Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership


Title: The Quest of Youth (1927)
Author: John Jeffery Farnol (1878-1952)
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 0900881.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: October 2009
Date most recently updated: October 2009

This ebook was produced by: Al Haines

Project Gutenberg Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this
file.

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg Australia License which may be viewed online at
http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html

To contact Project Gutenberg Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: The Quest of Youth (1927)
Author: John Jeffery Farnol (1878-1952)


To "PHIL"
IN GRATEFUL AFFECTION
I DEDICATE THIS BOOK




CONTENTS


CHAPTER

       I  In Which Doctor Wotherspoon Prescribes
      II  Which Describes an Extraordinary Musician
     III  Giveth Some Description of Eve-Ann Ash, a Quakeress
      IV  In Which They Talk by the Way
       V  Being a Singularly Uneventful Chapter
      VI  In Which Sir Marmaduke Eats Breakfast
     VII  Describes How Sir Marmaduke Made His Will
    VIII  Which Tells How and Why Sir Marmaduke Throws Away His Cane
      IX  Telleth How They Began Their Flight
       X  Giveth Some Description of Bread and Butter
      XI  How Sir Marmaduke Went Shopping
     XII  Concerneth Itself Chiefly with Clothes and--a Bonnet
    XIII  Telleth of a Barn and Terrors by Night
     XIV  Which Introduces One, Horace, a Somewhat Remarkable Ass
      XV  Which Concerns Itself with Nothing in Particular
     XVI  Of Gabbing Dick, a Peddler, His Views
    XVII  Argues the Un-wisdom of Common Sense
   XVIII  Which is More or Less Asinine
     XIX  Concerns a Witch and Various Other Evils
      XX  The Joys of Arcady
     XXI  Of Sunlight and Shadow
    XXII  Mr. Vamper is Informative
   XXIII  Gives Some Description of Sir Marmaduke, by Eve-Ann
    XXIV  Alarums and Excursions
     XXV  Introduces an Old Friend
    XXVI  Which Describes the Heroical Advent of a Demi-God
   XXVII  More Concerning One, Rupert Bellamy, a Conquering Hero
  XXVIII  Describing Two Bow Street Runners, and a Confabulation
    XXIX  In Which Events Move Apace
     XXX  Tells How They Set Out for London
    XXXI  Of Speed, Moonlight and a Disappearance
   XXXII  Some Description of Giles' Rents, Mr. Shrig and an Actor
  XXXIII  Describes the Magic of a Fiddle
   XXXIV  Of Gathering Shadows
    XXXV  Concerning Mr. Shrig's Deductions
   XXXVI  In Which Will Be Found Mention of Devilled Kidneys
  XXXVII  Tells of the Knobbly Stick of Mr. Shrig
 XXXVIII  How My Lady Made a Prayer
   XXXIX  Which Describes My Lady's Way
      XL  Which Describes the End of Our Murderer
     XLI  Which, Being the Last, Ends This Narrative as Succinctly
          as Possible




THE QUEST OF YOUTH


CHAPTER I

IN WHICH DOCTOR WOTHERSPOON PRESCRIBES

A stately chamber, high, spacious and luxuriously furnished, from
priceless rugs on polished floor to richly carven ceiling; an elegant
chamber of an exquisite, almost feminine, refinement; yet nothing was
there so stately, so elegant, so altogether exquisite and supremely
refined as the gentleman who sat reading in the deep elbow chair beside
the open lattice; a tall, handsome gentleman whose garments, each a
miracle of sartorial achievement, clung to his shapely figure as if
they loved him, and whose pale, delicately featured face, adorned with
glossy whiskers à la mode, bore the proud stamp of birth and high
breeding and might have been commanding by reason of its clean-cut line
of nose and chin, but for the droop of over-sensitive lips, lack-lustre
eyes and general air of weariness and languor.  Indeed, Sir Marmaduke,
Anthony, Ashley, John de la Pole Vane-Temperly looked precisely what he
was, to wit--the last and very finest of a long line of fine gentlemen,
bored to extinction with everything in general and himself in
particular.

A soft rapping at the door, and a discreet, gentleman-like person
entered softly, coughed delicately behind a finger and stood bowing
until the student condescended to become aware of him.

"Yes, Paxton?"

The gentleman's gentleman bowed a little lower and murmured:

"Doctor Robert Wotherspoon, sir.  Are you in, sir?"

Sir Marmaduke sighed, closed book on slim finger and inclined his head
languidly, whereat Paxton bowed himself out and presently returned to
announce:

"Doctor Wotherspoon!"

Hardly was the name uttered than in upon the chaste seclusion of that
stately apartment strode a shortish, thick-set man with a stamp of
heavy boots, a jingle of rusty spurs and swirl of spattered coat tails,
a heavy-breathing man who tossed whip and weather-beaten hat at a chair
(which they missed) and stumping up to Sir Marmaduke, halted to stare
down at him, legs wide apart and square chin in hairy fist.

"Tongue!" he snorted.

"My dear Bob!" exclaimed Sir Marmaduke, recoiling.

"Show it!" vociferated the doctor.

"My good Robert!"

"Pulse!" and Sir Marmaduke's arm was seized and masterful fingers
forced themselves beneath delicate, frilled wristband, all in a moment.
"Now, p'tout y'r tongue!" barked Dr. Wotherspoon.

"Gad so, Bob--you mistake, I--"

"Not a bit, Tony--y'r bilious!  'S liver!  Eating too much!  Doing too
little!"

"Horrible!" ejaculated Sir Marmaduke and, gently but resolutely freeing
his wrist, he shook his visitor's hand.  "In heaven's name sit down,
Bob, and pray allow me a word--"

"'S bile!" growled the doctor, thudding into the nearest chair.
"Prescribe skipping rope!  Nothing like jumpin' t' shake liver--frees
ducts--"

"I wished to consult you about young Bellamy, your godson--"

"'N' your nevvy, Marmaduke!"

"True--confound him!  I hear the young fool is in trouble again."

"No--out!  Boy's bolted."

"You mean he has positively absconded?"

"'S it, Marmy!  Hopped the twig--cut his stick--'tleast, so Thornbury
writes."

"Ay, Thornbury--a most excellent man of business--"

"'N' lively as a dried herring!"

"My dear Robert!" murmured Sir Marmaduke, lifting white hand with
sublime jesture of reprobation.  "Really!"

"'Es, really!" nodded the doctor.  "Thornbury's a creeter b'got 'twixt
'n inkpot 'n' a roll o' parchment!  A mummy, that's what!  Rupert
Bellamy (dev'lish name) is young 'n' wild as a colt!  Now how may mummy
manage colt?  Can't!  An' that's what again!"  Saying which, Doctor Bob
wrenched snuff-box from pocket, opened it, dug thence a large pinch,
some of which he inhaled with three loud snorts; the rest he scattered
over himself and the immediate neighbourhood to Sir Marmaduke's
manifest horror and discomfort.  Said he:

"Pray remember, Bob, that after your godson's--"

"'N' your nevvy!  Y'r own sister's only child, Marmy!"

"She is dead!" said Sir Marmaduke gently.

"An' his father too!" nodded the doctor.

"Which is perhaps as well, Bob," quoth Sir Marmaduke, frowning
slightly.  "However, after Thomas' lamentable failure at your own noble
profession, the worthy Thornbury agreed to admit him into his office,
purely out of regard to myself, and now--you say the youth has--"

"Bolted!" quoth the doctor.  "But what--"

"Also he is in debt again."

"Six hundred odd pounds!" nodded the doctor.

"So I understand.  He wrote me a highly characteristic letter--"

"Which y' ignored, o' course!"

"Of course!" nodded Sir Marmaduke.

"Having paid 's debts once a'ready."

"Twice!" sighed Sir Marmaduke.  "What has become of him, Bob?"

"Dooce knows!  Why trouble?  Boy's nothin' t' you--never was!  Y' never
trouble t' see him."

"Happily not since his infancy."

"S' if he wants t' go t' the dooce, dooce take him--eh, Tony?"

"By no means, Bob, for though he is an infliction he is also a relation
and I must act accordingly--"

"Pay's debts?"

"Certainly."

"Because o' y'r name--eh?"

"Precisely!"

"An' what o' the boy?"

"He is a problem does not interest me."

"Umph!" exclaimed the doctor.  "Ha!"

"However, I shall reëstablish his credit, of course."

"Because o' y'r name--eh?"

"Yes, and--"

"Y'r name's got a lot t' answer for, Marmaduke Anthony!"

"What may you mean?"

"Bile 't present--y'r liver, Tony.  Y'r yellow as a guinea!"

"Pooh--nonsense, man!" exclaimed Sir Marmaduke, glancing uneasily
towards an adjacent mirror.  "To be sure I am aware of my forty-five
years--"

"Umph!" quoth the doctor.

"Life has long since lost its zest and savour--"

"Ha!" quoth the doctor.

"Existence," sighed Sir Marmaduke, warming to his theme, "is become a
growing weariness, a dawning calamity, a nauseating prospect of
monotonous to-morrows stretching drearily away to the inevitable and
distressing end--"

"'S bile!" snarled Doctor Bob.  "Bile!  Spleen!  Liver!--  That's what!"

"Nay, my dear Robert, do but reflect," sighed Sir Marmaduke, viewing
the doctor with his sad, lack-lustre eyes; "forty-five is a tragic age!
Youth's pinions are clipped and where we were wont to soar, high above
consequences, scornful of difficulties and dangers, our eyes upon the
zenith, poor Middle-age must trudge it in the dust, his gaze bent
earthwards, Common-sense and Respectability his companions to point out
the ever-growing difficulties of his way--  And I was
forty-five--yesterday, Bob!"

"Ho!" barked the doctor.  "And what o' that?  Look 't me--I'm fifty,
sound wind 'n' limb--eat well, sleep well, drink well--'n' why?
Because I don't trouble 'bout m' own confounded carcass; too infernal
busy wi' other people's.  Th' only trouble wi' you, Tony, is Marmaduke,
Anthony, Ashley, John de la Pole--'n' all the rest on 'em!  Y'self an'
y'r name's too much for ye--an' that's what!"

"And this morning," sighed Sir Marmaduke, glancing at his companion
with twinkling eyes, "this morning my fellow discovered a grey hair
above my right ear!"

"Grey fiddlestick!" snarled the doctor.  "Look 't me!  Damme, I'm grey
all over, an't I?  Yet full o' vigour 'n' energy!"

"You were distressingly energetic as a school-boy, I remember--"

"So were you!" retorted the doctor.  "A very imp o' mischief!  D' ye
mind scaling the church tower?  D' ye mind settin' Farmer Barton's rick
afire?  Ha' ye forgot y'r fight wi' the big butcher boy?"

Sir Marmaduke's gloomy brow cleared somewhat.

"I had him quite groggy in the fourth round!" he murmured.

"'N' licked him in th' seventh!" cried the doctor.  "Begad, ye were
spry 'nough then--"

"But to-day I 'm forty-five, Bob!  A weary soul disillusioned with
everything, finding joy in nothing, not even--himself!"

"Try falling in love."

"Never again, Bob!"

"B'cause a brainless little fool jilted ye--years ago!"

"Never again!" repeated Sir Marmaduke mournfully.

"Then marry without and get children--"

"Heaven forbid!" exclaimed Sir Marmaduke, shuddering.  "To see myself
repeated in miniature would be most abhorrent!"

"Then travel."

"Five years I wandered, Bob, and found teeming cities as desolate as
the wilderness."

"Then why not shoot somebody?  Y've had no duels lately--eh?"

"No, Bob!  I regard duelling nowadays as a wearisome social function
and, moreover, being an accurate shot, the outcome is ever
distressingly certain.  Hence, even this polite pastime fails me."
Here Sir Marmaduke shook his head again and, though his eyes twinkled,
sighed more dismally than ever.  "Forty-five!" he murmured.
"Grey-haired!  Life a desolate waste!  A sorry world and myself the
sorriest creature in it--"

"Spleen!" barked the doctor.  "All cursed spleen!  Your disease is
ease, Tony!  Too much luxury, leisure an' lucre!  You 've become such a
personage y' are scarce human, so rich 'n' influential you 've no need
for effort, 'n' effort's life!  Could a b'nef'cent fate pauperize ye,
strip ye o' rank 'n' wealth, rig ye in homespun 'n' send ye into an
unfriendly world t' make a living--ye'd starve--perish, an' that's
what!"

Sir Marmaduke smoothed arched eyebrow with slim finger and pondered the
question.

"Perish?" he murmured, at last.  "I venture to think not, Bob!"

"Y' 'd perish!" snarled Doctor Robert, diving for his hat and whip.

"I should suffer," mused Sir Marmaduke; "I should endure a thousand
discomforts, beyond a doubt, but--perish?"

"In six months--less!" snarled the doctor.

"Perish?" repeated Sir Marmaduke.  "No--"

"Yes!" snapped the doctor, rising.  "In less 'n six months or--come
back younger than y' went!"

"Younger?  How so, Bob?"

"Lookee, Tony!  T' learn the virtues o' Poverty and Adversity, t' front
Misery undismayed, t' learn the greatness o' true humility is beyond
the powers of any splenetic fine gentleman; to comfort another's
sorrows, t' share 'nother's hardships needs just an ordinary man who
has n' time t' bother 'bout his bile ducts or grey hair and is never
older than he feels.  And here's the secret o' youth, Tony
man--work--f' others, if possible, but work!  F'get y'self in other
folks' worries, work wi' 'em, suffer wi' 'em, an' you 'll be young
again 'fore ye 're old.  Goo'-bye t' ye!"  And, with a pounce, Doctor
Robert Wotherspoon seized Sir Marmaduke's hand, shook it heartily and
jingling across the room, went forth like a tornado, the door slamming
behind him.

Sir Marmaduke drew a deep breath and leaning in the open window, heard
his old schoolfellow roar for his horse, watched him stump down the
steps and mount that unlovely, hard-worked animal and jog ungracefully
upon his busy way.

Such a rat-tailed, four-legged monstrosity!  And eight or nine sleek
horses stamping impatient hoofs in his own stables!

Sir Marmaduke frowned at the smug trimness of carefully tended gardens
and wide-spreading park and away to the western horizon, all glorious
with sunset, his sombre eyes more wistful than ever.

At last he turned and, seated at his writing cabinet, indited certain
letters, watered, sealed and directed them; then, taking hat and cane,
he stepped out into the fragrant evening.




CHAPTER II

WHICH DESCRIBES AN EXTRAORDINARY MUSICIAN

It was as he leaned against the stile leading into his pet preserve
that Sir Marmaduke first heard it,--a wild, sweet strain of music which
seemed to voice all the heartbreak of a sorrowing world.

Ineffably sad the music rose from the green depths before him, now
swelling to a golden chord, now dying to the hushed sobbing of a single
string.  And staring into the leafy gloom shot, here and there, by the
glory of sunset, Sir Marmaduke held his breath to listen and thought of
his own ardent youth and all the disillusion the years had brought, the
sorrow of dreams unrealized, of lofty aspirations unfulfilled, the
tragedy of boyish ideals shattered and broken, of youthful faith and
trust betrayed, mocked at--

The music ended abruptly, voices shouted, there was the sound of flight
and pursuit and out from the wood a man came running, a small,
rough-clad man who carried a fiddle and bow; then his pursuers were
upon him, two men in velveteen, who seized him roughly by arm and
collar and began to drag him away, unheeding his whimpered pleading.

"Stop!"  The gamekeepers halted instantly and turned to stare.  "Bring
him here!" said Sir Marmaduke.

"If y' please, sir," said the elder keeper, knuckling bristly eyebrow,
"us caught this here cove, your honour, a-poaching, sir--"

"With a fiddle, Martin?"

"Why, sir, us did foind a couple o' snares, your honour, and--"

"You may leave the man here and go."

Forthwith the keepers touched their hats and hurried away, whereupon
the Fiddler shook small fist after them.

"Ya-ha!" quoth he; then turning to his deliverer, swept off his
battered hat, bowing low, and Sir Marmaduke saw his hair was silvery
white.

"Sir, pray accept my thanks," said the Fiddler, "and my hospitality
also if you will.  Go with me and you shall fare worthily, I promise."

"You play very wonderfully!" said Sir Marmaduke, falling into step
beside him.

"So say they all, sir," answered the Fiddler, with a quick, bright nod,
"though to be sure they mostly call for jigs and such, poor creatures!
But I can do other things equally well--see here, friend!"  And
glancing slyly at Sir Marmaduke and furtively round about, he drew from
deep pocket of his wide coat skirts a newly killed pheasant.  "Bonny
work and a bonny bird, I think ye'll allow?"

Sir Marmaduke nodded, and smiled a little ruefully.

"I should like to hear you play again, if you will?" said he.

The Fiddler thrust the poached bird back beneath his coat, tucked
instrument beneath pointed chin and with sweep of bow, broke out into a
heartening quickstep.

Thus, side by side, went they through the sunset glow, the little
Fiddler playing, with tireless zest of the true artist uplift above
fatigue, merry lilting catches, stately measures quaintly harmonious,
tunes of ancient days, plaintive and wistful, songs old yet ever new
like the recurrent wonder of life itself, melodies that seemed to voice
the hopes and aspirations, the joys and sorrows, the gloomy doubts and
courageous beliefs of generations long since passed away and out of
mind.  And sometimes as his magic fiddle sang and laughed, wailed and
sobbed, this elfish player would dance a few fantastic steps, would
chuckle gleefully or groan for very sympathy, while Sir Marmaduke
listened, enthralled by the musician's genius, yet viewed his strange,
bright eyes and silver hair, his elfish look and queer, wild antics, in
growing perplexity.

"Aha!" cried the little Fiddler suddenly.  "I've played ye music of our
forefathers, songs o' the forgotten folk and--you have understood; so
do I ken ye love the thing divine and salute you, sir, as a true
amateur."

"And I," answered Sir Marmaduke, bowing also, "hail you, sir, as a true
master."

"Master, d'ye say?  Why true, sir--I am--so they used to name me
once--in the golden days; in Italy, was it?  Ay, surely--Italy, the
home o' the fiddle."

"Pray, sir, who are you?  Your name--"

"A wild body," answered the Fiddler; "ay, a queer, wild body wi' half a
soul--'tother half was buried wi' one who died.  And my name?  Faith, I
've forgot it years since!  But 't is no matter; call me Jack as do
they all--Fiddling Jackie.  I play at country fairs and wakes, at
weddings and christenings--all folk love my Genevra and so do I," here
he kissed his fiddle, "for 't is Genevra lifts me above sorrow up to
the very feet o' God.  'T is Genevra calls back to me the soul of
her--my beautiful one that is dead; for only those that die are truly
alive--Genevra knows.  And hearkee, friend, because ye love music and
loving, understand, you shall hear me play to them, if you will--all
those happy, happy ones who throng to the call o' my fiddle when I play
among the hush o' trees at evening time."

"Whom do you mean?" questioned Sir Marmaduke, gently.

"The dead, sir: the souls of the blessed dead who truly live and do
love all great, good things; these happy dead who are alive in God
forevermore--especially one--the one, she--she that goes beside me now.
Ah, no!" he laughed.  "No, no--you cannot see her, for she died years
ago, but her soul is ever with me--smiling on me from the sunbeams,
whispering to me in the falling rain at night, looking at me from the
flowers.  She is in all beautiful things, sir--my Beautiful!  'Tis for
her I play when I 'm alone at such an hour as this, when weary day
sinks into the kindly arms of night and the world is hushed--music that
lifts my soul to God and her--my Beautiful--my
rose--withered--blasted--trampled and mired--  Ah, God!"  The little
Fiddler shivered violently and raised shaking hand to wipe his brow
that gleamed suddenly moist.  "Sir," sighed he, "great waters are deep,
but deeper is love!  Knives are sharp, but sharper is grief--and prayer
is good--but music?  Ah, 'tis the language o' God and thus do I hold
converse with her still; so is my grief tempered to my endurance, for,
sir, God is merciful."

Thus as they trudged the leafy ways, this strange little Fiddler
talked, and sometimes his bright eyes gleamed brighter for their tears,
and sometimes his lips curved to a tender smile; and Sir Marmaduke's
perplexity was changed to ineffable pity.

So they came at last to a tall hedge in whose wild tangle was a small
wicket gate broken and weather-worn; opening this, the Fiddler passed
through, beckoning, and Sir Marmaduke found himself in what had once
been a carefully tended garden but was now a very wilderness of
sprawling bramble and dark weeds, beyond which desolation rose the
jagged, blackened ruin of a house.

"Yonder," said the Fiddler, pointing with his bow, "yonder we lived,
she and I, for her sweet mother was dead; here she played as a child,
and hither come I when I may.  Sit ye down, friend, here upon this tree
stump.  She hath sat here, many's the time--we used to call it her
'throne'."

"Sir," said Sir Marmaduke, glancing about him, "I perceive I am upon
holy ground!"  And removing his hat, he stood bareheaded, whereat the
little Fiddler smiled with shining eyes and touched Sir Marmaduke with
his bow, a touch that was a caress.

"Oh, sir," said he, "such ready understanding, such reverent sympathy
is divine; I am grateful!--  But hush--they wait!  They are all about
us--she is here--between us!  Pray be seated and I will begin."

Then tossing off his own hat, shaking back his long, white hair, the
Fiddler lifted his face, a pale oval in the dusk, and setting bow to
string with reverent gesture, began to play.

A golden, singing note that swelled to die away upon a minor trill, a
solemn, poignant summons thrice repeated--then, up soared a noble
melody whose stately measure grew louder, swifter, wildly joyous; that
seemed to voice the spirit of eager youth untouched as yet by care;
that spoke of dewy dawns and cloudless skies, a youthful world
unstained by sin; and life was a sweet thing, a gift of the God who
taught the sun to shine, the birds to carol and children to laugh and
sing; life was indeed a thing of joy--and yet--it was also a sacred
trust to be lived and used to noble purpose--

And Sir Marmaduke, spellbound by the ever-changing beauty of these
strains, forgot his years and was young again with belief in the Ideal,
faith in Mankind, the World, the Future, and Himself, eager with life
and bold for achievement.

But now the changing music took on a deeper, sterner note and seemed
like the Voice of Judgment:

"Oh, man, behold thy youth, the young and eager soul of thee fresh from
the hands of God!  Bethink thee what thou wert, what thou art, and what
thou mightest have been.  Grieve, grieve for all thy noble dreams
unrealised, for these many years spent to no man's profit but thine
own!  Alas, selfish man, living but to thine own desires, what hast
thou achieved but weariness and solitude.  And whither--whither tends
thy lonely way?"

Again the music changed, and now the voice was kinder, the voice of a
familiar friend:

"Oh, lonely man weary of soul, take comfort, since in this world are
many that need thee, thy strength, thy service.  So, while life and
strength be thine use them, forgetful of thyself, and in the service of
these, thy brethren, find again the glory of thy youth.  For he that
serves his fellow, serves his God."

Thus, rapt and inspired by these noble strains, Sir Marmaduke felt his
heart swell responsive, and sighing, bowed his head in a new humility.
And in this moment the angel within him, that better self so long
shackled by cynical convention, by slothful ease and selfish
indifference, this deathless angel, bursting his fetters, arose while
the music seemed to rise, swelling to an ecstasy of triumph, a very
paean of praise--that ended in a sudden, harsh discord, and starting
round, Sir Marmaduke looked up to see the Fiddler pointing with his bow.

"The moon!" he whispered.  "'Tis the full to-night--  And the moon is
evil to me; 'tis like a dead face--so pale--so pale--like hers--my
Beautiful.  Dead!" he moaned.  "Dead!  I saw them--I watched them lift
her from the water, her long hair all a-drip with green slime, her dead
face so pale and still.  Oh, my Beautiful!  Her sweet voice forever
silenced--my loved one!  And now--now the pallid moon doth mock me--a
dead thing peering and mocking me from God's heaven--an evil--evil
thing!"

Sir Marmaduke rose, words of comfort on his lips, hands outstretched,
but the little Fiddler shrank away.

"Off!" he cried.  "Touch me not for I am a thing accursed!  Her
murderer lives and laughs yet--the moon knows and mocks me!  Ah, God,
that he should eat and drink and she cold in her grave!"  And now,
letting fall his violin, the Fiddler covered haggard face in clutching
fingers while great sobs shook him, and when Sir Marmaduke would have
comforted him, he screamed and beat him off, weeping and sobbing the
while.  "Leave me!" he panted, "Leave me; 'tis my black hour--leave me
to the moon and torment."  And, with a wild cry inexpressibly desolate,
the little Fiddler threw himself face down before that tree stump which
had once been a child's throne, and clasping his arms about it, set
tear-wet cheek against its rugged bark, weeping still and moaning
passionate endearments and broken lamentations.

So at last Sir Marmaduke turned slowly away and left him lying there,
his silver head against the rotting tree stump.




CHAPTER III

GIVETH SOME DESCRIPTION OF EVE-ANN ASH, A QUAKERESS

Sir Marmaduke leaned upon his cane and stared at the hayrick.  To be
sure he had seen many a one ere this, but never before had examined one
with such interest and singular attention.  For Sir Marmaduke was
travel-worn and spent with unaccustomed fatigue; he had walked far, by
long and dusty ways, and his elegant and be-tasselled boots, ill suited
to such hard, rough travel, had pinched him for miles, and thus,
footsore, weary and aching with such unusual exercise, he viewed this
particular hayrick earnestly and with the eye of appraisement.

It was a lofty stack, unthatched as yet, and would be soft--a luxurious
couch for aching, weary limbs--and it filled the air with a drowsy
fragrance, a soporific and most alluring sweetness; also a ladder was
reared against it invitingly.

Sir Marmaduke limped forward, and climbing this ladder, a little
stiffly, was presently lying outstretched half-buried upon this scented
couch, staring dreamily up at a star that winked rakishly down at him.

"Forty-five!" he murmured.  "Ridiculous!  I am a preposterous fool, of
course--and yet--"  Here he sighed, stretched himself more comfortably
and fell blissfully asleep.

He awoke suddenly to the touch of a hand upon his mouth and the whisper
of a voice in his ear:

"Hush!"

The whispering voice, like the hand, was unmistakably a woman's, and
this hand, though warm and soft, was strong and vital.

"Really, madam--" began Sir Marmaduke, removing the hand that he might
articulate.

"Oh--wilt hush!" hissed the voice, and back came the hand heavier than
ever.  Sir Marmaduke "hushed" perforce.

A shapely arm, the curve of a shoulder, a mane of dark hair, these he
saw for the moon, high-risen, was very bright.

And then upon the stillness was a mutter and growl of voices drawing
slowly nearer.  At this, the girl sank prone in the hay, peeping
cautiously down, and Sir Marmaduke, doing the like, saw three men
approaching, one of whom bore a lantern by whose yellow beam and the
moon's clear refulgence, he beheld:

One: A man in a smock frock.

Two: A shortish, stoutish, sober-clad man in a wide-brimmed hat.

Three: A tallish, thinnish man, also in a sombre garb and wide-brimmed
hat.

"Oh, brother!" sighed the stoutish man.  "Oh, the poor, foolish lamb!"

"The little fool!" growled the thin man.

"Nay, but think of her wandering--desolate--"

"She should be whipped!"

"Nay, Ebenezer--"

"Trounced, Jeremiah, drubbed, thrashed--"

"Thou'rt over hard, brother!"

"And thou 'rt too soft, Jeremiah!  This cometh o' thy doting affection,
thy constant petting and pampering."

"Nay, Ebenezer, rather hath thy harshness drave her from us--"

"Lookee, measters," said the man with the lantern, "'twun't do no good
to argle-bargle about it.  If Miss Eve be run away it be for we to run
arter 'er, I rackon, or else go back t' bed."

"True, Jacob, true!" sighed the stoutish man.  "She can't ha' gone
far--let us go on!"

"This hayrick!" exclaimed the thinnish Ebenezer.  "Get thee up the
ladder, Jacob, and look a-top."

"Bean't no ladder nowheers 'bout, as I can see, Master Ebenezer, sir--"

"There should be."

"Ay, so theer should, sir, seeing 'twas me as left it 'ere 's
evening--but theer bean't no ladder nowheers now--"

"And she 'll be 'pon the road, brother, I tell thee!  Come, let us
haste--come!"

"But this rick, Jeremiah--"

"Nay, the road, brother.  'Tis London she'll make for--and so dangerous
for a maid and--  Oh, brother, if she be gone indeed, if we ha' lost
her--home will be an ill place--life very dark--"

"Peace, man!  Hold thy tongue, Jeremiah; it don't bear thinking 'pon.
Come, if she be for London 'tis by reason o' that debauched scoundrel
Denton, heaven smite him--"

"Hush, brother!"

"Come then--the London road, and haste ye!"  And away they trudged, all
three, the lantern bobbing like a will-o'-the-wisp.

Sir Marmaduke sat up and beheld the girl face down amid the hay and
there came to his startled senses an unmistakable sob.  Sir Marmaduke
shrank and stared a little wildly from earth to heaven and round about;
and after the fourth sob, he spoke:

"Pray why do you weep?"

"Because," she answered in a voice deep and soft with tenderness, "oh,
I love every hair o' their grey heads, and it do break my heart to
leave them--the dears!"

"Then I suggest you return to them."

"No--no, I can't--not yet."

"May I enquire your reason?"

"Because I be running away to get married," she answered in
matter-of-fact tone.  "And yet--" here her voice sank to its deep
tender note, "'t is hard to leave my two dears.  You see, I am the only
child they ever had or will have."

"Your--uncles?"

"Yes."

"And are you indeed running away to London?"

"Yes."

"With--a man?"

"My lover, sir."

"A man your uncles think a scoundrel?"

"Because they don't know him as I do."

"And do you know him well--very well?"

At this; she turned to view her questioner in surprise.

"Why, yes, sir," she answered, "he is--my lover."

Here Sir Marmaduke leaned swiftly to peer into her face, a rarely
beautiful face lighted by eyes that met his searching scrutiny wholly
unabashed and virginally frank.

"And do you love him, child?"

"Yes--I--think so.  He is such a grand gentleman, so brave and handsome
and loveth me with all his soul.  He tells me so--often!"

"And so you are meeting him to-night?"

"Yes--we're to be married in London.  But indeed, sir, thou'rt full o'
questions."

"Then pray forgive me--"

"Nay, verily I be glad to talk o' my love to thee; 't is a thing I
durst not mention except to old Nannie and she be deaf.  But oh, sir,"
and here the girl raised her head to stare up at the rising, full-orbed
moon, "truly love is--very different from--what I dreamed."

"Why so, child?" he questioned, studying the serene beauty of her face
as well as he might.

"'Tis this troubles me, sir; when I am away from my love I wish to be
with him, yet when I am with him I--long to be away--almost."

"Why?"

"I think perhaps 'tis something in his eyes--or his voice--"

Here she knit her brows and frowned up at the moon in troubled
perplexity.  For some while she sat, shapely arms clasping rounded
limbs, seemingly forgetful of her companion.

"Have you known your--lover, very long?"

"Almost a fortnight, sir.  And now I'd better go!" sighed she, donning
a deep-brimmed straw bonnet.  "I 'm to meet him at ten o'clock."

"But the ladder?" questioned Sir Marmaduke.

"'T is here.  I pulled it up after me."

"You must be a remarkably powerful young woman."

"I am, sir," she nodded.

"And you were not afraid when you found me here?"

"'Deed, but thou didst startle me at first, but I had none other place
to hide--and when I 'd viewed thee well I saw thou wert none
dangerous--"

"Ha, because of my sober middle age, child!"

"Nay, sir, I 'd no time to mark thine age or sobriety; 't was thy
snoring vexed me."

"Snore?" exclaimed Sir Marmaduke, blenching a little.  "Did I, in fact,
snore--surely not?"

"Indeed, sir, so loudly I had to wake thee lest my two dears heard
thee."

"Accept my humblest apologies, pray!" said Sir Marmaduke, smiling
somewhat ruefully.  "Egad, in common with everybody else, I thought
only--other people did such a thing!  To snore upon a haystack,
especially having regard to the circumstances, was in the extremest of
bad taste.  Still, I rejoice that I didn't frighten you away."

"Because I saw thee for a gentleman!"  She nodded.

"Ay, my clothes, child--so confoundedly out of place on a rick--"

"Thy face!" she answered, tying her own into the shadow of her bonnet.
"And now good-bye, for I must be going."

"Then," answered Sir Marmaduke, reaching for his hat, "if you will
permit, I will walk with you--"

"Oh, pray do, and thank thee kindly; I should like thee to meet my
lover."

"Thank you," said Sir Marmaduke, a little grimly; "I surely will."

"Come, then!"  And before he could aid her, she had swung the heavy
ladder into position and was descending; and all with such unstudied
grace and natural ease as he found altogether admirable.  And now Sir
Marmaduke descended in turn, as dexterously as stiff joints and tight
boots would allow, and they began to walk on together.

"You go too fast for a middle-aged man," said he, after they had gone
some distance.

"Art thou indeed so old?"

"Distressingly so!" he sighed.

"'T is hard to believe," said she, turning to view him with her frank
gaze.

"And my hair is turning grey."

"Nay, by this light it looks very dark and glossy."

At this he felt an unwonted glow of pleasure, which, he told himself,
was ridiculous.

"You are of the Quakers, I think?" he enquired.

"Yes, and my name is Eve-Ann Ash."

"A strange pretty name and suits you."

"And what is thine?"

"Oh--faith--Hobbs, John Hobbs."

"And doth not suit thee!" she said, turning to view him again.  "Thou
hast an air so grand and stately."  And her voice was frank as her eye,
whereupon Sir Marmaduke felt again that unwonted glow of pleasure and
hid it in a laugh as near embarrassment as he had ever known.

"Dost know London, Mr. Hobbs?  Hast ever stayed there?"

"Frequently in the season."

"Dost know--Vauxhall?"

"I have seen it."

"My lover hath promised to take me there.  Oh, Mr. Hobbs, 'twill be
wonderful!  I have only seen London once; all my life hath passed here
in the country at Monk's Warren--"

"And consequently," retorted Sir Marmaduke, "you are as sweet, as fresh
and unspoiled as Nature herself.  Ah, child, there is no place may
compare with this gentle Down Country."

"But my lover tells me there is no place like London--and indeed I do
yearn to go there."

Sir Marmaduke sighed, his delicate, high-bred features lost awhile
their habitual serenity, and he glanced up at the moon beneath slender
brows knit in something very like a scowl; and then her hand was upon
his arm and he wondered to feel it trembling.

"He will be waiting me at the edge of the coppice yonder!" she
whispered.  "Pray--pray wait here!"  Then, quick and light, she hurried
on, and presently he followed slowly after; thus he soon heard a full,
mellow voice:

"My goddess!  My angel!  By Venus, but you 're more beautiful than ever
to-night.  Come, I've a chaise waiting--"

"Nay--wait, Robert--"

"Not an instant!  In a few hours we shall be in London and then--hey
for the parson, and then--"

"Indeed--no!" said Sir Marmaduke gently, stepping forward the better to
see this impetuous swain: a tall, youngish, handsome gentleman of a
particularly dashing air and dressed in the extreme of fashion, yet
with a little too much glitter in eyes, rings and buttons; a very
determined gentleman who, recovering from his surprise, turned upon the
speaker with a certain joyous ferocity.

"Ha, sir--and what the devil--"  His speech ended abruptly as his
fierce eyes met the supercilious gaze of two other eyes serenely
contemptuous.

"A mutual surprise, Mr. Denton, I think--and mutually unpleasant!" and
Sir Marmaduke's tone was as contemptuous as his look.

"Damnably!" retorted Mr. Denton, fierce and hectoring.

"This being so," continued Sir Marmaduke, "pray let us part, sir; make
your bow to the lady and go."

"Eh--eh, go?" stammered Mr. Denton.  "Go, is it?  Begad, sir, d' ye
dare--"

"This instant!"

Mr. Denton swore, took a threatening step forward and raised his whip;
Sir Marmaduke crossed his hands upon the knob of his cane and bowed.

"Your whip, sir?  Take care!"  His voice was soft and he smiled, but in
the curl of these mocking lips, in the keen eyes and serene immobility
of his stately figure was a deadly menace, an unshakable calm and
self-confidence more daunting than any speech.

Mr. Denton's arm was slowly lowered, his fierce eyes wavered and he
muttered a savage oath; then, turning to the girl with arms outflung in
compelling gesture.

"Eve--" he began, but Sir Marmaduke's icy tones cut him short:

"Mr. Denton, there are creatures, shaped like men, who are (I think)
wholesomer dead--pray begone, sir, and remove temptation from me."

For a moment it seemed Mr. Denton meant to leap, his eyes glared, his
nostrils palpitated--then uttering a hoarse, inarticulate exclamation,
he turned and plunged headlong into the shadows of the little wood; and
when all sound of his going had died away, Sir Marmaduke reached out
his hand to the wide-eyed, trembling girl.

"Come, child," said he, "let us go."

"But what--what does it mean?" she questioned breathlessly.

"That I am going to take you back home."

"Home?" she repeated, in slow, dazed fashion.  "Yes--I suppose so--he
has gone--left me, and I--"  Here, all at once, she sank down at the
foot of a tree, her head bowed upon her hands, while Sir Marmaduke
stared helplessly at her and the tree and the moon and back at her
again; finally he ventured to touch her bowed shoulder.

"My poor child!" said he gently.  "And yet it is better you weep now
than break your heart later on.  So weep, my child, weep!"

"But I 'm not weeping," said she, glancing up at him, clear-eyed.  "I'm
wondering--wondering why he went--why he left me."

"Well," answered Sir Marmaduke, glancing up at the moon again, "perhaps
because I asked him.  And now--will you go home?"

"Yes," she sighed, rising.  "Oh, yes, there be naught else I can do."

"Nothing!" answered Sir Marmaduke, and they turned back side by side.

And after they had gone some distance, she questioned him suddenly:

"So thou art acquainted with Robert Denton?"

"Not so," answered Sir Marmaduke gently, "I merely know--of him."




CHAPTER IV

IN WHICH THEY TALK BY THE WAY

"John Hobbs," said she suddenly, after they had gone some distance, "do
all folks always obey thee?"

Sir Marmaduke, having pondered the question, nodded gravely.

"Usually," he answered.

"But he ran away!  He left me--and at thy bidding!"

"Does this grieve you?"

"Nay!  I be only wondering--  He was afraid o' thee; I saw it in his
face!"

"Yet I'm none so frightful, am I, child?"

"Nay.  Yet when didst order him off, thine eyes were turble fierce, Mr.
Hobbs."

"Then pray forget it.  Tell me of yourself--"

"And he--obeyed thee!  And he be a stronger man than thou."

"Undoubtedly.  But--"

"Then, Mr. Hobbs, why did he leave me--at thy bidding?  Him I thought
so brave and strong!"

"Perhaps because he is indeed what your uncles name him."

"I wonder?" sighed she wistfully.

"Did you--love him--truly?"

"Yea--I--" here she glanced up at the moon with the same look of
troubled perplexity, "I think so."  Sir Marmaduke smiled.

"Do you love him?"

"I despise cowardice!"

"But do you truly love him?"

"Besides," she continued in her smooth, soft tones, "he is not a godly
young man--he cursed and swore and when he raised whip to thee, his
look was wickedly evil."

"So then--you don't love him?"

"I shall never love any man again--never!"

Sir Marmaduke laughed so joyously that he wondered at himself.

"Why, child, you know nothing of love; you have never loved any man
yet--"

"Oh indeed, sir, and how dost know this?" she demanded, turning to look
at him with her frank, level gaze.

"By your eyes, child.  Your love is asleep like your womanhood, waiting
for the one man to wake it, and then--you will love him, not for his
looks or ways, but merely because he is--himself."

"Which seemeth foolish and unreasonable, Mr. Hobbs."

"Love is always unreasonable," quoth Sir Marmaduke.

"Oh!  Then pray hast been much in love, Mr. Hobbs?"

"Never, though I have fancied so, once or twice--  And do not call me
Mr. 'Hobbs' I beg."

"Why not?"

"Because your lips should utter only lovely sounds."

"But if thy name is Hobbs--"

Sir Marmaduke wrinkled delicate nose at the unwelcome name, wishing he
had chosen another.

"Call me--well, pray call me John."

"Nay, but," said she, shaking head at him, "to name thee John on so
short acquaintance would be vastly familiar, would n't it?"

"So please call me John," he smiled, "and tell me of yourself."

"Verily, sir, 'twere waste o' breath.  I'm but a simple, homely maid to
oversee the dairy wenches and take care of the stillroom and go to
chapel o' Sundays.  My life is very simple indeed, sir."

"But sweet and good, I 'll vow."

"Nay, then, thou 'rt wrong, for I be full o' sin--stubbornness and
pride and very prone to anger, alas!  'T was but yesterday I slapped
Penelope for spilling a pan o' cream, and then she cried, poor
wench--and so did I and went and prayed God's forgiveness on me."

"And surely your prayers are answered."

"I wonder!"  Here Eve sighed and shook her comely head.  "Only to-day I
pulled Joan's hair for spoiling the butter!  'Deed, but I 'm a woeful
backslider, a very weak vessel with no grace in me.  I know 'twas
selfish and wicked in me to run off to-night and leave my two poor
dears to grieve--but oh, I do long to see Vauxhall--the lights in the
trees--the fountains!  Oh, Mr. Hobbs, if thou couldst only know!"

"But you love the country, also?"

"With all my heart!  The scent of a hayfield of an evening, the song o'
birds at daybreak, a wood at sunset, the ripple of a brook--I love them
all!  And yet--London, its wonderful streets, its palaces and--Vauxhall
Gardens.  Oh, Mr. Hobbs!"

"Can you not call me 'John'?"

"Surely, sir--but I 've known thee such a little while.  And thou'rt
such a grand-seeming gentleman!"

"My clothes, child?"

"But mostly thy face--so proud; thy manner--so grand!"

"Have you any sisters, brothers?"

"A sister, sir--my poor, poor Tabitha!"

"Ah--is she dead?  Forgive me, pray!"

"Not dead, sir--oh no, thank God!  And yet--worse, so my uncles say.
See'st thou, she married a--" here the rich voice sank to an awful
hushed whisper--"a--play-actor!  We never see her now, of course."

"Yet her husband may be a very good fellow?" ventured Sir Marmaduke,
smiling.

"Nay, 'tis impossible, sir!  All play-actors be children of Satan!  But
I do miss Tabitha sorely and pray for her often--oh, very often!"

"Then all must be very well with her."

"Art thou a godly man, John Hobbs?"

"I--hope so."

"Dost pray--constantly?"

"I--I fear not," he answered gravely, "not since I was a little child."

"Alas!" she sighed, shaking lovely head at him in reproach.  "I feared
so.  Thou hast a worldly seeming--  And yet--"

"And yet?" he questioned, turning to meet her grave and gentle scrutiny.

"Thou'rt not altogether evil and unregenerate, I think."

"I--trust not," he answered gravely.

"Verily thou 'rt luxurious in thy habit--and this a sin.  Thou'rt very
prideful and arrogant--and these be sins.  And yet thou hast a good
face, John Hobbs, and thine eyes are kindly gentle when thou dost
smile."

Sir Marmaduke smiled forthwith.  And at this moment came the mellow
chime of a distant church clock striking the hour.  They had reached a
stile and here Eve-Ann paused to count these silvery strokes with a nod
for each.

"Eleven!" she exclaimed in awed tones.  "Eleven o'clock--oh, gracious
me!  I ha' never been abroad so late in all my life; I be usually abed
and asleep at nine--oh, 't is shameful!  Come, let us haste!"  And with
swift, lithe movement she was up and over the stile before he could so
much as lift hand to aid her; so he clambered over in turn as
gracefully as stiff limbs and tight boots would permit.

"Is your home far?" he enquired, as he went on again.

"About two miles."

"Then, Eve-Ann, pray do not hurry."

"Wherefore not, John Hobbs?"

"Because I would not bid you 'Good-bye' too soon."

"'Good-bye!'" she repeated.  "'T is a sad word."

"It will be," he answered.  "So please do not hurry, Eve-Ann."

The road stretched before them white beneath the moon but chequered,
here and there, by the inky shadows of hedge and tree; the summer night
was fragrant with the languorous scent of honeysuckle and over all the
countryside reigned a solemn hush.  Sir Marmaduke sighed.

"Shall you regret saying good-bye?" he questioned.

"Yes," she answered softly; "I have so few friends, sir."

"You will think of me as your friend, Eve-Ann?"

"Yes, Mr. Hobbs."

"Then call me 'John'."

"Very well, John, to please thee, I will--oh, but verily 'tis a
wonderful night, John."

"Yes," he answered, and then halting suddenly; "Eve-Ann," said he,
"since I am and mean to be truly your friend, you must promise most
faithfully that should the man Denton seek you again you will not
believe his promises--never trust yourself to him again, child!  You
will never--never go away with him!"

"Nay, friend John, I might," she answered thoughtfully.

"In heaven's name--why?"

"He is so rich, John."

"Rich?" exclaimed Sir Marmaduke fiercely, halting again to peer into
her face.

"Indeed, John--he told me so."

"But you don't love the fellow."

"Nay, I begin to think--to be sure I don't!" she answered plaintively.
"But then, I need the money, John, woefully!"

"Money!" quoth Sir Marmaduke bitterly.  "You too!"

"Yes, John, I need it more than anything in the world."

"And would--sell yourself to get it--you?"  And leaning near, he
surveyed her beneath frowning brows, but meeting the steadfast serenity
of her look, beholding her clear, unabashed gaze, his brow cleared
somewhat.  "Oh, child," said he gently, "what would you with money?"

"I be no child, John," she answered, shaking her head.  "And I need the
money to save Monk's Warren for my two dears."

"Monk's Warren?"

"The farm, John.  'Tis all my uncles have left and--hush!"  Hoof
strokes muffled in the thick dust and presently a horseman loomed upon
them against the white road, a big, heavily built man astride a
powerful steed.

"Quick!" whispered Eve, and drew Sir Marmaduke into the denser shadow
of the hedge.  But the horseman had espied them for, checking his pace,
he called out in loud, imperious tone that broke unpleasantly upon the
solemn night silence and grated harshly upon Sir Marmaduke's
over-sensitive ear.

"Who 's sweethearting, eh?  Kissy-cuddling in the shadows, eh?  Which
o' ye is it this time?  Is it pretty Nan?  Is it Bess, or Prue?  Tush,
I can see the gleam o' your petticoat!  Come out, little rogue, and
show your pretty face.  What, must I fetch ye?"  So saying, the man
urged his horse towards them, head and body stooped forward from the
saddle, peering.

"So-ho, there y' are, my pretty trollop!  Is it Nell or--"  The words
ended in a gasp of sheer amazement and when next he spoke, the man's
voice was hoarse with sudden rage:

"Why, damme, it's Eve--it's Eve-Ann Ash, by God--and with a
man--midnight--"

"Yes, Squire Brandish," said Eve-Ann in her smooth, serene voice, "'t
is I, for sure.  Now go thy ways in peace--"

"So, Mistress, I catch ye, do I?  Will ye be coy with me and kiss your
lad on the sly, like the rest on 'em?  You and your cursed modest airs
and be damned--cuddling your lover at midnight, ye jade, ye sly vixen--"

The ferrule of Sir Marmaduke's cane, obtruding itself violently into
the speaker's waistcoat, silenced him for the moment; then, gasping in
pain and amazement, Squire Brandish was looking down into an oval face,
a pale, high-nosed, contemptuous face, with eyes that seemed to look
through and beyond him, lips which, parting upon white teeth, spoke in
accents carefully modulated:

"Fellow--be off!"

Squire Brandish leaned down, heavy chin viciously outthrust.

"Fellow--hey?" he demanded fiercely.  "D' ye know what I am--d' ye know
who--"

"Perfectly!" answered Sir Marmaduke.  "You are a disease we would be
free from, a plague, a loathly pest and contaminate the air--"

Squire Brandish's answer was a passionate blow with his riding crop,
but Sir Marmaduke, expectant, parried the stroke and answered with a
lightning riposte, driving his cane full into the folds of the Squire's
cravat and rocking him in the saddle, whereupon the horse reared; but
recovering with desperate effort, the Squire spurred the snorting
animal upon Sir Marmaduke who, leaping nimbly aside, struck twice with
whizzing cane, and the Squire's horse, smitten across the nose,
whinnied, swerved and galloped off down the road, his frantic rider
shouting and wrenching at the bridle all in vain.

"And now, Eve-Ann," said Sir Marmaduke, smoothing his ruffles yet
panting a little, "let us go on."

"Oh, John--oh, John Hobbs, thou'rt not hurt?"

"On the contrary, I feel surprisingly--young!"

And then she was beside him, so close that her garments brushed him,
her breath fanned his cheek and he thought of violets in dewy woods,
had a sense of cows in byre, sunny rickyards, and all else that was
sweet and wholesome and cleanly fragrant.

"He meant thy death, John!  I thought to see thee--crushed under those
murderous hoofs--there was murder in his look!  Oh, friend John--if he
had killed thee--"

"Why Eve-Ann--child, do not tremble--"

And then his arm was about her and as she clung to him all warm, soft
loveliness, there rushed upon him the sense of vivid youth, of health
and abounding vigour from the mere contact of her slender, shapely body.

"Oh, John Hobbs," she murmured, cheek pillowed against him, "oh, friend
John, I shall feel shame and blush for this to-morrow,--but death came
so nigh thee--in such hateful guise!  And thou'rt so strong--so sure!
And to-night--"

"To-night," sighed Sir Marmaduke, bending above the beautiful face so
near his lips, "to-night--" here, stooping lower, he paused to view the
dark curls that clustered in silky tendrils about her little ear,
"to-night, child, you have indeed found a friend--old enough to--father
you."  And, lifting resolute head, he looked from her glowing
loveliness to the pale serenity of the orbed moon.

"Nay, verily, John, I had rather have thee for my friend."

"Trust me, child."

"I do, friend John, most strangely, seeing we ha' known each other so
short a while."

"Two hours!" said he.  "And so soon shall say farewell."

"Art travelling far, John?"

"To London."

"But thou'lt perchance return and--hark!" she cried, starting from him
in sudden alarm, for upon the pervading quiet was a throb of galloping
hoofs drawing rapidly nearer and louder.  "Oh, 'tis Squire Brandish
coming back!  Come away, he means thee harm--"

"Would you have me run from the fellow?"

"No, only--come with me, John."

"Where?"

"To my temple--come--quick, I tell thee!"

So saying, she caught his hand in her warm, vital clasp and led him up
the grassy bank, through a gap in the hedge and so into a cornfield
beyond which, dark and mysterious, loomed the woods.

"Where is your temple, child?"

"Come and I will show thee.  Besides, 'tis a nearer way to Monk's
Warren."

So hand in hand thus, they presently came among the shadow of the trees.




CHAPTER V

BEING A SINGULARLY UNEVENTFUL CHAPTER

Through leafy glooms shot athwart by the moon's level beams, she led
him unfaltering; beneath tangled boughs, amid mazy thickets, flitting
on before him through light and shadow until she seemed to him some
creature of faerie, half dryad, half goddess, and this wood a place of
mystery and magic whereby the sober dignity, the sedate gravity of
forty-five years was forgotten quite; old Father Time cut a caper
backwards, the weary yesterdays were engulfed in to-day and to-day
merged into the deep and pregnant silence of this magical summer night;
the world and Sir Marmaduke were young again as he followed Eve-Ann
through this moonlit wood.

"John," she whispered suddenly, "if there be truly elves and faeries, I
do think they must come to dance hereabouts!  I love every tree, every
leaf and twig.  Dost hear it, John, beneath the stillness, so soft and
deep and regular?  See, yonder is my 'temple'; I often come here to
think, and sometimes say my prayers--there, by the altar!"

They had reached a little glade shut in on all sides, a narrow grassy
aisle pillared by the rugged boles of ancient trees and roofed by their
myriad leaves; and as he gazed, the moon's level beam fell upon an
oblong, weather-worn stone deep buried in the age-old turf.

Instinctively Sir Marmaduke bowed his head.

"And surely," said he softly, "no place so fit for a maid's prayer, for
here indeed is a true Temple of God."

"Oh, John," she sighed, "now dost speak like a truly godly soul and one
of the elect.  So when next I pray here, it shall be for thee--thy
future happiness."

"Happiness, child?" he repeated a little sadly.  "Only the young are
happy, and youth is quick to go."

"But surely age, John, bringeth wisdom and with it kindliness and
sympathy?"

"Not always, alas!  Age may bring heartache, disappointment and--bitter
disillusionment as certainly as wrinkles and--grey hairs!"

"Not if we be true children o' God, friend John, for with him in our
hearts we must be ever young, since He is ageless."

"Eve-Ann," said Sir Marmaduke, bowing his head, "when I grow solitary
and the way is dark, I shall think of your sweet faith and thank
Fortune for you and this solemn hour."

"Nay, rather give thanks to God, John."

"But is not Fortune, Chance, Destiny--are not these all names for God?"

"Ah, no, indeed!  God is our Father, our Almighty yet merciful Judge,
Who liveth high in heaven yet marketh the fall of a sparrow.  So give
all thanks to the God who loveth thee, John."

Then she went on again through the magic twilight and so they came
presently out of the wood into a meadow that trended downwards to a
little brook, beyond which rose many barns and ricks with, beyond these
again, the tall gables of an ancient and goodly house.

"There is Monk's Warren, my home."

"So soon?"

"John Hobbs," said she gently, "though thy discourse is at times a
little worldly, yet do I know, I am sure, thou art a very good man--an
honourable gentleman--nay, do not interrupt me for, if we be truly
friends, there is that I needs must tell thee lest thou think me better
than I am--"

"'T were impossible, child!"

"Ah, John, pray hush, for what I would tell thee is very hard, very
shameful for any maid to confess--"

"Then don't--don't!" said he, catching his breath sharply.  "Let me
think of you as I will!"  And remembering the man Denton, his unclean
and evil reputation, Sir Marmaduke shivered.

"But indeed, John, I must for our friendship's sake; my heart bids me,
and so--do not look at me, John!--to-night--nay do not turn from
me--yet, John!--to-night I--I would have had thee--kiss me, and thou
didst not, and thine arms about me!  So didst thou save me from
wickedness, and so am I now a little less shameful than I should ha'
been, and--oh, friend John, so do I thank thee from my heart and honour
thee most truly.  But I told thee I was a weak vessel prone to sin, and
now thou dost know it."

"Oh, Eve!" said he, drawing deep breath.  "Eve-Ann, now indeed I know
you for a very child of God!"  And taking her hand, he had bowed
reverent head and kissed it almost before she was aware.

"Why--John Hobbs!" she exclaimed, a little breathlessly.  "No one
ever--kissed my hand ere now--"

Sir Marmaduke instantly kissed it again.

"Good night!" she whispered.  "Oh, good-bye, friend John!"

"Good night, Eve-Ann."

"Thou'lt come again--somewhen?"

"Most surely!  God keep you, child!"

"And you, John."

"And you will--pray for me, Eve?"

"Daily, John!--Good-bye!"

Then she went from him down the slope, crossing the brook by the little
bridge, where she turned to wave a last adieu and so was gone.

Sir Marmaduke stood awhile gazing thoughtfully towards that ancient
house; then sighing, he went his solitary way, limping more than ever
now, and with every step his age seemed to grow upon him until he felt
more time-worn and patriarchal than Methuselah.




CHAPTER VI

IN WHICH SIR MARMADUKE EATS BREAKFAST

  "Now that be-feathered, crook-billed harbinger,
  That rosy-wattled herald of the dawn,
  Red comb a-flaunt, bold-eyed and spurred for strife,
  Brave Chant-i-cleer his strident summons raised--
  (By which fine phrase I'd have you know
  The cock had just begun to crow.)
            _Vide_: The "Geste of Duke Jocelyn."


Awakening then to which shrill summons, Sir Marmaduke, roused from that
deep and pleasing mystery hight sleep, opened his eyes and sat up to
behold Chanticleer in the very act of crowing again, which performance
achieved, the bird looked at him coldly, first with one bright eye then
the other, and arching disdainful neck, strutted haughtily out into the
brilliant sunshine.

A truly glorious morning.  From without the barn, which had been Sir
Marmaduke's bedchamber, came the pleasant, homely cluck of busy hens,
while from near and far rose the joyous chorus of newly wakened birds,
such a piping and whistling as might have gladdened the heart of any
man.

Thus Sir Marmaduke, little dreaming what the next four and twenty hours
were to bring forth, stretched luxuriously upon fragrant hay pile and
breathing deep of the sweet morning air, took joy to be alive, blinked
at the sunshine flooding in at the open door, and had composed himself
anew to slumber when upon his drowsy consciousness stole a thought, a
most persistent thought that banished sleep, that grew to a desire, to
a vehement yearning, to a dire necessity: ham and eggs, bread and
butter, fragrant coffee.  Sir Marmaduke sat up broad awake, for hunger
was a new and exquisite experience and therefore sufficiently
remarkable; his mouth was actually watering!  Sir Marmaduke, drawing on
his boots, very nearly chuckled.  Rising, he donned coat and hat, took
up his cane and sallied forth in quest of breakfast.

The new-risen sun made a glory all about him; from wood and copse, from
every tree and hedgerow birds caroled in blithe chorus; but Sir
Marmaduke, rejoicing in his hunger, strode along the road, his gaze
scanning the adjacent prospect for the welcome sight of inn or wayside
tavern, his mind wholly devoted to the consideration of ham, eggs and
coffee.

Some half-mile's tramp brought him to a village bowery with trees, a
cosy, sequestered hamlet whose thatched cottages fronted upon a
pleasant green.  And here, sure enough, was an inn, a comfortable place
of aspect most inviting, with its latticed casements bright in the sun,
its wide, hospitable doorway flanked by roomy oaken settles; but just
now these settles were deserted, like the village itself, and the door
fast shut; and Sir Marmaduke, consulting his watch, found to his
surprise that it was scarcely half-past four.

Thus it befell that a certain sturdy son of the soil, on his way so
early, beheld a very grand gentleman seated in solitary state before
the inn, slim legs outstretched, head bowed, lost in gloomy
contemplation of the stocks that stood adjacent, a truly Olympian
person clad in such attire as was seldom seen so far from London;
though, to be sure, the lustre of these elegant, betasselled boots was
somewhat dimmed, and the perfect-fitting blue coat with its crested
gold buttons showed somewhat dusty and with strands of hay adhering to
it here and there.

The countryman halted to stare, whereupon the gentleman raised his head
and showed a face that matched his clothes; for his curling hair, which
he wore rather long, was slightly disordered, while in one glossy curl
a small hay stalk had contrived to insinuate itself.  Nevertheless in
his lean, aquiline face was a look of command and serene assurance, it
was in the high, imperious carriage of his head, in the smiling
condescension of his nod, in the motion of the slim yet compelling hand
with which he beckoned the countryman nearer, who obeyed, perforce,
knuckling forehead as he came.

"Good morning!" said Sir Marmaduke.

"Which the same to ee, sir, I 'm sure," sighed the man.  "A rare fine
marning sure-ly!"

"Then why do you look so troubled?"

The countryman glanced keenly at his questioner, shuffled his feet,
rasped new-shaven chin and sighed again heavily.

"Reason enough, I rackon, sir."

"Are you also waiting for breakfast?"

"Breakfus', sir?" repeated the man, staring.  "Lord, no--I've 'ad it,
leastways arl as I could swaller--an' that not s' much as would choke a
titmus!  Y' see this here trouble's been an' ketched me in the
appetite, sir."

"Pray, what is your trouble?"

"A thing as don't bear talkin' 'pon, sir--nobbut I doan't think 'pon it
marning, noon an' noight.  But thinkin' be one thing an' talkin' be
another, so I 'll bid ye good-day, sir."

"Are you in any particular hurry?"

"Sir, I be never in no 'urry about nothin'."

"When does this inn open?"

"'Alf-past six, sir, five o'clock o' market days."

"And to-day is not market day--of course?" sighed Sir Marmaduke.

"Why no, sir, it bean't."

"Then you may sit and talk to me."

The man stood hesitant, but, meeting Sir Marmaduke's eye, he obeyed the
slight, though imperious gesture of Sir Marmaduke's slim finger and
seating himself bolt upright on the extreme edge of the settle, he
touched his hat and shutting his mouth tight, stared hard at nothing in
particular.

"Well?" enquired Sir Marmaduke.

"Same t'ee, sir."

"You are very silent."

"I be, sir--'t is natur!  I bean't much of a talker to nobody no'ow,
nowhen an' nowhere, an' to strangers never an' no time."

"Admirable Jacob!" murmured Sir Marmaduke.

"Eh?" exclaimed his hearer, starting.

"You live hereabout, Jacob?"

"Ay, sir, I do, but--"

"And work at Monk's Warren?"

"Why, so I do, sure-ly," answered Jacob, edging a little farther off
and eyeing his questioner very much askance.  "But, Lord, sir--Lord
love me, 'ow might ye know as I do be Jacob Jarraway an' works at
Monk's Warren an' arl--"

"The stocks, now," murmured Sir Marmaduke, nodding lazily at that
new-painted, gaudy erection.  "I've never seen a handsomer pair--"

"Stocks!" growled Jacob, frowning at them fiercely.

"You keep them in such excellent repair, Jacob--"

"Not me, sir, not me--that be Squire's doin'--ay--an' 'e 'ad furriners
over from Petworth to do it too!  An' wot be more, Squire be allus
findin' some un or other to fill 'em--man, ooman or child, it doan't
matter to he--dang 'im!"

"The Squire?" murmured Sir Marmaduke.

"Ah; Squire Brandish, sir.  'Tis ill for the like o' we since 'e come
back again from furrin parts."

"A hard man, is he?"

"As a flint!  Ah, a reg'lar bad un, be Squire--there was Nancy
Warrender, poor young lass went 'eartbroke arl along of 'e an' drowned
'erself years ago, but I ain't forgot!  An' there be others as didn't
kill theirselves but--"

"Is he the cause of your trouble, Jacob, my good fellow?"

Now, hearing the sympathy in Sir Marmaduke's voice, reading it in his
look, Jacob leaned nearer and spoke in hoarse whisper:

"Sir, I tell ee theer be many as would j'y to see 'is bleedin'
corpse--ah, many!  And I be one!  And because why?  Because now 'e be
arter Eve Ash--ah, an' means t' get 'er, fair ways or foul!"

"Are you sure?"

"Ay--sartin sure!  An' she so innocent as a babe!  But her two uncles
know--an' I know!"

"How?"  Sir Marmaduke had turned to stare at the stocks again, but
Jacob saw his slim hands tight-clenched upon the gold knob of his cane.
"How d' you know?  What makes you so sure?"

"Because I heered un say so las' time 'e were drunk--ah, and in this
very inn too!  ''Ere's to Eve-Ann,' says 'e, 'olding up 'is glass,
'Eve-Ann as is a-going to be mine, one way or t'other!' says 'e.
Whereupon I took an' throwed my liquor over 'e, thereby losin' my good
ale, an' 'e 'as me clapped into they stocks into the bargain--an' the
paint on 'em still wet, dang 'im!"

"And what then, Jacob?"

"Then along comes Master Ebenezer and gets me out--ah, and there on the
green, afore arl the village,--'Brandish,' says 'e moighty fierce-like,
'come you anigh my land again, lay s' much as finger on my niece, ay,
or any servant o' mine,' says 'e, 'an' I 'll shoot thee for the wild
beast th' art.'  ''Tidn't your land; 'tis moine!' says Squire, moighty
fierce tu, 'or 't will be in a week or so,' says 'e.  'A week--ay,'
says Master Ebenezer, quiet-loike, 'toime enough for the Lord to strike
thee dead first!' says 'e, and away 'e goes an' me arter 'im."

"The excellent Ebenezer!" murmured Sir Marmaduke.  "And he--a Quaker!"

"True, sir, but then 'e be a man tu!" nodded Jacob.

"And they are to lose their farm--in a week?"

"Ay, sir--an' that be my trouble!  'Twill be a bad day for the folk
'ereabout.  Why Monk's Warren do ha' belonged to they Bywoods sence
ever 't were a farm--ah, ages long, I rackon!  But Lord, 'ere I be
a-amagging o' my troubles and, wot be worse, my master's troubles and
to a stranger as I ain't never clapped eyes on afore!"

"But a very sympathetic stranger, Jacob, and one who would like to
help."

"Thankee, sir!" sighed Jacob, rising heavily, "thankee kindly, sir, but
theer ain't nobody as can help we--unless 'e makes a corpus-carkiss o'
Squire Brandish, dang 'im!"

"Do you mean murder, Jacob?"

"'T would n't be no murder, sir--it could n't!  It bean't no murder to
tread on a adder, is it?  No, says you--and no, says I.  For, lookee,
sir, in this 'ere world there be good men and bad uns, but even the
good uns has some bad and the bad uns some good--generally, but Squire
be arl bad, from 'ead to fut, through an' through, 'ide an' 'air--so
the sooner 'e be dead, the better!"

At this moment from somewhere behind the inn rose a loud, clear whistle
or call, and thereafter a booming voice in jovial bellow:

"Ahoy--aloft there!  Show a leg, ye lubbers--tumble up and lively, me
lads!  You, Tom, pass the word for Jarge!"

"There be Ben Barter, sir," said Jacob, "used to be a sailor once, one
o' Lord Nelson's men an' 'e can't nowise forget it.  He 'll sarve ye
breakfast now if you ax 'im--ready an' willing is Ben--"

"Why then, Jacob, if you'll come with me, you shall drink ale, and
plenty of it."

"Why, sir, I bean't nowise in no drinkin' moind, that I bean't, never
more so--no!  Nobbut, as seein' you're so kind and me so low in
sperrits, an' Ben's 'ome brew the best in arl Sussex, I doan't moind if
I du--and thankee koindly!"

Following the despondent Jacob into the spacious inn yard spicy with
stables, Sir Marmaduke beheld a short, thick-set, hairy fellow, a broad
man in every sense, for his broad, cheery visage seemed the broader by
reason of a pair of wiry whiskers that stood out from his cheeks like
the studding sails of a ship; also his shoulders were broad; his
striped trousers, extremely wide and roomy, were supported by a wide
belt and flapped above a pair of broad-toed shoes offset by wide steel
buckles; moreover, as he made a leg to Sir Marmaduke, his new-shaven
mouth expanded in a broad smile.  Quoth he:

"Good morning to your honour!  Will it be breakfast?"

"It will," answered Sir Marmaduke, smiling also.

"Why then, we 've beef--cold, your honour, roast or b'iled, sir; 'am
rashers an' eggs warm from the 'en, your honour; tea, sir, or coffee.
If these will serve--"

"They will!" answered Sir Marmaduke heartily.  "But first, ale for my
friend Jacob, and then soap and water and if you could find me a razor
I should esteem it a favour."

"Ay, ay, your honour!"

Very soon Sir Marmaduke found himself in a fragrant, sunny chamber
where stood a great, four-post bed, its snowy sheets redolent of
lavender; a most inviting bed whose broad, voluptuous swell obtruded
upon his consciousness, as it were; so much so indeed that more than
once he must needs pause in the delicate operation of shaving to regard
it with the eye of desire.  Indeed, a most seductive bed!

In due season, his ablutions satisfactorily accomplished, he descended
to find breakfast awaiting him, a generous dish of ham and eggs flanked
by joints of beef, the roast and the boiled, such a breakfast as would
have appalled him yesterday; to-day he sighed in huge content and
sitting down, ate and drank with such appetite and gusto as amazed him.

After some while, his hunger gloriously appeased, he leaned back to
survey this pleasant room, massive rafters above, red tiles below and a
great, open fireplace where logs crackled cheerily, beside which stood
a pair of riding boots, newly polished, their toes and heels sedately
together.

Sir Marmaduke yawned and instantly bethinking him of the four-poster
bed, was about to rise when in through the open lattice came the
landlord's broad, good-humoured face.

"The 'am and eggs, sir?" he enquired.

"A delectable memory!" sighed Sir Marmaduke.

"And the beef, your honour, roast and b'iled?"

"That also."

"Hunger be a fine sauce, sir--"

"And divine experience!" nodded Sir Marmaduke.  "He who has never known
hunger is a poor, miserable wretch!"

"Why, as to which, sir," answered the landlord a little dubiously, "I
dunno.  But my 'eart goes out to a man as can tackle his vittles free
an' hearty of a morning."

"Jacob had his ale, I hope?"

"Ay, ay, sir, and afore 'e went bid me thank your honour."

"He tells me you were one of Nelson's men."

"True enough, sir--Ben Barter, gunner's mate aboard the old
_Bully-Sawyer_ seventy-four, Cap'n John Chumley."

"Honoured to know you, Ben Barter."

"You do me proud, sir," answered Ben, touching finger to eyebrow.

"You have a guest staying here, I see," and Sir Marmaduke gestured
languidly towards the boots on the hearth.

"Why, yes, sir," answered Ben, eyeing the articles in question beneath
lowering brow.  "A London gen'leman as comes down off and on like--but,
sir, there's gen'lemen as can take their liquor like gen'lemen and
there's them as can't, d' ye see?  And sichlike, being drunk, is
owdacious."

"_In vino veritas_!" murmured Sir Marmaduke.

"Mebbe so, sir, but not knowing I can't swear to that.  But last night
this here gen'leman drinks brandy till he forgets hisself and frights
my daughter and the maids, whereupon I run him aboard, d' ye
see--whereupon he begins heaving bottles and glasses; whereupon again I
was obleeged to let fly one as took him amidship--'twixt wind an'
water, as you might say; whereupon Jarge and Tom hauled said gen'leman
aloft to bed."

"And this person's name?" enquired Sir Marmaduke sleepily.

"Denton, sir, Mr. Denton, a friend o' Squire Brandish."

Sir Marmaduke blinked in the sunshine and yawned behind his hand.

"Then 'tis possible Squire Brandish may visit him here?"

"Ay, sir, him and Squire is supping here together, this evening.
More's the pity.  When him and Squire drinks together, well--they
drinks--"

"Which," yawned Sir Marmaduke, "is good for trade, at least.  By the
bye, I noticed a particularly attractive bed upstairs."

"All swan's-down, your honour, and 'eartily at your service."

"Thank you.  I'll to it."

"Wot--now, sir?"

"At once."

"And what time shall I wake your honour?"

"You won't!"

"Ay, ay, sir."

"I walked a long way yesterday--trudged, tramped, until I limped and
ached in fatigue, so pray see my rest be undisturbed, Ben Barter."

"Surely, your honour."

Then, having condescended to bestow a smiling nod upon the round-eyed
landlord, who instantly touched eyebrow and made a leg, Sir Marmaduke
took his leisurely way upstairs; having locked his door, he undressed,
got into bed and ensconced between fragrant sheets, sighed blissfully,
stretched luxuriously and closing his eyes, fell into a deep and
dreamless slumber.




CHAPTER VII

DESCRIBES HOW SIR MARMADUKE MADE HIS WILL

A beam of sun awakened him and, turning his face from this glory, he
reached sleepily for the bell rope to summon Maunder, his valet, then,
remembering his whereabouts, sat up immensely glad to find no bell rope
and to know that the soft-treading Maunder was miles away, together
with all other luxuries that had been his life hitherto.

Thus sat Sir Marmaduke, looking about him glad-eyed and tingling with a
strange, new zest of living, an eager expectancy of joys to be, on
tiptoe for adventure, his old-time weariness forgotten quite.  Before
the eye of his mind was a fair prospect of rural things: shady woods,
fragrant meads and sunny, winding lanes leading on and on, he cared not
whither; and, with all this in his mind, he thought of course about
her--she who had seemed the very embodiment of all that was young, and
fresh, and sweet.

Forth he sprang and began to dress, humming softly to himself the
while, as he had not done for many a long day.  But suddenly he fell
silent as borne to his sharp ears came a mutter of voices.

"--Eve Ash, I tell ye!"

In the act of pulling on a boot Sir Marmaduke paused to glance towards
the open casement.

"Last night in the lane--with a man!--  A shameless dart, I tell ye,
Dick!"

Having achieved his boots, Sir Marmaduke rose, for these words were
spoken by a voice he recognized.

"And with a man, eh?" questioned a second voice, also familiar.  "Tall,
dark fellow--eh?  Fashionable clothes, pallid face, and whiskers?"

"Ay, by the Lord!  D' ye know him?  I'd ha' thrashed him where he
stood--"

"Would you, begad?"

"Ay, would I--but he ran off, damn him!"

"Did he, begad?"

"Ay.  D' ye know the fellow, Dick?"

"I know him for a middle-aged buck and therefore dangerous to coy
virginity.  Egad, our handsome Eve's reputation is sadly blown upon, I
fancy.  But, oh, demme, what a gorgeous armful o' ripe loveliness she
is!"

"Ay, damn the prudish slut; the sly jade 's no better than t'others for
all her demure airs--an artful trollop, a--"  Sir Marmaduke's hand had
grasped the water jug, thrust it out of the window and inverted it, all
in a moment; then, leaning forth, he beheld Squire Brandish and Mr.
Denton seated immediately below, very wet and staring up at him in
gasping, wild-eyed amazement.

"Scum!" quoth Sir Marmaduke and let fall the water jug to crash in
flying splinters on the ground between them.

"Da--damn you, sir!" gasped the Squire, but drawing in his head, Sir
Marmaduke took his hat and strolled downstairs, swinging his cane
airily before him, to find a protesting landlord and two very damp but
raging gentlemen who raved and cursed, roaring threats of blood and
vengeance.

At Sir Marmaduke's sudden entrance Mr. Denton fell back a pace,
scowling, but Squire Brandish leaped forward, hairy fists clenched, but
recoiling as suddenly before the lightning thrust of a gold-mounted
Malacca cane.

"Hold off--animal!" said Sir Marmaduke.  "Attempt no brutal pawing lest
you blind yourself on my stick."  Here his smooth tones were drowned in
the Squire's frenzied roar, a farrago of oaths, threats and coarse
vituperation, whereto Sir Marmaduke listened, swinging his cane gently
to and fro much as if he had been beating time, until the Squire failed
for breath; then:

"Fellow," said he, shaking head a little wearily, "I find your manners
unlovely as your looks--"

"Ha, you--you--" gasped the Squire, whirling fists aloft in a very
ecstasy of fury, "you shall pay for this--you shall answer to me--with
your blood--your life, damn ye!  Oh, you shall answer--"

"With joy!" nodded Sir Marmaduke.  "I intend to kill you just so soon
as you will, because, as I informed you at our first meeting, you are a
disease to be eradicated--"

"Ha, by God!" roared Squire Brandish.  "If I only had my pistols here--"

"Not 'ere, sir!" said Ben Barter, scowling and shaking his head.
"There's plenty o' places where gen'lemen can murder theirselves nice
an' quiet, but not in my gardin--"

Trembling and inarticulate with rage, Squire Brandish turned upon the
speaker, who instantly set himself in a posture of defence.  "Avast,
Squire!" growled he.  "I ain't a quarrelsome cove, but being a freeborn
Englishman I ain't to be struck, gentry or no!  So belay it is, Squire!
'Ands off or 'twill be 'ands on--and fists at that, d' ye see?"

But now, as the Squire scowled at Ben and Ben at the Squire, Mr. Denton
interposed and drew his ferocious companion out into the garden,
whereupon Ben shook his head, and becoming aware of round-eyed maids
and staring men who peered in at the half-open doors, he scattered them
with a gesture and shook his head until his wiry whiskers quivered:

"Lord, sir," he exclaimed, his eyes twinkling, "you nigh drowned of
'em!"

"I did my best!" nodded Sir Marmaduke.  "Which reminds me that I owe
you for one large china ewer; pray note it in your bill."

"Sir," answered Ben, "under these here circumstances--no--but if you
could ha' managed to shiver it on Squire's figure-'ead--"

But at this moment in strode the Squire himself, as fierce and
threatening as ever.

"See here--you!" he exclaimed, stabbing hairy forefinger at Sir
Marmaduke.  "Who y' are I neither know nor care, but I demand
satisfaction and I'll have it--if you're man enough, ay, damn ye, I 'll
dabble my boots in your blood yet, d' ye hear?   I'll be waiting for
ye--ay, I'll give you your quietus in Down-along Spinney this evening
at half-past eight--if you don't run away again."

Sir Marmaduke merely bowed.

"As to a surgeon?" suggested Mr. Denton, leaning in at the lattice.
"Must have a surgeon, y' know."

"Bah!" cried the Squire.  "He'll be beyond a surgeon when I 'm done
with him!"

"Seconds, then?"

"Seconds be damned!  You 'll be there to witness and give the count."

"A little irregular, Brandish!" demurred Mr. Denton.  "Yes, a leetle
irregular, my dear fellow.  What does--er, the gentleman say?"

Sir Marmaduke glanced at the speaker and shrugged disdainful shoulders.

"At half-after eight!" said he and turned his back upon them, whereat
Squire Brandish cursed him fluently and strode away with a stamp and
jingle of spurred heels.

"A dool--eh, sir?" enquired Ben with lugubrious shake of the head.

"A duel, yes," murmured Sir Marmaduke, staring out at the sunny garden.

'"Tis said as 'ow Squire's shot his man in a dool already, sir."

"The better reason to shoot him, Ben."

"And at 'alf-past eight, sir?"

"Which leaves me ample time for supper."

"Ay, ay, sir--but 'twill be a bit darkish for shooting."

"We can stand the closer."

"Lord!" exclaimed Ben, his good-humoured face growing unwontedly
troubled.  "Sounds uncommon bloodthirsty, sir."

Then, as if prompted by sudden thought, he hurried from the room and
was presently back again, bearing pens, ink and a very large sheet of
paper.

"What now?" enquired Sir Marmaduke.

"Considering the  circumstances, sir--your will--"

"Gad, so!  You 're vastly obliging."

"Why, d' ye see, sir, his honour Cap'n Chumley fout a dool once and
made a will--in case o' accidents.  I were a witness."

"Which gives me an idea!" nodded Sir Marmaduke, and sitting to the
table, he took pen and paper and wrote as follows:


In the event of my sudden demise, I do will and bequeath all properties
soever that I die possessed of to Eve-Ann Ash of Monk's Warren, Sussex.

    Marmaduke, Anthony Vane-Temperly.


"Two witnesses needful, eh, your honour?"  Sir Marmaduke nodded,
whereupon Ben drew a boatswain's pipe from his pocket and leaning from
the casement, sounded a shrill call, in response to which summons
presently appeared a ruddy-faced, shock-headed fellow.

"Jarge can write his name as good as any print, sir."

"Excellent!" said Sir Marmaduke, handing the blushing George paper and
pen together with half-a-crown and showing him where his name must go.

"Steady it is, Jarge," quoth Ben a little anxiously.  "Take a deep
breath, lad, and--easy does it!"

Thus encouraged, George squared his elbows and fell to work with
infinite care and many twirls of spluttering pen and sympathetic
tongue; which task accomplished he sighed, rose, knuckled an eyebrow
and departed, beaming.  And now Ben seized the quill, much as if it had
been a handspike, plunged it into the ink, shook it and bending over
the paper, opened his eyes very wide but shut his mouth very tight and
duly affixed his signature.  This done, Sir Marmaduke, sanding and
folding this document, handed it to his surprised companion.

"Ben Barter," said he, "I desire you to take charge of this for me
until such time as I come and ask for it--agreed?"

"Heartily, sir."

"And--not a word to any one!  Agreed?"

"Ay, ay, your honour, nary a word, sir!  'T will be safe stowed along
o' me and you can lay to that, sir."

"Thank you, Ben."

"And now, talking o' supper, sir, 'ow might b'iled mutton and caper
sauce--wi' trimmings, soot your honour?"

"Excellent well, Ben."

"Very good, sir, and--say in an hour's time."  And away he rolled,
forthwith, leaving Sir Marmaduke to saunter forth into the garden; and
walking here, he came upon a small arbour bowered in honeysuckle,
breathing which languorous fragrance he sighed, remembering when and
where he had scented it last--then, even as he sighed, heard the sound
of quick, light feet and, glancing round, beheld her of whom he was
thinking.  Now seeing her thus unexpectedly he stood motionless, full
of a sudden, great content because of all the unstudied grace and
artless beauty of her; the glossy hair which, despite prim, restraining
cap, curled rebellious against her glowing cheek; the deep, grave eyes
set wide beneath low-arched brows; the full-lipped vivid mouth and
resolute chin; and then the demure grey gown that, veiling her from
rounded throat to slim feet and ankles, yet could not quite conceal the
noble, vigorous shape beneath.  Thus, seeing her hasting towards him,
so unconscious of her own loveliness, Sir Marmaduke forgot all else.

And then--she had caught his hands in her warm smooth clasp and,
viewing him with eager, troubled eyes, began to question him, panting a
little with her haste:

"Oh, John--John Hobbs, what--what is this they tell o' thee?  That
thou'rt to fight Squire--that wicked man, and--because o' me--"

"No," he answered, smiling reassuringly.  "No--"

"But--thou'rt to fight?"

"Not because of you, Eve-Ann."

"Then why--why?"

"Because I have a strong antipathy to his person--"

"Nay, George saw and heard; so did Betty--and Betty told me to-night at
half-past eight in Down-along Spinney--and oh, John--John, 'tis
dreadful sin to fight."

"But extremely human," he answered lightly.  "And I am grown
astonishingly human since I met--that is to say--of late."

"Ah, dost mean since meeting me!  Oh, John, do I make thee so very
human?"

"I do confess it."

"And so thou must pour water on Squire and that hateful Denton--" here
her red lips quivered mirthfully, "and, oh--run the hazard o' thy
life!"  Here she sighed and her clasp upon his hand tightened.  "Oh,
friend John, now do I beg thee, beseech thee--forego this evil.  Indeed
he is a very evil man yet if he hath offended or wrought the harm,
forgive him in God's name."

"Nay, child--"

"Then for his sake--thine own sake--"

"Ann, it is impossible."

"Then--oh, John--for my sake."

Here she looked at him with such passionate entreaty that he stooped
and kissed her hands because he knew her pleading vain.

"John," she whispered, "oh, friend, if thou 'rt killed--"

"It would resolve many difficulties, child."

"And rend my heart--for verily I am a lonely one--and thou art my
friend--"

"Always that!" he answered fervently.

"Yet wilt thou fight?"

"Yes."

"In Down-along Spinney--at half-past eight!  If thou shouldst die there
in such sinful fashion--if he kill thee--"

"But indeed I do not mean to be killed--"

"Ah, John, mock not thy poor friend, for verily she is very heartsick
because o' thy stubborn pride.  And even if thou kill this evil man his
blood would be upon thy soul forever!  So wherefore peril thy body,
John, thy soul?"

"For my poor humanity's sake, perhaps," he answered gently.

"Will nothing move thee?"

"Nothing."

At this, reproaching him, she wept; and now again she pleaded but
finding him still unmoved, grew the more impassioned; finally she
turned from him with a wild and hopeless gesture.

"God pity and forgive thee, John.  God shield thee from harm--"  And
with this desolate cry she turned and sped away, leaving him staring
mutely after her.

And presently, being come into the little arbour, he sat there, head
bowed in sombre revery for, experienced duelist though he might be, the
thought of death obtruded itself, the possibility of his sudden
translation into that great unknown which lies beyond the grave awed
him.  Yet life he had ever held lightly--until now; and, to be sure,
his death would benefit others.  Nevertheless he watched the sun sink
lower and lower and looked round upon this quiet garden with eyes a
little wistful.

At last, hearing Ben the landlord's cheery hail, he rose and sauntered
back to the inn, there to be saluted by a right savoury odour and to
find the boiled leg of mutton (with trimmings) awaiting him in steaming
succulence; to the which he did ample justice.




CHAPTER VIII

WHICH TELLS HOW AND WHY SIR MARMADUKE THROWS AWAY HIS CANE

The western sky was aflame with sunset as Sir Marmaduke reached that
strip of woodland that went by the name of Down-along Spinney; a place
where rabbits scutted with a flash of white tails; a place where thrush
and blackbird piped their plaintive evensong; a place far removed from
all human habitation and divided by a strip of greensward from the
denser woods, and hence a place where, with small chance of
interruption, two gentlemen might slaughter each other to their heart's
content.

Coming out upon this grassy level, Sir Marmaduke paused to glance
about, but seeing no signs of his antagonist, leaned against an
adjacent tree and folding his arms, stood lost in thought.  And lolling
thus, hearkening to the myriad stealthy noises of this remote solitude,
he knew himself in danger; remembering the man Brandish, his murderous
rage and the irregularity of this coming encounter, with none to
witness the event but the discredited Denton, he knew this danger very
grave, yet was content it should be so since life, hitherto, had fallen
so far short, so much below his soaring, youthful dreams; also, his
will was safe in honest Ben Barter's keeping.

A distant church clock struck the half-hour and Sir Marmaduke glanced
up and around, listening for a sound of voices, the rustle of leaves
that should tell of his antagonist's approach, but heard only the vague
woodland sounds and the mournful piping of the blackbird.

And now as the slow minutes dragged by, he began to grow impatient,
glancing often at his watch and pacing restlessly to and fro.  The sun
had set.  The woods to the west were a deepening mystery backed by a
crimson glory.  Frowning upon this, Sir Marmaduke continued his slow
pacing up and down until the clock rang out again, telling the third
quarter.  Shadows were creeping all about him; in a little it would be
dark; the blackbird's mournful song was ended; over all things was a
brooding silence, a quiet that somehow seemed to grow ever the more
ominous, and Sir Marmaduke, with his gaze upon that lessening glory in
the west, hearkened, vaguely expectant.  At last, uttering an impatient
exclamation, he turned to be gone--took three strides and halted--to
stare back over his shoulder, back towards the denser gloom of the
woods behind, whence, sudden and sharp, came the report of a gun.

For a long moment he stood staring in the one direction, then, moved by
a sudden impulse, he turned and hurried towards those leafy mysteries
and coming upon a narrow path, followed it beneath tangled boughs,
pushing his way amid briar and bramble until, all at once, he left the
leafy glooms behind to find himself in a small, grassy glade where the
last effulgence of day seemed to linger, a rosy glow whereby he
recognised the place for that which Eve-Ann had named her "temple."
Here was the avenue of trees whose mighty boles rose like the columns
of a cathedral and yonder the age-worn stone she had called her
"altar", and yet--strangely changed, surely--its shape different.  Sir
Marmaduke, perplexed, turned thither, peering--then hurried forward to
halt suddenly and stare down in wide-eyed horror; for there, huddled in
awful fashion, his mangled face upturned, his blood fouling this
ancient stone, lay the dead body of Squire Brandish.

Killed by a shotgun, and at very close quarters; this was horribly
evident.  A stealthy rustle amid the leaves and glancing up he saw a
hand, brown and shapely, that grasped a gun; then the bushes parted and
he was staring into a pale, set face wherein eyes, brim full of horror,
stared back into his.

"Eve!" said he in whispering voice.  "Eve-Ann--Oh, my God!"

"Go away!" she whispered back.  "Go away!"

In one moment he was beside her and had grasped the gun, to find its
barrel yet warm with the recent discharge.  Mutely she suffered him to
take it and mutely watched him thrust little finger into the muzzle to
bring it forth grimed with burnt powder.

"Oh, child!" he groaned; and beholding the look in his eyes, she bowed
head suddenly upon her hands, shrinking from him, and with face thus
hidden, questioned him, breathless and eager:

"Dost not--hate me?--Oh, John--"

"No, no--never that, child.  Am I not your friend?"

"Even though I--thou dost think--"

"Nothing!" he answered fiercely.  "Nothing!  But you must not stay
here."

"No--no, I be going."

"Ay, but where?"

"Any whither away from--this!"  And averting her head, she made a
shuddering gesture towards the still and dreadful thing at their feet.

"Then I will go with you."

"No--ah, no--" she whispered.

"Come!" said he.  "No, first we must hide this!"  And he scowled at the
weapon in his hand, a handsome piece with a silver plate inset upon the
stock whereon, in deep-graven characters, he made out the name:

    EBENEZER BYWOOD


"'Twas hanging in the kitchen--" said she breathlessly.  "Oh, hide
it--hide it!  Come and I 'll show thee where!"

So she brought him to a tree gnarled and warped with years, and showed
him a narrow fissure in its writhen bole, into which he thrust the gun,
butt first, and heard it thud down into some cavernous depth where he
prayed it might rust and rot away unseen again by any human eye; then,
turning towards Eve-Ann he reached out his hand, to find her regarding
him with a strange and eager intensity.

"He--was a very wicked--a very evil man!" she whispered.

"So, God forgive him!" answered Sir Marmaduke.

"And was--on his way to--kill thee--"

"Eve--Eve-Ann--  Oh, child, do you mean--this was your reason?"

"Come!" she whispered, shivering violently.  "Oh, let us go!"  And
forthwith, she led the way into the wood.  But as she hasted before him
along the narrow path, he heard her gasp suddenly and turning aside she
shrank against a tree and leaned there.

"Eve--what is it?" he questioned anxiously, for he saw her body shaken
by violent tremors.

"Oh, John," she gasped, "if they catch me--will they--hang me in
irons--like that awful thing on the gibbet at the crossroads?"

Sir Marmaduke recoiled, his very soul sick with horror.

"Don't!" he cried.  "Never think of it!  None would ever suspect you,
child--they could not!"

"Denton will!" she gasped.

"Denton?"

"He saw me struggling in Squire's wicked arms--he saw me strike him!"

Sir Marmaduke stood appalled.  That Denton of all people should have
seen!  Denton, this mean-souled hanger-on!  Very gently Sir Marmaduke
turned the trembling girl so he could look into her pale face.

"My poor child," said he softly, "tell me what chanced."

"He and Squire met me--in the wood; they spake evil--shame of thee and
me--and Squire caught me in his arms--and Mr. Denton laughed--bade
Squire good luck and--left me struggling."

"And then?" questioned Sir Marmaduke softly.

"I broke Squire's hold and ran away."

"And then?"

Eve shook her head and was silent.

"And--the gun?"

At this she stared at him wildly.

"I cannot tell thee more--  Oh, John, I cannot--must not!"

"Where was the gun?" he demanded hoarsely.  "Had you got it?  Where was
it--tell me!"

"No, John--I cannot!" she whispered.  "Not even if they--hang me
like--that awful thing--"  Here the shuddering fit seized her anew, and
sinking down at the root of the tree she crouched there, while Sir
Marmaduke stared down at her helplessly.  In his agitation he had
grasped his cane in both hands, bending it in nervous grasp until, all
at once, it snapped and he stood a moment looking at it in vague
surprise.  When next he spoke his voice was as calm, his look as
serenely assured as ever.

"Eve-Ann," said he, smiling at his broken cane, "be comforted, have no
fear; no one can ever suspect you--they shall not--no, not even Denton!
Wait you here, you must not be alone--so wait, child, promise me."

Speechlessly she nodded, whereupon he turned and hurried back along
that winding path, heedless of clutching briar and bramble, until he
beheld again that sprawling thing whose glazing eyes stared up at the
darkening sky.  Sir Marmaduke looked once, made a sudden, swift gesture
of one hand, then hasted back to find Eve crouching where he had left
her, dimpled chin upon rounded knees and wide eyes staring on vacancy.

"Come, child!" said he and reached her both his hands.  So she rose and
they went on side by side, she still clasping his right hand, clinging
to it like a frightened child.

"Oh, friend, good friend John," she whispered suddenly, "but for
thee--ah, but for thee now should I be lost indeed!  Surely 't was the
kind Lord God sent thee to me, John."

"Yes," answered Sir Marmaduke solemnly, "indeed I think he did."

"Where do we go, John?  Where may I hide?"

"Nowhere," he answered lightly; "there is no need."

"No--no need?" she stammered.

"None, my child.  So I shall take you back home to Monk's Warren--"

"No, no!" she cried, in sudden panic.  "Not there--never there; I
cannot, dare not--must not!"

"Eve," he answered gently, "Eve-Ann, rest assured; no one can possibly
suspect you--now."

"Ah, but they will, John, they will; indeed, they--must!"

"Must?" he repeated sharply.  "Why 'must'?"

But, instead of answering, she loosed his hand to hurry on before, like
one possessed.

"I will go to London!" said she.  "Yes, to London for sure--Tabitha
will hide me--I'll go to London!"

At last, being come out of these dismal woods, they turned, of one
accord, to glance back at that Place of Gloom within whose grim depths,
out-sprawled amid the deepening shadows lay all that was mortal of
Squire Brandish, beside whose ghastly form now lay a broken,
gold-mounted walking cane.




CHAPTER IX

TELLETH HOW THEY BEGAN THEIR FLIGHT

The moon was rising to stare down at them from a cloudless heaven, a
full-orbed moon whose very radiance was of itself a menace to all poor
fugitives and whose ghostly, pallid beam turned every shadow to dens of
horror whence eyes might be watching and avenging hands reach out to
grasp; a cruel, prying moon whose pitiless, searching light showed Sir
Marmaduke the deadly pallor of his companion's cheek and the wide
terror of her eyes when she turned, ever and anon, despite frantic
haste, to cast fearful looks behind; to start and peer and listen,
breath stilled between parted lips, ere she hurried on again like the
hunted creature she felt herself to be.

Thus, Sir Marmaduke, limping on beside her, almost forgot cramping
boots in his vain attempts to soothe her panic.

"I tell you, child," said he in his most placid tones, "I assure you
these fears are utterly groundless."

"Hurry--oh--hurry!" she panted in breathless whisper.  "There!  What
was that rustle--in the shadow yonder?  'Tis there again!  Oh,
God--they're coming!"

"No, no, child--it is nothing to fear.  The hedges are full of strange
sounds at night, as you should know surely--"

"Behind that tree--look, they are watching us--"

"'Tis only your fancy--see, 'tis but leaves.  And Eve-Ann, even if we
are pursued, they will not take you--"

"Ah, but they will, they will--they must!  'Twas why I fled, and
now--now I'm afraid--"

"My poor child, you 're all distraught, and small wonder!  Calm
yourself, pray!"

"Yes, yes, John--yes, I will!  Oh, but I'm a coward!  Forgive,
John--forgive me!"

"Child, reach me your hand."

"Oh, but thou 'rt wondrous kind, John, and gentle!  And there's comfort
and strength in thy touch.  But, oh, John, I believed myself so
brave--once, but now--when I think of--them hurrying after me--the
roads and inns all watched--waiting--waiting to take me--"

"Not you, Eve-Ann," he answered gently.  "Hush now, be calm, child; let
us go more slowly and I will tell you about London."  And, forthwith,
he began describing to her the undreamed-of marvels of the "wonderful";
he told her of its pride and cruelty, its riches and glory, tales of
ancient days and stories of his own experience; he told her something
of the World of Fashion and its great ones, of fête and ball and
courtly pageant until, for very wonder, she forgot her terrors awhile
and plied him with eager questions.

But, all at once, they stopped of one accord as from somewhere adjacent
rose the notes of a fiddler, rich and sonorous, like some golden voice
upraised in passionate triumph.




"Why, 't is Fiddling Jackie," exclaimed Eve, "so late and so far from
home!"

"Home?" questioned Sir Marmaduke.

"Monk's Warren; he always stays there when he wanders our way; my
uncles knew him before his trouble and love him yet.  Come, I must
speak to him."

The Fiddler was sitting under a tree, white head bowed above his
beloved instrument, nor did he pause in his playing until Eve's gentle
hand touched his silvery hair.

"Ah, is it you, my angel?" said he, taking and kissing her slim
fingers.  "And you too, my tall friend!"  Here he smiled up at Sir
Marmaduke.  "I have been playing to God.  I glorify His blessed name
for all His mercies--ay, especially--one!  Oh, a marvellous, great
blessing, my angel o' light!"

"Is--is all well at--at home?" she enquired anxiously.

"Passing well!" answered the Fiddler, with smiling nod.

"And my uncles--Uncle Jeremiah?"

"Shall glorify the Lord henceforth since He hath wrought marvellously
in their behalf and delivered them from evil--"

"How?" demanded Sir Marmaduke, bending closer to study the speaker's
face.  "How has He delivered them?  And from what evil?  Speak, friend!"

"Nay, sir," answered the Fiddler, shaking his head; "who am I to speak
forth the workings of Almighty God--Genevra shall--hark ye!"  And
setting fiddle beneath chin, he raised his bow, but Eve's hand stayed
him.

"And now, dear Jackie," she murmured in her caressing tones, "'tis
late, so get thee home and--oh, Jackie, tell my two dears I am safe and
well.  Oh, bid them for God's sake--say to them as God loveth me-and
knoweth all, to speak nothing--no matter what befall--bid them be
silent!  Thou wilt, Jackie, thou wilt tell them this?"

"To be silent for God's sake and thine, my angel; ay, I will--I will!"
cried the little Fiddler, leaping nimbly to his feet.  "I will bid 'em
laugh and sing and clap their hands, praising the Lord, for His mercy
endureth for ever!  I go--I go!"  So saying, he cut a caper, laughed,
bowed and hurried away on dancing feet, his white hair gleaming beneath
the moon.

"I wonder," said Sir Marmaduke, looking after him with eyes of
perplexity, "I wonder what he meant."

"Poor Jackie," she sighed, "he is one o' the afflicted!"

"Do you know his story, Eve?"

"I know he had an only daughter who died, John, and upon the day she
was buried they say he set fire to his cottage and wandered away a
madman.  And yet he is very good and gentle and I have loved him since
I was a child.  Come, let us go!"

Now as they tramped on again, she questioned him suddenly:

"Thy cane, John; where is thy fine cane?"

"It broke and I threw it away," he answered.

"'Tis pity, for now dost need it, I think--art weary, John?"

"No."

"Yet dost limp."

"Occasioned by my boots, child."

"Then take them off."

Sir Marmaduke started.

"My dear Eve-Ann!" he expostulated.

"I love to go barefooted," she nodded.  "Oh, 't is delicious in the
dewy grass of a morning.  And the grass is dewy now, John."

"Naturally!" he answered.

"And would be deliciously cool!--And my feet are burning."

"Oh--really!" said Sir Marmaduke.  "Why, then--I suppose--"

"Yes!" she nodded.  "I'm going to!"  And down she sank with her back to
him and when she rose he was aware of the white gleam of shapely feet
and ankles.

"Now you, John!" she commanded, levelling imperious finger at his
boots, those elegant discomforts.

"I?" he exclaimed.  "Impossible, child!"

"But they hurt thee?"

"Yet can I endure them."

"Nay, 't is foolish!  Take them off, John, and go in comfort."

"Eve-Ann," he demurred, "I have never walked abroad barefooted in my
life, and I 'm too old to begin now."

"Nay, thou 'rt childish, John!  Try now and learn how joyous it is.
Oh, I 'll turn my back, be sure--"

"Why, then, if I must--" he laughed and stooping, tugged at his boot
but finding it vain, sat down to it, strove and struggled until he was
breathless and his swollen foot as fast imprisoned as ever.  "I
require--a--bootjack!" he panted.

"Nay, let me, John!" and, dropping her own footgear, she turned, sank
before him on rounded knee and, seizing the refractory boot in strong
hands, pulled, lifted, and off it came.  "Now the other!" she commanded
and mutely he obeyed.

"Thank you!" said he, sighing in grateful relief.

"And--silk stockings, too!" she exclaimed in awe-struck tones.  "Take
them off, John."

"My dear soul--" he began, but she rose to stamp white foot at him in
sudden petulance.

"Oh, John, such mock modesty shames thee!"

Sir Marmaduke laughed and stripped off his stockings with a flourish.

"There now!" she exclaimed, as they walked on again, "is it not verily
delicious?"

"Beyond expression!" he answered.  "And now, pray where are we going?"

"To London Town."

"Yes, but where to-night--where can I procure a chaise?"

"Oh, please, no chaise, John."

"The mail then--"

"Nor the mail coach--the roads will be watched so we must go by field
paths and byways, friend John; we must walk."

"Walk?" he repeated, somewhat aghast.  "Walk to London, Eve-Ann!"

"Verily, John."

"'Tis a long way, child, a weary way--"

"But I am very strong!" she hastened to assure him.  "And if--if thou
go with me--?"

"Assuredly!" he answered.

"Then, oh, what matter the distance, John, for indeed and verily, thou
art a great comfort to me."

Here, being awed by her artless fervour and finding nothing to say, Sir
Marmaduke walked on in silence until, espying the dim and scattered
lights of a village, he instinctively turned thitherwards but his
companion's touch arrested him.

"Not that way, John."

"But surely there is an inn yonder?"

"Yes, 'The Ring o' Bells'; come, let us go on."

"But you must have shelter for the night--"

"Not at an inn, John."

"Where, then?"

"Why, I 'm none tired or sleepy, John; pray let us go on."

"But you cannot walk all night!"

"I could, John, but if thou 'rt weary let us rest awhile--yonder in the
dark of the hedge."

"No, no," he answered.  "I 'll walk as far as you desire, Eve-Ann."

So she hurried on again, careful to avoid the village, nor did she
abate her speed until these homely lights had vanished behind them.

"Though to be sure you must have some sleep!" he remonstrated.

"Yes, I suppose so," she sighed, "but not yet and--not in an inn!  When
we must sleep let us find some barn or rick."

"Rick?" he exclaimed.

"Thou hast slept on one ere now, John."

"True!" he nodded.  "Though indeed what is well enough for me is hardly
suitable for--"

"And 'tis a glorious night, John, so warm and still the world so
beautiful!  And we are together with God all about us.  Oh, surely
nothing evil may come nigh us?"  She had lifted her face to the
splendour of the moon, and thus, beholding her pure and reverent look,
her gentle eyes and tender mouth, Sir Marmaduke felt a sudden gladness;
for:

"Here is no man-slayer!" he thought.  But, and even as he watched,
these gentle eyes grew fierce and bright neath quick-knit brows; these
tender lips and rounded chin grim-set and resolute; her slim hands
clenched themselves in sudden fury, insomuch that guessing the dreadful
reason, he bowed his head that he might not see, and questioned her
whilst dreading her answer:

"Eve-Ann, what is it?  Why do you look so?"

"Ah, John--John Hobbs," she cried with passionate stamp of white foot,
"how I do hate--abhor--despise myself--oh, vile and foolish me!"

"Why?"

"That I should ever have dreamed myself--in love with Robert Denton!
Oh, the very thought is shame!  And to-night--to-night since but for
thee, I should have trusted myself to him--I should be with him--now!
He saw me in Squire Brandish's wicked arms--and laughed--and left
me--struggling!"

"And then, Eve-Ann?"

"Well--Squire Brandish is dead, John!"

"But you are not with Robert Denton!"

"Thank God!" she murmured.  "Thank God--and thee, John, and thee!"
Here she turned to look at him, her eyes brim full of tenderness, her
hands outstretched to him.  And gazing deep within these gentle eyes
that met his, so purely frank and unafraid, he clasped these hands and
when he spoke, his stately calm and proud serenity were forgotten quite.

"Eve-Ann," said he, in shaken voice, "these hands--these hands are
pure--innocent and stain-less--confess, confess!"

"I cannot!" she whispered.

"Confess, Eve; confess you are shielding some one."

Now at this she freed her hands and shrank away from him, averting her
head.

"No!" she whispered.  "No--no!"

"Child, I do not ask who it is you would protect, only--"

He saw her eyes grow wide in sudden horror as, uttering a gasp, she
sank at his feet, one arm wildly outflung; and looking whither she
pointed, he saw two men watching them from the shadow of a tree.

"They 're come--to take me!" she moaned.

"No--no," said Sir Marmaduke, stooping to touch her bowed head with
gentle hand, "not you, Eve-Ann.  Be comforted, child!"  Then, turning,
he began to approach these watchers and, drawing nearer, espied the
dull gleam of a gun barrel.

"Now then," cried a gruff voice, "what be your game?"  Sir Marmaduke
lengthened his stride and halted within a yard of the men, each of whom
carried a gun.

"Who are you?" he demanded.  "What do you want?"

The foremost of the twain, a middle-aged man in a fur cap, goggled at
Sir Marmaduke's bare feet, then as his eye roved up over slim, shapely
legs and elegant person, his mouth opened and he gaped into the haughty
face that frowned back at him.

"Well, what do you want?" repeated Sir Marmaduke.

"No offence, sir," said the man, touching fur cap, "y' see, here's me
an' Joe taking a bit of a walk like, an' spyin' you an' the lady--not
knowin' oo you might be--we just stepped into the shadder o' this 'ere
tree to wait till you'd gone by, d'ye see?"

"I understand!" answered Sir Marmaduke, with gesture of white finger
towards the gun.  "Good luck to you!"

"Thankee, sir--and good night to ee!" answered the twain in cheery
chorus, and off they strode shoulder to shoulder.  Then Sir Marmaduke
turned and seeing Eve prone upon the grass, hurried forward in a panic,
thinking she had swooned; but as he paused beside her she stirred and
spoke in weeping tones:

"Oh, John, I thought they had come to drag me away to prison and--the
gibbet--"

"Hush, child, hush!" said he, and sinking upon his knees, took her
within the comfort of his arms and began to stroke her bowed head,
sunbonnet and all.  "You are overwrought, I suppose--yes, yes, of
course!  And should fall sick and no woman to tend you--oh, damnation,
you should be safe in bed and asleep!"

"Don't--don't swear, John!" said she in voice between laughter and
tears, whereat Sir Marmaduke, dreading hysteria, glanced wildly about
in quest of water and seeing none, seized her nearer hand and began to
beat its open palm; whereupon she laughed and seeing the horror in his
look, laughed the louder until, sitting crossed-legged upon the sward,
she bowed her face upon her hands, rocking to and fro.

"Good God!" ejaculated Sir Marmaduke and stood watching her in
horrified perplexity.  Then all at once her laughter ceased and she
looked up at him wet-eyed.

"My poor John!" said she gently.  "And did I fright thee?"

"I--I thought," he stammered.  "I feared--"

"Hysterics, John?  Nay, 'tis over and I am brave again, thanks to thee.
But thou--why, thou 'rt all of a tremble!"

"An hysterical woman is--is a terrible experience," said he.
"Especially in a field at midnight!"

"Midnight?" she exclaimed.  "Then we had better don our shoes and
stockings, for we must find a place to sleep."

"Ay, but where, child?" enquired Sir Marmaduke, pulling on his boot.

"Come and I will show thee."

"Do you know where we are, Eve?"

"Yes, yonder is Willowdene Wood and there is a great old tree shall be
our shelter.  Come!"

So he followed whither she led until before them, within a grassy
hollow, rose a tree, huge and of immemorial years, whose wide-spreading
boughs and leafy branches made a thick canopy and whose gnarled roots
formed mossy niches.

"I love this old tree!" said Eve, laying her hand upon its rugged bole.

"Yes," he nodded, "and this was old when the great Caesar was writing
his Commentaries."

"So here will we lie and rest, John."

"I wish I had a cloak for you, child."

"Nay, bracken will be better!  Help me pull some, John."

And so, having strewed bracken for their beds, they lay down beneath
the kindly shelter of this ancient tree; but presently, hearing a
rustle, Sir Marmaduke glanced round to behold Eve upon her knees, head
reverently bowed and hands crossed, absorbed in silent prayer.

And after some while, being yet upon her knees, she ventured to
question him:

"Dost never pray, John?"

"I 'm afraid not--except in times of stress."

"Which is--a little cowardly, John."

"Very!" he answered.

"So will I pray for thee--though, indeed, I would my Uncle Ebenezer
were here," she sighed.

"Why, Eve-Ann?"

"Because he is so powerful in prayer and hath the Lord's ear, John.
However, I will do my best," and folding her hands, she prayed aloud,
thus:

"Dear Lord, I beseech Thee bless this John that is Thy son and my good
friend; as he hath comforted and protected me, do Thou so by
him,--bless him, O Father, sleeping and awake, defend him from all
enemies, especially himself, and bring him at last to Thy everlasting
glory, Amen!"

"Amen!" said Sir Marmaduke reverently.

And now lying outstretched in the gathering darkness, for the moon was
failing, they began to talk, thus:

Eve.  Art cosy, John?

Sir M.  (_stealthily tucking a handful of bracken between himself and a
too-intrusive tree root_).  Extremely!

Eve.  And sleepy?

Sir M.  (_stifling yawn_).  Never more wide awake.

Eve.  Then may I talk?

Sir M.  Pray do.

Eve.  Well, John, why art thou so unlike all other men?

Sir M.  Have you known so many other men?

Eve (_sighing_).  Very few--but none like thee.  Who art thou, John,
and--what?

Sir M.  A discontented, melancholy, middle-aged person.

Eve.  Oh?  And what beside?

Sir M.  A misanthropic creature unhappily aware of his years and
growing more elderly with every breath.

Eve.  Poor John!  And yet despite thy burden of years, thy back is
straight, thy hair black and thine eyes very quick and bright.  And
where is thy home, John?

Sir M.  I have lived here and there and found content nowhere.

Eve.  But why is this?

Sir M.  Perhaps because I have expected too much of life--perhaps
because I am my own disappointment.

Eve.  I think thou didst yawn, John!

Sir M.  Then pray forgive me, for I find myself a most wearisome topic.

Eve (_reproachfully_).  I would thou wert not so light and flippant,
for verily John, life is a very serious thing, especially for thee
because thou 'rt a man and I think, moreover, a great gentleman and
rich, and therefore with great powers for good.

Sir M.  Or evil, Ann!

Eve.  Or evil, John.  Yet do I know thou art brave and generous and
good despite thy worldliness.

Sir M.  I am very sensible of your good opinion--but worldly--am I?

Eve.  Oh, verily, John!  And I fear a backslider, but thou'rt a
gentleman, to be sure, and this makes me to wonder why thou shouldst be
asleep upon our newest hayrick.

Sir M.  Because I was desperately weary.

Eve.  And why shouldst tramp the country and trouble thyself with such
as I?

Sir M.  Because I could not do a better thing.

Eve (_kicking petulant foot_).  Oh, John Hobbs, I but waste my breath!

Sir M.  How so, child?

Eve.  Thou dost answer all my questions telling me nothing.

Sir M.  What shall I tell you, my child?

Eve.  No more, I thank thee.  And I am not a child!  And when I found
thee on the rick thou didst--snore!

Sir M.  (_a little shocked and perturbed_).  A highly objectionable
habit.  I trust I may not repeat the offence.  Good night, Eve-Ann!

Silence.

Sir M.  Have I offended you?

Eve.  'Tis only my evil temper--I told thee I was passionate; pray
forgive me, John--  And thou mayest call me thy child an' thou
wilt--though I be twenty-two turned--  Good night, John.

Sir M.  (_gently_).  Good night, dear woman.

And here fell another silence wherein he hearkened to her soft
breathing and stared away to the sinking moon.

But, all at once, he must needs think of that blood-soaked, sprawling
thing whose unwinking eyes were, even now, glaring up at this selfsame
moon--unless the hateful, stiffening thing had been found and already
upon peoples' lips was the awful word--murder!--  Perhaps the hue and
the cry was up--the Avenger of Blood upon their track!  Instinctively
he strained his ears for some sound of pursuit, and was profoundly glad
that Eve had so wisely checked his desire for the comforts of an
inn--for assuredly the main roads would all be watched as a matter of
course.  So must they go by devious, seldom-frequented ways (even as
she had said) until they might lose themselves in the teeming myriads
of London.  And their descriptions would be circulated broadcast!
Therefore to-morrow he must effect a radical change in their
appearance.  To-morrow!  And, even now.  Vengeance might be striding
close upon their heels!

Sir Marmaduke sighed and stirred restlessly and, in that moment came a
slim, cool hand to touch his hair, his hot brow and steal thence to
clasp his hand; then, in the gathering darkness, a whisper:

"Oh John, friend John--how I do thank God for thee!"

"Then God make me worthy, Eve."

"Good night--the Lord bless thee, John!"

"And you, Eve-Ann!  Good night."

And thus, hand in hand amid the dark, this simple country maid and
excessively fine, fine gentleman presently fell asleep.




CHAPTER X

GIVETH SOME DESCRIPTION OF BREAD AND BUTTER

Opening his eyes, Sir Marmaduke sat up to behold the wood pierced by
radiant beams of early sunshine and gemmed with sparkling dewdrops that
spangled in the mossy ling, while birds, near and far, filled the leafy
aisles with the fervour of their glad singing, but nowhere was sight or
sound of Eve Ash.  Thus, being at some loss, Sir Marmaduke took himself
by the chin and was instantly discomforted by its bristly feel and
yearned amain for the luxury of hot water, soap and razor.

And presently was a rustle amid the leaves and rising to his feet, he
espied Eve coming towards him through the sunny green, in one hand a
comfortable sized jug, in the other a bundle wrapped in snowy cloth.

"Good morrow, John!" said she, and to his wonder he saw her all fresh
and neatly trim from slender ankle to new-combed ringlets apeep beneath
bonnet.  "Verily thou hast slept well, John!"

"Indeed yes!" he answered, hatefully aware of stubbled chin and rumpled
garments.  "Which at once raises the embarrassing question:  Did I
snore?"

"Only--now and then, John!" she answered gravely but with dimpling
cheek.  "And here is our breakfast, milk and bread and butter--a new
loaf!"

"But where in the world--"

"There is a farmhouse just beyond this wood.  Canst be content with
only bread and butter and milk, John?"

"'T will be nectar and ambrosia, child!  But you look amazing neat,
Eve-Ann," he sighed a little reproachfully, "while I--"

"There is a brook over yonder, and I 've a comb in my pocket if--"

"Blessed woman!  Now if you happen to have a razor also?"

At this she laughed, a low gurgle of sound that he thought delightful
to hear so that he laughed also, while it seemed to him the birds sang
more blithely than ever.

'"Tis good to wake in such a world on such a morning and hear you
laugh, Eve-Ann," said he; and so away to the brook, there to kneel and
wash, finding it an awkward business, to be sure, but very refreshing;
then, having dabbed himself somewhat dry with his handkerchief and
smoothed his damp locks with Eve-Ann's pocket comb, back he went,
gloriously hungry, to find breakfast ready, to wit: two mugs of
remarkable solidity, brimming with new milk, and a pile of bread and
butter all set out upon the snowy napkin.

"Dost like bread and butter?" enquired Eve, surveying the tower of
slices a little anxiously.

"I don't know."

"They are rather thick, John, I fear?"

"But with plenty of butter, Ann."

"Art hungry?"

"Astoundingly."

"Then I had better cut more, for so am I."

And presently, sitting side by side beneath this ancient tree, they ate
and drank, and Sir Marmaduke learned that bread and butter, fresh and
properly cut, amid such surroundings, on such a morning and with such a
companion, can be as appetizing, as delicious and far less cloying than
any highly spiced or cunningly seasoned dishes soever.

Oh, ye Experienced Eaters, ye Gastronomical Experts whose over-educated
and pampered palates must be subtly titillated and wooed from course to
course--all ye to whom bread and butter be nursery memories to shudder
at, could ye have been happily blessed with such mouth-watering hunger
as was this our middle-aged, over-bred fine gentleman, could you but
have sat where he did, have watched Eve-Ann smooth on the yellow butter
(slightly salt) with one deft sweep of the knife and delicate turn of
the wrist, have noted the supple movements of that same slender yet
capable hand, as it sliced evenly through crust and crumb, had she
glanced up at you bright-eyed beneath the brim of her sunbonnet to
enquire:

"Another slice, sir?"

--Then you would surely have answered like Sir Marmaduke:

"Thank you--I will!"

"Though there is only the crust left, John!"

"Amazing!" he exclaimed.  "A whole loaf between us--prodigious!"

Breakfast over at last, Eve folded the napkin tidily, viewing the very
solid crockery with dubious eyes.

"They will be awkward to carry along!" said she.  "The woman made me
buy them, and now--"

"For how much, child?"

"She asked a shilling but accepted eightpence--and that was too much!"

"Indeed?" smiled Sir Marmaduke.  "Henceforth, Eve-Ann, I will do the
paying.  As for these things, leave them--"

"But oh, John--eightpence!  And to leave them behind!"

"'T is better than carrying them--"

"'T is woeful waste, John!" she sighed; but with a last glance at this
so aged and most hospitable tree, they turned and went their way.

"You are very silent, Eve-Ann?" said he after they had gone some
distance.

"I be thinking what to do will be making back home at Wisborough Green,
John, for surely they will ha' found--him by now."

"Why think about it, child?"

"Ah, John, 't is on my mind and will be for ever, I think.  And yet,
come what may, I am ready.  For in the night the Lord answered my
prayer and hath given me strength to endure all things--unfearing--to
the end--ay, even the gallows, if needs must be.  And now thy poor
feet, John, are they well?"

"My--feet?" he exclaimed, turning to look into the gentle serenity of
her eyes.

"Do thy boots irk thee?"

"No, no, Eve--and heavens, child, what if they do!"

"You must buy others, John, so soon as you may."

"You are a strange child--and very womanly, Eve."

"Yea, verily; I am twenty-two, John."

"And do you ever wear any colour beside grey?"

"Of a Sunday I go in black, sir."

"Then at the first opportunity I will get you a gown of blue or pink
or--"

"Nay, John, I thank thee; this is very well--"

"Blue would suit you admirably!"

"Nay, not blue--not blue, John, pray!"

"Then pink--"

"Nor pink--oh, never!  I couldn't, indeed.  Colours are so--so very
worldly, John, and vainglorious.  I should feel as though the very
trees had eyes to stare at me.  Oh, I could never go in colours."

"Why, then, perhaps something white with sprigs on it?"

"Sprigs, John?"

"Of flowers.  Though I should prefer plain blue.  However, I think we
should be wise to alter our appearance to effect a radical change."

"A change?" she repeated, catching her breath.  "You mean--they will be
after us--looking for me!  Very well, John, do as thou wilt--I will
wear anything."

"Even a blue gown with tucks and frills--"

"No, no, 'twould never do for walking, John--'twould tear!"

"But would suit you!  Also a bonnet--no, a cloak with a hood, and a few
pairs of stockings--"

"And a basket, John, with a lid!"

"And a pair of light walking shoes--"

"And a looking-glass, John, please."

"To be sure, a folding mirror, also cups and saucers--no, mugs and
platters, knives and forks, a cooking pot, brushes and combs, and a
knapsack--"

"'Deed, John, we shall need a waggon!" she laughed.

"A waggon?" he repeated musingly.  "A cart?  A horse?  A pony!
Excellent suggestion!"  After which, Sir Marmaduke walked awhile lost
in thought; and the sun being so glorious, the birds carolling so
blithely and his boots so much easier, he actually began to whistle
softly, a sprightly air until, catching himself in the act, he turned
to Eve to voice his wonder.

"Astounding!" he exclaimed.

"Oh--what now, John?" she questioned, starting.

"I--whistled!"

"Well, John, and what then?"

"A person of my sober age!  Eve Ash, I have not done such a thing since
I was an irresponsible urchin!"

"Wert ever an urchin, John?"

"To be sure I was."

"Nay, 't were hard to believe."

"Why, pray?"

"Because no urchin could ha' grown into anything so stately and
dignified as thou, John."

"Ha, child, tell me now, can any man be dignified with a chin like a
porcupine and whistling like a ploughboy?"

"Only thyself, John.  Thou'rt dignified even asleep and thy hair all
tousled!"

"Even when I snore, Eve-Ann?"

At this she laughed aloud, and he thought the sound particularly sweet
and good to hear.

"Oh, John, thou wouldst be stately anywhere or when, since thou
art--thyself."

"Then must I seem an extremely trying kind of person."

"Not to me, John--oh, never to me!" she exclaimed so fervently that he
must needs turn to glance at her.

"Child, I wonder why?" he questioned.

"Because thou'rt a man never dismayed, John, and so gentle.  And
because, despite what thou art and hast been, canst eat bread and
butter and enjoy it--and sharing the perils of a poor, hunted creature,
canst tramp cross-country in tight boots and whistle--"

Sir Marmaduke laughed again but hearing the sincerity of her soft
tones, reading it in her clear, direct gaze, his bristly cheek took on
an unwonted flush and his dark eyes glowed beneath their long lashes.

So they walked and talked until the sun rose high and the day so hot
that Sir Marmaduke was for sitting down to rest, but Eve shook her head.

"See yonder, John."

Looking whither she directed, he beheld a tall, slender spire soaring
high above the green.

"Petworth!" said she.

A vague, small town upon a hill bowery with trees; Sir Marmaduke
lengthened his stride.

"There," sighed he, "will we eat and drink and rest awhile."

"Pray, John," she enquired suddenly, "how didst break thy cane?"

"Eve-Ann, it snapped."

"And didst throw it away?"

"Which minds me I must have another, stronger and--"

"But to throw it away!  Oh, fie, John, and the knob all gold!"

"And I am plaguily thirsty!" he sighed.  "As you must be."

"Nay, John.  But go thy ways into the town; I 'll wait here."

"Wait?"

"Indeed, 't were wiser--folk might know me.  So I 'll wait thee in the
little coppice yonder."

"But your gown, Eve-Ann--a bonnet or cloak and--what not?  How in the
world am I to buy such things?"

"A hooded cloak will be best, John."

"But it is a long, rough tramp to London, Eve, and you will require
other shoes and a change of stockings, also a different shaped gown,
something bright with ribbands and flounces--most essential!"

"Ribbands and flounces be idle vanities, John, and ill to tramp rough
ways--"

"Tush, child!  And you could buy 'em all in a moment."

"Nay, indeed, John; no woman could ever buy such in such wicked haste--"

"But under the circumstances, Eve?"

"I might be recognized, John.  So rather will I be as I am than run
such risk."

"Then if you won't buy them, I must!" sighed Sir Marmaduke.

"Poor John!" said she, sighing also, but with smooth cheek dimpling.
"And thou 'rt thirsty, moreover!  So get thee gone, buy what thou wilt
and hurry not, shalt find me waiting in the green yonder.  And here is
my purse, John."

"Then keep it in your pocket, child."

"And--John--if it must be coloured, please let it be blue--and there is
a milliner's shop opposite the Angel Inn."

"A milliner's!" exclaimed Sir Marmaduke.  "Now heaven aid me!"




CHAPTER XI

HOW SIR MARMADUKE WENT SHOPPING

He found Petworth, this small and peaceful town, drowsing in the midday
heat, its narrow streets and cobbled ways echoing sleepily to leisured
footfalls, lumbering waggon wheels, and the occasional murmur of voices
droning from shady places and dim interiors; a place seemingly void of
all bustle and fretful haste, where Time stole on unhurried feet;
indeed a small, pleasant town, ages old and very neat and clean from
its ancient roofs and chimneys to its worn and narrow footpaths.

But Sir Marmaduke, being parched with thirst, heeded little of all
this, for as he traversed this sunny street, before his imagination
rose a vision not of sparkling water, nor of wine red or white, still
or bubbling, but of ale creaming in foam above cool tankard brim, so
that his thirst increased and he quickened his pace until at last,
towards the end of the little town, upon the left-hand side of the
street, he espied the Inn of the Angel, an ancient, cosy-looking house
with two or three steps before the open portal.

Entering a cool and shady tap room Sir Marmaduke saw the place
apparently deserted, but from somewhere adjacent came a murmur of
voices, above which hoarse muttering rose one high-pitched and excited:

"--bloody murder and arl, I tell ye!"

"An' a woman in it tu--Lord!"

"Well, beant theer generally--allus a woman in it?"

"Ay, sure-ly!  There's women mixed up in everythink, so there be!"

"Ah--and especially Squire Brandish!  A rare un for the petticuts, were
Squire!"

"And him a dead corpse!--  Why, I seed un 'ere in Petworth las' week, I
did!"

"Ay, that 'e wur--drawed un a pint wi' my very own 'ands, I did--"

Here Sir Marmaduke rapping loudly, there presently appeared a rotund
heavy man in apron and shirt sleeves who, having duly drawn and set
forth the ale required, shook heavy head and blinked round eyes, solemn
and owl-like.

"Sir," quoth he, "I dunno wot this here country o' ourn 's a-coming to!"

"Indeed?" said Sir Marmaduke, turning to blow the froth from his ale.

"No, sir--that I don't.  You ain't heered the noos, p'raps--if you
ain't, you will."

"Shall I?"

"Ah--that ye will!" answered the man with portentous nod.  Sir
Marmaduke raised the tankard and drank thirstily yet watched the
speaker's heavy visage the which seemed to bloat with the import of
those horrors he was eager to describe.  "I only heered it myself ten
minutes ago, and sir--my pore innards is all of a quake--that they be!"

"Ah!" exclaimed Sir Marmaduke, sighing ecstatic as he set down his
half-emptied pewter.  "And why should you quake, pray?"

"Because I got bowels, sir."

"So I perceive," nodded Sir Marmaduke.  "But why should they trouble
you?"

"Because this here noos be enough to make any man shiver, ah, and
freeze his blood and marrer into the bargain--that it be!"

"Dear me!" exclaimed Sir Marmaduke.  "What is your news?"

The man closed his eyes, opened them wide, rolled his head, cleared his
throat and said:

"Bloody murder!  And not fifteen mile from here!  A pore gen'leman well
beknown to me."

"Tell me of it."

"Why, sir, 't is Squire Brandish, a sporting gent, with 'is throat cut
from ear to ear, his 'ead shot clean off and stone dead into the
bargain, pore soul!  And him in here only las' week--ah, and a-standing
on that very i-dentical spot where you 're a-standing--and now a
murdered corpse by the 'and of nobody knows oo!"

"Shocking!" said Sir Marmaduke, staring down into his tankard.  "And
have they no clue, no suspicion as to who did it?"

"Why, there be some talk of a woman as has vanished--but 'tis the man
they're after."

"A man?"

"Ah, a young buck, by all accounts, a London gen'leman as quarreled wi'
deceased and has likewise vanished--but--"

"But?" enquired Sir Marmaduke, lifting the tankard to his lips.

"But, sir, this here gen'leman 'as vanishes, leaves his jooled riding
whip beside the corpse, and they 're pretty sure to trace him by that."

"And a young buck, is he?"

"Ah, so they say, sir; one o' they bang-up, heavy-toddling bloods, a
reg'lar Corinthian, sir."

"And left his whip, did he?"

"Ah--that 'e did, sir, alongside the mootilated corpse."

"Then, depend upon it, he's the man."

"Why, so every one do seem to think, sir, and they 're arter him
a'ready, seekin' an' a-searching for 'm--'igh and low.  Likewise the
roads is all watched and expresses a-posting for London at this minute,
sir."

"Then they ought to take him."

"Why, so they ought, sir--ah, an' so they will, I 'll wager, and 'ang
'im dead and then clap him on a gibbet--properly tarred, I 'opes."

"Properly tarred!" nodded Sir Marmaduke.  Then, having finished his
ale, he paid for it and bidding the heavy man "Good morning", went
forth into the sunny street.

And now, though he walked slowly, his keen gaze roved constantly and
once, hearing quick steps behind him, he paused to glance into a shop
window until this hurrying pedestrian had passed; then he became aware
that this window bore the legend:

        ARTHUR MOAPS
  HAIRDRESSER TO THE QUALITY
        EASY-SHAVING


Now in the middle of this window, surrounded as it were by a halo of
toupees, wigs, and false hair of various shades, was the waxen head of
an anemic gentleman whose eyes goggled glassily, but whose too regular
features were offset by a splendour of glossy, raven locks and curling
whisker.  Stepping into this emporium, Sir Marmaduke beheld its
presiding genius, a somewhat superior person and rather like the waxen
image in the window, since he also possessed goggling eyes, sleek hair
and magnificent whiskers whose glossy splendour bore eloquent testimony
to their possessor's unremitting care and delicate art.

Receiving Sir Marmaduke's order he appeared shocked and a little
aghast, for his whiskers quivered in an agitated manner, and his eyes
goggled more than ever.

"Eh, sir--remove 'em, sir?--  Oh, sir!" he exclaimed, caressing his own
facial adornments.  "Can you reely part with such truly beautiful--"

"And pray cut my hair close--crop it!"

"Yessir!  Very good, sir!  But, sir, as regards these whiskers, sir,
whiskers are all the mode, sir.  I 've tended the whiskers of the
Quality from an earl down to a right-honourable and never seen a
handsomer pair!  And then, sir--  Oh, sir, think o' the ladies.
There's nothing can captivate the Sex, sir, like a pair o--"

Here meeting the lightning of Sir Marmaduke's eye, the barber became
dolefully mute, sighing dejectedly as he plied in turn comb and
scissors, lather brush and razor.

Thus, after some while, Sir Marmaduke, his erstwhile curly locks
close-shorn, passed tentative hand over smooth-shaven cheeks and
surveyed his so altered appearance in the glass, what time the barber
(this dejected wight) sighed mournfully and shook reproachful head.

"They was whiskers, sir, to alloor the female eye, sir, to warm the
female 'eart, and now--they ain't!  A pity, sir, a pity!"

"I shall need a razor," said Sir Marmaduke, studying his reflection
with critical eyes.

The barber's gloomy brow lightened somewhat.

"To--be sure, sir, a razor--or shall it be a pair?"

Sir Marmaduke nodded.

"Then, sir, a pair it is!  And I won't say, sir, as a smooth face don't
become you, sir.  Soap now, you'll require soap perhaps--and a brush?"

Sir Marmaduke nodded.

"And seeing, sir, as the best o' razors--even mine, sir--is apt to grow
dull now and then, may we 'umbly suggest a strop?"

Sir Marmaduke nodded.

"A strop it is, sir!--  And, looking at you again, sir, I won't say as
a smooth face don't make you look younger!  Razors, soap, brush,
strop--and shall we agree to a small bag to put 'em in, sir?"

"Yes," answered Sir Marmaduke; "also I will take a hairbrush and comb."

"Cer-tainly, sir!  An 'airbrush and comb--to be sure!--  And now, sir,
when the sun ketched you so, I won't say as you don't look young enough
to be your own son, sir!  Ree-markable!  A brush and comb--so!  Now
shall we add thereto a small pot o' bear's grease?"

"Thank you--no!" said, Sir Marmaduke.

"No!" repeated the barber.  "No bear's grease!--Though to be sure, sir,
whiskers is all the fashion, quite the mode and very genteel!  A gent
without whiskers is like a flower without smell, sir--and your departed
a-dornments might ha' graced the noble visage of any o' the
bong-tong--dook, earl, marquis or baronet!  Razors, brush, soap, strop,
brush and comb, bag to keep 'em in and--no bear's grease!  Will that be
all, sir?"

"Quite!" answered Sir Marmaduke, drawing forth his purse.

"Then much obliged, I 'm sure, sir, and good day!"

Out in the quiet street he became more than ever conscious of his
altered appearance, so that as he went he stole surreptitious glances
at his reflection in the shop windows until, all at once, his glance
was attracted by a neat board above one of these windows, whereon was
painted in chaste characters:

  THE MISSES BLYTE.


It was a cosy little shop tucked shyly into shady corner, a demure
little shop in whose trim window the fascinated gaze might behold an
alluring assortment of fripperies feminine, delicately intimate and
daintily belaced and frilled (the which Sir Marmaduke regarded somewhat
askance) together with a bewildering array of caps, hats and bonnets
with deep brims, narrow brims and no brims at all, backed by gowns and
frocks of varied colour and shape, with necks cut low and waists tucked
high.

Sir Marmaduke glanced up the street and down, bent resolute head and
stepped into the dim little shop, to be confronted by a tall, angular
lady who bridled at him and a short, plump lady who dimpled.

"Your pleasure, sir?" demanded the bony lady.

Sir Marmaduke removed his hat and bowed.

"Madam," said he gently, but with keen gaze unwavering, "I desire a
gown."

The plump lady tittered while her bony sister seemed to develop more
angles, especially as regards nose, chin and elbows.

"A--what, sir?" she exclaimed, viewing him from head to foot with the
dispassionate eye of a strong-minded woman.  "A--what, sir, if you
please?"

"A gown, madam.  Also a hat, cap or bonnet--"

"Pantaloons or breeches you mean, I think, sir?"

"Oh--sis--sister!" tittered the plump lady.

"Rosamund, pray command yourself.  You, sir, will find a tailor's shop
adjacent.  We bid you good day, sir!"  Here the bony sister curtseyed
profoundly.

Again Sir Marmaduke bared his head and bowed lower than before; then
drawing a ribboned quizzing glass from his bosom, and holding it to his
eye, he began to study the various garments exposed for sale--dresses,
frills and furbelows with the profoundest interest.

"A gown, madam," he repeated, "blue or pink, sprigged or otherwise,
with a bonnet suitable for a young lady.  Also a warm hooded cloak."

The bony lady folded mittened hands, cocked high-bridged nose and
emitted a loud and disdainful sniff.

Sir Marmaduke instantly bowed.

"This, I think, will suit," said he, indicating a blue sprigged muslin;
"I particularly admire the frills and ruffles."

The bony lady snorted while her plump sister, hiding behind a flowered
bedgown, gurgled and choked.

"That gown, sir," quoth the bony lady tonelessly, "is a confection at
four guineas!"

"Pray be good enough to wrap it up for me, madam."

"Rosamund!" said the bony lady.  "Service, if you please!"

"As to a hat now, or bonnet?" mused Sir Marmaduke, glass at eye.
"Something with a sweep of brim, yet not too large--"

"This, sir," said the plump sister, dimpling, "is young and pretty and
the flowers match the frock."

"Admirable!" said Sir Marmaduke.  "I will--"

"A new model, sir!" quoth the bony lady.  "Value thirty-seven shillings
and sixpence."

"Have the goodness to wrap it up--"

"Impossible, sir!  It must be boxed!"

"Boxes, madam, are awkward to--"

"Boxed, sir!  Rosamund--service, if you please."

His purchases completed, Sir Marmaduke bowed and departed, his usual
stateliness of deportment somewhat marred by reason of his impediments,
more especially the bonnet box, which proved particularly elusive and
difficult to manage.  He had just recaptured it from the middle of the
roadway when his eye was arrested by a long, rough frieze overcoat,
which unseasonable garment hung at the open door of a dingy shop,
wherein, perched crossed-legged upon a counter littered with men's
garments of every description, squatted a little, fierce-eyed old man
busied with needle and thimble.

"That greatcoat--" began Sir Marmaduke.

"Two-pn, ten!" quoth the little man, scowling over horn-rimmed
spectacles.

"I'll buy it--"

"Show's yer money!"

Sir Marmaduke did so; then, having selected a pair of second-hand boots
(villainous of aspect yet withal roomy) together with certain other
articles of attire, he ordered them to be wrapped up and got himself
into the greatcoat.

"Goin' to wear it--hey?" enquired the little old man, busied with
string and paper.

"It will be easier to carry."

"So 't will.  But it makes me sweat to look at ye!  And arl them
packages too!"

"I can manage," said Sir Marmaduke, clutching fiercely at the elusive
bonnet box.

"Pretty load ye 've got.  Better lemme send 'em."

"Thank you, no."

"Then tek my advice and get a waggin."

"Good morning!" said Sir Marmaduke and edged himself and parcels out
into the quiet street.

He next bought a knapsack into which he crammed such other necessaries
as he chanced to remember, and with this strapped to his shoulders and
parcels clutched beneath each arm he set out along the dusty road.




CHAPTER XII

CONCERNETH ITSELF CHIEFLY WITH CLOTHES AND--A BONNET

Thus heavily laden, Sir Marmaduke trudged out of sleepy Petworth and,
turning aside from the high-road down a grassy track, made for that
strip of woodland where Eve had appointed to meet.

The sun felt hotter than ever, the parcels unwieldy, and Sir Marmaduke,
unused to any burden more cumbersome than a walking cane, made an
awkward business of his porterage; nevertheless, and despite heat and
rough going, he tramped devotedly on.  But his progress was slow, for
hugging his many packages to himself beneath each arm, it resulted that
so often as one fell he was obliged to set down the many to recover
this errant one, hence between himself and his many rebellious burdens
was strife and struggle unremitting.--  And the sun blazed!  And his
frieze overcoat hampered him!  And his face itched with crawling
perspiration and no free hand to wipe it away!  Small wonder if his
habitual serenity became a little ruffled?  And then his way was barred
by an uncommonly high stile.

Sir Marmaduke swore pettishly and casting down his burdens all of a
heap, dashed the trickling sweat from his brow with petulant fingers
and glanced at his watch.  Two hours!  She had been alone and waiting
him for two mortal hours!  An eternity!

Catching up the parcels, he hurled them over the stile and, having
clambered over in turn, collected them and trudged resolutely on again.

The path he now followed trended downhill past a ruined cow shed, a
path which zigzagged in an undecided manner until eventually it lost
itself in a little wood, a shady coppice.  He had reached the grateful
shade of this cow shed when the bonnet box (this most wayward and
wilful of his burdens) sprang from his clutch and careered gambolling
down the slope; he was pursuing this when the bulbous parcel containing
his new-bought garments wrenched itself free and began a sluggish chase
of the bonnet box, which had bounded lightly into the dim interior of
the cow shed.  Sir Marmaduke let fall the rest of his parcels and
mopped his face, cursing fiercely; then stooping for his package of
clothes, he stepped into the byre.

A desolate place long since out of use, deserted alike of man and
beast.  In one corner lay a mouldering heap of stable refuse whereon
lay an old pitchfork with broken tines; beholding this, Sir Marmaduke
took off his overcoat.  Around and above him crumbling walls and broken
roof, an age-worn ruin to rot unheeded.  What place better suited?  Sir
Marmaduke opened the parcel.

And presently, out of this tumble-down cow shed strode John Hobbs in
very truth, clad as yeoman should be, from soft-brimmed hat and belcher
neckerchief to worsted stockings and rough, thick-soled shoes; while
hid deep beneath that heap of stable sweepings lay the broadcloth, silk
and fine linen had erstwhile clad the stately form of that haughty
patrician, Sir Marmaduke, Anthony, Ashley, John, Vane-Temperly.

"So far so good!" quoth John Hobbs, glancing down at his rough apparel
and wholly unaware that despite homespun and frayed velveteen his lean,
aquiline features seemed more high-bred, more refined and delicate by
very contrast.

Then, having recaptured his remaining parcels, he trudged on again,
slouching his shoulders and plodding heavily in keeping with his
clothes.

Reaching the wood at last, he pushed in among the leaves, looking about
him as he went, but with never a glimpse of the shapely figure he
sought.

A small wind was abroad, filling the green with vague, soft rustlings
which seemed to follow him as he quested vainly to and fro until, hot
and weary, he paused at a loss, and there rushed upon him the dreadful
realization that Eve Ash was gone!  Instantly fear seized him, and
tossing aside his burdens, he began a systematic search, ranging the
wood from end to end but still without success.  And now anxiety grew
to alarm for her safety, and alarm to panic, so that in sheer
desperation he began to call her name.  Then came the wind again, soft
and fragrant and cool, that touched his hot brow like a caress, a wind
which stirred the leaves behind him and, turning, he saw Eve watching
him from an adjacent thicket.

"Oh, Eve--Eve-Ann, where have you been?" he demanded sternly.

"Following thee, John; peeping at thee from behind bushes that rustled!"

"And I thought 't was the wind!" said Sir Marmaduke, and sinking upon a
log that chanced near, he drew out his handkerchief, a vivid bandanna
of unearthly hues, shuddered at it, but therewith mopped perspiring
brow while Eve viewed him, in ever-increasing wonder.

"To hide!" he exclaimed.  "And I so anxious for you!  I feared--"

"So did I, John; 't was why I hid.  Thou 'rt so--oh, indeed, so
dreadfully changed!"

"Dreadfully?" he repeated.

"Thy rough clothes!" she sighed.  "Verily, thou mightest be a
ploughman--but for thy face."

"Indeed?" said he, stroking his shaven cheek.  "I trust my altered
features may at least meet with your kind approval?"

"Yea, verily, John; thou 'rt so much younger and better looking I did
not know thee!"

"Oh, indeed?" quoth he, a little ruefully.

"I mean," she explained, "'t is as if a much younger man looked at me
with the grave, wise eyes of John Hobbs.  Thy nose and mouth seem
different, thy chin bigger.  I see now why folks are apt to do thy
bidding.  Yea, John, I like thee so--despite thy rough clothes."

"Which reminds me," said he, rising.  "I have bought you a bonnet and
things."

"A bonnet!  Oh, John!"

"Also a gown and--er--stockings.  I got them safely as far as this
wood, I remember, but I must have dropped them somewhere."

"Thou didst throw them down, John--over yonder by the brambles."

"Then you were watching me--all the time?" he questioned reproachfully.

"Of course, John!  And the gown--is it blue?"

"And sprigged!" he nodded.

"Show me, John--show me."

Sure enough, beyond the brambles they found the divers parcels and
packages, each and every somewhat the worse for wear.

"This," said Sir Marmaduke, dragging a dented object from the thorny
tangles, "this contains your bonnet, I think."

"It--it looks very battered, John."

"It does!" he nodded.  "And well it might, for 'tis certainly the most
high-spirited and restive bonnet that ever man had to cope with."

Down sank Eve upon the turf to take the travel-worn object in her lap
and as she loosed string and wrapping, he saw her slim fingers were
trembling; then:

"Oh!" she sighed in awe-struck whisper.  "Oh--'t is wonderful!"

"And happily seems to have escaped serious damage, which truly is
wonderful.  In this box is--"

"But I--I can never, never wear it, John!"

"Not wear it, Eve-Ann?"

"Ah, never--'t is too beautiful!  'T is for only a great lady to wear--"

"Yes!" he nodded.  "'Twas why I chose it.  I hope 't will fit.  Now in
this box--"

"But, John, I'm only Eve Ash and--"

"Exactly!  And in this box you will find--"

"But I cannot tramp the country in such a beautiful--"

"Then you can cover it with your hood."

"Hood, John?"

"Precisely!  I have a hooded cloak here for you somewhere.  But first
open this box and let us look at your gown."

Quick-breathing, she obeyed; and beholding her shining eyes, flushing
cheeks and rosy parted lips, he thought her more beautiful than ever
as, clasping her hands, she sat gazing down at this dainty garment with
its innumerable tucks and flounces, in a rapt and speechless ecstasy.

"Oh!" she breathed at last; and then again: "Oh, John, 't is like a
dream!"

"The milliner called it a 'confection', I remember."

"I have sometimes dreamed of such a gown, John, for I am often very
worldly and vain in my dreaming, but--"

"And now, child, go and put it on while I sit here and set forth our
dinner."

"Oh, but I couldn't--eat!" she cried.

"Ham and beef, child, sliced thin; bread, butter and a bottle of light
wine."

"But, John--"

"Eve-Ann, go and change your dress."

"Very well, John,--but didst buy a looking-glass?"

"Being a man of my word, I did!" he answered, and doffing his knapsack,
he loosed the straps and emptied its various contents before her on the
grass--an agglomerate mass, a greasily glutinous mess, from which he
recoiled in shocked dismay while Eve stared aghast.

"Oh, John!" she exclaimed, shaking reproachful head.  "The butter is
melted--"

"Evidently!" he answered ruefully, watching her extricate two spoons,
one fork, a corkscrew and the looking-glass from a shapeless something
that had once been a pound of butter.

"'T is no way to carry butter, John."

"So I perceive!" he answered.  "The grocer fellow could n't have packed
it securely; throw the confounded stuff away!"

"Nay, indeed, that would be wicked waste--"

"But we cannot eat it--"

"Indeed, but we shall; 't will be butter again when it cools.--But 't
was kind in thee to remember the looking-glass.--And all these--these
wonderful clothes, they must ha' cost thee a vast deal o' money, John!
And they be much--oh, much too fine and grand for country wear."

"Then don't wear them, child."

"And yet--if 'twould please thee--?"

"Eve-Ann, go and put them on--this moment!"

"Very well, John!" said she, suddenly meek, and rising vanished into
the green.

Left alone, Sir Marmaduke fell to considering the present state of his
affairs and the future possibilities of pursuit, capture and prison.
And what then? he asked himself.  The mute evidence of his broken cane
would be damning, and how prove his innocence?  What voice could bear
testimony on his behalf?  Not one!  On the other hand, he was known to
have quarrelled with the murdered man, to have gone forth with the
avowed purpose of exchanging shots with him; thus, by his impulsive
act, he had placed himself in a position of danger very real and grim.

And yet, far from regretting this so quixotic act, Sir Marmaduke felt
pleasantly thrilled and happily assured that, foolish or no, life had
become full of a new and vivid interest and that under the like
circumstances he should commit such folly again.

Now, sitting in the pleasant shade, his back to a tree, he began to
whistle softly the while with pencil and memorandum he jotted down the
following:


Estimated distance to London--60 miles or thereabouts.

Time required to go afoot--4 days or 40, according to weather,
circumstances and Eve-Ann.


      Further items to our comfort

  A cooking-pot.
  Herbs (various) with pepper, salt, etc.
  An extra pair of stout shoes (for Eve).
  The same (for self).
  A strong stick, iron-shod but light (for self).
  A bed, mattress, etc. (for Eve).
  The same (for self).
  A light, portable tent (for Eve).  N.B. Waterproof.
  A folding stool (for Eve).
  A bucket.
  A kettle.
  An axe.
  A strong horse or pony for transport.  N.B. no vehicle.


He was racking his brains for additions to this list when, hearing a
rustle, he glanced up and the whistle died upon his lips.

"Eve!" said he softly.  "Oh--Eve Ash!"

Shyly, wistfully, she looked down upon him beneath her bonnet's shady
brim, all shrinking loveliness from that same coquettish bonnet to
gown's ruffled hem; for this artful garment, cut and fashioned by
expert fingers, served but to mould the splendid beauty of her form in
all its vigorous young womanhood.  Then, all at once, as she met his
look, she turned away, hiding her face from him in her two hands.

"Oh, John," she whispered, "wherefore dost eye me--so?"

"Forgive me, pray," he answered, viewing her still.  "But the change
is--wonderful!"

"These clothes, John?"

"Of course."

"Indeed," she sighed.  "I feel so--worldly!  And I cannot lose sight o'
myself, but these things be so beautiful--that I do love the sight o'
them.  I love the feel o' them and--alas, John, this is wicked vanity!
Dost think such fine raiment may change the heart and mind as well as
the body, John?"

"Sometimes maybe, Eve, but not yours."

"Then tell me, John, pray tell me--do I look--am I well, clad thus?"

"Yes," he answered softly, "you are--very well!"

Hereupon she bowed her head to peep down through parted fingers at the
glories which arrayed her, while Sir Marmaduke gazed in rapt delight,
so bewitchingly did the artful coquetry of bonnet and gown offset her
own natural shy demureness.

"I feel like some one else, John," said she at last in hushed tones;
"some one very grandly genteel who never, never milked a cow or touched
a churn in all her ladylike days.--  The whole world seems different
and, oh, John--even thou!"

"Because I am staring again?  Forgive me."

"Nay, 't is the look in thine eyes, John."

Sir Marmaduke laughed a little oddly and turned away.

"I trust your ladyship is hungry?" said he.  "Come, sit down--"

"Not on the grass, John; 't would stain me."

"Then upon my greatcoat--there!  Now if you will cut the bread
I--confound my memory, I forgot salt and pepper!"

"But didst not forget my looking-glass, John!  And what matter for salt
if thou'rt truly hungry?"

Thus saltless they dined and made a hearty meal of it notwithstanding.
And while they ate they conversed thus:

Eve.  I wonder when we shall reach London?

Sir M.  So do I--Will you have more beef?

Eve.  Nay, I thank thee--London is a long way off, John.

Sir M.  It is a fairly good walk.

Eve (_wistfully_).  Art anxious to be there, John?

Sir M.  (_with the utmost decision_).  Certainly not!

Eve.  Prithee why?

Sir M.  Because I much prefer the country.  However, by hard walking we
ought to reach our journey's end in four or five days.

Eve (_softly_).  Oh!  So soon?

Sir M.  As I say, by dint of good hard walking--  May I trouble you for
another piece of crusty bread?

Eve (_bowing head over loaf as she cuts_).  I--cannot walk very hard in
my beautiful raiment, John.

Sir M.  But, child, are you not longing for the joys and wonders of
London?

Eve.  Nay, John, not--not very much.

Sir M.  Then--of Vauxhall Gardens?

Eve.  Nay, John, not now.

Sir M.  Why this change?

Eve.  Because I think--nay, because I know now that I prefer the
country too.

Sir M.  So you are content to wander awhile among these rustic
solitudes--just you and I, child?

Eve (_viewing him bright-eyed_).  Yes, John.

Sir M.  Then we must procure a pack horse immediately.

Eve (_amazed_).  A horse?  But why, John; what for?

Sir M.  To carry your tent, child.

Eve.  But we have no tent.

Sir M.  That is why I must acquire one--at once.  Also an iron pot to
cook in and a host of other necessary things--so we must have a horse.

Now at this she laughed suddenly but grew as suddenly grave again.

"Ah, John," she sighed, "friend John, thou 'rt wonderous kind and
thoughtful."

"Eve-Ann," he answered lightly, "the truth is I detest carrying
bundles--this knapsack, for instance."

"Then will I bear it for thee, friend, and I can do without a tent."

"True," he nodded, "but you will do better with one."

"Verily thou'rt my friend, John, so would I be thine--"

"To carry my knapsack?"

"To know more about thy real self, John, to share thy troubles and
sorrows if I may, for often have I seen a sadness in thy looks and
wondered.  What is thy grief, friend John?"

"Myself."

"Ah, do not mock me."

"Heaven forbid!  I am my own trouble, child, though I generally blame
Circumstance or my fellows, any one and anything but myself--as is the
human custom!"

"Is it that thou dost--love hopelessly, one that lovest not thee?"

"No, no; this, at least, has been spared me."

"Hast ever loved, John, deeply--truly loved?"

Sir Marmaduke started, scowling down at the knife he chanced to be
cleaning upon a tuft of grass and for a moment his strong, slim fingers
tightened convulsively about the haft; then, lifting his head, he
glanced into his companion's face and reading all the wistful
tenderness and womanly sympathy of her regard, his usually cold
restraint was forgotten awhile.

"Yes--once!" he answered.  "It was years ago and I was younger
then--but she was younger still, too young, poor child.  We were to
have been married, but upon the day she left me, fled with one I had
called 'friend'.  And so it ended."

"Oh, 'twas wicked--cruel!" exclaimed Eve, her grey eyes bright and
fierce beneath quick-drawn brows.  "The heartless, shameful creature!"

"The poor child!" sighed Sir Marmaduke.  "Her happiness did not
endure--she died almost within the year, lonely--deserted and--in
direst need."

"And the man that wrought this evil--what o' the man, John?"

"He lived--for I could never find him, though I hunted him very long
and very far, so he lived--lives yet, for aught I know."

"He deserved to die!" said Eve, between white teeth.

"Yes, child."

"Yet I am glad, oh, very glad he escaped thee, John, for vengeance
belongs to God.  And perchance this man hath bitterly repented his
great sin."

"Perhaps, child."

"And hast--never loved again, John?"

"And never shall; my heart died twenty years ago."

"Art sure, John--quite sure?"

"Certain!"

"Can hearts die, indeed?  I wonder!"

"As surely, Eve-Ann, as certainly as last year's flowers.--  And now,
since I have eaten the last crust, let us pack and be gone."




CHAPTER XII

TELLETH OF A BARN AND TERRORS BY NIGHT

Night found them in a country wild and desolate, an interminable grassy
slope, void of sheltering bush or tree, where a riotous wind buffeted
them and a driving rain lashed them out of a blusterous dark in gusts
so fierce that they paused of one accord and turned from this vicious
blast to get their breath.

"Oh," gasped Eve, shrinking before the rush of wind and rain, "oh, this
is--most dreadful, John!"

"Highly unpleasant!" he agreed.

"This rain will quite ruin my poor clothes!"

"This rain, child, means an inn!"

"Ah, no, no--pray no, John."

"As you will, Eve-Ann, but the grass will prove uncomfortably damp to
sleep upon and is growing more so."

"Let us find the barn I told thee of."

"A happy thought!" answered Sir Marmaduke, peering hopelessly into the
rain-filled gloom.

"But 'tis so dark, so very dark and--  Oh, John--I have lost the way!"

"Indeed, child, I was beginning to suspect as much.  Now had we taken
the lane, as I ventured to suggest, an hour ago--"

"But we did n't!" she retorted.

"We might, Eve-Ann, by now have been basking at the fireside of some
inn or cottage--"

"But we are not!" she exclaimed sharply.

"So I perceive, child; confound this wind!"

"The rain is worse, John.  Alas, my beautiful gown!"

"And you must be sick with fatigue, Ann."

"No--indeed, no!"

"I can hear it in your voice, child.  And I'm weary myself, heavens
knows!"

"And 't is I led thee astray, John!" she exclaimed in bitter
self-reproach.  "'T is I lost the way and--"

"So did I, child--egad, I 've never found it yet, nor wish to, so what
matter?  Now if we chanced to have a tent--"

"But we haven't, John!"

"Exactly true, alas!  Come, let us go on.  Take my arm and throw away
your bundle."

"Throw away--John, how canst bid me do such thing!  Here are spoons,
forks, half a pound o' butter--"

"Away with them, child; we'll buy more."

"Never, John, 't would be sinful!"

"However, take my arm, Eve-Ann."

"Your coat feels very damp, John."

"And your feet are wet through, of course, Eve."

"Of course, John, so are thine.  But 't is my sad beautiful stockings I
grieve for; they will be quite spoiled, I doubt."

"You shall have others."

"Thou'rt a very prodigal, John, I fear.--  But I have never worn silk
ones before and oh, John, the joy of them!  The smooth glide of them
when I walk!  But these be merest vanities and vain things, alas!  And
yet do I take such joy in them and grieve they should be spoiled--  How
it rains!"

"An infernal night!" said Sir Marmaduke, cowering as the blast smote
him.  "A night to drown Romance, child, to chill even the hot vigour of
youth and render a middle-aged person miserably deject, for who--who
can preserve faith in his destiny, with rain trickling down his neck
and oozing into his boots?  No one, more especially a forlorn bachelor
person of forty-five."

"Yet I am with thee, John!"  Here the hand tightened upon his arm.
"And thou 'rt glad o' this, John?  Please say thou'rt glad!"

"Yes, Eve--and no."

"Why, verily, I do know I have been sore trouble and expense to thee,"
she sighed.  "I ha' made thee share my fears and troubles--"

"This is why I am glad of you, child.  In trying to serve you I forget
awhile the weariness of my own futility.  But--"

"And there is a light!" she cried.  "See--over yonder!"

Looking whither she directed, Sir Marmaduke descried a small ray, a
yellow shaft that pierced the windy dark, and hastening towards this
most welcome beam, presently made out the loom of a large barn.

"Is that you, Tom--eh, who is it?" demanded a high-pitched voice in
answer to Sir Marmaduke's knock.

"Two travellers who have lost their way."

"Then I might tell 'em to find it again, but not me, I 've too much
heart!  Specially if you can pay your footing.  I couldn't turn a dog
away--hey, don't shake the door down!"

"Then open it."

"Well, so I will, if you'll ha' patience, friend."

Ensued a sound of fumbling, and the door swung open upon a wide and
lofty interior lit by a bright fire whose crackling flame showed a
rough-clad fellow who peered at them from an aquiline face with eyes
remarkably close set.

"A woman, hey!" he exclaimed, staring at Eve's cloaked form.

"A lady, yes," nodded Sir Marmaduke.

"Very welcome, I 'm sure!  Step in!" said the man, nodding and rubbing
his hands together.  "This is Liberty Hall, sir and mam, and ain't such
a bad barn as barns go; I 've known worse.  'T is fairly weather-tight
and also it ain't my barn, so make y'selves at 'ome, sir and mam."

"Thank you!" said Sir Marmaduke perfunctorily.

"Don't thank me, sir; I'm only Jimmy Vamper--never trouble to thank
Jimmy.  Lord, Jimmy wouldn't turn ye away if you was two
dogs--leastways, in sporting parlance, one dog and a b--"

"The door," said Sir Marmaduke hastily; "you have forgotten to bar it."

"Ay, ay!" nodded the man.  "Make yourselves quite at 'ome, friends;
don't mind Jimmy.  There's plenty o' fine noo hay in the corner yonder
for you and your lady to kip on; ye see it ain't my hay, so no thanks
to Jimmy Vamper."

"But the fire is yours, Mr. Vamper, I presume, and the black pot upon
it gives forth a most appetizing aroma."

"All true enough, sir," nodded Mr. Vamper, rubbing his hands, "and to
said fire Jimmy makes ye welcome, but a supper meant for two can't be
expected to do for four, now can it; it ain't reasonable--now is it?"

"However, it is hot," said Sir Marmaduke, "and smells nourishing."

"And, friend, well it might; prime beef, sir, with onions, turnips,
and--"

"So, Mr. Vamper, I will purchase it of you--"

"Oho!" exclaimed the man, lifting pot lid to snuff the fragrant
contents.  "It 'll come dear, friend, ah--that it will."

"How much?"

"Well, say--three bob and a tanner!"

"Take five shillings," said Sir Marmaduke, drawing forth well-filled
purse.

"Nay, John," murmured Eve, from where she sat warming feet and ankles
at the cheerful blaze, "he named but three and sixpence, and that was
too much--"

"To be sure," nodded Sir Marmaduke.  "I was forgetting this most
welcome fire; take six shillings, Mr. Vamper."

"But--John--"

"Are you very hungry, Eve?"

"Yes, John, but--"

"Then let us say seven shillings, Mr. Vamper."

At this, Eve glanced from Sir Marmaduke to the black pot and frowned
darkly.

"Very noble indeed, sir!" said Mr. Vamper, bowing and rubbing his hands
harder than ever, "but under the circumstances, and having regard to
your lady wife, Jimmy absolutely refuses to take a penny more than five
bob!"

"And here," said Sir Marmaduke, counting out the coins, "are your seven
shillings," and he dropped the money into Mr. Vamper's ready palm.

"Sir, Jimmy bows submission to your wilful generosity.  And I reckon
you 'll find enough in the pot for you and your lady--"

"But what wilt thou do, friend?" questioned Eve.

"Heaven bless your eyes and soul, mam, Jimmy shall do well enough on
bread and cheese and an onion; never trouble your lovely head about
poor Jimmy!  Though to be sure, there's Tom; a toughish problem is
Tom--occasionally, especially when hungry--poor Tom!"

"Tom?" enquired Sir Marmaduke, glancing about, keen-eyed.

"My pal, sir, my mate and comrade.  Half that supper was his, been
expecting him hours--am expecting him.  But then 'tis bad travelling,
and maybe Tom's found some other ken and will doss other where, d' ye
see."

And thus, seated beside this most comforting fire, they supped while
the great barn about them rumbled to the sound of buffeting wind and
driving rain; a huge, dim place, spanned by mighty beams and rough-hewn
timbering, where monstrous shadows danced in the flickering firelight,
and whence came strange stirrings and rustlings, vague, mysterious
sounds from roof and walls, so that Eve, glancing about, edged a little
nearer to Sir Marmaduke.

But the fire was comforting, the stew savoury, and what with this and
their bodily fatigue Eve presently began to nod drowsily and Sir
Marmaduke stifled a yawn, while Mr. Vamper, on the far side of the
fire, paused in his voracious mastication to smack his lips over
something he imbibed wetly and often from the neck of a squat, black
bottle.

"Shrub!" he exclaimed suddenly, his voice, grown unpleasantly strident
and jovial, shocking Sir Marmaduke's over-sensitive ear.  "Shrub!" he
repeated.

"Will you or your lady try a suck?"

Sir Marmaduke shuddered.

"Thank you--no!" he answered, politely grim.

"Ah, well, there ain't much left for Tom as 'tis--" sighed Mr. Vamper.
"D' ye know, friend, I never taste shrub but I think o'
murders--executions--the nubbing cheat.  Y' see, the first time I
tasted shrub was at an execution.  I saw three of 'em kick--and me,
little Jimmy, a reg'lar toddling infant--Lord!"

Eve's breath had caught suddenly and Sir Marmaduke, leaning near, took
her hands that had clasped each other so fiercely.

"Child," said he gently.  "I think it is time you went to sleep."

"Sleep?" she repeated in a choking whisper, and he saw horror look at
him from her wide eyes.

"Come, let us make you a bed."

"Where, John?"

"Over yonder, mem!" said Mr. Vamper, pointing with the evil-looking
knife he held.  "The hay yonder, nice and sweet, mam, you can have any
of it--all of it; ye see, it ain't my hay and if 'twas you'd be welcome
to it with all my heart.  Jimmy's oath, mam!"

In corner remote from the fire they found a deep pile of fragrant hay
that made Sir Marmaduke yawn to behold.

"Are your feet--clothes dry, Eve-Ann?" he enquired.

"Yes, John, but--"

"Then lie down, burrow well in and let me cover you with your cloak."
Mutely she obeyed, but as he stooped to fold the long garment about
her, she caught him by the shoulders and drew him close.

"John," she whispered, "I don't like that man!"

"Which is not surprising, child."

"Where wilt thou sleep, John?" she questioned in the same tense whisper.

"Somewhere near at hand, child."

"Let it be--very near, so near that I may touch thee--promise, John,
promise!"

"I promise you, Eve-Ann.  Now go to sleep, you are quite worn
out--close your eyes--come!"

"Very well, John," she answered humbly, "only--mind thy promise."

"Give me your hand," said he seating himself beside her, "I 'll stay
here until you fall asleep."

"God bless thee, John!" she whispered.

So there he sat until the warm, vital clasp of her fingers relaxed and
her deep, regular breathing told him she was fast asleep; whereat he
arose softly, yawned again prodigiously, and glancing where lay his
overcoat drying beside the fire, crossed thither and was in the act of
taking it up when a loud knocking sounded at the door with a hoarse,
inarticulate shout.

"Lord love me, here's Tom!" exclaimed Mr. Vamper, scrambling hastily to
his feet.  "Sit down, Squire, and if Tom seems a bit raspish at first,
don't distress yourself, for Tom's got a good heart--'specially where
the Lovely Sex is concerned."  So saying, Mr. Vamper began to unfasten
the door while Sir Marmaduke stood watchful and alert.

After a moment's awkward fumbling the door swung open and, with a rush
of blusterous wind, in strode a tall, burly fellow whose sodden
garments clung upon his powerful frame; a wild, fierce creature who,
dashing dripping hat to the floor, showed a thicket of matted hair and
face hidden in a smother of black beard and whisker, whence eyes
glittered in the light of the fire: a hairy giant who, closing the door
with savage kick, stood shaking the rain from himself and growling like
some great animal:

"A hellish night--ten thousand curses--!"

Sir Marmaduke stared, for this man spoke with educated tongue.

"Nothing, Jimmy--curse the rain, nothing.  No, not a demmed--"  He
paused suddenly, as his frowning glance encountered Sir Marmaduke, and
scowling blacker than ever, he viewed him from head to foot, a long and
calculating scrutiny; then his bright eyes darted to something that lay
very plain in the firelight, and looking thither also, Sir Marmaduke
saw this was Eve's bonnet.

"Aha, a woman--eh?" questioned the fellow, and his black beard split
asunder to show a thick, red-lipped mouth.  Beholding which grimace,
Sir Marmaduke frowned slightly and stooping swiftly, he picked up the
bonnet.

"A woman here--eh, Jimmy?"

"Yes, Tom, a lady--came in along of our friend here, as wet as Venus
rising from the sea and as lovely, as handsome as--"

"A lady and handsome, eh, Jimmy?  I'll judge o' this later, but first I
'll eat my supper."

"So you shall, Tom; there's plenty o' cheese and--"

"Cheese?" exclaimed the other with an evil look.

"What about that stew--what?"

"The lady wanted it, Tom, and being a lady and such a beauty, poor
Jimmy couldn't refuse--now could I, Tom?  You know Jimmy!  And so--"

"I bought it!" said Sir Marmaduke dryly.

"Eh--did ye so, begad!  And for how much?"

"A fair price, Tom, a very fair--"

"Seven shillings!" said Sir Marmaduke.

"Seven--  Ha, demme; fork out, Jimmy!"

"Hold hard, Tom!" exclaimed Mr. Vamper, eluding the big man's fierce
clutch.  "Don't Jimmy always divvy up?  Come over here, come on now and
let me explain."

"Explain?  Ha, damn ye, you're always explaining!" growled Tom, yet
followed his companion into a shadowy corner.  And seated beside the
fire, Sir Marmaduke watched them, the little man's quick gestures, the
big man's slow responsive nods; also, at such times as the booming wind
gusts died away, he even caught snatches of their talk but could make
little of it:

"Yeamons, Tom, and plenty of it--he flashed his cole--and the delog, I
tell ye--pretty dimber mort--and besides--reg'lar damber dell--and
devvy's the word--you know Jimmy--"

Espying a stout length of wood within reach, Sir Marmaduke took it up
and began therewith to poke the fire thoughtfully, and thus he saw the
thing he held had once been the spoke of a waggon wheel.

And presently he was aware that the big man stood on the opposite side
of the fire, staring down at him across the leaping flame, but Sir
Marmaduke continued to poke gently at the embers, serenely unheeding,
until at length the big man spoke; and though word and speech were
rough yet in both Sir Marmaduke sensed again that same vague suggestion
of breeding and refinement.

"What's the good word, pal?"

"Nothing!"

"Eh--you ain't one of us, that's certain?"

"Most certain," answered Sir Marmaduke softly and without glancing up;
"thank God!"

"Come, none o' your superior airs and graces unless you want
trouble--do you?"

"That depends on circumstances."

"Circumstances be demmed!  Now what's your game?  Tip us your lay?"

"Speak plainly."

"Well who are ye and what?"

"A traveller."

"Where away?"

"Anywhere."

The man Tom laughed sneeringly.

"Ain't very sociable, are ye?"

"Very seldom."

"Well, it pays to be sociable with me--when I'm so disposed--I say, it
pays and--"

Sir Marmaduke yawned behind three fingers.

"Ha--sleepy are ye, my lord?" snarled Tom.

"I am."

"Well, now, see here.  I 'm socially inclined to-night and you 've got
a woman along; why not ask her to grace our fireside?"

Then Sir Marmaduke looked at the speaker, at his eyes glittering
beneath their heavy lids, at his thick brows and at that which cleft
one asunder, the jagged white line of an ancient wound, a scar half
hidden beneath dark locks of matted hair.  So they stared upon each
other, eye to eye, in a silence broken only by the mournful sobbing of
the wind.

"Lord love us, what a night!" exclaimed Mr. Vamper at length, glancing
apprehensively from one grim face to the other; but still neither man
stirred nor spoke, while the rioting wind smote and tore until the
barn's ancient timbers creaked and groaned above the pitiless lashing
of the rain.  Then the man Tom questioned, sudden and loud, as if
against his will:

"What the devil are you staring at?"

"The scar above your right eyebrow."

The heavy-lidded eyes narrowed to shining slits and the shaggy head
jerked forward--peering.

"What of it?"

Sir Marmaduke's keen gaze shifted to the ragged, discoloured
neckerchief that swathed the hairy throat.

"I am--wondering!" he answered.  And for the third time the man Tom
questioned in the same strange manner, as if the words were wrung from
an unwilling tongue:

"Wondering what--what, I say?"

Sir Marmaduke yawned again and rose.

"Impossibilities," he answered, and nodding carelessly, sauntered over
to the hay pile in the distant corner, swinging the wheel-spoke lightly
in his hand.  There stood he awhile looking down at Eve's dim form
half-buried in the fragrant hay, but his slender brows were close-knit
as in painful concentration of thought.

"Impossible!" he said within himself.  "Impossible; it would be quite
too poetic!"

Then mindful of his promise, he lay down within easy reach of Eve's
hand; but his brow wore the same perplexed frown as he stared up at the
warped roof beams which, dimly seen in the vague firelight, seemed
endued with stealthy movement and became things that writhed fantastic
in the gloom.

"I must not sleep!" thought he, sighing in utter weariness; "I will not
sleep!"  But the hay was soft, its fragrance stole upon his drowsy
senses a soothing anodyne; his eyes closed--

He awoke suddenly to a sense of desperate fear; a hand was upon his
mouth, soft hair brushed his forehead and in his ear a faint, faint
whisper:

"John--oh, John, wake!  Wake up!  Hush--listen!"

Silence, for the wind, it seemed, had died away; a glimmering dusk, for
the fire had sunk to a dull glow of rosy embers, and then, upon this
silence, stole a soft, vague sound, heard only to be lost again, but
which brought Sir Marmaduke to his elbow, every faculty painfully
alert, for in this ominous, oft-repeated sound he sensed murder and a
hateful evil that chilled him.

"Some one creeping--towards us--a hand--feeling along the wall!" said
Eve in the same dreadfully hushed whisper.

Sir Marmaduke loosed her tremulous hold and groped about in the hay
with desperate fingers until they clenched upon the wheel-spoke; then
slowly, stealthily, he got to his knees, to his feet; and crouching
thus, wide eyes staring upon the dark, every tense nerve and sinew
strung for merciless conflict, the high-bred fine gentleman was quite
lost in the elemental man, a fierce savage creature desperately calm
and therefore deadly.

The stealthy rustling drew nearer, nearer yet.  Sir Marmaduke kept his
wide gaze upon the faint glow of the fire; now he distinguished the
soft sound of a creeping foot--suddenly the fire glow was blotted out
and before him loomed a moving shape--a head, shoulders, arms.--  Sir
Marmaduke leapt and smote--tripped, recovered and struck again, heard a
dreadful, neighing cry, saw long, shadowy arms wildly uptossed and,
using the wheel-spoke like deadly small-sword, lunged with unerring
aim.--  A groan, a heavy fall and then a moment's deathly stillness,
silence split all at once by a high-pitched, quavering cry:

"Tom!  Tom--  Oh, Tom!"

Sir Marmaduke, glaring down at his handiwork, was conscious of a wild
patter of feet, the rattle and creak of wide-flung door, and then of
Eve's voice.

"John--ah, dear John, art safe?"

"Quite safe."

"What--oh, John, what was it?"

"Villainy!"  So saying, Sir Marmaduke stooped above the sprawling thing
at his feet and dragged it towards the smouldering fire, upon which he
piled a handful of brush which, bursting to crackling flame, showed him
the man Tom with a trickle of blood oozing from an ugly contusion
half-hidden in matted hair.  But it was not at this Sir Marmaduke
looked but rather at the old scar which marked his brow; he even drew
back the shaggy locks to examine this the better; thence his quick,
slim fingers went to the stained neckerchief, wrenched it loose and
tearing open the shirt collar, laid bare the hairy throat whereon,
plain in the firelight, he saw that which he sought.

Sir Marmaduke recoiled, rose to his feet and stared down at the
unconscious man, his breath whistling through sudden-distended
nostrils; then he glanced towards that spot where lay the wheel-spoke.

"John, is he--dead?"

"Not he!" answered Sir Marmaduke between white teeth, and stooping he
began to drag the man towards the open door.

"Ah, what now, John?"

"His place is outside in the road, Eve-Ann.  Yes, he will be
safer--outside."

"But it still rains--he may die, John."

"I don't think so," answered Sir Marmaduke grimly, "but if he does I
prefer him to do his dying--outside."  So saying, and while Eve stood
watching with terrified gaze, Sir Marmaduke dragged his still
unconscious antagonist out of the barn, and shutting the great door,
barred and made it fast; then coming back to the fire, stood looking
down into the flames, his handsome features serene no longer.  And
presently Eve stole near and ventured to touch his nerveless hand,
questioning him fearfully:

"John?  Oh, John, what is it?  What makes thee seem so fierce--so
terrible?"

Sir Marmaduke bowed his head and for a moment covered his face with his
hands; when he looked up he was smiling.

"Here was an evil thing, Eve-Ann," said he, his voice and look serene
as ever, "but it is gone and you may sleep secure, child."

"Sleep?  Ah, no, indeed I couldn't.  'Tis a hateful place, this; pray
let us go."

"Why, 't will be cold and wet, child; let us rather sit here beside the
fire and wait for the dawn."  So he brought cloak and greatcoat and
made for her a nest; and here they sat, side by side, staring into the
fire and listening to the desolate beating of the rain and each of them
very silent, until she dozed at last and so fell asleep, her head
pillowed upon his knee; and thus, his sombre gaze bent ever upon the
fire, Sir Marmaduke waited the new day.

Very still he sat there through the long hours while the fire
languished and died all unheeded, for in his mind he was back when the
world was younger and knew again the agony of heartbreak and
disillusionment, and was tormented anew of those youthful sorrows he
had striven so long and vainly to forget, and thus was darkness within
him and without.

But little by little came a vague glimmer, a grey dusk, an ever-growing
brightness, and lifting heavy head he saw the ancient barn its every
chink and crevice a darting glory of sunshine, for it was day.  But
still he sat there watching the sunbeam that stole across the floor
until at last it reached the lovely face upon his knee and, sighing,
Eve awoke and opening drowsy eyes, blinked and shaded them from this
glory, the better to look up into the face above her.

"John!" sighed she, and smiled up at him.  "I was dreaming o' thee."

"And what was your dream, child?"

But now she sat up to smooth her garments and order her ruffled hair,
looking at him with eyes suddenly shy.

"So then I did sleep, John, and left thee to watch alone--and oh--upon
thy knee; thy poor legs will be so cramped and stiff.  Oh, shameless,
thoughtless me!  And thou'rt so pale and worn, my poor John!  Soon thou
shalt sleep and I watch over thee, but not in this hateful place!
Come, let us go--out into the sunshine."

"First tell me your dream, Eve-Ann," said he, sitting up to rub at his
cramped limbs.

"Nay, 'twas merely one o' my vain and foolish dreams," she answered,
shaking her head.  "Pray let us go."

And so when he had donned greatcoat and knapsack, he opened the door,
his brows knit above eyes that glanced expectant this way and that--to
see only a world all fresh and tender green backed by a cloudless
heaven whence beamed the young and kindly sun, for the man Tom had
vanished utterly.

"Oh, John," said she, looking upon the day glad-eyed, "'joy cometh in
the morning!'  Behold this sweet, clean earth!" and she reached out
shapely arms as if she would embrace it all.  "Oh, surely, surely, God
is very good and goeth ever beside us; so smile, John--do now!"

Then Sir Marmaduke smiled and Eve-Ann, slipping her hand within his
arm, led him out from the gloom of the barn into the radiant glory of
the new-born day.




CHAPTER XIV

WHICH INTRODUCES ONE, HORACE, A SOMEWHAT REMARKABLE ASS

Sir Marmaduke, still somewhat bemused with sleep, sat up in the ditch
and looked about him expectantly; it was a dry, grassy ditch where wild
flowers bloomed and honeysuckle breathed its sweetness upon him from
the hedge above; birds twittered, butterflies hovered, larks soared
carolling, a brook bubbled softly near by, the sunny air was full of a
joyous stir, but Sir Marmaduke, little heeding, glanced about
anxious-eyed and thus caught sight of a scrap of paper pinned to his
sleeve, whereon in bold, round caligraphy he read these pencilled words:


DEAREST FRIEND JOHN,

I am gone to seek our dinner.  Wait and do not worry for

thy loving friend,        EVE.

P. S.  Take care of this pin, I have so few.


Having read which, Sir Marmaduke leaned back, luxuriating in his ditch,
and what with the lark's joyous carolling, the brook's glad ripple, and
the fragrance of earth and flower, felt uncommonly glad to be alive.

"Orris!" exclaimed a harsh voice at no great distance.  "Consarn y'r
mangy 'ide, do that agin an' I 'll gi'e ye a touch o' the tickler.  You
ain't got no respect for nothin' nor nobody, and I 'ates ye!  Any one
could 'ave ye for fi' bob as would be fool enough to gi'e s' much for a
lop-eared limb o' Satan.--  Take yer snufflin' nose out o' that
saucepan or I'll 'eave my gully at ye!  And leave them boots alone, ye
warmint--a gent's toddlin'-cheats ain't to be dewoured no more than 'is
dicer!  An' keep y'r willainous 'oof out o' the fryin' pan, will ye, ye
wagabone!"

Now turning whence this admonishing voice proceeded, Sir Marmaduke
found himself looking through the hedge, down into a deep, green hollow
or dingle shaded by trees and screened about by blooming thickets; and
here, perched upon a stool before a small tent, sat a little, plump man
weaving a basket of rush, from which occupation he glanced ever and
anon to reproach, thus fluently, a diminutive and very tousled donkey
who cropped the herbage, above, below and around, at the end of a long
rope.

"Orris," exclaimed the little man, pausing to shake his fist, "Orris, I
'ates ye--ah, from muzzle to rump, 'oof and 'air!  I 'd drownd ye in
b'iling ile if ile was only cheaper."

Here the donkey raised shaggy head and, chewing busily, wagged first
one ear and then the other.

"That's owdacious imperence, that is!" snarled the little man.  "I 've
a good mind t' boot ye in the belly for a ill-conditioned wiper, that I
'ave!"

The donkey stamped a hoof and snorted.

"All right, Orris me lad, you wait!  I knowes a cove as 'll gimme as
much as two-pun-ten for ye, and more fool 'im!  A cove as 'll treat ye
crool 'ard, me lad, a cove as 'll kick y'r inside out an' in again and
expect ye to work into the bargain--sure as me name's Samivel Spang."

The donkey tossed his head and, whirling about, lashed out with both
hind legs, whereat his master started back so suddenly that he fell off
the stool.

"Now jest for that," cried he, rising in a fury, "I 'm agoin' to boot
ye in the bowels!"

"Don't do that, Mr. Spang!"

The little man started round and espying Sir Marmaduke looking down
from the hedge above, stared up with very round eyes set in a very
round face.

"D'jer s'y?" he demanded.  "'S that?"

"I desired you not to kick your ass."

"Why not?  Ain't 'e allus up to 'is devil's tricks an' capers?"

"The ass, I believe, is generally regarded as a patient animal--"

"Patient?  Look at Orris!  Bit me in the breeches last Sunday, an' what
d' ye say to that?"

"Surprising!"

"It were!" nodded Mr. Spang with reminiscent scowl.  "And painful too!
An' not content wi' that, didn't 'e bite a lump out o' me dicer this
very day?"

"Dicer?" enquired Sir Marmaduke gravely.

"Ah, me castor, me 'at!  Now ain't 'e a windictive toad?"

"Still, don't kick him, pray."

"Why not?  Ain't 'e my property?"

"Until some one buys him," answered Sir Marmaduke, viewing the donkey
with speculative eye.

"Oo?" demanded the little man scornfully.  "Oo 'll buy a four-legged
piece o' willany like Orris?"

"I will."

"Wot--you?"

"I will give you--two pounds, ten, for him."

"Yes, you will!" exclaimed Mr. Spang in bitter irony.  "Walker, young
feller!"

"And here is your money," said Sir Marmaduke, taking out his purse.
The little man became thoughtful.

"'Ow much?" he enquired.

"I will take him for the price I overheard you name, two pounds, ten."

Mr. Spang shook his head violently.

"Don't you never think no such thing.  Two-pun-ten?  I tell ye five
golden guineas couldn't buy my Orris!  There's a donkey as is all ass,
every bit--a reg'lar, proper moke is my Orris, fit as a fiddle an' nary
a particle wrong with 'im but himperence, dang 'im!  There's lots o'
mokes in this wicked world but there's only one Orris and fi' pun won't
buy 'im--no!"

"I'll make it ten!"

"Lord!" gasped Mr. Spang, sitting down upon his stool very suddenly.
"Ten pun for Orris!"

"Guineas!" said Sir Marmaduke, jingling the coins.  "Ten guineas for
Horace, the tent yonder, packsaddle and complete outfit."

"Blind me!" ejaculated Mr. Spang.  "Governor, it's a go, strike me blue
if it ain't!  Tip us the bleint."

Forthwith Sir Marmaduke descended the steep bank and having counted the
money into the little man's eager hand, turned to survey his new
possessions, which Mr. Spang obligingly enumerated, thus:

"One donkey, a tent, two pots, a kittle, two mugs--one tin, t'other
cracked, a packsaddle, a fork, one 'orn spoon and--a tickler."

"A what?" enquired Sir Marmaduke, whereupon Mr. Spang showed him a
stout crook-handled stick armed with a long, iron spike.

"This here!" he explained.  "This tickler is about the only thing in
this yer wicked world as Orris 'as got any respect for.  The King?  No!
The Pope o' Rome?  No!  But this 'ere?  Watch now!  Orris, ye
warmint--the tickler!"  So saying, Mr. Spang, flourishing the stick,
approached the donkey, whereupon that astute animal dropped a
vivid-hued object he had been munching and backed away to the fullest
stretch of his picket rope.

"What was he eating?" enquired Sir Marmaduke.

"Why--bile an' blister 'im," exclaimed the little man, snatching up the
mangled object and shaking mournful head over it, "'t is me noo
neckerchief, me Sunday wipe!"  And fired by indignation, he turned upon
the offending animal, but Sir Marmaduke interposed.

"Pray don't strike my donkey," said he gently.

"Eh--not?  But jest look at me ruinated wipe!"

"What is its value?"

"Cost me a tanner at Petworth fair las' week, it did."

"Accept this shilling."

"A bob!" ejaculated Mr. Spang.  "Lord!"

"A donkey must eat," said Sir Marmaduke gravely, "and since he is my
property, I must keep him in fodder.  So here is the shilling; pray
return him your neckerchief."

"Well, blow my dickey!" exclaimed Mr. Spang, pocketing the shilling.
"I never heered tell o' feedin' wipes to a moke afore, but if you says
so why--there y' are!"  And he tossed the neckerchief to the donkey who
snuffed at it, mouthed it superciliously and finally chewed at it
blissfully, his eyes half-shut and ears adangle.

"He appears to relish it," said Sir Marmaduke thoughtfully.

"Ah!" growled Mr. Spang.  "'Tis a shame and a pity as we ain't got a
flatiron or so to foller my wipe."

"Are there any oats included in the outfit?" enquired Sir Marmaduke,
still watching his four-legged purchase with profound interest.

"Oats?" exclaimed Mr. Spang, opening his round eyes very wide.  "If you
was to feed that creeter oats 'e 'd be climbin' trees like a perishing
squirrel."

"Hay, then?"

"'Ay?" repeated Mr. Spang, shaking his head.  "'Ay 'ud be champagne an'
isters to Orris.  No, young feller, grass is 'is feed with a occasional
thistle and anything else 'e can steal--look at me dicer, will ye!"
And Mr. Spang took off his hat, a woefully shabby object, and pointing
to its mutilated brim, shook mournful head at it.  "Good as noo--afore
that warmint tried t' eat it!" he sighed.  "Cost me seven bob and
only--"

"And his name is Horace, is it?"

"No, it ain't!  Orris is 'is monnicker, vith a Ho an' a Har, an' a Hi
an' a Hess.  And ye needn't stare, young feller, for Sam Spang can
write an' cipher, ah, and read print and some writin' if wrote plain.--
And remember when Orris gits obstrobolies a touch o' the tickler in
your 'and will work like a charm.--  An' I won't say as you ain't
treated me fair, except in regard to me dicer as your moke ruinated as
you can see."

"But the animal was not my property then," said Sir Marmaduke, smiling.

"No more 'e were!" sighed Mr. Spang.  "I may as well toddle off, I
s'pose.  Well, good-bye, young feller; good luck t' ye an' 'appy days."

"The same to you, Mr. Spang."

The little man scowled balefully at the tousled donkey, nodded cheerily
to Sir Marmaduke, and climbing the steep bank with surprising
nimbleness, paused suddenly to glance back.

"Orris ate a piece out o' the tent last Toosday," said he, as if moved
by sudden impulse, "but 'ang the pot lid agin it, an' 't will keep out
rain an' wind."

"I am grateful for the suggestion," answered Sir Marmaduke.

"Don't mention it!" said Mr. Spang, taking a step forward only to pause
again.  "The kettle leaks 'ere an' there, if it ain't pegged proper!"
he announced.

"Then properly pegged it shall be, Mr. Spang."

"Likewise one o' the pots ain't got no 'andle and wants treatin'
cautious!"

"Caution shall be my watchword, Mr. Spang."

"Under these circumstances, p'raps I ought to give ye back that theer
extry bob as you allowed for me wipe?"

"A bargain is a bargain, Mr. Spang, but I thank you for the thought.
The packsaddle is in fair condition, I trust?"

"Young feller, that packsaddle is so good it can werry nigh pack
itself!"

"I rejoice to hear it.--  Is that all, Mr. Spang?"

"Only this, sir--I can see as you're a gent, ah--an' a true-blue
sportsman as well, and as sich, sir, Samivel Spang saloots ye most
'umble an' 'earty!"

So saying, the little man doffed his battered "dicer" to wave it in
farewell, whereupon Sir Marmaduke very gravely flourished the "tickler"
in response, until Mr. Spang's round visage and plump person had
vanished from his sight.

Then, seating himself upon the stool, Sir Marmaduke fell again to
absorbed contemplation of this, to him, hitherto unknown quadruped, the
so-called patient ass.




CHAPTER XV

WHICH CONCERNS ITSELF WITH NOTHING IN PARTICULAR

Eve-Ann was coming along the shady cart track, moving with that lithe
and gracious case which spoke of youth and the long, smooth action of
vigorous young limbs.  And sitting in his ditch, Sir Marmaduke watched
her as he might the graceful wheel and poise of skimming swallow, the
fleet bound of fallow deer in his own park, the effortless motion of
fish aglimmer in pellucid depths--or any other beautiful thing, until
becoming aware of the large basket she bore, he rose and went to meet
her.

"Egad!" he exclaimed as he took this burden from her.  "'T is even
heavier than it looks!"

"Take heed lest thou spill the gravy, John--pray keep it steady!"

"Gravy, forsooth?" he enquired.

"Yea, indeed!  I met a farmer's wife, such a dear, kind soul, and
bought of her a steak and kidney pie, John!"

"Excellent child!  And I have bought an ass whose name I strongly
suspect to be Horace."

"Nay, but John," said she, looking at him a little anxiously, "what
dost mean?"

"Also a tent, two pots and a kettle!"

"Art dreaming, John?"

"Come and see!"  Forthwith he led her down into the leafy dingle, where
they found Horace devouring a rush mat with great apparent gusto and
who, champing serenely, raised tousled head to cock one shaggy car and
roll an enquiring eye at them.  Quoth Sir Marmaduke:

"Eve-Ann, permit me to bring to your notice one Horace, the future
companion of our wanderings."

"Oh," laughed Eve delightedly, "how wise he looks!"

"A notable fact, child, considering he is a donkey!"

"But the poor thing is hungry, John, famished!"

"Extraordinary!" said Sir Marmaduke musingly.  "Our Horace has already
finished a fair-sized bandanna neckerchief which with a large rush mat
should satisfy the cravings of one small donkey.  And yet who knows?
The ass is as yet a profound mystery to me."

Thrusting her hand into the capacious basket, Eve drew thence a large
carrot and proffered it to Horace, who raised his head to snuff at the
delectable vegetable with quivering nostrils and, dropping the mat,
reached forth velvet muzzle and very gently and delicately took the
carrot from Eve's fingers.

"He's a dear!" she pronounced.

"I wonder?" murmured Sir Marmaduke.

"And needeth grooming--oh, sadly, John!"

"True!  On close inspection he looks deplorably moth-eaten, child.  But
come, let us examine our other possessions."

And truly delightful was it to behold the pleasure she took in every
thing, more especially a certain battered, three-legged pot.

"'T will be so useful, John!" she exclaimed, viewing this grim object
with kindling eyes.

"Two pots and a kettle!" said Sir Marmaduke, a little despondently.  "I
observe the kettle lacks a spout!  One pot leaks, I am informed, and
both are revoltingly dirty!  We must throw them away--"

"Oh--never, John!  I can clean them; 'deed, 't will be a pleasure!"

"Amazing, child!"

"And--the little tent, John!" she exclaimed rapturously.

"The tent," said he, his gloom deepening, "now that I inspect it more
nearly, is also extremely dirty."

"Nay, 'tis brown canvas, John."

"And has a large hole in it!" he sighed.  "Though I am advised that a
pot lid, adequately secured--"

"I can mend it easily, John."

"Nevertheless, Eve-Ann, the tent is a grave disappointment."

"Then wherefore didst buy it?"

"Firstly because it was the sole tent available for instant purchase,
and secondly because it looked remarkably well--at a distance."

"Didst pay much for it, John?"

"The vendor appeared satisfied."

"Well, 't is a dear little tent, and I shall love it."

"God bless you, child; such gratitude for so little!  The thing must
serve you until we can acquire a better."

"But I want no better, and indeed thou'rt very good to me, very
thoughtful; this tent means so much--"

"Its late possessor," said Sir Marmaduke, eyeing it a little dubiously,
"seemed reasonably clean; still I think I 'll pitch it in a new place,
say under the tree yonder--if you care to sleep in this dingle
to-night."

"Yea verily, 'tis a beautiful spot, so very solitary, John, and with a
little brook over there by the willows; so we will bide here to-night.
Besides, there is the steak pie must be heated, so I 'll make a fire."

"Then I will move your tent."

Taking off his coat, Sir Marmaduke set to work forthwith, and after no
little difficulty contrived to get the tent down, a tangled disorder of
canvas, poles and guy ropes, which he hauled to the place chosen, a
sheltered spot adjacent to the murmurous rill, where shady tree and
bush made a leafy bower.

The afternoon had been calm hitherto, with scarce a breath to fan the
drowsy leaves, but no sooner did Sir Marmaduke begin to erect the tent
than up sprang a sudden, elfish wind to hamper him, a wind that
frolicked with flapping canvas and turned what should have been a tent
into a fluttering, flapping perversity, a thing seemingly endowed with
fiendish life, that mocked his lack of skill and set his most
determined efforts at defiance.  With admirable patience he strove to
order this chaos of rebellious canvas, but as time passed and his every
attempt was wholly futile, he grew hot, flurried, angry, and the
struggle between himself and this elusive thing became a combat bitter
and grim.  To and fro he reeled, battling fiercely with this Thing that
was no longer a tent but a detested monster rather.

Thus at last, when came Eve thither to fill the battered kettle, she
beheld Sir Marmaduke completely involved in wildly flapping canvas and
flying guy ropes.

And then, of course, the wind dropped, and Sir Marmaduke, breathless
and perspiring, turned to see Eve leaning against a tree, helpless with
silent laughter.

"Oh, John," she gasped, "forgive me that I laugh at thee, but--oh,
John!"

Sir Marmaduke frowned and threw back haughty head.

"Eve-Ann!" he exclaimed.

"Don't!" she cried.  "Oh, pray don't be dignified, John!"

Sir Marmaduke laughed suddenly and mopped perspiring brow.

"By heaven," he exclaimed, staring ruefully at the tangled heap of
canvas, "any one who can set up a tent unaided has my profoundest
respect."

"And now, pray let me aid thee."

And so between them they contrived to pitch the tent securely at last,
which done Eve surveyed it glad-eyed.

"Oh," she exclaimed, "'twill be joyous to live out o' doors!"

"So long as the weather prove fair!" he added.

"Nay, what matter if one be happy, John?"

"Are you happy, Eve-Ann?"

"Yes," she answered, and then paused to stare down at the sparkling
brook, sombre-eyed.  "Yes, I am very happy--until I remember."

"Then forget," he retorted; "forget the world and its worries, child."

"But will the world forget us, John?"

"Assuredly, in time, as it forgets every one and everything."

"Dost think I am as safe here as in London?"

"Quite!" he nodded.

"And--art thou happy also, John?"

"Astoundingly!"

"I wonder why?"

"Heaven knows--perhaps because of the novelty."

"Only that, John?"

"Or my amazing appetite."

"Is that all, John?"

"Child, this is the abiding wonder."  Now here Eve-Ann suddenly glanced
at him and as suddenly turned away, so that wondering, he questioned
her:

"What is it?"

"Nothing."

"Have I angered you?"

"Oh, no!" she answered, with petulant gesture of rounded shoulder.

"Eve-Ann, what are you thinking."

"That 't is time I fed thee again."  Then, having filled the battered
kettle, she hurried away, leaving him to stare after her in amazed
perplexity.




CHAPTER XVI

OF GABBING DICK, A PEDDLER, HIS VIEWS

The steak and kidney pie was no more, and Sir Marmaduke, lounging
beside the cheery fire, knew that sense of placid and reposeful comfort
which is the aftermath of a good supper (or should be); but all at
once, becoming aware of a dismal wheezing, he sat up to peer into the
adjacent shadows, for evening had fallen and the leafy dingle was full
of a fragrant dusk.

"It sounds as though some one were choking," said he, rising.

"Horace!" exclaimed Eve.  "'Tis Horace!  He must have wound himself up
again.  He will go round and round trees until his rope chokes him, the
poor thing!"

"The foolish ass!" quoth Sir Marmaduke, and going in among the thickets
presently found Horace with his long picket rope lapped and twisted
about bush and tree and himself a close prisoner, his tousled head
close against a tree trunk, the very picture of patient dejection.
Forthwith Sir Marmaduke proceeded to unwind him, an intricate business
requiring both time and labour, meanwhile apostrophising the
meek-seeming animal thus:

"Horace, thou art by nature a veritable ass, and yet, being an ass of
experience, one would have thought--" he paused, suddenly arrested by
the wholly unexpected sound of a man's harsh voice, and hastening where
he might glimpse the fire, beheld a squat, dark-visaged fellow with a
great pack on his back, who stood staring at Eve across the leaping
flame.

"So there y' are, Eve?" he was saying.  "But not by y'self, I lay odds!"

"How--how dost know my name?" she questioned breathlessly, yet facing
the intruder steady-eyed.

"Because you 're a ooman, ain't ye?" growled the man.  "And every ooman
's a Eve and all Eves is bound to trouble some Adam; 't is only
nat'ral!  Ah, by Goles, if 't was n't for the first Eve I might ha'
been driving my coach-an'-four in the gardin o' Eden at this minute
'sted o' peddlin' truck as nobody don't want--dang 'em!  Ah, an' wot's
more--"  The man paused to turn sharply as Sir Marmaduke stepped into
the firelight.

"Aha, so 'ere's Adam, eh?" nodded the man.  "I knowed there 'd be a
Adam for such a good-lookin' Eve; there allus is.  'Ow goes it, Adam?"

"What do you want?" demanded Sir Marmaduke, frowning.

"To sell ye a broom or a belt, a mop, a knife or a neckerchief--wot'll
ye take?"

"Nothing, thank you."

"I thought not!  Then wot about a pair o' garters for Eve--"

"No."

"Well, say a razor for y'r noble self."

"Nothing, I tell you."

"Very good, then seein' as England be a free country and me a free-born
Briton, I 'll set down an' eat me bit o' supper an' warm me aching
bones at this 'ere fire, an' no thanks to nobody for axing me!"  And to
Sir Marmaduke's indignant astonishment, he loosed off his pack and set
down forthwith.

"Get up!" said Sir Marmaduke.

"Not me!" answered the Peddler, busy with his pack.  "Oh, it ain't no
good a-scowling at me, Adam, no--nor lookin' so 'igh an' 'aughty; not a
bit.  Y' see, this ain't no private drorin'-room, nor yet a perfumed
boodwar, and you ain't got no more right 'ere than me--"

"Get up!" repeated Sir Marmaduke with threatening gesture.

"Nay, John," said Eve, gently interposing, "do not drive him away--"

"And there y' are, Adam!" nodded the Peddler triumphantly.  "'Ark to
Eve!  And it ain't no good comin' any vi'lence; I 'm used to vi'lence,
I am.  Besides, Eve ain't a-goin' to stand by an' see an innercent cove
'armed--not she.  So sit down, Adam, an' put up wi' me for a bit.  I
ain't so bad as I look."

Sir Marmaduke laughed and sitting beside Eve, surveyed the intruder
curiously.

"Hast travelled far, friend?" enquired Eve, viewing the man with eager
intensity, as he champed and snorted over his food.

"Reigate!" he mumbled.

"Dost know the country well--hereabouts?"

"Ah, every road, crossroad, lane an' footpath."

"Then--dost hear much--news?"

"Noos?" cried the Peddler so suddenly that he choked.  "Noos--I should
think so!  Lord, I'm so full o' noos as a egg o' meat!  And wot I 'ears
I tells, so they calls me Gabbin' Dick.  I ain't wot you may call a
merry soul p'raps, nor yet a ch'ice sperrit, but I 'm chokefull o'
information an' can tell ye a powerful lot about the dark doin's o'
this wicked world an' mankind in general, for all folks bein' born in
sin, bred in sin an' consequently sinful, sins constant--which is only
to be expected.  Ah, folks has been sinning ever since Cain killed
Abel, which was murder, wasn't it?  Very well then, folks has been
murderin' each other ever since--an' a good job too, for I 'ates
mankind--dang 'em! I says.  And talkin' o' murder--"

"We will not!" said Sir Marmaduke.

"And why not, Adam?  There's nothin' like a good murder; I loves to
tell of a fine murder wi' plenty o'--"

"Enough!" said Sir Marmaduke sharply.

"Oh, pray--pray let him speak!" said Eve, leaning eagerly towards the
Peddler, her eyes very wide and hands tight clasped.

"Well, there's a fine murder just been--"

"Hold your tongue and go!" said Sir Marmaduke, rising.

"No, no--I must hear him," cried Eve, rising also.  "Speak, friend,
speak!"

"Well, there 's a gent--keep y'r eye on Adam, Eve--just been murdered
most shocking and crool, found wallerin' in 'is gore with 'is 'ead
blowed off--and sarve 'im right, I says!  Set me in the stocks, 'e did,
for a vagrant, and now 'orribly dead, glory be!"

"Do they know who--who killed him, friend?"

"Ah, for sure.  And because why?  Because floatin' about in the gory
blood they found--"

"Off with you!" exclaimed Sir Marmaduke, advancing upon the Peddler,
who rose nimbly as Eve stepped between them.

"What," she cried, "what did they find?"

"Why, part of a gen'leman's cane wi' a gold knob on to it."

"No!" cried Eve, in gasping voice.  "Ah--no!"

"Yes!" nodded the Peddler.  "Oh, yes!  A cane belongin' to a fine gent
an' consequently they're arter this gent, and they 'll 'ang this gent
an' a good job too!  An' wot d' ye say to that now!"  But Eve stood
dumb, staring down into the fire with horrified gaze, her hands clasped
as if in prayer, then turning suddenly she vanished into the tent.

"Ecod!" exclaimed the Peddler, smacking his lips.  "There ain't been a
prettier murder since--"

"Get out!" said Sir Marmaduke.  "Go this instant!"

"Eh--well, so I will when I'm ready, so don't--"

Sir Marmaduke kicked over him a shower of sparks from the fire,
whereupon the Peddler sprang back and caught up his pack.

"Burn me, would ye?" he snarled.  "Well then, I 'opes you burns,
brimstone and sulphur, the fiery lake; I 'opes you burns soon, world
without end, Amen!"  So saying, he spat venomously into the fire and
trudged heavily away.

Then Sir Marmaduke began to make up the fire, for the night was upon
them; in the midst of which occupation he glanced up and saw Eve
watching him.

"Oh, John," said she in reproachful, weeping voice, "thou dost make
life very hard, very difficult for me, for now--now must I confess to
thee I did not kill Squire Brandish."

"Of course not," answered Sir Marmaduke, busy with the fire.  "I knew
this from the first--at least, almost--"

"Then why--why didst go back and leave thy cane?  Why didst seek to
shield me?"

"Because you were trying to shield--some one else."

"Oh, John," she murmured, clasping her hands in that reverent gesture
he knew so well, "thou brave, noble, wicked John to place thy life in
such peril!  And yet--'tis my fault, all mine--God forgive and pity me!
Suppose thou 'rt taken--how canst prove thine innocence?"

"Why, 'tis for them to prove my guilt," he answered lightly.  "And I am
not taken yet.  Moreover, to one who has been a hunter, there is an
engaging novelty in becoming the hunted--"

"That thou shouldst be hunted!" she exclaimed with sudden passion.
"Oh, miserable me!--  Thou art in the very shadow of the gibbet!
Forgive me, John, forgive me!"  And falling on her knees before him,
she hid her face in her hands.

"Child, do not grieve," said he, touching her bowed head very tenderly.
"Go to bed, Eve-Ann; these terrors will quite vanish with the morning,
so get you to bed."  And taking her two hands, he raised her gently.

"Thou wonderful John!" she whispered, looking at him through her tears.
"Surely there is no man in the world like thee!  Good night, my
brother!" Then suddenly her warm lips were upon his cheek, his mouth.
"God bless and shield thee, brother!" she murmured and so, left him.
And presently Sir Marmaduke lay down in sheltered cover hard beside the
fire, and rolled in his blankets, composed himself to sleep.




CHAPTER XVII

ARGUES THE UN-WISDOM OF COMMON SENSE

He awoke suddenly to see Eve-Ann leaning above him in a rosy dawn.

"Eh, ah, yes, child?" quoth he, stifling a yawn and glancing about,
sleepy-eyed.

"Breakfast--'tis--'tis nearly ready!" she answered, turning from him to
the fire that burned cheerily.

"Breakfast?" he repeated.  "But why so early; the sun is scarcely
risen?  Why, what troubles you, child?" he questioned, sitting up, for
he saw her pale and anxious.

"Thyself, John!" she exclaimed, with strangely passionate gesture of
her shapely hands.  "Oh, 'tis thee and thy--gold-knobbed cane!  Last
night I dreamed horribly--that they had taken thee--were dragging thee
away to shameful death!  Then I woke--and every rustle of the leaves a
terror!  So I came and minded the fire and watched over thee, imploring
the Lord to thy protection--and all about us the shadows--so menacing!
And I full o' terror for thee--even whiles I prayed."

"Yet surely all heaven heard your prayers, Eve-Ann, for behold, the
night is gone!  And yonder comes the sun in glory to promise another
golden day.  Also here are we, safe and sound, with none to trouble us
but ourselves.--  And the kettle, I observe, is on the boil, so if you
will spare me some hot water and the mirror, I will retire to some
shady grove and, there sequestered, shave me."

"Then art not angry I should ha' waked thee so early?" she enquired,
smiling a little tremulously as she busied herself eagerly to serve him.

"Eve-Ann, I am profoundly grateful.  Hark to the birds!  List to the
kettle!  Behold the sun--and, as I live, there is the pan ready for the
fire--bacon!"

"No, John, a gammon rasher."

"Excellent!  And yourself, Eve-Ann, as glorious as the morning--though
a little heavy-eyed--a veritable dryad!"

"John, what is a dryad?"

"A goddess o' the woods."

"Oh!" she exclaimed softly.  "A goddess?  That sounds a little
blasphemous, does n't it?"  And flushing beneath his look, she drooped
her eyes with an unwonted shyness, and thus contrived to become
lovelier than ever.

"It is very truth!" said he solemnly.  "Indeed, what with your noble
shape and gracious carriage, no dryad or goddess might compare, for,
child, I vow--you are strangely beautiful this morning."

"Nay," she murmured, "and my hair so wild--half-tumbling down!  I did
not trouble with it this morning; I were too unhappy."

"Your hair?  Indeed, yes, that's it, I think; it must be.  Child, take
off your little cap."

"Nay, 'twill all come down then, John."

"I would see it so, Eve-Ann."

"But--John--"

"Please, Ann."

So, with swift, shy gesture, she took off the plain, close-fitting
small cap she always wore and shaking her head, down fell her hair in
rippling glory to her shapely hips.

"Why, Ann!" said he softly.  "Eve-Ann!  God-bless-my-soul!"

"What?" she whispered.  "Oh, what is it?"

"Yourself!" he answered, in the same hushed voice.  "Your beautiful
hair!"

"Nay, 'tis vanity--ah, 'tis wicked vanity!" she cried and hid her face
between sudden hands, "to stand before thee so--making wanton show o'
myself.  Oh, I shall blush for this!  Am I shameless, John?--  No man
ever saw me so before, no, not even my two dears; 't would ha' shocked
them, for they are truly godly men!--  And now--thou 'rt a man, John,
yet here stand I--oh, I feel so wicked and worldly!"

"Yet look like an angel of light!  For, child, as I look at you--"

"Your shaving water grows cold!" she cried, and turning suddenly, fled
from him into the little tent.  Then, having collected the needful
tools therefor, Sir Marmaduke went down beside the brook and fixing the
small looking-glass conveniently, proceeded to shave, in the midst of
which operation he paused, for Eve-Ann was singing as she prepared
breakfast; to be sure she sang very softly, and the air was somewhat
lugubrious, but Sir Marmaduke smiled, recognising it for one of the
penitential psalms.

And presently, wafted upon the sunny air, stole odours delectable:
fragrant coffee and the mouth-watering aroma of frizzling ham.  So,
having laved hands and face in the sparkling brook, he dried himself
briskly, combed his hair hastily and hurried foodwards; to behold
breakfast neatly set forth on snowy napkin, waiting to be discussed.

And when Eve-Ann had murmured grace, they sat down together and began
to eat.  Nor did he speak for some while; then, setting down his
half-emptied cup:

"O Ann--alas, Eve child," sighed he, "to think I have lived five and
forty years and missed so much!"

"Dost mean the coffee and ham, John?"

"These among other things, I begin to discover joys in life quite new
in my experience."

"Pray--what?"

"Our comradeship--for we are true friends and comrades, I venture to
think.  Agreed, Eve-Ann?"

"Oh, yea verily,--"

"So here sit two comrades delightfully solitary and supremely content
with such solitude and--each other.  Agreed, Eve-Ann?"

"Verily, John."

"To be sure we are still a long way from London, comrade."

"How far, dost think?" she enquired, viewing him a little anxiously.

"Sixty miles, more or less.  And to be sure you are eager to get
there--"

"Nay, anywhere," she exclaimed, "anywhere so long as we be together and
thyself safe."

"Anywhere?" he repeated.  "You mean?"

"Just anywhere!" she nodded.  "'T is no matter whither or what
direction."

"Egad!" he exclaimed.  "And once or twice I suspected you were a highly
common-sense young woman!"

"Alas, I fear not!" she sighed regretfully.

"Thank heaven!" he answered fervently.

"Oh, art glad, John?"

"Heartily, child, for there are few things I find more exasperating
than Common Sense."

"But surely," said she, opening her grey eyes at him, "'t is a virtue
folk do pride themselves upon?"

"I believe some misguided egoists do," he nodded, "but such unhappy
wretches, so cursed, may never enter the golden joys of Arcady--"

"And thy coffee will be cold, John!"

"Coffee!" he exclaimed.  "Child, I am talking of Arcadia."

"Yes, I heard.  But please drink thy coffee; 'tis so much better taken
hot--"

"And there spoke Common Sense!  But the coffee is delicious, so--!"
Here he emptied his cup with gusto and held it out to be refilled.

"Then I suppose," said she, busy with the coffee-pot, "I am Common
Sense, after all?"

"Only occasionally," he answered, watching the play of her sensitive
lips.  "For who ever heard of a common-sense goddess or dryad?  The
thing is impossible and absurd.  Hence I entertain a strong and growing
hope that you possess no more common sense than myself."

"But, pray tell me, John, is not Common Sense wisdom?"

"To my thinking it is often Wisdom's opposite.  And its other names
are: Low Cunning, Prudence, Policy, Calculation--indeed it is a very
matter-of-fact, uncomfortably chilly thing to clip the soaring pinions
of Imagination and clog the foot of Adventurous Enterprise.  For Common
Sense loves the beaten track, the well-worn road, the safe way."

"Yet surely 'tis a safeguard, John?"

"And as surely a fetter, Eve-Ann!"

"And what is Arcady; where is it?"

"Well, the French, being a singularly daring people, say it is in Paris
and call it the Elysian Fields; the Saxons named it Valhalla, the
Buddhists Nirvana, the Greeks Elysium, the Jews Eden.  But all true
Arcadians know it for the world of great, simple things where
Contentment meets us and takes us by the hand."

"Art thou so content, John?"

"I am."

"Because o' the coffee and ham?" she enquired, with sudden smile.

"And--other things."

"Pray, what other?"

"Well, firstly, yourself, child."

"Oh!  And how do I content thee?"

"Because you are so exactly what I think you."

"Oh!" said she again, viewing him a little askance.  "And what dost
think me?"

"An artless child I reverence for her innate goodness."

"Reverence?" she murmured, awestruck.  "Dost--indeed--reverence me?"

"Most truly!"

"But I'm no child, John; I'm a woman, indeed, indeed I am!" she cried,
and with such sudden passion that he glanced at her in wonder.  "Yea
verily, I 'm a woman," she repeated, "and, alas, none so artless as
thou dost esteem me!"

"Indeed, Eve-Ann?"

"Yea, indeed, John, for I--I am--oh--just a woman!"

"To be sure," he smiled.  "You are a sedate person of twenty-two and I
am, at present, a careless boy of forty-five!  Prodigious thought!  And
yet, by heaven, I feel a boy with never a care or responsibility in the
world--except, of course, Eve-Ann!"

"Alas, and am I a care to thee?"

"Naturally--"

"But--this troubles me, John!"

"But a care I would not be without, Eve-Ann, and one I shall grieve to
part with."

"Part?" she repeated.  "You mean when--we reach London?"

"Yes.  But we are not there yet."

"When do you wish to reach there, John?"

"I don't!" said he, glancing round at the glory of the morning.  "I
prefer Arcady where the flight of a lark is a joyous wonder and--every
meal a much-desired event.  Yes, indeed, I prefer Arcady."

"So do I, John."

At this he turned to look at her so that their glances met and, though
her eyes never quailed, up from her round white throat to wide brow
crept a sudden, vivid flush.

And then a dog appeared--a shaggy, disreputable-looking animal that
growled and showed his fangs, whereat Sir Marmaduke reached for the
"tickler" which chanced to lie adjacent; but, as he did so, Eve-Ann
rose to her knees, calling to the dog in gentle voice, whereupon the
animal ceased growling to cock an ear, regarding her very earnestly
and, finally, having looked her over, submitted to her caresses like
the intelligent animal he was.

And now was a rustle of leaves and a man stepped into view, a burly
grizzled fellow, square of jaw and bull-necked, whose features,
somewhat blunted by ancient scars and hard usage, Sir Marmaduke's
trained eye was quick to appraise.  At sight of them the man halted and
leaning velveteen-clad arm upon the muzzle of his gun, crossed sturdy,
gaitered legs and stared.

"Well, I 'opes you 're comfortable!" quoth he.

"Thank you--very!" answered Sir Marmaduke, nodding.

"Well, that's a pity too!"

"Why, pray?"

"Because ye won't be, young covey, not long, ye won't.  This here's
private property, this is.  So now--s'posing I tell ye to--pack off?"

"I am," said Sir Marmaduke, scanning the man's features more keenly.

"Wot are ye?"

"Supposing."

"S'posing---wot?"

"That you tell me to 'pack off'!"

"That's wot I said, young cove."

"And that's what I am supposing."

"Well, my tulip, and what then?"

"Why, then, I suppose I shall pack."

"And there be your young mistus stuffin' my Twister wi' noo bread!
Take care o' my dog, mam, 'e 's a bit young-like and apt to snap."

"Nay, friend," answered Eve with reassuring smile, "thy dog won't harm
me.  I love all animals and they love me."

"And mam--no wonder!" said the gamekeeper, touching bushy eyebrow in
salute.

"Now supposing," said Sir Marmaduke, his keen gaze still upon the man's
battered features, "supposing we invited Twister's master to drink a
cup of very excellent coffee?"

"Why then, young cove, I s'pose I might say thankee."

"Then you are heartily welcome--so sit down--Bob o' Battle."

"Eh?" exclaimed the man with a kind of pounce, and became at once a
creature transfigured; his sombre eyes brightened, his cheeks flushed,
his grim mouth curved to sudden smile and he beamed upon Sir Marmaduke
as he had been a long-lost brother.

"Lord love ye, comrade," said he in shaken voice, "you warms my very
'eart--ah, that ye do.  Nobody ain't so called me this ten--ah, fifteen
year; shake, brother, shake!"

So up rose Sir Marmaduke and grasped the extended hand, while Eve
looked from one to the other, great-eyed.

"Fancy you a-reckernizing o' me, young covey!  Fancy you a-knowing Bob
arter arl these years!  Lord love both on us!"

"Eve-Ann," said Sir Marmaduke, "I present to you Battling Bob o'
Battle, one of the gamest, one of the cleanest men that ever tossed hat
into ring, a singular adornment to the Fancy."

"Indeed, John?" she answered, acknowledging the introduction with
smiling nod.  "But pray what kind o' fancy?"

"Mam," explained the old righting man, "your 'usband means the P
Har--the Game, mam, the Ring--fightin'."

"Ah, you were a soldier?"

"Lord love your pretty eyes, mam, no!  I were a pug, a prize fighter--a
pugilist, mam."

"Oh!" exclaimed Eve, with a little gasp.

"Six an' forty battles I fit, mam, and was only beat four times--which
were Jem Belcher, Bob Gregson, Jack Barty and Natty Bell."  So saying,
the Battler set by his gun, seated himself upon the grass and leaning
broad back to convenient tree, beamed from Eve's glowing loveliness to
Sir Marmaduke's aquiline features and smote mighty hand on brawny thigh.

"Lord love arl of us!" he exclaimed.  "This be a rare treat for me, ye
see, it aren't often as folks remember me nowadays and if chance some
do, I dassent let 'em talk--ye see, I'm--married!  And though my Martha
be still a fine figure of a woman--spite o' six children and arl doing
well--Martha's Methody, oncommonly so, and is nat'rally set agin the
Game and arl mention o' the Game.  Pore Martha's so Methody she can't
see no more good in the Game, even now, than she could the first time
she see me--just arter I beat the Snob--to be sure I were a bit
bloody-like--"

"So this was why you gave up the ring, Bob?"

"Ay, 'twere arl along o' my Martha.  Ye see, she were a oncommon fine
young creeter, though Methody, and I were in love wi' her then, like I
am now.  But when a cove's in love, all the fight's took out o' that
cove, and so to please Martha, I (here a profound sigh) quit the Game
and (here another sigh) got married, and now wot wi' marriage and
Martha so Methody, I 've grow'd that mild and meek 'twould as-tonish
you, comrade.'--An' now--fancy you a-knowing me!  When did you see me
fight, eh, my covey?"

"Very many times, Bob."

"Well, name a time, friend."

"I was at the ring side when you beat Scroggins."

"So long ago, my lad!  You must ha' been pretty young then, comrade?"

"I was, Bob.  But then, I 'm a little older than I seem," answered Sir
Marmaduke, glancing across at Eve-Ann.  "I also saw you beat Donelly,
the Irish Champion."

"Did ye, though?--Lord love ye, there was a pot o' money changed 'ands
that day!  Them were the days I were fightin' for Sir Marmyjook
Vane-Temperly and a mighty good patron 'e were--ah, a reg'lar,
true-blue sportsman and bang-up Corinthian.  'Twere 'im as thrashed and
well-nigh killed Buck Mowbray in the Prince's Pavilion at
Brighthelmston.  I were there along o' the Prince an' sees it!  'By
God,' says the Prince, 'Marmyjook 'll murder the Buck--part 'em, Bob,
part 'em.'  Which I dooly done and the Prince tips me ten pound.--  But
there's me wi' a lump on me nob like a apple, and Buck Mowbray a
smother o' blood and his eyebrow gashed open.--O' course, they was to
fight a dool wi' pistols--"

"His--eyebrow?" cried Eve-Ann breathlessly.

"Ay, mam; my Governor, Sir Marmyjook, 'ad marked the Buck for
life.--Ecod, there was wildish doings at Brighthelmston in them days!
They was a wild hell-fire lot--saving your presence, mam; reckless and
free they was, and sportsmen all--leastways, most on 'em.  I mind how
Sir Mar--"

"Suppose you tell us of your own doings, Bob?" suggested Sir Marmaduke,
glancing at Eve's intent face a little askance.

"Nay, friend," said she, "I pray thee tell us more about thy master,
this Sir--Marmaduke."

"Why, so I will, mam, and j'yfully, seeing 't were him as took me out
of his own stables and 'ad me trained for the Ring, God bless 'im!
Though 'e were only Mr. Marmyjook then, for this were twenty odd year
ago, and a tippy young blood 'e were too, so merry and affable, with a
laugh for every one and everything, though a sight too wild an'
reckless wi' his money--cards, d'ye see, mam, 'osses--anything--"

"Ah, a--gambler, friend?"

"Gambler, mam?  Lord love you, I should think so!  Thousands at a
sitting!   Oh 'e were a proper young genelman, I promise you, and
ekally ready to drink and fight wi' any man, being pretty tidy wi' the
mauleys, d' ye see--"

"In fine, a young fool!" sighed Sir Marmaduke, gazing up into the
cloudless sky; "so no more of him, Bob."

"Comrade," quoth the Battler ponderously, "I likes y'r look.  I 'm took
wi' y'r talk and I 'm drawed by y'r ways, but--I don't like that 'ere
last remark, not by no manner o' means!  'Fool' I think it were?"

"'Fool,' Bob, yes."

"Well, my cove, I've worked for that genelman, I 've ate that
genelman's salt, I 've fit for that genelman, ah, an' wot's more, I 've
drank wi' that genelman!  Consequently I must now ax you, very meek and
'umble yet determined-like, to take back that 'ere 'fool'."

"Very well, Bob.  But now tell us about the time you fought John
Barty--"

"Not so, friend," said Eve, refilling the Battlers cup.  "I beg thou'lt
tell us more concerning thy wild gentleman.--  Did he fight the duel?"

"Why, no, mam, 'e did not!  Ye see, my genelman 'ad fit dooels
afore--ah, many's the time."

"Ah, a duellist was he, friend?"

"Dooelist, mam--Lord love your pretty featers, 'e was always at
it--used to go over to France and shoot genelmen reg'lar, same as other
sportsmen shoots game--ah, that 'e did!  So this 'ere Buck Mowbray cuts
'is stick, as you might say, mam,--'ops out o' London, ah, and England
too."

"And did--did thy gentleman--follow him?"

"'E sure-ly did, mam--went a-seeking and a-searching for the Buck arl
the world over.  This was 'ow I come to leave 'is service.--  Sir
Marmyjook leaves 'ome, fame, friends, an' fortin' to go a-lookin' for
the Buck--leaves 'is grand 'ouses be'ind, not to mention the la--"

"Bob," exclaimed Sir Marmaduke, "you are letting your coffee grow cold."

"Why, comrade, so I am, but when I talks of the old times--"

"Friend," said Eve, gently persistent, "wert going to say 'ladies', I
think?"

"I were, mam.  Ye see, being so young, rich and dashing, sich a reg'lar
Tippy and downright 'eavy Toddler, the ladies was all very determined
and set on marryin' 'im--poor, young genelman!"

"Indeed, poor young man!" sighed Eve.

"The old Duchess o' Cambehurst was allus trying to marry 'im off to one
or tother on 'em and come precious near a-doin' of it once!  But the
Duchess, though small, were very determined for her size--a reg'lar
rasper!"

"Then this poor young man escaped being married, did he, friend?"

"Well, I dunno, mam.  I never 'eered as any lady got 'im--but then I
never 'ear nothing nowadays."

"And where is he--to-day, I wonder?"

"Last time I 'eered tell, 'e were back in London--but that were years
ago.  Bless you, mam, 'e may be dead."

"I--wonder?" said Eve, pulling the dog Twister's nearest ear.

"Ah, them was the days!" sighed the Battler mournfully.  "Him an' me,
mam; across two bits o' blood trying their paces--'cross
country--'edge, ditch, fence and wall, straight as arrers!  And me
never sure but I would n't 'ave to bring him 'ome a corpse on a 'urdle!
Lord love us, them was the days!  Look at me now--buried alive, nobody
to talk to about old times, church twice o' Sundays, and Methody at
that!  Oh, love my eyes!"

"Yet you look hearty enough, Bob, ay--and confoundedly happy!"

The Battler lifted his round head sharply to glance at Sir Marmaduke
with sudden keenness.

"Eh, my cove," said he thoughtfully, "you are n't always been padding
it on the roads, no, nor very long, that's sure.  There's summat about
you as brings back old times oncommon--"

"The mention of 'time'," smiled Sir Marmaduke, "warns me it is time I
began to 'pack off'!"

"Suit y'rself, comrade, suit y'rself.  There ain't no call for you to
'aste nor 'urry--ecod, you can stay if ye will, my chap, and as long as
ye will.  Hows'ever, 'tis time I went sure-ly--  My Martha 'll be
expectin' me so I 'd better be off."  Saying which, Battling Bob o'
Battle arose, albeit unwillingly, and taking his gun, turned to Sir
Marmaduke with hand outstretched.

"Comrade," said he, "you 've done me a power o' good, wi' your talk,
this day, and wot's more, young feller, I 'd like to meet ye again, for
there's summat about you as draws me amazin'.  I rackon 't is y'r
voice."

"But I have n't spoken much, Bob," laughed Sir Marmaduke.

"Well, then, mebbe it's the cock o' your eye, but you brings back the
old times remarkable strong.--  Ah, them was the days!  Good-bye and
good fortin'.--  And to you, mam, 'ealth and 'appiness, and if your
first's a b'y, may 'e tak arter 'is father here!"

Then the Battler whistled to his dog and strode away, gun on shoulder,
leaving Eve-Ann with burning cheeks and bowed head.  As for Sir
Marmaduke, he turned rather hastily and went in quest of Horace.




CHAPTER XVIII

WHICH IS MORE OR LESS ASININE

"I fear 'twill tumble off!" said Eve, surveying Horace's well-laden
pack dubiously.

"Child," quoth Sir Marmaduke, wiping perspiring brow, "I venture to
think not.  The surcingle is reasonably tight (here he scowled at
broken finger nail) and so is the strap."

"Yes, John, but that strap should go round his chest, I 'm sure."

"That strap, Eve-Ann, is adjusted to a nicety and in the precise place
Nature intended!  Were our Horace endowed with speech which, thank
Heaven, he is not, he would himself admit the fact."  At this precise
moment Horace turned patient head and, chewing placidly, having
surveyed the strap in question, wagged one ear derisively.

"Egad!" exclaimed Sir Marmaduke.  "We seem to possess a somewhat
extraordinary animal!"  Even as the words were uttered, Horace shook
himself, reared gently, and down slipped packsaddle and panniers; and
freed thus, he began to crop the grass serenely.

"Well--upon my soul!" exclaimed Sir Marmaduke, frowning in angry
bewilderment until, hearing Eve's laughter, he laughed also, though
somewhat ruefully.

And when with Eve's ready assistance he had reharnessed the patient
animal, Sir Marmaduke took up that spike-shod staff hight Tickler and
turned to be gone and then stood, his gaze bent earthwards, lost in
sudden gloomy reflection.

"What is it, John?  What troubles thee?"

"Yourself, Eve-Ann."

"How--pray how?" she questioned in swift anxiety.

"My dear child," he answered very solemnly, "I fear I am no true friend
to you,"

"Nay, dear John."

"I mean that being so very much your elder, it is my duty to protect
you and, more particularly, advise you to the best of my judgment.
Agreed, Eve-Ann?"

"Yea, John, but--"

"Then as your friend, I do most earnestly beg you to return home.
There is nothing now may prevent you and to tramp all these weary miles
to London needlessly, or upon the vague chance of finding a sister who
may not be there, is merest folly."

"Perhaps!" sighed she softly.

"Indeed, it is most certain!" said he.  "For you are now quite aware
that happily all danger--all suspicions--have been diverted from--"

"From me to thee--thy gold-mounted cane, John!"

"Hence your troublesome journey becomes quite unnecessary and, being a
rational creature, you will take my advice and instantly abandon it."

"Shall I, John?"

"Why, of course you will.--  It is now," said he, consulting his watch,
"about thirty-three minutes past eight, and in four or five hours of
reasonably sharp walking--"

"Dost not desire my company any longer?  Oh, John, have I wearied thee
already?"

"This has nothing to do with the matter," he answered, a little
peevishly.

"Nay, forgive me, but I think so," said she, gentle but persistent.
"So tell me, have I indeed worn out thy patience so soon?"

"Nothing whatever of the kind," he answered, more peevishly.  "Such
suggestion is as preposterous and unwarranted as unjust!"

"Oh!" said she, meekly.

"I trample down my own desires in the matter that I may serve you the
more faithfully, child.  I mortify my own feelings--"

"Oh!" said she again, her meekness growing.

"And because I am indeed your friend, I beg you to return at once to
the comfort and safety of your home.--  Child, I am advising you to
your own good!"

"But, John," she murmured, gazing away into the sunny distance, "all
you say is so very--common sense!"

Sir Marmaduke blinked and eyed her somewhat askance.

"Also we are in Arcadia, aren't we, John?"

"Eve-Ann," said he, a little ponderously, "pray remark that I am
profoundly serious!"

"Ay, but so am I!" she breathed.

"To lose yourself in London--friendless and without money--it would be
madness."

"But thou 'rt going there too," said she in the same meek and gentle
fashion and with gaze still on the distance, "so I shall not be
friendless, John."

Again Sir Marmaduke was stricken momentarily dumb.

"But think, Ann, think of the long, rough road--"

"'Deed I am!" said she, and smiled.

"Consider the innumerable annoyances and discomforts you must endure,
the fatigue, the--weariness no delicate creature should have to
encounter.  Imagine all this--"

"I am, John--I have.  And so 'tis I am truly grateful unto the good
Lord for making me none delicate but strong and able.--  So now,
come--pray let us go on."

"Now--God bless me!" exclaimed Sir Marmaduke.

"Amen!" she answered softly.  "I pray he may bless us both and bring us
safely to--our journey's end!  And--O John, thou art not--not sorry to
have me with thee?  Say thou art not sorry."

"Oh child," said he in altered tones.  "Eve-Ann, can you not guess?"
Then, beholding the look in her eyes, he leaned towards her impulsively
but checked himself and turning away, grasped Horace's leading rope.

"Heaven make me worthy of your trust, child," said he.  And so they set
forth together.




CHAPTER XIX

CONCERNS A WITCH AND VARIOUS OTHER EVILS

They went by shady woodland ways and field paths pleasantly sequestered
until the track they followed, having climbed a grassy slope, lost
itself in an open heath, where a soft wind met them, a fragrant air
warm with the spicy odours of gorse and bramble; and here they paused
to consult the compass and look about them.

Before them stretched the Heath, a wide expanse thick with bush and
briar, and dotted here and there with trees strangely gnarled and
stunted; beholding which desolation, Eve shivered, despite the kindly
sun.

"Here is an evil place!" said she, glancing about apprehensively.

"To be sure these briars will make it awkward going."

"Then let us take another way, John."

"But our course lies northwesterly and--"

"Oh John," she whispered, "there is a man watching us, peeping--among
the bushes yonder!"

Glancing up swiftly, Sir Marmaduke glimpsed a weather-beaten hat which,
in that moment, vanished behind an adjacent thicket.

"You saw him, John?"

"Merely a wanderer like ourselves, child."

"But why should he watch us--so slyly?"

"Pray hold our Horace and I will enquire."  So saying, Sir Marmaduke
advanced swiftly and peered around the thicket, only to see the elusive
hat flit from view behind a bush farther away.  Sir Marmaduke frowned
and hurrying forward had a fleeting vision of a man's bowed figure, a
man who, despite his awkward, crouching posture, ran very fast.
Therefore Sir Marmaduke halted and beckoned to Eve, whereat she hurried
towards him--a graceful, light-footed creature who, despite haste,
contrived somehow to keep her petticoats free of the thorny tangles.

"Didst see what like he was, John?"

"Yes, a small, mean fellow."

"He was not a--a Bow Street officer?  Art sure, John, art sure?"

"Quite sure, so do not worry, child."  But reading dread in her eyes
and in the quiver of her sensitive mouth, he began to talk of the
"wonderful city" which had proved a never-failing source of interest
ere now.--  "And London, Eve-Ann, has stood from time immemorial.
Beneath her pavements lie the ruins of many another London,--British,
Danish, Saxon, Norman, age upon age and--"

"Dost think he may be a Bow Street officer in disguise?" she questioned
suddenly.

"Good heavens," he began, but checked suddenly for a voice, very harsh
and discordant, was hailing from no great distance.  They had entered a
grove and here, pitched in the shade of one of these unlovely stunted
trees, they espied a small and very dirty tent, and seated hard by
this, an aged, wrinkled hag, herself as ragged, as grimy and unkempt,
as the tent; and now as they stood, she cried out to them again in
harsh croak and beckoned with skinny finger.

"Oho," she chuckled, peering up at them from beneath a tangled mass of
matted white hair; "aha, wot a fine genelman, to be sure, an' sich a
bonny lady--O lor!  Old Sal's peepers is precious sharp, me dearies,
an' sees as far through a brick wall as most, so ye'd best be kind t'
old Sal an' treat 'er generous, dearies, generous."  Having said which,
she chuckled, nodded, and sucked noisily at a short, black clay pipe.

Leaning upon Tickler, Sir Marmaduke surveyed this ancient being with
profound interest.

"What do you want?" he enquired.

"A penny," she croaked, "spare a penny to poor old Sal!  Spare
tuppence, spare a groat, spare a tanner--oho, spare a shillin' to old
Sal, my proper, 'andsome genelman!"

"And why do you name me 'gentleman'?" enquired Sir Marmaduke, thrusting
hand into a pocket of his rough garments.

"Becos old Sal can see beyond 'er nose--aha, a sight beyond.  Sich a
noble genelman to be a-paddin' it in the dust--and the pretty lady too!
Goin' fur, dearie; goin' fur, me pretty bird?  London, is it?"

But Eve was dumb, staring down at the leering old creature beneath
wrinkling brows.

"London, oho!  Mak' it five bob, me noble genelman; mak' it ten--say a
guinea.  Say five!"

"Why should I give you five guineas?"

"Becos me eyes is so precious sharp!  And your 'andsome face so noo
shaved!  And your fine, curly 'air noo cropped!  And your delicate
'ands so white.  And you sich a grand genelman!  And me sich a old wise
one as sees so much more than others can."

"What do you see?"

"Wot others is a-lookin' for, p'raps--oho!  Wot others is a-seekin',
eh--me fine genelman?  So give old Sal six guineas an' she'll well-wish
ye--ah, and wot's more, she 'll keep 'er trap shut and 'er clapper
still, and 'er son's, and 'er grandson's--nary a tongue shall wag.  And
wot be seven guineas to such a grand genelman?  Lor!"

Sir Marmaduke's delicate brows twinkled slightly and his eyes grew
keenly alert.

"Seven guineas is a lot of money!" said he in gentle, musing tone.

"Seven?  Oh Lorramitey!" croaked the aged creature, with cackle of
laughter.  "Us 'll mak' it eight--an' wot be eight guineas to one o'
the quality--lor!"

"Hum!" quoth Sir Marmaduke, staring down into the evil old eyes that
leered up at him.  "But tell me, why should I pay you eight guineas?"

"For valley received!" she chuckled.  "Aha, an' cheap at the price!
Oho, a valleyble as 'ud be cheap at any price!  So us 'll mak' it ten
guineas an' call it a bargain--hey?  Ten guineas for summat as is
beyond all price, dearie!  Only ten guineas!"  And she leered up at him
again, sucking wetly at her short black pipe.

"Pray let us go!" said Eve and slipped her hand into his; but, sensing
danger, he merely smiled at her reassuringly and turned again to meet
the cunning eyes of the aged hag.

"Ten guineas, you said, I think?"

"Twelve, dearie!  Twelve guineas for old Sal's blessin' and summat as
you couldn't buy from nobody else so cheap!  Fifteen guineas for summat
as others prices at an 'undred, and I be only axin' you twenty for--"

"So it is twenty guineas now?" smiled Sir Marmaduke.  "And--for what?"

"Y'r life, dearie!" screamed the old woman, stabbing up at him with her
pipestem.  Eve's fingers tightened suddenly on his and she gasped,
whereat the old woman nodded and chuckled in evil triumph.  "'Is life,
my pretty!" she cried, "only 'is life!  And all I ax is twenty-five
guineas for poor, old Sal as can see so much further--"

She paused suddenly in scowling bewilderment, for Sir Marmaduke was
laughing.

"Poor ancient soul!" said he and tossed her a shilling.  The old woman
clutched up the coin with scrabbling, clawlike fingers, raving the
while and cursing until she choked.  Then Sir Marmaduke, turning to be
gone, beheld Horace (that omnivorous creature) chewing the tent flap
with much apparent relish, and thus for a moment Sir Marmaduke stared
into the tent's dingy interior; then Eve seized the head rope and drew
the predatory animal away.  But Sir Marmaduke yet stared in the one
direction, for within the tent he had glimpsed a face he instantly
recognised.  Therefore, hearing the old woman calling him, back he went
and watched while, gasping and grimacing, she drew a folded paper from
beneath her ragged apron and thrust it at him.  Then, turning his back
to Eve, he unfolded this paper and saw it was a handbill, headed thus:

        MURDER
  FIFTY POUNDS REWARD
     DEAD OR ALIVE

WHEREAS: upon the 11th. inst. of June, Charles Brandish Esq., of Radley
Place, Harting, Sussex, was barbarously murdered by one believed to be
a PERSON OF CONDITION, this gives notice that any one laying such
information as may lead to the apprehension of the BLOODTHIRSTY VILLAIN
shall--

He had read thus far when the old woman clawed the paper from him and
hiding it beneath her apron, peered up at him with eager cupidity.

"Fifty pound!" she croaked.  "And old Sal's price is only twenty-five
guineas--only twenty-five, my noble genelman, an' I keeps me trap shut
and me son's and me grandson's; nary a tongue shall wag an' all for
twenty-five guineas, dearie!  Come, wot d' ye say now?"

Sir Marmaduke laughed again and taking Horace's rope from Eve, on they
went together, while the old hag shrieked and raved and cursed herself
breathless again.

And after they had gone some distance, Eve questioned him in troubled
voice, casting a fearful glance behind.

"Oh John, that terrible old woman was verily a witch."

"Perfectly!" he answered, a little absently.

"What was it she showed thee?"

"Showed me?"

"Yes, John; I mean the paper.  What was written there?"

"Written, child?  Why--ah--a kind of incantation to be sure, a mere
thing of words--"

"Tell me, John, didst see within the tent?"

"A brief glimpse, yes."

"There was a man hiding there!"

"So I thought."

"But--oh John, didst not see who he was?"

"He seemed to me very like the man Jimmy Vamper who sold us his
companion's supper in the barn."

"Indeed 't was himself and he surely recognised us."

"And what then, Eve-Ann?"

"I fear he means thee harm."

"Nay, how should he trouble us?  He knows nothing except that we are
travellers who sheltered in a barn."

"But that dreadful old witch," said Eve, shivering; "she suspected us,
I am sure--"

"A singularly unlovely creature, a grisly harridan--and yet even she
was innocent once and perhaps reasonably clean and comely," said Sir
Marmaduke, his keen eyes roving.

"Dost believe in spells and witchcraft, John?"

"Well, I believe in witchery, Eve-Ann, which is much the same but with
a difference."

"But why should she suspect thee?"

"Heaven knoweth!" he answered lightly.  "If she be truly a witch it was
undoubtedly witchcraft, black magic, spells or enchantment--"

"Nay, John, 'tis no matter for idle laughter; yonder was evil.  I feel
it--I know it."  Here Eve shivered and glanced back over her shoulder
again.  "And the Scriptures tell us there are witches."

"To be sure!" he nodded.  "There was the Witch of Endor.--  And yonder
is a peculiarly attractive wood!"  And directing her gaze thither with
Tickler, he cast a swift, backward glance in his turn.

"Let us go that way, John, for I do love the woods."

"Which is but natural, being a dryad, Eve-Ann, besides which I--"

"Oh!" she exclaimed suddenly, clasping his arm.  "There is a man
following us!"

"Two men, my child."

"What--what will they do to us?  Ah, have they come to--to take thee?
Oh, let us run; pray let us run, John."

"Not a step!" he answered grimly.  "Bear yourself boldly as if you had
not seen them."

"But why do they creep after us?  John, they mean thee harm.--  Oh, I
'm afraid.  I--I shall swoon--"

"Never dare to!" said he, between clenched teeth.

"But--I--must!" she gasped.  "Oh John, hold me!"

"Eve," said he fiercely, "Eve-Ann Ash, I despise a coward; command
yourself!  Walk on and don't look behind."

"Ah--wilt not run?" she pleaded.

"Not until necessary."

"But these men--"

"Shall not dog us very far if you will obey me."

"Then pray walk faster, John."

"No, they must not suspect we are aware of them, so talk to me."

"What--what shall I say?"

"Anything you will."

"Am I a coward, John?"

"Are you going to swoon, or run?"

"Nay, I dare not, and thou so fierce with me."

"Then I retract the expression and pronounce you no coward, Eve-Ann."

"And yet verily I must be, John, for I fear these men so greatly that I
should now be running my hardest if I didn't fear thee more."

"Child, am I so terrible?"

"Thou mightest be, wert thou not so inhumanly placid and--dignified,
John."

"Inhumanly, Eve-Ann?"

"Whoever saw thy like, John?"

"As to that," said Sir Marmaduke, swinging Tickler in an airy flourish,
"it is as well to be original--exempt from the herd."

"But I would rather have thee a more ordinary person--just an everyday
sort of man, John."

They had reached the woods at last and now, screened within this leafy
shelter, Sir Marmaduke stood to view their pursuers, two ill-looking
fellows who hastened after them.

"What now, John?"

"Take our Horace farther into the wood and tie him securely and pray be
still and silent."

"And what o' thee?"

"I shall accost these fellows."  So saying, Sir Marmaduke stationed
himself behind a thicket on the edge of the wood whence he might watch
the approach of these two men: rough, ill-clad fellows they were, the
one a tall man conspicuous by reason of moth-eaten fur cap, the other a
squat man, plump and evil.  Close upon the edge of the wood they halted
to peer and listen.

"I don't 'ear 'em!" said the tall man.

"Gone to earth!" quoth the other.  "But they can't shake we; Jimmy
swears it's 'im, and a 'undred pound ain't come by so easy."

"Then stow y'r whids--come on!"

"Is y'r barker ready?"

"Ar."

Then the two men stepped into the leafy shade and were immediately
confronted by a grim-faced, determined-looking countryman who bore a
formidable staff shod with an iron spike.

"Well?" demanded Sir Marmaduke.  "What do you want?"

"Nothink!" answered the squat man, recoiling.

"Then off with you, or--"

"Drop that stick!" growled the tall man and whipped forth a small yet
very serviceable pistol.  "Drop that stick--d' ye 'ear!"

"Shoot 'im, Sol, shoot 'im!" cried the squat fellow.  "It says 'dead or
alive', so shoot--"

"So I will, but I'll count three first.--  One--  T--"

Swift and lithe as a panther Eve sprang and, seizing the man's pistol
arm, clung there; and then as they strove together, down upon
moth-eaten fur cap thudded Tickler and, dropping his pistol, the
smitten man fell to his knees and rolled over, whereat his companion
turned and fled but with the long-legged countryman hard on his
heels.--  Again the heavy staff rose and fell.

And presently back came Sir Marmaduke, a little scant of breath, to
find a white-faced girl, pistol in hand, crouched on her knees above an
evil-looking man who lay snoring stertorously.

"John," she whispered, "hast thou killed them?"

"No!" he answered, stirring the unconscious man with Tickler.  "Such
evil things as this, like other vermin, are unreasonably difficult to
slay.  This rascal has merely lost interest in us for the time being;
meanwhile let us depart--"

"Nay, he breathes strangely loud!" said she, viewing the fallen man
with growing apprehension.  "And thou didst smite him very hard, John."

"In the hurry of the moment, I did, child.  But the human skull, owing
to its convexity, is peculiarly adapted to withstand the rapping of
stick, bludgeon, and other weapons of percussion, so do not--ah, calm
your anxiety, our slumberer waketh!"  Even as he spoke, the man
groaned, sat up, clapped hand to head and swore vehemently, but meeting
Sir Marmaduke's eye, immediately betook him to whining lamentation and,
quick to remark Eve's terrified distress, addressed himself to her,
rocking back and forth like one in direst agony.

"Oh mam--oh lady, 'urted bad, I am--dyin', I think, mam!  And if I
takes an' dies, wot's to become o' me poor, old dam--and oo's to pay
for me buryin'?"

"Ah, John," said Eve, staring at the man's contorted features;
"what--what can we do for him?"

"Do, child?  Pray stand aside and I will rap him to a comfortable
unconsciousness again," and Sir Marmaduke swung Tickler lightly aloft,
whereat the fellow sprang to his feet and throwing up an arm to ward
the expected blow, backed away, scowling murder.  Then Sir Marmaduke
lowered the staff and bowed to Eve-Ann; quoth he:

"Behold the virtues of an English quarterstaff which can abase a man
and raise a man with equal celerity!  Rascal," he continued, advancing
upon the man, who retreated precipitately, "begone, take your unlucky
head away, it is a temptation; do not let me see it again or I shall
instantly smite it soundly.  Now go!"

"Well, but wot o' my barker?" whined the man.

"Ah, you mean the pistol?  I will accept it as a gift.  No, I will
purchase it for--one shilling; there it is!"  And Sir Marmaduke tossed
the coin at the man's feet.  "And no recriminations, rogue!"  For the
man was scowling at the shilling and muttering fierce imprecations.

"Well, but wot o' me cap," he demanded; "you 'll gimme me cap?"

"To be sure, you may take your cap."

"Oh, can I!" cried the man in sudden passionate anger.  "'Ow can I?
Look at it, will ye!"

"Oh John!" exclaimed Eve.  "See yonder!"

Sir Marmaduke glanced round and beheld Horace, ears drooping and eyes
blissfully half-shut, munching at a shapeless object that had once been
a fur cap.

"Ha," sighed Sir Marmaduke, turning to the indignant owner, "it appears
that your cap has become fodder for our Horace, and as such I must
purchase this also--a florin.  Take your money.  And remember, you
follow us at your peril!  Should I catch sight of your tempting head, I
shall immediately rap it with my good quarterstaff until you sink to
harmless oblivion."

Having said which, Sir Marmaduke uncocked the pistol Eve had thrust
into his hand, glanced at flint and priming, and dropping it into
capacious pocket, shouldered Tickler, grasped Horace's lead, and with
Eve close beside him, went on into the wood, leaving roguery to snarl
and scowl after him in murderous futility.




CHAPTER XX

THE JOYS OF ARCADY

"Thinkest thou they'll follow us, John?"

"Eve-Ann, I do not."

"And yet they may--they may.  And they will surely guess we are for
London."

"Egad and that's true enough!" said he, glancing at her in quick
approval.  "Most fugitives make for London."

"Then don't go to London, John."

"Where then, child?"

"Anywhere."

"Tempting and truly Arcadian!" he nodded.  "But it were as well to have
some objective, I think.  London lies northwesterly from here."

"Then go southeast, John."

"Northwest or due north awhile should be sufficiently safe course for
us."  And taking out the compass, he set their direction accordingly.

Yet still Eve seemed fear-haunted, often glancing behind; and more than
once she halted him, insistent that some one was following them, yet
though they stood to listen no sound disturbed the pervading quiet save
the vague stir and rustle of the myriad leaves around them.

By thicket and hedgerow they tramped, following no path, by lonely
copse and sleepy stream amid greeny shadows; by rolling meadow, hill
and dale, while the sun climbed high above them, his ardent beams
tempered by a gentle wind fragrant with herb and flower; birds
twittered to them, larks soaring on fluttering wings carolled to them,
and Sir Marmaduke, hugely glad of it all, talked blithely of the
present, drew pictures of a happy future until she, growing glad also,
plied him with eager questions, most of which he answered; thus:

She.  And art thou indeed happy?

He.  What poor wretch would not be?  Listen to yonder lark!

She.  Why truly, 'tis pretty sound and yet no such small reason for thy
happiness.--  Canst think of none--other cause, John?

He.  A hundred!  Look around you.

She.  I see only trees and hedges and grass.

He.  Yet all good things, Eve-Ann.

She.  Ay, but when we reach London, how then?

He.  Plague me not with thought of teeming, roaring Babylon.  We are in
Arcady, God's free gift to man.  We walk with angels about us, spirits
o' the wilderness, spirits o' the trees and rippling brooks.  The birds
are our choristers.  Thus we, content with these solitudes and each
other, should be happy.

She (_tenderly_).  Art quite--quite content with poor me, John?

He.  Yes, most certainly.  You are so perfectly suited to our
surroundings.

She (_frowning a little_).  These--trees and things?

He.  I mean Arcadia, child--this Eden without a serpent, this--this
world where sin and sorrow may not be--our Arcady, Eve-Ann.

Turning at this moment he saw that she was staring back over her
shoulder with that wide-eyed look of dreadful expectancy, whereupon he
stopped and questioned her, a little wearily:

"Child, what is it now?"

"John, I--I'm afraid."

"Of what?"

"Forgive me," she pleaded, for he was frowning at her, "forgive me,
but--I don't know; 't is a sense of coming danger.--  I feel something
evil is following us, creeping after us, always out o' sight,
yet--always following."

"Preposterous!" he exclaimed.

"Now thou 'rt despising me for my cowardice.  I can see it in thine
eyes."

"And yet you leapt upon an armed man, child!"

"Only because I was so greatly afraid, John."

"And probably saved my life."

"I am here but to serve thee!" she murmured.

"And so I am grateful beyond mere words, Eve-Ann.  I grow eager to
prove my gratitude by any means."

"Tell me how, John?"

"Well, by living ever more worthy of your friendship."

"Nay how couldst thou be more worthy?"

"By regarding you always as a charge most sacred to be shielded from
every danger--even--myself, perhaps."

"Thou'rt no danger, nor ever can be--to me."

"No, thank Heaven!" he began, but beholding the look in her eyes, the
glowing cheek, the quiver of ruddy lip, he hesitated and laughed a
little oddly.  "And yet," he continued, "even I am--merely human and
ridiculously young at present!  It is well I should remember this; yes,
a little caution may be necessary."

"Even in Arcady, John?" she murmured.  To which question finding no
answer, he turned and they went on again nor did they speak for some
while.

"Bread, cheese--and onions!" said he suddenly at last.  "Art hungry,
Eve-Ann?"

"Nay, John."

"Then you should be, for it is high noon.  With your leave we will stop
at the first likely hedge-tavern we meet with.  Agreed, Eve-Ann?"

"Agreed, John."

"Bread, cheese, onions and a pint of nappy ale!  Lusty fare, child,
clean and wholesome, which I should have shuddered at a week ago.  Oh,
marvellous!  How vastly changed am I!  And with every day the marvel
grows.--  Sober Middle Age shrinks from me appalled!  The wheel of time
spins backward.  Joy like an elf sits perched upon my shoulder.  Yes,
as I said before, I am ridiculously happy."

"Because of so many trees, so much grass, John?  Oh, can these bring
such happiness or make an old man young?"

"An--old man?" he repeated in rueful surprise.  "Great heavens, I am
only forty-five, and--"

"Oh," she cried, turning on him in sudden passion, "dost think thy
miracle is wrought by a lot o' dusty roads and ragged hedges, and
hateful lumpy fields?  'Tis vain and foolish thought, for hedges be
only hedges, and fields mud with grass on it, and roads mud without
grass."

"Why, Eve, what--"

"Thou'rt blind--blind; so blind thou canst see nought but--silly trees!
That any man so old may be so blind is well-nigh past belief!"

"Is forty-five so old?" he sighed.

"So old he should know better!--  Trees and hedges and fields indeed!
Hadst lived and laboured among them so long as I, thou wouldst know a
tree is only a tree and a field, a field, and never made any old man
young and never will--never!  And what's more, I don't believe there is
any John Hobbs!"  So saying, she flashed scornful eyes at him, and
before he could make reply, hurried on, leaving him to follow as he
would.

"Horace," said he, looking after Eve with thoughtful eyes, "Horace, she
does not credit there is a John Hobbs!  Did you mark that?  Moreover,
my fellow, forty-five is not an age of dotage or decrepitude.--  How
think you?"

Horace merely blinked and switched flies with inadequate tail.  "A very
singular exhibition of temper, Horace, and quite incomprehensible
unless hunger be the reason.--  She may indeed be hungry; heaven knows
I am, and you are, of course, my fellow?"

Horace snorted loudly.

"So be it!" answered Sir Marmaduke.  "Let us seek a tavern forthwith."
At this moment Eve turned swiftly and came hasting back.

"John," she cried distressfully, "oh, John, we must go back."

"Indeed?  Pray why?"

"Because I have lost my purse--all my money."

"Was it very much?"

"Oh, a great deal; all I had in the world!  There was a guinea, a
shilling, two sixpences and a groat!"

"Highly regrettable, but do not grieve--"

"Ah, verily, I am a great, careless wretch!"

"No, you probably lost it saving my life, and a guinea or so is not an
extravagant price for the life of a man--even one so stricken in
years--egad such an ancient man as myself.  Come, let us food-wards."

"But so much money--and lost!  I am penniless!"

"What matter, since we are not.  Money is the one thing we need never
lack."

"Art so vastly rich?  Is John Hobbs a--"

She gasped suddenly and started about, hands clenched against resurgent
bosom, wide eyes staring into the depths of the coppice hard by, whence
came a sudden stir of leaves and snapping of twigs that grew ever
louder.

"Oh, God," she whispered.  "Almighty Father--"

Sir Marmaduke dropped Horace's lead and clasping an arm about her rigid
form, gripped Tickler in ready hand, staring also in the direction of
this ominous rustling.

And presently from behind tangled thicket bobbed a little, old man; an
aged though cheery soul he seemed as, leaning upon crutch-stick, he
peered and nodded and beamed at them in friendly manner.

"That's right, lad!" he piped in shrill yet hearty voice, "cuddle 'er,
squeeze 'er and don't mind me; I be only a old chap.  But Lord, it du
mak' me young again t' see ye!  Warms me old 'eart, it du, so if ye
could manage a kiss I 'd tak' it kind-like.  I be a bit beyond kissin'
a lass these days, but I likes to see them as can.  Love 's a flower
and a thorn, pain an' j'y.--  Love leads to weddin's an' children, an'
care, an' trouble, an' sorrer an' arl manner o' botherations, but it
'as its sweets, for Love as be true love's a blessin' an' a comfort an'
a crown o' glory!  So kiss 'er, lad, an' never mind a old man like I
be--besides, I'll turn me back--ay, I'll go an' leave ye to it.--
Goin' to me dinner, I be.  But kissin' is better than feedin'--unless
you 'appen to be 'ungry, I rackon--and good luck!"

Then the old man flourished his stick and hobbled away.  Eve's rigid
form relaxed, and sighing tremulously she bowed her head between
clasping hands.

"My poor child," said Sir Marmaduke, loosing his hold, "so long as I
have life none shall harm you--"

"Me?" she exclaimed, glancing up at him in wonderment.  "'Tis thyself,
John, thy peril.  Ah, 'tis this that dreads me so!  To think they may
come on thee at any moment--may drag thee to prison!  This was why I
came--to watch over thee, serve and comfort thee--share thy prison with
thee an I may.  For--oh, John--"  A great sob choked her and, turning
swiftly, she clung to him, hiding her face against his rough jacket,
and instinctively his arms crept about her.  She was wearing hood and
cloak, for her new finery was packed carefully away in Horace's
panniers; and her hood had fallen back; he could see her glossy hair,
the tip of a little ear, the smooth, soft curve of her neck.

"Ann, child!" he whispered.

"Ah, no!" said she, her voice muffled in his coat, "alas, alas, I am no
child.  And thou--thou 'rt so wonderful, John, so brave and gentle!
Surely there is none the like o' thee!"

The throb of her heart on his woke in him a new delight with a sense of
all her vivid youth and loveliness, and there rose in him a sudden
yearning hunger all undreamed.  In place of his serene and placid self
was another self, long shackled by an iron will; but now these fetters
were riven asunder.  Within reach of his eager lips was her hair, her
mouth, her creamy throat; his clasp tightened, and he bowed his head.

"And thou'rt a man so sure o' thyself--even here in the wilderness--so
truly good and noble that I am the better, having known thee!"

Sir Marmaduke raised his head.

"God bless you, Eve-Ann!" said he, a little huskily, and, keeping his
yearning gaze averted, he put her gently from him.  Then they went on
again and each was rapt, lost in thought.  Thus they had gone some
distance when Eve stopped suddenly, whereupon he did the like, and,
staring upon her beauty, beheld her more lovely than he had imagined,
and she, meeting this look, flushed hotly, drooping her eyes in a sweet
shyness wholly new in her; so stood they awhile, neither speaking; at
last:

"Eve-Ann," said he and even his voice seemed subtly changed, "why do
you stop?"

"Stop?" she repeated, stealing a glance at him, "why, to be sure, 'twas
for Horace--what hast done with him, John?  Where is he?"

"Where indeed?  I--forgot him, it seems."

So back they went and presently found the errant animal half buried in
a bed of thistles.




"This way, John; there is a lane runs yonder."

"Well, what do we want with a lane?"

"It shall bring us to the road and on the road are taverns, John, and
thou'rt so hungry and yearning for onions."

"Why, yes--of course!" he nodded.  "So I am!"




CHAPTER XXI

OF SUNLIGHT AND SHADOW

Long sunny days, blithe with the song of bird and rippling brook;
fragrant nights jewelled with stars or glorified by the white magic of
the moon; a life care-free and uneventful; a very Elysium wherein they
walked in the sweet communion of an ever-deepening friendship, remote
from the workaday world, wasting no thought on the morrow.

And each day Eve-Ann seemed but to grow in beauty; every hour served
only to teach him something more of the strange creature she was, with
her thousand contradictions and bewildering changes of mood that went
to the making of her loveliness.  Her sincerity and sweet frankness of
soul, her sudden angers and swift repentance, her gentleness and ready
sympathy, her shy coquetry, grave demureness and the hidden passion of
her young womanhood that peeped at him beneath drooping lashes,
whispered to him in her voice, thrilled in her merest touch.

And Sir Marmaduke, very aware of all this, seemed ever his most placid
self, supremely assured and serene.  But there were nights when, seated
alone, looking up at the stars or staring into the fire, Eve might
hardly have known him--a haggard-faced man, haunted by the mad folly
and sordid misery of twenty weary years ago.

Thus sped stealthy Time on swift, winged feet and to-night their camp
fire filled the leafy nook with rosy glow, it danced on rugged tree
bole, upon the little tent pitched hard by, and upon Eve-Ann's
loveliness where she sat perched upon the stool, dimpled elbows on knee
and smooth, round chin in hand, staring dreamily into the leaping
flame.  And Sir Marmaduke, being very conscious of all the lure and
witchery of her, became at once profoundly sententious:

"Time," said he, stirring the fire lazily, "is a wheel forever turning
and spins fast or slow according to giant Circumstance: care and
sorrow, anguish of mind or body--these are grinding brakes and check
it.--  How slowly drag the weary hours!  Then comes Joy and that
strange rare mental attitude we term happiness--and, alas, how speeds
the wheel; the flight of time, how fast!--  Eve-Ann, a week is
gone--fled--vanished so soon; a whole week and we still so very far
from London!"

"Very far!" she answered softly and looked at him radiant-eyed.
"Wouldst be there, John?  Art weary o' the road?"

"Not I."

"Nor I, John.  And thou 'rt sunburned, brown as a gipsy--and it becomes
thee.  Also I mark other changes in thee?"

"And how--what are these changes you remark?" he enquired placidly,
though eyeing her a little askance.

"Well," she answered, pondering on him, lovely head aslant and eyeing
him as a mother might, "one while thou 'lt laugh and be merry, and
other while thou 'lt sigh--very deeply, John?"

"Perhaps because, like Horace, I am grieved with a continual hunger."

"Verily, 'tis joy to cook for thee," said she with sudden smile.  "But
what beside hunger should make thee sigh, John--so profoundly?  And
then," she continued, finding him silent, "I have caught thee looking
at me sometimes, as if--oh, as if I made thee sad.  Pray why, John?"

"Do I, child?  'T would seem I am becoming a somewhat moody person."

"Thou art--at times.  And why?"

"Heaven knows!"

"So shall I if you tell me."

At this, he dropped his gaze to the fire again and was silent so long
that she questioned him anew:

"What art thinking now?"

"That our finances are low.  To-morrow I must to the nearest town and
write for more."

"Thou art a very rich man?"

"So far as money goes, yes."

"Also I find thee a very secret man."

"Yes, perhaps I am."

"Even to me!  'T is strange how little I know of thee--thy past life.
Am I not worthy thy confidence?  Wilt not tell me of thyself?"

"It is mostly a tale of wasted years, child."

"Alas, dear John!  And yet thou hast worldly goods--and thou'rt very
learned--clever.  John, who art thou and what?"

"One who dreamed mightily and achieved very little--who lost faith in
all things and lastly--in himself."

"My poor John!" she sighed.

"And so, enough of myself, for I am a wearisome subject."

"Nay, tell me; was it this made thee a wanderer?"

"Yes, child."  Now, seeing how she hung upon his words, he attempted a
lighter vein: "So forth set I, in my uncomfortable boots, to find the
very treasure of life."

"Yes, John, yes?"

"The best and sweetest gift the gods have to offer."

"Oh," she murmured, "dost mean--love?"

Here, though he had expected the question, he averted his gaze and
stirred a little uneasily; then contrived to laugh.

"Heavens--no!  Nothing so--trivial!"

"Trivial?" she repeated faintly.

"Eve-Ann, the treasure I sought is that which is never justly valued
until lost and then never found but by a miracle."

"Dost mean only fame, glory and the like vanities?"

"No, I seek that which is mankind's most glorious possession, that
thoughtless, unreasoning joy in life which--"

Eve-Ann yawned audibly, whereat Sir Marmaduke glanced up, startled and
not a little shocked.

"I fear I weary you," said he in lofty reproof.

"Yes, John, a little.  Thy speech is so--so ponderous, and I know what
thou wouldst say."

"Indeed?"

"Indeed and verily!  This marvellous treasure that is so much greater
than love or aught else in the world is thy youth, and thou hast found
it because--trees are shady and grass green.  And to-morrow is washing
day!"

"Now what under Heaven--"

"Thy clothes and mine and the tent--all must be washed and I would be
up early therefore.  So good night, John.  Sweet dreams attend thee!"

Being alone, Sir Marmaduke presently lay down and composed himself to
slumber; but it seemed some evil memory haunted him, banishing gentle
sleep, for at last, tossing aside his blanket in feverish impatience,
he sprang up and began to pace restlessly up and down beyond the fire,
head bowed and hands tight-clenched behind him.  And having tramped
thus some while and no respite, he sank down upon the stool, staring
into the fire, hot brow between fierce-clasping palms.

Presently as he crouched thus, there broke from him a sudden, groaning
sigh--and then Eve was beside him, had sunk to her knees, her gentle
hands upon his drooping shoulders.

"John," she murmured, "what is thy grief?  Why are thy dear eyes
troubled?  Let me share thy sorrow!"  Her arms crept about him, strong,
compelling arms that drew him.  And yielding to that tender embrace,
conscious of all her yearning tenderness, cold reason fled, the icy
barriers of restraint were swept away, the serenely calculating fine
gentleman was whelmed and merged in the elemental man, whose fierce
arms clasped and crushed their helpless prey in merciless gripe.

And thus he held her, fast prisoned against his breast, his head bowed
over her as she lay trembling and with eyes shut, quick-breathing yet
utterly docile.

Suddenly she opened her eyes and looking up into the eyes above her,
shivered violently.

"John--oh, John!" she whispered, and covered her face with her one free
hand.

"Eve-Ann--are you afraid?"

"Not if thou'rt--my John Hobbs."

"I am not."

"No, I--guessed this."

"Well, do you fear me?"

Again he felt her whole soft body shudder violently, but his clasp only
tightened, his head bent lower--a whistling breath close by, a heavy
touch upon his shoulder, and starting round he beheld Horace snuffing
at him with quivering nostrils.  Sir Marmaduke laughed harshly and next
moment Eve was upon her feet.  Then he rose and taking up the trailing
picket rope led the errant animal back among the adjacent thickets
whence rose the sudden sound of snapping twigs, a floundering among the
thorny tangles; and guessing what this meant, Sir Marmaduke sprang
thither.

It was very dark among the trees, for the moon was not up as yet, but
the underbrush still rustled before him, guiding him in his headlong
pursuit.  Twigs lashed him, unseen obstacles tripped him, briars
plucked and tore at him, but on he sped, fiercely determined and
relentless.

Suddenly from the gloom ahead rose a cry, the sound of a heavy fall,
and leaping thither, he descried a dim shape above which he stooped
with fierce, groping hands--touched a shock of hair, a throat, a
neckerchief which he seized and twisted savagely.

"Don't--don't kill me, sir!  Oh, Sir Marmaduke--don't kill me--"

"Who are you?"

"Only poor Jimmy, sir; only poor Jimmy Vamper as never meant no 'arm.
O Lord, never choke me, never choke Jimmy; ye won't, ye mustn't!
Listen to me, sir--oh, listen to Jimmy!  I know where she is, I do.
Jimmy's oath!  Tom let it out.  Tom used to talk sometimes when drunk,
so I know where she is--"

"Who, damn you?"

"Y'r poor wife, sir--y'r wedded wife as run off with him twenty
years--oh, mercy, for the love o' God!"




CHAPTER XXII

MR. VAMPER IS INFORMATIVE

The rising moon made a patch of silvery brightness amid the surrounding
gloom, and thither Sir Marmaduke dragged his captive who, crouched
there upon his knees, a miserable, abject wretch, mired and ragged,
pinched and haggard with want, now began to plead his hunger and
supplicate for money.

"A shilling, sir, to buy food, a few pence--" but, meeting his captor's
fierce and stony glare he fell silent and shrank away.

"So you followed us?"

"Only in friendship, sir, Jimmy's oath!  Only to tell ye what you
didn't know and wanted to know.  Tom used to say you'd give your eyes
to find her.  And so, seeing he left me to starve, arter all I done for
him, and me happening so fortunate to chance across you, I followed to
tell you--"

"Where is she?"

"Oh, I 'll tell you, Sir Marmaduke, but I 'm starving, sir, so you'll
give poor Jimmy a shilling or two?"

"Where is she?"

"In London, sir.  And you'll give--"

Sir Marmaduke spurned him with vicious foot.

"Where in London?"

"Southwark, sir, a place called Giles' Rents--ye see, she's lost her
good looks so times is bad."

Sir Marmaduke blenched and stared blindly at the rising moon; then
spoke in the same toneless voice:

"And where is--he?"

"Not five mile away--Godalming.  He's come into money, a fortin, and
left me to starve, damn him!"

"Godalming?"

"Ay, a mansion, blast him!  Next to Lord Wyvelstoke's place.--But
you'll gimme a shilling or so, sir--a few pence."

"Who told you my name?"

"He did, that night you nigh killed him in the barn."

"And your gipsy friends--are they with you?"

"No, no, I told 'em you was for London and they took that road--"

"Why do they follow?"

"Because th' old woman's got some crack-brained notion you 're the
murderer as is looked for."

"And why did you follow?"

"To tell you where you could come at Tom--give 'im another
beatin'--break his arms and his legs--kill him.  He's after your
woman--he is, he is!  Mad for 'er, he was--called 'er Venus, Jimmy's
oath; raved about her face, her shape--if you 'd heard, you 'd ha'
killed him for foul dog."

"I probably shall--"

"Yes, yes--kill him!" cried Vamper with a dreadful glee; "blind him
first, smash him, make him die nice and slow--ah, give him time to
suffer--"

"Now--go!"

"Yes, sir, yes!" said Vamper, scrambling to his feet.  "I 'll go and
think on ye kindly, for Jimmy's grateful, Jimmy's y'r friend, and if
only you'll smash him, Jimmy's your slave, world without end, amen!"
So saying, Vamper turned and stole away into the shadows like the
furtive thing he was.

Then Sir Marmaduke went back to find an anxious-eyed young goddess
standing rigid beyond the fire, a pistol in her hand.

"Ah, 't is thou--thank God!" she exclaimed, and hurrying to him, thrust
the weapon into his grasp.  "Who was it?"

"Our acquaintance, Mr. Vamper.  You were right; some one was following,
it seems."

"What did he want with thee?"

"Money."

"Didst give him any?"

"I did."

"And we so poor."

"Eve-Ann, I fear I startled you a while ago.--  I would beg you to
forgive and--forget."

"Forget?" she whispered, clasping her hands in strange, nervous
fashion.  "You--would have me--forget?"

"It would be kind in you," he said, viewing her shrinking loveliness
gloomy-eyed, "yes, very kind; for when one yields to folly, to forget
it is the act of a friend."

"Folly?  Was this indeed--only--folly?" she questioned in dazed manner.

"What else?" he answered lightly.

"Oh, cruel!  Oh, wicked!" cried she, in sudden passion.  "Thou hast
then shamed me in my soul--but hast shamed thyself more!  Thou hast
defiled a holy thing and so art thou an evil man, thou--thou that I
dreamed so good!"  And shrinking from him, she covered her face with
trembling hands.

"And yet," said he, his voice a little harsh, "God knows I am a man
would not hurt you for the world, child!"  And he leaned yearningly
towards her desolate figure but with hands tight-clenched beside him.
"Go to bed, Eve-Ann; get you to bed, child, and, if you can, remember
me in your prayers--none need them more than I."

"Yea, I will indeed pray for thee," said she, looking at him through
her tears, "but oh, I would thou hadst proved the true man I esteemed
thee."  Then she left him, moving with lagging foot and head bowed, but
reaching the tent, paused and spoke, with face averted from him:

"To-morrow I will go back.--I will go back home."

"Very well, Eve-Ann.--  Good night!"

"Oh, good night!" said she and, sobbing, vanished.

Long after she was gone to bed he sat staring into the fire, yet not
alone, for all about him were the ghosts, those evil phantoms of past
days, jibing at and mocking him in cruel triumph.




CHAPTER XXIII

GIVES SOME DESCRIPTION OF SIR MARMADUKE, BY EVE-ANN

Frying pan clutched firmly between his knees, Sir Marmaduke had just
poised an egg above its rim when Eve stepped forth into the early sun's
level beams and looked about her, heavy-eyed.

"Am I so late?" she enquired, glancing at the frying pan.

"No, I am early."

"And wherefore?"

"Well, for one thing, I am escorting you home to-day, and--"

"But thou 'rt not."

"You certainly shall not trudge back alone."

"But I am not!" said she, gently possessing herself of the frying pan.
"I have changed my mind."

"But you assured me, and very solemnly, last night, that--"

"Never put eggs in before the bacon or they 'll burn."

"But last night you solemnly pronounced your intention--"

"Ay, but that was last night."

"Well?"

"Well, last night is past and done with, and this morning I am content
to go along with thee."

"Oh!" he exclaimed; and then, "Indeed!"  And sat watching her as she
moved lightly to and fro, preparing their breakfast.

"Thine eyes look weary!" said she at last.

"You have not so much as glanced at them!" he retorted.  "But why will
you not return--"

"Because my mind is changed!  Thou didst not sleep very well, I think."

"Well enough, I thank you.  Pray what is your reason for going on with
me?"

"Because in the night I--had a vision from the Lord!--  Moreover,
thou'rt such a helpless sort of man."

"Helpless?  I?"

"Ay--thou!  To put eggs into a dry pan!  And with no ideas to thine own
comfort, poor soul; 't would be cruel in me to leave thee!  Also
cowardly and I yearn to be brave.--  Pray reach me the coffee--in the
canister, yonder."

He did her bidding like one in a dream; and thus she kept him fetching
and carrying until, their meal being ready, down they sat together.

Sir Marmaduke ate in silence, conscious of and musing upon some subtle
change in his companion; and presently glancing up, found her watching
him.

"Pray, how much money is left?" she enquired.

He drew forth his purse and found therein three guineas and some odd
silver.

"Verily, here is enough to take us to London--ay, and back again."

"I doubt it!" said he, eyeing the money dubiously.

"I am sure."

"However, I will write and procure more."

"How long should this take?"

"Eve-Ann, why so careful avoidance of my name?"

"Because 'tis a mystery.  What is thy name?"

"You know it very well."

"Nay, 'twas 'John' I called thee."

"And 'John' am I."

"So I thought--so I believed, because thou didst tell me, but--"  She
shook her head and the doubt in her eyes hurt him.

"And so it is!  Upon my honour!" said he very earnestly.  "Why will you
doubt me?"

"Because I have great reason, sir."

"Child," he began, even more earnestly, "Oh child--"

"Oh man!" she retorted.  "Oh man, canst not see thy child is a woman?
Dost not know--even yet?  Canst not see, hear, understand, thou poor,
blind soul?"

Sir Marmaduke started, and stared at the piece of bacon on his fork
much as if it had snapped at him.

"And all women are wiser than most men," she continued, "especially
such a very dignified, gentlemanly, ponderous person who knows so much
about the great world that he knoweth himself none at all!  Let me
refill thy cup."

"Thank you!" said he, a little dazed.  "I never suspected myself of
being--ponderous."

"Thou knowest thyself so little.  Thou'rt as ponderous as some great
castle, with its battlements and towers and turrets--as stately, as
cold, as hard.--  Here is thy coffee!"

He sat awhile staring into the cup and stirring the fragrant contents
round and round while Eve watched him askance.

"It appears," said he at last, "that I am only just beginning to know
you."

"Because I am a woman."

"However, one short week has wrought marvellous change in you."

"Two weeks and three days!" said she.

"I thought you a sweet country girl, very young, very artless, very
shy--"

"Because thou 'rt only a man!"

"And one who has evidently judged you amiss hitherto--unless you have
consistently acted a part."

"Acted?" cried she, fronting him with flashing eyes, "acted?  Sir, I am
as God made me--"

"An exceedingly beautiful creature!" said he, bowing as he might have
done in Mayfair.

"Oh!" she exclaimed furiously.  "I 'm no languishing, great lady for
thy empty flatteries, but only Eve-Ann with a day's washing to do!"

Sir Marmaduke arose, superb with the dignity of a thousand ancestors.

"Madam--" he began, but her sudden gesture checked him.

"No!" she cried, throwing up her hands.  "Thou 'rt going to be
ponderous.  Pray, oh, pray take the axe and cut me some firewood,
instead."  For a moment he stood motionless, his black brows knit in
haughty frown; then, all at once, he laughed and turned to do her
bidding.

Thus obediently he cut and hacked and chopped, yet doing it with that
nicety that characterised him in most things, cutting each fagot to
precise length and stacking the whole neatly to hand; from which
engrossing business he was aroused at length by Eve calling in startled
tones:

"John, oh, pray come and look at Horace."

Laying by the axe, down he went to the brook where Eve, round arms
bared for her labour, stood regarding a blissfully munching Horace with
eyes of anxiety.

"Dost think he seems quite well?"

"He seems positively sleek!" answered Sir Marmaduke, stroking the
animal's fluffy coat.

"Because I comb him every day.--  But see how uneasily he rolls his
eye!"

"Well?"

"Well, he hath just eaten my largest dish-clout!"

"Precisely, and now glances about for other succulent morsels, the
scrubbing brush, or soap.  Our Horace is an ass of catholic taste.--
And now, if you 'll make a list of what we require, I--"

"Ah, thou 'rt going into Godalming, John?  'T is a large place and may
hold danger for thee!  I will go--"

"No," said he, smiling reassuringly.  "I must go and, after all, what
is to be, must be, and--"  At this moment Horace, stealing nearer,
touched Eve's bare arm with velvety muzzle, whereat Sir Marmaduke
interposed: "Not so, Horace," said he, his fingers closing,
instinctively, upon this smooth, firm flesh.  "Devour my hat, my
overcoat, the tent, but spare me Eve-Ann."

"But oh, why run needless risk?" she enquired, very conscious of that
clasp upon her arm.  "Hast no fear, no dread o' the future?"

"None--except desolate old age."

"Need it--be desolate--John?"

"Old age is always solitary, my dear."

"Surely not if--love be there."

"Eve-Ann, do you still think me an evil man?"

For a moment she was silent, her face averted, nor did she look at him
when she answered:

"Thou biddest me to--forget!  Thou didst name it--folly!  And for this
I did hate thee--at the time, for this was wicked blasphemy."

"And now, Eve-Ann?"

"And now, John, God only knoweth thy evil--what manner of man thou
truly art--and thou didst hurt me very sore, and hast wounded my faith
in thee--and yet--do but ask me and I will follow thee--to the end o'
the world, John."

He loosed her arm, turning from her very hastily, and there broke from
his lips a sound, half-smothered, yet very dreadful to hear from one of
such fierce self-repression.

And in a while, having buckled Horace into packsaddle and panniers, he
waved Eve-Ann good-bye and fared townwards, little dreaming that their
days of solitary companionship were ended.




CHAPTER XXIV

ALARUMS AND EXCURSIONS

It was a brilliant morning with a fresh wind abroad that set leaves
a-quiver with joyous fluttering, and creaking boughs a-swing to cast
their shadows on the white road beneath, a jubilant day in every sense;
yet Sir Marmaduke's feet lagged in the dust as, with head bowed in
troubled thought, he followed whither Horace led, an erratic course
that ended, finally, in a bed of thistles.

"Life grows very difficult!" sighed he, staring at Horace with haggard
eyes.  "Hitherto I have reckoned myself an honourable man."

Horace, finding the thistles beyond his reach, rolled baleful eye at
the speaker and curled mobile lips as in sardonic contempt.

"Life, my Horace, is a drama somewhat crudely constructed--climax and
anticlimax, yet replete with surprises.  And remembering one--Jimmy
Vamper, I think it highly probable your master--_me mihi_--will soon be
in durance vile--the Grip o' the Law; this would, at least, resolve a
certain riddle for me.--And so--come on!"

A lane brought them to a road and the road to a finger post where four
ways met, and against this finger post Sir Marmaduke's expectant gaze
beheld a large bill imprinted in fair black and white, thus:

        MURDER
  FIFTY POUNDS REWARD
     DEAD OR ALIVE

WHEREAS: upon the 11th of June, Charles Brandish Esqre. of Radley
Place, Harting, Sussex, was BARBAROUSLY MURDERED by one believed to be
a PERSON OF CONDITION, this gives notice that any one laying such
information as may lead to the apprehension of the BLOOD-THIRSTY
VILLAIN, shall receive the above REWARD.

The description of the wanted man as follows, viz: About 5 ft. 11 in.
in height of slender yet powerful build.

His eyes dark.  Hair and whiskers black.

Last seen clad in bottle-green coat with gold or gilt buttons, flowered
waistcoat, black kerseymere pantaloons, Hessian boots with tassels and
no spurs.

His age about 36 or under.

GOD SAVE THE KING


The "Person of Condition" stroked smooth-shaven chin and smiled.

"Thirty-six, Horace, my good animal, there it is in black and white!
In the eyes of an intelligent community I am no more than thirty-six.
Incredible, but true, though to-day I feel forty-five or over!--  Ah,
well, Horace, we must each face our several destinies with what
philosophy we may.  Forward!"

Towards midday they reached the ancient town of Godalming and following
the High Street, turned aside into the fragrant yard of a cosy-looking
inn; Horace comfortably stabled, Sir Marmaduke stepped into the tap to
assuage a noble thirst.

And here, prominently displayed, he beheld another bill with the awful
heading:

  MURDER


Sir Marmaduke glanced from the bill to the heavy-faced man who served
him, and nodded.

"Have they caught any one yet?" he enquired, with a jerk of the head
towards the placard.

"Lord love ye, yes--I should say so!  They 're allus a-catchin'
'em--ah, dozens they 've caught an' let 'em go again, on account o' all
bein' the wrong man.  And, wot's more, they ain't a-going to catch the
right un."

"You think not?"

"Course I think not!  Here's weeks gone and they ain't got the villin
yet!  And they won't, not they; the villin's got clean away--London or
the coast, I'll lay."

"Think o' that!" said Sir Marmaduke, giving the ale in his half-emptied
tankard a swirl.  "And no news of him either, eh?"

"Oceans!" snorted the heavy-faced man indignantly.  "There ain't a soul
comes in at that door as ain't heard summat.  The villin 's been seen
and recognised on every road and in every village twixt here and
London--this here murderer ain't a murderer, e's fifty--ah, an 'undred."

"And not even a trace of him then?"

"All over the place!  Joe Miggs, as be ostler at the 'Angel' over to
Petworth, come in tother day wi' some tale o' some chap buyin' a lot o'
noo clothes an' such."

"Sounds suspicious!" nodded Sir Marmaduke encouragingly.

"Well, I dunno--but Joe says as this chap like-wise goes an' gets
shaved."

"He would, of course."

"Well and so might any one--I might, you might."

"True!" sighed Sir Marmaduke.

"Though Joe says as this chap walks out o' the town and vanishes--cool
as any cowcumber!"

"The rascal!" quoth Sir Marmaduke.

"Oh, and why?"

"How dare he disappear?"

"And wot's more, he says this chap buys a lot o' women's clothes, which
sounds ridic'lous, as I told 'un."

"Women's clothes?" repeated Sir Marmaduke.  "Did he, by Jove--the
cunning scoundrel!"

"Wot you mean for disguisin' hisself.  That's wot I thought, dressed up
like a woman, d' ye see?  Well, I 'd like to glimp' my eye on 'im,
woman's duds and all, jest one glimp', that's all!"

"You think you'd know him?"

"Know 'im?  Ar!  Fi' foot 'leven, black 'air and whiskers--as ain't,
same bein' shaved off, eyes dark--"

"And aged," murmured Sir Marmaduke, "aged thirty-six or under!  A
sensible, vigorous, happy age, that!"

"Oh, I 'd know the villin on the spot, and only wish I 'ad the
chance--an' fifty pound be a mort o' money!"

"Which reminds me that I have a letter to write," quoth Sir Marmaduke,
and finished his ale.  "Can you furnish pen and ink?"

"In the snuggery yonder."

Thus presently seated in remote corner beside a lattice that opened
upon a pleasant garden behind the inn, Sir Marmaduke indited the
following letter:


MY FAITHFUL HOBBS AND DEVOTED JOHN

The letter of instructions I left for your guidance will have informed
you that I am upon a pedestrian expedition which, so far, has proved
remarkably fateful and promises to become even more so.  I despatch
this from the Angel Inn, Godalming, whither you will immediately bring
me the sum of fifty, or say a hundred, pounds.  I shall expect you here
without fail, my trusty John, upon this coming Thursday at
approximately two of the clock.  You will enquire for John Hobbs,
whereby you see that I have borrowed your name, though somewhat
inadvertently, my dear John, for what name has been oftener upon my
lips, more especially these last years, than your own?  An honoured
name, John, which you may trust to the keeping of

VANE-TEMPERLY.


Sir Marmaduke was in the act of sanding this letter when he paused
suddenly, sand-box suspended in air, as from the tap issued a clear,
tenor voice which sounded vaguely familiar:

"Is there a Mr. Denton here, m' good fellow?"

"Ar!  'E says you was to go out to him--in the summer'ouse at the end
o' the gardin, though I don't like your sort about--"

"Egad--what's that?"

"Well--look at your 'at; look at your coat; you don't--"

"How, fellow?"

"No offence, sir!--In the gardin, sir--summer'ouse, sir!"

"Brave boy, much thanks!" answered Tenor-voice and thereafter was the
sound of a light, firm tread, a cheery whistling, and, peering from the
window, Sir Marmaduke beheld Tenor-voice for a young man whose tall,
athletic figure was topped by a defiantly worn hat which, despite
divers bruises and dents in crown and brim and general air of
decrepitude, yet preserved some haggard semblance of its one-time
smartness, and perched upon its owner's curly locks at a devil-may-care
angle; indeed a remarkably down-at-heel, out-at-elbows young gentleman
this, whose garments, though jaded by much long and hard usage, sat
upon their wearer's powerful form with an easy jauntiness quite
unsubdued by Fortune's buffets.  With a certain swaggering air, this
young gentleman strode to the summerhouse, bowed and entered.

"Extraordinary!" murmured Sir Marmaduke, and proceeded to fold, seal
and wafer his letter, then, having addressed it, set by his pen and,
glancing towards the summerhouse which chanced to be in view, murmured
again, "Yes, extraordinary!"  After this, he sat as it were in profound
revery and, having mused thus awhile, was about to ejaculate
"extraordinary" for the third time when, hearing a hoarse cry, he
glanced towards the summerhouse and there beheld a convulsed face which
contorted visage he instantly recognised as that of Mr. Denton.  And
behold, as he watched, forth of the summerhouse shot Mr. Denton in a
high state of arms and legs, propelled by some energy behind, which
resistless force presently revealed itself as Tenor-voice, who, urging
his cursing and desperately reluctant victim to a small water butt,
up-ended him therein with surprising ease and dexterity, held him there
kicking and withdrew him gasping.

"That, sir," said Tenor-voice in dulcet tones, "is because you mistook
me for a scoundrel like yourself!"  Here he shook the gasping Denton
and rapped his dripping head, once--twice--thrice, against the water
butt:

"And that, sir, to teach you that I am a gentleman!"

Which done, the gentleman in question picked up his ill-used hat, which
had fallen by the way, dusted it with needless care, and clapping it on
at haughty angle, strode to the adjacent wall, vaulted lightly over and
went his way, whistling cheerily.




CHAPTER XXV

INTRODUCES AN OLD FRIEND

It was in the full heat of the afternoon that Sir Marmaduke reached the
finger post, before which stood an aged person who, hands crossed on
crutch-like stick, was busied in reading the police bill.  He was a
small, slim old gentleman in somewhat shabby attire but his worn
garments seemed dignified by their wearer and, despite age, his white
head was proudly upborne.  He glanced round as Sir Marmaduke
approached, beckoning him with imperious gesture; and beholding this
aged person's features, Sir Marmaduke murmured, once again, the word:

"Extraordinary!"

"Murder," said the old gentleman, motioning towards the bill, "murder
is a terrible thing, my friend, but if ever crime so dreadful could be
any way justified, this was."

"You talk strangely, sir."

"And yet naturally, I venture to think, for I had some small knowledge
of the murdered scoundrel."

"Ha!" exclaimed Sir Marmaduke.  "Killing no murder?  A dangerous
philosophy, sir!"

The aged person turned to scan the speaker with eyes remarkably keen
and bright in one so old.

"Sir," said he, shaking his head, "your speech does not accord
with--your boots!  And your eyes, your voice, your air strike a note
that makes memory.  Pray approach, sir--hum! though an aged person,
most of my faculties still function--and I never forget faces.  And
yours now--yours--ha!  Pray do me the favour of smiling.  Why, surely,
by all that's wonderful--Vane-Temperly."

"I confess it, sir.  But your lordship amazes me!  Am I indeed so
little changed?"

Lord Wyvelstoke laughed.

"Changed indeed, Marmaduke-John, in all but your voice, your eyes--and
those ears.  Gad, sir, I 've pulled 'em many's the time--so, give me
your hand.  You were a strange child, John, a remarkable youth, an
amazing young man, and today!--Egad, the once particular bright
ornament of a--hum--somewhat graceless court--leading a donkey!  Were I
younger I ought to be surprised; as 't is I laud your originality.  You
were always engagingly--exceptional.  But a donkey--hum!"

"He answers, sir, more or less, to the name of Horace."

"And now, my dear Marmaduke, how is His Royal Highness and
the--ha--rest of 'em?"

"Blooming, sir, as usual, I believe."

"To be sure, I heard you had fled the splendid follies of London, shut
yourself in your country place, turned cynic philosopher, girding at
the frailties o' mankind."

"But principally my own, sir."

"And today I meet you sans whiskers, flowing locks and all those gauds
that went to the making of that erstwhile so notable dandy and buck!"

"Alas, sir, today I am older, and yet a little wiser, let us hope."

"And--lead an ass, Marmaduke-John!  The natural, and I hope excusable
question is--why?"

"For one reason, sir, because I happen to be the 'bloodthirsty villain'
of the bill yonder."

Lord Wyvelstoke glanced from the speaker's serene face to the grim
placard and back again, his strong, black brows knit in sudden
perplexity:

"Gad's my life!" he murmured.  "John, you do indeed actually surprise
me, a remarkable feat in itself!  It was a duel, then?"

"Sir, it was murder."

"Then, of course, there is some ridiculous mistake?"

"I am grateful, sir!" said Sir Marmaduke, bowing.  "It is indeed a
mistake but one deliberately occasioned by myself--"

"Your arm, John!  Marmaduke, your arm!  There is a small inn down the
by-lane yonder, kept by an old retainer of mine; come and tell me your
story, for the old, like the young, love stories and consequently are
good listeners."

So, arm in arm went these two fine gentlemen, the younger moderating
his pace to the elder's limp, and with Horace, that sedate beast of
burden, ambling dutifully behind.




CHAPTER XXVI

WHICH DESCRIBES THE HEROICAL ADVENT OF A DEMIGOD

"My superbly arrogant and ridiculously quixotic John," quoth his
lordship, when he had heard the story, its every detail faithfully
recounted, "here is amazing tangle infernally confounded!"

"And becoming more so!" nodded Sir Marmaduke.  "I am wondering if it
were wiser to take chaise to London."

"And carry your rustic nymph with you, John?"

Sir Marmaduke stared thoughtfully out of the window.

"You believe she is sheltering some one, John?"

"I am positively sure of it, sir."

"Whom, do you suppose?"

"An uncle.  One of them, very recently, threatened to kill the fellow,
I understand."

"So your lips are sealed."

"Of course, sir."

"Hum!  And suppose you are apprehended and clapped in prison?"

"It will, at least, be a new experience!"

"Which will require all your philosophy.  Can you prove an alibi?"

"None, sir.  I was alone and within a few hundred yards when the fatal
shot was fired."

"And to be hunted remorselessly, John, to know the hue and cry is up,
hard on your heels!  A devilish trying situation."

"Yet, sir, the quarry, I fancy, knows a certain joy--up to a point.
And should I be taken they must prove my guilt."

"Ay, and by heaven they probably will!  There is your case, John, your
confounded and confounding case, dammit!"  Here Sir Marmaduke stared
silently out of the window again.

"And is she truly worth such risk; is she, Marmaduke?"

"Who, sir?" he enquired absently.

"Why, the girl, John--this girl, Eve-Ann Ash, to be sure."

"Yes, sir.  Yes--she is!"

"To be sure I like the sound of her, Marmaduke, and you paint her
beauties, both mental and physical, in glowing terms."

"Egad, sir, I don't think I even mentioned the colour of her hair."

"Twice, John."  Ensued a moment's pregnant silence, then.  "Do you
propose to marry your lovely Quakeress?" enquired his lordship.  Sir
Marmaduke started and glanced aside; twice he essayed to speak and yet
was silent, all of which the keen old eyes opposite were very quick to
heed.

"'T is very evident, friend John, that she powerfully attracts you and
marriage with any good, womanly creature is precisely what I should
prescribe for your somewhat unique temperament.  So, as your oldest
friend, I ask--do you propose to marry her?"

Still Sir Marmaduke was silent and Lord Wyvelstoke, watching his
furrowed brow with kindly eyes, continued:

"To transform a rustic nymph into a lady o' quality and fashion may
present certain drawbacks--especially for the nymph.  From dairy to
drawing-room--poor child!  And yet, knowing you as I do--or did,
John--I think you might do worse, always supposing she possesses half
the perfections you describe."

"But, 'pon my soul, sir, I protest I hardly mentioned--"

"So much, Marmaduke, that she would seem to have pleased your
well-tutored and somewhat finical judgment.  So, if you intend
marriage, I would give away the bride.  Why not at once?"

"Sir--I cannot!"

"Eh?  You mean--"

"Oh, I have been married these twenty years!"

"Astonishing!" exclaimed his lordship.  "Yes, by heaven, you have
amazed again--astounded even me at last!  Married--so long--you?"

"I was a fool!" cried Sir Marmaduke softly.  "A young confiding fool
and she--well, I married her and then--discovered the blasting truth
too late.--  In the end she eloped with him.--  I tried to kill him and
failed.  I was the fool, the poor, futile fool of the comedy.  And
now--now, when I might--"  Sir Marmaduke sat back in his chair and was
silent, then Lord Wyvelstoke leaned to lay slim, veinous hand upon his
knee.

"Marmaduke-John," said he, "I suggest the time has come to cast off the
incubus.  Let present joy blot out past pain.  Forget, man, and learn
to live, at last!"

"How, sir?"

"Well, there is such law as divorce."

Sir Marmaduke blenched.

"Impossible!" he exclaimed.  "To parade to a gaping world the sordid
horror of it--and worse, it seems, than ever I had dreamed.--  Never!"

"Others have so endured, John, with names as old, as proud and
honourable as your own!"

"So will not I, sir!" answered Sir Marmaduke, between shut teeth.  "It
is too detestably squalid and I am--"

"You are Marmaduke, John, de la Pole, Vane-Temperly!  Forget your
damnable pride and take your only course to freedom and happiness."

Sir Marmaduke rose and crossing to the window again stood there, silent
for so long that his lordship stirred, sighed and spoke:

"And the man, John, was Thomas Mowbray, I think."

"Yes, sir, my one-time friend!  Scarcely a fortnight since I saw the
scoundrel in a barn, a ragged, miserable wretch.--To-day he is your
neighbour, I hear.  He inherits from his cousin, I presume?"

"True!" sighed Lord Wyvelstoke.  "A good man is dead and buried and a
bad one reigns in his stead--in so short a while."

"Yet, sir, I venture to prophesy he will not reign long."

"John, what d' ye mean?"

"I intend to shoot him, sir, so soon as a meeting can be arranged."
His lordship rose and, limping forward, laid his hands upon Sir
Marmaduke's shoulders.

"To what end?" he demanded.  "The wrong done so long ago cannot be
mended by bloodshed."

"Sir, this scoundrel in his misery and rags was merely vile, but as a
man of position he becomes a menace also, and I propose to--remove him."

"Precisely.  But--what of your gentle Eve-Ann?"

Sir Marmaduke took up his hat and stood fumbling with it.  "Kill the
fellow if you will, John; your pistol hand is deadly as my own, I know,
but--after?  What?"

Sir Marmaduke still fumbled with his hat.

"However," continued his lordship, "I confess a wish to see and talk
with your handsome Quakeress and, referring to your present awkward
plight, why not become my guests awhile, you and she?  The law will
hardly seek a murderer beneath my roof!"

"Sir, you are infinitely good, but--"

"Which means that you refuse?  Well, so be it, but at the least take
reasonable precautions and remove your present place of
encampment--where is it, by the by?"

And when Sir Marmaduke had described the place as fully as he might,
its situation and bearings, Lord Wyvelstoke stood a moment lost in
smiling thought.

"So young, my John, so beautiful--in spite o' which, she cooks and
washes for thee--a dryad domestic!  Oh, happy man, thine altruism
brings its own reward, I think.  Now harkee, John, I shall institute
enquiries far and wide; I shall pull strings, set divers wheels a-going
and, should danger of arrest threaten, you shall be warned by one, a
trusted agent--you remember Atkinson, I think?"

"Very well, sir."

"He shall bring you to a haven where you may lie secure.  And now,
John-Marmaduke, you have honoured me with your confidence, so will I
plague you with my advice, for I am an old man and you are--"

"Forty-five, sir!"

"Ha!" nodded the earl.  "Too old for impulse yet young enough to blast
your happiness for sake of an idea!"

"Happiness, sir?"

"Home, John!  A wife, Marmaduke!  Children, Vane-Temperly!
Responsibility for the coming generation and world in general, sir!
Ah, my John, surely man is born for greater things than mere happiness
and, these achieved, who knows but happiness shall crown him, after
all, here or--in the hereafter."

And thus, talking together like the old friends they were, these two
fine gentlemen walked back through the afternoon sunshine, the patient
ass plodding in their rear.  Thus evening had begun to fall when Sir
Marmaduke, turning from the dusty road, began to traverse a certain
leafy path, then halted in sudden, dreadful dismay as from the shady
thickets before him rose a noise of desperate strife, gasping oaths, a
fierce laugh, the thudding smack of heavy blows.  Guided by these
appalling sounds, he hastened forward and reaching the little glade,
that sequestered nook, beheld three men who staggered to and fro in
close affray; but as Sir Marmaduke stepped forward, one of these
combatants broke free and using his fists with remarkable precision and
address, drove his assailants reeling backwards, and leaping in before
they might recover, knocked them sprawling with powerful left and right
in the most approved heroic manner.

A tall, athletic, very down-at-heel, extremely cheerful young man who,
smiling triumphantly above his fallen antagonists, addressed them in
accents of a dulcet tenor, albeit somewhat breathlessly:

"Stand up again, my rosebuds; never say die!  Up and fib, my tulips--or
shall I wipe--my boots on you?"  But the battered foes, muttering
darkly, scrambled up and made off at speed, leaving their debonair
conqueror to stand master of the field like the veriest hero of romance.

And it was now that Sir Marmaduke turned to find Eve-Ann at his elbow.

"O, John!" she exclaimed in awed tones, clasping her hands and viewing
the Conquering Hero in an ecstasy.  "O, John--what a glorious young
man!"




CHAPTER XXVII

MORE CONCERNING ONE, RUPERT BELLAMY, A CONQUERING HERO

The Conquering Hero, seeing the enemy in full retreat, picked up his
sorry hat and began to smooth its weather-beaten nap very tenderly with
ragged elbow, whistling soft but cheerily the while; him Sir Marmaduke
now approached with his stateliest air.

"Pray, sir," he enquired, "to whom are our thanks due?"

The Conquering Hero bowed with a flourish of shabby hat; quoth he:

"To no one in particular, sir, who being on his way to anywhere you
please, heard this lady cry out and espying the da--I mean desperate
villains, fell upon 'em forthwith and--er--very happy, I 'm sure."

"And oh, 't was very brave of thee!" exclaimed Eve-Ann with look and
tone exactly suited.  "I am deeply grateful to thee, friend."

The Conquering Hero flushed youthfully and bowed to her in turn and so
profoundly that he dropped his hat and picked it up again, redder in
the face than ever.

"Madam," said he, "a--ah--'pon my soul it was nothing--I mean, of
course, very happy to serve you and--get in a brace of
levellers--er--that is to say, I am always glad of a little fibbing
and--d' ye see, the pleasure and gratitude are entirely mine, I assure
you, and--  Good evening!"

"Nay, young man, I beg thee to tell me thy name, that I may remember it
in my prayers."

The Conquering Hero seemed to start slightly and staring hard at his
weather-beaten hat, turned it aimlessly this way and that.

"My name, madam, is Rupert Bellamy and I--I'm much obliged, I'm sure!"

"'T is a pretty name and suits thee, friend Rupert Bellamy, for thou
hast a good face, though thy hair needs the comb--"  Mr. Bellamy
dropped his hat again.

"And art thou indeed a wanderer, young man?"

"Exactly, madam, I rove--here and there and--ah--in short, I wander."

"Then mayhap thou'rt hungry?"

"Candour, madam, obliges me to--admit that you are right; I have been
hungry for weeks."

"Then tarry and sup with us.  John will be glad of thy company.  Thou
wilt, John, I think?"

"Certainly!" answered Sir Marmaduke and turned away to loose off
Horace's burdens.

"So then, thou wilt sup with us, friend Rupert."

"You are vastly kind," he answered, "but--" and, hesitating, he glanced
from his lovely would-be hostess to Sir Marmaduke's uncompromising
figure and shook his curly head, "under the circumstances I had best be
going, madam."

"What circumstances?"

"Such, madam, as are quite beyond our control," and once again his fine
eyes turned, a little wistfully, towards Sir Marmaduke, so that Eve
glanced thither also and beholding all the rigid aloofness of that most
eloquent back, her red lips curved to the ghost of a smile.

"And so, madam, farewell!"

Sir Marmaduke turned to glance where they stood surveying each other; a
glorious pair and splendidly young, vivid with life and the sheer joy
of it, she all womanly loveliness from head to foot, he a gallant,
devil-may-care fellow, nay--a young demigod superbly confident in his
strength.

"But," said she softly, "John would have thee sup with us."

"Infinitely kind in him," answered Mr. Bellamy, contriving to look
handsomer than ever, "but--ah--all things considered, I--"

"Will accept our hospitality, of course!" said Sir Marmaduke a little
dryly.

"On the contrary," retorted Mr. Bellamy with dignified gesture, "I beg
to make my--"

"A beefsteak, grilled," continued Sir Marmaduke, smiling, though
somewhat dryly, to be sure, "should appeal to heroes and
even--demigods."

"Beef--steak!" sighed the demigod, looking surprisingly human.

"So, Mr. Bellamy, if you will bring an armful of kindling from the
woodpile yonder, while I collect the embers of the fire which it seems
was trampled in the affray, supper will be ready the sooner."

The demigod thrust fingers through tousled, golden hair and glanced
from Sir Marmaduke to the woodpile and back again then, smiling
radiantly, reached out and grasped Sir Marmaduke's hand, shaking it
like the warm-hearted, ingenuous youth he was.

"Sir, 'pon my soul, 't is uncommon good and kind in you!" he exclaimed.
"Makes a lonely fellow feel at home, y' know--friends and so forth.--
Grilled steak!  O Lord, 't is a--a--in short, a rare luxury these days
and I, begad, I 'm very confoundedly grateful, and the dooce of it is I
can only say thankee!"

"However," answered Sir Marmaduke, smiling, and more naturally now,
"you may help me with the fire."

"Ah--b'George!  Wood, of course!"  And off strode Mr. Bellamy,
whistling cheerily.

Now, turning suddenly, Sir Marmaduke found Eve-Ann watching himself
very intently where she sat busily preparing supper.

"Yes, my dear," he nodded.  "I agree with you--he is a glorious young
man."

"And--so brave, John!"

"Of course, Eve-Ann."

"And very strong, John!"

"Very."

"And so--young!"

"And consequently, child, I have decided to take him with us on our
wanderings."

"Oh!" she exclaimed, in sudden, breathless fashion, and dropped the
potato she was peeling.  "But why, John, why?"

"Because," he answered, picking up the errant vegetable, "he is indeed
so gloriously young."

"But--will he come?"

"Oh, yes, child; my mind is quite made up."

In due season the steak was grilled and eaten with such wholesome
enjoyment as cometh only of healthy appetite, of good company and of
the clean, fresh open air, which last is of itself ten thousand times
more stimulating than any of your cunning aperitives, sauces,
seasonings or relishes whatever.

And now, the platters duly washed and set away and the fire made up,
they sat, all three, in friendly communion while a young moon shyly
peeped down at them through faint-whispering leaves, filling the little
glade with its soft, mysterious light.

Sir Marmaduke gazed thoughtfully into the fire; Eve-Ann, seated upon
the stool, elbow on knee and chin in hand, watched his lean high-bred
face beneath puckered brows; while Mr. Bellamy, broad back against
convenient tree, glanced at Eve, at Sir Marmaduke, the fire, Eve, a
grey form among the adjacent shadows that was Horace, at Eve, the moon,
Sir Marmaduke and Eve and sighed.

"Beautiful!" he exclaimed suddenly.

"Indeed?" enquired Sir Marmaduke.  "To what or whom do you refer, pray?"

"To everything, my dear Hobbs!  The moon, yonder, the world in general
and this part of it in particular; this cosy fire, the jovial spirit of
good-fellowship and--ah--in short, to life.  Life seems an excellent
thing, after all, full o' promise, possibilities and--so forth."

"You are still thinking of the steak, I imagine."

"Mr. Hobbs, I 'll not deny it.  Gad, I 've tasted nothing like it since
I became a homeless wanderer and confounded outcast."

"Poor youth!" sighed Eve.  "Art indeed homeless and friendless?"

"Absolutely!" answered the outcast, with a cheery smile.  "You behold
in me the victim of Circumstance and a Soulless Relative, for I am
afflicted with an uncle!"  Here Mr. Bellamy scowled, sighed, shook his
handsome head, and picking up a stick that chanced near he poked the
fire viciously.

"Ah, an uncle?" repeated Sir Marmaduke.

"Egad, yes, Hobbs, and no less a person than that once famous buck and
friend o' the Prince Regent--Vane-Temperly."

"Oh!" exclaimed Eve and glanced furtively at Sir Marmaduke.  "And what
was thine uncle's other name, friend?"

"Marmaduke, John, Anthony Ashley, de la Pole, madam."

"But is all this only one uncle, friend Rupert?"

"Merely one!" nodded Mr. Bellamy.  "Indeed the merest one, although he
sounds like a half a dozen and with pride enough for a thousand
ordinary uncles, an overpowering uncle with the haughtiest air,
enormous influence, vast possessions and the soul of a rabbit, my dear
Hobbs."

"A remarkable person, Mr. Bellamy!  Pray continue."

"Ha, this reminds me, Hobbs!  If we are to be companions, fellow
travellers and so forth, as you were good enough to suggest, let us
sink all social distinctions; my name is Rupert, so do not 'mister' me,
I beg."

"I am grateful for such condescension, Mr. Bellamy.  So, Rupert, pray
continue.  Your description of this most unworthy uncle has a peculiar
interest for John Hobbs.--  He neglects you, I apprehend?"

"Consistently, m'good John.  Nature made him my uncle in the confident
expectation that he would fulfill his destiny and--ah--do the right
thing by his orphaned and dutiful nephew.  I ask you, John, as a man of
sensibility, what are uncles created for?  You answer, To fulfill their
sacred obligations to their nephews!  Precisely, John!  But my Uncle
Marmaduke, Fortune's pampered minion rolling in Luxury's lap, utterly
regardless of his avuncular duties, has spared no thought for the
lonely, orphaned child, the solitary boy, the struggling youth or the
embittered man but left him to--ah--in short, to struggle."

"Unhappy young man!" murmured Sir Marmaduke.

"With the natural result," added Mr. Bellamy, folding his arms and
nodding at the fire, "that I sit here to-night Pride's disconsolate
victim.  And yet upon the whole, my dear John, I--though perfectly
destitute, was never so content as now and so, although my pockets are
empty and my garments not all they might be, you shall find me, I hope,
a worthy companion and, in short--"

"A gentleman!" said Sir Marmaduke, whereupon Mr. Bellamy looked at him
with eyes eager-questioning and wistful, glanced down at his own
dilapidated exterior and shook his head ruefully.

"The fact is somewhat apt to escape notice, I fear," sighed he.

"You made it sufficiently obvious this afternoon," smiled Sir
Marmaduke.  "I allude to a certain water butt."

"Eh--you saw?  Fellow deserved it, John!  Fellow 's a most complete
scoundrel!"

"Beyond question!" nodded Sir Marmaduke.

"Who?" enquired Eve, stifling a yawn.

"Let me tell you!" quoth Mr. Bellamy joyously.  "In my dismal ramblings
of late, I 've met some queer characters, miserable, homeless dogs like
myself and most of 'em rogues.  Among 'em I fell in with a pitiful sort
o' rascal called Vamper."

"Yes--yes?" said Eve-Ann in sudden awakened interest.

"Well, he told me of a gentleman--gentleman, mark you, who had a job to
offer would pay me well.  So, directed by Vamper, I went to the
fellow's inn, met the fellow, talked with the fellow and naturally
soused the fellow in the water butt--"

"Oh!" exclaimed Eve.  "But why?"

"Well--ah--for one thing, the water butt stood conveniently to hand,
you see, and besides the fellow needs drowning."

"And his name," said Sir Marmaduke, "is Robert Denton."

"Ah!" exclaimed Eve-Ann, frowning at the fire.

"What, d' ye know of the scoundrel, John?"

"We do.  And he offered you money perhaps to help in abducting Eve-Ann?"

"By heaven, he did!  The fellow described this place very particularly,
so when I 'd soused the fellow I rambled this way in hopes of a little
fibbing."

"Ah, now I understand!" sighed Eve.  "Oh, hateful!--  I had almost done
the washing, John, when two men crept out of the bushes yonder.  At
first I was only surprised, then I grew afraid and tried to run to the
tent for the pistol, but one of them caught me and then--"

"I grassed him!" smiled Mr. Bellamy.  "And a very pretty turn-up we had
while it lasted.  Did me a power o' good!"

"If Denton described this place so accurately," said Sir Marmaduke, "it
is evident Vamper must have told him.  To-morrow we will remove."

"My dear Hobbs, why?" Rupert demurred.  "Where's your hurry?  The
situation's ideal for camping and so forth, grass, trees, water.  And
we are more than a match for this Denton fellow and his rascals any
time, you and I--and miss, I mean 'madam'--"

"Thou may'st call me Eve-Ann, friend Rupert," said Eve, rising, whereat
he sprang lightly afoot, "for verily thou hast proved my friend to-day
and I am grateful, and so before I sleep, I shall pray God's blessing
on thee, Rupert Bellamy," and she reached him her hand.  And taking
that slim yet capable hand, he looked at it as if he would have kissed
it had he dared, shook it instead--let it go much as it had been some
holy relic.

Then Eve turned to Sir Marmaduke, looking at him with slow, strange
smile.

"See now, John, how strange are the Lord's ways, to send this Rupert to
thee here in the wilderness to be thy friend henceforth, I pray to his
good and thine own."

For some while after she had left them they sat in a thoughtful
silence, though more than once Mr. Bellamy glanced at his companion as
if about to speak but checked himself as often; at last, after hemming
once or twice, quoth he:

"Hobbs, old fellow, will you be good enough--ah--that is--may I ask you
a question?"

"Rupert, you may."

"Well--and pray don't think me impertinently curious, m' dear John, but
if we are to be friends indeed--as she said--comrades and so forth,
well--d' ye see?  Eh?"

"You are, perhaps, a little vague," suggested Sir Marmaduke.

"Er--yes, confoundedly, John.  But what I would put to you--that is,
the question I would ask is--ah--is--"

"Well?"

"Is she--Miss Eve-Ann--madam--is she your--wife?"

"She is not."

"Ah--pardon me!  Your daughter."

"No!"

"I--I beg ten thousand pardons, my dear fellow!  Your niece."

"We are not related."

"Ah, to be sure!  Certainly!  Quite so!  Not related--no!"

"Nor are we lovers."

Here Mr. Bellamy, being a little agitated, took off his hat, glanced at
it and put it on again.

"And now," said Sir Marmaduke, smiling somewhat grimly, "I would beg
you to answer me a question."

"With joy, m' dear John."

"Then, pray, what is the immediate cause of your so evident
destitution?"

Mr. Bellamy sighed and shook his curly head.

"Fate, my dear fellow; Destiny, John--in shape o' the elusive
quadruped, the pasteboards, the nimble bones, in short--gambling--
'Tis in my blood, for in this one particular I take after my confounded
Uncle Marmaduke; like him I am, or was, a gambler--though never,
no--never so reckless.  And now, Johnny, I'm infernally sleepy so I'll
bid ye good night and pleasant dreams."




CHAPTER XXVIII

DESCRIBING TWO BOW STREET RUNNERS, AND A CONFABULATION

Sir Marmaduke was chopping wood for the fire when he started in
surprise, as borne to his ears came a burst of rippling laughter, a
trill joyous and light-hearted such as he had never heard from Eve's
lips before, and he turned to glance where she and Rupert were busied
side by side down by the brook.  And now, listening to their merry
voices, he set by the axe and, sighing, sank upon the stool, staring
down at the square toes of his clumsy shoes, rueful and a little
dismayed.

"Youth!" he murmured at last.  "Youth will to youth, and poor, sober
Middle Age may go hang for tragic fool!  Surely there is no fool like
your fool of middle age."  Here he bowed head on hand dejectedly and
fell to deep and bitter revery until, roused by a sound near-by, he
turned and saw Horace, who ceased munching to cock a shaggy ear at him.

"Horace," sighed Sir Marmaduke, shaking gloomy head, "if thou 'rt a
donkey I am the greater ass and grieve because yonder two children
laugh together.  Hark to them; the world is their playground while the
sun shines and thou and I are out o' mind.--  I am elderly
and--ponderous and may not even if I would--by reason of a spiteful
fate.  And he is gallant with joyous youth and free as the winds of
heaven to woo and--win.  Well this should resolve me this difficult
situation.  This would mean happiness for her (I think); redemption and
an assured future for him (perhaps).  And yet, being human, I grieve
and hanker for--the Might-Have-Been!  So, my pipe is out o' tune,
Horace; my cake is dough, life stale and the world an unprofitable,
dreary waste!  Thus here I sit extremely middle-aged yet grieving like
any callow youth.  Shame on me, Horace; forty-five should be of sterner
stuff!  Let us then, like true philosophers, say that what is to be,
the best must be, so all's well with the world--and the like
sophistries.  And thus, forgetting the Might-Have-Been, laugh at
Melancholy and make a mock of broken dreams.--  And to-day is Thursday,
the day appointed to our faithful John, so will we incontinent steal
hence to meet him, leaving them together.  Youth with youth, to prattle
in the sunshine."

So saying, he arose, albeit somewhat heavily, and proceeded to gird
Horace with packsaddle and panniers, which done, he clapped on his
wide-eaved hat, donned his coat of homespun and reaching the Tickler,
that formidable, iron-shod weapon, took Horace by the halter and set
forth.  But he was not to steal away thus, for he had gone scarcely a
dozen yards when Rupert intercepted him:

"Old fellow," he began cheerily.

"Young man!" retorted Sir Marmaduke sombrely.  Mr. Bellamy beamed and
clapped him on the shoulder:

"Whither away, my tulip?" quoth he cheerily.

Sir Marmaduke blenched and before he could find an adequate rejoinder,
Eve was beside him, her cheeks flushed, lovely eyes a-dance, herself
more radiantly alluring than usual--or, at least, so it seemed to Sir
Marmaduke.

"Why, John!" she exclaimed.  "Where art going?  What is it?"

"Business," he answered, smiling.

"Ah, thou'rt going to Godalming.--  Shall I--shall we go with thee?"

"No, no, bide you here, child.  You will be safe with Bellamy."

"Trust me for that, John, old fellow!"

"But," said Eve rebelliously, "'t is my desire to go with thee, John."

"And it is my will to go alone," said he gently.  "You are better here."

"Am I, John?" said she, looking at him very wistfully.  "I wonder why?"

"It will be hot and dusty on the road, Eve-Ann--"

"Dusty!" she repeated, flashing her eyes at him.  "Did I mind the dust
before?"

"I shall return about tea-time, I hope."

Eve merely nodded and went back to her cooking; therefore when he had
gone some little distance he must needs glance back, and saw Eve and
Rupert bending above the great stew pot, their comely heads very close
together.  Sir Marmaduke frowned and thrust the Tickler sharply into
Horace's plump ribs, whereupon that patient animal turned to view him
with eyes of such reproach that Sir Marmaduke, becoming apologetic,
pulled his nearest ear caressingly.

"Petulance, Horace," said he, "merest petulance which I will thank you
to overlook.  Also thy ruffled feelings will I cherish later with a
plenitude of oats."

Heedless of dust and sun-glare he had trudged on some distance when
becoming conscious of heavy footsteps behind, he glanced over his
shoulder and beheld two men who walked close together, conversing
fitfully in muttered undertones and, beholding a vague furtiveness in
their air and their portentous red waistcoats, his gloom gave place to
a sudden exhilaration.  Were these men dogging him?  With a certain
joyousness he proceeded to test this and increasing his pace, strode
along with such hearty good will that Horace's plodding amble became a
shuffling trot; and yet, when after some half mile he reached the
crossroads and glanced back, he saw the two men were as near as ever;
therefore he paused opposite the finger post with its placard and
seating himself on the grass beside the way, watched these men as they
approached.  Burly fellows they were, yet each the opposite of the
other in that one smiled and one frowned.

"Goo' morning, chum!" quoth the smiling man, halting to beam down upon
Sir Marmaduke while his comrade, halting also, scowled blacker than
usual.

"And good morning to you, both of you," answered Sir Marmaduke
cheerily.  "A fine day for walking, though dusty."

"And precious 'ot!" said the smiling man.

"Are you going far?"

"Why, that depends, chum--don't it, Toby?"

"Ar!" growled the gloomy man.

"Depends on what?"

"Well, on yourself p'raps, chum--eh, Toby?"

"Ar!"

Sir M.  (_leaning back the better to stretch his legs_).  How on me?

1st man (_mysteriously_).  We'm a-coming to that.

Sir M.  (_pointing to police bill with contemptuous gesture_).
Meanwhile, what do you think of that?  Fifty pounds!

1st man.  Why, that's the question, chum--wot do you think of it?

Sir M.  That any murderer would be cheap at the price, especially if he
be a Person of Condition.

1st man (_mopping perspiring brow_).  Fifty pound be a lot o' money.

Sir M.  Not for a Person of Condition.

2d man (_surveying Sir Marmaduke in gloomy speculation_).  Five foot,
eleven!

Sir M.  (_nodding lazily_).  That is about my height.

2d man (_scowling and intent_).  Ar!

1st man (_also intent_).  But--black whiskers, Toby!

2d man.  Razors, Bob!

Sir M.  (_smoothing new-shaven chin_).  And aged thirty-six or under.

2d man (_scowling imperious_).  Oh?  And 'ow hold might you be?

Sir M.  (_smiling_).  About as old as I seem, my lad!  And looks are
often deceiving.

1st man (_seating himself beneath the finger post and removing dingy,
white hat to use his dingy handkerchief_).  Fifty pound is a sight o'
money for jest arf a dozen words, chum!  And the money 's yourn if you
can say them words.

2d man (_scowling and suspicious_).  Not 'im!

Sir M.  (_serenely_).  Try me.  I'd say a good many words for fifty
pounds.

1st man.  Well, then, 'ave y' ever seen any cove anywheres, like this
cove in the bill yonder--hey?

Sir M.  (_conning the bill over_).  "About five feet eleven--hair and
whiskers black--bottle-green coat with gold buttons--flowered
waistcoat--Hessian boots--age about thirty-six or under?"  To be sure,
I have.

1st man (_starting eagerly_).  Eh?  You 'ave?

Sir M.  Many a time.

1st man.  Where, chum, where?  Spit it out, say where, and the money's
yourn.

Sir M.  In London at St. James or Mayfair you may see
scores--hundreds--o' the quality dressed exactly so.

2d man (_fiercely_).  Yah!  The cove's flamming us, Bob.  Lookee here,
you--don't come none o' your games wi' we--

Sir M.  (_smiling_).  Emphatically no!  I should never choose you for a
playmate; your face forbids, Toby.

2d man (_threateningly_).  Wot's my face to you?

Sir M.  Nothing, thank heaven!

2d man.  Well, then, cut your gab--and lively, d' ye hear?  You got too
much to say--ah, and you says it wrong.  You ain't wot you seems to be,
you ain't.

Sir M.  True enough.  For instance, I have not always led an ass.

2d man.  No, I thought not.

Sir M.  No, I have sometimes, when younger, suffered asses to lead me.

2d man (_loudly_).  Yah!  Speak up an' no gammon!  Gimme an account o'
yourself; who are ye, where d' ye live?

Sir M.  I am a solitary soul and I live here and there--but who are
you, pray?

1st man.  Bow Street, chum, officers both and--

2d man (_roaring rage fully_).  Are you a-goin' to gimme a straight
answer?

Sir M.  Pray don't bark.

2d man (_clenching fists in menacing fashion_).  Eh--bark?  Bark, d' ye
say?

Sir M.  And do not attempt to strike me, or I shall instantly give you
in charge of yourself and comrade for an assault--

2d man (_murderous yet calm_).  Wot's your name, my flash cove; where
d' ye live; where d' ye come from?  Give us an account o' yourself or--

1st man (_distressfully_).  Lord, I'm that 'ot!  'Old 'ard, Toby--
Lord I'm that dry I couldn't spit a sixpence!  'Old 'ard, Toby lad, and
lemme 'ave a word.

Sir M.  (_cheerily_).  No, no, Bob--and there's an ale house down the
road yonder--no, no, I like Toby!  Toby's bark is worse than his bite,
his heart kinder than his face--continue, Toby.

The saturnine Toby glared at the tranquil speaker, clenched his fists,
spluttered a vehement oath and turning about kicked savagely at the
finger post.

1st  man (_sighfully_).  And did you say "ale-'ouse", chum?

Sir M.  I did, friend Bob.  And an ale house naturally suggests ale--in
barrels, in beakers, foaming in tankards.

1st man (_rising suddenly_).  And we that dry!--Ale!--Come on, Toby.

2d man (_scowling on Sir Marmaduke_).  But wot about this cove?  I 'm
arf-minded to take 'im along for a suspicious character.

Sir M.  (_rising cheerily_).  Toby, I'm coming along, and while we walk
together I will talk to you--

"Not me!" snarled Toby and, turning his back, trudged off after his
thirsty comrade.




CHAPTER XXIX

IN WHICH EVENTS MOVE APACE

Opening the door Sir Marmaduke paused a moment to watch the man who
stood, hands behind him, gazing so thoughtfully out of the window; a
very neat, grey-headed man with the demure look and dignified gravity
of an archdeacon, the jaw of a fighting man, the upright carriage and
trim legs of a light dragoon; at the opening of the door he wheeled
sharply and surveyed the intruder with the keen eyes of the man of
action but, though his chin appeared slightly aggressive, he spoke with
the gentle urbanity of the church dignitary:

"My good man, permit me to inform you that this room is engaged, is
private."

"Precisely, my faithful John," said Sir Marmaduke and closed the door.
John Hobbs, the veritable, stared, drew a sharp breath, made two quick
strides forward and bowed:

"Sir Marmaduke!" he exclaimed.  "Excuse me, sir, but--  Good heavens!
Those--extraordinary garments!  And you yourself are--"

"Thirty-six or under, John!"

"Sir, you seem as I remember you--three and twenty years ago--a
care-free youth of vast ideas eager for a tilt at any and every
windmill."

"Ay, a young fool, John, chasing rainbows.  Egad, 'tis a weakness with
me yet, it seems!"

"I trust you are well as you look, sir?"

"Indeed, I was never better--physically.  You ordered dinner, I hope?"

"They should be ready to serve it, sir.  Shall I ring?"

"Ay, do, John, for I am preposterously hungry."

"Hungry, sir?  God bless me!"

"Ravenous, John!  My escapade has at least taught me to appreciate food
again--, yes, this at least."

"Pray forgive my staring, Sir Marmaduke, but the change in you is past
belief!  Your eyes so bright, your voice so resonant, your air so
brisk, so vigorous!  Time rolls back and leaves you as I mind
you--twenty-three years ago!"

At this repetition Sir Marmaduke glanced keenly at the speaker, but
just then John Hobbs was reaching for the bell rope.

And presently appeared waiters heavy-laden, who set forth the table
with speedy deftness, whisked napkins, bowed and vanished, leaving
behind them cates savoury and delectable.

"And now," said Sir Marmaduke, after some while, as he watched the
bubbles rising in his glass, "you will naturally be wondering, my dear
John, at this my latest--well, let us say, freak o' fancy.  The
explanation is that, acting on Doctor Wotherspoon's prescription, I
went forth on the quest of--Youth!  An absurd, a most ridiculous quest,
John--and yet--"

"Prodigious!" exclaimed John Hobbs, his eyes wonderfully bright and
glad.  "Surely you have found it; this marvellous and so happy change
in you, tells me as much."

"Alas," sighed Sir Marmaduke, shaking head and with rueful smile, "as
well seek to grasp a sunbeam, John, or gather last year's roses.
Though, mark you, I began to think I had actually achieved the
impossible!  But who shall find that which is but a memory?  No, John,
my youth lies hid beyond the sunset and so, in place of this I have
found--a nephew."

"Nephew, sir?  You mean--?"

"I mean Rupert Ashley Bellamy, my dead sister's orphaned son whom, it
seems, I have consistently and shamefully neglected--I repeat,
John--neglected!"

John Hobbs lifted his gaze to the ceiling and was mute.

"So, John, you agree with me then?"

"Agree?  With him, sir?  Can you mean that Mr. Bellamy actually dared
tell you so--to your face?"

"He did, John.  He also informed me that I had the soul of a rabbit!
You see, he knows me as--John Hobbs."

The habitual gravity of John Hobbs proper was visibly shaken and
meeting Sir Marmaduke's whimsical look, he laughed suddenly.

"But you yourself think I have neglected him--eh, John?"

"Sir, since you ask, I would beg you to remember that you have deigned
to see him but three times since he was born!"

"Ha--yes, very true.  I made you my intermediary--and why?"

"Sir, you were always a man of many affairs--"

"Ay, to be sure; my own affairs came first always.  Regarding myself
from proper perspective, my habitual yet little-dreamed-of selfishness
astounds me.--  And now, as to screening myself behind your
name--first, accept my apology."

"Sir, you honoured me."

"Being in want of an alias, John, your name sprang first to my lip.
And now, my faithful John, fill your glass and list to the tale of my
adventures."

As his relation proceeded, Sir Marmaduke's eyes twinkled to see the
square, honest face of John Hobbs widen to sudden smile, become drawn
with anxiety and grow longer and longer until, the narrative concluded,
he sat back in his chair, staring at Sir Marmaduke in horrified dismay.

"But--you, sir, you to be in actual danger of arrest!  It is
preposterous!  It is unthinkable!"

"Yet positive fact, my John; and upon my soul," said Sir Marmaduke,
smiling a little wistfully, "just now I hail the possibility with joy."

"But, sir, what do you propose to do--"

"Marry them, John."

"Sir?"

"They are both so suited to matrimony and each other," continued Sir
Marmaduke, staring at the tablecloth a little absently, "a perfect
pair, John, young, handsome and unspoiled, children o' the sun in an
Eden without snakes or the like vermin.  She is--her wonderful self and
he a likable young scamp deplorably out at elbows and detestably
youthful and self-assured, utterly destitute yet profoundly cheerful.
Indeed, I already entertain hopes of him.  On the whole a very
excellent match, John--with myself to play the _deus ex machina_, of
course.  He is up to his ears in love already; yes, they should
be--ridiculously happy!"

"But pray, sir, how do you propose to right your own somewhat desperate
case; what of yourself?"

"Sufficient unto the day, John.  I have scarce given it a thought as
yet."

"Lord, sir, but you worry me!" sighed John Hobbs, shaking his grey head
in reprobation.  "Indeed, you are as joyously reckless as you were
twenty-three years ago."

"Ha--again, my John!" exclaimed Sir Marmaduke, pausing with wineglass
at lip.  "Three times you have mentioned that span of years and you are
one of the very few who know that twenty-three years ago I married
a--one who blasted my faith and happiness then--and forbids it now!
Those times, John!  What do you mean?"

Then John Hobbs leaned across the table and spoke in harsh whisper:

"Sir, she is--here!  I saw, I carried her into this inn!"

Sir Marmaduke set down his brimming wineglass very carefully and sat a
moment staring at it:

"Here, my John?  You are--sure?"

"Sir, I had scarcely dismounted before the door when the London mail
drew up and began to discharge its passengers.  One of them, a lady,
seemed stricken with sudden illness.  I ran and caught her as she
swooned and bore her into the house.  As she lay in my arms her bonnet
and veil slipped back so I looked at her; she is greatly altered but
there was no mistaking that face.  Sir, she was Lady Vane-Temperly."

"Why, then, I--must see her," said Sir Marmaduke, passing hand wearily
across wrinkling brow.  "Yes, I must speak with her, at once--now!"

"Ah, sir, to what end?  Why so distress yourself?"

"Man, I've heard she is ailing, ill and in want.  So, John, go you and
enquire for her; make known my presence here; ask her to be good enough
to see me--go!"

Meeting Sir Marmaduke's eye, John Hobbs rose and departed without
another word, closing the door softly behind him.

Rigid in his chair sat Sir Marmaduke, staring blindly before him, fists
tight-clenched upon his knees, while Disgust and Pity strove and
grappled within him.  And presently from his grim lips breathed a
hushed whisper:

"Eve-Ann--sweet soul--thou fragrant memory--thus am I the better,
having known thee!  Oh, Eve--Eve-Ann!"

Anon came back sturdy John, to find Sir Marmaduke, wineglass in hand,
watching the bubbles rise.

"Well, my John?" he enquired serenely.

"She is gone, sir.  She left more than an hour ago, so soon as she
recovered of her faint--but--"

Glancing up, Sir Marmaduke saw that the demure and gentle archdeacon
was transfigured into the fighting man.

"Well, John?" he questioned.

"Sir," answered John, his square jaw fiercely outthrust, his thick
brows close-knit, "sir--he is here!"

"You mean?"

"Mr. Tom Mowbray, sir."

"No, no--Sir Thomas Mowbray; he has but recently inherited his cousin's
title and--fortune, touching which I will speak a word with him.  Where
is he?"

John Hobbs hesitated.

"Sir," he began, "sir, I do beg--"

Sir Marmaduke gestured slightly with one finger and rose, whereupon his
companion shook grey head, sighed and led the way out of the room,
along a passage to a door from behind which issued voices and a
chuckling laugh.

"He has company, John?"

"Only Mr. Denton, sir."

Nodding grimly, Sir Marmaduke threw open the door and stepped into the
room.

They were seated at their midday meal but both started round in angry
surprise at this sudden intrusion.  Mr. Denton stared speechless while
Sir Thomas, huge and menacing, rose from his chair, lifting a large,
be-ringed hand imperiously.

"Why--what the devil!" he exclaimed, for Sir Marmaduke, entirely
unheeding threatening look and commanding gesture, advanced to the
table and leaned there.  And so, for a tense moment they stared into
each other's eyes.

The past few weeks had wrought a miracle of change in the erstwhile
vagrant desperado for, to the eye, Sir Thomas was a very grand, a very
imposing gentleman indeed; his clean-shaven face was bold of feature
and handsome, despite scarred eyebrow; his herculean proportions were
offset by modish and splendid attire.  All this Sir Marmaduke saw at a
glance; but Sir Thomas Mowbray, looking into the unwinking glare of the
eyes that confronted him, beheld nothing else, for in these eyes he
read scorn, hate and a purpose cold, deadly and infinitely assured.  As
for Mr. Denton, he surveyed the intruder from head to foot through
narrowing lids, noting every article of his homely and rustic apparel
from coarse and vivid neckerchief to clumsy, square-toed boots.

"Mowbray," said Sir Marmaduke at last in passionless voice, "after our
last meeting, I cherished the hope that it would indeed be our last and
you dead--"

"Ha--did ye so?" exclaimed Sir Thomas loudly.  "Did ye so, by God!"

"Learning recently that you still lived, however, and had inherited a
fortune, I decided that no time could be more proper to call you to
account and, accidentally, blot you out of existence."

"What," cried Sir Thomas, clenching hairy fists, "d' ye dare threaten
me, you--you--"

"Tush--do not rant!" said Sir Marmaduke, leaning nearer.  "Remember you
are no longer a gutter-crawling bravo.  Listen, sir!  I have, upon
further consideration, resolved to suffer you to live and plague the
world still--"

"Aha, have ye so?  Vastly kind, I swear.  But damme, I 'll fight you at
any time and anywhere, Vane-Temperly!"

Mr. Denton's narrowed eyes opened suddenly and he stole furtive hand
into his bosom, perceiving which stealthy movement, John Hobbs began to
edge towards him all unperceived, while Sir Thomas, flourishing mighty
fists, grew louder and more defiant.

"I say I'll fight you whenever you will, despite your reputation!  Ha,
damme, I 'll fight you here and now."

"And I should certainly kill you!" nodded Sir Marmaduke.  "As indeed
you know--and always have known!  However, I shall permit you to
live--but on one condition only: that you may provide, in your present
affluence, for the miserable creature whom you betrayed to infamy, and
heaven knows what suffering, three and twenty years ago.  Fail in this,
and I swear by the God who sees and hears us that I will hunt you out,
force you to fight and shoot you dead for the detestable animal you
are."

Sir Thomas drew up his magnificent person with a fierce, swaggering
air, but his eyes quailed before the speaker's unswerving gaze;
therefore he swore ferociously, whereat Sir Marmaduke turned
contemptuous back.  And then Mr. Denton was on his feet, grasping a
small yet very serviceable pistol.

"Ha--Vane-Temperly!" he cried.  "Stand, I say!  Stand where you are!
He's wanted, Mowbray, wanted--for murder, I tell you!  And there are
Bow Street officers in the town!  Raise the house, while I hold the
villain!"  And he levelled his pistol at Sir Marmaduke but, in that
moment a powerful fist smote him beneath the chin and he sank to the
floor and lay inert.

"In the stables, sir," said John Hobbs, standing above the unconscious
man and levelling the pistol at the shrinking Sir Thomas, "you will
find my horse--or rather, your own, the sorrel with the silver blaze.
I will keep these gentlemen quiet meanwhile."

"And what of you, John?"

"I shall contrive handsomely, sir--only be gone, I beg.  Go, sir, or
you will compel me to use violence on Sir Thomas also, for, sir, you
must not be taken."

Sir Marmaduke smiled.

"My faithful John!" said he.  "Neither shall you!"  And he picked up a
table napkin.

And after some while they came forth of the chamber together and,
having locked the door and pocketed the key, descended the stair, paid
their reckoning and so to the stableyard whence, so soon as their
horses were saddled, off they cantered together, out and away through
the busy High Street, leaving two gentlemen, very securely gagged and
bound, staring at each other in raging helplessness.




CHAPTER XXX

TELLS HOW THEY SET OUT FOR LONDON

Within some half-mile of a certain familiar finger post Sir Marmaduke
checked the horse he rode and, leaping to earth, tossed the reins to
his companion.

"The moon rises late to-night, John," said he, glancing up at the sky,
"so be here at half-past nine or as nearly as possible.  Drive the
light closed carriage with the bays.  And send a man ahead to order
post horses, for we must travel fast.  Three changes should be enough
and--ha, confound it!"

"What now, sir?"

"John, I have forgotten Horace, the poor patient soul!"

"Pray, who is Horace?"

"A donkey, a veritable ass, John, yet the sharer of my secret
meditations.  Alas, that we should part!  And yet Fate should be kinder
to him here in the country than amid the roaring traffic of London.
Well, John, until to-night then," said Sir Marmaduke, grasping his
companion's ready hand; then John Hobbs spurred his horse and galloped
away in a cloud of dust.

Evening had fallen wherefore Sir Marmaduke stepped out briskly until a
plaintive voice arrested him; he had reached a place where trees grew
on either side of the way, casting much shadow and, peering in the
direction of this voice, he beheld a vague shape crouching against a
milestone and out towards him came a slim, supplicating hand.

"Oh, please--spare something to a poor--"  The words ended in a fit of
coughing, a fierce convulsion that shook the wretched creature so
violently that she clutched the milestone and leaned there helpless
until the paroxysm was over: "I--I must get back--back to London!" she
gasped.  "And I have lost my purse--all my money.  Please give me
enough to take me there.  I am not strong enough to--walk so far."  The
gasping voice spoke in cultured accents; the pleading hand was small
and shapely.

Sir Marmaduke drew certain coins from his pocket and laid them in the
beggar's cupped palm.

"Is this enough?" he enquired gently.  "If not, you shall have more--"
But, as he spoke, she started and shrank away so suddenly that the
money fell into the dust; so he stooped and, picking up the coins,
replaced them in her nerveless hold and went his way, the desolate
sound of her coughing in his ears.

He had almost reached the finger post when, to his surprise, he saw Eve
and she, beholding him, came running and caught his hand, clasping it
to her heart; and thus he felt the surge and tumult of that rounded
bosom and the tremors that shook her from head to foot.

"Oh, John!" cried she in agonised voice.

"Why, Eve-Ann--my dear, what is it?"

"The hill yonder!" she whispered.  "They have printed a description of
thee--"

"No, no, child, only of my late clothes," he laughed, drawing her
tremulous hand within his arm, "But why are you here--and alone?"

"I began to fear for thee, thou wert so late!  So we came to meet thee,
Rupert and I--and still thou didst not come, so I sent him on to town
to find thee.  But--  Oh, John, the bill!  Fifty pounds for thee--dead
or alive."

"Ridiculously inadequate, of course!" he nodded, smiling down into her
anxious eyes reassuringly.  "But then, you will pray remark that I am
further described as--thirty-six or under, and this is inspiring."

"But wherefore so late, John?"

"Dear child, I have passed a somewhat busy afternoon--"

"And oh--where is Horace?"

"Horace, my dear, will be eating something or other, somewhere or
other, you may be sure.  Yes, he will certainly be eating wherever he
is, for--Eve-Ann, Horace's path and ours lie far apart henceforth: he
remains in the country, happy ass, but we must be on the road in an
hour or so."

"The road, John?  You mean?"

"The road to London, child; at least--I shall!"

"And what of me, John?"

"This, Eve-Ann, is the question and one I find difficult to answer, for
Inclination says one thing and Common Sense another."

"And thou didst warn me against Common Sense, so will I answer thy
question; 't is very simple: Thou art for London because--danger
threatens thee--nay, I know, I feel it!  And since danger threatens
thee, needs must I share thy danger; 't is my right!  So if thou go to
London, I go to London--yea, John, even though I tramp every step!  So
the matter is settled."

"Eve-Ann, my dear," said he, very tenderly, "you are a wilful, a most
determined young woman--and for once, I am heartily glad of it."

"And Rupert?  Shalt take him also?"

"Ha, Rupert!  Of course!  Never fear, child, he shall come."

"Oh!  Why?"

"Because--well, it is my whim."

"Art sure he will obey thy whim?"

"Quite sure."

"What dost think of him, John?"

"That he is a fine fellow, a handsome youth!"

"What more, John?"

"That he is confoundedly cheerful--I mean, a merry companion for you."

"And what else, John?"

"That he is magnificently, gloriously young!"

"Yes, he is--very young!  So young that I--hark!  What is that?  Oh
John, some one is coming--creeping yonder!"  And she glanced fearfully
where something moved in the ever-deepening shadows.  "Oh, pray, let us
go--nay, why, John, 't is a woman!  'T is a poor creature; see how
feebly she goes!"  Even as she spoke, the woman stumbled and falling to
her knees, sank into the dust and lay moaning.  And then Eve was beside
her, had lifted her in strong, young arms and laid her upon the grass
beside the road.

"Oh, John, pray come; she has fainted, I think--"

But, as Sir Marmaduke approached, a little reluctantly, the woman sat
up and, muttering that she was better, struggled to her feet, took a
few steps and would have fallen but for Eve's ready arm.

"John, we cannot leave her, she is ill."

"But, my dear child--"

"In the eyes of God she is our sister!  So pray, John, come and aid me
with this thy poor sister; take her other arm!"

Sir Marmaduke stood hesitating, full of a strange reluctance, and in
that moment was the tread of quick feet, a cheery whistle and Rupert
hurried to them.

"Why, Johnny!" he exclaimed.  "Are you there, my buck!  And I 've been
searching the town for you, every inn, tavern and ale house in the
place, and by God, Johnny--why, hallo, who 's here?"

"A woman," answered Eve, "a poor woman, Rupert, and cannot walk!  So
take her up, I pray thee, and bear her along with us."

"Eh?  Oh!  B' gad!  A woman?  And carry her?  Why certainly,
but--ah--what does the lady say?"

"She is sick, fainting, I think.  So, Rupert, carry her!"

"Oh, certainly, Eve-Ann!  Your word is my law and--ah--so forth, of
course--"  Saying which, Mr. Bellamy raised the swooning woman in his
powerful arms and bore her lightly along, with Eve beside him while Sir
Marmaduke followed in frowning perplexity.

Reaching the encampment at last, Sir Marmaduke sat down beside the
dying fire where, presently, he was joined by Mr. Bellamy, who stood
looking back with eyes of ecstasy towards that shady grove where Eve's
little tent was pitched.

"She's an absolute angel!" he murmured.  "An angel o' mercy, John, a
positive--"

"What does she propose doing with this woman?"

"Eh?  Woman?  Lord knows!  I was saying that she is--"

"An angel, precisely, Rupert.  But this woman will complicate matters."

"John, old fellow," quoth Mr. Bellamy, casting himself down and
speaking in tones of the utmost dejection, "she's too good for any
ordinary human fellow, confound me if she is n't!"  Here Mr. Bellamy
shook his head and sighed profoundly.  "And she looks, John, and b'gad
she sounds so--so holy, old fellow!  When she 'thees' and 'thous' me
and opens her great, beautiful eyes at me I--I feel the unworthiest of
dogs and--and so forth, John.  She has glorious--wonderful eyes, y'
know--eh?"

"I have noticed them, Rupert.  But what is she doing with that woman, I
wonder?"

"Ministering to her like the spotless angel she is, old fellow.--  And
then, her form, John!  Her shape!  Let me tell you it is the very
absolute of perfection; makes me think of goddesses and so
forth--Greece and Rome, John, Aphrodite, Helen o' Troy, Cally--what
's-her-name."

"Helen of Troy was not a goddess, Rupert."

"Neither is Eve, thank heaven!  But she's handsomer, John, lovelier,
more confoundedly beau--"

Here Sir Marmaduke stretched his arms and yawned; Mr. Bellamy stared in
pitying disgust.

"Lord, man!" he exclaimed.  "I speak of a glorious creature, a regular
blooming Venus; I endeavour to open your eyes to her perfections and
egad--you stretch the gape like a perishing fish!  However, let me tell
you, 'spite of her shy-sweet demureness, when she loves 'twill be the
real thing, the positive, absolute, genuine article--passion, John,
fire--"

"Which reminds me it requires mending," said Sir Marmaduke; "pray throw
on another faggot or two."

Mr. Bellamy stared, sighed and shook his head; quoth he:

"You're a rum customer, Hobbs, a queer, cold-blooded card!  I suppose
it's your age--the tempered flame, and so forth, yet you 've the look
of a regular dasher at times."

"Now as to yourself," said Sir Marmaduke, stirring the new-made fire
very gently, "being so conspicuously young, Rupert, and such profound
amateur of beauty, you have no wish to part company with me
and--Eve-Ann?"

"Heavens and earth--no!" cried Mr. Bellamy, in accents of horror.
"Though of course," sighed he with rueful look, "seeing I am a beggar
dependent on your bounty, John, you have only to drop the merest hint
and I'll instantly take myself--"

"However, Rupert, you are quite willing to accompany us to London?"

Mr. Bellamy jumped at the word:

"London?" he repeated in joyful tone.  "To London?  God bless you, John
old fellow, when do we start?"

"In something less than an hour."

"Ye Gods!  But why such haste?"

"Because it so happens I am being pursued for murder."

"For mur--"  Mr. Bellamy sat down again, very suddenly, and gasped.

"For the recent murder at Harting, Rupert."

"Eh?  O Lord!  You, John, you?  Fifty pounds reward--dead or
alive--you?  The fellow who trussed up the two fellows at the inn,
dodged the Bow Street runners and left Godalming in such uproar this
afternoon--you, John?"

"Need I tell you that I am innocent of the crime?"

"No, no, devil take me, no!  Some cursed mistake somewhere or other, of
course.  I'm with you, old fellow, thick and thin, hand and glove, fire
and water and--so forth!  But, Lord love you, John, they'll be after
you, y' know!"

"They probably are!" nodded Sir Marmaduke, taking out his watch and
consulting it by light of the fire.

"Oh, egad, they may find their way here!"

"I expect they will, Rupert.  But in half an hour or so a carriage will
be waiting in the shade of that clump of trees half a mile beyond the
finger post; you know the place, I think?"

"To be sure I do."

"Well, you will escort Eve-Ann there--and I fancy you had better start
now."

"Yes, yes--but what of the sick woman?"

"Leave her--get Eve to the carriage."

"Trust me, old fellow.  But what of you?"

"I shall join you later.  Should I be detained, you will wait fifteen
minutes, no longer, then away for London.  The driver is a friend of
mine whom you can trust implicitly.  But now--remember I place Eve-Ann
in your care."

"I take it as an honour, John.  But--suppose she refuses to leave the
woman behind--eh?"

"Then take her also, if you must.  But get Eve-Ann into the carriage at
all hazards.  Now go, and keep away from the high road as much as
possible."

Up sprang Mr. Bellamy, settled his weather-beaten hat with rap on the
crown and, glancing down at Sir Marmaduke, hesitated.

"But you, John?" he enquired, a little anxiously.  "Why stay behind?"

"For very sufficient reason, my dear Rupert."

"Well, good luck to you, old fellow!" said Mr. Bellamy and reaching
down, very suddenly grasped Sir Marmaduke's hand, wrung it hard, and
hurried away.

Then Sir Marmaduke rose and, stepping out of the firelight, vanished
amid the leafy boskages beyond; and presently, hidden in this gloom, he
heard Eve and Rupert in disputation which, ending suddenly, Eve
appeared in the firelight, peering round about, anxious-eyed, in a kind
of desperate eagerness.

"John!" she called.  "John, where art thou?"  A moment's silence, then
again: "Oh, John, why hast left us?  I will not go without thee, John!"
And now Rupert's voice in answer:

"He will meet us at the carriage!  So come, Eve-Ann, hurry now or we
may miss him altogether."  Hereupon, slow-footed and unwilling, she
turned and was hidden among the deeper shadows.

Then Sir Marmaduke, leaning against a tree, folded his arms and waited.
Thus, after some while, his sharp ears caught the sound he had
expected, a rhythmic drumming that resolved itself, little by little,
into the wild beat of oncoming, galloping horse hoofs; yet he never
stirred.  The gallop became a trot, slowed to a walk, halted, and in
the ensuing silence was menace; yet still he waited.  And now was a
stealthy rustling that drew ever nearer until out into the firelight
stepped the tall figure of Sir Thomas Mowbray and behind him three
other men, in two of whom he recognised the Bow Street runners.

"The birds is flowd!" quoth the saturnine Toby, in growling dejection.

"Well, they ain't got far, Toby, I'll lay!" answered the optimistic
Bob, "Look at the fire, so bright and noo-made."

"True enough!" answered Sir Thomas, with savage oath.  "The damned
villain can't ha' got very far.  Scatter and beat the coverts
and--shoot on sight!"

Then Sir Marmaduke turned and began to run, forcing his way through the
underbrush like one who fled in panic, whereupon was a fierce, exultant
shout, and the gloom behind was full of the wild stir of pursuit.  On
ran Sir Marmaduke over familiar ground, making all the noise possible,
until, being come beneath a certain tree, he leapt with arms up-flung,
gripped a bough, and drawing himself up, crouched there until his
pursuers were gone by.  Then, dropping lightly to earth, he doubled
back and speeding silently by open ways, ran fast until he heard the
sounds he hearkened for--the jingle of champed bit, the snort of
horses.  And presently he espied them, the four animals tethered to a
tree; deftly he loosed them and, mounting one, off he rode, leading the
other three.  And thus, after some while, he saw a twinkle of lights,
and easing to a trot, drew rein beside the carriage.

"Art safe, John, art safe?"

"Quite safe, Eve-Ann!"

"What, only you, old fellow?" cried Mr. Bellamy cheerily.  "B'gad, you
sound like a troop of cavalry!  Are they after us?"

"They were," answered Sir Marmaduke, glancing up at John Hobbs who sat
upon the box, reins in hand, "but if they follow us now, they must do
so on foot."

"What, ha' you stolen their mounts?  Oh, prime!"

"And thou'rt not hurt, John?"

"Not even a scratch, my dear!  However," he continued, eyeing the noble
carriage horses that pawed the dust, eager for swift action, "there
will be some hard spurring after us to-night, I imagine, so if you are
ready, my faithful John, whip and away!"

"Wait!" cried Mr. Bellamy, leaping from the moving carriage and
slamming the door.  "If you are riding, John, and will spare me one o'
your herd of steeds, I'll ride with you."

And thus they presently set off Londonwards.




CHAPTER XXXI

OF SPEED, MOONLIGHT AND A DISAPPEARANCE.

Off and away with the sharp crack of whip plied by practised hand, a
clatter of hoofs, a rumble and grind of wheels; faster and faster,
until the thudding hoofs and rumbling wheels merged into a ceaseless
hum, waking echoes far and wide.  Away through a summer night, cool and
sweet with a thousand odours from dewy hedgerows, from hidden flower
and herb, and with a rising moon whose level beams made of the broad,
dusty road a white track narrowing upon the vision, up hill and down,
until it glimmered and was lost in distance.  Away past motionless
trees that loom up, grow gigantic and are gone; past lovely farms where
dogs bark fitfully; rattling through sleeping hamlets, thundering over
bridges that span unseen streams, up the long curving ascent of a hill
and to an inn where presently is a gleam of lanterns, a scurrying of
heavy boots, and men come running to unbuckle harness, loose traces and
trot off with foam-spattered horses; whereafter come other men with
horses that rear and caper, snort and dance, eager for the road.  So
harness is rebuckled, traces made fast, the men jump aside, John cracks
whip and away they go again, fast and furious as ever, the open road
before, a rolling, billowing cloud of dust behind.  Jingling bits and
curb chains, rumble of wheels and beat of hoofs, now muffled in dusty
bottoms, now roaring loud over cobbled ways; past cottages beneath
whose steep, thatched roofs Innocence slumbers, past desolate woods in
whose black solitudes Murder may lurk, past babbling streams that
dimple to the moon, plodding up hill, thundering down and thus, at last
to a second inn.  More twinkling lanterns and hoarse-throated hostlers
who cry: "Whoa, there!" and "Stand over!"  And now it is discovered
that one of the wheels is running hot.  Down clambers John Hobbs, feels
it for himself, shakes grave head and commands:

"Grease!"

The chief hostler, also shaking grave head, suggests removal of wheel,
and filing down of axle.

"No!" says John.

"Yes!" nods Sir Marmaduke, dismounting.  "We have made excellent time."
Then he sees Eve leaning from the carriage window to speak to Mr.
Bellamy, who bends to her from the saddle, a dusty figure; therefore
Sir Marmaduke turns to the matter of the wheel but Eve calls him softly.

"Thou--thou'rt dreadfully dusty, John!" says she, looking at him with
troubled eyes; yet surely, her trouble is not because of this?

"We shall be dustier yet, child," he answers lightly.

"When--when do we reach London?" she asks him in the same timid,
hesitating manner, and he wonders to see how her hands clasp and wring
each other.

"Before dawn, at this rate," he assures her.  "Meanwhile, my dear, are
you comfortable--hungry--thirsty?"

"Nay, John, nay--I thank thee."

"And how is your invalid?"

"She has fallen asleep."  And here, Eve draws a shuddering breath,
looks down on him wide-eyed, then leans nearer as if she would whisper,
but then John Hobbs comes up.

"We must wait here ten minutes or so," says he.

"Excellent!" murmurs Sir Marmaduke.  "I suggest ale and a sandwich."

"Prime!" exclaims Mr. Bellamy and dismounts instantly.  And so they
enter the inn, all three, and there refresh themselves; but very soon
John goes out to the wheel, Mr. Bellamy wanders forth to gaze on the
moon, perhaps, and thus Sir Marmaduke is left alone.

Suddenly the door opens and he glances round, expecting John Hobbs but
instead sees a veiled woman who, entering swiftly, closes the door and
leans there; then, with quick, febrile gesture, she throws back her
veil, disclosing a face still rarely beautiful despite the telltale
lines at delicate nostril and quivering lip.

Sir Marmaduke rose and stood with sunburnt right hand fast clenched
upon his chair back, staring on this woman in speechless amazement.
And so, for a moment was deadly silence.

"Marmaduke," said she at last, in voice strangely rich and soft, "you
look younger than I had expected.  Time has been kind to you,
Marmaduke!  Yet neither am I altered beyond your recognition, I see."

Sir Marmaduke bowed.

"So you have been tramping the country with your handsome young
Quakeress?  Oh, marvellous!  The supercilious fine gentleman is become
human at last, it seems.  A miracle indeed!  And yet, I confess she is
a decidedly handsome creature, though a simpleton.  But coy simplicity,
a demure innocence, is an irresistible lure for the man of middle age,
to be sure, and yet--this rustic--"

"Shall we converse of--ourselves?" he suggested.

"Then Marmaduke, 't was you drove me to it; 't was you made me the
castaway I am; 't was you, before God it was!  You were so cold, so
aloof, so inhuman!"

"Madam," he answered bowing, "I accept your reproof and with it the
responsibility.  And now, pray how may I serve you?"

"Three times, Marmaduke, I wrote imploring your pardon--supplicating
your forgiveness--"

"And I sent you money!"

"Oh, money!" she exclaimed, so passionately that she choked and fell to
a dismal coughing, a spasm so fierce and prolonged that he went to her
at last and placed her in a chair; then, the door having no key, he in
turn set his back against it.

"You know," said she, so soon as she could speak, "you know he wearied
me in a week!"

"And he, madam, the very opposite of myself!"

"You know, if you had only forgiven, you might have saved me,
Marmaduke--saved me--"

"From everything except--yourself!" Sir Marmaduke retorted, serenely
unmoved.

"You know how cruelly, how bitterly I regretted--"

"But repented--never, madam!"

"Marmaduke.  I am ill; death has touched me--I cannot live very long."

"Meanwhile, how may I serve you?"

"Oh, implacable!" she exclaimed, with hopeless gesture.  "Have you no
mercy?  No pity for a dying woman and she--your wife, Marmaduke?"

"Beyond expression!" he answered gently.  "But--"

"But," she repeated, leaning towards him in sudden, fierce petulance,
"the sooner I die the better for you!  Oh, I see it all.  You love at
last!  Your cold heart is touched, your haughty magnificence all
forgotten to tramp the country like a gipsy--you, of all men!  You are
in your second youth and sick with doting passion for this piece of
rustic, coy virginity--"

"Madam, I beg--"

"Bah!  Your high and mighty stateliness counts for nothing with me,
sir!  You are become no more than a love-sick swain--though somewhat
superannuated, poor man!"  And she laughed in shrill derision, a
pitiful laugh soon ended in choking cough.  "Your virginal
Quakeress--so immaculate!  Your lofty self, so virtuous, so correct and
entirely impeccable, would shudder at a lawless kiss--and so, most
honourable husband, my cruel death means your delight, the
sanctification of your bliss!  This creeping death I shudder at, that
fills me with such dreadful horror, means freedom for you and your
Quakeress; my grave will be your bridal--"

"Enough--enough!" exclaimed Sir Marmaduke, and taking out his purse he
laid it gently upon the table before her.  "Here, madam, in notes and
gold are some fifty pounds; pray take them and--"

"Ah--money!" said she, her vivid lips drawn in bitter smile, her
handsome eyes very bright.  "Keep it, Marmaduke, I have the money you
bestowed on a beggar to-night, and besides I am not so destitute as I
seem."

"However," said he with an air of serene finality, "you will remain
here for to-night.  A room shall be prepared for your reception at
once, and--"

"Whimsical man!" she murmured, glancing up at him, handsome head
aslant.  "Order what rooms you will, I go on with all of you to London."

Sir Marmaduke merely looked at her and shook his head.

"Foolish creature!" said she, in the same soft, cooing voice, "attempt
to stay me and I will scream and raise the house on you."

"Regrettable!" he sighed.  "But I fear you must scream."

"Oh, donkey!" she exclaimed, with a little laugh.  "Leave me and you
leave your beautiful Eve also!  I have told her my story--  Oh, indeed,
quite truthfully, and your tender-hearted, soft-sided, virgin-innocent
will never desert a dying woman, friendless and desolate!  How little
you know her, Marmaduke!  But you never truly understood women and
never will, for all your worldly wisdom and--"

A rap on the door and the voice of John Hobbs announces the carriage
ready and waiting.

"Come in!" cried my lady imperiously.  So John Hobbs opened the door
but, beholding my lady, stood upon the threshold, his square face bleak
and grim.

"Why, John," said she, nodding gaily at his stern, silent figure, "my
good John Hobbs, you know me, it seems, after all these years--so pray,
if you remember my names also, speak them--all of them!"

John Hobbs bowed and spoke as might an arch-deacon in gentle
reprobation:

"Marian, Eleanor, Lady Vane-Temperly."

"That being so, John," said she, rising with a certain majesty, "pray
conduct me to the carriage."

Thus, laying frail hand on John's dusty, stalwart arm, she went forth
of the inn.

Then Sir Marmaduke took up his purse, stared at it with vacant eyes and
thrusting it into his pocket, sighed wearily and stepped out into the
moonlight.

Mr. Bellamy, laughing cheerily, closes the carriage door, leaps lightly
to saddle, and calls to Sir Marmaduke who, mounting also, nods grimly
to John and they are off again.

Grinding wheels, thudding hoofs, the creak and jingle of harness.--
Away across heaths stretching desolate beneath the sinking moon,
through narrow ways and leafy glooms shot athwart by silver moonbeams,
on and on until the moon is down and the world about them a place of
brooding darkness.  Jingle and rumble and tramp, until stars pale to
the dawn, until trees and hedgerows give place to houses growing ever
more dense, to cobbled streets, to the echoing thoroughfares of the
mighty city--to the "Horns" Inn, hard beside Kennington Cross.

John swings his foam-spattered horses aside, beneath a lowering arch
into dim-lit stable yard athrong with carts and great waggons, a place
of noise and bustle where people hurry to and fro, horses stamping,
hostlers shouting, postboys swearing while anxious passengers peer and
gape and ask questions innumerable, and all despite this so early hour.
Some half mile behind the dusty carriage Sir Marmaduke and Mr. Bellamy
urge on their jaded animals, but at the entrance to the yard are
checked by a great, country wain that lumbers heavily before them.

"Egad, old fellow," yawns Mr. Bellamy, surveying his own and
companion's rough and dusty attire, so ill-suited to the saddle, "we
look like beggars a horseback, more especially your humble servant.
Lord, Johnny-man, think of it--a bath!  Aha, breakfast!  A bed!  Come
on!"

Amid the ceaseless bustle of the inn yard Sir Marmaduke dismounts,
stiff and heavily, and is leading his exhausted animal stablewards when
he is startled by a wild shout and Mr. Bellamy comes running to grasp
him by the arm.

"John," he gasps, "the carriage is empty!  They--the woman--Eve--she's
gone!  Come, come and see!"  Sure enough, they find a very puzzled and
distressed John Hobbs standing beside the open carriage door that gapes
on emptiness.  So, together, they search the crowded yard from end to
end, but without success.

"Now the inn--try the inn!" cries Mr. Bellamy.  "Perhaps they're
ordering breakfast."

"We will see!" says Sir Marmaduke, grim-lipped.  So the great inn is
ransacked; yawning waiters, sleepy chambermaids, boots, hostlers and
grooms are questioned but no one seems to know anything of the
fugitives.  Eve and my lady have vanished utterly.  Mr. Bellamy,
nevertheless, pursues his search with passionate zeal and
determination; he dashes to and fro in yard and stables, he pervades
the inn itself, vociferous with breathless enquiry.

"Sir," says John Hobbs, glancing somewhat anxiously at Sir Marmaduke's
grim face that shows so pale and haggard in the dawn, "sir, what now?"

"Why now," answers Sir Marmaduke, laying dusty hand on John's broad,
dusty shoulder, "it is fare-thee-well, my John, for a while at least; I
go to find Eve-Ann."

"You suspect where she is, sir?"

"I do so."

"You think my lady has taken her to--"

"I think, John, that there is nothing so merciless as the hate of an
erring woman.  Now as to nephew Rupert, you will supply him with money
and all necessaries, establish him in suitable lodging and say that his
unworthy uncle proposes to--settle him once and for all, if he can
comport himself with a reasonable sanity.--  And now, good-bye, my
faithful John, you shall hear from me later."  So saying, Sir Marmaduke
shook hands and turning, hastened from the bustling yard into the
growing bustle of the street.




CHAPTER XXXII

SOME DESCRIPTION OF GILES' RENTS, MR. SHRIG AND AN ACTOR

The men were behind him--still three vague shapes flitting amid the
shadows--for among these noisome lanes and narrow alleys night gloomed
already; and within this thickening dusk sinister figures moved,
furtive, slipshod men and slatternly women, who peered at him with eyes
that scowled or leered with nameless evil.  A bad place by day, an
unsavoury place at any time, but at such hour as this, surely a place
of danger for the unwary or too confiding stranger.

Thus Sir Marmaduke went his way, alert of foot and eye, his deadly
right hand in that capacious pocket of his countryman's coat where lay
a certain short-barrelled pistol; for whenever he glanced behind, he
espied these same three men, the one burly and tall with a great shag
of hair, the second a small, mean creature, the third a thin,
cadaverous fellow who walked with a strange dancing step.

Turning a sharp corner he found himself in a narrow gut or passage
running between very high brick walls and thus darker than any he had
traversed, wherefore he paused a moment and then went on again with
lengthened stride.--  Footfalls behind him--quickening, creeping
rapidly nearer.--  Sir Marmaduke halted suddenly and swung about, his
finger on the trigger of the weapon in his pocket for the men were so
near he could see the whites of their eyes.

"Well, my lads," said he in country accents, "are ye wantin' aught?"

"Why, yes, chum," answered the little man promptly, in shrill, small,
whistling pipe; "us wants a friendly word wi' ye; us wants to ask ye if
ever--"  With sudden gesture, right and left, he dug small, sharp
elbows into his companions, whereat they turned tail, all three, and
running very fleetly, were suddenly gone.

Sir Marmaduke was staring after them in astonishment when he heard the
leisured tread of heavy feet and, glancing round, beheld a man
approaching; a short, broad-shouldered, sedate-looking person from
neatly brushed top-boots to broad-brimmed hat and bearing under one arm
a remarkably knobbly stick; otherwise he seemed a very ordinary man
indeed, though, to be sure, he possessed a bright, roving eye.

The man stopped and viewed Sir Marmaduke with his bright eyes, that is
to say, he glanced at his boots, his neckerchief and the top of his
hat, and smiled in friendly greeting.

"Bunty Pagan, Dancing James and Vistling Dick!" he nodded.  "Werry
desprit coves, 'specially Vistling Dick, the littlest un as a-costed of
you."

"You know them then?"

"Friend, I do--like a feyther!  Two buzmen and a prig.  Ah, and they
knows me and acts according.  Was they mo-lesting of you, friend?"

"No."

"But they follered you, p'raps?  Ay, I thought so.  Rum customers,
queer coves with a vengeance--robbery wi' wiolence, thievry or murder,
that's them!  Knife, pistol or bludgeon, bless you, all's vun to them!
Werry promising coves all three, true Capitals, but the littlest un's
the prime tulip, Vistlin' Dick--slit more nor vun innercent throat 'e
'as, to my knowing."

"Then why not arrest the miscreant?"

"The oo?"

"The guilty villain," said Sir Marmaduke, as they walked on together,
"if indeed you know him guilty."

"Ah!" sighed the man.  "I knows a lot, but all as I know ain't no good
without proof, friend.  'T is proof as sp'iles so many bee-ootiful
cases!  Lord, if it wer' n't for proof, I could top plenty o' murderers
as is a-walkin' about 'appy as birds at this i-dentical minute--and
there y' are!"

"Are you then a law officer?"

"Friend, I won't go for to deny same.  Law's my trade and murders is my
line, werry much so.  Murder is meat and drink to me.--Name o' Shrig,
baptismal Jarsper.  And I can't say no fairer.  You're a stranger in
these parts, p'raps?"

"Yes."

"Up from the country, p'raps?"

"Yes.  And I 'm looking for a respectable lodging hereabouts; can you
advise me of any such, Mr. Shrig?"

"To be sure, friend, I knows of a inn, small but werry cosy and kept by
a one-armed soldier, Grey's Inn Lane way."

"That would be too far off."

"Too far!" nodded Mr. Shrig, staring at his knobbly stick.  "To be
sure!  And a stranger--hum!"

"I desire to reside in the vicinity of Giles' Rents."

"You desires--wicinity--and werry nat'ral too!"

"On the contrary, life here will be quite detestable, but I am looking
for a young lady, who has lately come to live in this neighbourhood
with an older lady--an invalid."

"Friend, there's plenty o' inwalids in Giles' Rents, ah, shoals, but
you would n't 'ardly call 'em ladies--leastways, I shouldn't, bein' a
nat'rally truthful cove."

"However, if you can direct me to some likely lodging, I shall esteem
it a favour, Mr. Shrig."

"Friend, I'll do better, I'll take ye there--a attic werry nice an'
clean, as is to let off by a pal o' mine name o' Ponsingby--baptismal
Augustus, vich same is a actor.  This vay, friend, and keep close; if
you vas follered vunce you may be again, and strangers is apt to get
'urt hereabouts now and then, but you 'll be all right along o' me.
And vot did you say your name was?"

"I didn't mention it," said Sir Marmaduke, glancing keenly at his
companion's face.

"Didn't you, friend?  Why think o' that now!  My y'ears must be
deceivin' o' me."

"My name is Hobbs and I think you may speak for me as a respectable
character."

"'Obbs!" repeated Mr. Shrig, beaming.  "And a werry good name too!  And
you 're from the country, eh?  And vich part, friend 'Obbs?"

"Sussex."

"Sussex--to be sure!" nodded Mr. Shrig, staring hard at his knobbly
stick again.  "Think o' that now!  A werry pretty county is Sussex, and
they 've lately 'ad a werry bee-ootiful murder down there!  You've
'eard of it, friend, o' course?"

"I've heard of it!" nodded Sir Marmaduke, glancing at his companion's
placid features again.

"Done in a vood--at sunset--and birds a-chirping so peaceful!  Might
call it a werry poetical murder, eh, friend?  A vood, d' ye see, vith a
corp in same, and his napper blowed off!  Vot more could 'uman 'eart
desire?  A pretty case, friend 'Obbs, this pore gent shot at close
quarters and no gun, nor pistol, nor nothing!"

"But there was something!"

"Oh?" murmured Mr. Shrig, his roving glance Upon a murky chimney pot.

"Beside the body they found a gold-mounted cane, I hear."

"Ah?" murmured Mr. Shrig.

"I am surprised that you, a police officer, should not be aware of
this."

"Hum!" murmured Mr. Shrig, beaming up at the sky pink with the last
beams of sunset; then, taking a small notebook from breast pocket and
turning its pages with questing finger, he halted suddenly and held it
towards Sir Marmaduke.

"Friend," said he, "the light's a bit bad, but vot d' ye make o' these?"

Now looking where Mr. Shrig's blunt finger pointed, Sir Marmaduke saw
this:

[Illustration: M-V-T monogram]

Beholding thus his own monogram so accurately drawn, Sir Marmaduke
stood a moment staring at the familiar letters.

"It looks like the letters M. T. V.," he answered, and glancing at his
companion, saw his placid smile vanish.

"Eh?" exclaimed Mr. Shrig, in changed voice.  "A Wee, says you?  Why,
Lord love us--so it is!  A Tee, a Em, and a Wee!  By goles, friend, you
've got good eyes, astounding and the light so bad!--  A Wee, says you,
quick as a flash and a Wee it is!"

After this Mr. Shrig walked some little distance in profound but placid
thought.

"Pray where are we going?" enquired Sir Marmaduke at last.

"To Number Six Apple-tree Court, friend--though there ain't no trees
there, apple or otherwise."

"And your friend is an actor, you say?"

"Werry much so!" nodded Mr. Shrig.  "Hows'ever, he's 'ighly respectable
and quite a gent, though, being a actor, 'e's generally be'ind wi' the
rent and sich--and 'ere we are!"  So saying, Mr. Shrig halted before a
small, sulky-looking door that glowered from the very darkest corner of
a dismal little court full of small dejected-looking habitations, a
stagnant backwater, as it were, yet seeming in the half light somewhat
less squalid than its neighbours.

Having twice rapped loudly upon this sulky little door without
producing the least effect, Mr. Shrig reached forth and tapped softly
upon small and grimy window, at the same time emitting a peculiarly
sweet and melodious whistle; and lo, in that same instant of time the
door swung open with startling suddenness and a gentleman appeared
swathed picturesquely in a tablecloth and bearing in one hand a
be-floured rolling-pin; a commanding gentleman portentous as to nose,
hair and eyebrows; as for the tablecloth, though time-worn and besprent
with coffee and other stains, seen thus in conjunction with the
eyebrows it became at once the toga virilis, clothing the stately form
of a Senator of Imperial Rome.

"Shrig!" exclaimed the gentleman, saluting with the rolling-pin as it
had been a two-edged sword.  "Hail and thrice welcome, good, my friend!
For any delay untoward, accept our heart-swelling regrets but--in point
of fact, we apprehended you were the King's Taxes.  Enter, good friend;
be good enough to set to our gates and follow me!"  Saying which, he
led them into a small and somewhat stuffy apartment where a blonde lady
of somewhat languishing cast of feature was couched upon shabby sofa in
jaded bedgown and a Roman attitude.

"Eudoxia, my soul," said the Senator, calling the lady's attention with
magnificent gesture, "our friend Jasper Shrig with a stranger."

The lady rose with superb grace and reaching forth both hands in
greeting, smiled upon Mr. Shrig with large and soulful eyes which, if a
trifle haggard, held the light of very sincere welcome, none the less.

"Oh, Mr. Shrig!" she sighed.  "Dear Mr. Shrig.  Oh, my poor heart, I
thought you were the water!"

"Vater, mam?"

"Indeed!  The iron-souled monster threatened to cut us off yesterday or
the day before--when was it, Gussie dear?"  The Senator's eyebrows
showed a marked agitation but he merely groaned.

"But, dear Mr. Shrig, if they do cut us off our water, I say--let them!
There is a pump in the yard and there hangs my comfort, for while we
have a devoted bucket remaining, my Augustus shall not lack while these
two hands--"

"Cease, Eudoxia--noble woman, no more!" quoth the Senator, lifting
rolling-pin as high as the low and dingy ceiling would allow.  "For, ye
gods, upon this oft-imbrued sword I swear, the dogs of Circumstance may
howl, but by this blade, this final and most pointed argument, I vow
all hell shall roar and crash in ruin damned ere those fair hands the
servile bucket grasp--"

"Dear, noble Augustus, I live but to serve thee,--and oh, pray mind the
plaster, love!  Dear Mr. Shrig and friend, you find us rehearsing, for
Augustus has a part at last in Mr. D'Abernon's new play; to be sure he
dies in the first act, yet surely better die then than not at all, as I
tell him."

"Ponsingby, mam and sir," said Mr. Shrig, seizing opportunity for a
word, "I've took the liberty to bring you a lodger for your attic--Mr.
'Obbs here, as desires to take a peep at same if convenient--"

"A--lodger?" exclaimed Eudoxia with a faint shriek.  "Oh, Mr. Shrig--
Oh, Husband--a lodger--alas!" And she covered her face.

"Why, vot is it, mam?"

"Nay, ask Augustus--Augustus, speak!"

The Senator groaned, a strong man in his agony, while his eyebrows--!!

"Oh, cruel spite!" quoth he.  "Damned Fate!  O Fortune thrice
accur-sed!"  He clasped his brow, clutched at throat and scowled
terrific upon the empty air.  "A lodger!  Oh, detestable perversity!"

"Explain, my husband!" wailed Eudoxia; "poverty being no
shame--confess!"

"Nay, beloved creature, my withers are sufficiently wrung, my lofty
crest is bowed, my faltering tongue its customary office abhors!  Speak
thou!"

Eudoxia wrung her shapely hands:

"Oh, Mr. Shrig," she wailed, "alas, dear friend, our attic is no longer
void; we--we have--  Oh, me, a man in possession--a bailiff for rent;
he sleeps there!"

The Senator folded arms within his toga and moved them gently up and
down; quoth he:

"Admirably put, my soul!  Terse, my Eudoxia, and to the point most apt.
There is, my friends--surge not proud heart!--for paltry sum, divers
coins of values various, a being base on us impounded, a thing of
affliction he on legs two up-reared in form and semblance of humanity,
yet, man or no, good my friends, a being unto us most hateful,
insensible to reason, as monster fell or the Hyrcanian--"

"For how much?" enquired Mr. Shrig.

"Friend, this know I not, nor care; 'tis sordid matter of pounds,
shillings, pence, more or less, yet more than we can for the moment
command, alas!"

"It is four pounds, ten shillings and threepence farthing!" sighed
Eudoxia.

"And why," demanded the Senator with sudden passion, "oh, ye stars--why
the odd farthing?  The rest I might endure with stoic fortitude, these
pounds these shillings and these pence--but--this farthing!  By the
unshakable firmament of heaven this mads me--mocks me with my poverty
most dire--one farthing!"

"Madam," said Sir Marmaduke, bowing, "I will engage your attic; pray
accept a month's rent in advance," and he placed notes and gold upon
the table.

"Ten pounds!" exclaimed Eudoxia, gasping, "and for--one month!  Oh,
sir--oh, no, no, we could n't charge so much; it would be out of all
reason!"  And she pushed the money from her with trembling hands while
Mr. Shrig, glancing from this to Sir Marmaduke's high-bred features and
thence to the ceiling, pursed his lips in soundless whistle.

"Madam," said Sir Marmaduke with his air of serene finality, "I never
pay less than--ah--two pounds ten shillings per week."

"Ye eternal stars!" exclaimed the Senator.  "Oh, lamps of heaven!"

"But, sir," reasoned the trembling Eudoxia, "it is too--too much!
Augustus, what must we do?  Augustus--speak!"

"Nay, my soul," cried the Senator, making a light pass with the
rolling-pin; "settle it between you."

Eudoxia stared down at the money with shining eyes, and Sir Marmaduke,
glancing from her pallid face to her husband's lank form and reading
there privation, took up the money and putting it into her hand, gently
closed her fingers upon it.

"Oh, Mr. Shrig," sighed she, "what shall we do?"

"Mam, I should pay off that cove in possession if I was you."

"I will--I will--at once!" she cried, and sped from the room.  Thus
presently was a sound of heavy feet on creaking stair, the mutter of
harsh and sulky voice, the slam of front door and she was back again,
radiant-eyed.

"Mr. Hobbs," said she, a little breathlessly, "our garret will be at
your service this night, for which we ask you--a pound a week--and this
is too much!"

"Madam," answered Sir Marmaduke, smiling, "I pay two pounds, ten
shillings or nothing!  Indeed, you may find me a somewhat exacting
lodger--for instance, to-night I should desire something--savoury for
supper."

"Supper!" exclaimed Mr. Ponsonby, tossing off the tablecloth and
ceasing to be Roman.  "Supper--oh, music sweeter than the throb of
harps--supper, Eudoxia!  Cates succulent--here shall be no Barmecidal
feast!  Shrig, what d' ye suggest?"

"Pigs' trotters is tasty!" answered Mr. Shrig thoughtfully.  "Then
there's eyestars, a-la-mode beef, cheese, porter, stout or ale--"

"All," cried Mr. Ponsonby, Benevolence throned upon the eyebrows, "all
these shall grace our board this night.  Eudoxia, my love, the table
furniture prepare.  I will incontinent summon the small minion and with
him the viands hither bring."  And opening the window, Mr. Ponsonby
thrust out his head and whistled shrilly, whereafter appeared a small
and tousle-headed boy with whom he departed, soon to return heavy laden
to find the supper table laid.  So down they sat and ate with hearty
good will, Mr. Ponsonby proposing the toasts of, "My lady wife!  Our
princely lodger!  Our good friend, Jasper Shrig!" with stately,
Tudor-like verbosity, and all was good-fellowship.  But, even so, there
were times when Mr. Shrig, glancing askance at Sir Marmaduke's
aristocratic features, would turn his roving eye to floor or dingy
ceiling and purse his lips in their soundless whistle.  And once Sir
Marmaduke's sharp ear caught the murmur of these words:

"A Wee!"




CHAPTER XXXIII

DESCRIBES THE MAGIC OF A FIDDLE

A week has dragged its weary length of days, and leaning forth of his
eyrie beneath the tiles, so far as he might by reason of narrow and
inadequate dormer window, Sir Marmaduke looked down upon weather-beaten
roofs, toppling gables and jagged chimney stacks decrepit with years,
blackened by the smoke of countless generations and in every stage of
ruinous decay.  Beyond these and below he gazed upon that sink where
the stream of life ran, old life and young, but little of it sweet and
pure; court and lane and alley, whence rose an unceasing, inarticulate
hum which yet was the voice of this human hive.  A never-ending,
monotonous drone, the blend of many sounds: laughter and weeping, vague
cries, childish shrieks of joy or passion, footsteps, discordant
singing, harsh voices in clamourous argument, shrill hoots, the wail of
the new-born, the groaning of stricken age, the blare of drunken
shouts.  It was all there, blent into this never-ending hum that was
the voice of this close-packed hive of teeming humanity.

And Sir Marmaduke, listening to this unceasing drone, looking upon
these toppling, dilapidated roofs which hid so much of sordid misery
and shame, beneath which good languished and evil throve apace, felt a
sudden, great pity for it all, a passionate desire to help, and
therewith a mighty yearning for the fragrant countryside; shady lane,
darkling copse, rolling heath and open down where cool, sweet winds
stirred.  But oftenest and most bitterly he yearned for one who had
seemed the very embodiment of it all--for Eve-Ann Ash.

It was Saturday evening and all the week he had haunted Giles' Rents
and the neighbourhood, had trodden and retrodden these evil courts and
alleys, and always in vain.  Yet that she was hereabout he felt
persuaded, therefore his hope never failed him quite, his determination
never faltered.  If not to-day, then to-morrow.  Thus he had sought her
and would so seek until he found her.

Much in this short week had he seen and much learned of suffering nobly
borne or endured with dull and hopeless apathy; of sin and shame bred
of Want, of grinding Hunger and brutish Ignorance.  Also he had
marvelled that in this human cesspool should spring such flowers as
Generosity, Sympathy and even Purity, for Innocence had no being
hereabouts.  But it was Saturday evening, wherefore the hive hummed
with louder and more sinister note, for Drunkenness reeled abroad more
flagrantly even than usual.  From somewhere rose the dreadful scream of
a woman in pain or terror, drowned in hoarse clamour of voices--shouts,
wild laughter, the chorus of a song howled fitfully.

And somewhere amid these loathly horrors, these thousand nameless
evils, was--Eve-Ann!  For all he knew to the contrary, that agonised
scream might have been hers!  This thought sickened him and he wiped
sweat from wrinkling brow with clenched hand, breathing sudden
passionate prayer for her safety; and then, rising above all these
hateful sounds, high and clear and purely sweet as the voice of singing
angel, rose the sound of a fiddle.

Sir Marmaduke held his breath to listen; and gradually, little by
little, the hive ceased its dreadful hum; its laughing, screaming,
savage voices were hushed, spellbound and enthralled, as it seemed, by
the sweet, soothing magic of that fiddle.  Hurrying downstairs, he
found Eudoxia at the open front door, hands clasped and eyes uplifted
in an ecstasy:

"Oh, Mr. Hobbs, listen to it!" she whispered.  "It is the little
fiddler--he came last week--he plays to the children, the sick, even
the drunkards.  They call him mad, though what a master--"

But with word of brief apology, Sir Marmaduke hurried on until he was
among the crowd that pressed about the silver-haired musician, men and
women and children, an unlovely and ragged concourse, offscourings of
humanity, for the most part; and yet, as he scanned each face with
quick and eager glance, he beheld a very marvel for, inspired by these
noble strains, familiar, homely airs played by the hand of Genius,
these same faces, bloated, vicious, careworn, brutalized by Hardship
and Want, were all wondrously transfigured; the habitual Brute was
exorcised awhile and through eyes aswim in tears of memory, peeped the
original Angel of younger, better and happier days.

Presently the Fiddler turned and began to move off, playing as he
walked; children, barefooted, pattered after him in their rags; drunken
men and women reeled along beside him, the aged crept to door and
window the better to hear or wave sorrowful farewell.

Now, surely, oh, surely, if Eve-Ann should chance to hear the wonder of
this playing she must come forth for word with the white-haired master,
her own so familiar friend!

Sir Marmaduke pushed and strove amid the press, following where the
music led from court to court, through alley and lane, peering about
him before and behind, up at crowded windows and thronged doorways and
then--he saw her.  She was fast hemmed in among the surging crowd and
yet his eyes saw only her.  And she was more radiantly lovely even than
her memory because, perhaps, of her sordid environment.  And the sweet
familiarity of her face, her form, her every look and feature wrought
in him an emotion so fiercely keen that her vivid image grew, all
sudden, blurred upon his sight.  Shoulders jostled him, sharp elbows
staggered him, but he never heeded--and thus he came beside her.

"My dear!" said he, and that was all.

"John!" she exclaimed, and the word was a sob; then her hand was within
his arm--their fingers clung.  "Thou art safe," she murmured.  "Oh, I
have prayed for this!"

The Fiddler had entered a narrow alley and the throng, eager to follow,
strove about them and pushed so hard that instinctively he set his arm
about her loveliness, drawing her close, and in this moment there
occurred to his memory Lady Vane-Temperly's words: "This soft-sided,
tender-hearted virginity."

"So, child, I have found you!" said he lightly.

"Thank God!" she murmured, nestling closer within his arm.

"Rupert," said Sir Marmaduke, tightening his clasp, "Rupert will be
glad!"

"Ah, yes!" she sighed.  "Poor Rupert!"

"Good heaven--why pity the youth?" demanded Sir Marmaduke, peevishly.
"Is he not--confoundedly young, good-looking and with the world and
happiness all before him?"

"Yes, he is very young--and handsome," sighed she, "and I think thou
'rt a little pale, John, and thine eyes look weary!"

"You ran away, Eve-Ann; you upset my plans, you worried me!"

"Yet thou hast found me, John!"

"Thanks to our Fiddling Jack, heaven bless his white head!"

"Oh--Jackie!" she cried.  "I would speak with him."

"Certainly!" said Sir Marmaduke.  So they looked away from each other
at last and stood amazed to find themselves alone and the narrow alley
all deserted.

"We are too late, I fear," said he, and becoming, all at once, very
conscious of his enfolding arm, he loosed her, whereupon she glanced up
and meeting his look, flushed rosily and stood abashed, insomuch that
he questioned her with a fatherly aloofness:

"My child, pray am I to learn your present hiding place?"

"Yea, verily, John.  Though indeed, 't is no hiding place--everybody
seems to know it and--her--I mean--thy lady wife, John.  She hath been
expecting thee, every day."

"Ah!" said he gravely.  "Indeed?"

"So pray come with me now, John."

"You mean--to her?"

"Thy wife, John, yea, verily.  Come now."

"To what end, child?"

"Because she is sick and desires word with thee."

For awhile he stood frowning at the cobbles underfoot but at last,
feeling Eve-Ann's hand within his arm, he turned and followed whither
she led.




CHAPTER XXXIV

OF GATHERING SHADOWS

A great house that soared above the huddle of its meaner neighbours,
disdainful in decay; a very ancient house, spacious as the times
wherein it was built; but age and neglect had worked its ruin long
since, and yet, as if dreaming of its vanished splendour, it frowned
upon court and alley in gloomy stateliness.

Up broad, uncarpeted, grimy stair to wide and desolate landing panelled
in oak, its deep-graven moulding brutally defaced and marred and so to
a lofty door, battered and age-worn, that opened to Eve's hand upon
thick carpet--a noble chamber nobly furnished.--  Now, glancing from
this unexpected splendour to Eve-Ann's fresh loveliness, his eyes grew
all at once fiercely alert.  And now, drawing aside silken curtain, Eve
opened another door:

"He is here, Marian!" said she gently.

"Dearest angel!" sighed a voice, "pray him to come in."

So Sir Marmaduke went in and found himself alone with my Lady
Vane-Temperly.  She lay upon a broad divan with a book in her hand but
now she laid this by.

"Ah, Marmaduke," said she, smiling, "so you have found us at last.  I
mean, of course, your Eve-Ann.  I guessed you would, sooner or later.
And now you are here, I think, to take her from me?"

"What, madam, what is your purpose with her?" he demanded so sharply
that my lady opened her very beautiful eyes even wider than their wont.

"Why, Marmaduke," she murmured in her soft, cooing voice, "I behold you
actually--positively a little agitated."

"Be good enough to answer me!"

"Shall I?" she murmured.  "Yes, I think I will, lest you ravish the
sweet creature from me in a huff.  Well, then, Marmaduke, I want her
for three reasons: First, because I am lonely and dying.  Second,
because I would remove temptation from you--oh, I shall soon be dead!
And thirdly, because I know while she is here--you will remain close by
and I would have you look upon my dead face before they--bury me.  A
silly whim, of course, and yet natural in a wife--even one who has
transgressed so unforgivably as I.--  As for your Eve, do not fear; she
is utterly and completely safe with me.  Yet, if you doubt--then take
her!  Heaven forbid that such as I should keep her from--such as you,
in such a place as this!"

"Why live here, Marian?"

"Because my place is among the outcasts.  I am a fallen woman,
Marmaduke, an abandoned creature like my poorer, wretched sisters out
yonder.--  Nay, do not look so unutterably shocked!  I only desire to
play my part of faithless wife with the same art as you enact the rôle
of injured husband.  What an actor you are, Marmaduke--even to
yourself!  But pray endeavour to be natural for a moment, less
statuesque; forget your grand-seigneur airs and sit down like an
ordinary man--do!  By the way, I am known as Mrs. Baddeley."

Emotionless as ever, he obeyed her while she, throned among her
pillows, viewed him with a singular interest, his face serenely grave,
his rough frieze overcoat and clumsy shoes.

"Do you always wear that heavy coat--even in June?" she enquired
suddenly.

"Only in Giles' Rents," he answered, wondering.

"Ah, you mean it saves you from too close contact with the vulgar
herd!" she nodded.  "Marmaduke, has it ever occurred to you that
because I deceived your young adoring innocence years ago, destroyed
your boyish ideal of me and knew it shattered beyond repair, that
I--hate--despise--abhor you?"  She spoke in the same soft, cooing
accents, but her slim, delicate fingers clenched themselves upon the
quilt that covered her; and beholding the passionate quiver of this
clutching hand, he spoke with an unwonted gentleness:

"Poor tortured soul!"

"How, sir," she flamed, in sudden petulance; "will you dare to pity me?"

"Infinitely, Marian!" he answered.  "I never dreamed in you such depth
of feeling."

"Not feel--I?" she murmured.  "Silly man!  I feel so deeply that I
should know a very positive joy to hear you were dead, my husband--a
stately corpse in the ancient tomb of your so stately ancestors!"

"Marian," said he in pitying wonder, "you are not yourself--"

"Then think me mad and--pity me the more!"

"And now, I will take my leave, madam," said he and rose; but she
stayed him with gesture half imperious, half imploring.

"Wait!" said she breathlessly.  "We have yet to talk of your Eve-Ann.
But first--do you fear death, Marmaduke?"

"Not unreasonably," he answered.

"And you are always so hatefully reasonable, yes--even in your
relations with your spotless ewe lamb, your virginal Quakeress!  Well,
do you not yearn to live--for her sake?  To make her your own so soon
as I am buried out of the way?  A young, adoring wife, Marmaduke!  An
apt mother to give you children--sons to become stately
Vane-Temperlys--ah!"

His serene brow showed troubled at last, his steady gaze wavered and,
because of her merciless eyes, he bowed his head.

"Aha!" she exclaimed in lilting tones.  "So I touch you at last!  A
chink in your armour!  Children!"  And she uttered a soft trill of
mocking laughter, then frowned as suddenly, for Sir Marmaduke had
raised his head and was smiling at her, serene as ever.

"Not so, madam," he answered, "this dream is past!  As an amourous
swain I find myself quite too--superannuated, as you prophesied.  Also,
she is half in love with one much younger and altogether better suited
than I."

"Liar!" whispered my lady.  "Liar!"

Sir Marmaduke rose to his stately height and looked down at her in
dignified yet pitying reprobation.

"Madam," said he bowing, "I will bid you good-bye--"

"Oh!" she whispered, staring up at him great-eyed.  "I hate you--more
than I thought."

"And now," said he, taking up his hat, "if there be anything needful to
your comfort, pray remember a line scribbled to John Hobbs--"

"Hobbs!" she exclaimed with vehement gesture; then she laughed.  "Oh,
most noble husband!" said she in cooing mockery, "generous man, confess
you would take from me the only comfort I have left--confess you are
here to take from me Eve-Ann!"

Sir Marmaduke bowed.

"Then take her!" cried my lady passionately.  "Take her from me--if you
can!"  And raising her voice she called: "O Ann, dearest Eve-Ann, I--"
A violent coughing choked and shook her; and then Eve-Ann opened the
door and ran to clasp that pitiful shaken body in strong, cherishing
arms, until the awful spasm had passed, then pillowing that flushed
face upon her tender bosom she wiped the moist brow, murmuring words of
comfort.

"Dear--dear angel--of light!" gasped my lady, and opening tear-dimmed
eyes, looked up at Eve with a very real passionate gratitude and lifted
unsteady hand to touch her cheek, caress her bright hair, clasp her
hand with gesture that had in it something wild and pitiful in its
intensity.

"Ann--beloved child," she murmured, pressing sudden lips to the hand
she fondled.  "Sir Marmaduke is here to take you away and I--would have
you go--for he is right, this is no place for you."

"Nay," answered Eve, smoothing my lady's still beautiful hair, "God
brought thee to me, Marian, and so long as thou art lonely and dost
need me, here will I abide with thee."

"But Sir Marmaduke desires you to go, dearest Ann, and--this
neighbourhood is--so vile, so wicked!"

"Yea, verily!" sighed Ann.  "Yet God is here; indeed, He seems closer
to me in this place than in the country.  And thou wouldst not that I
leave thee, Marian?"

"No!" she cried eagerly.  "Ah--no.  And yet--"

"So then," said Eve, in her smooth placid tones, "here will I stay with
thee."

"You hear her, Marmaduke, you hear her?"  But he had crossed to the
door, had let himself out upon the wide landing and hurried to descend
the stair, then hesitated, for a man was coming up, a slim, stooping
man who moved with strange, dancing step.  He was watching the approach
of this man when Eve came beside him.

"Art greatly angry with me, John?" she questioned wistfully.  But Sir
Marmaduke was gazing at this man who, as he passed them with his quick,
jerking walk, touched battered hat and leered at Eve, muttering hoarse
salutation and went on up the next flight of stairs.

"That man," enquired Sir Marmaduke, sharply, "he knows you; who is he?"

"One who talks sometimes with Marian.  She names him Jim."  Sir
Marmaduke frowned.

"Are you ever frightened, Eve-Ann; molested in any way?"

"Never, John!  The men here are all very respectful to us; indeed they
seem to--fear Marian, almost, which is strange, I think--"

"Very strange!" he nodded thoughtfully, and turned to gaze up the wide
and gloomy stair.

"John, she is very sick!"

"And, I think, dangerous!" he muttered, then, moved by strange impulse,
he caught Eve's hands, holding them tight.  "She is a dark, inscrutable
creature," said he, "and no fit companion for you, child!"

"Oh, I am no child, John!  No one may be a child here in Giles' Rents;
even the children are not childish.--  And Marian needeth me; she is so
solitary, so wildly despairing at times and--I do think--in spite of
all--loves thee still--"

"Enough!" said he sternly.  "Such love would be a curse, a hateful
calamity!  She is what she is by reason of her own acts--reaping as she
has sown."

"Art not a little hard and--something merciless, John?"

"Then God forgive me!"

"Amen!" murmured Eve.  "She is thy wife, John, and so--I cannot, I will
not leave her."

"Then," quoth he, turning away, "there is no more to be said."  And he
made to descend the stair, but her hand upon his arm arrested him.

"Be not angry with thy poor friend," she pleaded.  "For--  Oh John, I
do yearn for my--dear little tent--to hear the birds sing of a morning
and awake to know thou art near me!"

"I am still near, and shall be!" he answered gently.

"And thou wilt forgive me my disobedience?"

Here again he acted upon impulse which was surely very strange in him,
for, in answer, he stooped suddenly and kissed that pleading hand upon
his arm.

"'T is great comfort--to know thee--near me, John!" said she, a little
unevenly.

"I stay with an actor and his wife, named Ponsonby, at Number Six,
Apple-tree Court," he answered.  "And this reminds me, have you found
your sister Tabitha, who married an actor?"

"Nay, John, I have been too busy to seek her."

"How so?"

"Oh, the children!" sighed she, shaking lovely head in quick distress,
"There is so much sickness!  'Tis cruel place, this London, especially
for the babies."

"Werry true, mam!" said a cheery voice and, glancing up, they beheld
Mr. Shrig beaming down at them over the banisters.  "Babies ain't
vanted in Giles' Rents and they generally don't last long, 'specially
in the 'ot veather; they comes an' they goes, 'ere to-day, gone
t'morrer, as you might say!"  With which, Mr. Shrig descended to the
landing to be greeted by Eve-Ann with eager welcome.

"O friend," said she, "how is Mrs. Casper's little girl?"

"Better, mam!"

"She took the medicine?"

"She surely did, mam!  I give it to her."

"You?" exclaimed Sir Marmaduke.

"Ar--me, friend--v'y not?  I ain't always topping murderers, more's the
pity.  And now, if you 're a-going my vay, friend, I 'm a-going yours."

Sir Marmaduke glanced at the speaker a little haughtily, whereupon Mr.
Shrig beamed and slowly closed one eye.  And then Eve opened the door.

"I think Marian called me," said she; "I must go, John, but--"

"Must?" he repeated, frowning.  "Heavens, child, do not make a slave of
yourself."

At this she only smiled a little sadly and shook her head.

"Friend Jasper Shrig, if thou chance to see old Mrs. Stot, she lives in
the cellar opposite, pray tell her I will bring her the lotion for her
rheumatics to-morrow--and God be with thee."

Mr. Shrig touched his hat and nodded.

"John," she murmured, "thou 'lt come again--soon, very soon?"

"Every day!" he answered and stood watching until the great, oaken
door, closing slowly, hid her from his sight.




CHAPTER XXXV

CONCERNING MR. SHRIG'S DEDUCTIONS

Mr. Shrig awaited him at foot of the stair; so Sir Marmaduke descended
and stepped forth into the evening glow, then paused to frown up at the
great house, that in its ruin and grime seemed to scowl down on him
bodeful and menacing.

"Shrig," said he suddenly, "do you think she is safe there?"

"Ah, safe as the Bank of England, sir--safe as a nangel!"

"But the house has a--strangely evil look!"

"Vich I don't deny, sir.  It is a rum place and there's been rum doings
there; ah, and vill be again--but your young lady's safe enough.  The
folk hereabout know her a' ready; ye see, she's got a trick o'
mothering all the children.--  And talkin' o' children, babbies or
infants, I takes a interest in same per-fessionally--on account o'
their parents."

"Surely you would not use a child to convict its own mother?"

"Friend, I 'd use a dozen, a thousand children to conwict a murderer.
Vot's a murderer for?  To be conwicted and hung--and conwict and hang
'em I do and will, by 'ook, sir, or by crook.  If by 'olding a babby, I
can find out where its feyther 'appened to be on a certain day or
night, I 'olds said infant j'yful.  I has my own methods, sir--f'r
instance, I 'm 'ard at work on this 'ere Sussex murder at this
i-dentical minute, though you'd 'ardly think so, p'raps.--  But runaway
Murder generally comes creepin' to 'ide itself in London, and vot place
better for same than Giles' Rents?"

"And--you think she is in no danger, Shrig?" enquired Sir Marmaduke for
the second time and stopped suddenly to turn and glance back at that
great house which, as he looked, seemed somehow more threatening and
ominous than ever; since Sir Marmaduke had stopped, Mr. Shrig had also
stopped, and stood with his keen, bright eyes on his questioner's
anxious face, viewing it askance in furtive, watchful fashion.

"You apprehend no danger for her, Shrig?"

"Not a natom, sir!"

"You winked at me on the stairs yonder; why?"

"Did I, sir?"

"Unmistakably!"

"Then, p'raps I did."

"Which reminds me, that fellow Dancing James passed me on the stair."

"And, sir, he was a-vatching of you on the stair and a-harking!  P'raps
that was why I took the liberty to wink at you."

"Ah, that damned house!" exclaimed Sir Marmaduke fiercely.

"Amen, sir!" nodded Mr. Shrig, his eyes still intent and seeming keener
than ever.  "And you own that same, said house, I think, sir?"

Slowly Sir Marmaduke turned and met his questioner's gaze with one as
keen and steadfast.

"I do!" he answered.

"Ah!" sighed Mr. Shrig gently and beamed up at a certain decrepit
chimney stack.

"Then of course, you know who I am?"

"Sir, according to the con-clusions I 've drawed, you are" (here he
spoke in hoarse whisper) "Sir Marmaduke Vane-Temperly."

"Precisely!" answered Sir Marmaduke and walked in again.  "I wonder,"
said he, after they had gone some way, "if you will tell me how you
discovered this?"

"Sir, werry simply, by lookin' and harkin' and addin' two and two.--
Your clothes and your face!  'A Wee', says you, 'a Em, Tee, Wee,' says
you, quick as a flash and the light so bad!  Now 'ow was you to know
there was a Wee hidden in that monney-gram unless you'd seed same
afore--precious often?  Then there's me on the stairs above harkin',
and you and young Quaker' mam on the landing below.  'She's your wife!'
says young mam.  And I 've knowed oo her ladyship vas, for years,
though folks calls her 'the Countess' hereabouts."

"Yes, it all sounds simple enough," nodded Sir Marmaduke, "yet I
perceive you have sharp wits.  My congratulations, Mr. Shrig."

They had reached Apple-tree Court and here Sir Marmaduke paused.

"You are now, of course, aware that the cane, found beside the dead
man, was mine?"

"Ay, sir, I am so."

"Well?" enquired Sir Marmaduke, glancing into Mr. Shrig's placid face.

"Werry well, indeed!" nodded Mr. Shrig.

"Are you going to arrest me?"

"Vell--no, sir.  Ye see, it's the murderer as I 'm arter."

"But, good Heavens, man!  My description is posted up all over the
country!"

"No matter, sir!  Fax and common sense is my meat!  Now a murderer
don't carry a gun and a valking cane both at once--leastways, it ain't
nat'ral.  And you ain't got a Capital face and you're a precious sight
too ready to be took up.  But I vish you'd tell me jest why you left
said cane so nice and 'andy for ijjits to find.  I vish as you'd tell
me oo you 're trying to shield--ah, that I do!"

"You can hardly expect me to tell you that, Shrig!"

"No, sir, I don't.  That's the reason I shall ha' to examine Miss Eve,
pore young mam!  P'raps she'll tell me--"

"Shrig," said Sir Marmaduke imperiously and laying compelling hand on
his arm, "she has a morbid horror of Bow Street officers--the law."

"And werry proper too, sir.  Glad to know same; 't will be easier to
make 'er speak!"

"Damn you--no!" exclaimed Sir Marmaduke fiercely, and Mr. Shrig winced
beneath his gripe.  "Rather than suffer her to be tormented I shall
tell you myself."

"I thought you vould, sir!  All the fax as you can swear to--Bible
oath, sir?"

"All that I know, upon my honour!"

"Werry good, sir!  Shall us step up to your attic?"

So thither they went, and there Sir Marmaduke faithfully recounted all
that had chanced since he set forth on his quest.

"Lord!" exclaimed Mr. Shrig, when all was told.  "Sir, it sounds like a
book, one o' these here romances; plenty o' blood in it and plenty o'
love a-coming, but never no sign of any murderer, vich comes a bit
'ard-like on Jarsper!  You ain't got no suspicions o' nobody, I s'pose?
You can't give me no 'int--eh? sir?"

"Not one, Shrig--unless it be the scoundrel Denton.  But he is a poor,
mean rogue, to be sure."

"And werry active agin' you, sir, my lads report, him and this Sir
Thomas Mowbray.  No, sir, nat'ral suspicion p'ints mostly to vun o'
these uncles, Jeremiah or Ebeneezer Bywood--their werry names sounds
promising.  I 'll question 'em again this werry night."

"To-night!  But they are in Sussex--"

"No, sir--at Bow Street.  I had same took a week ago, Toosday."

"Egad!" exclaimed Sir Marmaduke, shaking his head.  "So all our
scheming was utterly futile!"

"I dunno about that, sir, but 't was all labour in vain!  And now a
vord to yourself, sir--are you armed; do you carry a vepping?"

"Yes."

"Werry good.  Now, talkin' o' that old house o' yourn?"

"I'd almost forgotten it is mine."

"I vender as you don't 'ave same pulled down."

"I probably shall."

"Full o' secret rooms, it be, passages and sich.  I've heerd--ah, they
do say there's vun leads as far as the river.  A proper murderous
place, Sir Marmadook, and reminds me of vun as I lost, a partic'lar,
bright specimen; vanted 'im bad, I did, and nigh got my daddies on
'im--but he cut 'is stick, sir, wanished and left me a disapp'inted
man.  But, sir, I 've a feeling e 's a-coming back some day; they
mostly generally do--and this time I shall get him, for this time he'll
be coming for--murder."

"Whom d' ye mean, Shrig?"

"Sir, I means a cove as they used to call 'Black Tom', werry tall,
werry fierce, black 'air and viskers--and a scar acrost vun eyebrow.
Do you 'appen to lock your door a nights, sir?  I should if I vas
you--ah, and bolt it too!"

"For what reason?"

"For a reason as is neither here or there but precious solid, vherever
it is--ah, werry much so!  And now, I 'll be toddling!"

"You think I am in some danger?"

"Sir, I won't go so far as that but--since your adwent, my birds has
been all of a flutter, so--if you goes out at night, don't go alone and
keep your peepers, or, as you might say, your ogles werry wide open!"

"I surely will!" answered Sir Marmaduke, and grasping Mr. Shrig's hand
he shook it in hearty grip, and thereafter stood, grave-eyed and
thoughtful, to watch him descend the stair; slowly and thoughtfully he
closed the attic door, and seated at the rickety table, took pen and
paper and wrote as follows:


MY FAITHFUL JOHN,

Tell Rupert I have found Eve-Ann in Giles' Rents.  Let him bring plenty
of money with him.

It is possible that I may return soon, the better and wiser, I hope,
for my adventures.  Meanwhile, do you continue to act for me in all
things.

VANE-TEMPERLY.

P.S.  Let Rupert also bring my duelling pistols--the Mantons.


And in this same hour my lady, smiling at Eve-Ann, nibbled the feather
of her pen and added this postscript to a letter already written:


He is here in Giles' Rents ready to your so cherished purpose.  So Tom,
heroic brute, come and end your feud once for all.




CHAPTER XXXVI

IN WHICH WILL BE FOUND MENTION OF DEVILLED KIDNEYS

The kindly sun which, with godlike impartiality, shines on rich and
poor, the virtuous and vicious, the highly blessed and utterly damned,
poured his genial beams upon this crowded rookery called Giles' Rents
with such hearty and generous good will that some of his glory
contrived to find a way through even the small, grim window that
lighted Sir Marmaduke's attic; an inquisitive beam which shot athwart
narrow truckle bed, faded carpet and diminutive washstand to play upon
the frieze overcoat, whose ample folds draped the solitary armchair and
upon Sir Marmaduke's glossy head, where he stood brushing his hair
before the small mirror grown dim and sad with over-much reflection and
which showed him a face so distorted and of such bilious hue as might
have shocked one unused to its vagaries.  None the less Sir Marmaduke
paused more than once to study his features, to scrutinize the short,
crisp curls at his temples, amid whose black, here and there, peeped a
glint of silver.

"Thirty-six or under?  Ha--ridiculous!" he sighed and tossing away the
hairbrush, pulled on his jacket and went down to breakfast.

The Eyebrows, posted majestically before the mantelpiece, inclined
themselves in stately welcome, and Mr. Ponsonby stretched out a hand
whose grip was unexpectedly firm and hearty.

"Good, my friend, all hail!" quoth he.  "Though early the hour, my soul
ecstatic soars, for what with radiant Phoebus his beamy brightness
and--I fancy it is devilled kidneys--all's well with the world!  In
point of fact, my dear Hobbs, as saith the Bard of Avon, 'the play's
the thing!'  Our tragedy is now a proven success--though in some sort
it flags after the first act!  But my death scene shook the house,
ay--smote dumb and awed the very groundlings!"

"I rejoice to know it!" smiled Sir Marmaduke.

"Sir, women wailed and strong men silent wept!  But then I am one in
death most experienced and deeply versed!  I never play but I die in
some sort or other.  I have perished of poisons, succumbed to shot,
been smit by sword.  I have died in dungeons, upon beds, chairs, on the
scaffold and, once, across a table!  Dying, sir, is become with me a
curious art and--ha, but here--soft!  I think our kidneys approach!"
So saying, he opened the door and indeed the kidneys and Eudoxia
entered.  So down they sat and with pleasant rattle of coffee
cups--somewhat ponderous--they began breakfast.

"The world," said Eudoxia, peeping into Sir Marmaduke's half-empty cup,
"let who say what they will, is a small place!"

"My soul," quoth Mr. Ponsonby, fork graciously flourished, "other
philosophers, at divers times and places, have remarked the same
curious fact!  But you, dearest creature, to what extraordinary march
of circumstance do you allude?"

"Well, my love and Mr. Hobbs, last night, by the merest of accidents,
and quite fortuitously, here in the wilds of this vast metropolis, our
dear Tabitha D'Abernon met--her sister!  You, Mr. Hobbs, know her, I
hear; I mean dear Tabby's sister Eve--Miss Ash, the handsome Quakeress.
So charmingly rustic and companion to that mysterious Mrs.
Baddeley--who has been such an angel to the children--especially
babies--since she came--I mean Miss Ash?"

"We are acquainted," answered Sir Marmaduke.

"So I am informed.  Indeed, Mrs. Mowlem thinks you make the handsomest
pair--next door but three and most genteel!  I mean Mrs. Mowlem.  And
Mrs. Meecher, across the way, highly superior and extremely romantic,
begged to know if you two were affianced.  I said this was on the lap
of the gods--"

"We are not," answered Sir Marmaduke.

"La, dear Mr. Hobbs, say not so!" sighed Eudoxia.  "Yourself--pardon
me!--so dark, so dignified and stately, so distinguished, and she so
demurely delicious, such cream and roses!  Could Giles' Rents but dream
you each other's own, ah me, how many hearts would in tender
sympathy--flutter!"

Here The Eyebrows attempted a playful archness.

"Aha!" quoth Mr. Ponsonby, "Eros!  Eros!  Oh!  Cupid sweet, stealthy
archer!  Pray, Eudoxia, am I acquainted with the ladye fayre?"

"You must have seen her, Augustus; she pervades the Rents--so
statuesque and with tresses like Aurora--I mean the poorer
quarters--babies, you know!"

"Your description, my love, though excellent, leaves me groping.
However, I--"

Shrill hoots and shrieks, a hoarse clamour, a hubbub wild and sudden.

Up sprang Mr. Ponsonby and in a single stride was at the window, where
he was joined by Eudoxia and Sir Marmaduke.

Ragged urchins who shrieked and danced in savage glee; ragged men two
who sprawled blasphemous; ragged men three who scowled and crouched
fierce for strife, and fronting this rabble a slim young exquisite,
indeed a very magnificent young gentleman from gleaming, be-tasselled
Hessians to jaunty hat, the which perched on his curly pate at a
defiant, devil-may-care angle.

"Ha!" exclaimed Mr. Ponsonby, knitting Olympian eyebrows, "one
gentlesome gallant 'gainst the hoi polloi shall never be!"  And
catching up the poker, he opened the window and stepped out with
remarkable quickness and agility.

"Base scullion rogues, avaunt!" cried he in terrible voice.  "Ha--a
rescue!  England and Saint George!"  And he advanced to the conflict,
poker gleaming high in air; whereupon, either by reason of voice,
poker, or eyebrows, the crouching assailants gave back, the howling
urchins scattered, the men, vociferating blood-curdling threats,
sullenly retired until, save for divers heads outthrust from door and
window, Apple-tree Court was itself again.  Then, tossing aside broken
cane, the young gentleman turned to his deliverer with radiant smile.

"Sir," he began, "you're a trump, a brick--confound me if you are n't a
true blue--"

But here, beholding the eyebrows, he took off his hat and bowed
profoundly.  "Pray, sir," he began, "accept my humblest, grateful--why,
John!  Why, Johnny, old tulip!" and leaping forward, Mr. Bellamy caught
and wrung Sir Marmaduke's hand, beaming joyously.

"Happy fortune!" quoth Mr. Ponsonby, poising the poker as if about to
perform the ceremony of knighthood.  "Blest fate that thus on stricken
field friend with friend should meet!  Eudoxia, my soul, another cover
lay for the friend of our friend Hobbs!"

Then beneath the eyes of Apple-tree Court, Sir Marmaduke performed the
introductions and they clambered back to breakfast through the window.

Mr. Bellamy, having bowed to Eudoxia and kissed her hand, whereat she
instantly courtseyed in the "grande" manner, sat down to table with as
ready a grace and easy an air as if he had sat there from infancy.

Quoth Mr. Ponsonby, helping Rupert to the last of the kidneys:

"Mr. Bellamy, sir, in your friend, our honoured--hum--lodger, you
behold our good angel!  Since his adventition hither, the cruel fist o'
Fortune hath become a hand caressing, instead of buffets, benefits
bestowing.  Thanks to friend Hobbs, our fortunes soar!"

"I believe you!" cried Mr. Bellamy heartily.  "There's nobody like old
John!"

"True!" sighed Eudoxia.  "Oh, indeed, most true!"

"Sir," continued Mr. Ponsonby, "you behold in me an Act-or, a child of
Thespis, Melpomene or Thalia, the Sock and Buskin, sir!"

"Oh!" murmured Mr. Bellamy.  "B'gad--really?"

"In very truth, sir.  Humble slave of the Tragic Muse, I.  Yet
whatsoever part I play henceforth, from reeking corse to scurvy,
slippered pantaloon, deep, deep within my unchanging soul I bear
undying sentiments of grateful friendship for--John Hobbs!"  Having
delivered himself of which, Mr. Ponsonby raised cup to lip while his
eyebrows quivered with an emotion beyond mere words.

"How nobly expressed, my husband!" sighed Eudoxia in awed tones.
"Suffer that I add--amen!"

Breakfast done, Sir Marmaduke led the way to his attic, but no sooner
had he closed the door than Mr. Bellamy hugged him in mighty arms,
released him to execute a jig, tossed up his hat, caught it, settled it
on his curls with resounding slap, and taking it off again, pitched it
joyously on the bed.

"John!" he exclaimed, "my dear old tulip--behold me!"

"Extremely à la mode!" smiled Sir Marmaduke.

"I believe you!" said he, glancing down complacently at his resplendent
person.  "But, old fellow, a miracle has happened!  The lion's a lamb,
the Ogre's turned human, the Gorgon's become a--ah--in short, my
unnatural uncle is eager to peck out of my hand, John!"

"You surprise me!" said Sir Marmaduke.

"And no wonder!  I'm surprised myself!  For my uncle, Sir Marmaduke,
old flinty-souled Gruff and Glum, has done the right thing at last,
John!  Good old party, stout old trump, after all--so, blessings on his
old bald nob, say I!"

"Hum!  Bald, Rupert?"

"Well, if he ain't he should be--at his age.  However, here I am, old
fellow, my pockets bulging with rhyno, to place my purse and person at
your service, give you a general leg-up and--er--so forth."

"You are--very good!" said Sir Marmaduke, looking into the speaker's
eager face.  "I am grateful, Rupert--"

"Good?  Grateful?" exclaimed Mr. Bellamy, seizing his hand to grip it
very hard.  "No, no, John--boot's on t'other leg, old fellow!  I--I owe
you so much I can never do--never tell you all my gratitude and--and so
forth!  For John you--trusted me, honoured me, gave me back my
self-respect--and named me 'gentleman' spite o' my pitiful rags.  And
so, old fellow--and so, John, I--oh, damme, I can never--"  Sincerity
choked him and he bowed his head, then, throwing up his chin, looked at
Sir Marmaduke through gleaming tears.  "Frightful ass I am--of course!"
said he unsteadily, "but O Johnny, man, I--I'm so devilish grateful!
It is an honour to call you friend and--I hope--" the quavering accents
stopped suddenly; and Sir Marmaduke, looking with the keen gaze of
experience into the eyes that met his so steadfastly and reading in
their tear-wet depths all the quivering lips left unsaid, smiled and in
his face a radiance not altogether of the sun.

"Rupert," said he, "old fellow, friends we are, and shall be, to the
end, I prophesy.  And as for trusting you--well, Eve-Ann will be glad
to see you.  Go to her now; you will find her in the great, old house
fronting on Crows-foot Lane, yonder."

"But you, John?  Why not come too?"

"I have affairs, Rupert--letters to write.  So off with you to Eve-Ann.
Tell her your good fortune.  Take her walking.  Buy her things.  Talk
to her; I mean, persuade her to leave this neighbourhood.--  She has a
married sister in London, a Mrs. D'Abernon; get her to introduce you to
this sister and urge her to quit Giles' Rents--at once!"

"Begad, I will, John!  It is a frightful hole, this; the men are bad
enough, dammem, but the women--shocking!  And so dooced hideous!"

"However, get her away as soon as possible--do your utmost."

"Trust me, old fellow."  And so, with fervent handclasp, off turned Mr.
Bellamy, out and away, buoyant with youth and the joy of it, leaving a
grave-faced man to stare very forlornly at smoking chimneys and
dilapidated roofs, to sigh wearily and sit down to write to John Hobbs
a screed anent the making of a new will; the letter finished, he arose,
got into the frieze overcoat whose capacious pocket held that weapon so
sure and deadly in his hands, and putting on his hat, went forth into
the sunny air.




CHAPTER XXXVII

TELLS OF THE KNOBBLY STICK OF MR. SHRIG

Ragged children pattered about him at their play, filling the place
with their shrill clamour; tousled women lounging in grimy doorways
ceased their strident chatter to watch him as he passed; hoary age and
puling infancy mopped and mewed from dingy casements.  But Sir
Marmaduke went his solitary way, hands in deep pockets, blind and deaf
to it all, and thus quite unaware of the man who, detaching himself
from shady corner, began to dog his footsteps, a burly man with great
shag of hair whose furtive eyes never left that slow-pacing figure in
frieze overcoat, shapeless hat and clumsy shoes.  Thus from court to
passage and passage to alley paced Sir Marmaduke, all unconscious of
the danger that crept upon his heels, for, just now, his mind Was full
of unhappy speculation concerning his future.  A lonely man he must be,
as he had ever been.--  Well, he would have his books--music--John
Hobbs.

Lost thus to his immediate surroundings he trudged on, his head
bent--and yet he saw Her the moment she crossed the alley and followed
instinctively.  Small children trotted beside her, chattering and
joyous; they held her hands, they grasped her petticoats while she
smiled down on them and talked with the aged crone who hobbled beside
her--and yet, glancing round all at once, as if she sensed his
nearness, she saw him, and her smile, the light in her eyes, drew him.

"John," said she, "there is a poor woman hurt and needeth help; come
with me."

"My Nancy, master," croaked the old woman, "scalded 'er poor legs crool
bad, along o' Mowles frowin' the kittle at 'er, and the childer
starvin'.  Nan on 'er back, and me wi' the 'matics, an' nobody dassent
come a-nigh us 'count o' Mowles bein' madlike!"

"Mad?" enquired Sir Marmaduke.

"Ah--it be gin, sir!  Gallons on it, an' not a drop for me or Nancy, o'
course--oh, no!"

"Who is Mowles?"

"Nancy's man, sir.  Got the 'errors bad."

"Eve, you can never go--"

"But, John, these poor souls need me--"

"And 'ere y' are!" said the old woman, halting sudden at a flight of
steps, slimy and very narrow, that led steeply down to a noisome
cellar.  "Down the dancers, lady, they 're a bit slippy-like, so foller
me and go cautious--you little uns leave go the lady; run off now!"  So
saying, the old creature, having driven off the clinging children, led
them down these steps, unspeakably foul, into a fetid dimness wherein,
little by little, they descried two children who wailed, a woman upon
ragged pallet who groaned fitfully, and in a remote corner a writhing
heap of misery whence issued sudden howls and gasping objurgations.

"This," exclaimed Sir Marmaduke, recoiling in horror, "this is
frightful!"

"Yea, verily!" whispered Eve.  "I have seen few places worse."

"'Ave ye got 'er, Mother?" moaned the woman on the bed.  "Oh 'ave ye
brought the Good Lady?"

"Ay, 'ere she be, Nan--ah, an' a kind gen'leman to look at yer bad
legs--"

"Oh, mam!" cried the sufferer, raising herself amid the rags that
covered her.  "They says as you're good t' the children--be good t'
mine."

"Yea, verily, my sister," said Eve, and stooping above the wretched
bed, took a baby from its haggard mother's arms and hushed its feeble
crying, whereupon the other children, staring in gaping wonder, forgot
to wail.

"Art in much pain?" enquired Eve, laying her hand upon the woman's
wrinkled brow.

"Oh, turble, mam!" piped the old crone in a sort of triumph; '"er legs
is a sight--been groanin' wiv 'em all night!  Show 'em your legs, Nan,
and prove I ain't no liar--show 'em, lass!  Step up, sir, and tak' a
peep at me darter's legs!"

"No, no!" cried Nancy.  "I ain't s' bad, but if ye could poke summat in
the children's mouths t' keep 'em a bit quiet; ye see, lady, they ain't
'ad nothin' since las' night--"

"Poor lambs!" said Eve tenderly.  "They shall be fed, Nancy.  I have
sent for some food--"

At this juncture the miserable thing in the corner yelped sharply and
then, grappling desperately with the empty air, began to sob and swear
fiercely.

"All right, lady!" groaned Nancy reassuringly.  "That be only Mowles;
never 'eed 'im; 'sides, 'e 's better now!  D'leerious treemens, lady,
snakes an' spiders, mam, 'e's been a-catching of 'em all night, pore
soul, and screamin' for 'is mother, and 'er dead an' buried this thirty
year--" the words ended in sudden moan.

"Is the pain so bad, friend?" murmured Eve, bending above the sufferer.

"A bit sharpish--now an' then, mam!"

"Let me try to ease thee.  John, hold the baby."

"Baby?" gasped Sir Marmaduke.  "Pray, no--give it to--to the old
person."

"Nay, I shall want her aid, so take the baby--she is thy little sister
in the Lord's sight!  So now, John, come hold thy small sister a while."

And then he was clutching a feeble-stirring, unsavoury bundle, grasping
which poor, human atom, he turned hurriedly away, as Eve began to
uncover her patient.

But the baby beginning to wail louder than ever, despite all his
frantic efforts, the old woman, at Eve's behest, plucked it from him
none too gently but to his infinite relief.  And then Eve cried his
name in sudden terror, so that he turned hastily and in that moment was
smitten to his knees by the bludgeon that had thus missed his head by
inches.  He heard the sound of a heavy blow behind him and leaping to
his feet, saw a man fall with arms wide-tossed, saw Mr. Shrig at the
stair foot, his knobbly stick aloft for another stroke; but none was
needed it seemed, for the man lay sprawling and very still--a
long-limbed, burly fellow with great shag of hair.

"Bunty Pagan!" said Mr. Shrig, prodding the fallen man gently with his
stick.  "Are you 'urted, sir?"

"Little enough, thanks to you, Shrig!" answered Sir Marmaduke, moving
bruised shoulder tentatively.  "Egad, the fellow meant business; it is
extremely fortunate for me that you chanced hereabouts."

"Chanced?" mused Mr. Shrig.  "Well, no--not eggsaxckly, sir--'appened,
shall us say?  And I 'appened 'ereabouts because I 'appened to have my
ogle, or as you might say, peeper--on my bird 'ere."

"Who seems to be recovering!" said Sir Marmaduke, slipping hand into
pocket of his frieze coat.

"Recovering, sir?  So he be; think o' that now!" and as the fellow
struggled feebly to his knees, Mr. Shrig rapped him sharply on shaggy
head again, so scientifically that Bunty Fagan sank upon his face and
lay inert.

"Werry thick skulls, some o' my birds!" sighed Mr. Shrig.  "But he'll
do nicely now, for a bit!"

Then turning to pale-faced Eve, he touched his hat, smiling
benevolently.  "Give you a bit of a turn, mam, I expect?" he enquired
solicitously.  "For which I axes your parding.  I ought to ha' dropped
Bunty a leetle sooner, say a minute--say thirty seconds, but 'e were
down them steps quicker than I expected!"

"Nay, friend Shrig," said she, laying tremulous hand on his
well-brushed coat sleeve, "thou didst save John's life.  Oh, dear
friend, I pray now the Lord's blessing on thee."

"And vot might you be a-doing here, mam?  'Tis a werry bad place
'ereabouts and no error!"

"This poor Nancy!  She is sore hurt."

"Oh?" quoth Mr. Shrig, and turned to examine the sufferer's injuries.
"Ay, pretty bad, mam, though I 've see vorse."

"I need a sponge, clean water, oil--"

"Or say--lard!  Lard's vot she needs, mam, but most of all--a doctor!"

"Oh, if 't were only possible, friend!  If we could but find one--"

"Ay, a surgeon's the vord, mam!" nodded Mr. Shrig.  "Also I've got to
cage this 'ere bird o' mine!"  Having said which, he set two fingers
between his lips and emitted an ear-splitting whistle which seemed,
almost immediately, to find an echo afar, whereafter ensued a sound of
heavy feet upon the cobbles above, upon the slimy stair and into the
cellar came two powerful fellows who trod with an air of authority.

"On the job, chief!" quoth Number One, touching an eyebrow to Mr. Shrig.

"Ever and allus!" quoth Number Two.  "You got 'im, eh?"

"Ah," sighed Mr. Shrig, "I got 'im, George, but--not for murder, no!  I
could ha' took and topped 'im for murder, yes, but--the corp vould ha'
been this 'ere young lady's friend, so I 'ad to drop Bunty about thirty
seconds--say fifteen--too soon--and there y' are!"  Here Mr. Shrig
sighed again, shook his head and tapped the yet unconscious Bunty with
his stick, gently and regretfully.  "Hows'ever, cage him, lads, though
't will only be 'Murderous Assault' more's the pity!  And George, send
the surgeon; say as I vant 's him."

"Werry good, Jarsper!" answered Number Two; then hoisting the
unconscious Bunty Fagan between them, the burly officers hove and
dragged him up the narrow stairs out of sight.

"And there goes vun on 'em!" nodded Mr. Shrig.  "Vich leaves Dancin'
Jimmy and Vistlin' Dick."

"It seems you prophesied truly, Shrig!" said Sir Marmaduke, leading him
aside, while Eve busied herself with the sufferer.

"Meaning, sir?"

"My being in danger."

"Danger, sir?  Well, I dunno as you 're 'ardly in any partickler
danger--and because vy?  Because I 'm lookin' arter you like a feyther
and a mother--ah, like a brother an' a sister all rolled into vun."

"I am heartily grateful, Shrig!"

"Grateful, sir?  Well, so am I.  And because vy?  Because you are
a-droring my birds into my net--you are the lime on the tvig, in a
manner o' speakin' and--"  But at this moment, from regions above was
the sound of a clear, tenor voice:

"Pray, are there any of you ladies can tell me if a Mrs. Mowles lives
hereabout?"

A shrill chorus of assent, with voluble directions, and Mr. Bellamy's
elegant boots and shapely legs appeared descending the stair, somewhat
gingerly, and finally Mr. Bellamy himself entered the cellar, peering,
and (marvellous to see) laden with very many parcels and packages.

"Ha, Johnny," he exclaimed, in glad surprise, "bear a hand like a good
fellow!  Butter and bread, meat, sugar, tea and the Lord knows what."




CHAPTER XXXVIII

HOW MY LADY MADE A PRAYER

Sir Thomas Mowbray tossed his cigar into the fireplace and looked down
at my lady, her frail yet passionate beauty, with glowing eyes.

"Eleanor," said he, his usually loud voice unwontedly gentle, "Nell,
will you marry me when--when you're free?"

My lady laughed.  "Thank you for nothing, kind sir!"

"Marry me, Nell!" he pleaded, reaching out eager hands.  "Be my wife!
You know it was always you--only you, really!"

"Pray don't paw me!" sighed she wearily.  "And I will never marry you
because I never loved you--and never shall.  You know I always despised
you, Tom, from the very first."

"The world don't think so!" he sneered.

"The world!" sighed my lady in languid contempt.

"And--he don't believe so!"

"No," said she gently, "he was always a blind fool.  I used you to open
his eyes."

"Ha, did ye so, madam?  Well, you opened 'em--wide, with a vengeance,
ay, damme, and the eyes of all our cursed acquaintance as well."

"Indeed, it proved a bitter mistake, Tom.  But then I was so pitifully
young, so wild and head-strong--a little fool.  Yes, it was the fatal
mistake!  Well, we have both suffered--even you."

"Suffered?" he repeated.  "A hell!  But you were worth it, Nell, ye
fiery witch; ha--by God you were, for I loved you."

"I believe you did!" she nodded.  "As much as you could."

"I love you yet,--shall love you to the end o' time, Nell!" said he,
trying to touch the hand that repelled him.

"I believe you will!" she smiled.  "The trouble is that I don't love
you."

"Why not, Nell--why?"

"Simply because you are you, I suppose."

"Ah, by heaven," cried Sir Thomas bitterly.  "I believe you
love--him--even yet, damn him!"

"By heaven, Tom, I believe I do--sometimes."

"And yet ye want him--out o' the way?"

"I do--oh, I do!" she whispered, clenching hands convulsively.

"Women are devilish queer creatures," quoth Sir Thomas, staring at her
beneath drawn brows, "unless--ha, begad, of course--you're jealous!
Ay, damme, that's it, you're jealous o' this Quakeress, this curst
demure country miss--eh?"

"Well, perhaps!--  You have made all arrangements, Tom?"

"I have!"

"For--to-night?"

"Yes!" he answered sulkily.

"Yourself safely out of it, of course?"

"Of course!" said he with sudden scowl.  "That damned fellow Shrig
haunts the place, they tell me!"

"Yes, he was here yesterday," she nodded.

"Here?" cried Sir Thomas, leaping to his feet and recoiling.  "Here?
Shrig?"

"To be sure," she answered, smiling; "he visits me frequently."

"Ha--does he, by God!"

"Oh, yes, he is quite an old acquaintance.  He brings me medicines for
my cough which I throw away and sometimes talks over his cases with me."

"Damme, but you're the sly one, Nell!  Shrig your friend!  Oh, but you
're clever, devilish, superlatively clever!"

My lady yawned delicately.

"The man may be useful--some day."

"How?  How useful, Nell?"

"I prefer you to call me 'Eleanor', as you know."

"Shrig--a visitor here, eh?  And--no word o' this to me!  No, by
heaven, you never breathed a word!  Why?"

"And I only breathe it now as a--warning."

"A warning?" he repeated, staring about him in fierce and sudden
apprehension.  "A warning, d' ye say!  Ha--damnation, ye vixen, what d'
ye mean?"

"Do not bluster with me!" she retorted contemptuously.

"Speak, woman!  Tell me what ye mean--speak!" cried he savagely, and
seizing her in mighty hands, he whirled her back among the pillows and
glared down at her with terrible eyes; but she, meeting that look,
mocked him with trilling laughter.

"What sheer terror!" she murmured.  "But you were always a coward at
heart, were n't you, Tom?"

"Damned witch, suppose I choke ye!"

"You will hang the sooner, fool Tom!  I have written a
letter--explaining everything.  Stop, you are bruising me!"

"Ha, a letter--a letter?" he raved, his cruel grip tightening.  "Where
is it?  Give it to me!  Where is it, I say?  Speak, will ye!"  And he
shook her so violently that she began to cough dismally, but even while
the dreadful spasm racked her, she lifted fumbling hand to her throat,
and next moment he sprang back clutching at bloody wrist.

"I--don't permit--such as you--to hurt me!" she gasped, thrusting the
jewelled pin back into the bosom of her dress.  "Now--sit down
and--listen to me, Tom fool."

"Forgive me, Nell!" cried he, dabbing at his wrist with dainty
handkerchief.  "Ah, forgive me, lass.  Eleanor, I 'm a brute!  But you
're so devilish tantalizing, you drive a man frantic.  Come now, Nell,
what's all this of a letter; where is it, my dear?  And what d' ye mean
by a warning?"

"I mean Eve--Ann--Ash!" said my lady, viewing him from her pillows with
contemptuous eyes.  "You are a satyr, Tom!  Well, attempt any of your
old tricks with her and I will see that you are taken and hanged for--"

A murmur of voices from the outer room and Sir Thomas crouched with one
hand within his breast and wide eyes upon the door.

"Shrig!" said he in fierce and threatening whisper.  "So then, damned
Jezebel, ye 've betrayed me--"

"Not yet, Tom!" she whispered.  "The door is locked and you may go as
you came--the panel!  And take your hat and coat with you, poor craven
fool!"

Speaking, she arose, crept lightly to the door and, turning key
soundlessly in well-oiled lock, returned slow and feebly to her couch;
sinking down gracefully, she composed herself among the pillows and,
sighing, closed her eyes as came a gentle tap.

"Come in!" she called wearily, and then as Eve appeared, reached out
her hands in eager welcome.

"Dearest, but you 've been a weary time!" sighed she in gentle reproach.

"Forgive me, Marian, a sick woman had need o' me.  But friend Shrig is
here."

"Then bid him enter."

Mr. Shrig appeared forthwith, as placid and beaming as usual.

"Mam," said he, regarding my lady with his cheery smile, "a werry good
day to you!  And how is the cough?"

"The same as ever, Shrig, no worse and no better.  I shall not last the
winter."

"No, no," said he, bright eyes roving, "you ain't vun to toss up the
sponge--not you!  Never say die, mam!"

"But I do say die!" cried she, a little wildly.  "I must!  And what
have I to live for?  But sit down, Shrig, and take a glass of
sherry--or is it port?"

"Port, and thankin' ye kindly, mam!" answered Mr. Shrig, and advanced
towards the chair she indicated, but doing so, he dropped his hat,
which fell with remarkably heavy thud; when he picked it up, there lay
within its cavernous interior a man's blood-spotted handkerchief.

"So you still wear your iron hat, Shrig?" smiled my lady, as Eve filled
the glass.

"True, mam.  I finds it comforting agin Windictiveness in the shape o'
bludgeons, flatirons and a occasional chimbley pot."

"Indeed, yours is a dangerous profession!" said my lady, viewing him
with speculative eyes.  "It is a wonder you have not been killed."

"There's plenty has tried it, mam, and some got pretty nigh a-doing of
it, but I still draws the wital air," and Mr. Shrig snuffed the air
accordingly.

"A cigar!" nodded my lady.  "You smell it, of course!"

"And a re-markable good vun too, mam!"

"And the handkerchief--in your hat!  Petty larceny, Mr. Shrig.  Oh,
fie!"

Slowly and deliberately he removed the handkerchief from his hat and
laying it upon the table, regarded my lady with look that was almost
reverential, then, lifting his brimming glass, he stood up.

"Mam," said he with inclination of head and shoulders that was almost a
bow, "mam, I sal-oots you!  I drinks your werry good health on my feet!
And I can't say no fairer than that, my lady Vee-Tee!"

"Ah! so you know my name, Shrig?" said she, with smile as placid as his
own.

"Mam, Lord love you, I've knowed it these six--ah, seven years!  Ever
since you come to the Rents."

"Exactly how much do you know, I wonder?"

Mr. Shrig looked at the floor, at the ceiling and finally at his
questioner.

"Enough, mam," he answered slowly and with a strange impressiveness,
"to know as there's some things as I shall never know, or
leastvays--understand.  But I knows enough to sa-loot you, my lady,
with all honours doo!"

So saying, Mr. Shrig emptied his glass and took up his hat.  Then with
sudden, febrile gesture, my lady sat up and reached him her hand.  So
Mr. Shrig took that delicate hand in his big palm and opened his eyes a
little wider than usual, to feel how strong were those slim fingers and
how convulsive their grasp.

"Shrig," said she in hushed yet compelling tone, "you have seen
death--often?"

"Pretty often, mam!" he nodded.

"Is it very hard?  Does it seem--painful?"

"Mam, it depends on--how?"

"Shooting, say?"

"Werry easy, mam, it looks--and sap-rising qvick!  A shot in the proper
place and--" he snapped his fingers.

"One pang--eh, Shrig?  Just one pang and then--sleep?"

"Sleep?" mused Mr. Shrig.  "I vonder, now!"

"I suppose people are dying at this moment, by the thousand, in this
big world; it is the commonest occurrence--eh, Shrig?"

"Werry true, mam!" he nodded.  "But Lord love you, my lady--"

"Yes, yes, I sound very morbid," said she, loosing his hand suddenly,
"but when one has felt Death touch one, as I have, when one is so very
near death, as I am, one must needs think of death frequently; it is
only natural.--  Good-bye, Shrig, you are a strange, kind soul and have
helped me pass many a weary hour--  Good-bye!"  So saying, she threw
herself back upon her pillows and closed her eyes wearily.

Mr. Shrig looked down at her and his usually placid features seemed a
little troubled.

"Mam," said he gently, "my lady, is there ever anything as I can do for
ye?"

"Oh, no--no!" she answered, shaking her head in swift petulance but
with eyes still closed.  "No one can!  Good-bye, Shrig.  Good-bye
and--thank you!"

Slowly Mr. Shrig crossed to the door but there paused to glance at Eve
who sat busied with her sewing, but meeting this look she followed him
softly from the room; but, being come to the outer door, Mr. Shrig
paused to shake his head and glance back over his shoulder, but all he
said was, "Werry rum!" and so departed.

Then back went Eve to find my lady lying with eyes still shut and very
still, apparently fast asleep; but scarcely had Eve poised her needle
than my lady spoke sharply:

"What d' you sew there, Eve-Ann?"

"I am making a wrap for Mrs. Trimber's new baby, but indeed--" Eve
paused aghast, for burying her face in the pillow, my lady burst into a
wild and passionate weeping; up started Eve and setting by her work,
caught that grief-stricken figure to her heart.

"Marian," she pleaded, "oh, my dear, what is it?"

"A--little baby!" gasped my lady.  "Eve--O Eve-Ann--if only I had been
a mother!  A little baby of my own--I might have been--so different--so
much better, instead of the evil creature I am."

"Nay, hush thee, my dear!" murmured Eve, folding her closer.  "Thou 'rt
none evil, 't is only that thou hast lost thy way awhile.  But some
day, my dear, some day God shall take thy hand--the Good Shepherd shall
bring thee safe to His fold."

"No--not my hand, not mine--ah, no!" cried my lady wildly, raising her
slim hand to stare at it with eyes of sudden horror.  "God will never
touch--my hand!"

"Hush, thou dear, frighted soul!" said Eve, cradling the sobbing
creature as a mother might.  "God hears thee, sees thee and is
all-merciful.  And verily there is in thee, Marian, so much of God that
He can never leave thee forlorn.  Thou art His child, the very child of
His love.  So hush thee, my dear, and trust thyself to the Lord's
forgiving and everlasting mercy."

Thus my lady--the lovely, passionate, fearful child--clung to Eve, the
gentle, strong woman, and presently found some solace in her murmured
words, the tender clasp of her protecting arms.

"Eve--oh, my dearest," she questioned wildly, "do you believe God will
be waiting for me beyond the dreadful shadows--do you?"

"I am sure of it, Marian."

"And will--take my hand?  This wicked hand of mine?"

"Yea, verily, dear soul, and lift thee up into His abiding glory."

"Kiss me, Eve--oh, kiss me, thou angel of comfort."

So Eve kissed her and they clung together awhile; and now my lady
questioned Eve in quick, passionate whisper.  "Tell me, Eve-Ann, do
you--do you?"

But now was a sudden, inconsequent rapping on the outer door and when
Eve would have risen, my lady held her fast.  "No, tell me first,
dearest!  You shall not go until I am answered!"

Then Eve, flushing beneath her questioner's fever-bright eyes, bowed
her head and answered:

"Yea, indeed, indeed, Marian--with all my heart."

Then my lady kissed her and Eve, released from those clinging arms,
hastened to open the door and thus beheld a small, ragged urchin, who
grinned in friendly fashion and spoke in shrill pipe:

"Oh, please 'm, muvver says come quick, 'cos tha babby 's stiff's a
poker an' she finks it's a-croakin', if ye please."

"Go, Eve--yes, yes, my dear--go!" said my lady, speaking and moving in
strange, feverish haste.  "Here--here is your cloak; let me fold it
about you.  And don't--don't hurry back--nay, I am very well and shall
be, yes, very well.  So hurry away, my dearest, and--may God send you
all the happiness I wish for you."  So saying, she kissed Eve upon the
mouth, upon the brow, almost fiercely and pushing her out upon the wide
landing, slammed the great door and stood a moment looking about her
with the great eyes of a terrified child, then, shivering violently,
covered her face.

"Happiness!" she whispered.  "Help me, God!"

And now, crossing to the window, she flung wide her arms in swift,
passionate gesture and raised clasped hands to the radiant heaven.  "O
God," she cried, "if Thou wilt indeed hear such as I, give to her the
happiness I never knew--the blessing and glory I cast from
me--Motherhood, O God--children!"




CHAPTER XXXIX

WHICH DESCRIBES MY LADY'S WAY

The sun had set in splendour and left behind a glory so wonderful that
busy folk stayed to point it to each other, to stand awhile gazing with
eyes uplifted, awed by the ever-changing marvel of it; indeed a most
unearthly glory whereby the ordinary world of commonplace, marvellously
transfigured by this far-flung radiance, found unwonted beauty, even in
the grim and sordid ugliness of Giles' Rents.

And my lady, hasting upon her solitary way, must needs behold this
glory which had, somehow, got into her eyes, transfiguring her also;
for, looking heavenward thus, she seems young again and crowned with a
serene and radiant content.

Somewhere in the bustling hive before her, beyond the mazy windings of
narrow passage and grim alley, rise the rich, singing notes of a fiddle
growing louder with her every step, such music as, soaring in melody
triumphant, seems a promise of glories yet to be, and a nobler living.

And now she is among the eager, listening crowd, is pushed and jostled,
yet moving ever on; she beholds familiar faces changed and softened by
the magic of that fiddle, eyes adream, glad, or smiling through
tears--kinder folk and a better world than she had ever dreamed; and
smiling, she enters an open doorway, mounts a dark and creaking stair.
She opens a door and beholding the solitary man, beckons with imperious
hand, whispers three words, whereat he, staying for not so much as his
hat, speeds from the place--out and away.

The Fiddler has reached Apple-tree Court and smiles happily as he plies
his bow, for his inspired gaze is upturned to the glorious heaven, some
radiance of which finds its way into Sir Marmaduke's attic; it shows
his narrow bed and beyond this the easy-chair and worn, frieze
overcoat, which falls in such revealing folds about the studious figure
seated there, whose quill pen squeaks so busily.--  Stealthy feet creep
behind the door!--  But the pen squeaks on.--  A stealthy hand upon the
latch!--  The busy pen never falters.--  A slow and furtive opening of
the door and the pen is still at last, the studious figure straightens
its shoulders, sits rigid and motionless--then Murder levels its deadly
hand.

The Fiddler is smiling down at the dancing children, for now he is
playing a joyous, lilting measure but--suddenly the music breaks and he
stands, his bow arrested, staring up at a certain window with eyes of
horror.  The dancing children are mute and still, the men and women
have forgotten their dreams, for where the Fiddler stares, all eyes are
turned.  And then from that little open casement crawls a
slow-wreathing eddy of blue smoke, beholding which, the Fiddler utters
a strangled scream and, tossing wild arms to heaven, staggers a pace
and falls, to lie inert in the dust, as if smitten down by some unseen
hand.

Then the echo of that dreadful sound still ringing upon the air,
pandemonium breaks forth.  Who is it?  What is it?  A shot!  Some one
is killed!  Murder!

And so is stir and tumult--a wild confusion and desperate trampling to
and fro.  And through the crowd, unheeded amid the uproar, comes a
lank, stooping man with strange, dancing step who, pushing fiercely
through the press, nudges the tall, cloaked figure beside him.

"All's bowmon, guv'nor!  The Vistler's done it!" he whispers.  "Foller
me!"  He pushes his way to a small, sullen-looking door and, nodding to
his companion, they hurry up dark and creaking stair, their hasty tread
drowning the sound of other feet that mount after them.  So they reach
a half-open door, breathe an air acrid with burnt powder, and behold
the small, weazened face of Whistling Dick, who nods at them, a smoking
pistol in his fist.

"Gorrim, governor!" he says, and whistling nervously between his teeth,
points to something that sits sprawled across the rickety table.
Slowly, almost fearfully, the tall man steps across the threshold,
hears a gasping oath behind him, is set aside by a powerful arm, and
he, in turn, gasps and cowers back and back to the wall, staring in
speechless, wondering horror at Sir Marmaduke who, crossing to that
still and awful shape, stoops and with reverent hand lifts off the hat
and puts back the folds of that enveloping, frieze overcoat.

"Mowbray," says he, standing aside, "behold your handiwork!"

Sir Thomas looks and utters an inarticulate, broken cry, for the
radiant sunset shows him the face of Lady Vane-Temperly, serene and
glorified in death.

"Murderer!" he cries, and turning, leaps at Whistling Dick, but the
little man stoops, there is a glitter of quick-driven steel, and Sir
Thomas staggers back and stands swaying, tears at his breast with
clutching fingers then, groaning, sinks to his knees,--to his face.

"Eleanor!" he gasps.  "Nell--beloved--at last--"

Slowly, painfully, he drags himself, crawling until his fumbling hand
may touch the hem of her gown, her slender foot and, clasping this
little foot, he pillows his great head upon it--sighs and is still.

The heavenly radiance is fading fast, yet enough light remains to show
a sheet of paper beneath slim, white hand, with these words boldly
penned, the ink scarcely dry:


This is my way and I take it gladly for the sake of my so loved
Eve-Ann; a dark way, yet I go unfearing, since there is a light beyond,
and perhaps happiness for even such as I who missed my--


A rush and clatter of heavy feet upon the stair and men are in the
room, first and foremost Mr. Shrig, short-breathing, bloody and
dishevelled.

"Too late!" he cries, and dropping to his knees, turns up the man's
face to the light.

"Black Tom!" he gasps in breathless, peevish complaint.  "Black Tom
and--by Goles--you 've diddled me again--for good and all!"




CHAPTER XL

WHICH DESCRIBES THE END OF OUR MURDERER

"Six days and there it lies," sighed Eudoxia, shaking tragic head,
"there it lies, Mr. Shrig, his poor fiddle, so silent, so useless, so
pitiful--never to sound again, alas--nevermore!"

"Meaning as you think he's a-going to hop the twig, mam--die, eh?"

"Shrig, we gravely fear so!" nodded Mr. Ponsonby.  "The Dark Angel yet
hovers above this our habitation.  Our invalid, thanks to the boundless
magnanimity of friend Hobbs, lacks for nought, my Eudoxia and Miss Ash,
angels in women's guise, bend o'er him all unremitting, yet, in
fostering care's despite, he sinks, Shrig; strength ebbs with the
fleeting hours away, he hovers on death's grimly marge."

"Mm!" mused Mr. Shrig.  "And all because 'e chanced to hear that there
fatal shot!  Screamed, so they tell me, throwed up his arms and fell;
eh, Mrs. Ponsingby, mam, you witnessed same, I think?  Fell werry
suddent-like, eh?"

"Oh, very suddenly, Mr. Shrig, as if indeed he had been shot instead of
that poor, poor Mrs.--"

"And he 's never been conscious since, eh, mam?"

"Not once, poor soul!  And, oh, Mr. Shrig, yonder on the chiffonier
lies his poor fiddle, so silent--so useless!  I weep each time I look
at it."

"Then, mam," said Mr. Shrig, rising, "don't look at it."

"A violin, Mr. Shrig, is such a poor, fragile thing, only wood and
strings and yet in the hands of such a master becomes a thing
divine--the very voice of God speaking to our secret hearts and souls
and now--for ever silent."

Mr. Shrig crossed to the door but with hand on the latch paused.

"Does 'e talk much, mam, your invalid?"

"Ah, yes, poor soul, he rambles!" sighed Eudoxia.

"Babbles, my soul!" quoth Mr. Ponsonby.  "Like the dying Falstaff,
Shrig, 'a babbles o' green fields.'"

"No, not fields, Augustus love; a wood."

"A--wood!" murmured Mr. Shrig and staring up very hard at the dingy
ceiling, pursed clean-shaven lips in soundless whistle.

"Oh, yes, he often babbles of wood--in the twilight--most poetical!"

"But a vood," said Mr. Shrig, returning to the armchair he had so
lately vacated, "a vood might mean a forest, or then again it might
mean a coppice or--even a--spinney?"

"Now you mention it, Mr. Shrig, he sometimes talks of a spinney also."

"A--spinney!" murmured Mr. Shrig and sinking into the elbow chair, he
placed his hat and stick carefully beneath it.  "I 'm a-vondering,
mam," said he dreamily, "if this here spinney might
be--down--along--Sussex vay?"

Eudoxia uttered a little gasp.

"Good gracious!" she exclaimed.  "Why, Mr. Shrig, that's what he named
it--Down-along Spinney."

"Ah!" sighed Mr. Shrig, sinking back in his chair and nodding with
placid smile.  "Think o' that now!  Vich reminds me I 'appened to hear
friend 'Obbs is a-coming back to-night."

"Oh, kind heavens above!" exclaimed Eudoxia, rising hastily.  "Though
glad as always to see him--yet four mutton chops, Mr. Shrig, so
inadequate, and how we shall sleep him or where.  Omnipotence alone can
say!"

"Never vorrit, mam.  I 'm a-taking him along o' me!"

"Not," said Mr. Ponsonby, eyebrows faintly waggish, "not in your
official capacity, we trust.  Meanwhile, good friend, how say you to--a
glass of port?"

"Mr. Ponsingby, sir, I say--vith all my 'eart!"

"My soul," said Mr. Ponsonby, questing in darksome corner cupboard,
"the Oporto, where doth it roost?"

"Nowhere, dearest, it is gone; the bottle is void, my Augustus."

"Ha, confusion!" sighed Mr. Ponsonby.  "Is there aught so dismal as--an
empty bottle?  But courage, friend, I will around the imminent corner
step; patience!"  So saying, he caught up his hat and departed
forthwith.  But scarcely had the front door closed than from somewhere
overhead came the faint tinkle of a bell.

"Oh dear me!" exclaimed Eudoxia, jumping to her feet.  "There is Miss
Eve ringing--  Now I wonder--?  Pray excuse me, Mr. Shrig!" and she
hurried up the creaking stair.

Left alone, Mr. Shrig stood with head bent, listening intently, and
thus heard a strange, high, querulous voice raised in eager questioning
and then, even as he turned to ascend the stair, Eudoxia came hurrying
down.

"His fiddle!" said she breathlessly.  "He wants his fiddle.  And, oh,
dear, he is so altered, so strangely different--is it death, I wonder?"

"Why, then, mam," said Mr. Shrig, keen-eyed yet to all seeming placid
as ever, "I 'll jest step up and take a peep at him," and upstairs he
went forthwith.

"Strangers!" the Fiddler was saying in altered tones, high-pitched and
querulous.  "Where am I, pray?  All strangers, I perceive--everything
strange!"  And as his voice was changed, so was he, his every look and
gesture; the elfin Fiddler had become a haggard, care-worn man, yet
dignified, forceful, compelling.

"Nay," said Eve, stroking his white hair with caressing hand, "I am
here--"

"Yes, madam, yes!" he answered peevishly.  "But my daughter, my
Rosamond, where is she?"

"Thy--daughter?" whispered Eve, shrinking a little before his fierce,
bright eyes.  "Oh, dear Jackie, dost not know thy Eve-Ann?"

"No," said he impatiently.  "No, indeed.  Pray have the goodness to
send for my daughter.  Rosamond should be with me.  I--I fear I am not
well.  I seem to have--dreamed--very strangely."

"Comfort thee," murmured Eve, in her soothing accent; "thou 'rt my dear
friend Jack o' the Fiddle."

"Never--never!" he exclaimed.  "True, I am a violinist, yes--but my
name is--I am--ah, God!  Who am I?  There is a mist on my brain.  I
cannot remember--  Ha, my violin!  Bring it and I will play; you shall
know me then.  All the world knows me--especially when I play.  Give me
the violin.  Rosamond will come when she hears it calling her."  So he
took the instrument, drew bow across strings with a master's touch,
tightened a string and, with eager gaze upon the door, began to play.

A golden, singing note that swelled to die away upon a minor trill, a
sweet, poignant summons thrice repeated--then came sudden silence and
into those eager, watching eyes a growing horror.

"Dead!" he whispered.  "I dreamed her dead!  My Beautiful, my Rose,
withered--blasted--trampled and mired!  Rosamond!" he cried and
shivering violently, covered his face, while from beneath those wasted
fingers slow tears crept.  And then while Eve watched him through
gathering tears and Eudoxia sobbed aloud, Mr. Shrig crossed silently to
the bed and stooping swiftly, breathed a word in the Fiddler's car.

"Ha--Brandish!" he repeated, staring wildly around.  "That murderer of
Innocence!  O Villainy, gloating on corruption!  That he should plague
the earth and she lie dead!  That he should eat and drink and laugh
yet!  No wonder the pallid, dead-faced moon should seem to mock me!  O
God of Justice, since murder is sin, do Thou smite him!  O Death,
consume him ere he bring shame and ruin on others.  Thy lambs, O God,
protect them from this slavering wolf.  The blood of Thine innocent
cries to Thee for vengeance!  Strike him from life, O God of Justice!
Let him die!"  The words ended in a gasp and once again the speaker hid
his face in clutching hands.

Eudoxia had hushed her sobbing, Eve-Ann knelt motionless beside the
bed, and in this awed silence Jasper Shrig spoke, his voice strangely
gentle, each word very distinct and deliberately uttered:

"In--Down-along--Spinney!"

A moment of deadly stillness and then--from behind those clutching,
veiling hands came a soft, chuckling laugh, the clasping hands fell
away to reveal the dancing, elfin eyes of Fiddling Jack.

"Yes--yes," he nodded, smiling joyously.  "Down-along Spinney; it was
there I shot him."

"Ay, to be sure!" said Mr. Shrig, nodding also.  "Shot 'im in
Down-along Spinney vith a two-barrelled gun, eh?"

"Yes, yes--Ebenezer's gun.  I 'd seen it many times hanging above the
mantel but it never occurred to me what it was for until I heard my
sweet Eve-Ann cry out in the wood--saw her struggle in his wicked arms;
then I knew it hung there on the wall waiting to do the Lord's work--to
avenge, to protect, to remove evil from the earth."

"Ay, to be sure!" said Mr. Shrig nodding again.  "So you fetched the
gun and give him both barrels?"

"Both barrels!" nodded the Fiddler.  "Oh, I made very sure, and so he
died and lay there looking as horrible, as evil as he was.  So I hasted
away, and that night I made a new song, an anthem of praise and
thanksgiving and played it to--her, my Beautiful and all those
happy-happy ones that are dead and beyond grief.  Yes--'t was thus I
saved Eve-Ann, sweet innocent, but--ah, there was no one to save my
Rosamond!  But she is dead and very happy, since only the dead are
truly blest, living for ever in God's glory.--  So my Rose blooms again
fairer than ever, a flower of heaven never to fade.  Pray give
me--Genevra, my fiddle, yes.  God taught me to play a call can--bring
her near to--comfort her solitary father--  Rosamond, the shackles are
falling away at last; I come playing to thee.  Listen, my Beautiful!
Reach me thy hand--down, down and lift me--back to God!  Listen, my
Beautiful!"

Groping and unsure, he grasped the bow, swept it across the sobbing
strings, then lifted his head and upon his face a great gladness.

"Rosamond!" he whispered, and dropping fiddle and bow, he raised both
hands to heaven, slowly letting them fall and sank back upon his
pillow, sighing deeply like one very weary who settles himself to
yearned-for slumber....

"Listen!" whispered Eudoxia upon her knees.  "Almost you can hear
him--playing more--wonderfully up there before the throne of God than
ever he did on earth--listen!"

Then Mr. Shrig, looking down upon that glad face, so gentle and so
radiantly dead, turned and went from the attic with tread so light
that, for once, even the creaking stair was silent.




CHAPTER XLI

WHICH, BEING THE LAST, ENDS THIS NARRATIVE AS SUCCINCTLY AS POSSIBLE

"This coat feels somewhat tight in the shoulders, Paxton!"

"Ah, sir, you have not worn it since you returned and, pardon me, sir,
but you have become slightly more, if you'll pardon the
expression--robust, sir."

"Robust?" murmured Sir Marmaduke, surveying his elegant person from
head to foot in the cheval glass.  "Robust is, I suppose, the masculine
of 'buxom'?"

"Certainly, sir."

"How long is it since I returned, Paxton?"

"Precisely a month and a day, sir.  And permit me to remark, sir, that
you look admirably well."

"Paxton, I thank you!"

"Indeed, sir, beyond expression!  And that garment, if a little tight,
fits and becomes you to the ne plus ultra of perfection, sir."

"Then, Paxton, I must endure it.  And now be good enough to desire Mr.
Hobbs to step upstairs."  Paxton patted the coat fondly, tugged it
tenderly, bowed and departed.

Sir Marmaduke glanced round his luxurious bedchamber and sighed.  "Only
a month and a day!"  He was staring dejectedly out of the window when
John Hobbs knocked and entered.

"Well, John, you saw Rupert yesterday; how is he--I mean is the--the
matter arranged?"

"I believe not, sir, though he seemed in the very best of spirits."

"Ah, then you may be sure--she has accepted him.  I suppose we shall
have them--married shortly--eh, John?"

"Possibly, sir.  Mr. Bellamy is very anxious to meet his Uncle
Marmaduke--to express his gratitude for your last generous offer."

"They should be very happy--eh, John?" enquired Sir Marmaduke, frowning
thoughtfully at his reflection in the cheval glass.  "They are so
admirably matched--both so young!"

"Yes, they are both young!" answered John Hobbs, glancing at Sir
Marmaduke's gloomy brow.

"I shall in addition to the settlement give them this place, John; it
is much too large for an old--bachelor; besides, I am going abroad for
an indefinite time as soon as the--business is over."

"Business, sir?"

"The wedding, man, the wedding.  I 'm off on my travels again--and this
brings me to--yourself, John.  I have, as you know, left you the
property in Kent at my decease, but why not take possession at once?
Say the word and I will--  What in the world?"

A sound of approaching hoofs coming at breakneck gallop and a horseman
flashed beneath the window.

"It looked like Mr. Bellamy, sir."

"It is Mr. Bellamy, John.  I will see him in the library."

Thus when Sir Marmaduke opened the door of that stately apartment he
beheld Mr. Bellamy, somewhat dusty and dishevelled, striding
impatiently up and down; perceiving Sir Marmaduke, he hurried forward,
hand eagerly outstretched.

"Why, John!" he exclaimed.  "Why, Johnny man, what do you here in the
ogre's lair?"

"Exist, Rupert."

"Exist?  Eh, d' ye mean you live--here?" he demanded and then, becoming
aware of Sir Marmaduke's so altered appearance, he fell back a step,
gasping, "Oh, b'George, d' you mean--ye gods, will you tell me--  Lord
love me, John--who--what are you?"

"Make a guess, Nephew."

"Neph--!"  Mr. Bellamy gaped and appeared to totter.  "No--John, you
can't be--Uncle Marmaduke?"

"Right, dear lad!  I am indeed that unworthy relative who now begs to
shake hands with you, Rupert."

"Lord love me!" ejaculated Mr. Bellamy feebly, and sank into a chair,
only to spring up again, to bow, drop his hat, and stand utterly
confounded.

"Have I to--congratulate you, Rupert?"

"So you--you, sir, are--John Hobbs, Uncle?"

"I was!  And this should make us the better friends.  But here stands
the real John Hobbs--don't go, John!  Let us sit down all three and
talk over the details of--"

"Johnny--I mean, Uncle," said Mr. Bellamy, a little wildly, "I'm here
to--to thank you for all your goodness, your generosity, faith in me,
schemes for my future welfare but--the dream's shivered to atoms.  I
mean the bubble's burst--everything's eternally smashed--upside down;
in short, my dear old tulip--sir--it 's no go!"

"No go?" repeated Sir Marmaduke, puzzled.

"Instead o' settling me as a county squire and--ah--so forth,
John--Uncle, I 'll go for a soldier or sailor--anything wi' plenty o'
change and movement in it, my dear old fellow."

"What under heaven do you mean, Rupert?"

"John," sighed Mr. Bellamy, shaking doleful head, "Uncle, old fellow,
the whole affair--romantic dream, hopes of marital bliss and--so forth,
is a--a--in short, a flam!  She--Eve-Ann, don't want a husband--at
least, not me.  So--game's up and--I'm off!"

Sir Marmaduke drew a deep breath and leaned back in his chair.

"Rupert," said he, his usual serenity a little ruffled, "do you--are
you suggesting that--she--has actually--refused you?"

"Actually and finally, sir!  And Johnny, old tulip--confound it, no, I
mean, sir--I believe there's--another!"

"Good heavens!" murmured Sir Marmaduke.  "God bless my soul!"  To be
sure he frowned, also he averted his head, yet not before Mr. Bellamy
had seen the sudden light in his uncle's eyes and opened his own eyes
very wide.

"Sir," said he, "my dear old--Uncle, I'm positively sure she loves--but
not your very unfortunate, obedient humble!"

"But Rupert, I was so sure that she--that you--my mind was quite set
upon it!"

"But then, Uncle, her mind is set on--ah--in short--elsewhere!"

"Rupert, I was quite persuaded, quite confident that she--loved you."

"Oh, she does, sir, she does!"

"Eh?" exclaimed Sir Marmaduke, starting.

"In a--sisterly fashion, Johnny!" answered Mr. Bellamy, with reassuring
nod but smiling a little ruefully.  "As a friend, old fellow, but
not--no, not as a lover, spouse, husband and--ah--so forth!"

"Are you sure of this, Rupert?"

"Sir, she told me so!"

"Astounding!" murmured Sir Marmaduke.

"You see, old--  Uncle, she adores another!"

"Did she tell you this also, Rupert?"

"Well, not in so many words, sir, but it was sufficiently evident--even
to me, and I 'm as blind as a confounded mole--or have been!  D' you
remember, John, sitting beside our campfire, says I to you, 'She's a
goddess--Greece and Rome!'--pointing out her lovely points to
you--you--of all men!  Johnny--I mean Uncle, what a precious ass was I!
And now, John--sir, I would humbly, but with all my heart, wish success
to--the better man, whoever he be, and every happiness, old tu--Uncle
Marmaduke.  You'll find her at Monk's Warren, and--  God bless you!"
Saying which, Mr. Bellamy suddenly grasped his uncle's hand, wrung it
hard and dashed out of the room.

Sir Marmaduke stood awhile staring out of the window, and his eyes were
bright as the morning and youthfully eager.

"Ten miles, John!" said he at last.  "Twelve at most.  Pray order our
horses, for you will ride with me, my faithful John.  This, I hope, is
the end of my quest."

And very soon the horses were stamping and snorting at the door.

So together they mount and ride off through the sunny morning, side by
side, and in silence for the most part, since Sir Marmaduke forces the
pace; also he is thoughtful and John Hobbs is never a talkative man.
At last says Sir Marmaduke, glancing up and around:

"Truly a glorious morning, John!"

"And warmish, sir!" agrees John Hobbs.

Silence again save for the thud of speeding hoofs, the creak and jingle
of saddles and bridle chains.  Then says Sir Marmaduke, his bright eyes
uplifted:

"John, how wonderfully the larks are singing this morning!"

"Yes, sir," nods John, "but so they did yesterday."

The dusty road spins away beneath them, mile after mile, until Sir
Marmaduke checks his speed somewhat and speaks his thought aloud:

"Of course it may be--some one else, John!"

"Possibly, sir."

"Though I--don't think so, John."

"Neither do I, sir."

"However, we shall soon know, for there is Monk's Warren," and he
pointed to the gables of a goodly house rising above the green of trees.

Avoiding this house, Sir Marmaduke turned down a narrow shady lane and
so came into the wide farmyard and, drawing rein, sat looking round
upon neat ricks and the prim orderliness of time-mellowed barns and
stabling.  From the home meadow came the pleasant sound of whetted
scythe and cheery voices; from thatched outhouse adjacent, the clank of
a pail.  And then Eve-Ann stepped into the sunshine--aproned to the
throat, round arms bare, face shaded by deep sunbonnet and upon her
supple shoulders a yoke whence depended two pails abrim with foaming
milk.  Three steps she took ere, glancing up, she saw the horseman
watching her, and beholding the light in his eyes, stood still and
caught her breath in a little sob.

"Dear!" said he, baring his head.  "O Eve-Ann!"

Yet she stood there motionless, but seeing all the yearning eagerness
of him, hearing it in his voice, the light grew in her eyes also.  Then
swiftly he dismounted and came towards her, and his step was quick and
eager as his look.

"So it was--not Rupert?"

"Nay, 't was never Rupert!" she answered.

"Eve," said he reaching out his hands, "my Eve-Ann!"

"Oh, nay--bide a moment, John!"  With sweet gracious movement she bent
her knees, bowed her shoulders and, setting down pails and yoke, stood
viewing him beneath the deep brim of her sunbonnet, a little wistfully.

"John," said she softly.  "Sir--Marmaduke--"

"Call me 'John', my dear."

"Hast come--at last?" she questioned in voice deep with tenderness, and
folding her hands in that reverent gesture he knew so well.

"To the end of my quest, I hope!" he answered.

"Hast then found--thy youth, John?"

"I wonder!" sighed he.  "But I have found an infinitely better
thing--Eve-Ann Ash.--  Can you love me, child?"

"But, John dear," she answered, a little breathlessly, "thou art--Sir
Marmaduke--a great gentleman, and I--I am only Eve-Ann--"

"Indeed, you are the only Eve-Ann!" said he, taking her two hands.
"So, child, will you come to me, give yourself to my keeping?  Will
you?"

"First--oh, first," she whispered with swift passion, "dost love me,
John, not--ah, not as a child but as a wo--"

She was in his arms, swung aloft, slim feet helpless in air.

"Love you?" said he.  "Heaven knows I do.  Eve-Ann, kiss me!"

When he set her down at last, the deep-brimmed sunbonnet lay on the
ground between them and lay awhile all unheeded.

"John," she whispered, "to be so loved, by such as thou, awes me for
very wonder of it.--  And, oh, my dear, let us mind how 't was she gave
us to each other, she that lost her life for thee, she that knew I
could love but thee--and now looks down from heaven, happy in our
happiness."

A stifled giggle behind them and, glancing round, they espied the
flutter of a print gown ere it vanished into an adjacent doorway.

"O John!" exclaimed Eve-Ann, flushing.  "Yon was Nancy, one o' my
dairymaids!  Verily I forgot all else in the world save thee and me--"

Sir Marmaduke laughed gaily and picked up the rumpled sunbonnet.

"And yet," said he, becoming grave, "I am--forty-five!"

"But thine eyes to-day are a boy's eyes, my John.  Love hath indeed
given thee back thy youth at last."

"And my hair is turning grey!"

"Where, pray thee?"

"Here at my temples."

"Stoop thy dear head, John!"

"And now," said Eve, lovely face hid demurely under sunbonnet, "come,
let us tell my two dears!"

As they went there met them John Hobbs who, baring his grey head to
Eve-Ann, seemed so very like an archdeacon about to pronounce a
blessing.

"My John," said Sir Marmaduke cheerily, "pray now, exactly how old do I
look?"

"Sir," answered John Hobbs, looking from one happy face to the other.
"I should say--about thirty-six or considerably under; indeed I--"

Forth of near-by cow-shed stepped a shortish, broad-shouldered man,
broad-brimmed hat in one hand, a remarkably knobbly stick in the other.

"Shrig!" exclaimed Sir Marmaduke.

"The werry i-dentical, sir!" answered Mr. Shrig, grasping Sir
Marmaduke's extended hand.  "'Appening to be in the wicinity, sir and
mam, I took the liberty to drop in, and now, seeing 'ow matters are
betwixt you or--as you might say--the vind a-blowing matrimonially, I
begs to offer you my werry best respex in the vords o' the old song, for

  'Sir and mam, I vish you j'y
  First a gell and then a b'y--'

and, Sir Marmydook and lady, no man can say fairer than that!"



THE END



This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia