane kept his composure.

"As ye mak' naething o' the affair," he remarked dryly, "ye dinna need
to care that the Marquis o' Tweeddale will be reading your letters."

"Care?" echoed Lord Stair. "I care for none of it--you, my lord, behave
according to your nature. I am your guest. We will let the matter of the
papers pass. After all I should not have expected otherwise, and I am
not ashamed of what I have written."

Breadalbane was quiet, slightly discomfited by the magnificent manner
and person of the man whose reckless imprudence his cunning despised.

Lord Stair rose, sweeping the petals in a cloud onto the floor; bowed,
and passed into the ball-room.

The gavotte was over, the company stood about in little knots; as Lord
Stair passed he heard fragments of their converse; it seemed that they
talked of nothing save Glencoe, Glencoe and the impending commission.

Johnstone was there, his fellow-minister and rival; he crossed the room
to make some smiling remarks to him upon the current topic.

"Ye have some enemy at work, my lord," said Johnstone with a pleasant
spite.

Lord Stair gazed at him in a disdainful silence, but the words pierced
the armor of his splendid scorn.

Had not Breadalbane said the same? Some secret enemy working his ruin.

He thought it over gloomily; it was part of the curse over the
Dalrymples, perchance, part of the bitter curse that at last, after he
had stifled the miseries of his personal tragedies with brilliant,
mighty success, he should be pulled to ruin by some unknown enemy.

He had seated himself in front of one of the great mirrors and gazed
frowningly at the company; his wife passed with Tom Wharton; he took no
heed of her save to wonder bitterly what she would do were he ruined, if
such a wild thing happened and he was brought low. What would she do? He
thought grimly that her company would not trouble him in that case;
doubtless she would be glad of the scandal of his disgrace to cover the
scandal of her desertion; the thin chain that held her would be snapped,
when the world turned on him so would she; he was sure of it, and he
reflected how easily his fortunes, his name, his honor could be pulled
to the dust if Tweeddale and his faction triumphed.

But his arrogance dismissed even the shadow of humiliation; he had been
howled at, reviled, threatened before; this storm would pass as others
had clone; he had weathered too much for a paltry matter such as this
Glencoe affair to overthrow him.

With the calm of his conscious pride he looked round on the brilliant
crowd. He was well aware that most of them were his ill-wishers. He would
not have been to the trouble of turning his head to conciliate one of
them; they might say what they would of him, he would stoop to neither
justification nor defense.

As the music recommenced, his wife advanced into the recess. She seemed
agitated and to hesitate, and paused looking at him strangely.

"The things they say!" she breathed quickly. "Have you heard?"

His face hardened, disdaining to answer. He glanced away, but she,
ignoring the repulse, crossed the polished floor with a sweep of satin
and put her hand on the back of his chair.

"It is not true, my lord," she asked, "this tale--it is some slander of
the Jacobites?"

He looked at her sideways in a manner that made her blench.

"Has my Lord Wharton been giving you his version of this tale?" he
asked.

She answered, very quietly.

"He--and others--it is in the air--and because I know--something of what
happened three years ago when this affair of the Macdonalds was first
broached--"

"So--you care to remind me of that?" he interrupted hotly.

Her wide eyes held a mournful steadiness.

"Why not my lord? You need not fear any knowledge of mine! That the
Macdonalds actually took the oath is now common talk--tell me--is this
story of the massacre the truth?"

Very intently and earnestly she looked at him.

"It is horrible," she said, "the cruelty--the treachery--babies slain
and little children dying of cold--my lord, my lord, you did not
sanction it?"

He turned his head slowly toward her.

"You may think so if you will," he answered coldly. Her hand fell from
his chair, she drew back a step. "'Then--it is true?"

"I shall not deny it--if you care to think so you may."

The look of aversion that was so at variance with her soft face sprang
into her eyes.

"Is that your answer? You will not deny it?"

"No," he said indifferently, "neither to you nor to any other."

"They will ruin you for it," she cried breathing quickly. His eyes
flashed; he thought she would had she dared have finished her sentence,
"and I shall be free."

"They may try," he said. "It will interest you, will it not, madam?"

She flung up her head in a desperate manner.

"It interests me more to know whether you are or are not the infamous
wretch these people paint you."

Lord Stair's usual pallor deepened. He tightened his lips and would not
speak; his wife considered him with baffled eyes, hesitated, then broke
into open appeal.

"I would take your word," she cried.

With a little kindness of voice or tone or look, with a gentle gesture,
a denial of the guilt that was at least not his, he could have won her
now, won her to believe in him, to stand by him; he knew it but he would
not soften, retract or explain, not by so much as a little word would
his pride deign to bridge the gulf between them.

He stared at her coldly with a bitter smile.

"Madam, I shall not offer you my word," he answered. "It is of little
matter what you think of me."

She moved away from him quivering, with outraged eyes.

"Very well," she said below her breath, "I shall know what to think of
you. If you did this thing--if the blood of those babes is on your
head."

He rose suddenly; the George hanging to the collar of knots and roses
heaved and glittered with his angry breathing.

"Keep this talk for those who are your usual company, madam," he said
fiercely. "What do you think the brats of savages are to me?"

And he swung out of the recess into the ball-room.

Lady Stair looked after him, and her gentle face grew hard; her delicate
hand waved her fan to and fro, slowly under her chin; she stood erect,
silent.

The music crept to her ears in a slow melody; the gently moving fan kept
time with it; with narrowed eyes she turned and looked at herself in the
mirror.

It was a tragic face she saw there, a hopeless face.

With a curious impulse, she leaned forward and kissed the lips of her
reflection, kissed the cold glass and smiled into her own eyes, with an
utter sadness.



CHAPTER III - THE TRIUMPH OF THE CAMPBELLS


The guests had gone; the roses hung limp and faded; guttering, dying
candles cast a dull light over the Countess Peggy as she stood in her
deserted ballroom.

She leaned against a mirror; her red hair fell over her bare white
shoulders and purple dress; at her bosom drooped a cluster of crimson
roses; with anxious eyes she looked at the gray-clad figure of her
husband, who sat beside her in an attitude of utter weariness.

"What will be the end of it, Jock?" she asked in a hushed voice.

"Ruin for the Earl o' Stair," he answered, "They've set their minds to
it, Tweeddale and his crew, and they'll na be letting him escape, there
is enough against him to hang him--though he'll no' be persuaded of it."

"Let Lord Stair go," said the Countess, "I dinna care--what will be the
end of it for ye, Jock?"

He gave her a tender look.

"Why--they hav'na' ony evidence against me, Peggy--I didna' put my name
to rash letters--they canna prove onything--I'm safe enow--and sae is
Argyll--though he is half-demented wi' fear."

"But this trumped up foolery o' Glenlyon feasting a fortnicht in the
Glen, Jock--that touches us--"

The Earl smiled.

"It doesna'--Glenlyon had his commands frae Hamilton na frae me--and
Glenlyon--Glenlyon hae been bought by the Jacks--I hae heard--this vera
evening--that he hae appeared and will be examined before the
commissioners."

"But however Glenlyon lee--we can disprove that the Campbells were in
the Glen a fortnicht."

"We can," answered the Earl, "but we willna'. Dinna ye see, Peggy--we
must ken naething o' what occurred--we were miles awa'--at Kilchurn, we
must say--we ken naething--naething. If we disprove lees that dinna harm
us we must reveal the truth--which wad be vera damaging."

"Then Lord Stair will indeed be ruined," said the Countess slowly. "But
it is na ony business o' ours. Ye may trust my silence, Jock."

She moved to the window and pulled aside the curtain; the stars hung
bright and luminous above the sleeping city; a church clock struck one.

The Countess Peggy leaned her head against the mullions and her face
fell into lines of weariness; she twisted the ends of her bright hair in
and out of slack fingers and the withered roses on her breast, crushed
against the window-frame, shed their faded leaves at her feet.

Many of the candles had guttered to the socket and gone out; only two or
three, burning ghostly before the tall mirrors, remained to cast a light
through the darkened room.

Silence and loneliness were abroad; the Countess gazed up at the
infinite distance of the stars and shivered through her slender body;
against the sky rose a misty vision often seen by her: the vision of a
man with a beautiful face and clothes clay-stained and bloody, holding
a lace cravat and looking at her with mournful eyes.

She smiled bitterly as she thought of the uselessness of that blood on
her soul; Jerome Caryl might have lived. An obscure traitor had informed
and the plot to be carried out at Turnham Green had come to nothing.

She turned from the stars and her eyes sought her husband. "Jock!" she
cried, and there was a world of tenderness, of appeal, of passion in her
voice. "Jock!"

She crossed the great shadowy room to where he sat and went on her knees
beside him.

"I did it for ye," she murmured, as if answering an accusation. "Jock--I
hae served ye weel?"

He took her hands in his and smiled down at her.

"Peggy, ye ken vera weel ye are all the world to me," he said most
tenderly.

Her head drooped against his arm.

"Then I dinna care for onything," she whispered. "Yet at times I'm no'
sae brave--I'm afraid."

Breadalbane's wide light eyes gazed across the dark. "Afraid o' what,
Peggy?"

She drew a little closer to him.

"Of wraiths--o' the dead."

He smiled, fondling her hair.

"I wad'na' fear when dead what I had'na' feared when living, Peggy."

"Nay, nay, I dinna fear--at least I'm no' afraid, Jock, when ye are
close--but--Ah, Jock--wad I could forget!" He frowned above his smile.

"Are ye thinking of the Macdonalds, Peggy?"

With a little uneasy movement she lifted her head; her long throat gleamed
unnaturally white above her dark dress.

"Sometimes--I--think o' the Macdonalds."

Breadalbane laughed as if he cast aside some foolish fancy.

"We hae triumphed ower the Macdonalds, Peggy--the auld thief Makian got
his deserts."

"Yea, I ken."

"And Ronald Macdonald--ye hated him, Peggy."

"I ken," she said hastily, with yearning eyes on his face. "I wad I
might forget."

"Wherefore, Peggy?"

"Ah!--sleeping and waking--I see it--the Glen o' Weeping--as I rode
through it that day wi' the smoke drifting ower the corpses--and the
bitter dawn a-breaking--the bluid ower the heather and the silence, the
silence."

With a half-shudder her eyes drooped and her clasp of his arm tightened.

"This is fules' talk," said Breadalbane imperiously.

"Sic sights are common in the Hielands--ye ken vera weel--the Campbells
hae fed the eagles often enow--I shouldna' hae thought that ye, Peggy,
wad hae sickened at the bluid o' the Macdonalds."

"I dinna--but--I canna forget."

Breadalbane's eyes flashed.

"Nay--because the Hielands are clear o' the thieves--we canna forget,
when we see Argyllshire and Invernesshire free to the Campbells, when we
can ride unarmed with nae to question us--lords o' the Hielands. Ye say
weel we canna forget."

She warmed a little in response to his tone. "I dinna regret or repent,"
she said. "Hate o' the Macdonalds is in the bluid--it is na sorrow for
them but fear--fear maybe, Jock, o' the reckoning."

"We shallna' pay, Peggy--Lord Stair will answer to that." Lady
Breadalbane was silent, only something like a sigh escaped her.

The last candle sank into darkness; only the pale light of the stars and
the street lamps without illumined the room. "And he will pay," said
Breadalbane.

She started from a reverie.

"Who?"

"Lord Stair."

"Ye think he will be ruined?"

"What else? They will put it all on him--the King canna do less than
dismiss him."

"Weel, Jock, we dinna care."

"Nay--I never liked him."

"Nor I--and his wife, Jock, is a; fule."

"She willna' abide by him if he be ruined."

"She will leave him, Jock--ye think?"

"I know and he knows--she hasna' a tie to hold her--she will be blithe
of his disgrace."

"She hates him--weel, I never knew ony that loved a Dalrymple--they say
Lord Stair's mither wad sit on her husband's judgment seat in the
likeness o' a black cat--an she hated him--there is somewhat uncanny in
the bluid--ye couldna' love a Dalrymple."

"Yet Lord Stair is the handsomest gentleman in Scotland, Peggy," smiled
Breadalbane.

"Weel--he is na winning--an there is too much of the auld Viscount, wha
made his neck awry striving to listen to the divil, aboot him."


"The divil must be Lord Stair's advocate noo--for there is no one else in
Scotland will be."

A silence while they gazed at the paling sky through the long windows;
then Breadalbane spoke.

"Peggy--when we gang back to the Hielands--we'll ride through the Glen
o' Weeping, ye and I--and ye shall hae anither picture o' it to think on
after, when the badges and music o' the Campbells glitter and ring through
the ruins o' Glencoe."

"Jock--I am a fule--I dinna regret."

"Peggy--my dear, my dear!"

She looked up at him through the vague gray light.

"Jock!" she said passionately. "I am content--an' no afraid o' the living
or the--dead."



CHAPTER IV - THE LIE ACCOMPLISHED


It was toward the end of June; the commissioners had produced their report
on the Glencoe affair, yielding to the public demand to behold their
conclusions before the pleasure of the absent King was taken.

The Estates of Scotland were considering the verdict of Tweeddale's
commission; the verdict pronouncing in measured language that a bloody
murder had been committed three years ago upon the Macdonalds of
Glencoe, and that the entire cause of this slaughter rested with the
letters of the Master of Stair. Public excitement flamed high; the
greatest gentleman in Scotland had been declared a murderer and as the
details of his crime were discussed, there were many who hoped for the
pleasure of seeing the unpopular minister hanged in the Grassmarket. The
Parliament, clamored in strong debates, roused after the sluggish years,
voted to a man that the King's warrant did not authorize the slaughter
of the Macdonalds.

Then Lord Stair's enemies, in the ascendant, triumphant carried against
a feeble opposition that the Glencoe affair was murder.

The feeling of the Estates passed almost beyond control; the Jacobites
and the Presbyterians caused Lord Stair's letters to be read aloud in
the Parliament house; the statements of the witnesses: Ian Macdonald,
Sandy, his brother, some of the surviving clansmen, Glenlyon, Keppoch
and Glengarry, were discussed; the story of the entry of the Glen by
treachery; the fortnight's feasting and card playing, the Campbells'
rising one snowy night to slay their hosts in their beds and drive out
the women and children to perish on the mountains, all the details of
cowardice and cruelty that gave the story its horror were detailed,
canvassed and made much of.

Captain Hamilton was cited in vain at the city cross; at the first hint
of the scandal, he had fled Edinburgh. Tales that in contraband,
Jacobite pamphlets had circled for three years, were now on the lips of
grave men; it was related how, with a generous hospitality, the
Macdonalds had received the Campbells who had sworn that they came in
friendliness, how they had been made welcome with simple pleasure;
pathetic pictures were drawn of a pastoral people, virtuous and
ingenuous, living in a state of idyllic innocence. Makian was described,
venerable, beloved, trampling the snows to take the oath and returning
to his clan at peace with himself and beaming with righteousness.

The trust of these simple folk was dwelt upon; how they had taken the
bare word of their ancient enemies and harbored them in perfect faith.

How should they, in their simplicity, have suspected treachery behind
the smile of the redcoats?

Dramatic touches, too, were not lacking to this plausible tale; it was
related how Sandy Macdonald, awaking one night, had overheard a couple
of the soldiers in talk.

"I do not like the work," one said.

"Give me an open fight--"

Then Sandy Macdonald had gone to Glenlyon and asked, in his innocence,
if anything was intended?

Glenlyon had slapped him on the back, laughing. "Why, if there had been
anything--don't you think I should have given you a hint?"

And Sandy Macdonald, being one of the idyllic people, had no choice but
to take a Campbell's word against the evidence of his own senses. And to
add to it, the public passion was further inflamed by pictures of Makian
and his wife shot dead as they hurried with wine to serve their guests,
of babies lying quartered in the snow and women's fingers chopped off
for the sake of their rings, of butchered children and of the
blood-stained Campbells driving the flocks and herds of the slaughtered
people into Fort William. There was silence as to where these captured
cattle had originally come from.

The commissioners had been sworn to secrecy and the inquiry had been
conducted behind closed doors; of the actual depositions of the
witnesses few knew the truth, but their tales carefully invented,
artfully spread, were in every man's mouth and the machinations of Lord
Stair's enemies had converted the necessary execution of a gang of
lawless thieves into one of the most reviled crimes in the annals of
Scotland. England and France took up the cry; Justice, they said, had
suddenly cried aloud, and no one remarked how curiously silent Justice
had been over some of the Macdonald's actions.

And the odium, the hatred, the scorn, the fury, were all directed
against one man,--Lord Stair.

He, they said, was the sole author of these abominations; he had
suppressed the Macdonalds' oath, he had, under false pretenses, obtained
the warrant from the King, he had written letters breathing blood and
fire; he had exclaimed when he heard that it had been done:

"I only regret that any of the wretches have escaped."

They had always hated him; these men, and it chimed well with their mood
to assume the part of avenging justice and take a pitying interest in
these wronged people.

Their enemy had put himself in the wrong before the world; they would
see it to that he paid the price.

An address was sent to the King in which justice was demanded and
judgment on the Lord Stair as the author of the "massacre" of Glencoe.

A haughty spectator of his own ruin, the Earl of Stair watched these
events in silence.

To have shown himself in the Parliament would have been to court instant
arrest; he was asked for no defense or vindication and his pride would
not permit him to offer one.

The King was in the Netherlands and no further action would be taken
until his pleasure was known; but all Scotland had decided that his
judgment must affect the estate and probably the life of the disgraced
minister.

For his own sake William could not show clemency; mercy to Lord Stair
would be complicity in his crime; the King dare not, if he would,
blacken himself to save his servant.

On this blue June afternoon, Lord Stair paced his garden; a festival of
flowers lying lavishing abroad to the kisses of the sun.

The narrow box-edged paths radiated round a central fountain full of
gold carp; a stone figure of Hylas rose from the water-lilies and poured
water from a Grecian urn, splashing into the basin.

Trees of box and yew cut into the shapes of peacocks and Chinese pagodas
framed the dark background to innumerable roses, hollyhocks and bushes
of sweet-brier. Leading to a back entrance to the house was a wide
flight of steps ending in a terrace, the balustrade being white with
jasmine.

Steadily up and down the smooth paths walked Lord Stair, his shadow now
before, now behind him. On the edge of the fountain sat Lady Stair,
feeding the carp with cake.

Her wide straw hat tied with black velvet under her round chin threw
half her face into transparent shadow; her stiff blue lutestring dress
embroidered with silver stars, spread over the dark green grass and
glimmered in the sunlight.

Faint clouds floated across the pearly sky and lay reflected among the
water-lilies; the gold fish darted through the leaves like jewels and
from the urn held by Hylas, sparkled the clear stream of water.

It was perfectly still, far-removed from the noises of the city; now and
then a little breeze rose stirring the perfume from the roses and gently
bending the hollyhocks.

Lord Stair stopped at last in his pacing to and fro, stopped so close to
his wife that his shadow fell over her and the fountain brim.

She looked up, then down again at the water. "I think my ruin is
assured," said Lord Stair in a hard voice.

"You have no trust in the King?" she asked quietly. He answered in a
proud bitterness:

"The King! He has not shown himself strong enough to withstand a
faction--he, the same as the others, will cast the odium on me."

Lady Stair again looked up.

"What do you mean by ruin?" she asked steadily.

"That, madam, is within the King's pleasure. To save himself he will
show me the greater severity. You understand? I am to be the victim
flung to the rage of a party--the clamor of a faction." He paused a
second, gazing over her head, then he struck his hand down on his
sword-hilt.

"It is hardly credible!" he said.

"If what they say is true, it is well-deserved," said Lady Stair evenly.
"To your face, my lord, I say it; it is well-deserved."

He glanced at her curiously.

"Ah--you think so?" he said in a contained voice.

"You would give me no denial," she answered. "I think what I must
think--I conclude what your silence causes me to conclude."

"It is a matter of no moment," said Lord Stair. "Perhaps--" and he
smiled unpleasantly, "it is as well that my downfall will at least give
no one pain."

"Perhaps it is as well," she assented coldly. Her ringed hand stirred
through the fountain and the water-lilies trembled at her touch; a low
passing cloud cast a shadow over the grass. Lord Stair stood silent with
a hard and angry face; his wife spoke again.

"Yet I ask you, my lord, what you mean by ruin?"

"Are there, madam, so many forms of it?"

She lifted her wet hand and drew it along the stone brim of the
fountain. "I suppose," she said, "that His Majesty must dismiss you from
office--I suppose. That is the least he can do--am I right?"

"Yes."

"I suppose--he might touch your estate--your life--am I right?"

"Yes."

"The first, the least he could do would be generous--you think he will
not choose it?--again--am I right?"

"Yes."

A spot of bright color burnt in either cheek as she looked up at him; in
the shade of her hat her eyes shone brightly. "He will do the utmost?"

Lord Stair smiled.

"Be content, madam," he said bitterly. "I think he will do the utmost."

She caught her breath.

"And--you wait?"

"What else--yes, I wait."

Lady Stair rose; as she lifted her head their eyes met.

"So," she said very quietly. "You have given me that also--you have made
me the wife of a disgraced, ruined man, you have dragged me into a
hideous downfall of honor and estate. We of my father's house have kept
clear of these things--I think I am the first to be linked to a
dishonored name."

He stood silent, looking at her with an inscrutable expression.

"Reproaches from me will not sting you," continued Lady Stair. "Dear
Heaven, what are we to one another? I would have been spared this, yet
it is a fitting end--"

Her wild eyes lifted and fell; she moved a step away across the grass.

Lord Stair spoke, slowly:

"You are free to do as you will--free as the servants I can no longer
pay. Do what is in your mind to do. No doubt they will not blame you--"

"Well?" she said.

He lifted his head suddenly.

"I shall not ask you to share exile, a prison or death with me. I cannot
hold you. I know it--only--"

"Well?" she murmured again faintly.

"You said--just now--" he spoke with difficulty, a painful distinctness,
"you--had kept clear of these things--you will remember it?"

"I do not understand," she answered.

"I think you do. You are my wife. You will soon be free of me, I think.
Until you are, I ask your loyalty. That is all."

"Are you afraid of me?" she said.

"Of nothing." he answered. "Least of all of meeting circumstance.
Whatever occurs I can deal with it."

There was a curious expression on Lady Stair's face. "You are very
confident," she said, "yet you stood high and you fell."

He smiled at her.

"Madam--it is a thing that may be done magnificently."

She stood silent a while with averted eyes, then she stooped, picked up
her scarf from the grass and turned slowly toward the house.

Lord Stair watched the blue figure with the long shadow crossing the
grass; watched her as she mounted the steps, traversed the terrace and
disappeared into the house.

The beautiful garden was strangely desolate; he moved away from the
fountain and his face was ghastly in the sunlight.

The hours were intolerably leaden; he reflected that he was a free man
only till his enemies had the authority for his arrest; restlessness and
the desire to use his liberty while he might made him leave the garden
and call for his horse.

As he passed out again he saw through an open door Lady Stair sitting idly
with her hands in her lap; he did not speak to her nor turn his head: but
descended to the court and rode away through Edinburgh to the open country,
and there at a full gallop took the summer wind across his face.



CHAPTER V - A WOMAN'S VICTORY


Twilight was gathering as Lord Stair rode back into Edinburgh; the city
lights glimmered through purple haze as the June evening deepened and
above the castle that stood black against the sky hung the first star.

Lord Stair was riding slowly from the gate when he had to draw aside to
admit the passage of a coach and four; as it swept rattling along the
narrow street he recognized the silver and murrey of Lord Wharton's
liveries.

Evidently my lord was returning to London; the Earl glanced after the
coach with a strange satisfaction and smiled to himself as he noted that
the blinds were drawn. Lord Wharton was likely to be afraid of the night
air; he pictured him with his hands in a muff seated on cushions as the
coach swung through the open gates onto the country road.

Lord Stair went on his way; there were many people about, some
excitement or uneasiness appeared to be abroad; he wondered grimly if
the messenger from the King had arrived and if these churls mouthed his
news already.

No one recognized him in his plain riding-gear; he pulled his beaver
further over his eyes and turned into the main street; here the crowd
was denser; many were armed; he touched up his tired horse and was
breaking into a trot when a girl stepped out from the passers-by and
put her hand forcibly on his rein.

"Lord Stair!" she said in a quick whisper.

He stopped, looked down.

"Lord Stair--dinna gang hame!" she said earnestly.

He leaned from the saddle to catch her whisper. "You know me?" he asked
easily.

She nodded.

"I hae seen ye ride frae the Parliament, Lord Stair,--dinna gang hame
to-nicht!"

"Why, mistress?"

Her eyes glowed in the shadow of her hood.

"They're ganging to burn yer house, Lord Stair--tonicht--I ken it a' for
ma ain Sandy is in it--sae--dinna gang hame!"

She dropped her hand, trembling with excitement. "Ye canna save yer
house, yet ye can save yer life."

He drew himself erect in his saddle and looked in the direction of
his home.

"This is Tweeddale's and Johnstone's setting on."

"Ay, Lord Stair--and the mob will make for yer life."

"I will go and demand soldiers."

"It willna' serve, Lord Stair--they are a' in league wi' the mob."

He knew very well that her words were true. "Thank you, mistress," he
said with a sudden smile. "But I must go home--and quickly. I should
never have left the house--I did not guess at this."

"Why, Lord Stair? Why must ye gang hame?"

"Because of the Countess: she is alone. Thank you again, mistress."

He lifted his hat for a second and then turned rapidly down the street.

So it had come to this: often had he been face to face with popular
wrath; often had he dared and flouted the whole of Scotland and now the
crash had come. He glanced down at the people he rode through and his
soul shook to think that he should have come to be at their mercy. His
mansion was in complete darkness as he rode into the courtyard; it was
with a sense of relief that he noticed the empty streets before it, the
mob had not gathered yet.

No servant came forward to take his horse; he left the tired animal and
entered the house.

One of the footmen stood in the hall, looking pale and frightened.

"Are you the only one?" said Lord Stair.

The man assented in a cowed manner.

"Melville--has Melville gone?"

"Yes, my lord--we heard there was a design to burn the house. Mr.
Melville went and the others, my lord."

"I think the information was correct," said Lord Stair quietly. "You had
better follow. Only first there are the horses. My own is outside--take
him and the others to the old stables at the end of the garden. I think
they will be safe there. Let me know that it is done and you shall be
rewarded."

"Yes, my lord."

Lord Stair was moving down the shadows of the hall when the man called
after him:

"There is a lady waiting for you in the drawing-room, my lord. She would
not be denied."

"Waiting for me?"

The Earl paused on the first stair and looked back through the darkness
at the speaker.

"Yes, my lord."

"Her name?"

"My lord, she gave none."

Lord Stair was silent a moment. "Where is the Countess?" he asked. The
man did not answer.

"Where is she?"

"My lord, my lord."

At the tone, the exclamation, the Earl gave a little start.

"She is in the house," he said sharply.

Slowly, reluctantly, came the reply.

"No, my lord."

And as the man spoke he saw the Earl put his hand out swiftly and catch
hold of the banisters.

"When did she go?" came through the shadows and Lord Stair's voice shook
a little.

"Soon after Mr. Melville, my lord; when she heard they meant to burn the
house, my lady put on her hat and had her mare saddled and rode away."

"Leaving no message?"

"None, my lord."

A pause while the shadows seemed to thicken, blotting out all traces of
light; then Lord Stair spoke, quietly:

"That will do. Go and look to the horses."

The man obeyed, disappearing quickly, and Lord Stair ascended the gloomy
stairs of his deserted house.

Groping aimlessly through the darkness he pushed open the first door he
came to and flung himself into a chair.

So--his wife had gone--he had never expected it, like this, so brutally.

He remembered Lord Wharton's coach and the closed blinds and cursed
himself for a fool that he had smiled--why had not some devil's whisper
prompted him to send a bullet through those deceitful windows and kill
the two that rode within?

And she had talked of her honorable house! It was part of her woman's
cunning--that he might leave her--safely trusting her cold dignity!

He started up with some wild idea of following them, but by now they
would be miles on the road; he did not doubt that one day he would kill
Tom Wharton; but tonight it was madness; he was deserted and alone,
still he had himself at least in hand to face whatever came.

Yet the next instant his impulse was to ride after them at any cost, at
any price. She might have waited! A dull agony came over him, he dropped
his head on his outspread arms and the dark glimmered with horror.

The curse! To the last shame and misery it was being meted out--an
accursed race--accursed.

The word beat in his brain like a drum to execution.

Accursed, abhorred; great and famous as he had been but yesterday, there
was not one who would stay to help him meet this moment now.

He was used to standing alone; he had an immeasurable courage, yet his
wife's defection had robbed him of half his strength.

Let her only have waited a little longer--possibly a few poor hours
longer and she might have been free indeed.

He rose up blindly and felt for his sword. It was completely dark,
only the long window glimmered ghostly at the other end of the room.
As he moved he knocked a table over and there was a crash of china
as the vases struck the floor, he paused, leaning against the wall
with his hand to his sick head.

The room opened into the drawing-room by folding-doors; it seemed, as
if, in that other chamber, some one was moving, some one roused by the
falling table.

Suddenly a candle appeared like a star in the distance, coming nearer
through the dark. His blood leaped for a moment; it might be that she
had not gone--it might be that she had returned.

"Ulrica!" he cried hoarsely, "Ulrica!"

But now the candle cast a glow on the person carrying it; a woman, but
too tall and stately for Lady Stair.

She came to the open doors and stopped; her light gray dress appeared
luminous against the darkness, and a black hood was pushed back from her
pale, set face.

She held the candle in a hand so trembling that the flame wavered and
the wax dripped over her dress.

"Is it you, Lord Stair?" she said faintly. "Is it you?"

In an instant he knew her; in an instant it was all plain to him, as the
key to the cipher she explained everything; his secret enemy, the one
who had worked his ruin in the dark--he heard her words of three years
ago is if she spoke them now.

"If you push me too far I may pull your fortunes about your feet."

He moved into the center of the room.

"Delia," he said, "Delia."

She shrank back.

"Do you know me, Lord Stair?"

"I know you--and--now, what you have done."

The candle only faintly dispelled the thunderous summer dark; crossing
the threshold she stood it on the chimneypiece, where its double shone
from the mirror, a dim ghost. Lord Stair's figure showed obscurely with
a trailing black shadow behind it.

"Why have you come?" he said in a low voice.

With one hand on the chimneypiece and her face showing in the flickering
candle-light, Delia spoke in a quiet shuddering manner.

"As your downfall has been coming--slowly, Lord Stair, have you never
thought of me? As Glencoe has been dragged to light--slowly--have you
never thought of me? As your enemies have risen around you with this
forged tale to dishonor you--have you not thought of me? As you have
heard of witnesses suborned, of cunning lies to displace you, have you
never thought of me?"

He stood immovable.

"I have thought of you. Yet I did not think this was your work."

"No--you would not, Lord Stair--yet from the first whisper to the
consummation it is my work--day and night for three weary years I have
given body and soul to this end and now I think I can say--I have
avenged my dead."

Her voice had no ring of triumph in it; on her last word it fell to a
sob; she leaned back against the wall and her head fell forward on her
bosom.

Lord Stair came a step nearer.

"So--you set yourself to ruin me?"

"Yes, I."

"From you sprang the tale of Glencoe?"

"Yes, from me."

"You caused the Macdonalds to bear false witness?"

"I have been at the bottom of it all, Lord Stair."

She raised her head.

"I have put that upon you, you will never be free of," she said wildly.
"Throughout the world your name is stained with the blood of Glencoe.
Nothing can efface what I have done."

He moved still closer.

"Women are marvelous," he said curiously. "I did not think that you so
hated me."

He took her by the shoulder and looked into her shrinking face.

"I did not think that you so hated me," he repeated.

"Have I not cause to hate you, Lord Stair?" she demanded hoarsely. "I
swore that as you had been false, cruel and merciless, that even as that
dear blood cried out to me--you should pay to the last bitterness."

His hand fell from her shoulder.

"Why have you come here now?"

She moved away blindly through the shadows, her hands clenched tight on
her bosom.

"Have they all gone, Lord Stair--all?"

"Yes--they are lackeys."

"And your wife?" said Delia suddenly.

His utter silence answered her; she turned about in a strange and
desperate manner.

"Is not your wife here?"

"Do not push me, mistress," he answered thickly. "My affairs will bear
no meddling."

Delia cried out passionately:

"Poor coward--so she could not be loyal to the last--she knew perhaps
what I am come to tell you--that tonight the mob are coming here."

"What you came to tell me?" he exclaimed.

She crushed her hands together in a helpless manner. "They mean to kill
you I think--Johnstone is setting them on--O God in Heaven!"

She turned to the mantelpiece and pressed her forehead against the
marble slab; her hood had fallen back, and the candle-light flickered
over the soft hazel curls.

Lord Stair was watching her.

"Your three years' work is accomplished," he said. "You came to tell
me so?"

She was silent; her head drooped lower on the mantelshelf. "You
came to tell me so," he demanded. "You came to triumph, Mistress
Featherstonehaugh?"

He smiled faintly as he looked at her; she started at the name he used.

"I am Captain Campbell's wife," she said. "Glenlyon's wife these two
years."

There was an almost imperceptible pause before he answered.

"That accounts for another false witness, Mistress Campbell."

"Yes," she whispered, "yes."

"He has lied to please you?"

"What else?"

"You married Glenlyon that you might bend him to serve you now?"

This time she lifted her head and looked at him with wild eyes.

"Yes."

"You have not stopped at anything to attain this end," said Lord Stair.
"Madam, you should be more triumphant now that it is gained."

She advanced a step toward him.

"Yea, I am clear of my vow," she said in a distracted manner. "I think
they lie quiet in their graves--I have done it--the blood of Glencoe--it
is on you--always."

She sank into a chair, leaning forward over the arm staring across the
dusk as if she saw something menacing her. Lord Stair picked up the
candle and flashed it before her face.

"Why have you come here?"

She looked at him behind the candle flame, and for the first time saw
his face clearly; their glance met.

"Oh, you are changed!" she said in a terrified tone.

"And you also," he answered somberly.

With a wild little laugh she bent nearer into the circle of light.

"I have dreamt we might meet like this--through the dark--both so
different."

Her words trailed off, she put out her hands.

"Take away the light--I cannot look at you."

She slipped from the chair to her knees.

"What have I done--what have I done!"

"Why, you should know--you have done what you set out to do."

In a tone of numb despair she repeated: "What have I dope--what have
I done?"

Lord Stair set the candle on the table.

"You had better go, Mistress Campbell--and join your allies who come to
burn my house."

"I came because of that," she answered wildly. "I came to warn you--my
courage failed--I could not let it happen." On her knees, with her hands
clasped on her bosom and her head bent, she leaned against the chair,
heavily.

Lord Stair turned to her with a swift fierceness.

"This is a woman's paltriness," he cried. "To do the thing and lament
it--I had liked you better if you had led the mob you have incited
instead of this--"

"I would not have them kill you," she murmured.

"Oh, get up from your knees," he said, scornful. "You are true neither to
your love nor to your hate! Get back to your kind and carry through what
you have begun."

There was a confused distant sound without.

"They are coming!" shrieked Delia.

"Well, you knew it," he smiled: "Go you and join them." She rose to her
feet; the noises, the shouts and the steady tramping were coming nearer.

"And I have done this," whispered Delia. "What did you mean--true to
neither love nor hate?"

"Look into your heart," he answered. "Was it love that made you pull me
down--was it hate that sent you here to-night?"

She caught at the chair with cold fingers.

"I have made my affections stronger than my love--I have put honor and
loyalty above my heart--and I came tonight because my soul turned weak
as water to think of your death."

She paused; her breathing came with difficulty.

"Will you not go, Lord Stair?"

He had gone toward the window; a vast crowd were gathering without, the
red light of torches flickered across the courtyard, and threw into view
faces here and there in the sea of people.

The door was suddenly burst open and the solitary servant rushed in.

"My lord, my lord! they arc certainly going to destroy us! They have
gunpowder with them."

"Save yourself," interrupted Lord Stair,--he took a purse from his
pocket and tossed it across the room.

The man groped for it in the shadows.

"There is Lumley's, the jewelers in the Cannon Gate my lord--he is under
great obligations to your lordship--if you would take shelter there."

"You are a good fellow," said the Earl. "Go to Lumley--I may follow--the
horses are in safety?"

"My lord, yes."

The man hesitated at the door.

"Your lordship will not try to save some of the things--papers--or
plate--?"

Lord Stair laughed, a fierce sound through the darkness: "No--nothing.
What value is any of this to me compared to what I have already lost?
Get you gone."

The servant withdrew and the Earl turned swiftly to Delia.

"And you mistress, go and join your people without--do you not hear them
shouting? Go and add your voice to those cursing the Dalrymples--and be
content--for tonight all curses are fulfilled."

She moved slowly nearer to him.

"And what is your thought of me, Lord Stair?"

He made an imperious gesture as if he would have swept her intruding
presence aside.

"I have no thought at all for you."

He stopped, listening; from the confusion of sounds without arose the
crackling of flames; he went to the window; fagots and gunpowder had
been piled in the court and flaming tarred torches flung into the midst;
red lights began to dance in reflections over the floor; and smoke swept
in faint clouds past the windows. Lord Stair felt a cold hand touch his
and turned to look into the face of Delia.

"For God's sake," she whispered, "for pity's sake."

He made an impatient attempt to shake her off, but she clung to his hand
desperately in a frenzy of entreaty.

"It is burning--don't you see that it is burning--make haste--at the
back through the garden."

The triumphant shout of the crowd as they saw the flames rise almost
drowned her voice; an unnatural red glare blinding, horrible, filled the
room from end to end.

Lord Stair glanced round.

"Your work, mistress, your work," he wrenched himself free of her. "Go
without there yonder and laugh at it."

She was crying and sobbing like a mad woman.

"What have I done--I have been crazy--crazy--"

With fallen hair and the red light over her from head to foot, she ran
to the door; he followed. The door was burning, the oak stair
threatened; flames were already showing in the hall.

Delia wrung her hands, shrieking and moaning to herself, calling on the
living and the dead in her distraction; she ran a little way down the
wide stairs, then at sight of the flaming door fell back with a scream.

"Ye should not have come," said Lord Stair.

"Your place is with those who lit the fire."

Her wild eyes lifted to his figure.

"Do you think I am afraid for myself?" she cried. She came back to him
with outstretched hands and thrown back head; as she stood there, poised
above the smoking hallway with the flickering light and shade across her
distorted face, she seemed as unearthly, as terribly strange as her
surroundings.

Lord Stair, gazing at her, saw the look in her eyes he had seen in his
sister's and in his own; it was as if there fronted him the evil genius
of his house; once this woman had looked at him differently; as he
stared at her he recalled that other expression, the other look her
brown eyes had once held in place of the madness that flashed in them
now.

Certainly, she was mad; he saw her against the background of the
polished stairway where the flames were reflected; he saw her lean back
against the balustrade with those wild eyes upon him in her uplifted
face; he noticed the crimson light on the long line of her throat and in
the curve of her white lips.

"Lord Stair."

She bent forward, touched him, the hideous noise of flames gaining
power, the shouting and cracking of timbers filled the air with a
terrible menace.

"Lord Stair."

Her fingers touched his arm, closed round; and he could not escape from
her face, turn his eyes away.

"Speak to me," she said; she was as calm as she had been frantic; her
long hair, loosened, glowed a dusky red behind her marble white face.
But he thought of his wife and would not.

"I have nothing to say to you."

He caught hold of her, not tenderly nor roughly, indifferent, merely.

"Make haste--down the stairs," he said. "On the first landing you may
cross the library and gain the garden." The grasp tightened on her arm.

"Come," he commanded, and drew her after him, leading the way.

She did not speak until he paused to open the library door, then she
looked back into the flame-lit hall and cried out she would die.

Paying no heed he was dragging her into the dark room when something
rushed out of the door, between them and up the stair.

"What was that?" cried Lord Stair; he let go his hold upon the woman and
stepped back.

Half-way up the stairs a little black cat peered through the oaken rails
with ears cocked and its green eyes glittering with excitement; round
its neck was a tumbled bow of scarlet.

For a moment the man and the animal gazed at each other, then the Earl
began reascending the stairs.

"What are you going to do?" cried Delia, barring his way. "You are not
going back? My God! Look how the flames are mounting--they will cut
off your escape."

Lord Stair looked up at the kitten.

"It is alive," he said, "and I cannot let it burn."

"You are mad!" shrieked Delia, clinging to him. "The house has only a
few minutes to stand--they have gunpowder."

He pushed her aside.

"Then get you into the garden," he answered, pointing to the library
door. "There is time for that."

"Will you leave me? Will you go to your death?"

"My life is of no moment," he said grimly, "I shall not leave mourners--"

She caught hold of him anew.

"I love you, I love you, and you shall not leave me. I love you--I love
you."

He gave a little laugh.

"'Tis a strange affection, mistress--it has done the work of hate--let
go of me."

He twisted his arm free of her, his eyes shone curiously.

"I love you," she whispered in bitter agony and fell back against the
wall. With no look at her he mounted the stairs; she shrieked after him,
called and cried. He stopped and looked down, she was standing as he had
left her, half within the library door, her way of escape was clear
behind her.

The little cat fled at his approach and galloped ahead of him.

He followed it almost to the top of the house across a landing and
through an open door. By the red light from without he could distinctly
see this room and all that it contained.

It was his wife's bed-chamber, it looked as if she had that moment left
it; by a chair stood her high-heeled house shoes, and the garden hat she
had worn that morning; her dressing-table was covered with trinkets,
evidently she had taken nothing with her.

He gazed strangely about the room; a little drawing caught his eye; he
knew it well, Samuel Cooper's portrait of his dead son; he went up to it
and took it from the wall.

She had left it behind, she was Harry's mother and she had done this
hideous thing.

As he stood in her deserted room among the details redolent of her, he
could think of nothing but this, the bitterness of the thing she had
done; he forgot why he had come here, he forgot the burning house and
Delia, heavily he sat down with the picture in his hand and gazed round
the emptiness.

Irremediable as death and more terrible was this action of hers; he
tried to adjust his mind to the difference it must make to his life.
Then he considered that it was not life but death ahead of them.
Confusion was over him, he could not think clearly; he rested his head
against his arm and groaned aloud, then the image of Tom Wharton flashed
through his agony and he rose with a bitter curse.

He slipped the picture into his pocket; where were they now? On the road
to London--London. Something soft brushed against him, and he
mechanically glanced down.

It was the black cat.

He remembered now why he had come and laughed weakly at his own folly as
he caught up the kitten and thrust it inside his waistcoat.

Somehow, hardly knowing what he did, he stumbled to the door.

Smoke was now rising up the stairs; he felt the air heavy and stifling.
In a confused way he thought of Delia, of how he had last seen her
standing by the library door and what she had said.

As he descended into the smoke and glare he thought that he heard her
again, calling after him, shrieking:

"Lord Stair! I love you!"

He imagined that he saw her running up the stairs toward him with
her hair flaming behind her and her hands outthrown; he felt again
her fingers on his wrist and gazed into her haunting face, and
then it seemed that it was not Delia, but Janet in her night-dress with
a ghastly smile on her face and a ghastly smear on her arm; then again
it was his wife with a face full of loathing, spurning him bitterly.

With one hand over the black cat, he made his way down to the library
door.

The flames had reached it; he looked on an utter ruin; part of the outer
wall had fallen and the fire roared and hissed through the black gaps of
the masonary louder than the yells of the triumphant mob.

And there between the door and the foot of the stairs lay Delia, face
downwards.

He cried out to her hoarsely; the flames were curling round the edge of
her dress; he beat them out and dragged her up; there was a mark like a
purple stain on her forehead; she had been struck down by some falling
wood.

He pulled her to her feet; she hung unconscious over his arm; the house
was crashing about them and the strengthening flames rippled and sang as
they leaped upwards. With the strength of desperation he dragged her to
the library window and there laid her down while he flung aside the
encumbrances of his coat, sword and peruke.

The terrace was still clear though it glowed brightly in the light of
the flames, and the garden was illumined from end to end.

Delia moaned and sat up; he helped her to her feet; she leaned heavily
against him while he unfastened the long windows. With difficulty he got
her across the terrace and down the gardens, and heard the mob as if it
saw them; she was slipping into insensibility again; feebly she clung to
him, impeding his progress, and when they reached the fountain of Hylas
she fell forward heavily in his arms.

He looked down at her in a kind of cold fury. Behind him was his burning
home; he saw before him a ruined life; he thought of Lady Stair--her
work--all of it her work.

By the dead weight of her body he knew her unconscious; he let her slip
to the grass and turned to face the burning mansion behind him.

The flames rose through the summer night magnificently terrible; the
whole sky was alight with them; they blotted out the stars. And she,
lying quiet enough at his feet now,--she had done it.

"My lord," came a timid voice. "My lord."

The servant who had remained came forward from the shadows of the trees.

"My lord," he cried again, startled at his master's appearance and the
woman huddled on the grass.

The Earl stared at him vacantly.

"Why did you stay?"

"I did not think that they could enter the garden, my lord, and I waited
for your lordship--escape is easy, my lord, by the lane beyond the
stables."

Lord Stair put his hapd to his head.

"Can you get this woman to Lumley's?"

"There are the horses, my lord--if we could carry her."

Lord Stair was gazing at his house, flaring, flaming into the sky. He
turned and helped the man to carry Delia down the garden.

"Put her on one horse, mount behind. Take with you a couple of the
others."

"Ah, my lord, quick. I see figures entering the garden."

Lord Stair motioned to the man to begone.

"Go ahead and acquaint Lumley of my approach."



CHAPTER VI - "THERE WAS NO MASSACRE IN GLENCOE"


In the back parlor of Lumley's shop in the Cannon Gate, Lord Stair sat
with his elbows on the table, smoking a long clay-pipe.

Along the oak settle which was drawn up close to the fire lay Delia with
her head motionless on a pile of brilliant cushions and her hands
slackly clasped on her bosom.

For her pallor and her stillness she might have been of marble, but now
and then she moaned a little and her breast rose with her troubled
breath.

Sweeping the great bruise on her temple the long hazel curls fell
straightly to the floor and glimmered in the firelight.

It was a little room hung with thick and very rich stamped leather and
containing the choicest of Lumley's stock as silversmith and jeweler; on
the wide mantelshelf stood a full-rigged ship in beaten gold, a great
crystal glowing at the poop; either side of this were two bloodstone
candlesticks finely set in silver.

A handsome walnut sideboard held goblets and vessels of all sizes and
shapes, glasses cut and painted and a huge china punch-bowl decorated
with flowers.

On the table at which Lord Stair sat were curios of beautiful
workmanship: a salt-cellar in the form of a silver whale with a
mother-of-pearl body; a warrior in rock crystal with an agate helmet; a
dish of Limoges enamel, purple and green; a gold embossed vase with a
ruby-eyed nymph curling round it; a Venice glass, milk-white and blue;
a bronze clock with an enamel face; an Eastern dagger and women's
ornaments.

Lord Stair gazed at these things with vacant eyes; in and out of the
gold and silver ran the little black cat, lightly in a ghostly silence.

There were arms and swords against the wall, flashings of steel, bronze
and gold came from them as the candles flickered in their massive stand;
the room was strange, gloomy, full, it seemed, of memories and ghosts of
the past.

The Earl, in his frilled shirt, his long black embroidered waistcoat,
his riding-boots, spurs and glittering rings; swordless, with his lace
cravat undone and hanging to his knees, with his unnatural pallor and
his close hair, looked in keeping with his curious background, as if he
too had been called up from some earlier day; to do penance for a crime
or brood over a tragedy among these tokens of wealth and splendor.

Now and then he glanced toward the woman on the settle, but with neither
pity nor tenderness, coldly, indifferently, as if he cared nothing
whether she lived or died.

And up through the somber air rose the thin wreaths of smoke, thin blue
from his pipe and the little cat played in and out of the silverware and
the drooping lace and cambric of Lord Stair's sleeve, trailing his
scarlet ribbon.

Opposite the table were the two windows, close shuttered, and between
them stood a black bureau that bore a casket in bright enamel; above
this hung a mirror and Lord Stair could see his own ghastly face
reflected there, the dim room behind it like a mockery of himself and
his thoughts.

Occasionally Delia's little moan would break the heavy stillness and
then he would look toward her with pitiless blue eyes.

She might be dying; they could do nothing for her; there was not even a
better place in which to put her; Lumley did not live over his shop, the
rest of the house was empty; Lord Stair's servant had gone in search of
a doctor; it was not likely, with the city in an uproar, that he would
find one to come on a dangerous errand; and with every breath she drew
her life was ebbing, or so, gazing on her unmoved, he thought.

As the firelight rose and fell over the crystal warrior, the ruby-eyed
nymph and the still face of the dying woman, as the candles flickered
and burnt nearer to their silver sticks, as the shadows advanced and
receded from all dim corners, the Earl of Stair sat motionless with a
hard face, and the smoke curled upwards and away round the ceiling.

Time did not exist here, it had died with the stopping of the enamel
clock; everything was very old and dead, yet immortal, this room had
known many yesterdays; it held no promise of a to-morrow; it owned the
peace of dust and ashes, the silence of things ended, done with. Here
was a place to meet fate, not to avert it; as the fire dropped to ashes,
as the woman swooned into eternity, the placid warrior and the red-eyed
nymph smiled up at Lord Stair with the smiles of a hundred years ago,
and the emptiness of the hollow armor grinned into the likeness of a
skull.

Shadows advancing, receding, and her slow breath as her soul drifted
away.

If by putting out his hand he could have stopped her flight, he would
not have done it; if by raising a finger he could have recalled her
fainting life, he would not have done it.

It was the inevitable; let her die as the fire sank to ashes, as the
ashes dropped dismally into the hearth; it was the inevitable.

Still the little cat played lightly to and fro, leaped over the hand
dropped by his side and pulled at the lace on his sleeve.

The mother-of-pearl whale glittered with many colors, the candle-light
circled the milk-white glass like bright wine, the immortal warrior
gazed up under his agate helmet, and the siren's eyes gave forth red
sparks of light.

In a little while she would be as they; as silent as cold in death as
they; as utterly beyond all speech, all question or demand, inscrutable.
He looked at the clear-cut features, the sweep of the lashes, the parted
lips, the locked hands and the long still figure.

She had said she loved him.

She held him guilty of things he had not done; of her friend's betrayal,
which was his father's work; of Jerome Caryl's mysterious death, perhaps
if she had known--But none of it mattered; the tragedy was played to its
close and death would draw the curtain over all explanations.

She had loved him.

He knew of no other who had; in his whole life no other. Let. her
go--unquestioned.

In apathy of soul, he gazed on her and as he gazed she opened her dark
eyes.

Opened wide her eyes and sat up, leaning on her elbow. "Lord Stair."

He could not tell if she could see him, her glance was dim and vague
as if she addressed some fancied image of him.

"The blood of Glencoe," she said slowly. "They shall never speak of you
without they curse you--for Glencoe--"

She stared at the candle-light, leaning forward.

"Have I damned myself, my love--to fix this stain on you?--I feel the
flames--and I have lied--you also, Lord Stair--you lied to me."

A look of horror settled on her face.

"Don't go--stay with me--don't you see them--the flames? so they rose in
Glencoe--you are paid--"

Her voice sank to a whisper; the last log on the hearth fell into ashes.

"Kiss me--why have you never kissed me?--you asked me when they were
singing--'for the ways of the Lord are wonderful--' Kiss me--"

His pipe fell from his inert hand and broke into fragments on the floor.

"Lord Stair."

He did not move from his seat.

She had fallen back on her pillow; one hand trailed along the floor.

"You asked me--Andrew--"

He remembered when he had asked her; the Abbey, her words and his.

"When you ask me--"

And now--A great silence settled on the room; shadows advancing,
receding, and her breath stilled forever. The nymph's ruby eyes flashed
brilliantly; the crystal warrior smiled the same; she had gone, forever.
Beyond question or explanation, inscrutable, silent. After a while he
rose and went to look at her; she had died as if she had fallen asleep,
he lifted her cold hand from the floor and laid it on her breast.

Then he went to the window and undid the shutters.

The slipping back of the bolts made a dismal creaking; the hinges
groaned; he opened the shutters and gazed through the glimmering
window-pane. A wine-colored dawn was breaking over the housetops like a
stain over the sky.

From the corners of the room the shadows lifted; on all the old gold and
gems a faint white light; on all the wonders of precious workmanship and
on that most wonderful thing of all, the woman lying along the settle
with the veil of her hair falling to the floor and her head thrown back
on the bronze and purple Persian cushion which bore a sprawling dragon
with emerald eyes.

Her curved mouth was parted as if that last breathing of his name had
drawn her soul with it and left her lips cleft; there was no line in her
smooth face, beneath the soft lashes were delicate shadows and across
the sweep of her throat lay a strand of hair and its double in shade.

She was the hue of a white rose against the vivid tints of her cushions;
her face was as unfathomable as her silence.

The fire had dropped into ashes; the dawn strengthening showed dust on
everything; dust on the tarnished silver, on the sails of the gold ship,
on the empty armor.

There were cobwebs, high up among the shelves that showed now; cobwebs
clinging to and obscuring the splendor of the gold and silver.

The black cat leaped from the table, ran round the room, then began
playing amid the ashes and the ends of Delia's hair.

Lord Stair crossed to the head of the settle and stood looking at the
dawn behind the diamond panes.

The curse of the Dalrymples was fulfilled now; surely, to the last
bitterness, completed.

He glanced down at Delia--what had she said?--"for the ways of the Lord
are wonderful"--Wonderful! he laughed to himself--she had loved him,
had ruined him, and had died because she could not face what she had done.
Was she a fool or a heroine?--he could look at her coldly now and wonder,
though she had moved him once.

The sun rose slowly, majestic into the clear sky; red-gold rays struck
into the room and caused the candle-light to look faint and sickly; the
armor, swords and pistols, shone as if on fire; Lord Stair put his hand
before his eyes and leaned heavily against the carved post of the
settle.

The deathly stillness was broken by the soft opening of the door, the
soft closing of it, and a gentle step into the room. Lord Stair looked
round.

Standing against the armor, in the strange faint lights and shades was a
woman in a light dress with the red glow of the dawn in her blonde hair
and over her pale face; Lady Stair, looking at him intently, eagerly,
with questioning blue eyes.

"Ulrica!" he could utter no word but her name; the blood rushed into his
face as he stared at her, incredulous, amazed.

"I was too late," she said faintly; she sat down at his seat at the
table; there were lines of weariness under her eyes, and her dress was
tumbled. "My woman told you?" her hands holding a riding-whip, fell
between the crystal warrior and the nymph on her gold vase. Lord Stair
came in front of Delia, hiding her from sight.

"I have heard nothing," he said hoarsely. "When I returned the house was
empty save for one man--"

"Oh!" she glanced up, bewildered by his manner. "I heard that they were
going to burn the house--I did not trust the servants--I went myself to
ask the Marquis for a guard--he sent me on to the castle--and there they
put such difficulties in the way--and--I was too late."

She leaned back wearily.

"They sent some men--they are putting the fire out now--the city was in
such an uproar that I could not return sooner--I thought that you might
be here so I came. You never got my message?"

"No."

She leaned forward.

"What is the matter, my lord? I did all I could."

"Yes--ah, yes."

He was looking at her very strangely. "Did you not guess where I had
gone?"

She pressed her handkerchief to her lips and her lids fluttered in a
weary manner.

Lord Stair came to the other side of the table.

"So, Ulrica, you stay to share my fallen fortunes?" he asked in a low
voice.

She looked at him calmly.

"Did you think anything else of me?"

"My thoughts!" he said wildly. "Let my thoughts go--I know not what I
thought--"

Their eyes met across the table of gold and silver--"Ulrica--what made
you stay?" Her eyes widened.

"It never crossed my mind to go. Whatever they say--my place is not
among your enemies."

A little pause, then he said in a labored way: "Ulrica--I am innocent of
what they impute to me--there was no massacre in Glencoe."

"I thought so," she answered quietly. "My lord, I thought so." Her hood
had slipped back from her smooth hair and her sweet face was pure and
pale in the rich light.

"Have you saved anything?" she asked.

Lord Stair pointed to the kitten at his feet with a half-smile.

"That," he said, "and this--"

He drew Cooper's drawing from his pocket and laid it by the crystal
warrior.

Lady Stair's eyes fell to it, then lifted to his face; a color came into
her cheeks and she rose trembling.

As she turned she caught sight of Delia and cried out in a frightened
way with blanched cheeks.

"Hush!" said Lord Stair; he was beside her looking at the dead woman.
"She has fixed on me the blood of Glencoe--and she has paid--hush!"

Lady Stair shrank away, still with terror in her eyes. "Who was she?"
came her whisper.

"Do you want to know? Does it matter now?"

"No! no!"

She shuddered against the table, gazing at Delia's terrible calm against
the background of the strange room.

Lord Stair looked at the burning sunrise and held out his right hand;
the glowing light fell on it, a crimson stain.

"You see--the blood of Glencoe!"

He laughed magnificently and turned to his wife; his face was wild in
expression, his eyes wide open. "And you, of all of them, have been
faithful!"

She took her gaze from the dead woman, put out her hand and clasped his,
so that the red was over her wrist, too.

"You of all!" he repeated, and his voice was unsteady. He drew her up to
the table edge, close to him, her grasp of his hand tightened; her
breath came fast.

"John! John!"

He looked at her in a curious manner. "You of all!" he repeated, and his
eyes wandered to Delia; he turned from the living to the dead whose lie was
his judgment and his punishment and he smiled bitterly.

"John!" said Lady Stair again, faintly, softly.

With a little start he turned and looked at her.

"Ah--do you understand?" she said. "At last?" In the wild light of the red
morn her blonde hair glimmered against his shoulder.

"At last--Ulrica--" his voice broke, but his eyes shone as his fingers
closed over hers. "My dear! my dear!" And the day dawned upon their kiss.




EPILOGUE - THE GLEN O' WEEPING


The sun that so rarely pierces the mists that shroud the Valley of
Glencoe, was to-day shining mournfully on the solitude of the Glen of
Weeping.

It was mid-July and above the snow-topped mountains the sky shone coldly
blue.

A keen wind whistled through the winding ravines and patches of purple,
dull gold and scarlet, showed where the heather, the gorse and the rowan
bloomed.

The grass was studded with harebells and the pines grew fresh and green.

Yet the scene was desolation, utter desolation; in all the vast expanse
there was no human being in sight, no animal nor bird. Only, bare to the
wide sky, lay the scattered, ruined huts of the Macdonalds; the little
creeping wild flowers had overgrown the ashes of the charred door-posts
which lay half-hidden in the grass; the storms and winds of three
winters had nearly demolished what the vengeance of the Campbells had
left, but still above the rough graves made by the surviving Macdonalds
for their kindred rose some few traces of the village of Makian.

And now it is past midday and the sad sun has disappeared behind the
distant snows; a cold mournful light fills the valley, and the hollow
about the sullen water is full of shadows, to right and left silence save
for the crying of the wind and sound of the swaying fir-trees.

Then the noise of bridle bells and horses coming rapidly across the
heather and a cavalcade of some hundred men gallop down the mouth of the
Glen; Campbells with red-blond hair.

Their leader is Breadalbane, he rides a white horse with steel and
scarlet trappings, and his green and blue tartan blows out behind him
across his shining cuirass; he rides easily, swiftly, with one hand on
his hip above his sword and the other lightly on his reins; in his
bonnet is a sprig of myrtle and his hair flutters pale as silver back
from his face.

By his side is the Countess Peggy, her plaid floats from her shoulder
and over her black horse; she leans forward a little in the saddle and
her red curls frame a pale triumphant face.

After these come the Campbells, red gentlemen in dark tartans with faces
singularly contained and hard light eyes.

Silently they ride through Glencoe, the Glen o' Weeping, their horses'
hoofs stir the dead ashes from under the heather, they pass through the
dismantled ruins, they gallop over the graves of their enemies but they
raise no shout of victory, make no gesture of triumph.

It is the Campbell way.

Only as they pass through desolation, the Countess Peggy looks at her
husband and he at her; their eyes meet and flash and her thin lips curve
into a smile.

There--somewhere under their horses' hoofs lies Ronald Macdonald and the
Campbells are free of Glencoe and all the Highlands.

Out of the Glen o' Weeping they come, the Campbells hard-faced,
riding swiftly, and Breadalbane's wife looks at him with a deepening
of her smile.



THE END



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