Infomotions, Inc.Lady Good-for-Nothing / Quiller-Couch, Arthur Thomas, Sir, 1863-1944



Author: Quiller-Couch, Arthur Thomas, Sir, 1863-1944
Title: Lady Good-for-Nothing
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): ruth; vyell; miss quiney; josselin; quiney; dicky; captain vyell; langton; ruth josselin; oliver; collector; miss josselin; oliver vyell; lady caroline; port nassau; batty langton; harry; lady vyell
Contributor(s): Wall, Charles Heron [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 97,498 words (short) Grade range: 7-9 (grade school) Readability score: 71 (easy)
Identifier: etext15228
Delicious Bookmark this on Delicious

Discover what books you consider "great". Take the Great Books Survey.

The Project Gutenberg eBook, Lady Good-for-Nothing, by A. T. Quiller-Couch


This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere 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 License included
with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net





Title: Lady Good-for-Nothing

Author: A. T. Quiller-Couch

Release Date: March 2, 2005  [eBook #15228]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)


***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK LADY GOOD-FOR-NOTHING***


E-text prepared by Lionel Sear



LADY GOOD-FOR-NOTHING

A Man's Portrait of a Woman

by

ARTHUR THOMAS QUILLER-COUCH ('Q')

First Published in 1910.

This story originally appeared in the weekly edition of the "Times,"
and is now issued in book form by arrangement with the Proprietors of
that Journal.







TO My Commodore and old Friend Edward Atkinson, Esq.
of Rosebank, Mixtow-by-Fowey.


NOTE

Some years ago an unknown American friend proposed my writing a story on
the loves and adventures of Sir Harry Frankland, Collector of the Port
of Boston in the mid-eighteenth century, and Agnes Surriage, daughter of
a poor Marble-head fisherman.  The theme attracted me as it has
attracted other writers--and notably Oliver Wendell Holmes, who built a
poem on it.  But while their efforts seemed to leave room for another, I
was no match for them in knowledge of the facts or of local details;
and, moreover, these facts and details cramped my story.  I repented,
therefore and, taking the theme, altered the locality and the
characters--who, by the way, in the writing have become real enough to
me, albeit in a different sense.  Thus (I hope) no violence has been
offered to historical truth, while I have been able to tell the tale in
my own fashion.

"Q."



CONTENTS.


BOOK I.--PORT NASSAU.


I.       THE BEACH.

II.      PORT NASSAU.

III.     TWO GUINEAS.

IV.      FATHER AND SON.

V.       RUTH.

VI.      PARENTHETICAL--OF THE FAMILY OF VYELL.

VII.     A SABBATH-BREAKER.

VIII.    ANOTHER SABBATH-BREAKER.

IX.      THE SCOURGE.

X.       THE BENCH.

XI.      THE STOCKS.

XII.     THE HUT BY THE BEACH.

XIII.    RUTH SETS OUT.


BOOK II.--PROBATION.


I.       AFTER TWO YEARS.

II.      MR. SILK.

III.     MR. HICHENS.

IV.      VASHTI.

V.       SIR OLIVER'S HEALTH.

VI.      CAPTAIN HARRY AND MR. HANMER.

VII.     FIRST OFFER.

VIII.    CONCERNING MARGARET.

IX.      THE PROSPECT.

X.       THREE LADIES.

XI.      THE ESPIAL.

XII.     LADY CAROLINE.

XIII.    DIANA VYELL.

XIV.     MR. SILK PROPOSES.

XV.      THE CHOOSING.


BOOK III.--THE BRIDALS.


I.       BETROTHED.

II.      THE RETURN.

III.     NESTING.

IV.      THE BRIDEGROOM.

V.       RUTH'S WEDDING DAY.

VI.      "YET HE WILL COME--".

VII.     HOUSEKEEPING.

VIII.    HOME-COMING.


BOOK IV.--LADY GOOD-FOR-NOTHING.


I.       BATTY LANGTON, CHRONICLER.

II.      SIR OLIVER SAILS.

III.     MISCALCULATING WRATH.

IV.      THE TERRACE.

V.       A PROLOGUE TO NOTHING.

VI.      CHILDLESS MOTHER.


BOOK V.--LISBON AND AFTER.


I.       ACT OF FAITH.

II.      DONNA MARIA.

III.     EARTHQUAKE.

IV.      THE SEARCH.

V.       THE FINDING.

VI.      DOCUMENTS.

VII.     THE LAST OFFER.


EPILOGUE




"An innocent life, yet far astray."   Wordsworth's _Ruth_.





BOOK I.




PORT NASSAU.



Chapter I.


THE BEACH.


A coach-and-six, as a rule, may be called an impressive Object.
But something depends on where you see it.

Viewed from the tall cliffs--along the base of which, on a strip of
beach two hundred feet below, it crawled between the American continent
and the Atlantic Ocean--Captain Oliver Vyell's coach-and-six resembled
nothing so nearly as a black-beetle.

For that matter the cliffs themselves, swept by the spray and humming
with the roar of the beach--even the bald headland towards which they
curved as to the visible bourne of all things terrestrial--shrank in
comparison with the waste void beyond, where sky and ocean weltered
together after the wrestle of a two days' storm; and in comparison with
the thought that this rolling sky and heaving water stretched all the
way to Europe.  Not a sail showed, not a wing anywhere under the leaden
clouds that still dropped their rain in patches, smurring out the
horizon.  The wind had died down, but the ships kept their harbours and
the sea-birds their inland shelters.  Alone of animate things, Captain
Vyell's coach-and-six crept forth and along the beach, as though tempted
by the promise of a wintry gleam to landward.

A god--if we may suppose one of the old careless Olympians seated there
on the cliff-top, nursing his knees--must have enjoyed the comedy of it,
and laughed to think that this pert beetle, edging its way along the
sand amid the eternal forces of nature, was here to take seizin of
them--yes, actually to take seizin and exact tribute.  So indomitable a
fellow is Man, _improbus Homo_; and among men in his generation Captain
Oliver Vyell was Collector of Customs for the Port of Boston,
Massachusetts.


In fairness to Captain Vyell be it added that he--a young English blood,
bearing kinship with two or three of the great Whig families at home,
and sceptical as became a person of quality--was capable as any one of
relishing the comedy, had it been pointed out to him.  With equal
readiness he would have scoffed at Man's pretensions in this world and
denied him any place at all in the next.  Nevertheless on a planet the
folly of which might be taken for granted he claimed at least his share
of the reverence paid by fools to rank and wealth.  He was travelling
this lonely coast on a tour of inspection, to visit and report upon a
site where His Majesty's advisers had some design to plant a fort; and a
fine ostentation coloured his progress here as through life.  He had
brought his coach because it conveyed his claret and his _batterie de
cuisine_ (the seaside inns were detestable); but being young and
extravagantly healthy and, with all his faults, very much of a man, he
preferred to ride ahead on his saddle-horse and let his pomp follow him.

Six horses drew the coach, and to each pair of leaders rode a
postillion, while a black coachman guided the wheelers from the
box-seat; all three men in the Collector's livery of white and scarlet.
On a perch behind the vehicle--which, despite its weight, left but the
shallowest of wheel-ruts on the hard sand--sat Manasseh, the Collector's
cook and body-servant; a huge negro, in livery of the same white and
scarlet but with heavy adornments of bullion, a cockade in his hat, and
a loaded blunderbuss laid across his thighs.  Last and alone within the
coach, with a wine-case for footstool, sat a five-year-old boy.

Master Dicky Vyell--the Collector's only child, and motherless--sat and
gazed out of the windows in a delicious terror.  For hours that morning
the travellers had ploughed their way over a plain of blown sand, dotted
with shrub-oaks, bay-berries, and clumps of Indian grass; then, at a
point where the tall cliffs began, had wound down to the sea between
low foothills and a sedge-covered marsh criss-crossed by watercourses
that spread out here and there into lagoons.  At the head of this
descent the Atlantic had come into sight, and all the way down its
echoes had grown in the boy's ears, confusing themselves with a
delicious odour which came in fact from the fields of sedge, though he
attributed it to the ocean.

But the sound had amounted to a loud humming at most; and it was with a
leap and a shout, as they rounded the last foothill and saw the vast
empty beach running northward before them, league upon league, that the
thunder of the surf broke on them.  For a while the boom and crash of it
fairly stunned the child.  He caught at an arm-strap hanging by the
window and held on with all his small might, while the world he knew
with its familiar protective boundaries fell away, melted, left him--a
speck of life ringed about with intolerable roaring emptiness.
To a companion, had there been one in the coach, he must have clung in
sheer terror; yes, even to his father, to whom he had never clung and
could scarcely imagine himself clinging.  But his father rode ahead,
carelessly erect on his blood-horse--horse and rider seen in a blur
through the salt-encrusted glass.  Therefore Master Dicky held on as
best he might to the arm-strap.

By degrees his terror drained away, though its ebb left him shivering.
Child though he was, he could not remember when he had not been curious
about the sea.  In a dazed fashion he stared out upon the breakers.
The wind had died down after the tempest, but the Atlantic kept its
agitation.  Meeting the shore (which hereabouts ran shallow for five or
six hundred yards) it reared itself in ten-foot combers, rank stampeding
on rank, until the sixth or seventh hurled itself far up the beach,
spent itself in a long receding curve, and drained back to the foaming
forces behind.  Their untiring onset fascinated Dicky; and now and
again he tasted renewal of his terror, as a wave, taller than the rest
or better timed, would come sweeping up to the coach itself, spreading
and rippling about the wheels and the horses' fetlocks.  "Surely this
one would engulf them," thought the child, recalling Pharaoh and his
chariots; but always the furious charge spent itself in an edge of white
froth that faded to delicate salt filigree and so vanished.  When this
had happened a dozen times or more, and still without disaster, he took
heart and began to turn it all into a game, choosing this or that
breaker and making imaginary wagers upon it; but yet the spectacle
fascinated him, and still at the back of his small brain lay wonder that
all this terrifying fury and uproar should always be coming to nothing.
God must be out yonder (he thought) and engaged in some mysterious form
of play.  He had heard a good deal about God from Miss Quiney, his
governess; but this playfulness, as an attribute of the Almighty, was
new to him and hitherto unsuspected.

The beach, with here and there a break, extended for close upon twenty
miles, still curving towards the headland; and the travellers covered
more than two-thirds of the distance without espying a single living
creature.  As the afternoon wore on the weather improved.  The sun, soon
to drop behind the cliff-summits on the left, asserted itself with a
last effort and shot a red gleam through a chink low in the cloud-wrack.
The shaft widened.  The breakers--indigo-backed till now and turbid with
sand in solution--began to arch themselves in glass-green hollows, with
rainbows playing on the spray of their crests.  And then--as though the
savage coast had become, at a touch of sunshine, habitable--our
travellers spied a man.

He came forth from a break in the cliffs half a mile ahead and slowly
crossed the sands to the edge of the surf, the line of which he began,
after a pause, to follow as slowly northwards.  His back was turned thus
upon the Collector's equipage, to which in crossing the beach he had
given no attention, being old and purblind.

The coach rolled so smoothly, and the jingle of harness was so entirely
swallowed in the roar of the sea, that Captain Vyell, pushing ahead and
overtaking the old fellow, had to ride close up to his shoulder and
shout.  It appeared then, for further explanation, that his hearing as
well as his eyesight was none of the best.  He faced about in a puzzled
fashion, stared, and touched his hat--or rather lifted his hand a little
way and dropped it again.

"Your Honour will be the Collector," he said, and nodded many times, at
first as if proud of his sagacity, but afterwards dully--as though his
interest had died out and he would have ceased nodding but had forgotten
the way.  "Yes; my gran'-darter told me.  She's in service at the
Bowling Green, Port Nassau; but walks over on Lord's Days to cheer up
her mother and tell the news.  They've been expectin' you at Port Nassau
any time this week."

The Collector asked where he lived, and the old man pointed to a gully
in the cliff and to something which, wedged in the gully, might at a
first glance be taken for a large and loosely-constructed bird's nest.
The Collector's keen eyes made it out to be a shanty of timber roofed
with shingles and barely overtopping a wood pile.

"Wreckwood, eh?"

"A good amount of it ought to be comin' in, after the gale."

"Then where's your hook?"--for the wreckwood gatherers along this part
of the coast carry long gaffs to hook the flotsam and drag it above
reach of the waves.

"Left it up the bank," said the old man shortly.  After a moment he
pulled himself together for an explanation, hollowed his palms around
his mouth, and bawled above the boom of the surf.  "I'm old.  I don't
carry weight more'n I need to.  When a log comes in, my darter spies it
an' tells me.  She's mons'rous quick-sighted for wood an' such like--
though good for nothin' else."  (A pause.)  "No, I'm hard on her; she
can cook clams."

"You were looking for clams?"  Captain Vyell scrutinised the man's face.
It was a patriarchal face, strikingly handsome and not much wrinkled;
the skin delicately tanned and extraordinarily transparent.
Somehow this transparency puzzled him.  "Hungry?" he asked quickly; and
as quickly added, "Starving for food, that's what you are."

"It's the Lord's will," answered the old man.


The coach had come to a halt a dozen paces away.  The child within it
could hear nothing of this conversation; but to the end of his life his
memory kept vivid the scene and the two figures in it--his father, in
close-fitting riding-coat of blue, with body braced, leaning sideways a
little against the wind, and a characteristic hint of the cavalryman
about the slope of the thigh; the old wreck-picker standing just forward
of the bay's shoulder and looking up, with blown hair and patient eyes.
Memory recalled even the long slant of the bay's shoulder--a perfectly
true detail, for the horse was of pure English race and bred by the
Collector himself.

After this, as he remembered, some command must have been given, for
Manasseh climbed down, opened the coach door and drew from under the
seat a box, of which he raised the lid, disclosing things good to eat--
among them a pasty with a crisp brown crust.

The wreck-picker broke off a piece of the pasty and wrapped it in a
handkerchief--and memory recalled, as with a small shock of surprise,
that the handkerchief was clean.  The old man, though ragged enough to
scare the crows, was clean from his bare head to his bare sea-bleached
feet.  He munched the rest of the pasty, talking between mouthfuls.  To
his discourse Dicky paid no heed, but slipped away for a scamper on the
sands.

As he came running back he saw the old man, in the act of wiping his
mouth with the back of his hand, suddenly shoot out an arm and point.
Just beyond the breakers a solitary bird--an osprey--rose with a fish
shining in the grip of its claws.  It flew northward, away for the
headland, for a hundred yards or so; and then by some mischance let slip
his prey, which fell back into the sea.  The boy saw the splash.
To his surprise the bird made no effort to recover the fish--neither
stooped nor paused--but went winging sullenly on its way.

"That's the way o' them," commented the old wreck-picker.  "Good food,
an' to let it go.  I could teach him better."

But the boy, years after, read it as another and different parable.



Chapter II.


PORT NASSAU.


They left the beach, climbed a road across the neck of the promontory,
and rattled downhill into Port Nassau.  Dusk had fallen before they
reached the head of its cobbled street; and here one of the postillions
drew out a horn from his holster and began to blow loud blasts on it.
This at once drew the townsfolk into the road and warned them to get out
of the way.

To the child, drowsed by the strong salt air and the rocking of the
coach, the glimmering whitewashed houses on either hand went by like a
procession in a dream.  The figures and groups of men and women on the
side-walks, too, had a ghostly, furtive air.  They seemed to the boy to
be whispering together and muttering.  Now this was absurd; for what
with the blare of the postillion's horn, the clatter of hoofs, the
jolting and rumbling of wheels, the rattle of glass, our travellers had
all the noise to themselves--or all but the voice of the gale now rising
again for an afterclap and snoring at the street corners.  Yet his
instinct was right.  Many of the crowd _were_ muttering.  These New
Englanders had no love to spare for a Collector of Customs, a fine
gentlemen from Old England and (rumour said) an atheist to boot.  They
resented this ostent of entry; the men more sullenly than the women,
some of whom in their hearts could not help admiring its high-and-mighty
insolence.

The Collector, at any rate, had a crowd to receive him, for it was
Saturday evening.  On Saturdays by custom the fishing-fleet of Port
Nassau made harbour before nightfall, and the crews kept a sort of
decorous carnival before the Sabbath, of which they were strict
observers.  In the lower part of the town, by the quays, much buying and
selling went on, in booths of sail-cloth lit as a rule by oil-flares.
For close upon a week no boat had been able to put to sea; but the
Saturday market and the Saturday gossip and to-and-fro strolling were in
full swing none the less, though the salesmen had to substitute
hurricane-lamps for their ordinary flares, and the boy--now wide awake
again--had a passing glimpse of a couple of booths that had been wrecked
by the rising wind and were being rebuilt.  He craned out to stare at
the helpers, while they, pausing in their work and dragged to and fro by
the flapping canvas, stared back as the coach went by.

It came to a halt on a level roadway some few rods beyond this bright
traffic, in an open space which, he knew, must be near the waterside,
for beyond the lights of the booths he had spied a cluster of masts
quite close at hand.  Or perhaps he had fallen asleep and in his sleep
had been transported far inland.  For the wind had suddenly died down,
the coach appeared to be standing in a forest glade--at any rate, among
trees--and through the trees fell a soft radiance that might well be the
moon's were it only a tinge less yellow.  In the shine of it stood
Manasseh, holding open the coach door; and as the child stepped out
these queer impressions were succeeded by one still more curious and
startling.  For a hand, as it seemed, reached out of the darkness,
brushed him smartly across the face, and was gone.  He gave a little cry
and stood staring aloft at a lantern that hung some feet above him from
an arched bracket.  Across its glass face ran the legend BOWLING GREEN
INN, in orange-coloured lettering, and the ray of its oil-lamp wavered
on the boughs of two tall maples set like sentinels by the Inn gateway
and reddening now to the fall of the leaf.  Yes, the ground about his
feet was strewn with leaves: it must be one of these that had brushed by
his face.

If the folk in the streets had been sullen, those of the Inn were eager
enough, even obsequious.  A trio of grooms fell to unharnessing the
horses; a couple of porters ran to and fro, unloading the baggage and
cooking-pots; while the landlady shouted orders right and left in the
porchway.  She deemed, honest soul, that she was mistress of the
establishment, until Manasseh undeceived her.

Manasseh's huge stature and gold-encrusted livery commanded respect in
spite of his colour.  He addressed her as "woman."  "Woman, if you will
stop yo' cacklin' and yo' crowin'?  Go in now and fetch me fish, fetch
me chickens, fetch me plenty eggs.  Fetch me a dam scullion.  Heh?
Stir yo' legs and fetch me a dam scullion, and the chickens tender.
His Exc'llence mos' partic'ler the chickens tender."

Still adjuring her he shouldered his way through the house to the
kitchen, whence presently his voice sounded loud, authoritative, above
the clatter of cooking-pots.  From time to time he broke away from the
business of unpacking to reiterate his demands for fish, eggs,
chicken--the last to be tender at all costs and at pain of his
tremendous displeasure.

"And I assure you, ma'am," said Captain Vyell, standing in the passage
at the door of his private room, "his standard is a high one.  I believe
the blackguard never stole a tough fowl in his life. . . . Show me to my
bedroom, please, if the trunks are unstrapped; and the child, here, to
his. . . . Eh?  What's this?--a rush-light?  I don't use rush-lights.
Go to Manasseh and ask him to unpack you a pair of candles."

The landlady returned with a silver candlestick in either hand, and
candles of real wax.  She had never seen the like, and led the way
upstairs speculating on their cost.  The bedrooms proved to be clean,
though bare and more than a little stuffy--their windows having been
kept shut for some days against the gale.  The Collector commanded them
to be opened.  The landlady faintly protested.  "The wind would gutter
the candles--and such wax too!"  She was told to obey, and she obeyed.

In the boy's room knelt a girl--a chambermaid--unstrapping his small
valise.  She had a rush-light on the floor beside her, and did not look
up as the landlady thrust open the lattice and left the room with the
Collector, the boy remaining behind.  His candle stood upon a chest of
drawers by the window; and, as the others went out, a draught of wind
caught the dimity curtain, blew it against the flame, and in an instant
ignited it.

The girl looked up swiftly at the sudden light above her, and as
swiftly--before the child could cry out--was on her feet.  She caught
the fire between her two hands and beat it out, making no noise and
scarcely flinching, though her flesh was certainly being scorched.

"That was lucky," she said, looking across at him with a smile.

"Ruth!--Ruth!" called the landlady's voice, up the corridor.
"Here, a moment!"

She dropped the charred curtain and hurried to answer the call.

"Ruth!  Where's the bootjack?  His Honour will take off his
riding-boots."

"Bootjack, ma'am?" interrupted the Collector, leaning back in a chair
and extending a shapely leg with instep and ankle whereon the
riding-boot fitted like a glove.  "I don't maul my leather with
bootjacks.  Send Manasseh upstairs to me; ask him with my compliments
what the devil he means by clattering saucepans when he should be
attending to his master. . . . Eh, what's this?"

"She can do it, your Honour," said the landlady, catching Ruth by the
shoulder and motioning her to kneel and draw off the boot.
(It is likely she shirked carrying the message.)

"Oh, very well--if only she won't twist my foot. . . . Take care of the
spur, child."

The girl knelt, and with her blistered hand took hold of the boot-heel
below the spur.  It cost her exquisite pain, but she did not wince; and
her head being bent, no one perceived the tears in her eyes.

She had scarcely drawn off the second boot, when Manasseh appeared in
the doorway carrying a silver tray with glasses and biscuits; a glass of
red wine for his master, a more innocent cordial for the young
gentleman, and both glasses filmed over with the chill of crushed ice.

The girl was withdrawing when the Collector, carelessly feeling in his
pocket, drew out a coin and put it into her hand.  Her fingers closed on
it sharply, almost with a snatch.  In truth, the touch of metal was so
intolerable to the burnt flesh that, but for clutching it so, she must
have dropped the coin.  Still with bowed head she passed quietly from
the room.

Master Dicky munched his macaroon and sipped his cordial.  He had a
whole guinea in his breeches pocket, and was thinking it would be great
fun to step out and explore the town, if only for a little way.
To-morrow was Sunday, and all the stores would be closed.  But Manasseh
was too busy to come with him for bodyguard--and his father's boots were
off; and besides, he stood in great awe and shyness of his admired
parent.  Had the boots been on, it would have cost him a bold effort to
make the request.  On the whole, the cordial warming him, Master Dicky
had a mind to take French leave.



Chapter III.


TWO GUINEAS.


Though the wind hummed among the chimneys and on the back of the roof,
on either side of the lamp over the gateway the maples stood in the lee
and waved their boughs gently, shedding a leaf now and then in some
deflected gust.  Beyond and to the left stretched a dim avenue, also of
maples; and at the end of this, as he reached the gate, the boy could
spy the lights of the fair.

There was no risk at all of losing his way.

He stepped briskly forth and down the avenue.  Where the trees ended,
and with them the high wall enclosing the inn's stable-yard, the wind
rushed upon him with a whoop, and swept him off the side-walk almost to
the middle of the road-way.  But by this time the lights were close at
hand.  He pressed his little hat down on his head and battled his way
towards them.

The first booth displayed sweetmeats; the next hung out lines of
sailors' smocks, petticoats, sea-boots, oilskin coats and caps, that
swayed according to their weight; the third was no booth but a wooden
store, wherein a druggist dispensed his wares; the fourth, also of wood,
belonged to a barber, and was capable of seating one customer at a time
while the others waited their turn on the side-walk.  Here--his shanty
having no front--the barber kept them in good humour by chatting to all
and sundry while he shaved; but a part of the crowd had good-naturedly
drifted on to help his neighbour, a tobacco-seller, whose stall had
suffered disaster.  A painted wooden statue of a Cherokee Indian lay
face downward across the walk, as the wind had blown it: bellying folds
of canvas and tarpaulin hid the wreck of the poor man's stock-in-trade.
Beyond this wreckage stood, in order, a vegetable stall, another
sweetmeat stall, and a booth in which the boy (who cared little for
sweetmeats, and, moreover, had just eaten his macaroon) took much more
interest.  For it was hung about with cages; and in the cages were birds
of all kinds (but the most of them canaries), perched in the dull light
of two horn lanterns, and asleep with open, shining eyes; and in the
midst stood the proprietor, blowing delightful liquid notes upon a
bird-call.

It fascinated Dicky; and he no sooner assured himself that the birds
were really for sale--although no purchaser stepped forward--than there
came upon him an overmastering desire to own a live canary in a cage and
teach it with just such a whistle.  (He had often wondered at the things
upon which grown-up folk spent their money to the neglect of this
world's true delights.) Edging his way to the stall, he was summoning up
courage to ask the price of a bird, when the salesman caught sight him
and affably spared him the trouble.

"Eh! here's my young lord wants a bird. . . . You may say what you
like," said he, addressing the bystanders, "but there's none like the
gentry for encouragin' trade. . . . And which shall it be sir?  Here's a
green parrot, now, I can recommend; or if your Honour prefers a bird
that'll talk, this grey one.  A beauty, see!  And not a bad word in his
repertory. Your honoured father shall not blame me for sellin' you a
swearer."

The boy pointed to a cage on the man's right.

"A canary? . . . Well, and you're right.  What is talk, after all, to
compare with music?  And chosen the best bird of my stock, you have; the
pick of the whole crop.  That's Quality, my friends; nothing but the
best'll do for Quality, an' the instinct of it comes out young."
The man, who was evidently an eccentric, ran his eye roguishly over the
faces behind the boy and named his price; a high one--a very high one--
but one nicely calculated to lie on the right side of public
reprobation.

Dicky laid his guinea on the sill.  "I want a whistle, too," he said,
"and my change, please."

The bird-fancier slapped his breeches pockets.

"A guinea?  Bless me, but I must run around and ask one of my neighbours
to oblige.  Any of you got the change for a golden guinea about you?" he
asked of the crowd.

"We ain't so lucky," said a voice somewhere at the back.  "We don't
carry guineas about, nor give 'em to our bastards."

A voice or two--a woman's among them--called "Shame!"  "Hold your
tongue, there!"

Dicky had his back to the speaker.  He heard the word for the first time
in his life, and had no notion of its meaning; but in a dim way he felt
it to be an evil word, and also that the people were protesting out of
pity.  A rush of blood came to his face.  He gulped, lifted his chin,
and said, with his eyes steady on the face of the blinking fancier,--

"Give it back to me, please, and I will get it changed."

He took the coin, and walked away resolutely with a set white face.
He saw none of the people who made way for him.

The bird-fancier stared after the small figure as it walked away into
darkness.  "Bastard?" he said. "There's Blood in that youngster, though
he don't face ye again an' I lose my deal.  Blood's blood, however ye
come by it; you may take that on the word of a breeder.  An' you ought
to be ashamed, Sam Wilson--slingin' yer mud at a child!"


The word drummed in the boy's ears.  What did it mean?  What was the
sneer in it?  "Brat!" "cry-baby," "tell-tale," "story-teller," these
were opprobrious words, to be resented in their degree; and all but the
first covered accusations which not only must never be deserved, but
obliged a gentleman, however young, to show fight.  But "bastard"?

He felt that, whatever it meant, somehow it was worse than any; that
honour called for the annihilation of the man that dared speak it; that
there was weakness, perhaps even poltroonery, in merely walking away.
If only he knew what the word meant!

He came to a halt opposite the drug store.  He had once heard Dr.
Lamerton, the apothecary at home, described as a "well-to-do" man.
The phrase stuck in his small brain, and he connected the sale of drugs
with wealth.  (How, he reasoned, could any one be tempted to sell wares
so nasty unless by prodigious profit?)  He felt sure the drug-seller
would be able to change the guinea for him, and walked in boldly.
His ears were tingling, and he felt a call to assert himself.

There was a single customer in the store--a girl.  With some surprise he
recognised her for the girl who had beaten the flame out of the curtain.

She stood with her back to the doorway and a little sidewise by the
counter, from behind which the drug-seller--a burly fellow in a suit of
black--looked down on her doubtfully, rubbing his shaven chin while he
glanced from her to something he held in his open palm.

"I'm askin' you," he said, "how you came by it?"

"It was given to me," the girl answered.

"That's a likely tale!  Folks don't give money like this to a girl in
your position; unless--"

Here the man paused.

"Is it a great deal of money?" she asked.  There was astonishment in her
voice, and a kind of suppressed eagerness.

"Oh, come now--that's too innocent by half!  A guinea-piece is a
guinea-piece, and a guinea is twenty-one shillings; and twenty-one
shillings, likely enough, is more'n you'll earn in a year outside o'
your keep.  Who gave it ye?"

"A gentleman--the Collector--at the Inn just now.

"Ho!" said the drug-seller, with a world of meaning.

"But if," she went on, "it is worth so much as you say, there must be
some mistake.  Give it back to me, please.  I am sorry for troubling
you."  She took a small, round parcel from her pocket, laid it on the
counter, and held out her hand for the coin.

The drug-seller eyed her.  "There must be some mistake, I guess," said
he, as he gave back the gold piece.  "No, and you can take up your
packet too; I don't grudge two-pennyworth of salve.  But wait a moment
while I serve this small customer, for I want a word with you
later. . . . Well, and what can I do for you, young gentleman?" he
asked, turning to Dicky.

Dicky advanced to the shop-board, and as he did so the girl turned and
recognised him with a faint, very shy smile.

"If you please," he said politely, "I want change for this--if you can
spare it."

"Bless my soul!" exclaimed the man, staring.  "What, _another?_"

"The bird-seller up the road had no change about him.  And--and, if you
please," went on Dick hardily, with a glance at the girl, "she hurt her
hands putting out a fire just now.  I expect my father gave her the
money for that.  But she must have burnt her hands _dreffully!_"--Dicky
had not quite outgrown his infantile lisp--"and if she's come for stuff
to put on them, please I want to pay for it."

"But I don't want you to," put in the girl, still hesitating by the
counter.

"But I'd _rather_ insisted Dicky.

"Tut!" said the drug-seller.  "A matter of twopence won't break either
of us.  Captain Vyell's boy, are you?  Well, then, I'll take your
coppers on principle."

He counted out the change, and Dicky--who was not old enough yet to do
sums--pretended to find it correct.  But he was old enough to have
acquired charming manners, and after thanking the drug-seller, gave the
girl quite a grown-up little bow as he passed out.

She would have followed, but the man said, "Stay a moment.  What's your
name?"

"Ruth Josselin."

"Age?"

"I was sixteen last month."

"Then listen to a word of advice, Ruth Josselin, and don't you take
money like that from fine gentlemen like the Collector.  They don't give
it to the ugly ones.  Understand?"

"Thank you," she said.  "I am going to give it back;" and slipping the
guinea into her pocket, she said "Good evening," and walked swiftly out
in the wake of the child.

The drug-seller looked after her shrewdly.  He was a moral man.


Ruth, hurrying out upon the side-walk, descried the child a few paces up
the road.  He had come to a halt; was, in fact, plucking up his courage
to go and demand the bird-cage.  She overtook him.

"I was sent out to look for you," she said.  "I oughtn't to have wasted
time buying that ointment; but my hands were hurting me.  Please, you
are to come home and change your clothes for dinner."

"I'll come in a minute," said Dicky, "if you'll stand here and wait."

He might be called by that word again; and without knowing why, he
dreaded her hearing it.  She waited while he trotted forward, nerving
himself to face the crowd again.  Lo! when he reached the booth, all the
bystanders had melted away.  The bird-seller was covering up his cages
with loose wrappers, making ready to pack up for the night.

"Hello!" he said cheerfully.  "Thought I'd lost you for good."

He took the child's money and handed the canary cage across the sill;
also the bird-whistle, wrapped in a scrap of paper.  Many times in the
course of a career which brought him much fighting and some little fame,
Dicky Vyell remembered this his first lesson in courage--that if you
walk straight up to an enemy, as likely as not you find him vanished.

But he had not quite reached the end of his alarms.  As he took the
cage, a parrot at the back of the booth uplifted his voice and
squawked,--

"No prerogative!  No prerogative!  No prerogative!"

"You mustn't mind _him_," said the bird-seller genially.  "He's like the
crowd--picks up a cry an' harps on it without understandin'."

Master Dicky understood it no better; but thanked the man and ran off,
prize in hand, to rejoin the girl.

They hurried back to the Inn.  At the gateway she paused.

"I let you say what was wrong just now," she explained.  "Your father
didn't give me that money for putting out the fire."

Here she hesitated.  Dicky could not think what it mattered, or why her
voice was so timid.

"Oh," said he carelessly, "I dare say it was just because he liked you.
Father has plenty of money."



Chapter IV.


FATHER AND SON.


The dinner set before Captain Vyell comprised a dish of oysters, a fish
chowder, a curried crab, a fried fowl with white sauce, a saddle of
tenderest mutton, and various sweets over which Manasseh had thrown the
elegant flourishes of his art.  The wine came from the Rhone valley--a
Hermitage of the Collector's own shipment.  The candles that lit the
repast stood in the Collector's own silver candlesticks.  As an old
Roman general carried with him on foreign service, packed in panniers on
mule-back, a tessellated pavement to be laid down for him at each
camping halt and repacked when the troops moved forward, so did Captain
Vyell on his progresses of inspection travel with all the apparatus of a
good table.

Dicky, seated opposite his father in a suit of sapphire blue velvet with
buttons of cut steel, partook only of the fried fowl and of a syllabub.
He had his glass of wine too, and sipped at it, not liking it much, but
encouraged by his father, who held that a fine palate could not be
cultivated too early.

By some process of dishing-up best known to himself (but with the aid,
no doubt, of the "dam scullion") Manasseh, who had cooked the dinner,
also served it; noiselessly, wearing white gloves because his master
abominated the sight of a black hand at meals.  These gloves had a
fascination for Dicky.  They attracted his eyes as might the
intervolved play of two large white moths in the penumbra beyond the
candle-light, between his father's back and the dark sideboard; but he
fought against the attraction because he knew that to be aware of a
servant was an offence against good manners at table.

His father encouraged him to talk, and he told of his purchase--but not
all the story.  Not for worlds--instinct told him--must he mention the
word he had heard spoken.  Yet he got so far as to say,--

"The people here don't like us--do they, father?"

Captain Vyell laughed.  "No, that's very certain.  And, to tell you the
truth, if I had known you were wandering the street by yourself I might
have felt uneasy.  Manasseh shall take you for a walk to-morrow.
One can never be sure of the _canaille_."

"What does that mean?"

Captain Vyell explained.  The _canaille_, he said, were the common folk,
whose part in this world was to be ruled.  He explained further that to
belong to the upper or ruling class it did not suffice to be well-born
(though this was almost essential); one must also cultivate the manners
proper to that station, and appear, as well as be, a superior.  Nor was
this all; there were complications, which Dicky would learn in time;
what was called "popular rights," for instance--rights which even a King
must not be allowed to override; and these were so precious that (added
the Collector) the upper classes must sometimes fight and lay down their
lives for them.

Dick perpended.  He found this exceedingly interesting--the more so
because it came, though in a curiously different way, to much the same
as Miss Quiney had taught him out of the catechism.  Miss Quiney had
used pious words; in Miss Quiney's talk everything--even to sitting
upright at table--was mixed up with God and an all-seeing Eye; and his
father--with a child's deadly penetration Dicky felt sure of it--was
careless about God.

This, by the way, had often puzzled and even frightened him.  God, like
a great Sun, loomed so largely through Miss Quiney's scheme of things
(which it were more precise, perhaps, to term a fog) that for certain,
and apart from the sin of it and the assurance of going to hell, every
one removed from God must be sitting in pitch-darkness.  But lo! when
his father talked everything became clear and distinct; there was no sun
at all to be seen, but there was also no darkness.  On the contrary, a
hundred things grew visible at once, and intelligible and
common-sensible as Miss Quiney never contrived to present them.

This was puzzling; and, moreover, the child could not tolerate the
thought of his father's going to hell--to the flames and unbearable
thirst of it.  To be sure Miss Quiney had never hinted this punishment
for her employer, or even a remote chance of it, and Dicky's good
breeding had kept him from confronting her major premise with the
particular instance of his father, although the conclusion of that
syllogism meant everything to him.  Or it may be that he was afraid.
 . . . Once, indeed, like Sindbad in the cave, he had seen a glimmering
chance of escape.  It came when, reading in his Scripture lesson that
Christ consorted by choice with publicans and sinners, he had been
stopped by Miss Quiney with the information that "publican" meant
"a kind of tax-collector."  "Like papa?" asked the child, and held his
breath for the answer.  "Oh, not in the least like your dear papa,"
Miss Quiney made haste to assure him; "but a quite low class of person,
and, I should say, connected rather with the Excise.  You must remember
that all this happened in the East, a long time ago."  Poor soul! the
conscientiousness of her conscience (so to speak) had come to rest upon
turning such corners genteelly, and had grown so expert at it that she
scarcely breathed a sigh of relief.  The child bent his head over the
book.  His eyes were hidden from her, and she never guessed what hope
she had dashed.


It was a relief then--after being forced at one time or another to put
aside or pigeon-hole a hundred questions on which Miss Quiney's
teaching and his father's practice appeared at variance--to find a point
upon which the certainty of both converged.  Heaven and hell might be
this or that; but in this world the poor deserved their place, and must
be kept to it.

"That seems fine," said Dicky, after a long pause.

"What seems fine?"  His father, tasting the mutton with approval, had
let slip his clue to the child's thought.

"Why, that poor people have rights too, and we ought to stand up for
them--like you said," answered Dicky, not too grammatically.

"They are our rights too, you see," said his father.

Dicky did not see; but his eagerness jumped this gap in the argument.
"Papa," he asked with a sudden flush, "did you ever stand up to a King
on the poor people's side, and fight--and all that?"

"Well, you see"--the Collector smiled--"I was never called upon.
But it's in the blood.  Has Miss Quiney ever told you about Oliver
Cromwell?"

"Yes.  He cut off King Charles's head. . . . I don't think Miss Quiney
liked him for that, though she didn't say so."

The Collector was still smiling.  "He certainly helped to cut off King
Charles's head, and--right or wrong--it's remembered against him.
But he did any amount of great things too.  He was a masterful man; and
perhaps the reason why Miss Quiney held her tongue is that he happens to
be an ancestor of ours, and she knew it."

"Oliver Cromwell?"  Dicky repeated the name slowly, with awe.

"He was my great-great-grandfather, and you can add on another 'great'
for yourself.  I am called Oliver after him.  They even say," added
Captain Vyell, sipping his wine, "that I have some of his features; and
so, perhaps, will you when you grow up.  But of your chance of that you
shall judge before long.  I am having a copy of his portrait sent over
from England."

For a moment or two these last remarks scarcely penetrated to the boy's
hearing.  Like all boys, he naturally desired greatness; unlike most,
he was conscious of standing above the crowd, but without a guess that
he derived the advantage from anything better than accident.  His
father had the good fortune to be rich.  For himself--well, Dicky
was born with one of those simple natures that incline rather to
distrust than to overrate their own merits.  None the less he
desired and loved greatness--thus early, and throughout his life--and
it came as a tremendous, a magnificent shock to him that he
enjoyed it as a birthright.  The repetition of "great"--"he was my
great-great-grandfather;"  "you can add another 'great' for yourself"--
hummed in his ears.  A full half a minute ticked by before he grasped at
the remainder of his father's speech, and, like a breaking twig, it
dropped him to bathos.

"But--but--" Dicky passed a hand over his face--"Miss Quiney said that
Oliver Cromwell was covered with warts!"

Captain Vyell laughed outright.

"Women have wonderful ways of conveying a prejudice.  Warts?  Well,
there, at any rate, we have the advantage of old Noll."  The Collector,
whose sense of hearing was acute and fastidious, broke off with a sharp
arching of the eyebrows and a glance up at the ceiling, or rather (since
ceiling there was none) at the oaken beams which supported the floor
overhead.  "Manasseh," he said quickly, "be good enough to step upstairs
and inform our landlady that the pitch of her voice annoys me.  She
would seem to be rating a servant girl above."

"Yes, sah."

"Pray desire her to take the girl away and scold her elsewhere."

Manasseh disappeared, and returned two minutes later to report that
"the woman would give no furdah trouble."  He removed the white cloth,
set out the decanters with an apology for the mahogany's indifferent
polish, and withdrew again to prepare his master's coffee.

At once a silence fell between father and son.  Dicky had expected to
hear more of Oliver Cromwell.  He stared across the dull shine of the
table at his parent's coat of peach-coloured velvet and shirt front of
frilled linen; at the lace ruffle on the wrist, the signet ring on the
little finger, the hand--firm, but fine--as it reached for a decanter or
fell to playing with a gold toothpick.  He loved this father of his with
the helpless, concentred love of a motherless child; admired him, as all
must admire, only more loyally.  To feel constraint in so magnificent a
presence was but natural.

It would have astonished him to learn that his father, lolling there so
easily and toying with a toothpick, shared that constraint.  Yet it was
so.  Captain Vyell did not understand children.  Least of all did he
understand this son of his begetting.  He could be kind to him, even
extravagantly, by fits and starts; desired to be kind constantly; could
rally and chat with him in hearing of a third person, though that third
person were but a servant waiting at table.  But to sit alone facing the
boy and converse with him was a harder business, and gave him an absurd
feeling of _gene_; and this (though possibly he did not know it) was the
real reason why, having brought Dicky in the coach for a treat, he
himself had ridden all day in saddle.

Dicky was the first to resume conversation.

"Papa," he asked, still pondering the problem of rich and poor, "don't
some of the old families die out?"

"They do."

"Then others must come up to take their place, or the people who do the
ruling would come to an end."

"That's the way of it, my boy."  The Collector nodded and cracked a
walnut.  "New families spring up; and a devilish ugly show they usually
make of it at first.  It takes three generations, they say, to breed a
gentleman; and, in my opinion, that's under the mark."

"And a lady?"

"Women are handier at picking up appearances; 'adaptable' 's the word.
But the trouble with them is to find out whether they have the real
thing or not.  For my part, if you want the real thing, I believe there
are more gentlemen than gentlewomen in the world; and Batty Langton says
you may breed out the old Adam, but you'll never get rid of Eve. . . .
But, bless my soul, Dicky, it's early days for you to be discussing the
sex!"

Dicky, however, was perfectly serious.

"But I _do_ mean what you call the real thing, papa.  Couldn't a poor
girl be born so that she had it from the start?  Oh, I can't tell what I
mean exactly--"

"On the contrary, child, you are putting it uncommonly well; at any
rate, you are making me understand what you mean, and that's the A and Z
of it, whether in talk or in writing.  'Is there--can there be--such a
thing as a natural born lady?' that's your question, hey?"
The Collector peeled his walnut and smiled to himself.  In other
company--Batty Langton's, for example--he would have answered cynically
that to him the phenomenon of a natural born lady would first of all
suggest a doubt of her mother's virtue.  "Well, no," he answered after a
while; "if you met such a person, and could trace back her family
history, ten to one you'd discover good blood somewhere in it.
Old stocks fail, die away underground, and, as time goes on, are
forgotten; then one fine day up springs a shoot nobody can account for.
It's the old sap taking a fresh start.  See?"

Dicky nodded.  It would take him some time work out the theory, but he
liked the look of it.

His drowsed young brain--for the hour was past bedtime--applied it idly
to a picture that stood out, sharp and vivid, from the endless train of
the day's impressions: the picture of a girl with quiet, troubled eyes,
composed lips, and hands that beat upon a blazing curtain, not flinching
at the pain. . . . And just then, as it were in a dream, he beat of her
hands echoed in a soft tapping, the door behind his father opened
gently, and Dicky sat up with a start, wide awake again and staring, for
the girl herself stood in the doorway.



Chapter V.


RUTH.


"Hey, what is it?" the Collector demanded, slewing himself to the
half-about in his chair.

The girl stepped forward into the candle-light.  Over her shoulders she
wore a faded plaid, the ends of which her left hand clutched and held
together at her bosom.

"Your Honour's pardon for troubling," she said, and laying a gold coin
on the table, drew back with a slight curtsy.  "But I think you gave
me this by mistake; and now is my only chance to give it back.
I am going home in a few minutes."

The Collector glanced at the coin, and from that to the girl's face, on
which his eyes lingered.

"Gad, I recollect!" he said.  "You were the wench that pulled off my
boots?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, upon my honour, I forget at this moment if I gave it by mistake
or because of your face.  No, hang me!" he went on, while she flushed,
not angrily, but as though the words hurt her, "it must have been by
mistake.  I couldn't have forgot so much better a reason."

To this she answered nothing, but put forward her hand as if to push the
coin nearer.

"Certainly not," said he, still with eyes on her face.  "I wish you to
take it.  By the way, I heard the landlady's voice just now, letting
loose upon somebody.  Was it on you?"

"Yes."

"And you are going home to-night, you say.  Has she turned you out?"

"Yes."  The girl's hand moved as if gathering the plaid closer over her
bosom.  Her voice held no resentment.  Her eyes were fixed upon the
coin, which, however, she made no further motion to touch; and this
downward glance showed at its best the lovely droop of her long
eyelashes.

The Collector continued to take stock of her, and with a growing wonder.

The lower half of the face's oval was perhaps Unduly gaunt and a trifle
overweighted by the broad brow.  The whole body stood a thought too high
for its breadth, with a hint of coltishness in the thin arms and thick
elbow-joints.  So judged the Collector, as he would have appraised a
slave or any young female animal; while as a connoisseur he knew that
these were faults pointing towards ultimate perfection, and at this
stage even necessary to it.

For assurance he asked her, "How old are you?"

"Sixteen."

"That's as I guessed," said he, and added to himself, "My God, this is
going to be one of the loveliest things in creation!"  Still, as she
bent her eyes to the coin on the table, he ran his appraising glance
over her neck and shoulders, judging--so far as the ugly shawl
permitted--the head's poise, the set of the coral ear, the delicate wave
of hair on the neck's nape.

"Why is she turning you out?"

"A window curtain took fire.  She said it was my fault."

"But it was not your fault at all!" cried Dicky.  "Papa, the curtain
took fire in my room, and she beat it out.  The whole house might have
been burnt down but for her.  She beat it out, and made nothing of it,
though it hurt her horribly.  Look at her hands, papa!"

"Hold out your hands," his father commanded.

She stretched them out.  The ointment, as she turned them palms upward,
shone under the candle rays.

"Turn them the other way," he commanded, after a long look at them.
The words might mean that the sight afflicted him, but his tone scarcely
suggested this.  She turned her hands, and he scrutinised the backs of
them very deliberately.  "It's a shame," said he at length.

"Of course it's a shame!" the boy agreed hotly.  "Papa, won't you ring
for the landlady and tell her so, and then she won't be sent away."

"My dear Dicky," his father answered, "you mistake.  I was thinking that
it was a shame to coarsen such hands with housework."  He eyed the girl
again, and she met him with a straight face--flushed a little and
plainly perturbed, but not shrinking, although her bosom heaved--for his
admiration was entirely cool and critical.  "What is your name?" he
asked.

"Ruth Josselin."

He appeared to consider this for a moment, and then, reaching out a hand
for the decanter, to dismiss the subject.  "Well, pick up your guinea,"
he said.  "No doubt the woman outside has treated you badly; but I can't
intercede for you, to keep you a drudge here among the saucepans; no,
upon my conscience, I can't.  The fact is, Ruth Josselin, you have the
makings of a beauty, and I'll be no party to spoiling 'em.  What is
more, it seems you have spirit, and no woman with beauty and spirit need
fail to win her game in this world.  That's my creed."  He sipped his
wine.

"If your Honour pleases," said the girl quietly, picking up the coin,
"the woman called me bad names, and I was not wanting you at all to
speak for me."

"Oho!"  The Collector set down his glass and laughed.  "So that's the
way of it--'_Nobody asked you, sir, she said._' Dicky, we sit rebuked."

"But--" she hesitated, and then went on rapidly in the lowest of low
tones--"if your Honour wouldn't mind giving me silver instead of gold?
They won't change gold for me in the town; they'll think I have stolen
it.  Most Sundays I'm allowed to take home broken meats to mother and
grandfather, and to-night I shan't be given any, now that I'm sent away.
They'll be expecting me, and indeed, sir, I can't bear to face them--or
I wouldn't ask you.  I beg your Honour's pardon for saying so much."

"Hullo!" exclaimed the Collector.  "Why, yes, to be sure, you must be
grandchild to the old man of the sea--him that I met on the beach this
afternoon, t'other side of the headland.  Lives in a hovel with a wood
pile beside it, and a daughter that looks out for wreckage?"

"Your Honour spoke with them?"  Into Ruth's face there mounted a deeper
tide of colour.  But whereas the first flush had been dark with
distress, this second spread with a glow of affection.  Her eyes seemed
to take light from it, and shone.

"I spoke with the old man.  Since you have said so much, I may say more.
I gave him food; he was starving."

She bent her head.  Her hands moved a little, with a gesture most
pitiful to see.  "I was afraid," she muttered, "with these gales, and no
getting to the oyster beds."

"He took some food, too, to his daughter, with a bottle of wine, as I
remember."

A bright tear dropped.  In the candle-light Dicky saw it splash on the
back of her hand, by the wrist.

"God bless your Honour!"  Dicky could just hear the words.

The door opened and Manasseh entered, bearing the coffee on a silver
tray.

"Manasseh," said his master, "take that guinea and bring me change for
it.  If you have no silver in the treasury get the landlady to change it
for you."

Manasseh was affronted.  His hand came near to shaking as he poured and
handed the coffee.

"Yo' Hon'ah doan off'n use de metal," he answered.  "Dat's sho'.
But whiles an' again yo' Hon'ah condescends ter want it.  Dat bein' so,
I keep it by me--_an'_ polished.  I doan fetch yo' Hon'ah w'at any low
trash has handled."

He withdrew, leaving this fine shaft to rankle, and by-and-by entered
with a small velvet bag, from the neck of which he shook a small cascade
of silver coins, all exquisitely polished.

"Count me out change for a guinea," commanded his master.

Manasseh obeyed.

"Now empty the bag, put into it what you have counted, and sweep up the
rest."

Manasseh dropped in the coins one by one, and tied the neck of the bag
with its silken ribbon.  The Collector took it from him and tossed it to
the girl.

"Here--catch!" said he carelessly.

But her burnt hands shrank from closing on if, and it fell to the floor.
She stooped, recovered it, and slipped it within her bodice.  As she
rose erect again her eyes rested in wonder on the black servant who with
a crumb-brush was sweeping the rest of the money off the table and
catching it upon the coffee-salver.  The rain and clash of the coins
appeared to confuse her for a moment.  Then with another curtsy and a
"Thank your Honour," she moved to the door.

"But wait," said the Collector sharply, on a sudden thought.  "You are
not meaning to walk all the way home, surely?"

"Yes."

"At this hour?"

"The wind has gone down.  I do not mind the dark, and the distance is
nothing. . . . Oh, I forgot: your Honour thinks that, with all this
money, some one will try to rob me?"

The Collector smiled.  "You would appear to be a very innocent young
woman," he said.  "I was not, as a fact, thinking of the money."

"Nobody will guess that I am carrying so much," she said simply; "so it
will be quite safe."

"Nevertheless this may help to give you confidence," said he.
Feeling in the breast pocket of his laced satin waistcoat, he drew forth
a diminutive pistol--a delicate toy, with a pattern of silver foliated
over the butt.  "It is loaded," he explained, "and primed; though it
cannot go off unless you pull back the trigger.  At close quarters it
can be pretty deadly.  Do you understand firearms?"

"Grandfather has a fowling-piece," she answered; "and, now that his
sight has failed, on Sundays I try to shoot sea-birds for him.  He says
that I have a good eye.  But last week the birds had all flown inland,
because of the gale."

"Then take this.  It is nothing to carry, and you may feel the safer for
it."

She put up a hand to decline.  "Why should I need it?"

"We'll hope you will not.  But do as I bid you, girl.  I shall be
passing back along the beach in two days' time, and will call for it."

She resisted no longer.

"I will take it," she said.  "By that time I may have thought of words
to thank your Honour."

She curtsied again.

"Manasseh!" Captain Vyell pointed to the door.  The negro opened it and
stood aside majestically as she passed out and was gone.


Let moralists perpend.  Ruth Josselin had knocked at that door after a
sharp struggle between conscience and crying want.  The poverty known to
Ruth was of the extreme kind that gnaws the entrails with hunger.
It had furthermore starved her childhood of religion, and her sole code
of honour came to her by instinct.  Yet she had knocked at the door with
no thought but that the Collector's guinea had come to her hand by
mistake, and no expectancy but that the Collector would thank her and
take it back.  She was shy, moreover.  It had cost courage.

"Honesty is the best policy."  True enough, no doubt.  Yet, when all is
said, but for some radical instinct of honesty, untaught, brave to
conquer a more than selfish need, Ruth had never brought back her
guinea.  And, yet again, from that action all the rest of this story
flows.  When we have told it, let the moralists decide.



Chapter VI.


PARENTHETICAL--OF THE FAMILY OF VYELL.


Captain Oliver Vyell, as we have seen, set store upon pedigree: and
here, as well in compliment to him as to make our story clearer, we will
interrupt it with a brief account of his family and descent.

The tomb of Sir Thomas Vyell, second Baronet, at whose house of
Carwithiel in Cornwall our Collector spent some years of his boyhood,
may yet be seen in the church of that parish, in the family transept.
It bears the coat of the Vyells (gules, a fesse raguly argent) with no
less than twenty-four quarterings: for an Odo of the name had fought on
the winning side at Hastings, and his descendants, settling in the West,
had held estates there and been people of importance ever since.

The Wars of the Roses, to be sure, had left them under a cloud, shorn of
the most of their wealth and a great part of their lands.  Yet they kept
themselves afloat (if this riot of metaphor may be pardoned) and their
heads moderately high, until Sir William, the first Baronet, by
developing certain tin mines on his estate and working them by new
processes, set up the family fortunes once more.

His son, Sir Thomas, steadily bettered them.  A contemporary narrative
describes him as "chief of a very good Cornish family, with a very good
estate.  His marrying a grand-daughter of the Lord Protector (Oliver)
first recommended him to King William, who at the Revolution made him
Commissioner of the Excise and some years after Governor of the Post
Office. . . . The Queen, by reason of his great capacity and honesty,
hath continued him in the office of Postmaster.  He is a gentleman of a
sweet, easy, affable disposition--a handsome man, of middle stature,
towards forty years old."  This was written in 1713.  Sir Thomas died in
1726, of the smallpox, having issue (by his one wife, who survived him
but a few years) seven sons and three daughters.

1.  Thomas, the third Baronet: of whom anon.

2.  William, who became a Senior Student of Christ Church, Oxford, a
    page to Queen Mary, and a Fellow of the Royal Society.  A memoir
    of the time preserves him for us as "a tall sanguineman, with a
    merry eye and talkative in his cups."  He married a Walpole, but his
    children died young.

3.  John, who, going on a diplomatic mission to Hamburg, took a fever
    and died there, unmarried.

4.  Henry, the father of our Collector.  He married Jane, second
    daughter of the Marquis of Lomond; increased his wealth in Bengal as
    governor of the East India Company's Factory, and while yet
    increasing it, died at Calcutta in 1728.  His children were two
    sons, Oliver and Henry, with both of whom our story deals.

5.  Algernon, who went to Jesus College, Cambridge, became a Fellow
    there, practised severe parsimony, and dying unmarried in 1742, had
    his eyes closed by his college gyp and weighted with two penny
    pieces--the only coins found in his breeches pocket.  He left his
    very considerable savings to young Oliver, whom he had never
    seen.

6.  Frederick Penwarne, barrister-at-law.  We shall have something to do
    with him.

7.  Roger, who traded at Calcutta and making an expedition to the
    Persian Gulf, was killed there in a chance affray with some Arabs.

8.  Anne, who married Sackville.

9.  Frances Elizabeth, who married Pelham.

10. Arabella, whose affections went astray upon a young Cornish yeoman.
    Her family interfering, the match was broken off and she died
    unmarried.


Oliver and Henry, born at Calcutta, were for their health's sake sent
home together--he one aged four, the other three--to be nurtured at
Carwithiel.  Here under the care of their grandparents, Sir Thomas and
Lady Vyell (the Protector's grand-daughter), they received instruction
at the hands--often very literally at the hands--of the Rev. Isaac
Toplady, Curate in Charge of Carwithiel, a dry scholar, a wet
fly-fisher, and something of a toad-eater.  They had for sole playmate
and companion their Cousin Diana, or Di, the seven-year-old daughter of
their eldest uncle, Thomas, heir to the estates and the baronetcy.

This Thomas--a dry, peevish man, averse from country pursuits, penurious
and incurably suspicious of all his fellow-men--now occupied after a
fashion and with fair diligence that place in public affairs from which
his father had, on approach of age, withdrawn.  He sat in Parliament for
the family borough of St. Michael, and by family influence had risen to
be a Lord of the Admiralty.  He had married Lady Caroline Pett, a
daughter of the first Earl of Portlemouth, and the pair kept house in
Arlington Street, where during the session they entertained with a
frugality against which Lady Caroline fought in vain.  They were known
(and she was aware of it) as "Pett and Petty," and her life was
embittered by the discovery, made too late, that her husband was in
every sense a mean man, who would never rise and never understand why
not, while he nursed an irrational grudge against her for having
presented him with a daughter and then ceased from child-bearing.

Unless she repented and procured him a male heir, the baronetcy would
come to him only to pass at his death to young Oliver; and the couple,
who spent all the Parliamentary recesses at Carwithiel because Mr.
Thomas found it cheap, bore no goodwill to that young gentleman.
He _en revanche_ supplied them with abundant food for censure, being
wilful from the first, and given in those early years to consorting with
stable-boys and picking up their manners and modes of speech.  The uncle
and aunt alleged--and indeed it was obvious--that the unruly boys passed
on the infection to Miss Diana.  Miss Diana never accompanied her
parents to London, but had grown up from the first at Carwithiel--again
because Mr. Thomas found it cheap.

In this atmosphere of stable slang, surrounded by a sort of protective
outer aura in their grandparents' godliness, the three children grew up:
mischievous indeed and without rein, but by no means vicious.
Their first separation came in 1726 when Master Oliver, now rising ten,
left for London, to be entered at Westminster School.  Harry was to
follow him; and did, in a twelve-month's time; but just before this
happened, in Oliver's summer holidays.  Sir Thomas took the smallpox and
died and went to his tomb in the Carwithiel transept.  Harry took it
too; but pulled through, not much disfigured.  Oliver and Diana escaped.

The boys, to whom their grandfather--so far as they regarded him at
all--had mainly presented himself as a benevolent old proser, were
surprised to find that they sincerely regretted him; and the events of
the next few weeks threw up his merits (now that the time was past for
rewarding them) into a sharp light which memory overarched with a halo.
Tenderly into that halo dissolved his trivial faults--his trick, for
example, of snoring between the courses at dinner, or of awaking and
pulling his fingers till they cracked with a distressing sound.
These and other small frailties were forgotten as the new Sir Thomas and
his spouse took possession and proceeded in a few weeks to turn the
place inside out, dismissing five of the stable-boys, cutting down the
garden staff by one-third, and carrying havoc into the housekeeper's
apartments, the dairy, the still-room.

In these dismissals I have no doubt that Sir Thomas and Lady Caroline
hit (as justice is done in this world) upon the chief blackguards.
But the two boys, asking one another why So-and-so had been marked down
while This-other had been spared, and observing that the So-and-so's
included an overbalancing number of their own cronies, found malice in
the discrimination, and a malice directed with intent upon themselves.

Young Oliver, as soon as Harry was convalescent, discussed this
vehemently with him.  Harry, weak with illness, took it passively.
He was destined for the Navy.  To him already the sea meant everything:
as a child of three, on his voyage home in the _Mogul_ East Indiaman, he
had caught the infection of it; on it, as offering the only career fit
for a grown man, his young thoughts brooded, and these annoyances were
to him but as chimney-pots and pantiles falling about the heads of folks
ashore.  But he agreed that Di's conduct needed explaining.  She had
taken a demure turn, and was not remonstrating with her parents as she
ought--not playing fair, in short.  "It must be pretty difficult for
her," said Harry.  "I don't see," said Oliver.


The two boys went back to Westminster together.  They spent the
Christmas holidays with their Uncle Frederick, the barrister, who
practised very little at the law either in court or in chambers, hut
dwelt somewhat luxuriously in the Inner Temple and lived the life of a
man-about-town.  Their summer vacation was to be spent at Carwithiel;
but, as it happened, they were not to see Carwithiel again, for before
summer came news of their father's death at Calcutta.  He had amassed a
fortune which, translated out of rupees, amounted to 400,000 pounds.
To his widow, in addition to her jointure, he left a life interest of a
thousand pounds _per annum_; a sum of 20,000 pounds was set aside for
Harry, to accumulate until his twenty-first birthday; while the
magnificent residue in like manner accumulated for young Oliver, the
heir.

Lady Jane returned to England, to live in decent affluence at Bath; and
at Bath, of course, Oliver and Harry spent their subsequent holidays,
while their Uncle Frederick continued by occasional dinners and gifts of
pocket money, by outings down the river to Greenwich, by seats at the
theatre or at state shows and pageants, to mitigate the rigours of
school.  Had it occurred to Oliver Vyell in later life to set down his
"Reflections" in the style of the emperor Marcus Aurelius, he might
have begun them in some such words as these: "From my mother, Lady Jane
Vyell, I learned to be proud of good birth, to esteem myself a
gentleman, and to regulate my actions by a code proper to my station in
life.  This code she reconciled with the Gospels, and indeed, she rested
it on the rock of Holy Scripture.  From my Uncle Frederick I learned
that self-interest was the key of life; that the teachings of the
priest-hood were more or less conscious humbug; that all men could be
bought; that their god was vanity, and the Great Revolution the noblest
event in English history. . . ."

The sane infusion of Father Neptune in Master Harry's blood preserved
him from these doctrines, and before long indeed removed him out of the
way of hearing them.  Soon after his fifteenth birthday he sailed to
learn his profession shipping (by a fiction of the service), as
"cabin boy" under his mother's brother.  Lord Robert Soules, then
commanding the _Merope_ frigate.

Oliver proceeded to Christ Church, Oxford, and thence (without waiting
for a degree) to make the Grand Tour; in the course of which and in
company with his cousin, Dick Pelham, and a Mr. Batty Langton, a Christ
Church friend, he visited Florence, Rome, Naples, Athens, and
Constantinople, returning through Rome again and by way of Venice,
Switzerland, Paris.  He reached home to find that his mother, who
believed in keeping young men employed, had procured him a cornetcy in
Lord Lomond's Troop of Horse.  He was now in possession of an ample
fortune.  He would certainly succeed to the baronetcy, and to the Vyell
acres, which were mostly entailed.

But the grave itself could not give lessons in greed to a true Whig
family of that period.  Lady Jane had it in her blood, every tradition
of it.  Her son (though within a few months he rose to command of a
troop) detested all military routine save active service.  He despised
the triumphs of the Senate.  To keep him out of mischief--or, rather, as
you shall hear, to extricate him from it--the good dame made application
to the Duke of Newcastle; and so in the year 1737, at the age of
twenty-one, Captain Oliver Vyell was appointed to the lucrative post of
Collector to the port of Boston.

He had held it, now, for close upon seven years.



Chapter VII.


A SABBATH-BREAKER.


Now, in his twenty-eighth year, Oliver Vyell, handsome of face, standing
six feet two inches in his stockings, well built and of iron
constitution, might fairly be called a sensual man, but not fairly a
sensualist.  The distinction lay in his manliness.  He was a man, every
inch of him.

He enjoyed hard riding even more than hard gaming, and far more than
hard drinking; courted fatigue as a form of bodily indulgence; would
tramp from twenty to thirty miles in any weather on a chance of sport;
loved the bite of the wind, the shock of cold water; and was a bold
swimmer in a generation that shunned the exercise.

He awoke next morning to find the sun shining in on his window after a
boisterous night.  He looked at his watch and rang a small bell that
stood on the table by his bed.  Within ten seconds Manasseh appeared,
and was commanded first to draw up the blind and then, though the hour
was early, to bring shaving-water with all speed.

While the negro went on his errand Captain Vyell arose, slipped on his
dressing-gown, and strolled to the window.  It looked upon the ocean,
over a clean stretch of beach that ran north-west, starting from the
pier-head of the harbour and fringing the town's outskirt.  Half a dozen
houses formed this outskirt or suburb--decent weather-boarded houses
standing in their own gardens along a curved cliff overlooking the
beach.  The beach was of hardest sand, and just beneath the Collector's
window so level that it served for a second bowling-green, or
ten-pin-alley.  Thus it ran out for some twenty rods and then shelved
abruptly.  Captain Vyell, who had an eye for such phenomena, judged that
this bank had formed itself quite recently, since the building of the
pier.

A heavy sea was running, and evidently with a strong undertow.  When
Manasseh returned with the hot water, Captain Vyell announced that he
would bathe before taking his chocolate.

"Yo' Hon'ah will bathe befor' shaving?"

"You d----d fool, did you ever know me do _any_thing before shaving?"

Manasseh chose a razor, stropped it, and worked the shaving soap into a
lather.

"Beggin' yo' Hon'ah's pardon," said he, "it bein' de Lawd's Day, an'
these Port Nassau people dam' ig'orant--"

"Hand me the _peignoir_," commanded his master sharply.

He sat, and was shaved.  Then, having sponged his chin, he ordered
Manasseh to lay out his bathing-dress, retire, find a back way to the
beach and, having opened all doors, attend him below.  He indued himself
in his bathing-dress very deliberately, standing up for a minute stark
naked in the sunshine flooding through the open window--a splendid
figure, foretasting battle with the surf.

Then, having drawn on his bathing-dress and thrust his feet into
sand-shoes, he cast his dressing-gown again over him and went down the
stairs at a run.  The doors stood open, and on the beach the negro
awaited him in the right attitude of "attention."  To him he tossed his
wrap and shoes, and ran down to the beach as might swift-footed Achilles
have run to be clasped by the Sea-Goddess his mother.

Through the shallow wavelets he ran, stepping high and delicately
splashing merry drops against the morning sunlight, leaped over one or
two that would have "tilled" him to the knee (to use an old boyish
phrase learnt at Carwithiel where he had learnt to swim), and came to
the shelf beyond which the first tall comber boomed towards him, more
than head high, hissing along its ridge.  There, as it overarched him,
he launched his body forward and shot through the transparent green,
emerging beyond the white smother with a thrill and a laugh of sheer
physical delight.  Thrice he repeated this,--

    "Like a dive-dapper peering through a wave,
     Who, being look'd on, ducks as quickly in. . ."

passed the fourth wave, gained deep water, and thrust out to sea with a
steady breast-stroke, his eyes all the while on the great embracing
flood which, stretch as it might from here to Europe, for the moment he
commanded.

Manasseh watched him from the beach.  From the cliff above two
scandalised householders calling to one another across their gardens'
boundary pointed seaward and summoned their families to the windows to
note the reprobate swimmer and a Sabbath profaned.

The eyes of a long-shore population are ever on the sea from which comes
their livelihood, and nothing on the sea escapes them long.
The Collector's head by this time was but a speck bobbing on the waves,
but ere he turned back for shore maybe two hundred of Port Nassau's
population were watching, from various points.  The Port Nassauers,
whatever their individual frailties, were sternly religious--nine-tenths
of them from conviction or habit, the rest in self-defence--and
Sabbatarians to a man.  The sight of that heathen slave, Manasseh,
waiting on the beach with a bath-gown over his arm, incensed them to
fury.  Growls were uttered, here and there, that if the authorities knew
their business this law-breaker--for Sabbath-breaking was an indictable
offence--should be seized on landing, haled naked to justice, and
clapped in the town stocks; but fortunately this indignation had no
concert and found, for the moment, no leader.

The Collector, having swum out more than half a mile, turned and sped
back, using a sharp side-stroke now with a curving arm that cleft the
ridges like the fin of a fish.  His feet touched earth, and he ran up
through the pursuing breakers--a fleet-footed Achilles again, glittering
from the bath.  Manasseh hurried down to throw his mantle over the
godlike man.

"Towel me here," was the panting command.  And, lo! slipping off his
bathing-dress and standing naked to the sea.  Captain Vyell was towelled
under the eyes of Port Nassau, and flesh-brushed until he glowed (it may
be) as healthily as did the cheeks of those who spied on him.  On this
question the Muse declines to take sides.  For certain his naked body,
after these ministrations, glowed delicious within the bath-gown as he
mounted again to his Olympian chamber.  There he allowed Manasseh to
wash out his locks in fresh water (the Collector had a fine head of
hair, of a waved brown, and detested a wig), to anoint them, and tie
them behind with a fresh black ribbon.  This done, he took his clothes
one by one as Manasseh handed them, and arrayed himself, humming the
while an air from Opera, and thus unconsciously committing a second
offence against the Sabbath.

He descended to find Dicky already seated at table, awaiting him.
Dicky had slept like a top in spite of the strange bed; and awaking soon
after daybreak, had lain cosily listening to the boom of the sea.
To him this holiday was a glorious interlude in the regime of Miss
Quiney.  His handsome father did not kiss him, but merely patted him on
the shoulder as he passed to his chair; and to Dick (though he would
have liked a kiss) it seemed just the right manly thing to do.

They talked merrily while Manasseh brought in the breakfast dishes--for
Master Dicky bread-and-milk followed by a simple steak of cod; a
bewildering succession of chowder, omelet, devilled kidneys, cold ham,
game pie, and fruit for the Collector, who professed himself keen-set as
a hunter, and washed down the viands with a tankard of cider.
He described his bathe, and promised Dicky that he should have his first
swimming lessons next summer.  "I must talk about you to your Uncle
Harry.  Craze for the sea?  At your age if he saw a puddle of water he
must stick his toes in it.  He's cruising just now, off South Carolina,
keeping a look-out for guarda-costas.  He'll render an account of them,
you may be sure.  He writes that he may be coming up Boston way any time
now.  Oh, I can swim, but for diving you should see your Uncle Harry--
off the yard-arm--body taut as a whip--nothing like it in any of the old
Greeks' statues.  Plenty of talk about bathing; but diving?  No.  In the
east, must go south to the Persian Gulf to see diving.  The god Hermes
descending on Ogygia--if you could imagine that, you had Uncle Harry--
the shoot outwards, the delicate curve to a straight slant, heels rising
above rigid body while you counted, begad! holding your breath.
Then the plumb drop, like a gannet's--"

Dicky listened, glorious vistas opening before him.  With the fruit
Manasseh brought coffee; and still the boy sat entranced while his
father chatted, glowing with exercise and enjoying a breakfast at every
point excellent.

It was in merest thoughtlessness, no doubt, that having arranged for
Dicky's morning walk, and after smoking a tobacco leaf rolled with an
art of which Manasseh possessed the secret, the Collector so timed his
message to the stables that his groom brought the horse Bayard around to
the Inn door just as the Sabbath bells began tolling for divine worship.
For as a sceptic he was careless rather than militant; ridiculing
religion only in his own set, and when occasion arose, and then without
fanaticism.  For such piety as his mother's he had even a tolerant
respect; and in any event had too much breeding to affront of set
purpose the godly townsfolk of Port Nassau.  At the first note of the
bells he frowned and blamed himself for not having started earlier.
But he had already made appointment by letter to meet the Surveyor and
the Assistant Surveyor at noon on the headland, to measure out and
discuss the site of the proposed fortification; and he was a punctilious
man in observing engagements.

It may be asked how, if civil to other men's scruples, he had come to
make such an appointment for the Sabbath.  He had answered this and (as
he hoped) with suitable apologies in his letter to the surveyor,
Mr. Wapshott: explaining that as His Majesty's business was bringing him
to Port Nassau, so it obliged him to be back at Boston by such-and-such
a date.  He was personally unacquainted with this Mr. Wapshott, who had
omitted the courtesy of calling upon him at the Bowling Green, and whom
by consequence he was inclined to set down as a person of defective
manners.  But Mr. Wapshott was, after all, in the King's service and
would understand its exigencies.

He mounted therefore and rode up the street.  The roadway was deserted;
but along the side-walk, sober families, marching by twos and threes,
turned their heads at the sound of Bayard's hoofs on the cobbles.
The Collector set his face and passed them with a grave look, as of one
absorbed in affairs of moment.  Nevertheless, coming to the whitewashed
Church where the streams of worshippers converged and choking the
porchway overflowed upon the street, he added the courtesy of doffing
his hat as he rode by.  He did this still with a set face, looking
straight between Bayard's ears; but with the tail of his eye caught one
glimpse of a little comedy which puzzled and amused him.

A small rotund, red-gilled man, in bearing and aspect not unlike a
turkey-cock, was mounting the steps of the portico.  Behind this
personage sailed an ample lady of middle age, with a bevy of younger
damsels--his spouse and daughters doubtless.  Suddenly--and as if, at
sight of the Collector, a whisper passed among them--the middle-aged
lady shot out a hand, arrested her husband by the coat-tail and drew him
down a step, while the daughters ranged themselves in semicircle around
him, spreading their skirts and together effacing him from view, much as
a hen covers her offspring.

The Collector laughed inwardly as he replaced his hat, and rode on
speculating what this bit of by-play might mean.  But it had passed out
of his thoughts before he came to the outskirts of the town.



Chapter VIII.


ANOTHER SABBATH-BREAKER.


The road--the same by which he had arrived last night--mounted all the
way and led across the neck of the headland.  His business, however, lay
out upon the headland itself and almost at its extremest verge; and a
mile above the town he struck off to the left where a bridle-path
climbed by a long slant to the ridge.  Half an hour's easy riding
brought him to the top of the ascent, whence he looked down on the long
beach he had travelled yesterday.  The sea lay spread on three sides of
him.  Its salt breeze played on his face; and the bay horse, feeling the
tickle of it in his nostrils, threw up his head with a whinny.
"Good, old boy--is it not?" asked the Collector, patting his neck.
"Suppose we try a breather of it?"

The chine of the headland--of turf, short-cropped by the unceasing
wind--stretched smooth as a racecourse for close upon a mile, with a
gentle dip midway much like the hollow of a saddle.  The Collector ran
his eye along it in search of the two men he had come to meet, but could
spy neither of them.

"Sheltering somewhere from the breeze, maybe," he decided.  "_We_ don't
mind it, hey?  Come along, lad--here's wine for heroes!"

He touched Bayard with the spur, and the good horse started at a
gallop--a rollicking gallop and in the very tune of his master's mood;
and if all Port Nassau had not been at its devotions, the chins of its
burghers might have tilted themselves in wonder at the apparition--a
Centaur, enlarged upon the skyline.

Man and horse at full stretch of the gallop were launching down the dip
of the hollow--the wind singing past on the top note of exhilaration--
when the bay, too well trained to shy, faltered a moment and broke his
stride, as a figure started up from the lee-side of the ridge.

The Collector sailing past and throwing a glance over his shoulder, saw
the figure and lifted a hand.  In another ten strides he reined up
Bayard, turned, and came back at a walk.

He confronted a lean, narrow-chested young man, black-suited, pale of
face, with watery eyes, straw-coloured eyelashes and an underbred smile
that twitched between timidity and assurance.

"Ah?" queried the Collector, eyeing him and disliking him at sight.
"Are you "--doubtfully--"by any chance Mr. Wapshott, the Surveyor?"

"No such luck," answered the watery-eyed young man with an offhand
attempt at familiarity.  "I'm his Assistant--name of Banner--Wapshott's
unwell."

"I beg your pardon?"

"Mr.--Mr. Wapshott--sends word that he's unwell."  Under the Collector's
eye the youth suddenly shifted his manner and became respectful.

"I beg your pardon?" the Collector repeated slowly.  "He 'sends word,'
do you say?  I had not the honour at my Inn--from which I have ridden
straight--to be notified of Mr. Wapshott's indisposition."

Mr. Banner attempted a weak grin and harked back again to familiarity.

"No, I guess not.  The fact is--"

"Excuse me; but would you mind taking your hands out of your pockets?"

"Oh, come!  Why?"  But none the less Mr. Banner removed them.

"Thank you.  You were saying?"

"Well, I guess, between you and me"--Mr. Banner's hands were slipping to
his pockets again but he checked the motion and rested a palm
nonchalantly on either hip--"the old man was a bit too God-fearing to
sign to it."

"You mean," the Collector asked slowly, "that he is not, in fact,
unwell, but has asked you to convey an untruth?"

"You've a downright way of putting it--er--sir" Mr. Banner confessed;
"but you get near enough, I shouldn't wonder.  You see, the old--the
Surveyor is strict upon Lord's Day Observance."

The Collector bent his brows slightly while he smoothed Bayard's mane.
Of a sudden the small scene by the Church porch recurred to him.
"Stay," he said.  "I have not the pleasure of knowing Mr. Wapshott, but
may I attempt to describe him to you?  He is, perhaps, a gentleman of
somewhat stunted growth, but of full habit, and somewhat noticeably red
between the ear and the neck-stock?"

"That hits him."

"--with a wife inclining to portliness and six grown daughters, taller
than their parents and not precisely in their first bloom.  I speak,"
added the Collector, still eyeing his victim, "as to a man of the
world."

"You've seen him anyhow," Mr. Banner nodded.  "That's Wapshott."

"I saw him entering his place of worship; and I note that he thinks what
you call the Lord's Day well worth keeping at the cost of a falsehood.
May I ask, Mr.--"  The Collector hesitated.

"Banner."

"Ah, yes--pardon me!  May I ask, Mr. Banner, how it comes that you have
a nicer sense than your superior of what is due to His Majesty's
Service?"

Mr. Banner laughed uneasily.  "Well, you mightn't guess it from my
looks," he answered with an attempt to ingratiate himself by way of
self-deprecation, "but I am pretty good at working out levels.  I really
am."

"That was not my point, though I shall test you on it presently.
You are, it appears, a somewhat less rigid Sabbatarian than Mr.
Wapshott?"

Hereupon Mr. Banner became cryptic.  "You needn't fear about that," he
answered.  "I have what they call a dispensation; and until you startled
me, I was up here keeping the Lord's Day as well as the best of 'em.
Better, perhaps."

"We will get to business," said the Collector.  "Follow me, please."

He wheeled his horse and, with Mr. Banner walking at his stirrup, rode
slowly out to the end of the headland and as slowly back.  The Collector
asked a question now and then and to every question the young man
responded pat.  He was no fool.  It soon appeared that he had studied
the trajectory of guns, that he had views--and sound ones--on coast
defences, and that by some study of the subject he had come, a while
ago, to a conclusion the Collector took but a few minutes to endorse;
that to build a fort on this headland would be waste of public money.

Professionally, Mr. Banner was tolerable.  The Collector, consulting
with him, forgot the pertness of his address, the distressing twang of
his accent.  He had dismounted, and the pair were busy with a tape,
calling out and checking measurements, when from the southward there was
borne to the Collector's ears the distant crack of a shot-gun.

At the sound of it he glanced up, in time to see Mr. Banner drop the
other end of the tape and run.  Almost willy-nilly he followed, vaguely
wondering if there had happened some accident that called for aid.

Mr. Banner, when the Collector overtook him, had come to a halt
overlooking the long beach, and pointed to a figure--a speck almost--for
it was distant more than a mile.

"That Josselin girl!" panted Mr. Banner.  "I call you to witness!"

The Collector unstrapped his field-glass, which he carried in a
bandolier, adjusted it, and through it scanned the beach.  Yes, in the
distant figure he recognised Ruth Josselin.  She carried a gun--or
rather, stood with the gun grounded and her hands folded, resting on its
muzzle--and appeared to be watching the edge of the breakers, perhaps
waiting for them to wash to her feet a dead bird fallen beyond reach.

"See her, do you?  I call you to witness!" repeated the voice at his
elbow.

"Why, what is the matter?"

"Sabbath breakin'," answered Mr. Banner with a curious leer.

"Ah!"

"But you yourself don't take much account of the Lord's Day, seemingly.
Bathin', f'r instance."

"Indeed!" The Collector eyed his companion reflectively.  "You honoured
me with your observation this morning?"

Mr. Banner grinned.  "Better say the whole of Port Nassau was hon'rin'
you.  Oh, there'd be no lack of evidence!--but I guess the magistrates
were lookin' the other way.  They allowed, no doubt, that even a
Sabbath-breaker might be havin' friends at Court!"

The Collector could not forbear smiling at the youth's impudence.

"May I ask what punishment I have probably escaped by that advantage?"

"Well," said Mr. Banner, "for lighter cases it's usually the stocks."

Still the Collector smiled.  "I am trying to picture it," said he, after
a pause.  "But you don't tell me they would put a young girl in the
stocks, merely for firing a gun on the Lord's Day, as you call it?"

"Wouldn't they!" Mr. Banner chuckled.  "That, or the pillory."

"You are a strange folk in Port Nassau."  The Collector frowned, upon a
sudden suspicion, and his eyes darkened in their scrutiny of Mr.
Banner's unpleasant face.  "By the way, you told me just now that you
were here upon some sort of a dispensation.  Forgive me if I do you
wrong, but was it by any chance that you might play the spy upon this
girl?"

"Shadbolt asked me to keep an eye liftin' for her."

"Who is Shadbolt?"

"The Town Beadle.  He's watchin' somewhere along the cliffs."
Mr. Banner waved a hand towards the neck of the headland.
"It's a scandal, and by all accounts has been goin' on for weeks."

"So that is why you called me to witness?  Well, Mr. Banner, I have a
horsewhip lying on the turf yonder, and I warn you to forget your
suggestion. . . . Shall we resume our measurements?--and, if you please,
in silence.  Your presence is distasteful to me."

They turned from the cliff and went back to their work, in which--for
they both enjoyed it--they were soon immersed.  It may have been, too,
that the wind had shifted.  At any rate they missed to hear, ten minutes
later, a second shot fired on the beach, not more distant but fainter
than the first.



Chapter IX.


THE SCOURGE.


Next morning, at ten o'clock, the Collector's coach-and-six stood at the
Inn gate, harnessed up and ready for the return journey.  In the
road-way beyond one of the grooms waited with a hand on Bayard's bridle.

The Collector, booted and spurred, with riding-whip tucked under his
arm, came up the pebbled pathway, drawing on his gauntleted gloves.
Dicky trotted beside him.  Manasseh followed in attendance.  Behind them
in the porchway the landlady bobbed unregarded, like a piece of
clockwork gradually running down.

"Hey!"  The Collector, as he reached the gate, lifted his chin sharply--
threw up his head as a finely bred animal scents battle or danger.
"What's this?  A riot, up the street?"

The grooms could not tell him, for the sound had reached their ears but
a second or two before the question; a dull confused murmur out of
which, as it increased to a clamour and drew nearer, sharper outcries
detached themselves, and the shrill voices of women.  A procession had
turned the corner of the head of the avenue--a booing, howling rabble.

The Collector stepped to his horse's rein, flung himself into saddle,
and rode forward at a foot's pace to meet the tumult.

Suddenly his hand tightened on the rein, and Bayard came to a halt; but
his master did not perceive this.  The hand's movement had been nervous,
involuntary.  He sat erect--stood, rather, from the stirrup--his nostril
dilated, his brain scarcely believing what his eyes saw.

"The swine!" he said slowly, to himself.  His teeth were shut and the
words inaudible.  "The swine!" he repeated.

Men have done, in the name of religion and not so long ago--indeed are
perhaps doing now and daily--deeds so vile that mere decency cannot face
describing them.  It is a question if mere decency (by which I mean the
good instinct of civilised man) will not in the end purge faith clean of
religion; if, while men dispute and hate and inflict cruelty for
religion, they are not all the while outgrowing it.  Libraries, for
example, are written to prove that unbaptized infants come out of
darkness to draw a fleeting breath or two and pass to hell-fire; the
dispute occupies men for generations--and lo! one day the world finds it
has no use for any such question.  Time--no thanks to the theologians--
has educated it, and this thing at any rate it would no longer believe
if it could, as it certainly cannot.  Faith never yet has burnt man or
woman at the stake.  Religion has burnt its tens of thousands.

Behind the first two or three ranks of the mob--an exultant mob of grown
men, grown women, and (worst of all) little children--plodded a grey
horse, drawing a cart.  Behind the cart, bound to it, with a thong tight
about her fire-scorched wrists--But no; it is not to be written.

They had stripped her to the waist, and then for decency--_their_
decency!--had thrown a jacket of coarse sacking over her, lacing it
loosely in front with pack-thread.  But, because their work required it,
this garment had been gathered up into a rope at the neck, whence it
dangled in folds over her young breast.

She walked with wide eyes, uttering no sound.  She alone of that crowd
uttered no sound.  A brute with a bandaged jaw walked close behind her.
Oliver Vyell saw his forearm swing up--saw the scourge whirl in his
fist--met the girl's eyes. . . . She, meeting his, let escape the
first and last cry she uttered that day.  He could have sworn that
her face was scarlet; but no, he was wrong; while he looked he saw
his mistake-she was white as death.  Then with that one pitiful cry
she sank among the close-pressing crowd; but her hands, by the cord's
constraint, still lifted themselves as might a drowning swimmer's;
and the grey horse--the one other innocent creature in that
procession--plodded forward, dragging her now senseless body at the
cart's tail.

"You swine!"

It does a man good sometimes to get in his blow.  It did Oliver Vyell
good, riding in, to slash twice crosswise on the brute's bandaged face;
to feel the whalebone bite and then, as he swung out of saddle, to ram
fist and whip-butt together on the ugly mouth, driving in its
fore-teeth.

"Stop the horse, some one!" he commanded, as the Beadle reeled back.
"She has fainted." He added, "The first man that interferes, I shoot."

The crowd growled.  He turned on the nearest mutterer--"Your knife!"
The fellow handed it; so promptly, he might have been holding it ready
to proffer.  The Collector stooped and cut the thongs.  This done, he
stood up and saw the Beadle advancing again, snarling through the
bloody gap in his mouth.

"You had best take that man away," said the Collector quietly, pulling
out his small pistol.  "If you don't, I am going to kill him."
They heard and saw that he meant it.  He added in the same tone,
"I am going to take all responsibility for this.  Will you make way,
please?"

His first intention was to lift the body lying unconscious in the
roadway, carry it to the coach and drive out of Port Nassau with it,
defying the law to interfere.  For the moment he "saw red," as we say
nowadays, and was quite capable of shooting down, or bidding his
servants shoot down, any man who offered to hinder.  It is even possible
that had he acted straightway upon the impulse, he might, with his
momentary mastery of the mob, have won clean away; possible, but by no
means likely, for already a couple of constables were pushing forward to
support the Beadle, and half a dozen broad-shouldered fellows--haters of
"prerogative"--had recovered themselves and were ranging up to support
the law.  Had he noted this, it would not have daunted him.  What he
noted, and what gave him pause, was the girl's white back at his feet,
upturning its hideous weals.  He stooped to lift her, and drew back,
shivering delicately at the thought of hurting the torn flesh in his
arms--a vain scruple, since she had passed for the moment beyond pain.
He picked up the scourge, and stood erect again, crushing it into his
pocket.

"Will you make way, please," he ordered, "while I fetch a cover to hide
your blasted handiwork?"

He strode through them, and they fell back to give him passage.
He walked straight to the coach, pulled the door open, and, in the act
of dragging forth a rug, caught sight of Dicky's small, scared face.

"Oh papa, what has happened?"

"An accident, child.  Jump inside; I will explain by-and-by."

"Begging your Honour's pardon"--a heavy-featured fellow, who had
followed the Collector to the coach, put out a hand and touched the
child's shoulder--"I don't hold in whipping maidens, and if it's a fight
I'm with you.  But you can't carry her out of it, the way you're
meaning.  They've seen blood, same as yourself.  This child of yours--he
stands as much chance to be hurt as any, if you push it.  Your Honour'll
have to find some other way."

The Collector glanced over his shoulder, and saw that the man spoke
truth.

"Dicky," he said easily, but in a voice the child durst not disobey,
"there has been an accident.  Go you down and amuse yourself on the
sands till Manasseh calls you."

He walked back coolly, carrying the rug on his arm.

"Where was she to be taken?" he asked.

"To the stocks!" answered a voice or two.  "To the Court-house!" said
others.

"It's the same thing," said the heavy-browed man, at the Collector's
elbow.  "The stocks are just across the square from the Court-house.
You'll find the magistrates there; they're the ones to face.  They took
her case first this morning, and this is the first part of her
sentence."

Oliver Vyell walked back to the crowd.  It was--a glance assured him--
more hostile than before; had recovered from its surprise, and was
menacing.  But it gave way again before him.

He called on them to give more room.  He stooped and, spreading the rug
over the girl's body, lifted and laid her in the straw of the cart.
A constable would have interfered.  The Collector swung round on him.

"You are taking her back to the Court-house?  Well, I have business
there too.  Where is your Court-house?"

The constable pointed.

"Up the road?  I am obliged to you.  Drive on, if you please."



Chapter X.


THE BENCH.


The wooden Jail and the wooden Court-house of Port Nassau faced one
another across an unpaved grass-grown square planted with maples.
To-day--for the fall of the leaf was at hand--these maples flamed with
hectic yellows and scarlets; and indeed thousands of leaves, stripped by
the recent gales, already strewed the cross-walks and carpeted the
ground about the benches disposed in the shade--pleasant seats to which,
of an empty afternoon, wives brought their knitting and gossiped while
their small children played within sight; haunts, later in the day, of
youths who whittled sticks or carved out names with jack-knives--ancient
solace of the love-stricken; rarely thronged save when some transgressor
was brought to the stocks or the whipping-post.

These instruments of public discipline stood on the northern side of the
square, before the iron-studded door of the Jail.  The same hand, may
be, that had blackened over the Jail's weather-boarded front with a coat
of tar, had with equal propriety whitewashed the facade of the
Court-house; an immaculate building, set in the cool shade, its
straight-lined front broken only by a recessed balcony, whence, as
occasion arose, Mr. George Bellingham, Chief Magistrate, delivered the
text of a proclamation, royal or provincial, or declared the poll when
the people of Port Nassau chose their Selectmen.

This morning Mr. Bellingham held session within, in the long, airy
Court-room, and dispensed justice with the help of three
fellow-magistrates--Mr. Trask, Mr. Somershall, and our friend
Mr. Wapshott.  They sat at a long baize-covered table, with the
Justices' Clerk to advise them.  On the wall behind and above their
heads hung a framed panel emblazoned with the royal escutcheon, the lion
and unicorn for supporters, an inscription in old French to the effect
that there is shame in evil-thinking, and another:--

          CAR         II.


          FID         DEF.

distributed among the four corners of the panel, with the date 1660
below.  This had been erected (actually in 1664, but the artist had
received instructions to antedate it) when the good people of
Massachusetts after some demur rejoiced in the Restoration and accepted
King Charles II. as defender of their Faith.

The four magistrates had dealt (as we know) with a case of
Sabbath-breaking; had inflicted various terms of imprisonment on two
drunkards and a beggar-woman; had discharged for lack of evidence (but
with admonition) a youth accused of profane swearing; and were now
working through a list of commoner and more venial offences, such as
cheating by the use of false weights.

These four grave gentlemen looked up in slightly shocked deprecation;
for the Collector entered without taking account of the constable at the
door, save to thrust him aside.  The Clerk called "Silence in the
Court!" mechanically, and a deputy-beadle at his elbow as mechanically
repeated it.

"Your Worships"--the Collector, hat in hand advanced to the table and
bowed--"will forgive an interruption which only its urgency can excuse."

"Ah!  Captain Vyell, I believe?"  Mr. Bellingham arose from his
high-backed throne of carved oak, bowed, and extended a hand across the
table.  "I had heard that you were honouring Port Nassau with a visit;
but understanding from our friend Mr. Wapshott that the visit was--er--
not official--that, in fact, it was connected with government business
not--er--to be divulged, I forbore to do myself the pleasure--"
Mr. Bellingham had a courtly manner and a courtly presence.  He was a
tallish man, somewhat thin in the face and forehead, of classical
features, and a sanguine complexion.  He came of a family highly
distinguished in the history of Massachusetts; but he was in fact a weak
man, though he concealed this by some inherited aptitude for public
business and a well-trained committee manner.

"I thank you."  The Collector shook the preferred hand and bowed again.
"You will pardon my abruptness?  A girl has fainted outside here, in the
street--"

Mr. Bellingham's well-shaped brows arched themselves a trifle higher.

"Indeed?" he murmured, at a loss.

"A young girl who--as I understand--was suffering public punishment
under sentence of yours."

"Yes?" Mr. Bellingham's smile grew vaguer, and his two hands touched
finger-tips in front of his magisterial stomach--an adequate stomach but
well on the right side of grossness.  He glanced at his
fellow-magistrates right and left.  "It--er---sometimes happens," he
suggested.

"I dare say." Captain Vyell took him up.  "But she has fainted under the
punishment.  She has passed the limit of her powers, poor child; and
they tell me that what she has endured is to be followed, and at once,
by five hours in the stocks.  Gentlemen, I repeat I am quite well aware
that this is most irregular--you may call it indecent; but I saw the
poor creature fall, and, as it happens, I know something that might have
softened you before you passed sentence."

Here the Clerk interposed, stiffening the Chief Magistrate, who wore a
smile of embarrassed politeness.

"As His Honour--as Captain Vyell--suggests, your Worships, this is quite
irregular."

"To be sure--to be sure--of course," hemm'd Mr. Bellingham.  "We can
only overlook that, when appealed to by a person of your distinction;"
here he inclined himself gently.  "Still, you will understand, a
sentence is a sentence.  As for a temporary faintness, that is by no
means outside our experience.  Our Beadle--Shadbolt--invariably manages
to revive them sufficiently to endure--er--the rest."

I'll be shot if he will this time, thought the Collector grimly, with a
glance down at a smear across the knuckle of his right-hand glove.
The sight of it cheered him and steadied his temper.  "Possibly," said
he aloud.  "But your worships may not be aware--and as merciful men may
be glad to hear--that this poor creature's offence against the Sabbath
was committed under stress.  Her mother and grandfather have starved
this week through, as I happen to know."

"That may or may not be," put in Mr. Trask--a dry-complexioned,
stubborn, malignant-looking man, seated next on the Chairman's right.
"But the girl--if you mean Ruth Josselin--has not been scourged for
Sabbath-breaking.  For that she will sit in the stocks--our invariable
sentence for first offenders in this respect."  From under his
down-drawn brows Mr. Trask eyed the Collector malevolently.
"Ruth Josselin," he continued, "has suffered the scourge for having
resisted Beadle Shadbolt in the discharge of his duty, and for unlawful
wounding."

"Excuse me," put in Mr. Somershall, speaking across from the Chairman's
left.  Mr. Somershall was afflicted with deafness, but liked to assert
himself whenever a word by chance reached him and gave him a cue.
He leaned sideways, arching a palm around his one useful ear.
"Excuse me; we brought it in 'attempted wounding,' I believe?  I have it
noted so, here on the margin of my charge-sheet."  He glanced at the
Clerk, who nodded for confirmation.

"It didn't matter," Mr. Trask snapped brutally.  "She got it, just the
same."

"Oh, quite so!"  Mr. Somershall took his hand from his ear and nodded,
satisfied with having made his point.

"Wounding?" echoed the Collector, addressing the Chairman.  "To be frank
with you, sir, I had not heard of this--though it scarcely affects my
plea."

Mr. Bellingham smiled indulgently.  "Say no more, Captain Vyell--pray
say no more!  This is not the first time an inclination to deem us
severe has been corrected by a fuller acquaintance with the facts. . . .
Yes, yes--chivalrous feeling--I quite understand; but you see--"
He concluded his sentence with a gentle wave of the hand.  "You will be
glad to hear, since you take an interest in the girl, that Providence
overruled her aim and Shadbolt escaped with a mere graze of the jaw--so
slight, indeed, that, taking a merciful view, we decided not to consider
it an actual wound, and convicted her only of the attempt.  By the way,
Mr. Leemy, where is the weapon?"

The Clerk produced it from his bag and laid it on the table.
Captain Vyell drew a sharp breath.

"It is my pistol."

"Eh?"

"I have the fellow to it here."  He pulled out the other and handed it
by the muzzle.

"To be sure--to be sure; the pattern is identical," murmured Mr.
Bellingham, examining it and for the moment completely puzzled.
"You--er--suggest that she stole it?"

"Certainly not.  I lent it to her."

There followed a slow pause.  It was broken by the grating voice of Mr.
Trask--

"You remember, Mr. Chairman, that the prisoner stubbornly refused to
tell how the pistol came in her possession?  Does Captain Vyell give us
to understand that his interest in this young woman is of older date
than this morning's encounter?"

"My interest in her--such as it is--dates, sir, from the evening before
last, when she was dismissed from the Bowling Green Inn.  The hour was
late; her home, as you know, lies at some distance--though doubtless
within the ambit of your authority.  I lent her this small weapon to
protect herself should she be molested."

"And she used it next day upon the Beadle!  Dismissed, you say?  Why was
she dismissed?"

"I regret that I was not more curious at the time," answered the
Collector with the politest touch of weariness.  "I believe it was for
saving the house from fire--something of that sort.  As told to me, it
sounded rather heroical.  But, sir--" he turned again to the Chairman--"
I suggest that all this does not affect my plea.  Whatever her offence,
she has suffered cruelly.  She is physically unfit to bear this second
punishment; and when I tell you on my word as a gentleman--or on oath,
if you will--that on Saturday I found her grandparent starving and that
her second offence was committed presumably to supply the household
wants, surely I shall not entreat your mercy in vain?"

The Chief Magistrate hesitated, and a frown showed his annoyance.
"To tell you the truth, Captain Vyell, you put me in a quandary.
I do not like to refuse you--"  Here he glanced right and left.

"But it can't be done," snapped Mr. Trask.  Mr. Wapshott, sitting just
beyond, shook his head gently and--as he hoped--unperceived by the
Collector.

"You see, sir," explained Mr. Bellingham with a sigh, "we sit here to
administer justice without fear or favour.  You see also to what scandal
it might give rise if a culprit--merely on the intercession of a
gentleman like yourself--influential--er--and, in short--"

"--In short, sir," the Collector broke in, "you have in the name of
justice committed one damnable atrocity upon this child, and plead your
cowardice as an excuse for committing another.  Influential, am I?
And you prate to me of not being affected by that?  Very well; I'll take
you at your word.  This girl resisted your ruffian in the discharge of
his duty?  So did I just now, and with such effect that he will resume
it neither to-day nor to-morrow.  She inflicted, it appears, a slight
graze on his chin.  I inflicted two cuts on his face and knocked in
three of his teeth.  You can take cognisance of _my_ wounding, I promise
you.  Now, sir, will you whip _me_ through your town?"

"This is mere violence, sir."  Mr. Bellingham's face was flushed, but he
answered with dignity.  "The law is as little to be exasperated as
defied."

"I will try you in another way, then," said the Collector, recovering
grip of his temper and dropping his voice to a tone of politest
insolence.  "It is understood that you have not the courage to do this
because, seated here and administering what you call justice, you have,
each one of you, an eye upon England and preferment, and you know well
enough that to touch me would play the devil among the tailors with your
little ambitions.  I except"--with a bow towards Mr. Trask--"this
gentleman, who seems to have earned his influence on your counsels by
rugged force of character, And--" for here Mr. Trask, who enjoyed a dig
at his colleagues, cast his eyes down and compressed a grin--"is, I
should judge, capable of striking a woman for the mere fun of it."
Here Mr. Bellingham and Mr. Wapshott looked demure in turn; for that
Mr. Trask led his wife a dog's life was notorious.

"--In truth, gentlemen," the Collector continued easily, "I am at some
loss in addressing you, seeing that through some defect of courtesy you
have omitted to wait on me, albeit informed (I believe) that I came as
His Majesty's Commissioner, and that therefore I have not even the
pleasure of knowing your names.  I may except that of Mr. Wapshott, whom
I am glad to see convalescent this morning."  Here he inclined to Mr.
Wapshott, whose gills under the surprised gaze of his colleagues took a
perceptibly redder tinge.  "Mr. Wapshott, gentlemen," explained the
Collector, smiling, "had a slight attack of vertigo yesterday, on the
steps of his Place of Worship.  Well, sirs, as I was saying, I will try
you in another way.  You have not the courage to bring me to trial for
assaulting your beadle.  You have not even the courage, here and now, to
throw me out.  I believe, however, that upon a confessed breach of the
law--supported by evidence, if necessary--I can force you to try me.
The Clerk will correct me if I am wrong. . . . Apparently he assents.
Then I desire to confess to you that yesterday, at such-and-such an
hour, I broke your laws or bye-laws of Lord's Day Observance; by bathing
in the sea for my pleasure.  I demand trial on this charge, and, if you
convict me--here you can hardly help yourselves, since to my knowledge
some of you witnessed the offence--I demand my due punishment of the
stocks."

"Really--really, Captain Vyell!" hemm'd the Chief Magistrate.
"Passing over your derogatory language, I am at a loss to understand--"

"Are you?  Yet it is very simple.  Since you reject my plea for this
poor creature, I desire to share her punishment."

"Let him," snapped the mouth of Mr. Trask again, opening and shutting
like a trap.

"_You_ at any rate, sir, have sense," the Collector felicitated him and
turned to the Chief Magistrate.  "And you, sir, if you will oblige me,
may rest assured that I shall bear the magistracy of Port Nassau no
grudge whatever."



Chapter XI.


THE STOCKS.


In the end they came to a compromise.  That Dame Justice should be
hustled in this fashion--taken by the shoulders, so to speak, forced to
catch up her robe and skip--offended the Chief Magistrate's sense of
propriety.  It was unseemly in the last degree, he protested.
Nevertheless it appeared certain that Captain Vyell had a right to be
tried and punished; and the Clerk's threat to set down the hearing for
an adjourned sessions was promptly countered by the culprit's producing
His Majesty's Commission, which enjoined upon all and sundry "_to
observe the welfare of my faithful subject, Oliver John Dinham de Courcy
Vyell, now travelling on the business of this my Realm, and to further
that business with all zeal and expedition as required by him_"--a
command which might be all the more strictly construed for being loosely
worded.  To be sure the Court might by dilatory process linger out the
hearing of the Weights and Measures cases--one of which was being
scandalously interrupted at this moment--or it might adjourn for dinner
and reassemble in the afternoon, by which time the sands of Ruth
Josselin's five hours' ignominy would be running out.  But here Mr.
Somershall had to be reckoned with.  Mr. Somershall not only made it a
practice to sit long at dinner and sleep after it; he invariably lost
his temper if the dinner-hour were delayed; and, being deaf as well as
honest, he was capable of blurting out his mind in a fashion to confound
either of these disingenuous courses.  As for Mr. Wapshott, the wording
of the Commission had frightened him, and he wished himself at home.

It was Mr. Trask who found the way out.  Mr. Trask, his malevolent eye
fixed on the Collector, opined that after all an hour or two in the
stocks would be a salutary lesson for hot blood and pampered flesh.
He suggested that, without insisting on a trial, the Captain might be
obliged, and his legs given that lesson.  He cited precedents.
More than once a friend or relative had, by mercy of the Court, been
allowed to sit beside a culprit under punishment.  If, a like leave
being granted him, Captain Vyell preferred to have his ankles
confined--why, truly, Mr. Trask saw no reason for denying him the
experience.  But the Captain, it was understood, must give his word of
honour, first, to accept this as a free concession from the Bench, and,
secondly, not to repent or demand release before the expiry of the five
hours.

"With all my heart," promised Captain Vyell; and the Chief Magistrate
reluctantly gave way.


Ruth Josselin sat in the stocks.  She had come so far out of her swoon
that her pulse beat, her breath came and went, she felt the sun warm on
her face, and was aware of some pain where the edge of the wood pressed
into her flesh, a little above the ankle-bones--of discomfort, rather,
in comparison with the anguish throbbing and biting across her
shoulder-blades.  Some one--it may have been in unthinking mercy--had
drawn down the sackcloth over her stripes, and the coarse stuff,
irritating the raw, was as a shirt of fire.

She had come back to a sense of this torture, but not yet to complete
consciousness.  She sat with eyes half closed, filmed with suffering.
As they had closed in the moment of swooning, so and with the same look
of horror they awoke as the lids parted.  But they saw nothing; neither
the sunlight dappling the maple shadows nor the curious faces of the
crowd.  She felt the sunlight; the crowd's presence she felt not at all.

But misery she felt; a blank of misery through which her reviving soul--
like the shoot of a plant trodden into mire--pushed feebly towards the
sunlight that coaxed her eyes to open.  Something it sought there . . .
a face . . . yes, a face. . . .

--Yes, of course, a face; lifted high above other faces that were
hateful, hostile, mocking her misery--God knew why; a strong face, not
very pitiful--but so strong!--and yet it must be pitiful too, for it
condescended to help.  It was moving down, bending, to help. . . .

--What had become of it? . . . Ah, now (shame at length reawakening) she
remembered!  She was hiding from him.  He was strong, he was kind, but
above all he must not see her shame.  Let the earth cover her and hide
it! . . . and either the merciful earth had opened or a merciful
darkness had descended.  She remembered sinking into it--sinking--her
hands held aloft, as by ropes.  Then the ropes had parted. . . .
She had fallen, plumb. . . .

She was re-emerging now; and either shame lay far below, a cast-off weed
in the depths, or shame had driven out shame as fire drives out fire.
Her back was burning; her tongue was parched; her eyes were seared as
they half opened upon the crowd.  The grinning faces--the mouths pulled
awry, mocking a sorrow they did not understand--these were meaningless
to her.  She did not, in any real sense, behold them.  Her misery was a
sea about her, and in the trough of it she looked up, seeking one face.

--And why not?  It had shone far above her as a god's; but she had been
sucked down as deep again, and there is an extreme of degradation may
meet even a god's altitude on equal terms.  Stark mortal, stark god--its
limit of suffering past, humanity joins the celestial, clasping its
knees.

Of a sudden, turning her eyes a little to the left, she saw him.

He had come at a strolling pace across the square, with Manasseh and the
deputy-beadle walking wide beside him, and the Court-house rabble at his
heels, but keeping, in spite of themselves, a respectful distance.
At the stocks he faced about, and they halted on the instant, as though
he had spoken a word of command.  He smiled, seated himself leisurably
at the end of the bench on Ruth Josselin's left, and extended a leg for
Manasseh to draw off its riding-boot.  At the back of the crowd a few
voices chattered, but within the semicircle a hush had fallen.

It was then that she turned her eyes and saw him.

How came he here?  What was he doing? . . . She could not comprehend at
all.  Only she felt her heart leap within her and stand still, as like a
warm flood the consciousness of his presence stole through her, poured
over her, soothing away for the moment all physical anguish.  She sat
very still, her hands in her lap; afraid to move, afraid even to look
again.  This consciousness--it should have been shame, but it held no
shame at all.  It was hope.  It came near, very near, to bliss.

She was aware in a dull way of some one unlocking and lifting the upper
beam of the stocks.  Were they releasing her?  Surely her sentence had
been for five hours?--surely her faintness could not have lasted so
long!  This could not be the end?  She did not wish to be released.
She would not know what to do, where to go, when they set her free.
She must walk home through the town, and that would be worst of all.

Or perhaps _he_ was commanding them to release her? . . . No; the beam
creaked and dropped into place again.  A moment ago his voice had been
speaking; speaking very cheerfully, not to her.  Now it was silent.
After some minutes she gathered courage to turn her eyes again.

Captain Vyell sat with his legs in durance.  They were very shapely
legs, cased in stockings of flesh-coloured silk with crimson knee-ties.
He sat in perfect patience, and rolled a tobacco-leaf between his
fingers.  At his shoulder stood Manasseh like a statue, with face
immobile as Marble--black marble--and a tinder-box ready in his hand.

"Why? . . ."

He could not be sure if it were a word, or merely a sigh, deep in her
breast, so faintly it reached him.  She had murmured it as if to
herself, yet it seemed to hang on a question.  His ear was alert.

"Hush!" he said, speaking low and without glancing towards her, for the
eyes of the crowd were on them.  "The faintness is over?"

"Yes."

"Do not talk at all.  By-and-by we will talk.  Now I am going to ask you
a selfish question, and you are just to bend your head for 'yes' or
'no.'  Will the smell of tobacco distress you, or bring the faintness
back?  These autumn flies sting abominably here, under the trees."

She moved her head slowly.  "I do not feel them," she said after a
while.

He glanced at her compassionately before nodding to Manasseh for a
light.  "No, poor wretch, I'll be sworn you do not," he muttered between
the puffs.  "Thank you, Manasseh; and now will you step down to the Inn,
order the horses back to stable, and bring George and Harry back with
you?  I may require them to break a head or two here, if there should be
trouble.  Tell Alexander"--this was the coachman--"to have an eye on
Master Dicky, and see that he gets his dinner.  The child is on no
account to come here, or be told about this.  His papa is detained on
business--you understand?  Yes, and by the way, you may extract a book
from the valise--the Calderon, for choice, or if it come handier, that
second volume of Corneille.  Don't waste time, though, in searching for
this or that.  In the stocks I've no doubt a book is a book: the
instrument has a reputation for levelling."

Manasseh departed on his errand, and for a while the Collector paid no
heed to his companion.  He and she were now unprotected, at the mercy of
the mob if it intended mischief; and the next few minutes would be
critical.

He sat immersed apparently in his own thoughts, and by the look on his
face these were serious thoughts.  He seemed to see and yet not to see
the ring of faces; to be aware of them, yet not concerned with them, no
whit afraid and quite as little defiant.  True, he was smoking, but
without a trace of affected insouciance or bravado; gravely rather,
resting an elbow on his groin and leaning forward with a preoccupied
frown.  Two minutes passed in this silence, and he felt the danger
ebbing.  Mob insolence ever wants a lead, and--perhaps because with the
return of fine weather the fishing-crews had put to sea early--this Port
Nassau crowd lacked a fugleman.


"Are you here--because--of me?"

"Hush, again," he answered quietly, not turning his head.  "I like you
to talk if you feel strong enough; but for the moment it will be better
if they do not perceive. . . . Yes, and no," he answered her question
after a pause.  "I am here to see that you get through this.  You are in
pain?"

"Yes; but it is easier."

"You are afraid of these people?"

"Afraid?"  She took some time considering this.  "No," she said at
length.  "I am not afraid of them.  I do not see them.  You are here."

He took the tobacco-leaf from his lips, blew a thin cloud of smoke with
grave deliberateness, and in doing so contrived to glance at her face.

"You have blood in you.  That face, too, my beauty," he muttered,
"never came to you but by gift of blood."  Aloud he said, "That's brave.
But take care when your senses clear and the strain comes back on you.
Speak to me when you feel it coming; I don't want it to tauten you up
with a jerk.  You understand?"

"Yes. . . ."

"I wonder now--" he began musingly, and broke off.  The danger he had
been keeping account with was over; Manasseh had returned with the two
grooms, and they--perfectly trained servants on the English model--took
their posts without exhibiting surprise by so much as a twitch of the
face.  George in particular was a tight fellow with his fists, as the
crowd, should it offer annoyance, would assuredly learn.  The Collector
took the volume which Manasseh brought him, and opened it, but did not
begin to read.  "You despise these people?" he asked.

He was puzzled with himself.  He was here to protect her; and this, from
him to her, implied a noble condescension.  His fine manners, to be
sure, forbade his showing it; on no account would he have shown it.
But the puzzle was, he could not feel it.

She met his eyes.  "No . . . why should I despise them?"

"They are _canaille_."

"What does that mean? . . . They have been cruel to me.  Afterwards, I
expect, they will be crueller still.  But just now it does not matter,
because you are here."

"Does that make so much difference?" he asked thoughtlessly.

She caught her breath upon a sob.  "Ah, do not--"  The voice died,
strangled, in her throat.  "Do not--"  Again she could get no further,
but sat shivering, her fingers interlocked and writhing.

"Brute!" muttered the Collector to himself.  He did not ask her pardon,
but opened his Calderon, signed to Manasseh to roll a fresh
tobacco-leaf, and fell to reading his favourite _Alcalde de Zalamea_.


The sun crept slowly to the right over the tops of the maples.  It no
longer scorched their faces, but slanted in rays through the upper
boughs, dappling the open walks with splashes of light which, as they
receded in distance, took by a trick of the eyesight a pattern regular
as diaper.  By this time the Collector, when he glanced up from his
book, had an ample view of the square, for the crowd had thinned.
The punishment of the stocks was no such rare spectacle in Port Nassau;
and five hours is a tedious while even for the onlooker--a very long
while indeed to stand weighing the fun of throwing a handful of filth
against the cost of a thrashing.  The men-folk, reasoning thus, had
melted away to their longshore avocations.  The women, always more
patient--as to their nature the show was more piquant than to the
men's--had withdrawn with their knitting to benches well within
eyeshot.  The children, playing around, grew more and more immersed in
their games; which, nevertheless, one or another would interrupt from
time to time to point and ask a question.  Above the Court-house the
town clock chimed its quarters across the afternoon heat.

The Collector, glancing up in the act of turning a page, spied Mr. Trask
hobbling down an alley towards the Jail.  Mr. Trask, a martyr to gout,
helped his progress with an oaken staff. He leaned on this as he halted
before the stocks.

"Tired?" he asked.

"Damnably!" answered the Collector with great cheerfulness.  "It takes
one in the back, you see.  If ever the Town Fathers think of moving this
machine, you might put in a word for shifting it a foot or two back,
against the prison wall."

Mr. Trask grinned.

"I suppose now," he said after a pause, "you think you are doing a fine
thing, and doing it handsomely?"

"I had some notion of the sort, but this confinement of the feet is
wonderfully cooling to the brain.  No--if you dispute it.  Most human
actions are mixed."

Mr. Trask eyed him, chin between two fingers and thumb.  When he spoke
again it was with lowered voice.  "Is it altogether kind to the girl?"
he asked.

"Eh?"  The Collector in turn eyed Mr. Trask.

"Or even quite fair to her?"

"Oh, come!" said the Collector.  "Tongues?  I hadn't thought of that."

"I dare say not." Mr. Trask glanced up at the windows of a two-storeyed
house on the left, scarcely a stone's throw away, a respectable mansion
with a verandah and neat gateway of wrought iron.  "But at the end of
this what becomes of her?"

The Collector shrugged his shoulders.  "I have thought of _that_, at all
events.  My coach will be here to take her home.  It lies on my road.
As for me, I shall have to mount at once and ride through the night--a
second test for the back-bone."

"Ride and be hanged to you!" broke out Mr. Trask with a snarl of scorn.
"But for the rest, if your foppery leave you any room to consider the
girl, you couldn't put a worse finish on your injury.  Drive her off in
your coach indeed!--and what then becomes of her reputation?"

"--Of what you have left to her, you mean?  Damn it--_you_ to talk like
this!"

"Do not be profane, Captain Vyell. . . . We see things differently, and
this punishment was meted to her--if cruelly, as you would say--still in
honest concern for her soul's good.  But if you, a loose-living man--"
Mr. Trask paused.

"Go on."

"I thank you.  For the moment I forgot that you are not at liberty.
But I used not that plainness of speech to insult you; rather because it
is part of the argument.  If you, then, drive away with this child in
public, through this town, you do her an injury for which mere
carelessness is your best excuse; and the world will assign it a worse."

"The world!"

"I mean the world this young woman will have to live in.  But we talk at
cross-purposes.  When I asked, 'What becomes of her at the end of this?'
I was thinking of the harm you have already done.  As a fact, I have
ordered my cart to be ready to take her home."

Captain Vyell considered for a few seconds.  "Sir," he said, "since
plain speech is allowed between us, I consider you a narrow bigot; but,
I hasten to add, you are the best man I have met in Port Nassau.  By the
way--that house on our left--does it by chance belong to Mr. Wapshott?"

"It does."

"I thought so.  For a couple of hours past, in the intervals of my
reading, I have discovered a family of tall young women peeking at us
from behind the windows and a barrier of furniture; and once, it seemed
to me, I detected the wattles of your worthy fellow-magistrate.
He ought not to strain that neck; you should warn him of the danger."

"It should have warned you, sir, of what mischief you are doing."

"I seem to remember," the Collector mused, "reading the words '_Honi
soit qui mal y pense_' to-day written on the wall behind you. . . .
Why, damn me, sir, for aught you or any of them can tell, I intend to
marry this girl!  Why not?  Go and tell them.  Could there (you'll say)
be a fairer betrothal?  The reputable plight their troth with a single
ring around the woman's finger; but here are four rings around the four
ankles, and the bar locked.  With your leave, which is the more
symbolical?"

"You are a reprobate man, Captain Vyell," was the answer, "and I have no
relish for your talk.  I will only say this, When her punishment is
done, my cart shall be ready for her; and you, if you would vindicate an
action which--for I'll give you that credit--sprang from a generous
impulse, will go your ways and let this child live down her
humiliation."


Mr. Trask turned and went his way up the alley, across which the sun
made level rays of flame.  The Collector sat in thought.

He turned his head, surprised by the sound of a sob.  A small child had
drawn near--a toddle of four, trailing her wooden doll with its head in
the dust--and stood a few paces in front of Ruth Josselin, round-eyed,
finger at mouth.

"Steady, my girl. . . . Steady!"

At the murmured warning she braced her body stiffly, and no second sob
came.  But the tears ran--the first in all her long agony--and small
shivers, as light winds play on aspen, chased one another down her
throat.  Almost you could guess them passing down her flesh beneath the
sackcloth, rippling over its torn and purple ridges.

He did not check her weeping.  The child--small, innocent cause of it--
stood round-eyed, wondering.  "She has been naughty.  What has she done,
to be so naughty?"

Over the maples the town clock slowly told the hour.

They were free.  The Collector tossed away the half-smoked
tobacco-leaf--his twelfth--drew a long breath, and emitted it with a gay
laugh of relief.  At the same moment he saw Mr. Trask's bullock-cart
approaching down the dappled avenue.



Chapter XII.


THE HUT BY THE BEACH.


"And you'll never hold up your head again!  No more will any of us.
The disgrace of it! the disgrace of it!"

Ruth stood in the middle of the wretched room, with her hands hanging
slack and her eyes bent wearily upon her mother, who had collapsed upon
a block of sawn timber, and sat there, with sack apron cast over her
head, rocking her body.

"Hush, ye fool!" said old Josselin, and spat out of window.
Mechanically, by habit, his dim eyes swept along the beach by the
breakers' edge.  "What's the use, any way?" he added.

"We, that always carried ourselves so high, for all our being poor!
It's God's mercy that took your father before he could see this day.
'Twould have broken his sperrit.  Your father a Josselin, and me a
Pocock, with lands of my own--if right was law in this world; and now to
be stripped naked and marched through the streets!"

Ruth's eyes met the Collector's.  He stood within the doorway, and was
regarding her curiously.  She did not plead or protest; only, as their
eyes met, a flush rose to her cheek, and he guessed rightly that the
touch of shame was for her mother, not for herself.  The flush deepened
as old Josselin turned and said apologetically,--

"You mustn't mind M'ria.  She's weak-minded.  Always was; but sence her
husband was drowned--he was my second son--she've lost whatever wits she
had.  The gal here was born about that time."  Here the old man launched
into some obstetrical guesswork, using the plainest words.
It embarrassed the Collector; the girl did not so much as wince.

"Poor might be stood," moaned the woman; "but poor and shamed!"
Then of a sudden, as though recollecting herself, she arose with an air
of mincing gentility.  "Ruth," she said, "it's little we can offer the
gentleman, but you _might_ get out the bread and cheese, after his being
so kind to you."

"Sit down, you dormed fool," commanded her father-in-law.  "Here, fetch
your seat over to the look-out, an' tell me if that's a log I see
floatin'.  She's wonderful good at that," he explained, without lowering
his voice, "and it'll keep her quiet.  It's true, though, what she said
about the property.  Thousands of acres, if she had her rights--up this
side of the Kennebee."  He jerked a thumb northwards.  "The Pococks
bought it off one of the Gorges, gettin' on for a hundred years sence;
and by rights, as I say, a seventh share oughter be hers.  But lawyers!
The law's like a ship's pump: pour enough in for a start, and it'll
reward ye with floods.  But where's the money to start it?"

The Collector scarcely heard him.  His eyes were on Ruth's face.
He had walked briskly down from the Town Square to the Bowling Green
Inn, refreshed himself, let saddle his horse, and set forth, leaving
orders for his coach to follow.  At the summit of the hill above Port
Nassau he had overtaken the cart with the poor girl lying in it, had
checked his pace to ride alongside, and so, disregarding Mr. Trask's
counsel, had brought her home.  Nay, dismissing the men with a guinea
apiece, he had desired them to return to Mr. Trask and report his
conduct.

"Listen to me," he said suddenly, checking Old Josselin in full flow.
"You say, both of you, that Ruth here will live under disgrace; and I
dare say you are right.  Why not send her away?  Get her out of this."

The woman by the window turned her head with a vague simper.  The old
man, building a small heap of chips on the hearthstone, distended his
cheeks and let out his breath slowly, as though coaxing a fire already
kindled.

"All very well--but where?  And where's the money to come from?
Besides, we can't spare the child; she vittles us.  Dorm it, Ruth," he
exclaimed, on a sudden recollection, "you don't say you ha'n't brought
back the gun!"

"No, grandfather."

"Why? The magistrates would have given it back.  It's ruination for us
without the gun, and that you might have remembered.  Better step over
and ask 'em for it to-morrow."

"Must I?" asked the girl slowly.

"'Course you'll have to," said her grandparent.  "_I_ can't walk the
distance, and that you know.--My eyesight's poor," he explained to the
Collector, "and I can't walk, because--" here he stated an organic
complaint very frankly.  "As for M'ria, she's an eye like a fish-hawk;
but you never saw such a born fool with firearms.  Well, must heat some
water, I reckon, to bathe the poor maid's back."

"First give her food," said the Collector.  He stepped forward and
himself cut her a large manchet from the loaf the old man produced.
She took it from him and ate ravenously, like a young wild animal,
tearing at the crust with her white teeth.  "They haven't broken your
body's health, then," he thought to himself.  Aloud he said, "You don't
quite take my meaning, Mr. Josselin, and I'll put it to you in a
straight offer.  Let her come with me to Boston.  She shall be put to
school there, say for three years; she shall live among folk who will
treat her kindly, and teach her at any rate to build up her spirit again
and be happy, as she will never be within these miles of Port Nassau;
and in return--"

"Ah!" said the old man significantly.

"In return you shall accept from me a decent pension--enough, at any
rate, to fend off want.  We will not quarrel over the amount, up or
down.  Or, if you prefer, I will get the lawyers to look into this claim
of your daughter-in-law's, and maybe make you an offer for it."

"Ah!" repeated Old Josselin, and nodded.  "Taken your eye, has she?
Oh, I'm not blamin' your lordship!  Flesh will after flesh, and--you can
believe it or not--I was all for the women in my time."  He chuckled,
and had added some gross particulars before the younger man could check
him.  Yet the old fellow was so naif and direct that his speech left no
evil taste.  He talked as one might of farm stock.  "But we're decent
folk, we Josselins.  It's hard to starve and be decent too, and times
enough I've been sorry for it; but decent we are."

The Collector frowned.  "Mr. Josselin," he answered, "I am offering you
to take your granddaughter away and have her educated.  What that will
make of her I neither can tell you nor have I means of guessing; but
this I will undertake, and give you my word of honour for it: in three
years' time she shall come back to you in all honesty, unharmed by me or
by any one.  By that time she will be a woman grown, able to decide as a
woman; but she shall come to you, nevertheless."

The old man fumbled with a finger, scraping together the flakes of
touchwood in a tinder-box.

"D'ye hear, M'ria?  His Honour wants our Ruth to go along with him."

The Collector glanced at the girl's face.  Years after, and a hundred
times, he recalled the look with which she turned towards her mother.
At the same instant her mother faced about with a vacuous silly smile.

"Eh?"

"To larn to be a lady," Old Josselin explained, raising his voice as
though she were deaf.

"That would be a fine thing," she answered mincingly, and returned her
gaze to the window and the line of shore.



Chapter XIII.


RUTH SETS OUT.


Manasseh had wrapped Master Dicky up warm in a couple of rugs, and
spread a third about his feet.  In the ample state seat of the coach the
child reclined as easily as in a bed.  He began to doze while the
vehicle yet jolted over the road crossing the headland; and when it
gained the track, and the wheels rolled smoothly on the hard sand, the
motion slid him deep into slumber.

He came out of it with a start and a catch of the breath, and for a full
half-minute lay with all his senses numbed, not so much scared as
bewildered.  In his dreams he had been at home in Boston, and he
searched his little brain, wondering why he was awake, and if he should
call for Miss Quiney (who slept always within hail, in a small bedroom);
and why, when the night-nursery window lay to the left of his bed,
strange lights should be flashing on his right, where the picture of
King William landing at Torbay hung over his washstand.

The lights moved to and fro, then they were quenched, and all was dark
about him.  But he heard Manasseh's voice, some way off, in the
darkness, and the sound of it brought him to his bearings.  He was in
the coach, he remembered; and realising this, he was instantly glad--for
he was a plucky child--that he had not called out to summon Miss Quiney.

Had there been an accident?  At any rate he was not hurt.  His father
had ridden on ahead, and would reach home many hours in advance.
The boy had learnt this from Manasseh.  He reasoned that, if an accident
had happened, his father would not hear of it--would be riding
forward, further and further into the night.  He wondered how Manasseh
and the grooms would manage without his father, who always gave the
orders and was never at a loss.

He sat up, peering out into the night.  He was still peering thus,
building hasty wild guesses, when again a light showed, waving as it
drew nearer.  It came close; it was one of the coach-lamps, and blazed
full into his eyes through the window.  The door opened, letting in the
roar of the beach and smiting his small nostrils with sea-brine, that
with one breath purged away the stuffy scent of leather.

Manasseh was handing some one into the coach.

"De child--Mas' Richard--if you'll tak' care, miss.  He's fas' asleep,
prob'ly."

"But I'm _not_," said Dicky, sitting bolt upright and gathering his rugs
about him.  "Who is it?"

Manasseh perhaps did not hear.  He made no reply, at any rate, but
turned the lamp full on Ruth Josselin as she sank back against the
cushions on Dicky's right.

"You will find plenty rugs, miss."

He shut the door.  Dicky, holding his breath, heard him replace the lamp
in its socket, and felt the soft tilt of his great weight as he climbed
to the perch behind.

"R--right away!"

There was a tug, and the great coach rolled forward.  In the darkness
Dicky caught the sound of a smothered sob.

"Who are you?" he asked.  There was no response, and after a moment he
added, "I know.  You are the girl who put out the fire.  I like you."

He was very sleepy.  He wondered why she did not answer; but, his
childish instinct assuring him that she was a friend, in his somnolence
he felt nothing other than trust in her.  He nestled close in his rugs
and reached out an arm.

It rubbed across the weals on Ruth's back, and was torture.
She clenched her teeth, while tears--tears of physical anguish,
irrepressible--over-brimmed her lashes and fell uncounted in the
darkness.

"You are crying.  Why?  I like you."  The child's voice trailed off into
dream.

"Closer!" whispered Ruth, and would have forced the embrace upon her
pain; but it relaxed.  Dicky's head fell sideways, and rested, angled
between the cushions and her shoulder.

She sat wide-eyed, staring into folds of darkness, while the coach
rolled forward smoothly towards the dawn.





BOOK II.



PROBATION.




Chapter I.


AFTER TWO YEARS.


"Come down and play!"

Ruth, looking down from the open lattice, smiled and shook her head.
"I must not; I'm doing my lessons."

"Must not!" mimicked Master Dick.  "You're getting stupider and
stupider, living up here.  If you don't look out, one of these days
you'll turn into an old maid--just like Miss Quiney."

"Hs-s-sh!  She's downstairs somewhere."

"I don't care if she hears." Dicky ran his eyes defiantly along the line
of ground-floor windows under the verandah, then upturned his face
again.  "After coming all this way on purpose to play with you," he
protested.

"You have made yourself dreadfully hot."

"I _am_ hot," the boy confessed.  "I gave Piggy the slip at the foot of
the hill, and I've run every step of the way."

"Is _he_ here?" Ruth glanced nervously toward a clump of elms around
which the path from the entrance-gate curved into view.  "But you
oughtn't to call Mr. Silk 'Piggy,' you know.  It--it's ungentlemanly."

"Why, I took the name from you!  You said yourself, one day, that he was
a pig; and so he is.  He has piggy eyes, and he eats too much, and
there's something about the back of his neck you must have noticed."

"It's cruel of you, Dicky, to remember and cast up what I said when I
knew no better.  You know how hard I am learning: in the beginning you
helped me to learn."

"Did I?" mused Dicky.  "Then I wish I hadn't, if you're going to grow up
and treat me like this.  Oh, very well," he added stoutly after a pause,
"then I'm learning too, learning to be a sailor; and it'll be first-rate
practice to climb aloft to you, over the verandah.  You don't mind my
spitting on my hands?  It's a way they have in the Navy."

"Dicky, don't be foolish!  Think of Miss Quiney's roses."  Finding him
inexorable, Ruth began to parley.  "I don't want to see Mr. Silk.
But if I come down to you, it will not be to play.  We'll creep off to
the Well, or somewhere out of hail, and there you must let me read--or
perhaps I'll read aloud to you.  Promise?"

"What're you reading?"

"The Bible."

Dicky pulled a face.  "Well, the Bible's English, anyway," he said
resignedly.  The sound of a foreign tongue always made him feel
pugnacious, and it was ever a question with him how, as a gentleman, to
treat a dead language.  Death was respectable, but had its own
obligations; obligations which Greek and Latin somehow ignored.


The house, known as Sabines, stood high on the slope of the midmost of
Boston's three hills, in five acres of ground well set with elms.
Captain Vyell had purchased the site some five years before, and had
built himself a retreat away from the traffic that surged about his
official residence by the waterside.  Of its raucous noises very few--
the rattle of a hawser maybe, or a boatswain's whistle, or the yells of
some stentorian pilot--reached to penetrate the belt of elms surrounding
the house and its green garth; but the Collector had pierced this
woodland with bold vistas through which the eye overlooked Boston
harbour with its moving panorama of vessels, the old fort then standing
where now stands the Navy Yard, and the broad waters of the Charles
sweeping out to the Bay.

For eighteen months he, the master of this demesne, had not set foot
within its front gate; not once since the day when on a sudden
resolution he had installed Ruth Josselin here, under ward of Miss
Quiney, to be visited and instructed in theology, the arts, and the
sciences, by such teachers as that unparagoned spinster might, with his
approval, select.  In practice he left it entirely to her, and Miss
Quiney's taste in teachers was of the austerest.  What nutriment
(one might well have asked) could a young mind extract from the husks of
doctrine and of grammar purveyed to Ruth by the Reverend Malachi
Hichens, her tutor in the Holy Scriptures and in the languages of Greece
and Rome?

The answer is that youth, when youth craves for it, will draw knowledge
even from the empty air and drink it through the very pores of the skin.
Mr. Hichens might be dry--inhumanly dry--and his methods repellent; but
there were the books, after all, and the books held food for her hunger,
wine for her thirst.  So too the harpsichord held music, though Miss
Quiney's touch upon it was formal and lifeless. . . . In these eighteen
months Ruth Josselin had been learning eagerly, teaching herself in a
hundred ways and by devices of which she wist not.  Yet always she was
conscious of the final purpose of this preparation; nay, it possessed
her, mastered her.  For whatever fate her lord designed her, she would
be worthy of it.

He never came.  For eighteen months she had not seen him.  Was it
carelessly or in delicacy that he withheld his face?  Or peradventure in
displeasure?  Her heart would stand still at times, and her face pale
with the fear of it.  She could not bethink her of having displeased
him; but it might well be that he repented of his vast condescension.
Almost without notice, and without any reason given, he had deported her
to this house on the hill. . . . Yet, if he repented, why did he
continue to wrap her around with kindness?  Why had she these good
clothes, and food and drink, servants to wait on her, tutors to teach
her--everything, in short, but liberty and young companions and his
presence that most of all she desired and dreaded?


On the slope to the south-west of the house, in a dingle well screened
with willow and hickory, a stream of water gushed from the living rock
and had been channelled downhill over a stairway of flat boulders, so
that it dropped in a series of miniature cascades before shooting out of
sight over the top of a ferny hollow.  The spot was a favourite one with
Dicky, for between the pendent willow boughs, as through a frame, it
overlooked the shipping and the broad bosom of the Charles.  Ruth and he
stole away to it, unperceived of Miss Quiney; to a nook close beside the
spray of the fall, where on a boulder the girl could sit and read while
Dick wedged his back into a cushion of moss, somewhat higher up the
slope, and recumbent settled himself so as to bring (luxurious young
dog!) her face in profile between him and the shining distance.

She had stipulated for silence while she read her lesson over; but he at
once began to beg off.

"If you won't let me talk," he grumbled, "the least you can do is to
read aloud."

"But it's the Bible," she objected.

"Oh, well, I don't mind.  Only choose something interesting.  David and
Goliath, or that shipwreck in the Acts."

"You don't seem to understand that this is a lesson, and I must read
what Mr. Hichens sets.  To-day it's about Hagar and Ishmael."

"I seem to forget about them; but fire away, and we'll hope there's a
story in it."

Ruth began to read: "_And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which
she had born unto Abraham, mocking her.  Wherefore she said unto
Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman_. . ."

She read on.  Before she ended Dicky had raised himself to a sitting
posture.  "The whole business was a dirty shame," he declared.
"This Ishmael was his own son, eh?  Then why should he cast out one son
more than another?"

"There's a long explanation in the New Testament," said Ruth.  "It's by
St. Paul; and I dare say that Mr. Hichens too, if he sees anything
difficult in it, will say that Ishmael stands for the bond and Isaac for
the free, and Abraham had to do it, or the teaching wouldn't come
right."

"He can't make out it was fair; nor St. Paul can't neither, not if you
read it to him like you did to me," asserted Dicky.

"But I shall not," answered Ruth after a pause, "and it was rather
clever of you to guess."

"Why not?"

"Because it would shock him.  I used to find the Bible just as dull as
he makes it out: but one day I heard Mr. Langton standing up for it.
Mr. Langton said it was the finest book in the world and the most
fascinating, if only you read it in the proper way; and the proper way,
he said, is to forget all about its being divided into verses and just
take it like any other book.  I tried that, and it makes all the
difference."

"You mean to say you like it?" asked Dicky, incredulous.

"I love it.  I can't get away from the people in it.  They are so
splendid, one moment; and, the next, they are just too mean and petty
for words; and the queer part of it is, they never see.  They tell
falsehoods, and they cheat, and the things they do to get into Palestine
are simply disgusting--even if they had the shadow of a right there,
which they haven't."

"But the land was promised to them."

She had a mind to criticise that promise, but checked her lips.
He was a child, and she would do no violence to the child's mind.

Getting no answer, he considered for a while, and harked back.
"But I don't see," he began, and halted, casting about to express
himself.  "I don't see why, if you read it like that to yourself, you
should read it differently to old Hichens.  That's a sort of pretending,
you know."

She turned her eyes on him, and they were straight and honest, as
always.  "Oh," said she, "you are a man, of course!"

Master Dicky blushed with pleasure.

"Men," she went on, "can go the straight way to get what they wish.
The way is usually hard--it ought to be hard if the man is worth
anything--but it is always quite straight and simple, else it is wrong.
Now women have to win through men; which means that they must go round
about."

"But old Hichens?"

To herself she might have answered, "He only is allowed to me here.
On whom else can I practise to please?  But, alas!  I practise for a
master who never comes!"  Aloud she said, "You are excited to-day,
Dicky.  You have something to tell me."

"I should think I had!"

"What is it?"

"It's about Uncle Harry.  Dad showed me a letter from him to-day, and
he's fought a splendid action down off Grand Bahama.  Oh, you must hear!
It seems he'd been beating about in his frigate for close on three
months--on and off the islands on the look-out for those Spanish fellows
that snap up our fruit-ships.  Well, the water on board was beginning to
smell; so he ran in through the nor'-west entrance of Providence
Channel, anchored just inside, and sent his casks ashore to be refilled.
They'd taken in the fresh stock, and the _Venus_ was weighing for sea
again almost before the last boatload came alongside.--Can't you see
her, the beauty!  One anchor lifted, t'other chain shortened in, tops'ls
and t'gallants'ls cast off, ready to cant her at the right moment--"

"Is that how they do it?"

"Of course it is.  Well just then Uncle Harry spied a boat beating in
through the entrance.  He had passed her outside two days before--one of
those small open craft that dodge about groping for sponges--splendid
naked fellows, the crews are.  She had put about and run back in search
of him, and her news was of a Spanish guarda-costa making down towards
Havana with three prizes.  Think of it!  Uncle Harry was off and after
them like a greyhound, and at sunrise next morning he sighted them in a
bunch.  He had the wind of them and the legs of them; there isn't a
speedier frigate afloat than the _Venus_--although, he says, she was
getting foul with weed: and after being chased for a couple of hours the
Spaniard and two of the prizes hauled up and showed fight.  Now for it!
. . . He ran past the guarda-costa, drawing her fire, but no great harm
done; shot up under the sterns of the two prizes, that were lying not
two hundred yards apart; and raked 'em with half-a-broadside apiece--no
time, you see, to reload between.  It pretty well cleaned every Spaniard
off their decks--Why are you putting your hands to your ears!"

"Go on," said Ruth withdrawing them.

"By this, of course, he had lost way and given the guarda-costa the wind
of him.  But she couldn't reach the _Venus_ for twenty minutes and more,
because of the prizes lying helpless right in her way, and in half that
time Uncle Harry had filled sail again and was manoeuvring out of
danger.  Bit by bit he worked around her for the wind'ard berth, got it,
bore down again and hammered her for close upon three hours.  She
fought, he says, like a rat in a sink, and when at last she pulled down
her colours the two prizes had patched up somehow and were well off for
Havana after the third, that had showed no fight from the beginning.
Quick as lightning he gets his prisoners on board, heads off on the new
chase, and by sundown has taken the prizes all three--the third one a
timber-ship, full of mahogany . . . That wasn't the end of his luck,
either; for the captain of the guarda-costa turned out to be a
blackguard that two years ago took a British captain prisoner and cut
off his ears, which accounts for his fighting so hard.  'Didn't want to
meet me if he could help it,' writes Uncle Harry, and says the man
wouldn't haul down the flag till his crew had tied him up with ropes."

"What happened to him?"

"Uncle Harry shipped him off to England.  This was from Carolina, where
he sailed in with all the four vessels in convoy.  And now, guess!
He has refitted there, and is sailing around for Boston, and papa has
promised to ask him to take me for a cruise, to see if he can make a
sailor of me!"

"But that won't be for years."

"Oh yes, it will.  You can join the Navy at any age.  They ship you on
as a cabin-boy, or sometimes as the Captain's servant; and papa says
that for the first cruise Uncle Harry's wife will look after me."

"But"--Ruth opened beautiful eyes of astonishment.  "Your Uncle Harry is
not married?  Why, more than once you have told me that you would never
take a wife when you grew up, but be like your uncle and live only for
sailing a ship and fighting."

"He is, though.  It happened at Carolina, whilst the _Venus_ was
refitting; and I believe her father is Governor there, or something of
the sort, but I didn't read that part of the letter very carefully.
There was a lot of silly talk in it, quite different from the fighting.
I remember, though, he said he was coming around here for his honeymoon;
and I'm glad, on the whole."

"On the whole?  When you've dreamed, all this while, of seeing your
uncle and growing up to be like him!"

"I mean that on the whole I'm glad he is married.  It--it shows the two
things can go together after all; and, Ruth--"

She turned in some wonderment as his voice faltered, and wondered more
at sight of his young face.  It was crimson.

"No, please! I want you not to look," he entreated.  "I want you to turn
your face away and listen . . . Ruth," he blurted, "I love you better
than anybody in the whole world!"

"Dear Dicky!"

"--and I think you're the loveliest person that ever was--besides being
the best."

"It's lovely of you, at any rate, to think so." Ruth, forgetting his
command, turned her eyes again on Dicky, and they were dewy.  For indeed
she loved him and his boyish chivalrous ways.  Had he not been her
friend from the first, taking her in perfect trust, and in the hour that
had branded her and in her dreams seared her yet?  Often, yet, in the
mid-watches of the night she started out of sleep and lay quivering
along her exquisite body from head to heel, while the awful writing
awoke and crawled and ate again, etching itself upon her flesh.

"But--but it made me miserable!" choked Dicky.

"Miserable!  Why?"

"Because I wanted to grow up and marry you," he managed to say
defiantly.  "And the two things didn't seem to fit at all.  I couldn't
make them fit.  But of course," he went on in a cheerfuller voice, the
worst of his confession over, "if Uncle Harry can be married, why
shouldn't we?"

She bent her head low over the book.  Calf-love is absurd, but so
honest, so serious; and like all other sweet natural foolishness should
be sacred to the pure of heart.

"I ought to tell you something though," he went on gravely and
hesitated.

"Yes, Dicky! What is it?"

"Well, I don't quite know what it means, and I don't like to ask any one
else.  Perhaps you can tell me. . . . I wouldn't ask it if it weren't
that I'd hate to take you in; or if I could find out any other way."

"But what is it, dear?"

"Something against me.  I can't tell what, though I've looked at myself
again and again in the glass, trying."  He met her eyes bravely, with an
effort.  "Ruth, dear--what is a bastard?"

Ruth sat still.  Her palms were folded, one upon another, over the book
on her knees.

"But what is it?" he pleaded.

"It means," she said quietly, "a child whose father and mother are not
married--not properly married."

A pause followed--a long pause--and the tumbling cascade sounded louder
and louder in Ruth's ears, while Dicky considered.

"Do you think," he asked at length "that papa was not properly married
to my mother?"

"No, dear--no.  And even if that were so, what difference could it make
to my loving you?"

"It wouldn't make any!  Sure?"

"Sure."

"But it might make a difference to papa," he persisted, "if ever papa
had another child--like Abraham, you know--"  Here he jumped to his
feet, for she had risen of a sudden.  "Why, what is the matter?"

She held out a hand.  There were many dragon-flies by the fall, and for
the moment he guessed that one of them had stung her.

"Dicky," she said.  "Whatever happens, you and I will be friends
always."

"Always," he echoed, taking her hand and ready to search for the mark of
the sting.  But her eyes were fastened on the water bubbling from the
well head.


A branch creaked aloft, and to the right of the well head the hickory
bushes rustled and parted.

"So here are the truants!" exclaimed a voice.  "Good-morning, Miss
Josselin!"



Chapter II.


MR. SILK.


The Reverend Nahum Silk, B.A., sometime of St. Alban's Hall, Oxford, had
first arrived in America as a missioner seeking a sphere of labour in
General Oglethorpe's new colony of Georgia.  He was then (1733-4) a
young man, newly admitted to priest's orders, and undergoing what he
took to be a crisis of the soul.  Sensual natures, such as his, not
uncommonly suffer in youth a combustion of religious sentiment.
The fervour is short-lived, the flame is expelled by its own blast, and
leaves a house swept and garnished, inviting devils.

For the hard fare of Georgia he soon began to seek consolations, and
early in the second year of his ministry a sufficiently gross scandal
tumbled him out of the little colony.  Lacking the grit to return to
England and face out his relatives' displeasure, he had drifted
northwards to Massachusetts, and there had picked up with a slant of
luck.  A number of godly and well-to-do citizens of Boston had recently
banded themselves into an association for supplying religious
opportunities to the seamen frequenting the port, and to the Committee
Mr. Silk commended himself by a hail-fellow manner and a shrewdness of
speech which, since it showed through a coat of unction, might be
supposed to mean shrewdness in grain.  Cunning indeed the man could be,
for his short ends; but his shrewdness began and ended in a trick of
talking, and in the conduct of life he trimmed sail to his appetites.

His business of missioner (or, as he jocosely put it, Chaplain of the
Fleet) soon brought him to the notice of Captain Vyell, Collector of
Customs, with whom by the same trick of speech (slightly adapted) he
managed to ingratiate himself, scenting the flesh-pots.  For he belonged
to the tribe to whom a patron never comes amiss.  Captain Vyell was
amused by the man; knew him for a sycophant; but tolerated him at table
and promoted him (in Batty Langton's phrase) to be his trencher
chaplain.  He and Langton took an easy malicious delight, over their
wine, in shocking Mr. Silk with their free thought and seeing how
"the dog swallowed it."

The dog swallowed his dirty puddings very cleverly, and with just so
much show of protest as he felt to be due to his Orders.  He had the
accent of an English gentleman and enough of the manner to pass muster.
But the Collector erred when he said that "Silk was only a beast in his
cups," and he erred with a carelessness well-nigh wicked when he made
the man Dicky's tutor.

This step had coincided with the relegation of Ruth and Miss Quiney to
Sabines; but whether by chance or of purpose no one but the Collector
could tell.  Of his intentions toward the girl he said nothing, even to
Batty Langton.  Very likely they were not clear to himself.  He knew
well enough how fast and far gossip travelled in New England; and
doubted not at all that his adventure at Port Nassau had within a few
days been whispered and canvassed throughout Boston.  His own grooms, no
doubt, had talked.  But he could take a scornful amusement in baffling
speculation while he made up his own mind.  In one particular only he
had been prompt--in propitiating Miss Quiney.  On reaching home, some
hours ahead of the girl, he had summoned Miss Quiney to his library and
told her the whole story.  The interview on her part had been
exclamatory and tearful; but the good lady, with all her absurdities,
was a Christian.  She was a woman too, and delighted to serve an
overmastering will.  She had left him with a promise to lay her
conscience in prayer before the Lord; and, next morning, Ruth's beauty
had done the rest.


"Good-morning, Miss Josselin!"  Ruth started and glanced up the slope
with a shiver.  The voice of Mr. Silk always curdled her flesh.

"La! la!" went on Mr. Silk, nodding down admiration.  "What a group to
startle!--Cupid extracting a thorn from the hand of Venus--or (shall we
say?) the Love god, having wounded his mother in sport, kisses the
scratch to make it well.  Ha, ha!"

"Shall I continue, sir?" said Ruth, recovering herself.  "The pair are
surprised by a satyr who crept down to the spring to bathe his aching
head--"

"Hard on me, as usual!" Mr. Silk protested, climbing down the slope.
"But 'tis the privilege of beauty to be cruel.  As it happens, I drank
moderately last night, and I come with a message from the Diana of these
groves.  Miss Quiney wishes to communicate to you some news I have had
the honour to bring in a letter from Captain Vyell--or, as we must now
call him, Sir Oliver."

"Sir Oliver?" echoed Ruth, not understanding at all.

"The _Fish-hawk_ arrived in harbour this morning with the English
mail-bags; and the Collector has letters informing him that his uncle,
Sir Thomas Vyell, is dead after a short illness--the cause, jail fever,
contracted while serving at Launceston, in Cornwall, on the Grand Jury."

"Captain Vyell succeeds?"

"To the title and, I believe, to very considerable estates.  His uncle
leaves no male child."

"Dicky had not told me of this."

"--Because," explained the boy, "I didn't know what it meant, and I
don't know now.  Papa told me this morning that his uncle was dead, home
in England; but I'd never heard of him, and it slipped out of my mind.
Can titles, as you call them, be passed on like that?  And if papa died,
should I get one?  Or would it go to Uncle Harry?"

"It would go to your uncle," said Mr. Silk.  "Now run along to the house
and tell Miss Quiney that I have found the pair of you.  She was getting
anxious."

Dicky hesitated.  He knew that Ruth had a horror of his tutor.

"Yes, run," she commanded, reading his glance.  "We follow at once."

The boy scrambled up the slope.  Mr. Silk looked after him and chuckled.

"Dicky don't know yet that there are two sides to a blanket."

Getting no answer--for she had turned and was stooping to pick up her
book--he went on, "Vyell had a letter, among others, from the widow,
Lady Caroline; and that, between ourselves, is the cause of my errand.
She writes that she is taking a trip across here, to restore her nerves,
and is bringing her daughter for company.  The daughter, so near as I
gather, is of an age near-about Vyell's.  See?"

"I am afraid I do not."  Ruth had recovered her book and her composure.
A rose-flush showed yet on either cheek, but it lay not within Mr.
Silk's competence to read so delicate a signal.  "Will you explain?"

"Well"--he leered--"it did occur to me there might be some cleverness in
the lady's search after consolation.  Her daughter and our Collector
being cousins--eh?  At any rate, that's her first thought; to bring the
girl--woman, if you prefer it--over and renew acquaintance with the
heir.  Must be excused if I misjudge her.  Set it down to zeal for you,
Miss Josselin."

"Willingly, Mr. Silk--if your zeal for me did not outrun my
understanding."

"Yet you're clever.  But you won't persuade me you don't see the
difficulty. . . . Er--how shall I put it?  The Collector--we'll have to
get used to calling him Sir Oliver--is as cool under fire as any man
this side of the Atlantic; fire of criticism, I mean.  There's a limit
though.  He despises Colonial opinion--that's his pose; takes pride in
despising it, encouraged by Langton.  But England? his family?--that's
another matter.  An aunt--and that aunt an earl's daughter--If you'll
believe me, Miss Josselin, I'm a man of family and know the sort.
They're incredible.  And the younger lady, if I may remind you, called
Diana; which--er--may warn us that she, too, is particular about these
things."  Here Mr. Silk, having at length found his retort upon her
similitude of the satyr, licked his lips.

Ruth drew up and stood tapping her foot.  "May I beg to be told exactly
what has happened, sir?"

"What has happened?  What has happened is that Vyell is placing Sabines
at the disposal of his aunt and cousin for so long as they may honour
Boston with their presence.  He sends the Quiney word to pack and hold
herself in readiness for a flitting.  Whither?  I cannot say; nor can he
yet have found the temporary nest for you.  But doubtless you will hear
in due course.  May I offer you my arm?"

"I thank you, no.  Indeed we will part here, unless you have further
business in the house--and I gather that your errand there is
discharged. . . . One question--Captain Vyell sent his message by a
letter, which Miss Quiney no doubt will show to me.  Did he further
commission you with a verbal one?  You had better," she added quietly,
"be particular about telling me the truth; for I may question him, and
for a discovered falsehood he is capable of beating you."

"What I have said," stammered the clergyman, "was--er--entirely on my
own responsibility.  I--I conceived you would find it sympathetic--
helpful perhaps.  Believe me, Miss Josselin, I have considerable
feeling for you and your--er--position."

"I thank you." She dismissed him with a gentle curtsy.  "I feel almost
sure you have been doing your best."



Chapter III.



MR. HICHENS.


She turned and walked slowly back to the house.  Once within the front
door and out of his sight, she was tempted to rush across the hall and
up the stairs to her own room.  She was indeed gathering up her skirts
for the run, when in the hall she almost collided with the Reverend
Malachi Hichens, who stood there with his nose buried in a vase of
roses, while behind his back his hands interwove themselves and pulled
each at the other's bony knuckles.

"Ah!"  He faced about with a stiff bow, and a glance up at the tall
clock.  "You are late this morning, Miss Josselin.  But I dare say my
good brother Silk has been detaining you in talk?"

"On the contrary," answered Ruth, "his talk has rather hastened me than
not."

They entered the library.  "Miss Quiney tells me," he said, "that our
studies are to suffer a brief interruption; that you are about to take a
country holiday.  You anticipate it with delight, I doubt not?"

"Have I been, then, so listless a scholar?" she asked, smiling.

"No," he answered.  "I have never looked on you as eager for praise, or
I should have told you that your progress--in Greek particularly--has
been exceptional; for a young lady, I might almost say, abnormal."

"I am grateful to you at any rate for saying it now.  It happens that
just now I wanted something to give me back a little self-respect."

"But I do not suppose you so abnormal as, at your age, to undervalue a
holiday," he continued.  "It is only we elders who live haunted by the
words 'Work while ye have the light.'  If youth extract any moral from
the brevity of life it is rather the pagan warning, _Collige rosas_."

Her eyes rested on him, still smiling, but behind her smile she was
wondering.  Did he--this dry, sallow old man, with the knock-knees and
ungainly frame, the soiled bands, the black suit, threadbare, hideous in
cut, hideous in itself (Ruth had a child's horror of black)--did he
speak thus out of knowledge, or was he but using phrases of convention?
Ruth feared and distrusted all religious folk--clergymen above all; yet
instinct had told her at the first that Mr. Hichens was honest, even
good in an unlovely fashion; and by many small daily tests she had
proved this.  Was it possible that Mr. Hichens had ever gathered roses
in his youth?  Was it possible that, expecting Heaven and professing a
spiritual joy in redemption, a man could symbolise his soul's state by
wearing these dingy weeds?  Had he no sense of congruity, or was all
religion so false in grain that it perverted not only the believer's
judgment but his very senses, turning white into black for him, and
making beauty and ugliness change places?

"For my part," said Mr. Hichens wistfully, "I regret the interruption;
for I had even played with the thought of teaching you some Hebrew."
He paused and sighed.  "But doubtless the Almighty denies us these small
pleasures for our good. . . . Shall we begin with our repetition?
I forget the number of the Psalm?"

"The forty-fifth," said Ruth, finding the place and handing him the
book.  "_My heart is inditing of a good matter: I speak of the things
which I have made unto the king_." . . . She recited the opening lines
very quietly, but her voice lifted at the third verse.  Beautiful words
always affected her poignantly, but the language of the Bible more
poignantly than any other, because her own unforgettable injury had been
derived from it and sanctioned by it, and because at the base of things
our enemies in this world are dearer to us than friends.  They cling
closer.

Yet,--and paradox though it be--the Bible was the more alive to her
because, on Mr. Langton's hint, she had taken it like any other book,
ignoring the Genevan division of verses and the sophisticated chapter
headings.  Thus studied, it had revenged itself by taking possession of
her.  It held all the fascination of the East, and little by little
unlocked it--Abraham at his tent door, Rebekah by the fountain, her own
namesake Ruth in the dim threshing-floor of Boaz, King Saul wrestling
with his dark hour, the last loathly years of David, Jezebel at the
window, Job on his dung-heap, Athaliah murdering the seed royal, and
again Athaliah dragged forth by the stable-way and calling _Treason!
Treason!_ . . . Bedouins with strings of camels, scent of camels by the
city gate, clashing of distant cymbals, hush of fear--plot and
counterplot in the apartments of the women--outcries, lusts, hates--
blood on the temple steps--blood oozing, welling across the gold--blood
caking in spots upon illimitable desert sands--watchmen by the wall--in
the dark streets a woman with bleeding back and feet seeking and
calling, "_I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, if ye find my
beloved_--"

"_Hearken, O daughter, and consider, incline thine ear_"--Ruth's voice
swelled up on a full note: "_forget also thine own people and thy
father's house._"

"_So shall the King have pleasure in thy beauty: for he is thy lord, and
worship thou him_."

"Excuse me--'for he is thy Lord God,'" corrected Mr. Hichens. . . .
"We are taking the Prayer Book's version."

"I changed to the Bible version on purpose," Ruth confessed;
"and 'lord' ought to have a small 'l'.  The Prayer Book makes nonsense
of it.  They are bringing in the bride, the princess, to her lord.
_She is all glorious within, her clothing is of wrought gold.  She shall
be brought unto the King in raiment of needlework: the virgins that be
her fellows shall bear her company_--"

"The Hebrew," said Mr. Hichens, blinking over his own text which he had
hastily consulted, "would seem to bear you out, or at least to leave the
question open.  But, after all, it matters little, since, as the chapter
heading explains in the Authorized Version, the supposed bride is the
Church, and the bridegroom, therefore, necessarily Our Lord."

"Do you think that, or anything like that, was in the mind of the man
who wrote it?" asked Ruth, rebellious.  "The title says, 'To the Chief
Musician upon Shoshannim'--whatever that may mean."

"It means that it was to be sung to a tune called Shoshannim or Lilies--
doubtless a well-known one."

"It has a beautiful name, then; and he calls it too 'Maschil, A song of
Loves.'"

"Historically no doubt you are right," agreed Mr. Hichens.  "The song is
undoubtedly later than David, and was written as a Prothalamion for a
royal bride.  It is, as you say, exceedingly beautiful; but perhaps we
had best confine our attention to its allegorical side.  You probably do
not guess who the bride was?"

"No," Ruth admitted.  "Who was she?"

"It is generally admitted, I believe, to have been written as a bridal
hymn for Queen Jezebel."

"O--oh!" Ruth bit her lip, but had to laugh in spite of herself.



Chapter IV.


VASHTI.


The first bad suggestion almost certainly came from Mr. Silk.
Two or three of the company afterwards put their heads together and,
comparing recollections, agreed that either Silk or Manley had started
it.  Beyond the alternative they could not trace it.

But the whole table, they admitted, had been to blame, and pretty
damnably.  To be sure they were drunk, every man Jack of them, the
Collector included.  The Collector, indolent by nature but capable of
long stretches of work at a pinch, had been at his desk since six
o'clock in the morning.  The news brought by the _Fish-hawk_ had reached
him at five; and after bathing, dressing, and drinking his chocolate, he
had started to write, and had been writing letters all day.  The most of
these were lengthy, addressed to England, to his relatives, his London
lawyers, the steward at Carwithiel. . . . The Surveyor and
Deputy-Collector could deal--as they usually did--with the official
correspondence of the Custom House; his own Secretary had the light task
of penning a score of invitations to dinner; but these letters of
condolence and private business must be written by his own hand, as also
a note to Governor Shirley formally announcing his accession and new
title.

The Collector dined at five.  He laid down his pen at four, having
written for ten hours almost at a stretch, declining all food--for he
hated to mix up work with eating and drinking.  Before dressing for
dinner he refreshed himself with another bath; but he came to table with
a jaded brain and a stomach fasting beyond appetite for food; and the
wine was champagne.


Miss Quiney and Ruth Josselin, seated that evening in the drawing-room
at Sabines, were startled at eight o'clock or thereabouts by a
knocking on the front door.  Miss Quiney looked up from her
tambour-work, with hand and needle suspended in mid-air, and gazed
across at Ruth, who, seated at the harpsichord, had been singing
softly--murmuring rather--the notes of Ben Jonson's _Charis her
Triumph_--

    "Have you seen but a bright Lillie grow
      Before rude hands have touch'd it?"--

--but desisted at the noise and slewed her body half around, letting her
fingers rest on the keys.

"Who in the world--at this hour?" demanded Miss Quiney.

A serving-maid ushered in Manasseh.

The tall black halted a little within the doorway, saluted and stood
grinning respectfully, his white teeth gleaming in the candle-light.

"Yo' pardon, ladies.  His Honah sends to say he entertainin' to-night.
Plenty people drink his Honah's health an' long life to Sir Olivah
Vyell.  He wish pertick'ly Mis' Josselin drink it.  He tol' me run, get
out sedan-chair an' fetch Mis' Josselin along; fetch her back soon as
she likes.  Chairmen at de door dis moment, waitin'.  I mak' 'em run."

Ruth stood up.  Her hand went to the edge of her bodice open below the
throat.

"Must I?" she asked, turning from Manasseh to Miss Quiney.  Her voice
was tense.

"I--I think so, dear," Miss Quiney answered after a pause.  "It is a
command, almost; and to-night naturally Captain Vyell--Sir Oliver--has a
claim on our congratulations."

"You tell me to go? . . . Oh! but let me be sure you know what you are
advising."  She faced the negro again.  "What guests is Sir Oliver
entertaining?"

Manasseh enumerated a dozen.

"All gentlemen!  So, you see!"

"Captain--Sir Oliver (bless me, how I forget! ) has an aversion from
ladies' society--Boston ladies. . . . It is not for me to criticise, but
the distaste is well known."

"And the gentlemen, Manasseh--they will have taken a great deal of wine
by now?"

Manasseh spread out his hands, and again his teeth gleamed.  "To be
sho', Mis' Josselin; it is not ebery day in the yeah dat Cap'n Vyell
become Sir Olivah--"

"I did not ask you," interrupted Ruth coldly, "to excuse your errand.
. . . And now, Tatty dear, do you still bid me to go?"

"On the contrary, I forbid it."

Ruth stepped close to the little lady.  Said she, standing straight
before her and looking down, "It cost you some courage to say that."

"It may cost me more to-morrow; but I am not afraid."

"My brave Tatty!  But the courage is thrown away, for I am going."

"You do not mean this?"

"I do mean it.  My master sends for me.  You know what duty I owe him."

"He is just.  He will thank you to-morrow that you disobeyed."

"I shall not disobey."

Little Miss Quiney, looking up into her ward's eyes, argued this point
no further.  "Very well," said she.  "Then I go too."  She closed her
mouth firmly, squaring her jaw.

"But in the sedan there is room for one only."

"Then I go first," said Miss Quiney, "and the chair shall return for
you.  That," she went on, falling back upon her usual pedantic speech,
"presents no difficulty whatever to me.  What I wear does not matter--
the gentlemen will not regard it.  But you must dress in what you have
of the best.  It--it will assist you.  Being without experience, you
probably have no notion how dress assists one's self-respect."

"I think I have some little notion," Ruth assured her demurely.

"And while the chair is taking me and returning, you will have good time
to dress.  On no account are you to hurry. . . . It is essential that at
no point--at _no_ point, dear--you allow yourself to be hurried, or to
show any trace of hurry."

Ruth nodded slowly.  "Yes, Tatty.  I understand.  But, little lioness
that you are, do _you?_  You will be alone, and for some time with
these--with these--"

"I have never mentioned it to a living soul before," said Miss Quiney,
dismissing Manasseh with a wave of the hand and closing the door upon
him; "but I had an eldest brother--in the Massachusetts militia--who,
not to put too fine a point on it, was sadly addicted to the bottle.
It shortened his days. . . . A bright young genius, of which we hoped
much, and (I fear me) not all unselfishly, for our family was
impoverished.  But he went astray.  Towards the end he would bring home
his boon companions--I will say this for poor dear George, that his
footsteps, at their unsteadiest, ever tended homeward; he never affected
low haunts--and it fell to me as the eldest daughter of the house to
keep his hospitality within bounds--"

"Dear Tatty!" Ruth stooped and kissed the plain little face, cutting
short the narrative.  It was strange to note how these two of diverse
ages--between whom for the length of their acquaintance no dispute of
mastery had arisen--now suddenly and in quick alternation, out of pure
love, asserted will against will.  "You shall tell me to-morrow.
(I always knew that your meekness and weakness were only pretence.)
But just now we must hurry."

"Hurry, as I must repeat," answered Miss Quiney primly, smoothing down
the front of her creased grey satin skirt, "is--will be--our capital
mistake.  For me, I need in this weather but an additional shawl.
I am ready. . . . Go to your room . . . and let me enjoin a certain
deliberation even in crossing the hall.  Manasseh is there, and before
servants--even a negro--The white brocade if I may advise; it is fresher
than the rose-coloured silk--and the hair combed a trifle higher off the
brows.  That, with the brocade, will correct your girlishness somewhat.
Brocades are for dignity, and it is dignity we chiefly need to-night.
. . . Shall I send Selina to you?  No?  Well, she would be persuading
you to some new twist or experiment with your hair, and you are better
without her.  Also I shall want a last word with you when I have fetched
my cloak, and Selina is better out of the way."


Miss Quiney's last word was a curious one.  It took the form of a pearl
necklace, her one possession of value, last surviving heirloom of the
Quineys, of whom she was the last surviving descendant: her last
tangible evidence, too, of those bygone better days.  She never wore it,
and it never saw the light save when she unlocked the worn jewel-case to
make sure that her treasure had not been stolen.

She entered Ruth's room with it furtively.  Despite her injunction
against hurry, the girl had already indued the white brocade and stood
before the mirror conning herself.  She wore no jewels; she owned none.

"Shut your eyes, dear," commanded Miss Quiney, and, stealing up behind
her, slipped and clasped the necklace about her throat, then fell back,
admiring the reflection in the glass.

"Oh, Tatty!"

But Ruth, too, had to pause for a moment to admire.  When she turned,
Miss Quiney, forgetting her own injunction, had stolen in haste from the
room.

The girl's eyes moistened.  For a moment she saw herself reflected from
the glass in a blur.  Then through the blur the necklace took shape,
point by point of light, pearl by pearl, until the whole chain grew
definite in the parting of the bodice, resting on the rise of her young
bosom.

Yes, and the girl saw that it was good.

A string of words danced upon her brain, as though the mirrored pearls
reflected them.

_She shall be brought unto the King . . . the virgins that be her
fellows shall bear her company_.



Chapter V.


SIR OLIVER'S HEALTH.


"De lady is here, yo' Honah!"

Manasseh announced it from the doorway and stood aside.  Of the company
four had already succumbed and slid from their chairs.  The others
staggered to their feet, Sir Oliver as promptly as any.  With a face
unnaturally white he leaned forward, clutching the edge of the long oval
table, and stared between the silver candelabra down the broken ranks of
his guests--Mr. Silk, purple of face as his patron was pale; Ned Manley,
maundering the tag of a chorus; Captain St. Maur, Captain Goodacre, and
Ensign Lumley, British officers captured by the French at Fort Chanseau
and released to live at Boston on parole until the war should end; Mr.
Fynes, the Collector's Secretary; Mr. Bythesea, Deputy-Collector; young
Shem Hacksteed and young Denzil Baynes, sons of wealthy New Englanders,
astray for the while, and sowing their wild oats in a society openly
scornful of New England traditions.

Batty Langton's was the chair nearest the door, and Batty Langton was
the one moderately sober man of the company.  He had not heard, in time
to interfere, the proposal to send for Ruth: it had started somewhere at
the Collector's end of the table.  But trifler though he was, he thought
it cruel to the girl--a damnable shame--and pulled himself together to
prevent what mischief he might.  At the same time he felt curious to see
her, curious to learn if these many months of seclusion had fulfilled
the Collector's wager that Ruth Josselin would grow to be the loveliest
woman in America.  At Manasseh's announcement he faced about, and, with
a gasp, clutched at the back of his chair.

In the doorway stood little Miss Quiney.  It was so ludicrous a
disappointment that for the moment no one found speech.  Langton heard
Goodacre, behind him, catch his breath upon a wondering "O--oh!" and
felt the shock run down the table along the unsteady ranks.  At the far
end a voice--Mr. Silk's--cackled and burst into unseemly laughter.

Langton swung round.  "Mr. Fynes," he called sharply, "oblige me,
please, by silencing that clergyman--with a napkin in his mouth, if
necessary."

He turned again to Miss Quiney.  "Madam," he said, offering his arm,
"let me lead you to a seat by Sir Oliver."

The little lady accepted with a curtsy.  A faint flush showed upon
either cheek bone, and in her eyes could be read the light of battle.
It commanded his admiration the more that her small arm trembled against
his sleeve.  "The courage of it," he murmured; "and Miss Quiney of all
women!"

She needed courage.  The Collector's handsome face greeted her with a
scowl and a hard stare; he could be intractable in his cups.

"Excuse me, madam, but I sent for Miss Josselin."

She answered him, but first made low obeisance.  "Ruth Josselin will
attend, sir, with all despatch.  The sedan is capable of accommodating
but one at a time."

There stood an empty chair on the Collector's right.  To set it for her
Mr. Langton had, as a preliminary, to stoop and drag aside the legs of a
reveller procumbent on the floor.  The effort flushed him; but Miss
Quiney, with an inclination of the head, slipped into the seat as though
she had seen nothing unusual.

"And it gives me the occasion," she continued respectfully, as her eyes
passed over the form of young Manley opposite, who stood with his glass
at an angle, spilling its wine on the mahogany, "of expressing--I thank
you. . . . What?  Is it Mr. Silk?  A pleasure, indeed! . . .Yes, I
rarely take wine, but on such an occasion as this--an occasion, as I was
saying, to felicitate Sir Oliver Vyell on his accession to a title which
we, who have served him, best know his capacity to adorn."

"Oh, damn!" growled the Collector under his breath.

"Half a glassful only!" Miss Quiney entreated, as Mr. Silk poured for
her.  She was, in fact, desperately telling herself that if she
attempted to lift a full glass, her shaking hand would betray her.


"Yo' Honah--Mis' Josselin!"

Mr. Langton had caught the sound of Manasseh's footfall in the corridor
without, and was on the alert before the girl entered.  But at sight of
her in the doorway he fell back for a moment.

Yes, the Collector's promise had come true--and far more than true.
She was marvellous.

It was by mere beauty, too, that she dazzled, helped by no jewels but
the one plain rope of pearls at her throat.  She stood there holding
herself erect, but not stiffly, with chin slightly lifted; not in
scorn, nor yet in defiance, though you were no sooner satisfied of this
than a tiniest curve of the nostril set you doubting.  But no; she was
neither scornful nor defiant--alert rather, as a fair animal quivering
with life, confronting some new experience that for the moment it fails
to read.  Or--borrowing her morning's simile, to convert it--you might
liken her to huntress-maiden Diana, surprised upon arrested foot;
instep arched, nostril quivering to the unfamiliar, eyes travelling in
sudden speculation over a group of satyrs in a glade.  For a certainty
that poise of the chin emphasised the head's perfect carriage; as did
the fashion of her head-tire, too--the hair drawn straight above the
brows and piled superbly, to break and escape in two careless
love-locks on the nape of the neck--in the ripple of each a smile,
correcting the goddess to the woman.  The right arm hung almost straight
at her side, the hand ready to gather a fold of the white brocaded
skirt; the left slanted up to her bosom, where its finger-tips touched
the stem of a white rose in the lace at the parting of the bodice. . . .

So she stood--for ten seconds maybe--under the droop of the heavy
curtain Manasseh held aside for her.  The hush of the room was homage to
her beauty.  Her gaze, passing between the lines of his guests, sought
the Collector.  It was fearless, but held a hint of expectancy.  Perhaps
she waited for him to leave his place and come forward to receive her.
But he made no motion to do this; not being, in fact, sufficient master
of his legs.

"Good-evening, my lord!"  She swept him a curtsy.  "You sent for me?"

Before he could answer, she had lowered her eyes.  They rested on a
chair that happened to stand empty beside Batty Langton, and a slight
inclination of the head gave Langton to understand that she wished him
to offer it.  He did so, and she moved to it.  The men, embarrassed for
a moment by their host's silence--they had expected him to answer her,
but he stood staring angrily as one rebuffed--followed her cue and
reseated themselves.  He, too, dropped back in his chair, leaned forward
for the decanter, and poured himself more wine.  The buzz of talk
revived, at first a word or two here and there, tentative after the
check, then more confidently.  Within a minute the voices were babel
again.

Batty Langton pondered.  A baronet should not be addressed as "my lord,"
and she had been guilty of a solecism.  At the same time her manner had
been perfect; her carriage admirably self-possessed.  Her choice of a
seat, too, at the end of the table and furthest from Sir Oliver--if she
had come unwillingly--had been wittily taken, and on the moment, and
with the appearance of deliberate ease.

"They will be calling on you presently to drink our host's health," he
suggested, clearing a space of the table in front of her and collecting
very dexterously two or three unused wine-glasses.  Champagne? . . .
Miss Quiney is drinking champagne, I see, though her neighbours have
deserted it for red wine.  Sir Oliver, by the way, grows lazy in pushing
the decanters. . . . Shall I signal to him?"

"On no account.  Champagne, if you please . . . though I had rather you
kept it in readiness."

"I am sorry, Miss Josselin, but there you ask of me the one thing
impossible.  I cannot abide to let wine stand and wait; and champagne--
watch it, how it protests!"  He filled her glass and refilled his own.
"By the way," he added, sinking his voice, "one is permitted to
congratulate a debutante?"

"And to criticise."

"There was nothing to criticise except--Oh, well, a trifle.  At home in
England we don't 'my lord' a mere baronet, you know."

"But since he _is_ my lord?"  She smiled gently, answering his puzzled
stare.  "How, otherwise, should I be here?"

Mr. Langton took wine to digest this.  He shook his head.  "You must
forgive me.  It is clear that I am drunk--abominably drunk--for I miss
the point--"

"You accuse yourself unjustly."

"Do I?  Well, I have certainly drunk a deal more wine than is good for
me, and it will be revenged to-morrow.  As a rule,"--he glanced around
at his fellow-topers--"I pride myself that in head and legs I am
inexpugnable.  We all have our gifts; and i' faith until a moment ago I
was patting myself on the back for owning this one."

"And why, Mr. Langton?"

"On the thought, Mistress Josselin, that I had cut out the frigate, as
our tars say, and towed the prize to moorings before the others could
fire a gun."

"I had hoped," she murmured, and bent her eyes on the wine-bubbles
winking against the rim of her glass, "you did it in simple kindness."

"Well," he owned slowly, "and so I did.  This belittling of good
intentions, small enough to begin with, is a cursed habit, and I'll
renounce it for once.  It was little--it was nothing; yet behold me
eager to be thanked."

"I thank you."  She fingered the stem of the glass, not lifting her
eyes.  "But you have belittled me, too.  I read it in books, and here on
the threshold, as I step outside of books, you meet me with it.  We
women are always, it seems, poor ships, beating the seas, fleeing
capture; and our tackle, our bravery--"  She broke off, and sat musing,
while her fingers played with the base of the glass.

"I take back my metaphors, Miss Josselin.  I admit myself no buccaneer,
but a simple ass who for once pricked ears on an honest impulse."

"That is better.  But hush!  Mr. Manley, yonder, is preparing to sing."

Mr. Manley, a young protege of the Collector's, had a streak of genius
as an architect and several lesser gifts, among them a propensity for
borrowing and a flexible tenor voice.  He trolled an old song, slightly
adapted--

    "Here's a health unto Sir Oliver,
       With a fal-la-la, lala-la-la;
     Confusion to his enemies,
       With a fa-la-la, lala-la-la;
     And he that will not drink his health,
     I wish him neither wit nor wealth,
     Nor yet a rope to hang himself--
       With a fa-la-la, lala-la-la."

The effort was applauded.  Above the applause the bull voice of Mr. Silk
shouted,--

"But Miss Josselin has not drunk it yet!  Langton monopolises her.
Miss Josselin!  What has Miss Josselin to say?"

The cry was taken up.  "Miss Josselin!  Miss Josselin!"

Batty Langton arose, glass in hand.  "Is it a toast, gentlemen?"
He glanced at Sir Oliver, who sat sombre, not lifting his eyes.
"Our host permits me. . . . Then I give you 'Miss Josselin!'"
Acclamations drowned his voice here, and the men sprang up, waving their
glasses.  Sir Oliver stood with the rest.

"Miss Josselin!  Miss Josselin!" they shouted, and drank what their
unsteady hands left unspilt.  Langton waited, his full glass half
upraised.

"Miss Josselin," he repeated very deliberately on the tail of the
uproar, "who honours this occasion as Sir Oliver's ward."

For about five seconds an awkward silence held the company.
Their fuddled memories retained scraps of gossip concerning Ruth, her
history and destiny--gossip scandalous in the main.  One or two glanced
at the Collector, who had resumed his seat--and his scowl.

"The more reason she should drink his health."  Again Mr. Silk was
fugleman.

His voice braved it off on the silence.  Ruth was raising her glass.
Her eyes sought Miss Quiney's; but Miss Quiney's, lifted heavenward, had
encountered the ceiling upon which Mr. Manley had recently depicted the
hymeneals of Venus and Vulcan, not omitting Mars; and the treatment--a
riot of the nude--had for the moment put the redoubtable little lady out
of action.

Ruth leaned forward in her seat, lifting her glass high.  It brimmed,
but she spilled no drop.

"To Sir Oliver!"



Chapter VI.


CAPTAIN HARRY AND MR. HANMER.


"Guests, has he?--Out of my road, you rascal!  Guests?  I'll warrant
there's none so welcome--"

A good cheery voice--a voice the curtain could not muffle--rang it down
the corridor as on the note of a cornet.

The wine was at Ruth's lip, scarcely wetting it.  She lowered the glass
steadily and turned half-about in her chair at the moment when, as
before a whirlwind, the curtain flew wide and a stranger burst in on the
run with Manasseh at his heels.

"Oliver!"  The stranger drew himself up in the doorway--a well-knit
figure of a man, clear of eye, bronzed of hue, clad in blue sea-cloth
faced with scarlet, and wearing a short sword at the hip.  "Where's my
Oliver?" he shouted.  "You'll forgive my voice, gentlemen.  I'm Harry
Vyell, at your service, fresh from shipboard, and not hoarse with
anthems like old what-d'ye-call-him."  Running his gaze along the table,
he sighted the Collector and broke into a view-halloo.

"Oliver!  Brother Noll!"  Captain Harry made a second run of it, caught
his foot on the prostrate toper whom Langton had dragged out of Miss
Quiney's way, and fell on his brother's neck.  Recovering himself with a
"damn," he clapped his left hand on Sir Oliver's shoulder, seized Sir
Oliver's right in his grip and started pump-handling--"as though"
murmured Langton, "the room were sinking with ten feet of liquor in the
hold."

"Harry--is it Harry?"  Sir Oliver stammered, and made a weak effort to
rise.

"Lord!  You're drunk!"  Captain Harry crowed the cheerful discovery.
"Well, and I'll join you--but in moderation, mind!  Newly married man--
if some one will be good enough to pass the decanter? . . . My dear
fellow! . . . Cast anchor half an hour ago--got myself rowed ashore
hot-foot to shake my Noll by the hand.  Lord, brother, you can't think
how good it feels to be married!  Sally won't be coming ashore
to-night; the hour's too late, she says; so I'm allowed an hour's
liberty."  Here the uxorious fellow paused on a laugh, indicating that
he found irony in the word.  "But Sally--capital name, Sally, for a
sailor's wife; she's Sarah to all her family, Sal to me--Sally is
cunning.  Sally gives me leave ashore, but on condition I take Hanmer to
look after me.  He's my first lieutenant--first-rate officer, too--but
no ladies' man.  Gad!" chuckled Captain Harry, "I believe he'd run a
mile from a petticoat.  But where is he?  Hi, Hanmer! step aft-along
here and be introduced!"

A tall grave man, who had entered unnoticed, walked past the line of
guests and up to his captain.  He too wore a suit of blue with scarlet
facings, and carried a short sword or hanger at his belt.  He stood
stiffly, awaiting command.  The candle-light showed, beneath his right
cheek bone, the cicatrix of a recent wound.

But Captain Harry, slewing round to him, was for the moment bereft of
speech.  His gaze had happened, for the first time, on little Miss
Quiney.

"Eh?" he stammered, recovering himself.  "Your pardon, ma'am.  I wasn't
aware that a lady--"  Here his eyes, travelling to the end of the table,
were arrested by the vision of Ruth Josselin.  "Wh-e-ew!" he whistled,
under his breath.

"Sir Oliver--" Batty Langton stood up.

"Hey?"  The name gave Captain Harry yet another shock.  He spun about
again upon his brother.  "'Sir Oliver'?  _Whats_ he saying?"

"You've not heard?" said the Collector, gripping his words slowly, one
by one.  "No, of course you've not.  Harry, our uncle is dead."

There was a pause.  "Poor old boy!" he muttered.  "Used to be kind to
us, Noll, after his lights.  If it hadn't been for his womenkind."

"They're coming across to visit me, damn 'em!"

"What?  Aunt Carrie and Di'? . . . Good Lord!"

"They're on the seas at this moment--may be here within the week."

"Good Lord!" Captain Harry repeated, and his eyes wandered again to Ruth
Josselin.  "Awkward, hey? . . . But I say, Noll--you really _are_ Sir
Oliver!  Dear lad, I give you joy, and with all my heart. . . .
Gad, here's a piece of news for Sally!"

Again he came to a doubtful halt, and again with his eyes on Ruth
Josselin.  He was not a quick-witted man, outside of his calling, nor a
man apt to think evil; but he had been married a month, and this had
been long enough to teach him that women and men judge by different
standards.

"Sir Oliver," repeated Langton, "Miss Josselin craves your leave to
retire."

"Yes, dear"--Miss Quiney launched an approving nod towards her--"I was
about to suggest it, with Sir Oliver's leave.  The hour is late, and by
the time the sedan-chair returns for me--"

"There is no reason, Tatty, why we should not return together," said
Ruth quietly.  "The night is fine; and, with Manasseh for escort, I can
walk beside your chair."

"Pardon me, ladies," put in Mr. Silk.  "Once in the upper town, you may
be safe enough; but down here by the quay the sh--sailors--I know 'em--
it's my buishness.  'Low me--join the eshcort."

But here, perceived by few in the room, a somewhat remarkable thing
happened.  Mr. Hanmer, who had stood hitherto like a statue, put out a
hand and laid it on Mr. Silk's shoulder; and there must have been some
power in that grip, for Mr. Silk dropped into his seat without another
word.

Captain Harry saw it, and broke into a laugh.

"Why, to be sure!  Hanmer's the very man!  The rest of ye too drunk--
meaning no offence; and, for me,--well, for me, you see there's Sally
to be reckoned with."  He laughed aloud at this simple jocularity.
"Hanmer!"

"Yes, sir."

"Convoy."

"If you wish it, sir." The lieutenant bowed stiffly; but it was to be
noted that the scar, which had hitherto showed white on a bronzed cheek,
now reddened on a pale one.

Miss Quiney hesitated.  "The gentleman, as a stranger to Boston--"

"I'll answer for Hanmer, ma'am.  You'll get little talk out of him; but,
be there lions at large in Boston, Jack Hanmer'll lead you past 'em."

"Like Mr. Greatheart in the parable," spoke up Ruth, whose eyes had been
taking stock of the proposed escort, though he stood in the penumbra and
at half the room's length away.  "Tatty--if my lord permit and
Lieutenant Hanmer be willing--"

She stood up, and with a curtsy to Sir Oliver, swept to the door.
Miss Quiney pattered after; and Mr. Hanmer, with a bow and hand lifted
to the salute, stalked out at their heels.

"I'll warrant Jack Hanmer 'd liefer walk up to a gun," swore Captain
Harry as the curtain fell behind them.  "He bolts from the sight of
Sally.  I'll make Sally laugh over this."  But here he pulled himself up
and added beneath his voice, "I can't tell her, though."


The road as it climbed above the town toward Sabines grew rough and full
of pitfalls.  Even by the light of the full moon shining between the
elms Miss Quiney's chairmen were forced to pick their way warily, so
that the couple on the side-walk--which in comparison was well paved--
easily kept abreast of them.

Ruth walked with the free grace of a Dryad.  The moonlight shone now and
again on her face beneath the arch of her wimple; and once, as she
glanced up at the heavens, Mr. Hanmer--interpreting that she lifted her
head to a scent of danger, and shooting a sidelong look despite
himself--surprised a lustre as of tears in her eyes; whereupon he felt
ashamed, as one who had intruded on a secret.

"Mr. Hanmer."

"Ma'am?"

"I have a favour to beg. . . . Is it true, by the way," she asked
mischievously, "that to talk with a woman distresses you?"

"Ma'am--"

"My name is Ruth Josselin."

Mr. Hanmer either missed to hear the correction or heard and put it
aside.  "Been at sea all my life," he explained.  "They caught me
young."

Ruth looked sideways at him and laughed--a liquid little laugh, much
like the bubbling note of a thrush.  "You could not have given an answer
more pat, sir.  I want to speak to you about a child, caught young and
about to be taken to sea.  You are less shy with children, I hope?"

"Not a bit," confessed Mr. Hanmer.  He added, "They take to me, though--
the few I've met.

"Dick will take to you, for certain.  Dicky is Sir Oliver's child."

"I didn't know--"  Mr. Hanmer came to a full stop.

"No," said Ruth, as though she echoed him.  "He is eight years old
almost."  Her eyes looked straight ahead, but she was aware that his had
scanned her face for a moment, and almost she felt his start of
reassurance.

"So, the child being a friend of mine, and his father having promised
him a cruise in the _Venus_, you see that I very much want to know what
manner of lady is Captain Harry's wife; and that I could not ask you
point-blank because you would have set the question down to idle
curiosity. . . . It might make all the difference to him," she added,
getting no answer.

"A child of eight, and the country at war!" Mr. Hanmer muttered.
"His father must know that we cruise ready for action."

"I tell you, sir, what Dicky told me this morning."

"But it's impossible!"

"To that, sir, I might find you half a dozen answers.  To begin with, we
all know--and Sir Oliver perhaps, from private information, knows better
than any of us--that peace is in sight.  Here in the northern Colonies
it has arrived already; the enemy has no fleet on this side of the
world, and on this coast no single ship to give you any concern."

"Guarda-costas?  There may be a few left on the prowl, even in these
latitudes.  I don't believe it for my part; we've accounted for most of
'em.  Still--"

"And Captain Harry thinks so much of them that he sails from Carolina to
Boston with his bride on board!"

"You are right, Miss Josselin, and you are wrong. . . . Mistress Vyell
has come to Boston in the _Venus_; and by reason that her husband, when
he started, had as little acquaintance with fear for others as for
himself.  But if she return to Carolina it will be by land or when peace
is signed.  Love has made the Captain think; and thought has made him--
well, with madam on board, I am thankful--"  He checked himself.

"You are thankful he did not sight a guarda-costa."  She concluded the
sentence for him, and walked some way in silence, while he at her side
was silent, being angry at having said so much.

"Yet Captain Harry is recklessly brave?" she mused.

"To the last degree, Miss Josselin," Mr. Hanmer agreed eagerly.  "To the
last degree within the right military rules.  Fighting a ship's an art,
you see."

It seemed that she did not hear him.  "It runs in the blood," she said.
She was thinking, fearfully yet exultantly, of this wonderful power of
women, for whose sake cowards will behave as heroes and heroes turn to
cowards.

They had outstripped the chairmen, and were at the gate of Sabines.
He held it open for her.  She bethought her that his last two or three
sentences had been firmly spoken, that his voice had shaken off its
husky stammer, and on the impulse of realised power she took a fancy to
hear it tremble again.

"But if madam will not be on board to look after Dicky, the more will he
need a friend.  Mr. Hanmer, will you be that friend?"

"You are choosing a rough sort of nurse-maid."

"But will you?"  She faced him, wonderful in the moonlight.

His eyes dropped.  His voice stammered, "I--I will do my best, Miss
Josselin."

She held out a hand.  He took it perforce in his rope-roughened paw,
held it awkwardly for a moment, and released it as one lets a bird
escape.

Ruth smiled.  "The best of women," ran a saying of Batty Langton's,
"if you watch 'em, are always practising; even the youngest, as a kitten
plays with a leaf."

They stood in silence, waiting for the chair to overtake them.


"Tatty, you are a heroine!"

Miss Quiney, unwinding a shawl from her head under the hall-lamp,
released herself from Ruth's embrace.  Her nerve had been strained and
needed a recoil.

"Maybe," she answered snappishly.  "For my part, I'd take more comfort,
just now, to be called a respectable woman."

Ruth laughed, kissed her again, and stood listening to the footsteps as
they retreated down the gravelled way.  Among them her ear
distinguished easily the firm tread of Mr. Hanmer.



Chapter VII.


FIRST OFFER.


A little before noon next day word came to her room that Sir Oliver had
called and desired to speak with her.

She was not unprepared.  She had indeed dressed with special care in
the hope of it; but she went to her glass and stood for a minute or two,
touching here and there her seemly tresses.

Should she keep him waiting--keep him even a long while? . . .
He deserved it. . . . But ah, no!  She was under a vow never to be other
than forthright with him; and the truth was, his coming filled her with
joy.


"I am glad you have come!"  These, in fact, were her first words as he
turned to face her in the drawing-room.  He had been standing by the
broad window-seat, staring out on the roses.

"You guess, of course, what has brought me?"  He had dressed himself
with extreme care.  His voice was steady, his eye clear, and only a
touch of pallor told of the overnight debauch.  "I am here to be
forgiven."

"Who am I, to forgive?"

"If you say that, you make it three times worse for me.  Whatever you
are does not touch my right to ask your pardon, or my need to be
forgiven--which is absolute."

"No," she mused, "you are right. . . . Have you asked pardon of Tatty?"

"I have, ten minutes ago.  She sent the message to you."

"Tatty was heroic"--Ruth paused on the reminiscence with a smile--"
and, if you will believe me, quite waspish when I told her so."

"You should have refused to come.  You might have known that I was
drunk, or I could never have sent."

"How does it go?"  She stood before him, puckering her brows a little as
she searched to remember the words--"'_On the seventh day, when the
heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded the seven
chamberlains_--'"

"Spare me."

"'--_to bring Vasbti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to
show the people and the princes her beauty, for she was fair to look
on_.'  Do I quote immodestly, my lord?"

"Not immodestly," he answered.  "For I think--I'll be sworn--no woman
ever had half your beauty without knowing it.  But you quote
_mal a propos_.  Queen Vashti refused to come."

"'_Therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him_.'"

"I think, again, that you were not the woman to obey any such fear."

"No.  Queen Vashti refused to come, being a queen.  Whereas I, my lord--

    "'Being your slave, what should I do but tend
      Upon the hours and times of your desire?'"

"My slave?" he asked.  "Setting aside last night--when I was
disgustingly drunk--have you a single excuse for using that word?"

"Of your giving, none.  You have been more than considerate.  Of my own
choosing, yes."

He stared.

"At any rate Tatty is not your slave," she went on, and he smiled with
her.  "I am glad you asked Tatty's pardon.  Did she forgive you
easily?"

"Too easily.  She was aware, she said, that gentlemen would be
gentlemen."

"She must have meant precisely the reverse."

"Was I pretty bad?"

She put a hand across her eyes as if to brush the image from them.
"What matters the degree?  It was another man seated and wearing my
lord's body.  _That_ hurt."

"By God, Ruth, it shall never happen again!"

She winced as he spoke her name, and her colour rose.  "Please make no
promise in haste," she said.

"Excuse me; when a man takes an oath for life, the quicker he's through
with it the better--at least that's the way with us Vyells.
It's trifles--like getting drunk, for instance--we do deliberately.
Believe me, child, I have a will of my own."

"Yes," she meditated, "I believe you have a strong will."

"'Tis a swinish business, over-drinking, when all's said and done."
He announced it as if he made a discovery; and indeed something of a
discovery it was, for that age.  "Weakens a man's self-control, besides
dulling his palate. . . . They tell me, by the way, that after you left
I beat Silk."

Ruth looked grave.  "You did wrong, then."

"Silk is a beast."

"An excellent reason for not making him your guest; none for striking
him at your own table."

"Perhaps not."  Sir Oliver shrugged his shoulders.  "Well, he can have
his revenge, if he wants it."

"How so?  As a clergyman he cannot offer to fight you, and as a coward
he would not if he could."

"Is one, then, to be considerate with cowards?"

"Certainly, if you honour cowards with your friendship."

"Friendship! . . . The dog likes his platter and I suffer him for his
talk.  When his talk trespasses beyond sufferance, I chastise him.
That's how I look at it."

"I am sorry, my lord, that Mr. Silk should make the third on your list
this morning."

"Oh, come; you don't ask me to _apologise_ to Silk!"

"To him rather than to me."

"But--oh nonsense!  He was disgusting--unspeakable, I tell you.  If you
suppose I struck him for nothing--"

"I do not."

"You cannot think what he said."

"Something about me, was it not?"  Then, as Sir Oliver stood silent,
"Something a great many folk--your guests included--are quite capable of
thinking about me, though they have not Mr. Silk's gift of language."

"--That gift for which (you will go on to remind me) I suffer him."

"No; that gift which (you said) trespasses beyond sufferance."
She did not remind him that he, after all, had exposed her and provoked
Mr. Silk's uncleanly words.


Both were beating time now.  He had come, as was meet, to offer an
apology, and with no intent beyond.  He found not only that Ruth
Josselin was grown a woman surpassing fair, but that her mere presence
(it seemed, by no will of hers, but in spite of her will) laid hold of
him, commanding him to face a further intent.  It was wonderful, and yet
just at this moment it mattered little, that the daylight soberly
confirmed what had dazzled his drunkenness over night; that her speech
added good sense to beauty. . . . What mattered at the moment was a
sense of urgency, oppressing and oppressed by an equal sense of
helplessness.

He had set the forces working and, with that, had chosen to stand
aside--in indolence partly, partly in a careful cultivated indifference,
but in part also obeying motives more creditable.  He had stood aside,
promising the result, but himself dallying with time.  And lo! of a
sudden the result had overtaken him.  Had he created a monster, in place
of a beautiful woman, he had not been more at its mercy.

But why this sense of urgency?  And why should he allow it to oppress
him?

Here was a creature exquisite, desirable, educated for no purpose but to
be his.  Then why not declare himself, leap the last easy fence and in a
short while make her his?

To be sure her education--which, as we have seen, owned one source and
spring, the passion to make herself perfect for his sake--had fashioned
a woman very different to the woman of _his_ planning.  She had built
not upon his careless defective design but upon her own incessant
instinct for the best.  So much his last night's blunder had taught him.
He had sent for her as for a handmaid; and as a handmaid she had
obeyed--but in spirit as a queen.

To put it brutally, she could raise her terms, and he as a gentleman
could not beat her down.  With ninety-nine women out of a hundred those
higher terms could be summed up in one word--marriage.  Well and again,
why not?  He was rich and his own master.  In all but her poor origin
and the scandal of an undeserved punishment she was worthy--more than
worthy; and for the Colonials, among whom alone that scandal would count
against her, he had a habit of contempt.  He could, and would in his
humour, force Boston to court her salons and hold its tongue from all
but secret tattle.  The thought, too, of Lady Caroline at this moment
crossing the high seas to be met with the news agreeably moved him to
mirth.

But somehow, face to face here, he divined that Ruth was not as
ninety-nine women in the hundred; that her terms were different.
They might he less, but also they were more.  They might be less.
Had she not crossed her arms and told him she was his slave?  But in
that very humility he read that they were more.  There was no last easy
fence.  There was no fence at all.  But a veil there was; a veil he
lacked the insight to penetrate, the brutality to tear aside.

Partly to assure himself, partly to tempt her from this mysterious ring
of defence, he went on, "I ought to apologise, too, for having sent Silk
yesterday with my message.  You received it?"

She bent her head.

"My aunt and cousin invite themselves to Boston, and give me no chance
to say anything but 'Welcome.'  Two pistols held to my head."
He laughed.  "There's a certain downrightness in Lady Caroline.
And what do you suppose she wants?"

"Mr. Silk says she wants you to marry your cousin."

"Told you that, did he?"  His eyes were on her face, but it had not
changed colour; her clear gaze yet baffled him.  "Well, and what do you
say?"

"Must I say anything?"

"Well"--he gave a short, impatient laugh--"we can hardly pretend--can
we?--that it doesn't concern you."

"I do not pretend it," she answered.  "I am yours, to deal with as you
will; to dismiss when you choose.  I can never owe you anything but
gratitude."

"Ruth, will you marry me?"

He said it with the accent of passion, stepping half a pace forward,
holding out his hands.  She winced and drew back a little; she, too,
holding out her hands, but with the palms turned downward.  Upon that
movement his passion hung fire.  (Was it actual passion, or rather a
surrender to the inevitable--to a feeling that it had all happened
fatally, beyond escape, that now--beautiful, wonderful as she had
grown--he could never do without her?  At any rate their hands,
outstretched thus, did not meet.)

"You talked lightly just now," she said, and with the smallest catch in
her voice, "of vows made in haste.  You forget your vow that after three
years I should go back--go back whence you took me--and choose."

"No," he corrected.  "My promise was that you should go back and
announce your choice.  If some few months are to run, nothing hinders
your choosing here and now.  I do not ask you to marry me before the
term is out, but only to make up your mind.  You hear what I offer?"

She swept him a low, obedient bow.  "I do, and it is much to me, my dear
lord.  Oh, believe me, it is very much! . . . But I do not think I want
to be your wife--thus."

"You could not love me?  Is that what you mean?"

"Not love you?" Her voice, sweet and low, choked on the words.
"Not love you?" she managed to repeat.  "You, who came to me as a god--
to me, a poor tavern drudge--who lifted me from the cart, the scourge;
lifted me out of ignorance, out of shame?  Lord--love--doubt what you
will of me--but not that!"

"You do love me?  Then why--"  He paused, wondering.  The impalpable
barrier hung like a mist about his wits.

"Did Andromeda not love Perseus, think you?" she asked lightly,
recovering her smile, albeit her eyes were dewy.

"I am dull, then," he confessed.  "I certainly do not understand."

"You came to me as a god when you saved me.  Shall you come to me as
less by an inch when you stoop to love me?"

"Ah!" he said, as if at length he comprehended; "I was drunk last night,
and you must have time to get that image out of your mind."

She shook her head slowly.  "You did not ask me last night to marry you.
I shall always, I think, be able to separate an unworthy image of you,
and forget it."

"Then you must mean that I am yet unworthy."

"My dear lord," she said after a moment or two, in which she seemed to
consider how best to make it plain to him, "you asked me just now to
marry you, but not because you knew me to be worthy; and though you may
command what you choose, and I can deny you nothing, I would not
willingly be your wife for a smaller reason.  Nor did you ask me in the
strength of your will, your passion even, but in their weakness.
Am I not right?"

He was dumb.

"And is it thus," she went on, "that the great ones love and beget noble
children?"

"I see," he said at length, and very slowly.  "It means that I must very
humbly become your wooer."

"It means that, if it be my honour ever to reward you, I would fain it
were with the best of me. . . . Send me away from Sabines, my lord, and
be in no hurry to choose.  Your cousin--what is her name?  Oh, I shall
not be jealous!"

With a change of tone she led him to talk of the new home he had
prepared for her--at a farmstead under Wachusett.  He was sending
thither two of his gentlest thoroughbreds, that she might learn to ride.

"Books, too, you shall have in plenty," he promised.  "But there will be
a dearth of tutors, I fear.  I could not, for example, very well ask Mr.
Hichens to leave his cure of souls and dwell with two maiden ladies in
the wilderness."

She laughed.  Her eyes sparkled already at the thought of learning to
be a horsewoman.

"I will do without tutors."  She spread her arms wide, as with a
swimmer's motion, and he could not but note the grace of it.  The palms,
turned outward and slightly downward, had an eloquence, too, which he
interpreted.

"I have mewed you here too long.  You sigh for liberty."

She nodded, drawing a long breath.  "I come from the sea-beach,
remember."

"Say but the word, and instead of the mountain, the beach shall be
yours."

"No.  I have never seen a mountain.  It will have the sound of waters,
too--of its own cataracts.  And on the plain I shall learn to gallop,
and feel the wind rushing past me.  These things, and a few books, and
Tatty--"  Here she broke off, on a sudden thought.  "My lord, there is a
question I have put to myself many times, and have promised myself to
put to you.  Why does Tatty never talk to me about God and religion and
such things?"

He did not answer at once.

She went on: "It cannot only be because you do not believe in them.
For Tatty is very religious, and brave as a lion; she would never be
silent against her conscience."

"How do you know that I don't believe in them?"

She laughed.  "Does my lord truly suppose me so dull of wit? or will he
fence with my question instead of answering it?"

"The truth is, then," he confessed, "that before she saw you I thought
fit to tell Miss Quiney what you had suffered--"

"She has known it from the first?  I wondered sometimes.  But oh, the
dear deceit of her!"

"--And seeing that this same religion had caused your sufferings, I
asked her to deal gently with you.  She would not promise more than to
wait and choose her own time.  But Tatty, as you call her, is an
honourable woman."

Ruth stretched out her hands.

"Ah, you were good--you were good! . . . If only my heart were a glass,
and you might see how goodness becomes you!"

He took her hands this time, and laying one over another, kissed the
back of the uppermost, but yet so respectfully that Miss Quiney,
entering the room just then, supposed him to be merely taking a
ceremonious leave.


For a few minutes he lingered out his call, hat and walking-cane in
hand, talking pleasantly of his last night's guests, and with a smile
that assumed his pardon to be granted.  Incidentally Ruth learned how it
had happened that a chair stood empty for her by Mr. Langton's side.
It appeared that Governor Shirley himself had called, earlier in the
evening, to offer his felicitations; and finding the seat on Sir
Oliver's right occupied by a toper who either would not or could not
make room, he had with some tact taken a chair at the far end of the
table and _vis-a-vis_ with his host, protesting that he chose it as the
better vantage-ground for delivering a small speech.  His speech, too,
had been neat, happy in phrase, and not devoid of good feeling.  Having
delivered it, he had slipped away early, on an excuse of official
business.

Sir Oliver related this appreciatively; and it had, in fact, been one of
those small courtesies which, among men of English stock, give a grace
to public life and help to keep the fighting clean.  But in fact also
(Ruth gathered) the two men did not love one another.  Shirley--able and
_ruse_ statesman--had some sense of colonial independence, colonial
ambition, colonial self-respect.  Sir Oliver had none; he was a Whig
patrician, and the colonies existed for the use and patronage of
England.  More than a year before, when Massachusetts raised a militia
and went forth to capture Louisbourg--which it did, to the astonishment
of the world--the Governor, whose heart was set on the expedition, had
approached Captain Vyell and privately begged him to command it.  He was
answered that, having once borne the King's commission, Captain Vyell
did not find a colonial uniform to his taste.



Chapter VIII.


CONCERNING MARGARET.


He called again, next morning.  He came on horseback, followed by a
groom.  The groom led a light chestnut mare, delicate of step us a
dancer, and carrying a side-saddle.

Ruth's ear had caught the sound of hoofs.  She looked forth at her open
window as Sir Oliver reined up and hailed, frank as a schoolboy.

"Your first riding lesson!" he announced.

"But I have no riding-skirt," she objected, her eyes opening wide with
delight as they looked down and scanned the mare.

"You shall have one to-morrow."  He swung himself out of saddle and gave
over his own horse to the groom.  "To-day you have only to learn how to
sit and hold the reins and ride at a walk."

She caught up a hat and ran downstairs, blithe as a girl should be
blithe.


He taught her to set her foot in his hand and lifted her into place.

"But are you not riding also?" she asked as he took the leading-rein.

"No.  I shall walk beside you to-day . . . Now take up the reins--so; in
both hands, please.  That will help you to sit square and keep the right
shoulder back, which with a woman is half the secret of a good seat.
Where a man uses grip, she uses balance. . . . For the same reason you
must not draw the feet back; it throws your body forward and off its
true poise on the hips."

She began to learn at once and intelligently; for, unlike her other
tutors, he started with simple principles and taught her nothing without
giving its reason.  He led her twice around the open gravelled space
before the house, and so aside and along a grassy pathway that curved
between the elms to the right.  The pathway was broad and allowed him to
walk somewhat wide of the mare, yet not so wide as to tauten the
leading-rein, which he held (as she learned afterwards) merely to give
her confidence; for the mare was docile and would follow him at a word.

"I am telling you the why-and-how of it all," he said, "because after
this week you will be teaching yourself.  This week I shall come every
morning for an hour; but on Wednesday you start for Sweetwater Farm."

"And will there be nobody at the Farm to help me," she asked, a trifle
dismayed.

"The farmer--his name is Cordery--rides, after a fashion.  But he knows
nothing of a side-saddle, if indeed he has ever seen one."

"Then to trot, canter, and gallop I must teach myself," she thought; for
among the close plantations of Sabines there was room for neither.
"If I experiment here, they will find me hanging like Absalom from a
bough."  But aloud she said nothing of her tremors.

"Dicky sits a horse remarkably well for his age," said Sir Oliver after
a pause.  "I had some thought to pack him off holidaying with you.
But the puppy has taken to the water like a spaniel.  He went off to the
_Venus_ yesterday, and it seems that on board of her he struck up, there
and then, a close friendship with Harry's lieutenant, a Mr. Hanmer; and
now he can talk of nothing but rigging and running-gear.  He's crazed
for a cruise and a hammock.  Also it would seem that he used his time to
win the affections of Madam Harry; which argues that his true calling is
not the Navy, after all, but diplomacy."

Ruth sighed inaudibly.  Dicky's companionship would have been
delightful.  But she knew the child's craze, and would not claim him, to
mar his bliss--though she well knew that at a word from her he would
renounce it.

"Diplomacy?" she echoed.

"Well," said Sir Oliver, looking straight before him.  "Sally--my
brother insists on calling her Sally--appears to have her head fixed
well on her shoulders: she looks--as you must not forget to look--
straight between the horse's ears.  But your young bride is apt to be
the greatest prude in the world.  And Dicky, you see--"

Her hand weighed on the rein and brought the mare to a halt.

"Tell me about Dicky?"

"About Dicky?" he repeated.

"About his mother, then."

"She is dead," he answered, staring at the mare's glossy shoulder and
smoothing it.  His brows were bent in a frown.

"Yes . . . he told me that, in the coach, on our way from Port Nassau.
It was the first thing he told me when he awoke.  We had been rolling
along the beach for hours in the dark; and I remember how, almost at the
end of the beach, it grew light inside the coach and he opened his
eyes. . . ."

She did not relate that the child had awaked in her arms.

"It was the first thing Dicky told me," she repeated; "and the only
thing about--her.  I think it must be the only thing he knows about
her."

"Probably; for she died when he was born and--well, as the child grew
up, it was not easy to explain to him.  Other folks, no doubt--the
servants and suchlike--were either afraid to tell or left it to me as my
business.  And I am an indolent parent."  He paused and added,
"To be quite honest, I dare say I distasted the job and shirked it."

"You did wrongly then," murmured Ruth, and her eyes were moist.
"Dicky started with a great hole in his life, and you left it unfilled.
Often, being lonely, he must have needed to know something of his
mother.  You should have told him all that was good; and that was not
little, I think, if you had loved her?"

"I loved her to folly," he answered at length, his eyes still fixed on
the mare's shoulder; "and yet not to folly, for she was a good woman: a
married woman, some three or four years older than I and close upon
twenty years younger than her husband, who was major of my regiment."

"You ran away with her? . . . Say that he was not your friend."

"He was not; and you may put it more correctly that I helped her to run
away from him.  He was a drunkard, and in private he ill-used her
disgustingly. . . . Having helped her to escape I offered him his
satisfaction.  He refused to divorce her; but we fought and I ran him
through the arm to avoid running him through the body, for he was a
shockingly bad swordsman."

Ruth frowned.  "You could not marry her?"

"No, and to kill him was no remedy; for if I could not marry an
undivorced woman, as little could she have married her husband's
murderer."  He hunched his shoulders and concluded, "The dilemma is not
unusual."

"What happened, then?"

"My mother paid twenty calls upon the Duke of Newcastle, and after the
twentieth I received the Collectorship of this port of Boston.
It was exile, but lucrative exile.  My good mother is a Whig and devout;
and there is nothing like that combination for making the best of both
worlds.  Indeed you may say that at this point she added the New World,
and made the best of all three.  She assured me that its solitudes would
offer, among other advantages, great opportunity for repentance.
'Of course,' she said, 'if you must take the woman, you must.'"

He ended with a short laugh.  Ruth did not laugh.  Her mind was
masculine at many points, but like a true woman she detested ironical
speech.

"That is Mr. Langton's way of talking," she said; "and you are using it
to hide your feelings.  Will you tell me her name?--her Christian name
only?"

"She was called Margaret--Margaret Dance.  There is no reason why you
should not have it in full."

"Is there a portrait of her?"

"Yes; as a girl she sat to Kneller--a Dryad leaning against an oak.
The picture hangs in my dressing-room."

"It should have hung, rather, in Dicky's nursery; which," she added,
picking up and using the weapon she most disliked, "need not have
debarred your seeing it from time to time."

He glanced up, for he had never before heard her speak thus sharply.

"Perhaps you are right," he agreed; "though, for me, I let the dead bury
the dead.  I have no belief, remember, in any life beyond this one.
Margaret is gone, and I see not how, being dead, she can advantage me or
Dicky."

His words angered Ruth and at the same time subtly pleased her; and on
second thoughts angered her the more for having pleased.  She thought
scorn of herself for her momentary jealousy of the dead; scorn for
having felt relief at his careless tone; and some scorn to be soothed by
a doctrine that, in her heart, she knew to be false.

For the moment her passions were like clouds in thunder weather,
mounting against the wind; and in the small tumult of them she let
jealousy dart its last lightning tongue.

"I am not learned in these matters, my lord.  But I have heard that man
must make a deity of something.  The worse sort of unbeliever, they say,
lives in the present and burns incense to himself.  The better sort,
having no future to believe in, idolises his past."

"Margaret is dead," he repeated.  "I am no sentimentalist."

She bent her head.  To herself she whispered.  "He may not idolise his
past, yet he cannot escape from it." . . . And her thoughts might have
travelled farther, but she had put the mare to a walk again and just
then her ears caught an unaccustomed sound, or confusion of sounds.

At the end of the alley she reined up, wide-eyed.

A narrow gateway here gave access to what had yesterday been a sloping
paddock where Miss Quiney grazed a couple of cows.  To-day the cows had
vanished and given way to a small army of labourers.  Broad strips of
turf had vanished also and the brown loam was moving downhill in scores
of wheel-barrows, to build up the slope to a level.

Sir Oliver marked her amazement and answered it with an easy laugh.

"The time is short, you see, and already we have wasted half an hour of
it unprofitably. . . . These fellows appear to be working well."

She gazed at the moving gangs as one who, having come by surprise upon a
hive of bees, stands still and cons the small creatures at work.

"But what is the meaning of it?"

"The meaning?  Why, that for this week I am your riding-master, and that
by to-morrow you will have a passable riding-school."



Chapter IX.


THE PROSPECT.


This happened on a Thursday.  On the following Wednesday, a while before
day-break, he met her on horseback by the gate of Sabines, and they rode
forth side by side, ahead of the coach wherein Miss Quiney sat piled
about with baggage, clutching in one hand a copy of Baxter's _Saint's
Everlasting Rest_ and with the other the ring of a canary-cage.  (It was
Dicky's canary, and his first love-offering.  Yesterday had been Ruth's
birthday--her eighteenth--and under conduct of Manasseh he had visited
Sabines to wish her "many happy returns" and to say good-bye.)

Sir Oliver would escort the travellers for twelve miles on their way, to
a point where the inland road broke into cart-tracks, and the tracks
diverged across a country newly disafforested and strewn with jagged
stumps among which the heavy vehicle could by no means be hauled.
Here Farmer Cordery was to be in waiting with his light tilt-covered
wagon.

They had started thus early because the season was hot and they desired
to traverse the open highway and the clearings and to reach the forest
before the sun's rays grew ardent.  Once past the elms of Sabines their
road lay broad before them, easy to discern; for the moon, well in her
third quarter, rode high, with no trace of cloud or mist.  So clear she
shone that in imagination one could reach up and run a finger along her
hard bright edge; and under moon and stars a land-breeze, virginally
cool, played on our two riders' cheeks.  Ungloving and stretching forth
a hand, Ruth felt the dew falling, as it had been falling ever since
sundown; and under that quiet lustration the world at her feet and
around her, unseen as yet, had been renewed, the bee-ravished flowers
replaced with blossoms ready to unfold, the turf revived, reclothed in
young green, the atmosphere bathed, cleansed of exhausted scents, made
ready for morning's "bridal of the earth and sky ":--

"_As a vesture shall he fold them up. . . . In them hath he set a
tabernacle for the sun; which cometh forth as a bridegroom out of his
chamber, and rejoiceth as a giant to run his course_."

Darkling they rode, and in silence, as though by consent.  Ruth had
never travelled this high way before: it glimmered across a country of
which she knew nothing and could see nothing.  But no shadow of fear
crossed her spirit.  Her heart was hushed; yet it exulted, because her
lord rode beside her.

They had ridden thus without speech for three or four miles, when her
chestnut blundered, tripped, and was almost down.

"All right?" he asked, as she reined up and steadied the mare.

"Yes. . . . She gave me a small fright, though."

"What happened?  It looked to me as if she came precious near crossing
her feet.  If she repeats that trick by daylight I'll cast her--as I
would to-morrow, if I were sure."

"Is it so bad a trick?"

"It might break your neck.  It would certainly bring her down and break
her knees."

"Oh!" Ruth shivered.  "Do you mean that it would actually break them?"
she asked in her ignorance.

He laughed.  "Well, that's possible; but I meant the skin of the knee."

"That would heal, surely?"

He laughed again.  "A horse is like a woman--" he began, but checked
himself of a sudden.  She waited for him to continue, and he went on,
"It knocks everything off the price, you see.  Some won't own a horse
that has once been down; and any knowledgeable man can tell, at a
glance.  It is the first thing he looks for."

She considered for a moment.  "But if the mark had been a scratch only--
and the scratch had healed--might she not be as good a horse as ever?"

"It would damage her price, none the less."

"But you are not a horse-dealer.  Would _you_ value a horse by its
selling price?"

He laughed.  "I am afraid," he owned, "that I should be ruled by other
men's opinions.  Your connoisseur does not collect chipped chinaware.
. . . There's the chance, too, that the mare, having once fallen, will
throw herself again by the same trick."

"And women are like horses," thought Ruth as they rode on.  The night
was paling about them, and she watched the rolling champaign as little
by little it took shape, emerging from the morning mist and passing from
monochrome into faint colours: for albeit the upper sky was clear as
ever, mist filled the hollows of the hills and rolled up their sides
like a smoke.

"Look!" commanded Sir Oliver, reining up and turning in his saddle.

He pointed with his horse-whip.  Behind them, over a tree-clad hill, lay
a long purple cloud; and above it, while he pointed, the sun thrust its
edge as it were the rim of a golden paten.  Ruth wheeled her mare about,
to face the spectacle, and at that moment the cloud parted horizontally
as though a hand had ripped the veil across.  A flood of gold poured
through the rent, dazzling her eyes.

The sun mounted and swam free: the upper portion of the veil floated off
like a wisp and drifted down the wind.  Where the glory had shone, it
lingered through tint after tint--rose, pale lemon, palest sea-green--
and so passed into azure and became one with the rest of the heavens.

Sir Oliver withdrew his eyes and sought hers.  "When I find the need of
faith," he said, "I shall turn sun-worshipper."

"You have never found that need?" she asked slowly.

"Never," he confessed.  "And you?"

"Never as a need.  I mean," she explained, "that though I always
despised religion--yes, always, even before I came to hate it--I never
doubted that some wisdom must be at watch and at work all around me,
ordering the sun and stars, for instance, and separating right from
wrong.  I just cannot understand how any one can do without a faith of
that sort: it's as necessary as breath."

He shrugged his shoulders.  "To me one Jehovah's as good as another, as
unnecessary, and as incredible.  I find it easier to believe that chaos
hurtled around until it struck out some working balance; that the stars
learned their places pretty much as men and women are learning theirs
to-day.  A painful process, I'll grant you, and damnably tedious; but
they came to it in the end, and so in the end, maybe, will poor
imitative man.  But," he broke off, "this faith of yours must have
failed you, once."

She shivered.  "No; I made no claim on it, you see.  Perhaps"--with a
little smile--"I did not think myself important enough.  I only know
that, whatever was right, those men were horribly wrong: for it _must_
be wrong to be cruel.  Then I woke up, and you were beside me--"

She would have added, "How could I doubt, then?"  But her voice failed
her, and she wheeled about that he might not see her tears.

He, too, turned his horse.  They rode on for a few paces in silence.

"I wish," she said, recovering her voice--"I wish, for your sake, you
could have felt what I have been feeling since we left Sabines; the
_goodness_ all about us, watching us out of the night and the stars."

She looked up; but the stars were gone, faded out into daylight.  He
pushed his horse half a pace ahead, and glanced sideways at her face.
Tears shone yet in her eyes, and his own, as he quickly averted them,
fell on a tall mullein growing by the roadside.  Big drops of dew
adhered upon its woolly leaves and twinkled in the sunshine; and by
contrast he knew the colour of her eyes--that they were violet and of
the night--their dew distilled out of such violet darkness as had been
the quality of one or two Mediterranean nights that lingered among his
memories of the Grand Tour.  More and more this girl surprised him with
graces foreign to this colonial soil, graces supposed by him to be
classical and lost, the appanage of goddesses.

Like a goddess now she lifted an arm and pointed west, as he had pointed
east.  Ahead of them, to the right of the road, rose a tall hill, wooded
at the base, broken at the summit by craggy terraces.  Two large birds
wheeled and hovered above it, high in the blue, fronting the sunlight.

"Eagles, by Jove!" cried Sir Oliver.

Ruth drew a breath and watched them.  She had never before seen an
eagle.

"Will they have their nest in the cliffs?" she asked.

"Perhaps. . . . No, more likely they come from Wachusett; more likely
still, from the mountains beyond.  They are here seeking food."

"They do not appear to be seeking food," she said after a pause during
which she watched their ambits of flight circling and intersecting
"See the nearest one mounting, and the other lifting on a wider curve to
meet him above.  One would say they followed some pattern, like folks
dancing."

"Some act of homage to the sun," he suggested.  "They have come down to
the sea to meet him--they look over the Atlantic from aloft there--and
perform in his honour.  Who knows?"

Across Ruth's inner vision there flashed a memory of Mr. Hichens,
black-suited and bald, bending over his Hebrew Bible and expounding a
passage of Job: "_Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her
nest on high?  She dwelleth and abideth on the rock, upon the crag of
the rock, and the strong place_. . . ."

To herself she said: "If it be so, the eagle's faith is mine; my lord's
also, perchance, if he but knew it."

Aloud she asked, "Why are the noblest, birds and beasts, so few and
solitary?"

Sir Oliver laughed.  "You may include man.  The answer is the same, and
simple: the strong of the earth feed on the weak, and it takes all the
weaklings to make blood for the few."

She mused; but when she spoke again it was not to dispute with him.
"You say they look over the sea from aloft there.  Might we have sight
of it from the top of the hill?"

"Perhaps.  There is plenty of time to make sure before the coach
overtakes us--though I warn you it will be risky."

"I am not afraid."

They cantered off gaily, plunged into the woods and breasted the slope,
Sir Oliver leading and threading his way through the undergrowth.
By-and-by they came to the bed of a torrent and followed it up, the
horses picking their steps upon the flat boulders between which the
water trickled.  Some of these boulders were slimed and slippery, and
twice Sir Oliver reached out a hand and hauled the mare firmly on to her
quarters.

The belt of crags did not run completely around the hill.  At the back
of it, after a scramble out of the gully, they came on a slope of good
turf, and so cantered easily to the summit.

Ruth gave a little cry of delight, and followed it up with a yet smaller
one of disappointment.  The country lay spread at her feet like a vast
amphitheatre, ringed with wooded hills.  Across the plain they encircled
a river ran in loops, and from the crag at the edge of which she stood a
streamlet emerged and took a brave leap down the hill to join it.

"But where is the sea?"

"That small hill yonder must hide it.  You see it, with its line of
elms?  If those trees were down, we should see the Atlantic for a
certainty.  If you like the spot otherwise, I will have them removed."

He said it seriously; but of course she took it for granted that he
spoke in jest, albeit the jest puzzled her a little.  Indeed when she
glanced up at him he was smiling, with his eyes on the distant
landscape.

"The mountain too," he added, "if the trees will not suffice.  Though
not by faith, it shall be removed."



Chapter X.


THREE LADIES.


"You may smoke," said Dicky politely, setting down his glass.

"Thank you," answered Mr. Hanmer.  "But are you sure?  In my experience
of houses there's always some one that objects."

Dicky lifted his chin.  "We call this the nursery because it has always
been the nursery.  But I do what I like here."

Mr. Hanmer had accepted the boy's invitation to pay him a visit ashore
and help him to rig a model cutter--a birthday gift from his father; and
the pair had spent an afternoon upon it, seated upon the floor with the
toy between them and a litter of twine everywhere, Dicky deep in the
mysteries of knots and splices, the lieutenant whittling out miniature
blocks and belaying-pins with a knife that seemed capable of anything.

They had been interrupted by Manasseh, bearing a tray of refreshments--
bread and honey and cakes, with a jug of milk for the one; for the other
a decanter of brown sherry with a dish of ratafia biscuits.  The repast
was finished now, and Dicky, eager to fall to work again, feared that
his friend might make an excuse for departing.

Mr. Hanmer put a hand in his pocket and drew out his pipe.

"Your father would call it setting a bad example, I doubt?"

To this the boy, had he been less loyal, might have answered that his
father took no great stock in examples, bad or good.  He said:
"Papa smokes.  He says it is cleaner than taking snuff; and so it is, if
you have ever seen Mr. Silk's waistcoat."

So Mr. Hanmer filled and lit his pipe, doing wonders with a pocket
tinder-box.  Dicky watched the process gravely through every detail,
laying up hints for manhood.

"I ought to have asked you before," he said.  "Nobody comes here ever,
except Mr. Silk and the servants."

Hapless speech and bootless boast!  They had scarcely seated themselves
to work again, the lieutenant puffing vigorously, before they heard
footsteps in the corridor, with a rustle of silks, and a hand tapped on
the door.

It opened as Dicky jumped to his feet, calling "Come in!"--and on the
threshold appeared Mrs. Vyell, in walking dress.  Dicky liked "Mrs.
Harry," as he called her; but he stared in dismay at two magnificent
ladies in the doorway behind her, and more especially at the elder of
the twain, who, attired in puce-coloured silk, stiff as a board, walked
in lifting a high patrician nose and exclaiming,--

"Fah! What a detestable odour!"

Mr. Hanmer hurriedly hid his pipe and scrambled up, stammering an
apology.  Dicky showed more self-possession.  He gave a little bow to
the two strangers and turned to Mrs. Harry.

"I am sorry, Aunt Sarah.  But I didn't know, of course, that you were
coming and bringing visitors."

"To be sure you did not, child," said Mrs. Harry with a good-natured
smile.  She was a cheerful, commonsensical person, pleasant of face
rather than pretty, by no means wanting in wit, and radiant of
happiness, just now, as a young woman should be who has married the man
of her heart.  "But let me present you--to Lady Caroline Vyell and Miss
Diana."

Dicky bowed again.  "I am sorry, ma'am," he repeated, addressing Lady
Caroline.  "Mr. Hanmer has put out his pipe, you see, and the window is
open."

Lady Caroline carried an eyeglass with a long handle of tortoise-shell.
Through it she treated Dicky to a deliberate and disconcerting scrutiny,
and lowered it to turn and ask Mrs. Harry,--

"You permit him to call you 'Aunt Sarah'?"

Mrs. Harry laughed.  "It sounds better, you will admit, than
'Aunt Sally,' and don't necessitate my carrying a pipe in my mouth.
Oh yes," she added, with a glance at the boy's flushed face, "Dicky and
I are great friends.  In any one's presence but Mr. Hanmer's I would say
'the best of friends.'"

Lady Caroline turned her eyeglass upon Mr. Hanmer.  "Is this--er--
gentleman his tutor?" she asked.

The question, and the sight of the lieutenant's mental distress, set
Mrs. Harry laughing again.  "In seamanship only.  Mr. Hanmer is my
husband's second-in-command and one of the best officers in the Navy."

"I consider smoking a filthy habit," said Lady Caroline.

"Yes, ma'am," murmured Mr. Hanmer.

The odious eyeglass was turned upon Dicky again.  He, to avoid it,
glanced aside at Miss Diana.  He found Miss Diana less unpleasant than
her mother, but attractive only by contrast.  She was a tall woman,
handsome but somewhat haggard, with a face saved indeed from peevishness
by its air of distinction, but scornful and discontented.  She had been
riding, and her long, close habit became her well, as did her
wide-brimmed hat, severely trimmed with a bow of black ribbon and a
single ostrich feather.

"Diana," said Lady Caroline, but without removing her stony stare,
"the child favours his mother."

"Indeed!" the girl answered indifferently.  "I never met her."

"Oliver has her portrait somewhere, I believe.  We must get him to show
it to us.  A toast in her day, and quite notably good-looking--though
after a style I abominate."  She turned to Mrs. Harry and explained:
"One of your helpless clinging women.  In my experience that sort does
incomparably the worst mischief."

"Oh, hush, please!" murmured Mrs.  Harry.

But Lady Caroline came of a family addicted to speaking its thoughts
aloud.  "Going to sea, is he?  Well, on the whole Oliver couldn't do
better.  The boy's position here must be undesirable in many ways; and
at sea a lad stands on his own feet--eh, Mr.--I did not catch your
name?"

"Hanmer, ma'am."

"Well, and isn't it so?"

"Not altogether, ma'am," stammered Mr. Hanmer.  "If ever your ladyship
had been in the Navy--"

"God bless the man!" Lady Caroline interjected.

"--you'd have found that--that a good deal of kissing goes by favour,
ma'am."

"H'mph!" said Lady Caroline when Mrs.  Harry had done laughing.
"The child will not lack protection, of course.  Whether 'tis to their
credit or not I won't say, but the Vyells have always shown a conscience
for--er--obligations of this kind."


On her way back to Sabines, where Sir Oliver had installed them,
Lady Caroline again commended to her daughter his sound sense in packing
the child off to sea.

"They will take 'em at any age, I understand; and Mrs. Vyell, it
appears, has no objection."

"She is not returning to Carolina by sea."

"No; but she can influence her husband.  I must have another talk with
her . . . a pleasant, unaffected creature, and, for a sailor's wife,
more than presentable.  One had hardly indeed looked to find such
natural good manners in this part of the world.  Her mother was a
Quakeress, she tells me: yet she laughs a good deal, which I had
imagined to be against their principles.  She doesn't say 'thee' and
'thou' either."

"I heard her _tutoyer_ her husband."

"Indeed? . . . Well," Lady Caroline went on somewhat inconsequently,
"Harry is a lucky man.  When one thinks of the dreadful connections
these sailors are only too apt to form--though one cannot wholly blame
them, their opportunities being what they are . . . But, as I was
saying, Oliver couldn't have done better, for himself or for the child.
At home the poor little creature could never be but a question; and
since he has this craze for salt water--curious he should resemble his
uncle in this rather than his father--one may almost call it
providential. . . . At the same time, my dear, I wish you could have
shown a little more interest."

"In the child?  Why?"

"Really, Diana, I wish you would cure yourself of putting these abrupt
questions. . . . Your Cousin Oliver is now the head of the family,
remember.  He has received us with uncommon cordiality, and put himself
out not a little--"

"I can believe _that_," said Diana brusquely.

"And it says much.  All men are selfish, and Oliver as a youth was very
far from being an exception.  I find the change in him significant of
much. . . . At the same time you have mixed enough in the world, dear,
to know that young men will be young men, and this sort of thing
happens, unfortunately."

"If, mamma, you suppose I bear Cousin Oliver any grudge because of this
child--"

"I am heartily glad to hear you say it.  There should be, with us women,
a Christian nicety in dealing with these--er--situations; in retrospect,
at all events.  A certain--disgust, shall we say?--is natural, proper,
even due to our sex: I should think the worse--very far the worse--of my
Diana did she not feel it.  But above all things, charity! . . . And let
me tell you, dear, what I could not have told at the time, but I think
you are now old enough to know that such an experience is often the best
cure for a man, who thereafter, should he be fortunate in finding the
right woman, anchors his affections and proves the most assiduous of
husbands.  This may sound paradoxical to you--"

"Dear mamma"--Diana hid a smile and a little yawn together--"believe me
it does not."

"Such a man, then," pursued Lady Caroline, faintly surprised, "is likely
to be the more appreciative of any kindness shown to--er--what I may
call the living consequence of his error."

"Why not say 'Dicky' at once, mamma, and have done with it."

"To Dicky, then, if you will; but I was attempting to lay down the
general rule which Dicky illustrates.  A little gentle notice taken of
the child not only appeals to the man as womanly in itself, but
delicately conveys to him that the past is, to some extent, condoned.
He has sown his wild oats: he is, so to speak, _range_; but he is none
the less grateful for some assurance--"

Lady Caroline's discourse had whiled the way back to Sabines, to the
drawing-room; and here Diana wheeled round on her with the question,
sudden and straight,--

"Do you suppose that Cousin Oliver is _range_, as you call it?"

"My child, we have every reason to believe so."

"Then what do you make of this?"  The girl took up a small volume that
lay on the top of the harpsichord, and thrust it into her mother's
hands.

"Eh?  What?"  Lady Caroline turned the book back uppermost and spelled
out the title through her eyeglass.  "'Ovid'--he's Latin, is he not?
Dear, I had no notion that you kept up your studies in that--er--
tongue."

"I do not.  I have forgot what little I learned of it, and that was next
to nothing.  But open the book, please, at the title-page."

"I see nothing.  It has neither book-plate nor owner's signature."
(Indeed Ruth never wrote her name in her books.  She looked upon them as
her lord's, and hers only in trust.)

"The title-page, I said.  You are staring at the flyleaf."

"Ah, to be sure--" Lady Caroline turned a leaf.  "Is this what you
mean?"  She held up a loose sheet of paper covered with writing.

"Read it."

The elder lady found the range of her eyeglass and conned--in silence
and without well grasping its purport--the following effusion:--

    Other maids make Love a foeman,
       Lie in ambush to defeat him;
       I alone will step to meet him
    Valiant, his accepted woman.
          Equal, consort in his car,
          Ride I to his royal war.

        Victims of his bow and targe,
    Yet who toyed with lovers' quarrels,
    Envy me my braver laurels!
        Lord! thy shield of shadow large
        Lift above me, shout the charge!

"Well?"

"I make nothing of it," owned Lady Caroline.  "It appears to be poetry
of a sort--probably some translation from the Latin author."

"You note, at least, that the handwriting is a woman's?"

"H'm, yes," Lady Caroline agreed.

"Nothing else?"

"Dear, you speak in riddles."

"It _is_ a riddle," said Diana.  "Take the first letter of each line,
and read them down, in order."

"O, L, I, V, E, R  V, Y, E, L, L," spelled Lady Caroline, and lowered
her eyeglass.  "My dear, as you say, this cannot be a mere coincidence."

"_Did_ I say that?" asked Diana.

"But who can it be, or have been? . . . That Dance woman, perhaps?
She was infatuated enough."

"It was not she," said Diana positively.

"_Somebody_ can tell us. . . . That Mr. Silk, for instance."

"Ah, you too think of him?"

"As a clergyman--and to some extent a boon companion of Oliver's--he
would be likely to know--"

"--And to tell?  You are quite right, mamma: I have asked him."



Chapter XI.


THE ESPIAL.


Ruth Josselin came down from the mountain to the stream-side, where, by
a hickory bush under a knoll, her mare Madcap stood at tether.
Slipping behind the bush--though no living soul was near to spy on her--
she slid off her short skirt and indued a longer one more suitable for
riding; rolled the discarded garment into a bundle which she strapped
behind the saddle; untethered the mare, and mounted.

At her feet the plain stretched for miles, carpeted for the most part
with short sweet turf and dotted in the distance with cattle, red in the
sunlight that overlooked the mountain's shoulder.  These were Farmer
Cordery's cattle, and they browsed within easy radius of a clump of elms
clustered about Sweetwater Farm.  Some four miles beyond, on the far
edge of the plain, a very similar clump of elms hid another farm,
Natchett by name, in like manner outposted with cattle; and these were
the only habitations of men within the ring of the horizon.

The afternoon sun cast the shadow of the mountain far across this plain,
almost to the confines of Sweetwater homestead.  A breeze descended from
the heights and played with Ruth's curls as she rested in saddle for a
moment, scanning the prospect; a gentle breeze, easily out-galloped.
Time, place, and the horse--all promised a perfect gallop; her own
spirits, too.  For she had spent the day's hot hours in clambering among
the slopes, battling with certain craggy doubts in her own mind; and
with the afternoon shadow had come peace at heart; and out of peace a
certain careless exultation.  She would test the mare's speed and enjoy
this hour before returning to Tatty's chit-chat, the evening lamp, and
the office of family prayer with which Farmer Cordery duly dismissed his
household for the night.

She pricked Madcap down the slope, and at the foot of it launched her on
the gallop.  Surely, unless it be that of sailing on a reach and in a
boat that fairly heels to the breeze, there is no such motion to catch
the soul on high.  The breeze met the wind of her flight and was beaten
by it, but still she carried the moment of encounter with her as a wave
on the crest of which she rode.  It swept, lifted, rapt her out of
herself--yet in no bodiless ecstasy; for her blood pulsed in the beat of
the mare's hoofs.  To surrender to it was luxury, yet her hand on the
rein held her own will ready at call; and twice, where Sweetwater brook
meandered, she braced herself for the water-jump, judging the pace and
the stride; and twice, with many feet to spare, Madcap sailed over the
silver-grey riband.

All the while, ahead of her, the mountain lengthened its shadow.
She overtook and passed it a couple of furlongs short of the homestead;
passed it--so clearly defined it lay across the pasture--with a firmer
hold on the rein, as though clearing an actual obstacle. . . . She was
in sunlight now.  Before her a wooden fence protected the elms and their
enclosure.  At the gate of it by rule she should have drawn rein.

She had never leapt a gate; had attempted a bank now and then, but
nothing serious.  Her success at the water-jumps tempted her; and the
mare, galloping with her second wind, seemed to feel the temptation
every whit as strongly.

In the instant of rising to it Ruth wondered what Farmer Cordery would
say if she broke his top bar. . . . The mare's feet touched it lightly--
rap, rap.  She was over.

A wood pile stood within the gate to the left, hiding the house.  She
had passed the corner of it before she could bring Madcap to a
standstill, and was laughing to herself in triumph as she glanced
around.

Heavens!

The house was of timber, with a deep timbered verandah; and in the
verandah, not twenty paces away, beside a table laid for coffee, stood
Tatty with three ladies about her--three ladies all elegantly dressed
and staring.

Ruth's hand went up quickly, involuntarily, to her dishevelled hair; and
at the same moment the little lady, as though making a bolt from
captivity, stepped down from the verandah and came shuffling across the
yard towards her, almost at a run.

"Ruth, dear!" she panted.  "Oh, dear, dear! I am so glad you have come!"

"Why, what's the matter?"  The girl, scenting danger, faced it.
She swung herself down from the saddle-crutch, picked up her skirt, and
taking Madcap's rein close beside the curb, walked slowly up to the
verandah.  "Have they been bullying you, dear?" she asked in a low quiet
voice.

"They have come all this way to see us--Lady Caroline Vyell, and Miss
Diana; yes, and Mrs. Captain Vyell--'Mrs. Harry,' as Dicky calls her.
They have ferreted us out, somehow--and the questions they have been
asking!  I think, dear--I really think--that in your place I should walk
Madcap round to her stable and run indoors for a tidy-up before facing
them.  A minute or two to prepare yourself--I can easily make your
excuses."

"And a moment since you were calling me to come and deliver you!"
answered Ruth, still advancing.  "Present me, please."

Little Miss Quiney, turning and running ahead, stammered some words to
Lady Caroline, who paid no heed to them or to her but kept her eyeglass
lifted and fixed upon Ruth.  Miss Diana stood a pace behind her mother's
shoulder; Mrs. Harry, after a glance at the girl, turned and made
pretence to busy herself with the coffee-table.

"So _you_ are the young woman!" ejaculated Lady Caroline.

"Am I?" said Ruth quietly, and after a profound curtsy turned sideways
to the mare.  "A lump of sugar, Tatty, if you please. . . . I thank
you, ma'am--" as Mrs. Harry, anticipating Miss Quiney, stepped forward
with a piece held between the sugar-tongs.  "And I think she even
deserves a second, for clearing the yard gate."

She fed the gentle creature and dismissed her.  "Now trot around to your
stall and ask one of the boys to unsaddle you!"  She stood for ten
seconds, may be, watching as the mare with a fling of the head trotted
off obediently.  Then she turned again and met Mrs. Harry's eyes with a
frank smile.

"It is the truth," she said.  "We cleared the gate.  Come, please, and
admire--"

Mrs. Harry, in spite of herself, stepped down from the verandah and
followed.  The others stood as they were, planted in stiff disapproval.

The girl led Mrs.  Harry to the corner of the wood pile.  "Admire!" she
repeated, pointing with her riding-switch; and then, still keeping the
gesture, she sank her voice and asked quickly, "Why are you here?
You have a good face, not like the others.  Tell me."

"Lady Caroline--" stammered Mrs. Harry, taken at unawares.  "She has a
right, naturally, to concern herself--"

"Does _he_ know?"

"Sir Oliver?  No--I believe not. . . . You see, the Vyells are a great
family, and 'family' to them is a tremendous affair--a religion almost.
Whatever touches one touches all; especially when that one happens to be
the head of his house."

"Is that how Captain Vyell--how your husband--feels it?--No, please keep
looking towards the gate.  I mean no harm by these questions, and you
will not mind answering them, I hope?  It gives me just a little more
chance of fair play."

"To tell you the truth," said Mrs. Harry, pretending to study the jump,
"I looked at you because I could not help it.  You are an
extraordinarily beautiful woman."

"Thank you," answered Ruth.  "But about 'Captain Harry,' as we call him?
I suppose he, as next of kin, is most concerned of all?"

"He did not tell me about you, if that is what you mean; or rather he
told me nothing until I questioned him.  Then he owned that there was
such a person, and that he had seen you.  But he does not even know of
this visit; he imagines that Lady Caroline is taking me for a pleasure
trip, just to view the country."

Ruth turned towards the house.  "You will tell him, of course," she said
gravely, "when you return to the ship."

"I--I suppose I shall," confessed Mrs.  Harry, and added, "There's one
thing.  You may suppose that, as his wife, I am as much concerned as
any--perhaps more than these others.  But I don't want you to think that
I suggested hunting you up."

"I do not think anything of the sort.  In fact I am sure you did not."

"Thank you."

Ruth had a mind to ask "Who, then, had brought them?" but refrained.
She had guessed, and pretty surely.

"Well," she said with half a laugh, "you have been good and given me
time to recover.  It's heavy odds, you see, and--and I have not been
trained for it, exactly.  But I feel better.  Shall we go back and face
them?"

"One moment, again!"  Mrs. Harry's kindly face hung out signals of
distress.  "It's heavy odds, as you say.  Everything's against you.
But the Lord knows I'm a well-meaning woman, and I'd hate to be unjust.
If only I could be sure--if only you would tell me--"

Ruth stood still and faced her.

"Look in my eyes."

Mrs. Harry looked and was convinced.  "But you love him," she murmured;
"and he--"

"Ah, ma'am," said Ruth, "I answer you one question, and you would ask me
another!"



Chapter XII.


LADY CAROLINE.


She walked back to the verandah.

"I understand," she said, "that Lady Caroline wishes a word with me."

With a slight bow she led the way through a low window that opened upon
the Corderys' best parlour, through that apartment, and across a passage
to the door of a smaller room lined with shelves--formerly a stillroom
or store-chamber for home-made wines, cordials, preserves, but now
converted into a boudoir for her use.  Its one window looked out upon
the farmyard, now in shadow, and a farther doorway led to the dairy.
It stood open, and beyond it the eye travelled down a vista of cool
slate flags and polished cream-pans.

On the threshold Ruth stood aside to let Lady Caroline enter; followed,
and closed the door; stepped across and closed the door of the dairy.
Lady Caroline meanwhile found a seat, and, lifting her eyeglass, studied
at long range the library disposed upon the store shelves.

"We had best be quite frank," said she, as Ruth came back and stood
before her.

"If you please."

"Of course it is all very scandalous and--er--nauseating, though I dare
say you are unable to see it in that light.  I merely mention it in
justice to myself, lest you should mistake me as underrating or even
condoning Sir Oliver's conduct.  You will guess, at any rate, how it
must shock my daughter."

"Yes," said Ruth; and added, "Why did you bring her?"

The girl's attitude--erect before her, patient, but unflinching--had
already gone some way to discompose Lady Caroline.  This straight
question fairly disconcerted her; the worse because she could not
quarrel with the tone of it.

"I wish," she answered, "my Diana to face the facts of life, ugly though
they may be."  As if aware that this hardly carried conviction--for,
despite herself, something in Ruth began to impress her--she shifted
ground and went on, "But we will not discuss my daughter, please.
The point is, this state of things cannot continue.  It may be hard for
you--I am trying to take your view of it--but what may pass in a young
man of blood cannot be permitted when he succeeds to a title and the--
er--headship of his family.  It becomes then his duty to give that
family clean heirs.  I put it plainly?"

Ruth bent her head for assent.

"Oliver Vyell, as no doubt you know, has already been mixed up in one
entanglement, and has a child for reminder."

"Oh, but Dicky is the dearest child!  The sweetest-natured, the
cleanest-minded!  Have you not seen him yet?"

Lady Caroline stared.  As little as royalty did she understand being
cross-questioned.  It gave her a quite unexpected sense of helplessness.

"I fear you do not at all grasp the position," she said severely.
"After all, I had done better to disregard your feelings, whatever they
may be, and come to terms at once."

"No," answered Ruth, musing; "I do not understand the position; but I
want to, more than I can say--and your ladyship must help me, please."
She paused a moment.  "In New England we prize good birth, good
breeding, and what we too call 'family'; but I think the word must mean
something different to you who live at home in England."

"I should hope so!" breathed Lady Caroline.

"It must be mixed up somehow with the great estates you have held for
generations and the old houses you have lived in.  No," she went on, as
Lady Caroline would have interrupted; "please let me work it out in my
own way, and then you shall correct me where I am wrong. . . . I have
often thought how beautiful it must be to live in such an old house, one
that has all its corners full of memories--the nurseries most of all--
of children and grandchildren, that have grown up in gentleness and
courtesy and honour--"

"Good Lord!" Lady Caroline interjected.  "You mean"--Ruth smiled--
"that I am talking like a book?  That is partly my fault and partly our
New England way; because, you see, we have to get at these things from
books.  Does it, after all, matter how--if only we get it right? . . .
There's a tradition--what, I believe, you call an 'atmosphere'--and you
are proud of it and very jealous."

"If you see all this," said Lady Caroline, mollified, "our business
should be easier, with a little common sense on your part."

"And it knits you," pursued Ruth, "into a sort of family conspiracy--
the womenkind especially--like bees in a hive.  The head of the family
is the queen bee, and you respect him amazingly; but all the same you
keep your own judgment, and know when to thwart and when to disobey him,
for his own and the family's good.  I think you disobeyed Sir Oliver in
coming here; or, at least, deceived him and came here without his
knowledge."

"I am not accustomed," said Lady Caroline, rising, "to direct my conduct
upon my nephew's advice."

"That, more or less, is what I was trying to say.  Dear madam, let me
warn you to do so, if you would manage his private affairs."

They faced each other now, upon declared war.  Lady Caroline's neck was
suffused to a purplish red behind the ears.  She gasped for speech.
Before she found it there came a tapping on the door, and Diana Vyell
entered.



Chapter XIII.


DIANA VYELL.


"Have you not finished yet?"  Miss Diana closed the door, glanced from
one to the other, and laughed with a genial brutality.  "Well, it's time
I came.  Dear mamma, you seem to be getting your feathers pulled."

There was a byword among the Whig families at home (who, by
intermarrying, had learned to gauge another's weaknesses), that
"the Pett medal showed ill in reverse."  Miss Diana had heard the
saying.  As a Vyell--the Vyells were, before all things, critical--she
knew it to be just, as well as malicious; but as a dutiful daughter she
ought to have remembered.

As it was, her cool comment stung her mother to fury.  The poor lady
pointed a finger at Ruth, and spluttered (there is no more elegant word
for the very inelegant exhibition),--

"A strumpet!  One that has been whipped through the public streets."

There was a dreadful pause.  Miss Diana, the first to recover herself,
stepped back to the door and held it open.

"You must excuse dear mamma," she said coolly.  "She has overtired
herself."

But Lady Caroline continued to point a finger trembling with passion.

"Her price!" she shrilled.  "Ask her that.  It is all these creatures
ever understand!"

Miss Diana slipped an arm beneath her elbow and firmly conducted her
forth.  Ruth, hearing the door shut, supposed that both women had
withdrawn.  She sank into a chair, and was stretching out her arms over
the table to bury her face in them and sob, when the voice of the
younger said quietly behind her shoulder,--

"It is always hard, after mamma's tantrums, to bring the talk back to a
decent level.  Nevertheless, shall we try?"

Ruth had drawn herself up again, rallying the spirit in her.  It was
weary, bruised; but its hour of default was not yet.  Her voice dragged,
but just perceptibly, as she answered Miss Vyell, who nodded, noting her
courage and wondering a little,--

"I am sorry."

"Sorry?"

"Yes; it was partly my fault--very largely my fault.  But your mother
angered me from the first by assuming--what she had no right to assume.
It was horrible."

Diana Vyell seated herself, eyed her steadily for a moment, and nodded
again.  "Mamma can be _raide_, there's no denying.  She was wrong, of
course; that's understood. . . . Still, on the whole you have done
pretty well, and had your revenge."

Ruth's eyes widened, for this was beyond her.

Diana explained.  "You have let us make the most impossible fools of
ourselves.  It may have been more by luck than by good management, as
they say; but there it is.  Now don't say that revenge isn't sweet.
. . . I've done you what justice I can; but if you pose as an angel from
heaven, it's asking too much."  While Ruth considered this, she added,
"I don't know if you can put yourself in mamma's place for a moment; but
if you can, the hoax is complete enough, you'll admit."

"I had rather put myself in yours."

Their eyes met, and Diana's cheek reddened slightly.  "You are an
extraordinary girl," she said, "and there seems no way but to be honest
with you.  Unfortunately, it's not so easy, even with the best will in
the world.  Can you understand _that?_"

"If you love him--"

"Oh, for pity's sake spare me!" Diana bounced up and stepped to the
window.  The red on her cheek had deepened, and she averted it to stare
out at the poultry in the yard.  "You are unconscionable," she said
after a while, with a vexed laugh.  "I have known my cousin Oliver since
we were children together.  Really, you know, you're almost as brutal as
mamma. . . . The truth?  Let me see.  Well, the truth, so near as I can
tell it, is that I just let mamma have her head, and waited to see what
would happen.  This was her expedition, and I took no responsibility for
it from the first."

"I understand." Ruth, watching the back of her head, spoke musingly,
with pursed lips.

"Excuse me"--Diana wheeled about suddenly--"you cannot possibly
understand just yet.  This last was my tenth season in London.
One grows weary . . . and then in the confusion of papa's death--
It comes to this, that I was ready for anything to get out of the old
rut.  I--I--shall we say that I just cast myself on fate?  It may have
been at the back of my head that whatever happened might be worse, but
couldn't well be wearier.  But if you think I had any design of setting
my cap at him--"

"Hush!" said Ruth softly.  "I had no such thought."

"And if you had, you would not have cared," said Diana, eyeing her again
long and steadily.  "Mamma--you really must forgive mamma.  If you knew
them, there was never a Pett that was not _impayable_.  Mamma spoke of
asking your price. . . . As if, for any price, he would give you up!"

"I have no price to ask, of him or of any one."

"No, and you need have none.  I am often very disagreeable," said Diana
candidly, "but my worst enemy won't charge me with disparaging good
looks in other women."

"May I use your words," said Ruth, with a shy smile, "and say that you
have no need?"

"Rubbish!  And don't talk like that to me, sitting here and staring you
in the face, or I may change my mind again and hate you!  I never said I
didn't _envy_. . . . But there, the fault was mine for speaking of
'good looks' when I should have said, 'Oh, you wonder!'" broke off
Diana.  "May I ask it--one question?"

"Twenty, if you will."

"It is a brutal one; horrible; worse even than mamma's."

"As I remember," said Ruth gravely, "Lady Caroline asked none.  It was I
who did the questioning, and--and I am afraid that led to the trouble."

Diana laughed, and after a moment the two were laughing together.

"But what is your question?"

"No, I cannot ask it now." Diana shook her head, and was grave again.

"Please!"

"Well, then, tell me--"  She drew back, slightly tilting her chin and
narrowing her eyes, as one who contemplates a beautiful statue or other
work of art.  "Is it true they whipped _that_, naked, through the
streets?"

Ruth bent her head.

"It is true."

"I wonder it did not kill you," Diana murmured.

"I am strong; strong and very healthy. . . . It broke something inside;
I hardly know what.  But there's a story--I read it the other day--about
a man who wandered in a dark wood, and came to a place where he looked
into hell.  Just one glimpse.  He fainted, and when he awoke it was
daylight, with the birds singing all around him.  But he was changed
more than the place, for he listened and understood all the woodland
talk--what the birds were saying, and the small creeping things.
And when he went back among men he answered at random, and yet in a way
that astonished them; for he saw and heard what their hearts were
saying, at the back of their talk. . . . Of course," smiled Ruth,
"I am not nearly so wonderful as that.  But something has happened to
me--"

Diana nodded slowly.  "--Something that, at any rate, makes you terribly
disconcerting.  But what about Oliver?  They tell me that he browbeat
the magistrates and insisted on sitting beside you."

Ruth's eyes confirmed it.  They were moist, yet proud.  They shone.

"I had always," mused Diana, "looked on my cousin as a carefully selfish
person, even in the matter of that Dance woman.  You must have turned
his head completely."

"It was not _that_."

Diana stared, the low tone was so earnest, vehement even.  "Well, at all
events I know him well enough to assure you he will never give you up."

"Ah!" Ruth drew a long sigh over the joy in her heart, and, a second
later, hated herself for it.

"--until afterwards."

"Afterwards?" the girl echoed.

"Afterwards.  My cousin Oliver is a tenacious man, and you would seem to
have worked him up to temporary heroics.  But I beg you to reflect that
what for you must have been a real glimpse into hell"--Diana shivered--"
was likely enough for him no more than an occasion for posing.
Fine posing, I'll allow." She paused.  "It didn't degrade him, actually.
He's a Vyell; and as another of 'em I may tell you there never was a
Vyell could face out actual degradation.  You almost make me wish we
were capable of it.  To lose everything--"  She paused again.
"You make it more alluring, somehow, than the prospect of endless London
seasons--Diana Vyell, with a fading face and her market missed--that's
how they'll put it--and, _pour me distraire_ this side of the grave, the
dower-house, a coach, a pair of wind-broken horses, and the consolations
of religion!  If we were capable of it. . . . But where's the use of
talking?  We're Vyells.  And--here's my point--Oliver is a Vyell.
He may be strong-willed, but--did mamma happen to talk at all about the
'Family'?"

"I think," answered Ruth with another faint flash of mirth, "it was I
who asked her questions about it."

Diana threw out her hands, laughing.  "You are invincible!  Well, I
cannot hate you; and I've given you my warning.  Make him marry you; you
can if you choose, and now is your time.  If there should be children--
legitimate children, O my poor mamma!--there will be the devil to pay
and helpless family councils, all of which I shall charge myself to
enjoy and to report to you.  If there should be none, we're safe with
Mrs. Harry.  She'll breed a dozen. . . . Am I coarse? Oh, yes, the
Vyells can be coarse! while as for the Petts--but you have heard dear
mamma."


They talked together for a few minutes after this.  But their talk shall
not be reported: for with what do you suppose it dealt?

--With Dress.  As I am a living man, with Dress.

In the midst of it, and while Ruth listened eagerly to what Diana had to
tell of London fashions, Lady Caroline's voice was heard summoning her
daughter away.

Diana rose.  "It is close upon dusk," she said, "and Mrs. Harry has
command of the waggon.  She drives very well--not better than I perhaps;
but she understands this country better.  All the same, the road--call
it an apology for one--bristles with tree-stumps, and mamma's temper
will be unendurable if the dark overtakes us before we reach the next
farm.  I forget its name."

"Natchett?"

"Yes, Natchett.  We spend the night there."

"But why did not Mr. Silk drive you over?"

"Did mamma tell you he was escorting us?"

"No.  I guessed."

"Nasty little fellow.  Sloppy underlip.  I cannot bear him.  Can you?"

"I do not like him."

"It's a marvel to me that my cousin tolerates him. . . . By the way, I
shall not wonder if he--Oliver, I mean--loses his temper heavily when he
learns of our expedition, and bundles us straight back to Europe.
I warned mamma."

"So--I am afraid--did I."

"Yes?"--and again they laughed together.

"My poor parent! . . . She assured me that her duty to the Family was
her armour of proof.  Hark!  She's calling again."


They found Lady Caroline impatient in the verandah.  Ruth, to avoid
speech with her, walked away to the waggon.  Farmer Cordery stood at the
horse's head, and Mrs. Harry beside the step, ready to mount and take
the reins.

But for some reason Mrs. Harry delayed to mount.  "Is it you?" she said
vaguely and put out a hand, swaying slightly.  Ruth caught it.

"Are you ill?"

They were alone together for a moment and hidden from the farmer, who
stood on the far side of the horse.

"Nothing--a sudden giddiness.  It's quite absurd, too; when I've been as
strong as a donkey all my life."

Ruth asked her a question. . . . Some word of woman's lore, dropped
years ago by her own silly mother, crossed her memory.  (They had been
outspoken, in the cottage above the beach.)  It surprised Mrs. Harry,
who answered it before she was well aware, and so stood staring,
trembling with surmise.

"God bless you!"  Ruth put out an arm on an impulse to clasp her waist,
but checked it and beckoned instead to Diana.

"_You_ take the reins and drive," she commanded.

Diana questioned her with a glance, but obeyed and climbed on board.
Ruth was helping Mrs. Harry to mount after her when Lady Caroline thrust
herself forward, by the step.

Now since Diana had hold of the reins, and Mrs. Harry was for the moment
in no condition to lend a hand, and since Lady Caroline would as lief
have touched leprosy as have accepted help from Ruth Josselin, her
ascent into the van fell something short of dignity.  The rearward of
her person was ample; she hitched her skirt in the step, thus exposing
an inordinate amount of not over-clean white stocking; and, to make
matters worse, Farmer Cordery cast off at the wrong moment and stood
back from the horse's head.

"Losh! but I'm sorry," said he, gazing after the catastrophic result.
"Look at her, there, kickin' like a cast ewe. . . ."  He turned a
serious face on Ruth and added, "Vigorous, too, for her years."


Ruth, returning to the verandah, bent over little Miss Quiney, who sat
unsmiling, with rigid eyes.  "Dear Tatty,"--she kissed her--"were they
so very dreadful?"

Miss Quiney started as if awaking from a nightmare.

"That woman--darling, whatever her rank, I _cannot_ term her a lady!--"

"Go on, dear."

"I cannot.  Sit beside me, here, for a while, and let me feel my arm
about you. . . ."

They sat thus for a long while silent, while twilight crept over the
plain and wrapped itself about the homestead.

Ruth was thinking.  "If I forfeit this, it will be hardest of all."



Chapter XIV.


MR. SILK PROPOSES.


Farmer Cordery had six grown sons--Jonathan, George, William, Increase,
Homer, and Lemuel--the eldest eight-and-twenty, the youngest sixteen.
All were strapping fellows, and each as a matter of course had fallen
over head and ears in love with Ruth.

They were good lads and knew it to be hopeless.  She had stepped into
their home as a goddess from a distant star, to abide with them for a
while.  They worshipped, none confessing his folly; but it made them her
slaves, and emulous to shine before her as though she had been a queen
of tournay.  Because of her presence (it must be sadly owned)
challengings, bickerings, even brotherly quarrels, disturbed more and
more the patriarchal peace of Sweetwater Farm.  "I dunno what's come
over the boys," their father grumbled; "al'ays showing off an'
jim-jeerin'.  Regilar cocks on a dunghill.  A few years agone I'd 've
cured it wi' the strap; but now there's no remedy."

William had challenged his eldest brother Jonathan to "put" a large
round-shot that lay in the verandah.  Their father had brought it home
from the capture of Louisbourg as a souvenir.  Jonathan and George had
served at Louisbourg too, in the Massachusetts Volunteers; but William,
though of age to fight, had been left at home to look after the farm and
his mother.  It had been a sore disappointment at the time; now that
Jonathan and George had taken on a sudden to boast, it rankled.
Hence the challenge.  The three younger lads joined in.  If they could
not defeat their seniors, they could at least dispute the mastery among
themselves.  Thereupon in all seriousness (ingenuous youths!) they voted
that Miss Josselin should be asked to umpire.


The contest took place next morning after breakfast, in a paddock beyond
the elms, with Ruth for umpire and sole spectator.  Nothing had been
said to the farmer, who was fast losing his temper with "these derned
wagerings," and might have come down with a veto that none dared
disobey.  He had ridden off, however, at sun-up to the mountain, to look
after the half-wild hogs he kept at pasture among the woods at its base.

Ruth measured out the casts conscientiously.  In no event would the
young men have disputed her arbitrament; but, as it happened, this
nicety was thrown away.  Jonathan's "put" of forty feet--the shot
weighed close upon sixteen pounds--easily excelled the others', who were
sportsmen and could take a whipping without bad blood or dispute.
The winner crowed a little, to be sure; it was the New England way.
But Lemuel the youngest, who had outgrown his strength, had made a
deplorable "put," and the rest jeered at him, to relieve their feelings.
The boy fired up.  "Oh, have your laugh!" he blazed, with angry tears in
his eyes.  "But when it comes to running, there's not one of you but
knows I can put circles round him."

"Take you on, this moment," answered up young Increase.  "Say, boys,
we'll all take him on."

Jonathan had no mind for any such "foolishness."  He had won, and was
content; and running didn't become the dignity of a grown man.
"We didn't run at Louisbourg, I guess." George echoed him.  George could
out-tire even Jonathan at wood-cutting, but had no length of leg.

But Ruth having compassion on the boy's hurt feelings, persuaded them.
They could refuse no straight request of hers.  She pointed to an
outlying elm that marked the boundary of the second pasture field beyond
the steading.  This should be the turning-post, and would give them a
course well over half a mile, with a water-jump to be crossed twice.
She ranged them in line, and dropped her handkerchief for signal.

They were off.  She stood with the sun at her back and watched the race.
George, of the short legs, broad shoulders, and bullet head, was a
sprinter (as we call it nowadays) and shot at once to the front, with
Homer not far behind, and Increase disputing the third place with
Lemuel.  Jonathan and William made scarcely a show of competing.
The eldest lad, indeed, coming to the brook, did not attempt to jump,
but floundered heavily through it, scrambled up the farther bank, and
lumbered on in hopeless pursuit.  It was here that Lemuel's long easy
stride asserted itself, and taking first place he reached the tree with
several yards' lead.

"He will win at his ease now," said Ruth to herself; and just at that
moment her ears caught the sound of a horse's footfall.  She turned; but
the sun shone full in her eyes, and not for a second or two did she
recognise her visitor, Mr. Silk.

He was on horseback, and, stooping from his saddle, was endeavouring
just now--but very unhandily--to unhasp the gate with the crook of his
riding-whip.  Ruth did not offer to go to his help.

He managed it at last, thrust the horse through by vigorous use of his
knees, and was riding straight up to the house.  But just then he caught
sight of her, changed his course, and came towards her at a walk.

"Ah, good-morning!" he called.

"Good-morning."

He dismounted.  "Thought I'd ride over and pay you a call.  The ladies
will not be starting on their return journey for another couple of
hours.  So I borrowed a horse."

"Evidently."

"There's something wrong with him, I doubt."  Mr. Silk was disagreeably
red and moist.

"I dare say he is not used to being ridden mainly--or was it wholly?--on
the curb."

He grinned.  "Well, and I'm not used to riding, and that's a fact.
But"--he leered the compliment--"there are few dangers I would not
brave for a glance from Miss Josselin."

"You flatter me, sir.  But I believe you braved a worse, yesterday,
without claiming that reward."

"Ah!  You mean that Sir Oliver will be angry when he gets wind of our
little expedition?  The ladies persuaded me--Adam's old excuse; I can
deny nothing to the sex. . . . But what have we yonder?  A race?"

"It would appear so."

"A very hollow one, if I may criticise.  That youngster moves like a
deer. . . . And what is his reward to be?--another glance of these
bright eyes?  Ah, Miss Josselin, you make fools--and heroes--of us all!"

Ruth turned from him to applaud young Lemuel, who came darting into the
enclosure.

"See old Jonathan!" panted the boy, looking back and laughing.
"That's how they ran at Louisbourg. . . . Miss Josselin, you should have
made it a mile and I'd have shown you some broken-winded ones."
He laughed again and turned in apology to Mr. Silk.  "I'll take your
horse to stable, sir, if you'll let me catch my breath."

The others came straggling up, a little abashed at sight of the
stranger, but not surprised out of their good manners.

"A clergyman?" said Jonathan.  "My father will be home before sundown,
sir.  He will be proud if you can stay and have dinner with us."

Mr. Silk explained that he had ridden over from Natchett to call on Miss
Josselin and had but an hour to spare.  They insisted, however, that he
must eat before leaving, and they led away his horse to bait, leaving
him and Ruth together.

"Will you come into the house?" she asked.

"With your leave we can talk better here. . . . So you guessed that I
made one of the party?  Miss Vyell told me."

"It was not difficult to guess."

"And you admired my courage?"

Ruth's eyebrows went up to a fine arch.  "When you were careful to keep
in hiding?"

"From motives of delicacy, believe me.  It occurred to me that Lady
Caroline might--er--speak her mind, and I had no wish to be distressed
by it, or to distress you with my presence."

"I thank you for so much delicacy, sir."

"But Lady Caroline--let us do her justice!  She calls a spade a spade,
but there's no malice in it.  You stood up to her, I gather.  We've been
discussing you this morning, and you may take my word she don't think
the worse of you for it.  They're sportsmen, these high-born people.
I come of good family myself, and know the sort.  'Slog and take a
slogging; shake hands and no bad blood'--that's their way.  The fine old
British way, after all."  Mr. Silk puffed his cheeks and blew.

"You have been discussing me with Lady Caroline?"

"Yes," he answered flatly.  "Yes," he repeated, and rolled his eyes.
"All for your good, you know.  Of course she started by calling you
names and taking the worst for granted.  But I wouldn't have _that_."

"Go on, sir, if you please."

"I wouldn't have it, because I didn't believe it.  If I did--hang it!--
I shouldn't be here.  You might do me that justice."

"Why _are_ you here?"

"I'm coming to that; but first I want you to open your eyes to the
position.  You may think it's all very pretty and romantic and like Fair
Rosamond--without the frailty as yet: that's granted.  But how will it
end?  Eh?  That's the question, if you'd bring your common sense to
bear on it."

"Suppose you help me, sir," said Ruth meekly.

"That's right.  I'm here to help, and in more ways than one. . . .
Well, I know Sir Oliver; Lady Caroline knows him too; and if it's
marriage you're after, you might as well whistle the moon.  You don't
believe me?" he wound up, for she was eyeing him with an inscrutable
smile.

She lifted her shoulder a little.  "For the sake of your argument we
will say that it is so."

"Then what's to be the end? I repeat.  Look here, missy.  We spar a bit
when we meet, you and I; but I'd be sorry to see you go the way you're
going.  'Pon my honour I would.  You're as pretty a piece of flesh as a
man could find on this side of the Atlantic, and what's a sharp tongue
but a touch of spice to it?  Piquancy, begad, to a fellow like me! . . .
And--what's best of all, perhaps--you'd pass for a lady anywhere."

She shrank back a pace before this incredible vulgarity; but not even
yet did she guess the man's drift.

"So I put it to you, why not?" he continued, flushing as he came to the
point and contemplated his prey.  "You don't see yourself as a parson's
wife, eh?  You're not the cut.  But for that matter _I'm_ not the
ordinary cut of parson.  T'other side of the water we'd fly high.
They'll not have heard of Port Nassau, over there, nor of the little
nest at Sabines; and with Lady Caroline to give us a jump-off--I have
her promise.  She runs a Chapel of her own, somewhere off St. James's.
Give me a chance to preach to the fashionable--let me get a foot inside
the pulpit door--and, with you to turn their heads in the Mall below,
strike me if I wouldn't finish up a Bishop!  _La belle Sauvage_--they'd
put it around I'd found my beauty in the backwoods, and converted her.
. . . Well, what d'ye say?  Isn't that a prettier prospect than to end
as Sir Oliver's cast-off?"

She put a hand backwards, and found a gate-rail to steady her.

"Ah! . . . How you dare!" she managed to murmur.

"Dare?  Eh! you're thinking of Sir Oliver?"  He laughed easily.
"Lady Caroline will put _that_ all right.  He'll be furious at first, no
doubt; my fine gentleman thinks himself the lion in the fable--when he
shares out the best for himself, no dog dares bark.  But we'll give him
the go-by, and afterwards he can't squeal without showing himself the
public fool. . . . Squeal?  I hope he will.  I owe him one."

At this moment young George and Increase Cordery came past the far
corner of the house with their team, their harness-chains jingling as
they rode afield.  At sight of them a strong temptation assailed Ruth,
but she thrust it from her.

"Sir"--she steadied her voice--"bethink you, please, that I have only to
lift a hand and those two, with their brothers, will drag you through
the farm pond."

Before he could answer, she called to them.  As they turned and walked
their horses towards her she glanced at Mr. Silk, half mischievously in
spite of her fierce anger.  He was visibly perturbed; but his face,
mottled yellow with terror, suggested loathing rather than laughter.

"I am sorry to trouble you, but will you please fetch Mr. Silk's horse?
He must return at once."

When they were gone she turned to him.

"I am sorry to dismiss you thus, sir, after the--the honour you have
done me; the more sorry because you will never understand."

Indeed--his scare having passed--he was genuinely surprised, indignant.

"I understand this much," he answered coarsely, "that I've offered to
make you an honest woman, but you prefer to be--"  The word was on his
tongue-tip, but hung fire there.

She had turned her back on him, and stood with her arms resting for
support on the upper rail of the gate.  She heard him walk away towards
the stable-yard. . . . By-and-by she heard him ride off--heard the click
of the gate behind him.  A while after this she listened, and then bowed
her face upon her arms.



Chapter XV.


THE CHOOSING.


The minutes passed, and still she leaned there.  At long intervals, when
a sob would not be repressed, her shoulders heaved and fell.  But it was
characteristic of Ruth Josselin throughout her life that she hated to
indulge in distress, even when alone.  As a child she had been stoical;
but since the day of her ordeal in Port Nassau she had not once wept in
self-pity.  She had taught herself to regard all self-pity as shameful.

She made no sound.  The morning heat had increased, and across it the
small morning noises of the farm were borne drowsily--the repeated
strokes of a hatchet in the backyard, where young Lemuel split logs; the
voice of Mrs. Cordery, also in the backyard, calling the poultry for
their meal of Indian corn; the opening and shutting of windows as rooms
were redded and dusted; lastly, Miss Quiney's tentative touch on the
spinet.  Sir Oliver in his lordly way had sent a spinet by cart from
Boston; and Tatty, long since outstripped by her pupil, had a trick of
picking out passages from the more difficult pieces of music and
"sampling" them as she innocently termed it--a few chords now and again,
but melodies for the most part, note by note hesitatingly attempted with
one finger.

For a while these noises fell on Ruth's ear unheeded.  Then something
like a miracle happened.

Of a sudden either the noises ceased or she no longer heard them.
It was as if a hush had descended on the farmstead; a hush of
expectancy.  Still leaning on the gate, she felt it operate within
her--an instantaneous calm at first, soothing away the spirit's anguish
as though it were ointment delicately laid on a bodily wound.  Not an
ache, even, left for reminder! but healing peace at a stroke, and in the
hush of it small thrills awaking, stirring, soft ripples scarcely
perceptible, stealing, hesitating, until overtaken by reinforcements of
bliss and urged in a flood, bathing her soul.

_He_ was near!  He must be here, close at hand!

She lifted her head and gazed around.  For minutes her closed eyeballs
had been pressed down upon her arms, and the sunlight played tricks with
her vision.  Strange hues of scarlet and violet danced on the sky and
around the fringes of the elms.

But he was there!  Yes, beyond all doubting it was he. . . .

He had ridden in through the gateway on his favourite Bayard, and with a
led horse at his side.  He was calling, in that easy masterful voice of
his, for one of the Cordery lads to take the pair to stable.
Lemuel came running.

In the act of dismounting he caught sight of her and paused to lift his
hat.  But before dismissing the horses to stable he looked them over, as
a good master should.

He was coming towards her. . . . Three paces away he halted, and his
smile changed to a frown.

"You are in trouble?"

"It has passed.  I am happy now; and you are welcome, my lord."

She gave him her hand.  He detained it.

"Who has annoyed you?  Those women?"

She shook her head.  "You might make a better guess, for you must have
met him on the way.  Mr. Silk was here a while ago."

"Silk?"

"And he--he asked me to marry him."

"The hound!  But I don't understand.  Silk here?  I see the game; he
must have played escort to those infernal women. . . . Somehow I hadn't
suspected it, and Lady Caroline kept that cat in the bag when I
surprised her at Natchett an hour ago.  I wonder why?"

Ruth had a shrewd guess; but, fearing violence, forbore to tell it.

He went on: "But what puzzles me more is, how I missed meeting him."

In truth the explanation was simple enough.  Mr. Silk, turning the
corner of the lane, where it bent sharply around Farmer Cordery's
wood-stacks, had chanced to spy Sir Oliver on a rise of the road to the
eastward, and had edged aside and taken cover behind the stacks.  He was
now making for Natchett at his best speed.

"A while ago, you say?  How long ago?  The thief cannot have gone far--"
Sir Oliver looked behind him.  Clearly he had a mind to call for his
horse again and to pursue.

But Ruth put out a hand.  "He is not worth my lord's anger."

For a moment he stood undecided, then broke into a laugh.
"Was he riding?"

"He was on horseback, to be more exact."

"Then he'll find it a stony long way back to Boston."  He laughed again.
"You see, I've been worrying myself, off and on, about that trick of
Madcap's--I'll be sworn she came within an ace of crossing her legs that
day.  I'd a mind to ride over and bring you Forester--he's a soberer
horse, and can be trusted at timber.  I'd resolved on it, in short, even
before my brother Harry happened to blurt out the secret of Lady
Caroline's little expedition.  Soon as I heard that, I put George the
groom on Forester, and came in chase. . . . I find her ladyship at
Natchett, and after some straight talking I put George in charge of the
conspirators, with instructions to drive them home.  They chose to say
nothing of Silk, and I didn't guess; so now the rogue must either leg it
back or gall himself on a waggon-horse."

"You worried yourself about me?"

"Certainly.  You don't suppose I want my pupil to break her neck?"

"You do Madcap injustice.  Why, yesterday she jumped--she almost flew--
this very gate on which I am leaning."

"The more reason--" he began, and broke off.  His tone had been light,
but when he spoke again it had grown graver, sincerer.  "It is a fact
that I worried about you, but that is not all the reason why I am here.
The whole truth is more selfish. . . . Ruth, I cannot do without you."

She put up a hand, leaning back against the gate as though giddy.

"But why?" he urged, as she made no other response.  "Is it that you
still doubt me--or yourself, perhaps?"

"Both," she murmured.  "It is not so easy as you pretend."  Bliss had
weakened her for a while, but the weakness was passing.

"Those women have been talking to you.  I can engage, whatever they
said, I gave it back to 'em with interest.  They sail by the next ship.
. . . But what did they say?"

"_They say.  What say they? Let them say_," Ruth quoted, her lips
smiling albeit her eyes were moist.  "Does it matter what they said?"

"No; for I can guess.  However the old harridan put it, you were asked
to give me up; and, after all, everything turns on our answer to that.
I have given you mine.  What of yours?"  He stepped close.  "Ruth, will
you give me up?"

She put out her hands as one groping, sightless, and in pain.

"Ah, you are cruel! . . . You know I cannot."




BOOK III.




THE BRIDALS.




Chapter I.



BETROTHED.


Sir Oliver rode back to Boston that same evening.  Ruth had stipulated
that his promise to her folk in the beach cottage still held good; that
when the three years were out, and not a day before, she would return to
them and make her announcement.  Meanwhile, although the coast would
soon be clear of her enemies and he desired to have her near, she begged
off returning to Sabines.  Here at Sweetwater Farm she could ride, with
the large air about her and freedom to think.  It was not that she
shirked books and tutors.  She would turn to them again, by-and-by.
But at Sweetwater she could think things out, and she had great need of
thinking.

He yielded.  He was passionately in love and could deny her nothing.
He would ride over and pay his respects once a week.

So he took his leave, and Ruth abode with the Corderys and Miss Quiney.
Disloyal though she felt it, she caught herself wishing, more than once,
that her lord could have taken dear Tatty back with him to Boston.

I desire to depict Ruth Josselin here as the woman she was, not as an
angel.

Now Tatty, when Sir Oliver had led Ruth indoors and presented her as his
affianced wife, had been taken aback; not scandalised, but decidedly--
and, for so slight a creature, heavily--taken aback.  It is undoubted
that she loved Ruth dearly; nay, so dearly that in a general way no
fortune was too high to befall her darling.  What dreams she had
entertained for her I cannot tell.  Very likely they had been at once
splendid and vague.  Miss Quiney was not worldly-wise, yet her wisdom
did not transcend what little she knew of the world.  She had great
notions of Family, for example.  She had imagined, may be--still in a
vague way--that Sir Oliver would some day provide his _protegee_ with a
mate of good, or at least sufficient, Colonial birth.  She had been
outraged by Lady Caroline's suggestions.  Now this, while it
triumphantly refuted them, did seem to show that Lady Caroline had not
altogether lacked ground for suspicion.

In fine, the dear creature received a shock, and in her flurry could not
dissemble it.

Sir Oliver did not perceive this.  In the first flush of conquest all
men are a trifle fatuous, unobservant.  No woman is.  Miss Quiney's arms
did not suddenly go out to Ruth.  Ruth noted it.  She was just: she
understood.  But (I repeat) she was a woman, and women remember
indelibly whatever small thing happens at this crisis of their lives.

In the end Miss Quiney stretched forth her arms; but at first she seemed
to shrivel and grow very small in her chair.  Nor can her first comment
be called adequate,--

"Dear sir--oh, but excuse me!--this is so sudden!"

Later, when she and Ruth were left alone, she explained, still a little
tremulously, "You took me all of a heap, my dear!  I can hardly realise
it, even now. . . . Such a splendid position!  You will go to London,
I doubt not; and be presented at Court; and be called Lady Vyell. . . .
Have you thought of the responsibilities?"

She had, and she had not.  Her own promised splendours, the command of
wealth and of a great household--this aspect of the future was blank to
her as yet.  But another presented itself and frightened her: it engaged
her conscience in doubts even when she shook it free of fears.
The Family--that mysterious shadow of which Lady Caroline no doubt
showed as the ugliest projection!  Ruth was conscientious.  She divined
that behind Lady Caroline's aggressiveness the shadow held something
truly sacred and worth guarding; something impalpable and yet immensely
solid; something not to be defied or laughed away because inexplicable,
but venerable precisely because it could not be explained; something not
fashioned hastily upon reason, but built by slow accretion, with the
years for its builders--mortared by sentiments, memories, traditions,
decencies, trivialities good and bad, even (may be) by the blood of
foolish quarrels--but founded and welded more firmly, massed more
formidably, than any structure of mere reason; and withal a temple
wherein she, however chastely, might never serve without profaning it.

I do most eagerly desire you, at this point in her story, to be just to
Ruth Josselin.  I wish you to remember what she had suffered, in the
streets, at the hands of self-righteous folk; to understand that it had
killed all religion in her, with all belief in its rites, but not the
essential goodness of her soul.

She at any rate, and according to the light given her, was incurably
just.  Weighing on the one hand her love and Oliver Vyell's, on the
other the half-guessed injury their marriage might do to him and to
others of his race; weighing them not hastily but through long hours of
thought: carrying her doubts off to the hills and there considering them
in solitude, under the open sky; casting out from the problem all of
self save only her exceeding love; this strange girl--made strange by
man's cruelty--decided to give herself in due time, but to exact no
marriage.

Why should she?  The blessing of a clergyman meant nothing to her, as
she was sure it meant nothing to her lover.  Why should she tie him a
day beyond the endurance of his love?  Beyond the death of the thing
itself what sanctity could live in its husk?  And, moreover, in any
event was she not his slave?

So she reasoned: and let the reader call her reasoning by any name he
will.  By some standards it was wicked; by others wrong.  It forgot one
of the strongest arguments against itself, as she was in time to prove.
But let none call her unchaste.


After certain weeks she brought her arguments to him; standing before
him, halting in her speech a little, but entreating him with eyes as
straight as they were modest.  Her very childishness appealed against
her arguments.

He listened, marvelled, and broke into joyous laughter.  He would have
none of it.  Why, she was fit to be a queen!--a thousand times too good
for him. His family?  Their prejudices should fall down before her and
worship.  As little as she did he set store by rites of the Church or
believe in them: but, as the world went, to neglect them would be to
stint her of the chief honour.  Was this fair to him, who desired to
heap honours upon her and would stretch for them even beyond his power?

His passion, rather than his arguments, overbore her.  That passion
rejuvenated him.  Once or twice it choked his voice, and her heart
leapt; for she was a sensible girl and, remembering the dead Margaret
Dance, had schooled herself to know that what was first love with her,
drenching her heart with ecstasy, could never be first love with him.
Yet now and again the miracle declared itself and instead of a lord,
commanding her, he stood before her a boy: and with a boy's halting
speech--ah, so much dearer than eloquence!

Beyond a doubt he was over head and ears in love.  He was honest, too,
in his desire to set her high and make a queen of her.  In Boston, Mr.
Ned Manley, architect of genius, was sitting up into the small hours of
morning; now, between potations of brandy, cursing Sir Oliver for a
slave-driver, while Batty Langton looked on and criticised with a smile
that tolerated a world of fools for the sake of one or two inspired
ones; anon working like a demon and boasting while he worked.
Already on a hillside between Boston and Sweetwater Farm--the hill
itself could be seen from the farmstead, but not their operations, which
lay on the far side--three hundred labourers were toiling in gangs,
levelling, terracing, hewing down forest trees, laying foundations.
Already ships were heading for Boston Harbour with statuary and wrought
marble in their holds, all to beautify a palace meet for Oliver Vyell's
bride.  Thus love wrought in him, in a not extraordinary way if we allow
for his extraordinary means.  He and Ruth, between them, were beginning
to sing the eternal duet of courtship:--

    _He_.--Since that I love, this world has grown;
      Yea, widens all to be possest.
    _She_--Since that I love, it narrows down
      Into one little nest.

    _He_.--Since that I love, I rage and burn
      O'erwhelming Nineveh with Rome!
    _She_.--In vain! in vain! Fond man return--
      Such doings be at home!

He had reached an age to know himself in his own despite.  He was no
boy, to dream of building or overthrowing empires.  But he could build
his love a palace.  His friend Batty Langton bore with all this energy
and smiled wisely.

Ruth guessed nothing of these preparations.  But his vehemence broke
down her scruples, overbore and swept away what she had built in hours
of patient thinking.  She yielded: she would be married, since he willed
it.

But the debate had been; and it left Tatty, with her maxims and
taken-for-granted practicalities, hard to endure at times.

"The outfit?" Tatty would suggest.  "At this distance from civilisation
we cannot even begin to take it in hand.  Yet it should be worthy of the
occasion, and men--speaking with all respect of Sir Oliver--are apt to
overlook these things.  Dear Ruth, I do not know if you have thought of
returning to Sabines. . . . So much handier. . . ."


Ruth, half-wilfully, refused to think of returning to Sabines.

But if Tatty fussed, the Cordery lads made more than recompense for her
fussing.  From the hour when, at supper-time, Sir Oliver led Miss
Josselin into the kitchen, his bride affianced, all discord ceased
between these young men.  He was their master and patron, and they
thenceforth were her servants only--her equal champions should
occasion ever be given.

Thenceforth too, and until the hour when at nightfall she drove away
from Sweetwater Farm, she was their goddess: and as, while Phoebus
served shepherd to Admetus, his fellow swains noted that never had
harvest been so heavy or life so full of sweet and healthy rivalries, so
these young men, who but once or twice saw Ruth Josselin after the hour
of her departure, talked in scattered homesteads all their days of that
good time at Sweetwater, and of the season's wonderful bearings.
Undoubtedly the winter was a genial one--so genial that scarcely a day
denied Ruth a bracing ride: the spring that followed seemed to rain and
shine almost in obedience to Farmer Cordery's evening prayer (and it
never left the Almighty in doubt of his exact wishes).  Summer came, and
the young men, emulous but no longer bickering, scythed down prodigious
swathes; harvest-fall, and they put in their sickles among tall stalk
and full ear.

Sir Oliver and Ruth watched the harvest.  When all was gathered, the
young men begged that she would ride home on the last load.
They escorted her back to the farmstead, walking two-by-two before the
cart, under the young moon.

Next evening at the same hour she bade them farewell and climbed into a
light waggon that stood ready, its lamps throwing long shafts of light.
Horses had been sent on ahead, with two servants for escort, and would
await her at dawn, far on the road; but to-night she would sleep in the
waggon, upon a scented bed of hay.  The reason for this belated start
Sir Oliver kept a secret from her.  There was a certain hill upon the
way, and he would not have her pass it by daylight.  He had returned
that morning to Boston; Miss Quiney with him.

Ruth's eyes were moist to leave these good folk.  Farmer Cordery cleared
his throat and blessed her in parting.  She blessed them in return.

The waggon, after following the Boston road for a while, turned
northward, bearing her by strange ways and through the night towards
Port Nassau.



Chapter II.


THE RETURN.


The breakers boomed up the beach, and in the blown spray Old Josselin
pottered, bareheaded and barefoot.  His eyesight had grown dimmer, but
otherwise his bodily health had improved, for nowadays he ate food
enough: and, as for purblindness, why there was no real need to keep
watch on the sea.  He did it from habit.

Ruth came on him much as Sir Oliver had come on him three years before;
the roar of the breakers swallowing all sound of Madcap's hoofs until
she was close at his shoulder.  Now as then he turned about with a
puzzled face, peered, and lifted his hand a little way as if to touch
his forehead.

"Your ladyship--" he mumbled, noting only her fine clothes.

"Grandfather!"

She slipped down from saddle and kissed him, in sight of the grooms, who
had reined up fifty yards away.

"What?  Ruth, is it? . . . Here's news, now, for your mother, poor
soul!"

"How is she?  Take me to her at once, please."

"Eh! . . . Your mother keeps well enough; though doited, o' course--
doited.  Properly grown you be, too, I must say. . . . I didn't
reckernise ye comin' on me like that.  Inches ye've grown."

"And you--well, you look just the same as ever; only fuller and haler."

"Do I?"  The old man gave her in the old way certain details of his
health.  "But I'm betterin'.  Food's a blessin', however ye come
by it."

On a sudden, as she read his thought, the very tokens of health in his
face accused her . . . and, a moment since, she had been merely glad to
note them.

"Clothes too, ye'll say?  I don't set store by clothes, meself; but a
fine han'some quean they make of ye.  That's a mare, too!  Cost a
hundred guineas, I shouldn't wonder. . . . Well, an' how's the gentleman
keepin'?  Turned into a lord, you told us, in one o' your letters: that,
or something o' the sort."

"Then at any rate you have read my letters?"

"Why, to be sure.  My old eyes can't tackle 'em; but your mother reads
'em out, over an' over, an' I tell her what this an' that means, an' get
the sense into her head somehow."

"Take me to her."  Ruth signalled to the grooms, who came forward.
They were well-trained servants, recent imports from England, and Sir
Oliver had billeted them where they could hear no gossip of her history.
They had kept their distance with faces absolutely impassive while their
mistress kissed and chatted with this old man, and they merely touched
their hats, with a "Very good, miss," when she gave over the mare,
saying she would walk up to the cottage and rest for an hour.

"Oo-oof! the dear old smell!"  Ruth, before she turned, drew in a deep
breath of it.  There was no one near to observe and liken her, standing
there with blown tresses and wind-wrapt skirt on the edge of Ocean, to
the fairest among goddesses, the Sea-born.

She walked up the beach, the old man beside her.

"Ay: you reckernise the taste of it, I dessay.  But you'd not come back
to it, not you. . . . It must be nigh upon dinner: my belly still keeps
time like a clock.  M'ria shall cook us a few clams.  Snuffin' won't
bring it back like clams."  He chuckled, supposing he had made a joke.

Her mother had caught sight of them from the window where she sat as
usual watching the sea.  As they climbed the slope, picking their way
along loosely-piled wreckwood, she opened the door and stood at first
fastening a clean apron and then rubbing her palms up and down upon it,
as though they were sweaty and she would dry them before she shook
hands.

"That's so, M'ria!" the old man shouted cheerfully, as his eyes made out
the patch of white apron in the doorway.  "It's our Ruth, all right--
come to pay us a visit!"  He bawled it, at close quarters.  This was his
way of conveying intelligence to the crazed brain.

Mrs. Josselin, awed by her daughter's appearance--a little perhaps, by
her loveliness; more, belike, by her air of distinction and her fine
dress (though this was simple enough--a riding suit of grey velvet, with
a broad-brimmed hat and one black feather)--withdrew behind her back the
hand she had been wiping, and stood irresolute, smiling in a timid way.

It was horrible.  Ruth stretched out her arms lest in another moment her
mother should bob a curtsy.

"Mother--mother!"

She took the poor creature in her arms and held her, shivering a little
as she sought her lips; for Mrs. Josselin, albeit scrupulously clean,
had a trace of that strange wild smell that haunts the insane.  Ruth had
lived with it aforetime and ceased to notice it.  Now she recognised it,
and shivered.

"Surely, surely," said the mother as soon as the embrace released her.
"I always said you would come back, some day.  In wealth or in trouble,
I always told grandfather you would come back. . . . That hat, now--the
very latest I'll be bound. . . . And how is your good gentleman?"

"Mother!  Please do not call him that!"

"Why, you ha'n't quarrelled, ha' you?"

"Indeed, no."

"That's right." Mrs. Josselin nodded, looking extremely wise.
"Show a good face always, no matter what happens; and, with your looks
there's no saying what you can't persuade him to.  All the Pococks were
good-looking, though I say it who shouldn't: and as for the Josselins--"

"Sit down, mother," Ruth commanded.  She must get this over, and soon,
for it was straining at her heart.  "Sit down and listen to what I have
to tell.  Afterwards you shall get me something to eat; and while you
are dishing it--dear mother, you were always briskest about the
fireplace--we will talk in the old style."

"Surely, surely." Mrs. Josselin seated herself on the block-stool.

"You remember the promise?  In three years--and yesterday the three
years were up--I was to come back and report myself."

"Is it three years, now?  Time _do_ slip away!"

"The gel's right," corroborated old Josselin, pausing as he filled a
pipe.  "I remember it."

"This is what I have to report--Sir Oliver has asked me to marry him."

There was a pause.  "I dunno," said the old man sourly--and Ruth knew
that tone so well!  He always used it on hearing good news, lest he
should be mistaken for genial--"I dunno why you couldn' ha' told us that
straight off, without beatin' round the bush.  It's important enough."

"He has asked me to marry him, and I have said 'yes.'"

"What else _could_ ye say?"

"Of _course_ she said 'yes,' the darling!"  Mrs. Josselin clapped her
hands together, without noise.  "What did I ever say but that 'twas a
chance, if you used it?  But when is it to be?" she added, suspiciously.

"Very soon.  As soon as I please, in fact."

"You take my advice and pin him to it.  The sooner the better--eh,
darling?"

Ruth rose wearily.  "I see the pot boiling," she said with a glance at
the fireplace, "and I have been on horseback since seven o'clock.
Mother, won't you give me food, at least?  I am hungry as a hunter."

--But this was very nearly a fib.  She had been hungry enough, half an
hour ago.  Now her throat worked in disgust--not at the hovel and its
poverty; for these were dear--but at the thought that thus for three
years her dearest had been thinking of her.  It had been the home of
infinite mutual tolerance, of some affection--an affection not patent
perhaps--and for years it had been all she owned.  Now it lived on, but
was poisoned; the atmosphere of the humble place was poisoned, and
through her.

"Food?"--her mother rose.  "Food be sure, and a bed, deary: for you'll
be sleeping here, of course?"

"No.  I go on to Port Nassau; and thence in a few days to a lodging up
in the back country."

"Such a mare as she's ridin' too!" put in the old man.

"I wouldn' put up at Port Nassau, if I was you," said her mother pausing
as she made ready to lift the pot-handle.  "They won't know what you've
told us, and they'll cast up the old shame on you."

"M'ria ha'n't talked so sensible for days," said the old man.
"Joy must ha' steadied her. . . . Clams, is it?  Clams, I hope."


The meal over, Ruth took leave of them, reproaching herself for her
haste, though troubled to have delayed the grooms so long.

She mounted and rode forward thoughtfully.

The grooms did not wear the Vyell white and scarlet, but a sober livery
of dark blue.  Between more serious thoughts Ruth wondered if any one in
Port Nassau would recognise her.

The hostess of the Bowling Green did not, but came to the door and
dropped curtsies to her, as to a grand lady.  She startled Ruth,
however, by respectfully asking her name.

Ruth, who had forgotten to provide against this, had a happy
inspiration.

"I am Miss Ruth," she said.

The landlady desired to be informed how to spell it.  "For," said she,
"I keep a list of all the quality that honour the Bowling Green."

Ruth signed it boldly in the book presented, and ordered supper to be
brought to her room; also a fire to be lit.  She was given the same room
in which she had knelt to pull off Oliver Vyell's boots.

Whilst supper was preparing, in a panic lest she should be recognised
she tied her hair high and wound it with a rope of pearls--her lover's
first gift to her.  In her dress she could make little change.
The waggon following in her wake would be due to-morrow with her boxes;
but for to-night she must rely on the few necessaries of toilet the
grooms had brought, packed in small hold-alls at their saddle bows.

Her fears proved to be idle.  The meal was served by a small maid, upon
whom she once or twice looked curiously.  She wondered if the landlady
scolded her often.

After supper she sat a long while in thought over the fire, shielding
its heat from her with her hands.  They were exquisite hands, but once
or twice she turned them palms-uppermost, as though to make sure they
bore no scars.



Chapter III.


NESTING.


She spent a week in Port Nassau, recognised by none.  She walked its
streets, her features half hidden by a veil; and among the Port
Nassauers she passed for an English lady of quality who, by one of those
freaks from which the wealthy suffer, designed to rent or build herself
a house in the neighbourhood.  Her accent by this time was English; by
unconscious preference she had learnt it from her lover, translating and
adapting it to her own musical tones.  It deceived the Port Nassauers
completely.

She visited many stores, always with a manservant in attendance; and,
always paying down ready-money, bought of the best the little town could
afford (but chiefly small articles of furniture, with some salted
provisions and luxuries such as well-to-do skippers took to sea for
their private tables).  The waggon had arrived; it, too, contained a
quantity of wine and provisions, camp furniture, clothes, etc.

At the end of the week she left Port Nassau with her purchases, the two
men escorting her, the laden waggon following.  They climbed the hill
above the town, and struck inland from the base of the peninsula,
travelling north and by west.  The road--a passably good one--led them
across a dip of cultivated land, shaped like a saddle-back, with a line
of forest trees topping its farther ridge.  This was the fringe of a
considerable forest, and beyond the ridge they rode for miles in the
shade of boughs, slanting their way along a gentle declivity, with here
and there glimpses of a broad plain below, and of a broad-banded river
winding through it with many loops.

But these glimpses were rare, and a stranger could not guess the extent
of the plain until, stepping from the forest into broad day, he found
himself on the very skirts of it.

An ample plain it was; a grass ground of many thousand acres, where
fifty years ago the Indians had pastured, but where now the farmers
laboriously saved their hay when the floods allowed, and in spring
launched their punts and went duck-shooting with long guns and
wading-boots.  For in winter one sheet of water--or of ice, as it might
happen--covered the meadows and made the great river one with the many
brooks that threaded their way to her.  But at this season they ran low
between their banks and the eye easily traced their meanderings, while
the main stream itself rolled its waters in full view--in places three
hundred yards wide, and seldom narrower than one hundred.  Dwarf willows
fringed it: at some distance back from the shore, alders and reddening
maples dotted the meadows, with oaks here and there, and everywhere wild
cranberry bushes in great moss-like hummocks.

It ran sluggishly, and always--however long the curve--up to its near or
right bank the plain lay flat, or broken only by these hummocks.
But from the farther shore the ground rose at a moderate slope, and here
were farmhouses and haystacks planted above reach of the waters.
A high ridge of forest backed this inhabited terrace, and dense forest
filled the eastward gap through which the river passed down to these
levels from the cleft hills.

At one point on the farther shore the houses had drawn together in a
cluster, and towards this the road ran in a straight line on the raised
causeway that had suffered much erosion from bygone floods.  It cost the
travellers an hour to reach the river-bank, where a ferry plied to and
from the village.  It was a horse-boat, but not capable of conveying the
waggon, the contents of which must be unladen and shipped across in
parcels, to be repacked in a cart that stood ready on the village quay.
Leaving her men to handle this, Ruth crossed alone with her mare and
rode on, as the ferryman directed her, past the village towards her
lodging, some two miles up the stream.  The house stood beside a more
ancient ferry, now disused, to which it had formerly served as a tavern.
It rested on stout oaken piles driven deep into the river-mud; a notable
building, with a roof like the inverted hull of a galleon, pierced with
dormer windows and topped by a rusty vane.  Its tenants were a childless
couple--a Mr. and Mrs. Strongtharm: he a taciturn man of fifty, a born
naturalist and great shooter of wildfowl; she a douce woman, with eyes
like beads of jet, and an incurable propensity for mothering and
spoiling her neighbours' children.

The couple received her kindly, asking few questions.  Their dwelling
was by many sizes too large for them, and she might have taken her
choice among a dozen of the old guest-chambers.  But Sir Oliver
had come and gone a month before and selected the best for her.
Its roof-timbers, shaped like the ribs of a ship, curved outwards and
downwards from a veritable keelson; and it was reached by way of a
zig-zagging corridor, lit by port-holes, and adorned in every niche and
corner with cases of stuffed wildfowl.  Ruth supped well on game Mr.
Strongtharm's gun had provided, and slept soundly, lulled between her
dreams by the ripple of water swirling between the piles that supported,
far below her, the house's cellarage.

She awoke at daybreak to the humming of wind; and looked forth on a
leaden sky, on the river ruffled and clapping in small waves against a
shrill north-easter, and on countless birds in flocks rising from the
meadows and balancing their wings against it.  Before breakfast-time the
weather had turned to heavy rain.  But this mattered nothing; she had a
day's work indoors before her.

She spent the morning in unpacking the stores, which had arrived late
overnight from the ferry, and in putting a hundred small touches to her
bedroom and sitting-room, to make them more habitable.  By noon she had
finished the unpacking, and dismissed the two grooms to make their way
back to Boston and report that all was well with her.  It rained until
three in the afternoon; and then, the weather clearing, she saddled
Madcap with her own hands and rode to the edge of the forest.
Little light remained when she reached its outskirts, and she peered
curiously between the dim boles for a few minutes before turning for her
homeward ride.  She had brought a beautiful scheme in her head, and the
forest was concerned in it; but for the moment, in this twilight, the
forest daunted her.  She had--for she differed from most maidens--left
her lover to arrange all the business of the marriage ceremony,
stipulating only that it must be private.  But she had at the same time
bound him by a lover's oath that all details of the honeymoon must be
left to her; that he should neither know where and how it was to be
spent, nor seek to enquire.  She would meet him at the church porch in
the village below--in what garb, even, she would not promise; and after
the ceremony he must be ready to ride away with her--she would not
promise whither.

Her project had been to build a camp far in the woods; and to this end
she had made her many purchases in Port Nassau.  They included, besides
an array of provisions and cooking-pots, a hunter's tent such as the
backwoodsmen used in their expeditions after beaver and moose.
It weighed many pounds, and a part of her problem was how to convey it
to any depth of the forest unaided.

The easterly gale blew itself out.  The next morning broke with rifts of
blue, and steadied itself, after two hours, to clear sunshine.
She awoke in blithe spirits, and after breakfast went off without waste
of time to saddle Madcap.  By the stable door she found Mr. Strongtharm
seated and polishing his gun, and paused to catechise him on the forest
tracks, particularly on those leading up through Soldier's Gap--by which
name he called the gorge at the head of the plain.

"The best track beyond, you'll find, lies pretty close 'longside the
river," he said.  "But 'tis no road for the mare.  I doubt if a mule
could manage it after the third mile.  The river, you see, comes through
in a monstrous hurry--by the look of it here you'd never guess.
No, indeed, 'tisn't a river at all, properly speakin', but a whole heap
o' streams tumblin' down this-a-way, that-a-way, out o' the side
valleys; and what you may call the main river don't run in one body, but
breaks itself up considerable over waterfalls.  Rock for the most part,
an' pretty steep, with splashy ground below the falls.  I han't been
right up the Gap these dozen years; an' a man's job it is at the best--a
two days' journey.  The las' time I slept the night, goin' an' comin',
in Peter Vanders' lodge."

"A lodge?"

"That's what they call it.  He was a trapper, and a famous one, but
before my time; an' that was his headquarters--a sort o' cabin, pretty
stout, just by the head in the sixth fall, or maybe 'tis the seventh--
I forget.  He lived up there without wife or family--"  Mr. Strongtharm
would have launched into further particulars about the dead trapper,
whose skill and strange habits had passed into a legend in the valley.
But Ruth wished to hear more of the cabin.

"It's standin', no doubt, to this day.  Vanders was a Dutchman, an'
Dutchmen build strong by nature.  The man who built _this_ yer house was
a Dutchman, an' look at the piles of it--_an_ the ribs you may ha'
noticed.  Ay, the lodge will be there yet; but you'll never find it, not
unless I takes ye.  That fourth fall is a teaser."

Ruth saddled her mare, and rode off in the direction of the gap,
thoughtfully.  Mr. Strongtharm had given her a new notion. . . .


It was close upon nightfall when she returned.  She was muddy, but
cheerful; and she hummed a song to herself in her chamber as she slid
off her mired garments and attired herself for supper.

That song was her nesting song.  Away Boston-wards, her lover, too, was
building in his magnificent fashion; but Ruth had found a secret place,
such as birds love, and shyly, stealthily as a mating bird, she set
about planning and furnishing.  It is woman's instinct. . . . Every day,
as soon as breakfast was done, she saddled and rode towards the Gap, and
always with a parcel or two dangling from the saddle-bow or strapped
upon Madcap's back.

For the first time in her life she had money to handle; money furnished
by Sir Oliver to be spent at her own disposal on the honeymoon.
It seemed to her a prodigious sum, but she was none the less economical
with it.  I fear that sometimes she opened the bags and gloated over the
coins as over a hoard.  She was neither miser nor spendthrift; but
unlike many girls brought up in poverty, she brought good husbandry to
good fortune.

Yet "shopping"--to enter a store and choose among the goods for sale,
having money to pay, but weighing quality and price--was undeniably
pleasant.  Twice or thrice, bethinking her of some trifle overlooked at
Port Nassau, she enjoyed visiting the village store--it boasted but
one--and dallying with a purchase.

She was riding back from one of these visits--it had been (if the Muse
will smile and condescend) to buy a packet of hairpins--when, half-way
up the village street, she spied a horseman approaching.  An instant
later she recognised Mr. Trask.

There was really nothing strange in her meeting him here.  Mr. Trask
owned a herd of bullocks, and had ridden over from Port Nassau to
bargain for their winter fodder.  He had not aged a day.  His horse was
a tall grey, large-jointed, and ugly.

Ruth wore a veil, but it was wreathed just now above the brim of her
hat.  Her first impulse was to draw it over her face, and her hand went
up; but she desisted in pride, and rode by her old enemy with a calm
face.

They passed one another, and she believed that he had not recognised
her; but after a few paces she heard him check his horse.

"Hi, madam!"

She halted, and he came slowly back.

"You are Ruth Josselin," he said.

"I am, sir."

"And what are you doing here?"

She smiled at him a little scornfully.  "Do you ask as a magistrate,
sir, or in curiosity?"

He frowned, narrowing his eyes.  "You are marvellously changed.
You appear prosperous.  Has Vyell married you yet?"

"No, sir."

"Nor as yet cast you off, it would seem."

"No, sir."

"Ah, well, go your ways.  You are a beautiful thing, but evil; and I
would have saved ye from it.  I whipped ye, remember."

Her face burned, but she held her eyes steady on him.  "Mr. Trask," she
said, "do you believe in hell?"

"Eh?"  He was taken aback, but he could not frown away the question; for
she asked it with a certain authority, albeit very courteously.  "Eh?
To be sure I do."

"I am going to prove to you (and some day you may take comfort from it)
that, except on earth, there is no such place."

"Ye'd like to believe that, I daresay!"

"For you see," she went on, letting the sneer pass, "it is agreed that,
if there be a hell, none but the wicked go there."

"Well?"

"Why, then, hell must defeat itself.  For, where all are wicked
together, no punishment can degrade, because no shame is felt."

"There's the pain, madam."  He eyed her, and barked it in a short,
savage laugh.  "The torment--the worm that dies not, the fire that's not
quenched.  Won't these content ye, bating the shame?"

Her eyes answered his in scorn.  "No, sir.  Because I once suffered your
cruelty, you have less understanding than I; but you have more ingenuity
than the Almighty, being able, in your district, to make a hell of
earth."

"You blaspheme thus to me, that honestly tried to save your soul?"

"Did you? . . . Well, perhaps you did in your fashion, and you may take
this comfort for reward.  Believe me, who have tried, hell is
bottomless, but in its own way.  Should ever you attain to it--and there
may in another world be such a place for the cruel--go down boldly; and
it may be you will drop through into bliss."

"You, to talk of another world!" he snapped.

"And why not, Mr. Trask?  Once upon a time you killed me."

He turned his grey horse impatiently.  "I whipped ye," was his parting
shot.  "If 'twarn't too late, I'd take pleasure to whip ye again!"



Chapter IV.


THE BRIDEGROOM.


Mr. Trask had not concluded the bargain for his winter fodder.
Just a week later he rode over from Port Nassau, to clinch it, and had
almost reached the foot of the descent to the river meadows when a
better mounted rider overtook him.

"Ah!" said the stranger, checking his horse's stride as he passed.
"Good-morning, Mr. Trask!  But possibly you do not remember me?"

"I remember you perfectly," answered Mr. Trask.  "You are Sir Oliver
Vyell."

"Whom, once on a time, you sentenced to the stocks.  You recall our last
conversation?  Well, I bear you no malice; and, to prove it, will ask
leave to ride to the ferry with you.  You will oblige me?  I like
companionship, and my one fellow-traveller--a poor horseman--I have left
some way behind on the road."

"I have no wish to ride with you, Sir Oliver," said Mr. Trask stiffly.
"Forbye that I consider ye a son of Belial, I have a particular quarrel
with you.  At the time you condescend to mention, I took it upon me to
give you some honest advice--not wholly for your own sake.  You flouted
it, and 'that's nothing to me' you'll say; but every step we take
worsens that very sin against which I warned ye, and therefore I want
none of your company."

"Honest Mr. Trask," Sir Oliver answered with a laugh.  "I put it to you
that, having fallen in together thus agreeably, we shall make ourselves
but a pair of fools if one rides ahead of the other in dudgeon.  Add to
this that the ferry-man, spying us, will wait to tide us over together;
and add also, if you will, that I have the better mount and it lies in
my will that you shall neither lag behind nor outstrip me.  Moreover,
you are mistaken."

"I am not mistaken.  This day week I met Ruth Josselin and had speech
with her."

"Satisfactory, I hope?"

"It was not satisfactory; and if I must ride with you, Sir Oliver,
you'll understand it to be under protest.  You are a lewd man.  You have
taken this child--"

Here Mr. Trask choked upon speech.  Recovering, he said the most
unexpected thing in the world.

"I am not as a rule a judge of good looks; and no doubt 'tis unreason in
me to pity her the more for her comeliness.  But as a matter of fact I
do."

Sir Oliver stared at him.  "_You_ to pity her!  _You_ to plead her
beauty to _me_, who took it out of the mud where you had flung her,
mauled by you and left to lie like a bloody clout!"

But the armour of Mr. Trask's self-righteousness was not pierced.
"I sentenced her," he replied calmly, "for her soul's welfare.
Who said--what right have you to assume--that she would have been left
to lie there?  Rather, did I not promise you in the market-square that,
her chastening over, my cart should fetch her?  Did I not keep my word?
And could you not read in the action some earnest that the girl would be
looked after?  Your atheism, sir, makes you dull in spiritual
understanding."

"I am glad that it does, sir."

"If your passion for Ruth Josselin held an ounce of honesty, you would
not be glad; for even in this world you have ruined her."

"Mr. Trask, I have not."

Mr. Trask glanced at him quickly.

"--Upon my honour as a gentleman I have not, neither do I desire
it . . . Sir, twice in this half-mile you have prompted me to ask,
What, here on this meadow, prevents my killing you?  Wait; I know your
answer.  You are a courageous man and would say that as a magistrate you
have schooled yourself to accept risks and to despise threats.  Yes,"
Sir Oliver admitted with a laugh, "you are an infernally hard nut to
crack, and somehow I cannot help liking you for it.  Are you spending
the night yonder, by-the-bye?"  He nodded towards the village.

"No, sir.  I propose returning this evening to Port Nassau."

"Then it is idle to invite you to my wedding.  I am to be married at
nine o'clock to-morrow."

Mr. Trask eyed him for a moment or two.  Then his gaze wandered ahead to
the river, where already the ferrymen had caught sight of them and were
pushing the horse-boat across with long sweeps; and beyond the river to
a small wooden-spired church, roofed with mossy shingles that even at
this distance showed green in the slant sunlight.

"Yonder?" he asked.

"Ay: you would have been welcome."

"I will attend," said Mr. Trask.  "A friend of mine--a farmer--will
lodge me for the night.  A hospitable man, who has made the offer a
score of times.  After so many refusals I am glad of an excuse for
accepting."

"I stipulate that you keep the excuse a secret from him.  It is to be
quite private.  That," said Sir Oliver, turning in saddle for a look
behind him, "is one of my reasons for outriding my fellow-traveller."

"The clergyman?"

"Ay . . . To-morrow, maybe, you'll admit to having misjudged us."

"Maybe," Mr. Trask conceded.  "I shall at any rate thank God,
provisionally.  He is merciful.  But I have difficulty in believing that
any good can come of it."



Chapter V.


RUTH'S WEDDING DAY.


She had left it all to him, receiving his instructions by letter.
It was to be quite private, as he had told Mr. Trask.  She would ride
down to the village in her customary grey habit, as though on an early
errand of shopping.  He would lodge overnight at the Ferry Inn, and be
awaiting her by the chancel step.  Afterwards--ah, that was her secret!
In this, their first stage in married life, he had promised--reversing
the marriage vow--to obey.

Happiness bubbled within her like a spring; overshadowed by a little
awe, but not to be held down.  Almost at the last moment she must take
Mrs. Strongtharm into her confidence.  She could not help it.

"Granny," she whispered.  (They were great friends.) "I am to be married
to-morrow."

"Sakes!" exclaimed Mrs. Strongtharm, peering at her, misdoubting that
she jested.

But Ruth's face told its own tale.  "May I?" asked the elder woman, and
her arm went about the girl's waist.  "God bless ye, dear, and send ye a
long family!  Who's the gentleman?  Not him as came an' took the rooms
for ye?  He said you was a near relation o' his. . . . Well, never mind!
The trick's as old as Abram."

"Be down at the church at nine to-morrow, and you shall see him, whoever
he is.  But it is a secret, and you are not to tell Mr. Strongtharm."

"Oh!" said Mrs.  Strongtharm.  "_Him!_"


"But you ought to make _some_ difference," whispered the good woman next
morning, after breakfast, as she was preparing to slip away to the
village.  "Be it but a flower in your bodice.  But we've no garden, and
the season's late."

Ruth took her kiss of benediction.  She was scarcely listening; but the
words by a strange trick repeated themselves on her brain a few minutes
later, upstairs, as she went about her last preparations.

She leaned out at the lattice over the river.  A lusty creeper, rooted
in _terra firma_ at the back of the house, had pushed its embrace over
west side and front.  The leaves, green the summer through, were now
turned to a vivid flame-colour.  She plucked three or four and pinned
them over her bosom, glanced at the effect in the mirror, and went
quickly down the stairs.

Fairer day could hardly have been chosen.  "Happy is the bride the sun
shines on." ...  In the sunshine by the stable door Mr. Strongtharm sat
polishing his gun.  She asked him what sport he would be after to-day.

He answered, "None.  I don't reckon 'pon luck, fishing, after a body's
mentioned rabbits; and I don't go gunning if I've seen a parson.
A new parson, I mean.  Th' old Minister's all in the day's work."

"You have seen a strange clergyman to-day?"

"Yes; as I pulled home past the Ferry.  I'd been down-stream early,
tryin' for eels.  On my way back I saw him--over my left shoulder too.
He was comin' out o' the Inn by the waterside door, wipin' his mouth: a
loose-featured man, with one shoulder higher than t'other, and a hard
drinker by his looks."

Ruth saddled-up and mounted in silence.  Fatally she recognised the old
fellow's description; but--was it possible her lover had brought this
man to marry them?--this man, whose touch was defilement, to join their
hands?  If the precisians of Port Nassau had made religion her tragedy,
this man had come in, by an after-blow, to turn it into a blasphemous
farce.  If Ruth had lost Faith, she yet desired good thoughts, to have
everything about her pure and holy--and on this day, of all days!

Surely Oliver--she had taught herself to call him Oliver--would never
misunderstand her so!  Why, it was a misunderstanding that went down,
down, almost to the roots.  _Those whom God hath joined together let no
man put asunder_ . . . but here was cleavage, and from within.
Say rather of such sundering.  What man could remedy it?  _Those whom
God hath joined together_--ah, by such hands!

It was not possible!  In all things her lover had shown himself
considerate, tender; guessing, preventing her smallest wish.
As she rode she sought back once more to the wellspring of love.
Had he not stooped to her as a god, lifted her from the mire?
It was not possible.

Yet, as she rode, the unconquerable common sense within her kept
whispering that this thing _was_ possible. . . . It darkened the
sunlight.  She rode as one who, having sung carelessly for miles,
surmises a dreadful leap close ahead.  Still she rode on, less and less
sure of herself, and came to the church porch, and alighted.

The church was a plain oblong building, homely within to the last
degree.  The pews were of pitch-pine, the walls and rafters coated with
white-wash, some of which had peeled off and lay strewing the floor.
A smell of oil filled the air; it was sweet and sickly, and came from
the oozings of half a dozen untended lamps.  Ornament the place had
none, save a decent damask cloth on the Communion table.

Oliver Vyell stood by the chancel rail.  The rest of the congregation
comprised Mr. Trask, seated stiff and solitary in the largest pew, Mrs.
Strongtharm, and half a score of children whom Mrs. Strongtharm had
collected on the way and against her will.  They followed her by habit,
after goodies; but just now, though they sat quiet, her reputation was
suffering from a transient distrust.  (Allurements to piety rarely fell
in the path of a New England child; but even he was child enough to
suspect them when they occurred.) At the sound of the mare's footsteps
they turned their heads, one and all.  Mr. Silk, clad in white surplice
and nervously turning the pages of the Office by the holy table, faced
about also.

Ruth was seen alighting, out there in the sunlight.  She hitched the
mare's bridle over a staple and came lightly stepping through the shadow
of the porchway.  Her lover walked down the aisle to meet her.  He, too,
stepped briskly, courteously.

Three paces within the doorway she came to a halt.  The sunlight fell on
her again, through the first of the southern windows.  It flamed on the
leaves pinned to her bosom.

He offered his arm.  But she, that had come stepping like a wild fawn,
like a fawn stood at gaze, terrified, staring past him at the figure by
the table.  Mr. Silk commanded an oily smile and, book in hand, advanced
to the chancel step.

"Ah, no!" she murmured.  "It is wicked--"

She cast her eyes around, as though for help.  They did not turn--it was
pitifullest of all--to him who was about to swear to help her throughout
life.  They turned and encountered Mr. Trask's.

With a sob, as Sir Oliver would have taken her arm, she threw it up,
broke from him, and fled back through the porchway.  As she drew back
that one pace before fleeing, the sun fell full again on that
breast-knot of scarlet leaves.

He stared after her dumbfoundered, still doubting her intent.
He saw her catch at the mare's bridle, and, with a bitter curse, ran
forward.  But he was too late.  She had mounted, and was away.

He heard the mare's hoofs clattering up the street.  His own horse was
stabled at the Ferry Inn.  It would cost him ten minutes at least to
mount and pursue. . . .

"I said 'provisionally.'"  It was Mr. Trask's voice, speaking at his
elbow.  "Nay, man, don't strike me; since you meant business, 'tis
yourself you should strike for a fool.  You were a fool to invite me;
but she was scared before ever she caught sight of _me_--by that
buck-parson of yours, I guess."


He had fetched Bayard, had mounted, and was after her.  He pulled rein
at her lodgings.  Yes, Mr. Strongtharm had seen her go by.
The old fellow did not guess what was amiss; as how should he?
"It's cruel for the mare's hoofs," he commented, "forcing her that pace
on the hard road.  She rides well, s' far as ridin' goes; but the best
womankind on horseback has neither bowels nor understandin'."

He pointed towards Soldiers' Gap.  "She rides there most days," he said;
"but it can't be far.  There's no Christian road for a horse, once
you're past the second fall."

Oliver Vyell struck spur and followed.  Already he had the decency to
curse himself, but not yet could he understand his transgressing.


"Your atheism"--Mr. Trask had said it--"makes you dull in spiritual
understanding."

Sceptics are of two orders, and religious disputants gain a potential
advantage, but miss truth, by confusing them.  Oliver Vyell was dull,
and his dullness had betrayed him, precisely because his reason was so
lucid and logical that it shut out those half-tones in which abide all
men's, all women's, tenderest feelings.  He knew that Ruth had no more
faith than he in Christian dogma; no faith at all in what a minister's
intervention could do to sanctify marriage.  He had inferred that she
must consider the tying of the knot by Mr. Silk, if not as a fair jest,
at least as a gentle mockery, the humour of which he and she would
afterwards taste together.  Why had she not pleaded against rite of any
kind? . . . Besides, the dog had once insulted her with a proposal.
Sir Oliver never allowed Mr. Silk to guess that he had surprised his
secret; and Mr. Silk, tortuous himself in all ways, could not begin to
be on terms with a candid soul such as Ruth's, craving in all things to
be open where it loves.  Sir Oliver had supposed it a pretty lesson to
put on a calm, negligent face, and command the parson, who dared not
disobey, to perform the ceremony.  Mr. Silk had cringed.

Likewise, when inviting Mr. Trask to the nuptials, he had looked on him
but as a witness to his triumph.  The very man who had sentenced her to
degradation--was there not dramatic triumph in summoning him to behold
her exalted?

For behind all this reasoning, of course, and below all his real passion
for her, lay the poisonous, proud, Whig sense of superiority, the
conviction that, desirable though she was, his choice exalted her.
Would not ten thousand women--would not a hundred thousand--have counted
it heaven to stand in her place?

Yet she had earnestly begged off the rite which to every one of these
women would have meant everything.  This puzzled him.

On second thoughts the puzzle had dissolved.  She accepted his
negations, and, woman-like, improved on them.  The marriage service was
humbug; therefore she had willed to have none of it.  The attitude was
touching.  It might have been convenient, had he been less in love.

But he was deeply in love, so deeply that in good earnest he longed to
lift and set her above all women.  For this, nonsensical though they
were, due rites must be observed.

At the last pinch she had broken away.  Was it possible, then, that
after all she did not love him?  She had crossed her arms once and
called herself his slave. . . .

Not for one moment did he understand that other scepticism which, forced
out of faith, clasps and clings to reverence; which, though it count the
rite inefficient, yet sees the meaning, and counts the moment so holy
that to contaminate the rite is to poison all.

Not as yet did he understand one whit of this.  But he vehemently
desired her, and his desire was straight.  Because it was straight,
while he rode some inkling of the truth pierced him.

For, as he rode, he recalled how she had cast up an arm and turned to
flee.  His eyes had rested confusedly on the breast-knot of scarlet
leaves, and it seemed to him, as he rode, that he had seen her heart
beating there through her ribs.



Chapter VI.


"YET HE WILL COME--".


The cabin stood close above the fall.  It was built of oak logs split in
two, with the barked and rounded sides turned outward.  Pete Vanders
would have found pine logs more tractable and handier to come by, and
they would have outlasted his time; but, being a Dutchman, he had built
solidly by instinct.

Also, he had chosen his ledge cunningly or else with amazing luck.
A stairway shaped in the solid rock--eight treads and no more--led down
to the very brink of the first cascade; yet through all these years,
with their freshets and floods, the cabin had clung to its perch.
Within doors the ears never lost the drone of the waters.  There were
top-notes that lifted or sank as the wind blew, but below them the deep
bass thundered on.

Ruth had doffed her riding-dress for a bodice and short skirt of russet,
and moved about the cabin tidying where she had tidied a score of times
already.  Through the window-opening drifted wisps of smoke, aromatic
and pungent, from the fire she had built in an angle of the crags a few
yards from the house.  (It had been the Dutchman's hearth.  She had
found it and cleared the creepers away, and below them the rock-face was
yet black with the smoke of old fires.) Some way up the gorge, where, at
the foot of a smaller waterfall, the river divided and swirled about an
island covered with sweet grass--a miniature meadow--her mare grazed at
will.  About a fortnight ago, having set aside three days for the
search, on the second Ruth had found a circuitous way through the woods.
A part of it she had cleared with a billhook, and since then Madcap had
trodden a rough pathway with her frequent goings and comings.
It had immensely lightened the labour of furnishing, but she feared that
the pasturage would last but a day or two.  Her lover, when he came,
must devise means of sending the mare back.

She never doubted his coming.  He would probably miss the bridle-path,
the opening of which she had carefully hidden, and be forced to make the
ascent on foot.  But he would come.  See, she was laying out his clothes
for him!  He had sent to Sweetwater, at her request, two valises full,
packed by Manasseh; and she had conveyed them hither with the rest of
the furniture.  Carefully now she made her selection from the store:
coat, breeches of homespun and leather, stout boots, moccasined leggings
such as the Indians wore, woollen shirts--but other shirts also of
finest cambric--with underclothes of silk, and delicate nightshirts, and
silken stockings that could be drawn like soft ribbons between the
fingers.  She thrilled as she handled them garment by garment.
Along the wall hung his two guns, with shot-bag and powder-flask.

Here was his home.  Here were his clothes. . . . She had forgiven him,
hours ago, without necessity for his pleading.  So would he forgive her.
After all, what store did he set by church ceremony.  He had vowed to
her a dozen times that he set none.  He loved her; that was enough, and
assurance of his following.  He would confess that she had been right.
 . . . As she moved about, touching, smoothing this garment and that,
there crossed her memory the Virgilian refrain--

          "_Nihil ille deos, nil carmina curat.
     Ducite ab urbe domum, mea carmina, ducite Daphnin._"

She murmured it, smiling to herself as she recalled also the dour figure
of Mr. Hichens in the library at Sabines, seated stiffly, listening
while she construed.  If only tutors guessed what they taught!

She hummed the lines: "_Nihil ille deos_"--he cared nothing for church
rites; "_nil carmina_"--she needed no incantations.

She never doubted that he would arrive; but, as the day wore on, she
told herself that very likely he had missed his road.  He would arrive
hungered, in any event. . . . She stepped out to the cooking-pot, and,
on her way, paused for a long look down the glen.  The sun, streaming
its rays over the high pines behind her, made rainbows in the spray of
the fall and cast her shadow far over the hollow at her feet.
The water, plunging past her, shot down the valley in three separate
cascades, lined with slippery rock, in the crevices of which many ferns
had lodged and grew, waving in the incessantly shaken air.  From the
pool into which the last cascade tumbled--a stone dislodged by her foot
dropped to it almost plumb--the stream hurtled down the glen, following
the curve of its sides until they overlapped; naked cliffs above,
touched with sunlight, their feet set in peat, up which the forest trees
clambered as if in a race for the top--pines leading, with heather and
scrubby junipers, oaks and hemlocks some way behind; alders, mostly by
the waterside, with maples in swampy patches, and here and there a birch
waving silver against the shadow.  The pines kept their funereal plumes,
like undertakers who had made a truce with death by making a business of
it.  But these deciduous trees, that had rioted in green through spring
and summer, wrapped themselves in robes to die, the thinner the more
royal; the maples in scarlet, the swamp-oak in purple--bloody purple
where the sun smote on its upper boughs.  Already the robes had worn
thin, and their ribs showed.  Leaves strewed the flat rock where Ruth
stood, looking down.

She was not thinking of the leaves, nor of the fall of the year.
She was thinking that her lord would be hungered.  She went back to her
cooking-pot under the cliff overhung with heath and juniper.

Herself fearless--or less fearful than other women--she did not for some
time let her mind run on possible accidents to him.  He was a man, and
would arrive, though tired and hungered.  Not until the sun sank behind
the upper pines did any sense of her own loneliness assail her.
Then she bethought her that with night, if he delayed, the forest would
wrap her around, formless, haunted by wild beasts.  The singing of
birds, never in daylight utterly drowned by the roar of the fall, had
ceased about her; the call of the hidden chickadees, the cheep-cheep of
a friendly robin, hopping in near range of the cooking-pot, the sawing
of busy chipmunks.

These sounds had ceased; but she did not feel the silence until, far up
the valley behind her, a loon sent forth its sole unhappy cry.
It rang a moment between the cliffs.  As it died away she felt how
friendly had been these casual voices, and wondered what beasts the
forest might hold.

She went back to the cabin, lit a lamp, and lifted one of the guns off
its rack.  She charged it--well she had learnt how to charge a gun.

Twilight was falling.  The fire burned beneath the cooking-pot; but,
seated on the flat stone with the gun laid across her knees and the fall
sounding beneath her, she had another thought--that the fire, set in an
angle of the rock, and moreover hidden around the house's corner, was
but a poor signal.  It shed no ray down the glen.

She would light another fire on the flat stone.  In the dusk she
collected dry twigs, piled stouter sticks above them, covered the whole
with leaves, and lit it, fetching a live brand from under the
cooking-pot.  The flame leapt up, danced over the leaves, died down and
again revived.  When assured that it was caught, she sat beside it,
staring across the flame over the valley now swallowed in darkness,
still with the gun laid across her knees.

"Ruth!  O Ruth!"

His voice came up over the roar of the fall--which, while he stumbled
among the boulders below, had drowned his footsteps.

"Dear!  Ah--have a care!"

"Yes; hold a light. . . . It must be dangerous here."

She snatched a brand from the fire.  She had collected a fresh heap of
twigs and leaves in the lap of her gown, groping in the dusk for them;
and his first sight of her had been as she stood high emptying them in a
red stream to feed the flames.  A witch she seemed, pouring sacrifice on
that wild altar, while the light of it danced upon her face and figure.
Having gained the ledge of the second cascade, he anchored himself on
good foothold and stared up, catching breath before he hailed.

Her first glimpse of him, as she held the blazing stick over the edge of
the fall, was of a face damp with sweat or with spray, and of his hands
reaching up the slimed rock, feeling for a grip.

"Ah, be careful!  Shall I come down to you?"  For the first time she
realised his peril.

"_Over rocks that are steepest_," he quoted gaily, between grunts of
hard breathing.  He had handhold now.  "Hero on her tower--and faith,
Leander came near to swimming for it--once or twice" (grunt) "_Over the
mountains, And over the waves_--hullo! that rock of yours overhangs.
What's to the left?" (grunt) "Grass?  I mistrust grass on these ledges.
 . . . Reach down your hand, dear Ruth, to steady me only. . . ."

She flung herself prone on the flat rock beside the fire, and gave a
hand to him.  He caught it, heaved himself over the ledge with a final
grunt of triumph, and dropped beside her, panting and laughing.

"You might have killed yourself!" she shivered.

"And whom, then, would you have reproached?"

"You might have killed yourself--and then--and then I think I should
have died too."

"Ruth!"

"My lord will be hungry.  He shall rest here and eat."

He flung a glance towards the cabin; or rather--for the dusk hid its
outlines--towards the light that shone cosily through the window-hatch.

"Not yet!" she murmured.  "My lord shall rest here for a while."
She was kneeling now to draw off his shoes.  He drew away his foot,
protesting.

"Child, I am not so tired, but out of breath, and--yes--hungry as a
hunter."

"My lord will remember.  It was the first service I ever did for him."
It may have been an innocent wile to anchor him fast there and helpless.
 . . . At any rate she knelt, and drew off his shoes and carried them to
a little distance.  "Next, my lord shall eat," she said; and having
rinsed her hands in the stream and spread them a moment to the flame to
dry, sped off to the cabin.

In a minute she was back with glasses and clean napkins, knives, forks,
spoons, and a bottle of wine; from a second visit she returned with
plates, condiments, and a dish of fruit.  Then, running to the
cooking-pot, she fetched soup in two bowls.  "And after that," she
promised, "there will be partridges.  Mr. Strongtharm shot them for me,
for I was too busy.  They are turning by the fire on a jack my mother
taught me to make out of threads that untwist and twist again. . . .
Shall I sit here, at my lord's feet?"

"Sit where you will, but close; and kiss me first.  You have not kissed
me yet--and it is our wedding day.  Our wedding feast!  O Ruth--Ruth, my
love!"

"Our wedding feast! . . . Could it be better!  O my dear, dear lord!
 . . . But I'll not kiss you yet."

"Why, Ruth?"

"Why, sir, because I will not--and that's a woman's reason.
Afterwards--but not now!  You boasted of your hunger.  What has become
of it?"


They ate for a while in silence.  The stream roared at their feet.
Above them, in the gap of the hills, Jupiter already blazed, and as the
last of the light faded, star after star came out to keep him company.

He praised her roasting of the partridges.  "To-morrow," she answered,
"you shall take your gun and get me game.  We must be good providers.
To-morrow--"

"To-morrow--and for ever and ever--"  He poured wine and drank it
slowly.

"Ah, look up at the heavens!  And we two alone.  Is this not best,
after all?  Was I not right?"

"Perhaps," he answered after a pause.  "It is good, at all events."

"To-morrow we will explore; and when this place tires us--but my lord
has not praised it yet--"

"Must I make speeches?"

"No.  When this place tires us, we will strike camp and travel up
through the pass.  It may be we shall find boatmen on the upper waters,
and a canoe.  But for some days, O my love, let these only woods be
enough for us!"

Their dessert of fruit eaten, she arose and turned to the business of
washing-up.  He would have helped; but she mocked him, having hidden his
shoes.  "You are to rest quiet, and obey!"

Before setting to work she brought him coffee and a roll of
tobacco-leaf, and held a burning stick for him while he lit and inhaled.

For twenty minutes, perhaps, he watched her, stretched on the rock,
resting on his elbow, his hunger appeased, his whole frame fatigued, but
in a delicious weariness, as in a dream.

Far down the valley the full moon thrust a rim above the massed oaks and
hemlocks.  It swam clear, and he called to her to come and watch it.

She did not answer.  She had slipped away to the house--as he supposed
to restore the plates to their shelves.  Apparently it took her a long
while. . . . He called again to her.

The curtain of the doorway was lifted and she stood on the threshold,
all in white, fronting the moon.

"Will my lord come into his house?"

Her voice thrilled down to him. . . . Then she remembered that he stood
there shoeless; and, giving a little cry, would have run barefoot down
the moonlit rocky steps, preventing him.

But he had sprung to his unshod feet, and with a cry rushed up to her,
disregarding the thorns.

She sank, crossing her arms as a slave--in homage, or, it may be, to
protect her maiden breasts.

"No, no--" she murmured, sliding low within his arms.  "Look first
around, if our house be worthy!"

But he caught her up, and lifting her, crushing her body to his, carried
her into the hut.



Chapter VII.


HOUSEKEEPING.


She awoke at daybreak to the twittering of birds.  Raising herself
little by little, she bent over him, studying the face of her beloved.
He slept on; and after a while she slipped from the couch, collected her
garments in a bundle, tiptoed to the door, and lifting its curtain,
stole out to the dawn.

Mist filled the valley below the fall.  A purple bank of vapour blocked
the end of it.  But the rolling outline was edged already with gold, and
already ray upon ray of gold shivered across the upper sky and touched
the pinewoods at the head of the pass.

Clad in cloak and night-rail, shod in loose slippers of Indian
leather-work, she moved across to the fire she had banked overnight.
Beside it a bold robin had perched on the rim of the cooking-pot.
He fluttered up to a bough, and thence watched her warily.  She remade
the fire, building a cone of twigs; fetched water, scoured the cauldron,
and hung it again on its bar.  As she lifted it the sunlight glinted on
the ring her lover had brought for the wedding and had slipped on her
finger in the cabin, binding her by this only rite.

The fire revived and crackled cheerfully.  She caught up the bundle
again and climbed beside the stream, following its right bank until she
came to the pool of her choice.  There, casting all garments aside, she
went down to it, and the alders hid her.

Half an hour later she returned and paused on the threshold of the hut,
the sunlight behind her.  In her arms she carried a cluster--a bundle
almost--of ferns and autumnal branches--cedar and black-alder, the one
berried with blue the other with coral, maple and aromatic spruce, with
trails of the grape vine.  He was awake and lay facing the door,
half-raised on his left elbow.

"This for good-morning!"  She held out the armful to show him, but so
that it hid her blushes.  Then, dropping the cluster on the floor, she
ran and knelt, bowing her face upon the couch beside him.  But laying a
palm against either temple he forced her to lift it and gaze at him,
mastering the lovely shame.

He looked long into her eyes.  "You are very beautiful," he said slowly.

She sprang to her feet.  "See the dew on my shoes!  I have bathed,
and--" with a gesture of the hand towards the scattered boughs--
"afterwards I pulled these for you.  But I was in haste and late
because--because--"  She explained that while bathing she had let the
ring, which was loose and heavy, slip from her finger into the pool.
It had lodged endwise between two pebbles, and she had taken some
minutes to find it.  "As for these," she said, "the flowers are all
done, but I like the leaves better.  In summer our housekeeping might
have been make-believe; now, with the frosts upon us, we shall have hard
work, and a fire to give thanks for."

He slid from the couch and, standing erect, threw a bath-gown over his
shoulders.  "I must build a chimney," he said, looking around; "a
chimney and a stone hearth."

"Then our house will be perfect."

"I will start this very day. . . . Show me the way to your pool."


They ate their breakfast on the stone above the fall, in the warm
sunshine, planning and talking together like children.  He would build
the chimney; but first he must climb down to the lower valley and find
Bayard, deserted at the foot of the falls, and left to wander all night
at will.

He must take the mare, too, she said; and promised to start him on the
bridle-path, so that he could not miss it.

"What!  Must I ride on a side-saddle?"

"It should be easy for you," she laughed.  "You pretended to know all
about it when you taught me."  In the end it was settled that she should
ride and he walk beside till Bayard was found.  "Then you can lead her
back and leave her with Mr. Strongtharm."

"But I shall need Bayard to bring home a sack of lime for my mortar.
And you are over thoughtful for Madcap.  I walked up to inspect the
pasture, and there is enough to last the pair for a week.  It is odds,
too, we find some burnt lands at the back of these woods, with patches
of good grass.  Let us keep the horses up here, at any rate until the
nights turn colder.  A taste of hard faring will be good for their
pampered flesh, as for mine.  Besides--though you may not know it--I am
a first-class groom."

"As well as a mason?  You will have to turn hunter, too, before long,
else your cook will be out of work.  Dear, dear, how we begin to crowd
the days!"


For a whole week he worked at intervals, building his chimney with
stones from the river bed, and laying them well and truly.  Ruth helped
him at whiles, when household duties did not claim her.  Now and then,
when his back ached with the toil, he would break off for a spell and
watch her as she stooped over the cooking-pot, or knelt by the
stream-side, bare-legged, with petticoat kilted high, beating the linen
on a flat stone.

When the chimney was finished they were in great anxiety lest, being
built close under the cliff, it should catch a down-draught of the wind
and fill the dwelling with smoke.  But the wind came, and, as it turned
out, made a leap from the cliff to the valley, singing high overhead and
missing the chimney clear.  When they lit their first fire indoors and
ran forth to see the smoke rising in a thin blue pillar against the
pines, they laughed elated, and at supper drank to their handiwork.

Ruth's first sacrifice on the new hearth was the solemn heating of a
flat iron, to crimp and pleat her lover's body-linen.

Next day he shot a deer and flayed it; and, the next, set to work to
build a bed.  Their couch had been of white linen laid upon skins, the
skins resting on a thick mat of leaves.  Now he raised it from the
ground on four posts, joining the posts with a stout framework and
lacing the framework with cords criss-crossed like the netting of a
hammock.  Also he replaced the curtain at the entrance with a door of
split pinewood, and fashioned a wooden bolt.

The halcyon weather held for two weeks, the delicate weather of Indian
summer.  Day by day the forest dropped its leaves under a blue windless
sky; but the nights sharpened their frosts.  Ruth, stealing early to her
bathing-pool, found it edged with thin ice, and paused, breaking it with
taps of her naked foot while she braced her body for the cold shock.

The flat rock over the fall was still their supper-table.  After supping
they would wrap themselves closer in their cloaks of bearskin, and sit
for long, his arm about her body.  The stars wheeled overhead.
At a little distance shone the open window inviting them.
From their ledge they overlooked the world.


She marvelled at the zest he threw into every moment and detail of this
strange honeymooning.  He had taken pride even in skinning and cutting
up the slain deer.

She had, in fact, being fearful of her experiment; had planned it, in
some sort, as a test for him.  She was no sentimentalist.  She had
believed that he loved her--well she knew it now.  But for him this
could not be first love.  Many times she had bethought her of the dead
Margaret Dance, and as a sensible girl without resentment.  But, herself
in the ecstasy of first love, she marvelled how it could die and
anything comparable spring up in its room; and she had only her own
heart to interrogate.  Her own heart told her that it was impossible.
"Fool!" said her own heart.  "Is it not enough that he condescends--that
you have found favour in his sight--you, that asked but to be his
slave?"

"Fool!" said her heart again.  "Would you be jealous of this dead woman?
Then jealousy is not cruel as the grave, but crueller."

And she retorted, "The woman is dead and cannot grudge it.
Ah, conscience! are you the only part of me that has not slept in his
arms.  I want him all--all!"

"How can that be--since you are not his first love?" objected
conscience, falling back upon its old position.

"Be still," she whispered back.  "See how love is recreating him!"

Indeed, the secret may have lain in her passing loveliness--by night,
beside their fire on the rock, he would sit motionless watching her face
for minutes together, or the poise of her head, or the curve of her chin
as she tilted it to ponder the stars; and, in part, the woodland life,
chosen by her so cunningly, may have bewitched him for a space.  Certain
it is that during their sojourn here he became a youth again, eager and
glad as a youth, passionate as a youth, laughing, throwing his heart
into simple things and not shrinking from coarser trials--as when he
plunged his hands into the blood of the deer.

This story is of Ruth, not of Oliver Vyell; or of him only in so far as
his star ruled hers.  For the moment their stars danced together and the
common cares of this world stood back for a space and left a floor for
them.

Their bliss was absolute.  But the seed of its corruption lay in him.
Her spirit was chaste, as her life had been.  For him, before ever
Margaret Dance met and crossed his path, he had lived loosely,
squandering his manhood; and of this squandering let one who later
underwent it record the inevitable sentence.

    "But ah! it hardens all within,
     And petrifies the feeling."

Nor could this temporary miracle do more for Oliver Vyell than wake in
him a false springtide of the heart and delay by so long the revenge of
his past upon his present self.


Midway in the third week the weather broke.  He had foreseen this, and
early one morning set forth upon Bayard, the mare following obediently
as a dog, along the downhill circuit to the village.  There he would
leave them in stall at the Ferry Inn, to be fetched by his grooms.
Ruth walked some way beside him, telling off a list of purchases to be
made at the village store to replenish their household stock.

She left him and turned back, under boughs too bare to hide the lowering
sky.  She had gained the hut and he the village before the storm broke.
Indeed it gave him time to make his purchases and reach the Inn, where a
heavy mail-bag awaited him.  He was served with bread, cheese, and beer
in the Inn parlour, and dealt with the letters then and there; answering
some, tearing up others, albeit still with a sense of bringing back his
habits of business to a world with which he had no concern.  While he
wrote, always in haste, on the cheap paper the Inn supplied, the storm
broke and with such darkness that he pulled out his watch.  It was yet
early afternoon.  He called for candles and wrote on.

The last letter, addressed to Batty Langton, Esquire, he superscribed
"_Most urgent_," and having sealed it, arose and shouldered his sack for
the homeward tramp.  By this time the wind howled through the village
street, blowing squall upon squall of rain before it.  It blew, too,
dead in his path; but he faced it cheerfully.

Before he gained what should have been the shelter of the woods, the
gale had increased so that they gave less than the road had given.
The trees rocked above him; leaves and dead twigs beat on his face, and
at length the blast forced him almost to creep on all fours.  It was
dark, too, beneath the swaying boughs.  But uppermost in his mind was
fear for his love, lest the hut should have given way before the
tempest, and she be lying crushed beneath it.

Still he fought his way.  Darkness--the real darkness--was falling, and
he was yet a mile from the hut when in his path a figure arose from the
undergrowth where it had been crouching.

"Ruth!"

"Ah, you are safe! . . . I could not rest at home--"

They took hands and forced their way against the wind.

"The cabin?"

"It stands, please God!"

After much battling they spied the light shining through the louvers of
its closed shutter.  The gale streamed down the valley as through a
funnel, but once past the angle of the cliff they found themselves
almost in a calm.  He pushed the door open.

On the hearth--the hearth of his building--a pile of logs burned
cheerfully.  Over these the kettle hissed; and the firelight fell on
their bed, with its linen oversheet turned back and neatly folded.

She entered and he closed the door behind her.  She laughed as he pushed
its bolt.  They were drenched to the skin, the pair.

"This is best," said she with another soft and happy laugh.

"This is best," he repeated after her.  "Better even than in fair
weather."



Chapter VIII.


HOME-COMING.


A week later they broke camp and set forth to climb to the head of the
pass.

Behind it--so Sir Oliver had learnt from old Strongtharm--lay an almost
flat table-land, of pine-forest for the most part, through which for
maybe half a dozen miles their river ran roughly parallel with another
that came down from the north-west.  At one point (the old fellow
declared) less than a mile divided their waters.

"Seems," he said, "as if Nature all along intended 'em to jine, and
then, at the last moment, changed her mind."  He explained the cause of
their severance--an outcropping ridge of rock, not above a mile in
length; but it served, deflecting the one stream to the southward, the
other to north of east, so that they reached the ocean a good twenty
leagues apart.

He showed a map and told Sir Oliver further that at the narrowest point
between the two rivers there dwelt a couple of brothers, Dave and Andy
M'Lauchlin, with their households and long families, of whom all the
boys were expert log-drivers, like their fathers.  They were likewise
expert boatmen, and for money, no doubt, if Sir Oliver desired, would
navigate the upper reaches of either stream for him.  Of these reaches
the old man could tell little save that their currents ran moderately--
"nothing out of the way."  The M'Lauchlins sent all their timber down to
sea by the more northerly stream.  "Our river 'd be the better by far,
three-fourths of its way, but--" with a jerk of his thumb--"the Gap,
yonder, makes it foolishness."

Sir Oliver asked many questions, studying the map; and ended by
borrowing it.


He had it spread on his knee when Ruth came out of the cabin for the
last time, having said farewell to her household gods.

"What are you reading?" she asked.

"A map." He folded it away hastily.

"And I am not to see it?"

"Some day.  Some day, if the owner will sell, you shall have it framed,
with our travels marked out upon it.  But, just now, it holds a small
secret."

She questioned him no further.  "Come," she said, "reach your arm in at
the window and draw the bolt, and afterwards we will pull the shutter
and nail it.  Are you going inside for a last look around?"

He laughed.  "Why?  The knapsacks are here, ready."

"Our home!"

"I take the soul of it with me, taking you."

It was prettily said.  Yet perversely she remembered how he had once
spoken of Margaret Dance, saying, "Let the dead bury their dead."

The sky, after six angry days--two sullen, four tempestuous--was clear
again and promised another stretch of fair weather.  This was
important, for they counted on having to sleep a night in the open
before reaching the M'Lauchlins' camp.  Old Strongtharm had told Sir
Oliver of a cave at the head of the pass and directed him how to find
it.  Should the sky's promise prove false, they would descend back to
the hut.  Snow was their one serious peril.


They carried but the barest necessaries; for although the worst of the
falls lay below and behind them, the upper part of the Gap was arduous
enough, and the more difficult for being unknown; also Sir Oliver had
old Strongtharm's assurance that the M'Lauchlins would furnish them with
all things requisite for voyaging by water.

Sir Oliver climbed in silence.  He was flinging a bridge, albeit a short
one, across the unknown, and the risk of it weighed on him.  For himself
this would have counted nothing, but he was learning the lesson common
to all male animals whose mates for the first time travel beside them.
As for Ruth, it was wonderful--the course of the path once turned, the
small home left out of sight--how securely she breasted the upward path.
Her lover and she were as gods walking, treading the roof of the world.

Through thickets they climbed, and by stairways beside the singing
falls.  In a pool below one of these falls they surprised a great loon
that had resorted here to live solitary through his moulting-season.
He rose and winged away with a cry like an inhuman laugh; and they
recognised a sound which had often been borne down the gorge--once or
twice at night, to awake and puzzle them.

They came to the uppermost fall a good hour before sunset, and after a
little search Sir Oliver found the cave.  They could have pushed on, but
decided to sleep here: and they slept soundly, being in truth more weary
than their spirits, exhilarated in the high air, allowed them to guess.

They might, as it turned out, by forcing the march, have found the
M'Lauchlins' settlement before dusk.  For scarcely had they travelled
five miles next morning before they came on an outpost of it: a large
hut, half dwelling-house, half boat-shed.  It stood in a clearing on the
left shore, and close by the water's edge was a young man, patching the
bottom of an upturned canoe.  Two children--a boy and a girl--had
dropped their play to watch him.  A flat-bottomed boat lay moored to the
bank, close by.

The children, catching sight of our travellers, must have uttered some
exclamation; for the young man turned quickly, and after a brief look
called "Good-morning."  There was a ford (he shouted) fifty yards
upstream; but no need to wade.  Let them wait a minute and he would
fetch them.

He laid down his tools, unmoored the flat-bottomed boat, and poled
across.  On the way back he told them that he was Adam M'Lauchlin, son
of David.  The little ones were children of his father by a second wife;
but he had seven brothers and sisters of his own. . . . Yes, their
settlement stood by the other river; at no great distance.  "If you'll
hark, maybe you can hear the long saws at work. . . ."

He led them to it, the small children bringing up the rear of the
procession.  The _Z'm--Z'm_ of the saws grew loud in Ruth's ears before
crossing the ridge she spied the huts between the trees--a congregation
of ten or a dozen standing a little way back from a smooth-flowing
river.  Between the huts and the river were many saw-pits, with men at
work.

At young Adam's hail the men in view desisted, quite as though he had
sounded the dinner horn.  Heads of others emerged from the pits.
Within a minute there was a small crowd gathered, of burly fellows
diffusing the fragrance of pine sawdust, all stamped in their degrees
with the M'Lauchlin family likeness, and all eager to know the
strangers' business.

Sir Oliver explained that he wanted a boat and two strong guides, to
explore the upper waters.  He would pay any price, in moderation.

"Ay," said their spokesman.  He wore a magnificent iron-grey beard
powdered with saw-dust; and he carried a gigantic pair of shoulders, but
rheumatism had contracted them to a permanent stoop.  "Ay, I'm no
fearin' about the pay.  You'll be the rich man, the Collector from
Boston."

Ruth was startled.  She had supposed herself to be travelling deep into
the wilderness.  She had yet to learn that in the wilderness, where men
traffic in little else, they exchange gossip with incredible energy--
talk it, in fact, all the time.  In those early colonial days the
settlers overleapt and left behind them leagues of primeval forest, to
all appearance inviolate.  But the solitude was no longer virgin.  Where
foot of man had once parted the undergrowth the very breath of the wind
followed and threaded its way after him, bearing messages to and fro.

"I'm no speirin'," said the oldster cautiously.  "But though our lads
have never been so far, there's talk of a braw house buildin'."

Here, somewhat hastily, Sir Oliver took him aside, and they spent twenty
minutes or so in converse together.  Ruth waited.

He came back and selected young Adam, with a cousin of his--a taciturn
youth, by name Jesse, son of Andrew--to be their boatman.  Five or six
of the young men were evidently eager to be chosen; but none disputed
his choice.  Rome, which reaches everywhere, reigned in the forest here;
its old law of family unquestioned and absolute.  The two youths swung
off to pack and provision the canoe.  An hour later they reported that
all was ready; and by three in the afternoon the voyagers were on their
way up-stream.


The voyage lasted four days and was seldom laborious; for the river ran
in long loops through the table-land, and with an easy current.
But here and there shallow runs of rock made stairways for it from one
level to another, and each of these miniature rapids compelled a
portage; so that towards the end of the second day the young men had
each a red shoulder spot chafed by the canoe's weight.

They camped by night close beside the murmuring water, ate their supper
beside a fire of boughs, slept on piled leaves beneath a tent of canvas
stretched over a long ridge-pole.  The two young men had a separate and
similar tent.

For two days the forest hemmed them in so closely that although frost
had half-stripped the deciduous trees, the eye found few vistas save
along the river ahead.  On either hand was drawn a continuous curtain of
mossed stems and boughs overlapping and interlacing their delicate
twigs.  Scarcely a bird sang within the curtain; scarcely a woodland
sound broke in upon the monotonous plash of the paddles.  Alder, birch,
maple, pine, spruce, and hemlock--the woods were a lifeless tapestry.
Ahead curved and stretched the waterway, rippled now and again by a
musk-rat crossing, swimming with its nose and no more above water.

A little before noon on the third day they emerged from this forest upon
a wide track of burnt land; and certain hills of which the blue summits
had for some hours been visible above the tree-tops on their right, now
took shape from the base up, behind thin clumps of birch, poplar, and
spruce--all of them (but the spruce especially) ragged and stunted in
growth.  For the rest this burnt land resembled a neglected pasture,
being carpeted for the most part with moss and blueberry.  A mysterious
blight lay over all, and appeared to extend to the foot of the hills.

All through the afternoon the chine of these hills closed the landscape;
purpled at times by passing clouds, at times lit up by sun-rays that
defined every bush and seam on the slopes.  All through the afternoon
the folded gullies between the slopes unwound themselves interminably,
little by little, as the voyagers traced up the river, paddling almost
due southward, along its loops and meanders.

But by nightfall they had turned the last spur of the range, and the
next morning opened to them a vastly different landscape: an undulating
country, wooded like a park, with hills indeed, but scattered ones to
the south and west, and behind the hills the faint purple dome of a
far-distant mountain, so faintly seen that at first Ruth mistook it for
a cloud.

She could not tell afterwards--though she often asked herself the
question--at what point the landscape struck her as being strangely
familiar.  Yet she was sure that the recognition came to her suddenly.
Sir Oliver since the morning's start had been indisposed to talk.
From time to time he drew out his map and consulted it.  The M'Lauchlin
lads, on the other hand, seemed to be restless.  During the halt for the
midday meal they drew aside together and Ruth heard them conversing in
eager whispers.

Possibly this stirred some expectation in her, which passed into
surmise, into certainty.  Late in the afternoon she drew in the paddle
she had been plying, laid it across the canoe, and called softly,--

"Oliver!"

He turned.  She was pointing to a hill now full in view ahead of them.

"That cliff . . . you remember--the eagles?"

He laughed as though the question amused him.

"It is very like.  Yes, certainly, it is very like.  But wait until we
open the clump of trees yonder. . . ."

They opened it, and her heart gave a leap.  A moment before she had been
sure this was the very hill.  His laugh had confirmed it. . . .
She remembered how, at the foot of it, just such a river as this looped
itself through the plain. . . . But, lo! in the opening gap, inch by
inch, a long building displayed itself: a mansion, gleaming white, with
a pillared front and pillared terraces, rising--terrace on terrace--from
the woodland, into which a cascade of water, spouting half-way down the
slope, plunged and was lost.

She sat dumb.  His eyes were upon her; and he laughed quietly.

"It is yours--as you commanded.  See!"

He flung out a hand to the left.  She beheld a clearing--an avenue, that
ran like a broad ribbon to the summit of a flat-topped rise.

"You demanded sight of the ocean," he was saying, and his voice seemed
to lose itself in the beat of the churning paddles.  "We cannot see it
from here; but from the house--_your_ house--you shall look on it every
day.  Did you not bid me remove a mountain?"


For the rest of the way she sat as in a dream.  One of the M'Lauchlin
lads had produced a cow-horn and was blowing it lustily. . . .
They came to shore by river-stairs of stone, where two servants in the
Vyell livery stood like statues awaiting them.

It was falling dusk when Sir Oliver disembarked and gave her his hand.
The men-servants, who had bent to hold the canoe steady as she stepped
ashore, drew themselves erect and again touched foreheads to their lord
and lady.

Still as in a dream, her arm resting within her lover's, she went up the
broad stairways from terrace to terrace.  Above her the long facade was
lit with window after window blazing welcome.

At the head of the perron, under the colonnaded portico, other tall
men-servants stood in waiting, mute, deferential.  She passed between
their lines into a vast entrance hall, and there, almost as her foot
crossed its threshold, across the marbled floor little Miss Quiney came
running a-flutter, inarticulate, with reaching hands.

Ruth drew back, almost with a cry.  But before she could resist, Tatty's
arms were about her and Tatty's lips lifted, pressed against either
cheek.  She suffered the embrace.

"My darling Ruth!--at last!"  Then with a laugh, "And in what strange
clothes! . . . But come--come and be arrayed!"  She caught Ruth's cold
hand and led her towards the staircase.  "Nay, never look about you so:
your eyes will not take in a tenth of all the wonders!"


Later, as an Indian gong sounded below, he came from his dressing-room
into the great bride-chamber where she stood, arrayed in satin, before
her mirror, hesitating as her fingers touched one after another of the
jewels scattered on the dressing-table under the waxen lights.  Her maid
slipped away discreetly.

"Well?" he asked.  He was resplendent in a suit of sapphire velvet, with
cravat and ruffles of old Spanish lace.  "Is my love content with
her home-coming?"

She crossed her arms slowly.

"You are good to me," she said.  "You do me too great honour, my lord."

He laughed, and catching up a necklace of diamonds from the
dressing-table, looped it across her throat, clasped it, leaned over her
shoulder and kissed her softly between the ear and the cheek's delicate
round.  Their eyes met in the mirror.

"I invited the Quiney," he said gaily, "to give you a feeling of home
among these strange faces.  She will not dine with us, though, unless
you choose."

"Let us be alone, to-night!" she pleaded.

"So be it. . . . But you shiver: you are cold.  No?  Then weary,
perhaps--yes, and hungry.  I've a backwoods hunger, for my part.
Let us go down and dine."




BOOK IV.




LADY GOOD-FOR-NOTHING.




Chapter I.


BATTY LANGTON, CHRONICLER.



_From Batty Langton, Esquire, to the Hon.  Horatio Walpole_.

                             BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS,
                               January 21st, 1748.

. . . . . You ask me, my dear Sir, why I linger on year by year in this
land of Cherokees and Choctaws, as you put it, at the same time hinting
very delicately that now, with my poor old father in his grave and my
own youthful debts discharged, you see no enduring reason for this
exile.  It is kind of you to be so solicitous: kinder still to profess
that you yet miss me.  But that I am missed at White's is more than you
shall persuade me to believe.  In an earlier letter, written when the
Gaming Act passed, you told me they were for nailing up an escutcheon to
mourn the death of play; they nailed up none for me.  And I gather that
play has recovered, and Dick Edgcumbe holds my cards.  I doubt if I
could endure to revisit St. James's--save by moonlight perhaps.
_Rappelez-moi_ to the waiters.  They will remember me.

But in good deed, dear Sir, what should I be doing at home among the
Malvern Hills upon a patrimony of 800 pounds?--for to that it has
dwindled.  Can I hoe turnips, or poke a knowledgeable finger into the
flanks of beeves?  I wonder if your literary explorations ever led you
across the furrow of an ancient ploughman who--

      --on a May morning, on Malvern hills

was weary of wandering and laid him down to sleep beside a brook--having
been chased thither betimes, no doubt, by a nagging bedfellow.
I have no wife, nor mean to take one, and find it more to my comfort to
sleep here by the River Charles and dream of Malvern, secure that I
shall wake to find myself detached from it by half a world.

Yet your last letter touched me closely; for it happens that Sir O. V.,
for love of whom rather than for any better reason I have kept this
exile, has taken to himself a Lady.  That, you'll say, should be my
dismissal; and that I like her, as she appears willing to be friends
with me, gives me, you'll say again, no excuse to linger.  Yet I do, and
shall.

As for her history, Vyell picked her up in a God-forsaken fishing town,
some leagues up the coast; brought her home; placed her under
gouvernante and tutors; finally espoused her.  Stay: finally he has
built a palace for her, "Eagles" by name, whither he forces all Boston
to pay its homage.  For convenience of access to the goddess he has cut
a road twenty feet broad through the woodlands of her demesne.

    The palace in a woody vale they found,
      High-raised, of stone--

or, to speak accurately, of stone and timber combined.  Be pleased to
imagine a river very much like that of Richmond, but covered with grey
crags.  "Fie," you will say, "the site is savage, then, like all else in
this New World?"  My dear sir, you were never more mistaken.
Mr. Manley's young eye of genius fastened upon it at once, to adapt it
to a house and gardens in the Italian style.

Have I mentioned this Mr. Manley in former letters?  He is a young
gentleman of good Midland blood (his county, I believe, Bedfordshire),
with a moderate talent for drinking, a something more than talent for
living on his friends, and a positive genius for architecture.
He will have none of your new craze for Gothic.  Palladio is his god,
albeit he allows that Palladio had feet of clay, and corrects him
boldly--though always, as he tells me, with help of his minor deities,
Vignola and the rest, who built the great villas around Rome.  He has
studied in Italy, and tells me that at Florence he was much beholden to
your friend Mann, who, I dare swear, lost money by the acquaintance.

Vyell, his present patron, takes him out and shows him the site.
"Italy!" exclaims the Youth of Genius.  "Italy?" echoes Maecenas,
astonished.  "We'll make it so," says the Youth.  "These terraces, this
spouting water, these pines to serve us for cypresses!"  "But, my good
sir, the House?" cries the impatient Vyell.  "A fig for your house!
Any fool can design a house when the Almighty and an artist together
have once made the landscape for it.  Grant me two years for the
gardens," he pleads.  "You shall have ten months to complete landscape,
house, everything."  "I shall need armies of workmen."  "You shall have
them."  The Youth groaned.  "I shall have to be sober for ten months on
end!"  "What of that?" says V.  Lovers are unconscionable.

Well, the Youth sits down to his plans, and at once orders begin to fly
across ocean to this port and that for the rarest marbles--_rosso
antico_ from Mount Taenarus, _verde antico_ from Thessally; with green
Carystian, likewise shipped from Corinth; Carrara, Veronese Orange,
Spanish _broccatello_, Derbyshire alabaster, black granite from Vyell's
Cornish estate, red and purple porphyries from high up the Nile. . . .
The Youth conjures up his gardens as by magic.  Here you have a terrace
fenced with columns; below it a cascade pouring down a stairway of
circular basins--the hint of it borrowed from Frascati (from the Villa
Torlonia, if I remember); there an alley you'd swear was Boboli dipping
to rise across the river, on a stairway you'd swear as positively was
Val San Zibio.  Yet all is congruous.  The dog scouts the Villa d'Este
for a "toy-shop."

The house at first disappoints one, being straight and simple to the
last degree.  ("D----n me," says he, "what can you look for, in ten
months?")  It is of two storeys, the windows of the upper storey loftier
by one-third than those beneath; and has for sole ornament a balustraded
parapet broken midway by an Ionic portico of twelve columns, with a
_loggia_ deeply recessed above its entrance door.  To this portico a
flight of sixteen steps conducts you from the uppermost terrace.

Such is Vyell's new pleasance of Eagles, Boston's latest wonder.  I have
described it at this length because you profess to take more interest in
houses than in women; and also, to tell the truth, be cause I am shy of
describing Lady V.  To call her roundly the loveliest creature I have
ever set eyes on, or am like to, is (you will say) no description,
though it may argue me in love with her.

On my honour, no! or only as all others are in love--all the men, I
mean, and even some pro portion of the womankind.  The rest agree to
call her "Lady Good-for-Nothing," upon a double rumour, of which one
half is sad truth, and the other (my life on it) false as hell.

They have heard that when Vyell found her she was a serving-girl,
undergoing punishment (a whipping, to be precise) for some trumpery
offence against the Sabbath.  Yes, my dear sir, this is true; as it is
true also that Vyell, like a knight-errant of old, offered to share her
punishment, and did indeed share it to the extent of sitting in the
stocks beside her.  You'd have thought an honest mind might find food
for compassion in this, and even an excuse to believe the better of
human nature; but it merely scandalises these Puritan tabbies.
They fear Vyell for his wealth and title; and he, despising them, forces
them to visit her.

Now for the falsehood.  The clergyman who read the marriage ceremony for
V. somewhere in the backwoods (this, too, was his whim, and they have to
be content with it) is a low-bred trencher-chaplain, by name Silk.
He should have been unfrocked the next week, not for performing a
function apostolically derived, but for spreading a report--I wait to
fasten it on him--that before marriage she was no better than she should
be.  I have earned better right than any other man to know Vyell, and I
know it to be calumny.  But the wind blows, and the name
"Lady Good-for-Nothing" is a by-breath of it.

Vyell guesses nothing of this.  He has a masculine judgment and no small
degree of wit--though 'tis of a hard intellectual kind; but through
misprising his fellow creatures he has come to lack _flair_.  His lady,
if she scent a taint on the wind wafted through her routs and
assemblies, no doubt sets it down to breathings upon her humble origin,
or (it may be) even to some leaking gossip of her foregone wrong.
(Women, my dear sir, are brutes to rend a wounded one of the herd.)  She
can know nothing of the worse slander.

She moves through her duties as hostess with a pretty well-bred grace,
and a childishness infinitely touching.  Yet something more protects
her; a certain common sense, which now and then very nearly achieves
wit.  For an instance--But yesterday a certain pompous lady lamented to
her in my hearing (and with intention, as it seemed to me, who am grown
suspicious), the rapid moral decay of Boston society.  "Alas!" sighs my
heroine; "but what a comfort, ma'am, to think that neither of us belongs
to it!"  Add to this that she has learning enough to equip ten
_precieuses_--and hides it: has read Plato and can quote her Virgil by
the page--but forbears.  Yet all this while you have suspected me, no
doubt, of raving over a '_Belle Sauvage_, a Pocahontas.

Well, I shall watch her progress. . . . I have become so nearly a part
of Vyell that I charge myself to stand for him and supply what he lacks.
He loves her; she loves him to doting; but I cannot see into their
future.

Vyell, by the way, charges me to request your good offices with Mr. Mann
to procure him a couple of Tuscan vases.  I know that your friend is
infinitely obliging to all who approach him through you: and this
request which my letter carries as a tag should have been its pretext,
as in fact it was its occasion.  Adieu! my dear sir.

                  Yours most sincerely,

                        BAT. LANGTON.



Chapter II.


SIR OLIVER SAILS.


Mr. Langton was right.  Theologians, preaching mysteries, are
helpless before the logical mind until they abandon defence and
boldly attack their opponents' capital incapacity, saying, "Precisely
because you insist upon daylight, you miss discovering the stars."
The battle is a secular one, and that sentence contains the reason,
too, why it will never be ended in this world.  But the theologians
may strengthen their conviction, if not their argument, by noting how
often the more delicate shades of human feeling will oppose
themselves to the logical mind as a mere wall of blindness.

Oliver Vyell loved his bride as passionately as his nature, hardened
by his past, allowed him.  To the women who envied her, to the
gossips and backbiters, he opposed a nescience inexpugnable,
unscalable as a wall of polished stone: but the mischief was, he
equally ignored her sensitiveness.

Being sensitive, she understood the hostile shadows better than the
hard protecting fence.  To noble natures enemies are often nearer
than friends, and more easily forgiven.

But Mr. Langton was also right in guessing her ignorant of the
rumours set going by Silk, who, as yet, had whispered falsehoods
only.  The worst rumour of all--the truth--was beyond his courage.

Ruth loved her lord devoutly.  To love him was so easy that it seemed
no repayment of her infinite debt.  She desired some harder task; and
therefore, since he laid this upon her, she--who would have chosen a
solitude to be happy in--rejoiced to meet these envious ladies with
smiles, with a hundred small graces of hospitality; and still her
bliss swallowed up their rancour, scarcely tasting its gall.  He
(they allowed) was the very pattern of a lover.

He was also a model man of business.  Even from his most flagrant
extravagances, as Batty Langton notes in another epistle, he usually
contrived to get back something like his money's worth.
He would lend money, or give it, where he chose: but to the man who
overreached him in a money bargain he could be implacable. Moreover,
though a hater of quarrels, he never neglected an enmity he had once
taken up, but treated it with no less exactitude than a business
account.

Their happiness had endured a little more than three months when, one
morning, he entered Ruth's morning-room with a packet of letters in
his hand.  He was frowning, not so much in wrath, as in distaste of
what he had to tell.

"Dear," he said brusquely, bending to kiss her, "I have ill news.  I
must go back to England, on business."

"To England ?" she echoed.  Her wrists were laid along the arms of
her chair, and, as she spoke, her fingers clutched sharply at the
padding.  She was not conscious of it.  She was aware only that
somehow, at the back of her happiness this shadow had always lurked;
and that England lay across the seas, at an immense distance. . . .

He went on--his tone moody, but the words brief and distinct.
"For a few months, only; five or six, perhaps; with any luck, even
less. That infernal aunt of mine--"

"Lady Caroline ?"  She asked it less out of curiosity than as a
prompter gives a cue; for he had come to a full stop.  She was
wondering how Lady Caroline could injure him, being so far
away. . . .

He laughed savagely, yet--having broken his news, or the worst of
it--with something of relief.  "She shall smart for it--if that
console you?"

"Is it on my account?"

"Only, as I guess, in so far as she accuses you of having played the
devil with her plan for marrying me up with my cousin Di'?  If Di'
had been the last woman in the world. . . .  But the old harridan
never spoke to me after the grooming I gave her that morning at
Natchett.  'Faith, and I did treat her to some plain talk!" he wound
up with another laugh.

"But what harm can she do you?"

He explained that his late uncle Sir Thomas had, in the closing years
of his life, shown unmistakable signs of brain-softening, and that a
symptom of his complaint had been his addiction to making a number of
wills--"two-thirds of 'em incoherent.  Every two or three days he'd
compose a new one and send for Huskisson, his lawyer; and Huskisson,
after reading the rigmarole through, as solemn as a judge, would get
it solemnly witnessed and carry it off.  He had three boxes full of
these lunacies when the old man died, and I'll wager he has not
destroyed 'em.  Lawyers never destroy handwriting, however foolish.
It's against their principles."

"But," said Ruth, musing.  "I understood that he died of a jail
fever, caught at the Assizes, where he was serving on--what do you
call it?"

"The Grand Jury."

"Well, how could he be serving on a Grand Jury if his head was
affected as you say?"

"You don't know England," he assured her.  "Ten to one as a County
magnate he stickled for it, and the High Sheriff put him on the panel
to keep him amused."

"But a Grand Jury deals sometimes with matters of life and death,
does it not?"

"Often, but only in the first instance.  It finds a true bill
usually, and sends the cause down to be tried by judge and jury, who
dispose of it.  Actually the incompetence of a grand juror or two
doesn't count, if the scandal be not too glaring. . . .  But I see
your drift.  It will be a point for the other side, no matter how
lunatic the document, that after perpetrating it he was still thought
capable by the High Sheriff of his county."

"I do not know that the point struck me.  I was wondering--"  Here
she broke off.  The thought, in fact, uppermost in her mind was that
he had not suggested her voyaging to England with him.

"It _is_ a point, anyway," he persisted.  "But it won't stand against
Huskisson's documentary proof of lunacy. . . . You see, the greater
part of the property was entailed, and the poor old fool couldn't
touch it.  But there's an unentailed estate in Devonshire--Downton by
name--worth about two thousand a year.  By a will made in '41, when
his mind was admittedly sound, he left it to me with a charge upon it
of five hundred for Lady Caroline.  By a second, made three years
later and duly witnessed, he left her Downton for her life; and with
that I chose not to quarrel, though I could have brought evidence
that he was unfit to make any will.  I agreed with the infernal woman
to let things stand on that.  But now, being at daggers drawn with
me, she digs up (if you please) a will made in '46 and apparently
sane in wording, by which, without any provision for the heir-at-law,
the whole bagful, real and personal, goes to her, to be used by her
and willed away, as she pleases; this, although she well knows I can
prove Sir Thomas to have been a blethering idiot at the time."

"Is it worth while?"

"Worth while?" he echoed, as if doubtful that she had understood.
"The woman is doing it out of spite, of course.  Very likely she is
fool enough to think that, fixed here with the Atlantic between us, I
shall give her the double gratification of annoying me and letting
her win by default."

"It is a large sum," she mused.

"Of course it is," he agreed sharply.  "An estate yielding two
thousand pounds interest.  You would not suggest my letting it go, I
should hope!"

"Certainly not, if you cannot afford it."

"If it were a twentieth part of the sum, I'd not be jockeyed out of
it." He laughed harshly.  "As men go, I am well-to-do: but, dear, has
it never occurred to you to wonder what this place and its household
cost me?"

She answered with a small wry smile.  "Often it has occurred to me.
Often I tell myself that I am wicked to accept, as you are foolish
perhaps to give, all this luxury."

"You adorn it. . . . Dear, do not misunderstand me.  All the offering
I can bring is too little for my love."

"I know," she murmured, looking up at him with moist eyes.  "I know;
and yet--"

"I meant only that you are not used to handling money or calculating
it--as why should you be?"

"If my lord will only try me!"

"Hey?"

"Of what use is a wife if she may not contrive for her husband's
good--take thought for his household?  Ah, my dear, these cares are
half a woman's happiness! . . . I might make mistakes.  Nay, 'tis
certain.  I would the house were smaller: in a sense I would that
your wealth were smaller--it would frighten me less.  But something
tells me that, though frightened, I should not fail you."

He stared down at her, pulling his lip moodily.  "I was thinking,"
said he, "to ask Langton to be my steward.  Would you really choose
to be cumbered with all this business?"

She held her breath for a moment; for his question meant that he had
no design to take her with him.  Her face paled a little, but she
answered steadily.

"It will at least fill my empty hours. . . .  Better, dear--it will
keep you before me in all the day's duties; since, though I miss you,
all day long I shall be learning to be a good wife."

As she said it her hand went up to her side beneath her left breast,
as something fluttered there, soft as a bird's wing stirring.
It fluttered for a moment under her palm, then ceased.  The room had
grown strangely still. . . .  Yet he was speaking.

He was saying--"I'll teach these good people who's Head of the
Family!"

Ah, yes--"the Family!"  Should she tell him? . . . She bethought her
of Mrs. Harry's sudden giddiness in the waggon.  Mrs. Harry
was now the mother of a lusty boy--Sir Oliver's heir, and the
Family's prospective Head. . . .  Should she tell him? . . .

He stooped and kissed her.  "Love, you are pale.  I have broken this
news too roughly."

She faltered.  "When must you start?"

"In three days.  That's as soon as the _Maryland_ can take in the
rest of her cargo and clear the customs."

"They will be busy days for you."

"Desperately."

"Yet you must spare me a part of one, and teach me to keep accounts,"
said she, and smiled bravely albeit her face was wan.



Chapter III.


MISCALCULATING WRATH.


Mr. Langton sat in his private apartment by Boston Quay trying the
balance of a malacca cane.

Sir Oliver had sailed a week ago.  Mr. Langton had walked down to the
ship with him and taken his farewell instructions.

"By the way," said Sir Oliver, "I want you to make occasion to visit
Eagles now and again, and pay your respects.  I shall write to you as
well as to her; and the pair of you can exchange news from your
letters.  She likes you."

"I hope so," answered Langton, "because 'tis an open secret that I
adore her."

Sir Oliver smiled, a trifle ruefully.  "Then you'll understand how it
hits a man to leave her.  Maybe--for I had meant to make you
paymaster in my absence--you'll also forgive me for having changed my
mind?"

"I'd have called you a damned fool if you hadn't," said Langton
equably.  "She's your wife, hang it all: and I'll lay you five pounds
you'll return to find her with hair dishevelled over your monstrous
careless bookkeeping.  My dear Noll, a woman--a good woman--is never
completely happy till convinced that she, and only she, has saved the
man she loves from ruin; and, what's more, she's a fool if she can't
prove it."

"Nevertheless she's a beginner; and I'll be glad of your promise to
run over from time to time.  A question or two will soon discover if
things are running on an even keel."

"I shall attempt no method so coarse," Langton assured him.  "I don't
want to be ordered out of the house--must I repeat that I adore her?
It may be news to you that she repays my attachment with a certain
respect. . . .  Should she find herself in any difficulty--and she
will not--I shall be sent for and consulted.  In any event, fond man,
you may count on my calling."

As they shook hands Sir Oliver asked, "Don't you envy me, Batty?"

"Constantly and in everything," answered Langton; "though--ass that I
am--I have rather prided myself on concealing it."

"I mean, don't you wish that you, and not I, were sailing for
England?  For that matter, though, there's nothing prevents you."

"Oh yes--there is."

"What, then?"

"Use and wont, if you will; indolence, if you choose; affection for
you, Noll, if you prefer it."

"That had been an excellent reason for coming with me."

"It may be a better one for staying. . . . Well, as you walk up St.
James's, give it my regards."


"For so fine an intelligence Noll can be infernally crass at times,"
muttered Mr. Langton to himself as he walked back to his lodgings.

He kept his promise and rode over to Eagles ten days later, to pay
Ruth a visit.  He found her astonishingly cheerful.  The sum left by
Sir Oliver for her stewardship had scared her at first.  It scared
her worse to discover how the heap began to drain away as through a
sieve.  But slowly she saw her way to stop some of the holes in that
sieve.  He had calculated her expenses, taking for basis the accounts
of the past few months; and in the matter of entertaining, for
example, she would save vast sums. . . . She foresaw herself a miser
almost, to earn his praise.

"_--Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.
The heart of her husband shall safely trust in her, so that he shall
have no need of spoil.  She will do him good and not evil all the
days of his life_."

"_She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
She is like the merchants's ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her
household. . . . She considereth a field and buyeth it. . . .
She looketh well into the ways of her household_."

"_Her children rise up, and call her blessed. . . ._"  Her children?
But she had let him go, after all, without telling her secret.


Mr. Langton sat and balanced a malacca cane in his hand.  When his
man announced the Reverend Mr. Silk, he laid it down carefully on the
floor beside him.

"Show Mr. Silk up, if you please."

Mr. Silk entered with an affable smile.  "Ah, good-morning, Mr.
Langton!" said he, depositing his hat on the table and pulling off a
pair of thick woollen gloves.  "I am prompt on your call, eh?
But this cold weather invites a man to walk briskly.  Not to
mention," he added, with an effort at facetiousness, "that when Mr.
Langton sends for a clergyman his need is presumably urgent."

"It is," said Mr. Langton, seemingly blind to the hand he proferred.
"Would you, before taking a seat, oblige me by throwing a log on the
fire? . . . Thank you--the weather is raw, as you say."

"Urgent?  But not serious, I hope?"

"Both.  Sit down, please. . . . I am, as you know, a particular
friend of Sir Oliver Vyell's."

"Say, rather, his best."  Mr. Silk bowed and smiled.

"Possibly.  At all events so close a friend that, being absent, he
gives me the right to resent any dishonouring suspicion that touches
him--or touches his lady.  It comes to the same thing."

Mr. Silk cocked his head sideways, like a bird considering a worm.
"Does it?" he queried, after a slight pause.

"Certainly.  A rumour is current through Boston, touching Lady
Vyell's virtue; or, at least, her conduct before marriage."

"'Tis a censorious world, Mr. Langton."

"Maybe; but let us avoid generalities, Mr. Silk.  What grounds have
you for imputing this misconduct to Lady Vyell?"

"Me, sir?" cried Mr. Silk, startled out of his grammar.

"You, sir." Mr. Langton arose lazily, and stepping to the door,
turned the key; then returning to the hearth, in leisurely manner
turned back his cuff's.  "I have traced the slander to you, and hold
the proofs.  Perhaps you had best stand up and recant it before you
take your hiding.  But, whether or no, I am going to hide you," he
promised, with his engaging smile.  Stooping swiftly he caught up the
malacca.  Mr. Silk sprang to his feet and snatched at the chair,
dodging sideways.

"Strike as you please," he snarled; "Ruth Josselin is a--"  But
before the word could out Batty Langton's first blow beat down his
guard.  The second fell across his exposed shoulders, the third
stunningly on the nape of his neck.  The fourth--a back-hander--
welted him full in the face, and the wretched man sank screaming for
pity.

Batty Langton had no pity.  "Stand up, you hound!" he commanded.
The command was absurd, and he laughed savagely, tickled by its
absurdity even in his fury, while he smote again and again.
He showered blows until, between blow and blow, he caught his breath
and panted.  Mr. Silk's screams had sunk to blubbings and whimpers.
Between the strokes he heard them.

His valet was knocking timorously on the door.  "All right!" called
Langton, lifting his cane and lowering it slowly--for his victim lay
still.  He stooped to drag aside the arm covering the huddled face.
As he did so, Mr. Silk snarled again, raised his head and bit
blindly, fastening his teeth in the flesh of the left hand.  Langton
wrenched free and, as the man scrambled to his feet, dealt him with
the same hand a smashing blow on the mouth--a blow that sent him
reeling, to overbalance and pitch backward to the floor again across
an overturned chair.

Somehow the pleasure of getting in that blow restored--literally at a
stroke--Langton's good temper.  He laughed and tossed the cane into a
corner.

"You may stand up now," said he sweetly.  "You are not going to be
beaten any more."

Mr. Silk stood up.  His mouth trickled blood, and he nursed his right
wrist, where the cane had smitten across the bone.  Langton stepped
to the door and, unlocking it, admitted his trembling valet.

"My good fool," he said, "didn't I call to you not to be alarmed?
Mr. Silk, here, has been seized with a--a kind of epileptic fit.
Help him downstairs and call a chair for him.  Don't stare; he will
not bite again for a very long time."


But in this Mr. Langton was mistaken.

He took the precaution of cauterising his bitten hand; and before
retiring to rest that night contemplated it grimly, holding it out to
the warmth of his bachelor fire.  It was bandaged; but above the edge
of the bandage his knuckles bore evidence how they had retaliated
upon Mr. Silk's teeth.

He eyed these abrasions for a while and ended with a soft complacent
laugh.  "Queer, how little removed we are, after all, from the
natural savage!" he murmured.  "Ladies and Gentlemen, allow me to
introduce to your notice Batty Langton, Esquire, a child of nature--
not perhaps of the best period--still using his naked fists and for a
woman--primitive cause of quarrel.  And didn't he enjoy it, by
George!"

He laughed again softly.  But, could he have foreseen, he had been
willing rather to cut the hand off for its day's work.



Chapter IV.


THE TERRACE.


Ruth was happy.  To-day, and for a whole week to come, she was
determined to be purely happy, blithe as the spring sunshine upon the
terrace.  For a week she would, like Walton's milkmaid, cast away
care and refuse to load her mind with any fears of many things that
will never be.  Her spirit sang birdlike within her.  And the
reason?--that the _Venus_ had arrived in harbour, with Dicky on
board.

Peace had been signed, or was on the point to be signed, and in the
North Atlantic waters His Majesty's captains of frigates could make
a holiday of duty.  Captain Harry used his holiday to sail up for
Boston, standing in for Carolina on his way and fetching off his
wife and his firstborn--a bouncing boy.  It was time, they agreed,
to pay their ceremonial visit to Sir Oliver and his bride; high
time also for Dicky to return and embrace his father.

Sir Oliver had written of his approaching marriage.  "Well, dear,"
was Mrs. Harry's comment, "'twas always certain he would marry.  As
for Ruth Josselin, she is an amazingly beautiful girl and I believe
her to be good.  So there's no more to be said but to wish 'em joy."

Captain Harry kissed his wife.  "Glad you take it so, Sally.  I was
half afraid--for of course there _was_ the chance, you know--"

"I'm not a goose, I hope, to cry for the moon!"

"Is that the way of geese?" he asked, and they both laughed.

A second letter had come to them from Eagles, telling them of his
happiness, and franking a note in which Ruth prettily acknowledged
Mrs. Harry's congratulations.

A third had been despatched; a hurried one, announcing his departure
for England.  Before this reached Carolina, however, the _Venus_ had
sailed, and Dicky rushed home to find his father gone.

But a message came down to Boston Quay, with the great coach for Mrs.
Vyell, and the baggage and saddle-horses for the gentlemen.  There
were three saddle-horses, for Ruth added an invitation for
Mr. Hanmer, "if the discipline of the ship would allow."

"She always was the thoughtfullest!" cried Dicky.  "Why, sir, to be
sure you must come too. . . . We'll go shooting.  Is it too late for
partridge? . . . One forgets the time of year, down in the islands."

Strangely enough Mr. Hanmer, so shy by habit, offered but a slight
resistance.


It was Dicky who, as Ruth sped to him with a happy little cry, hung
on his heel a moment and blushed violently.  She took him in her
arms, exclaiming at his growth.

"Why--look, Tatty--'tis a man!  And is that what he means?--Ah,
Dicky, don't say you're too tall to kiss your old playmate."

Then, holding him a little away and still observing his confusion,
she remembered his absurd boyish love for her and how he had
confessed it.  Well, she must put him at his ease. . . . She turned
laughingly to welcome the others, and now for a moment she too
flushed rosy-red as she shook hands with Mr. Hanmer.  She could not
have told why; but perhaps it was that instead of returning her
smile, his eyes rested on her face gravely, intently, as though
unable to drag themselves away.

Captain Harry and his wife marvelled, as well they might, at the
house and its wonders.  Sir Oliver had chosen to take his meals
French fashion and at French hours; and Ruth apologised for having
kept up the custom. Captain Harry, after protesting against so
ungodly a practice, admitted that his ride had hungered him, and at
_dejeuner_ proved it not only upon the courses but upon the cold
meats on the side-table.

"You must have a jewel of a housekeeper, my dear!" Mrs.  Harry had
been taking in every detail of the ordered service.  "'Housekeeper,'
do I say?  'Major-domo'--you'll forgive me--"

Ruth swept her a bow.  "I take the compliment."

"And she deserves it," added Miss Quiney.

"What? You don't tell me you manage it all yourself? . . . This
palace of a house!"

"Already you are making it feel less empty to me.  Yes, alone I do
it; but if you wish to praise me, you should see my accounts.  _They_
are my real pride.  But no, they are too holy to be shown!"

They sat later--the gentlemen by their wine--on the stone terrace
overlooking the wide champaign.

"But," said Ruth, for she observed that the boy was restless, "I must
leave Tatty to play hostess while I take a scamper with Dick.
There's a pool below here, Dicky, with oh, such trout!"

Dicky was on his feet in a trice.  "Rods?"

"Rods, if you will.  But there are the stables, too, to be seen; and
the gunroom--"

"Stables?  Gunroom?--Oh, come along!--the day is too short!"  Here
Dicky paused.  "But would you like to come too, sir?" he asked,
addressing Mr. Hanmer.

Mrs. Harry laughed.  "Those two," she told Ruth, "are like master and
dog, and one never can be quite sure which is which."

"My dear boy," said Mr. Hanmer, "you must surely see that Lady Vyell
wants you all to herself.  Yet I dare say the captain and I will be
strolling around to the stables before long."

"Ay, when this decanter is done," agreed Captain Harry.


"That was rather pretty of you," said Ruth, as she and the boy went
down the terrace stairs together.

"What?--asking old Hanmer to come with us? . . . Oh, but he's the
best in the world, and, what's more, never speaks out of his turn.
He has a tremendous opinion of you, too."

"Indeed?"

"Worships the very ground you tread on."

Ruth laughed.  "Were those his words?"

Dicky laughed too.  "Likely they would be! Fancy old Han talking like
a sick schoolgirl!  I made the words up to please you: but it's the
truth, all the same."

They reached the pool; and the boy, after ten minutes spent in
discovering the biggest monster among the trout and attempting to
tickle him with a twig, fell to prodding the turfed brink
thoughtfully.

"We talked a deal about you, first-along," he blurted at length.  "I
fancy old Han guessed that I was--was--well, fond of you and all that
sort of thing."

"Dear Dicky!"

"Boys are terrible softies at this age," my young master admitted.
"And, after all, it was rather a knockdown, you know, when papa's
letter came with the news."

"But we're friends, eh?--you and I--just as before?"

"Oh, of course--only you might have told. . . . And I've brought you
a parrot.  Remember the parrots in that old fellow's shop in Port
Nassau?"

She led him to talk of his sea adventures, of the ship, of the West
Indies among which they had been cruising; and as they wandered
back from terrace to terrace he poured out a stream of boyish
gossip about his shipmates, from Captain Vyell down to the cook's
dog.  Half of it was Hebrew to her; but in every sentence of it, and
in the gay, eager voice, she read that the child had unerringly
found his vocation; that the sea lent him back to the shore for a
romp and a holiday, but that to the sea he belonged.

"There's one thing against shipboard though."  He had come to a halt,
head aslant, and said it softly, eyeing a tree some thirty yards
distant.

"What?"

"No stones lying about."  Picking up one, he launched it at a
nuthatch that clung pecking at the moss on the bark.  "Hit him, by
George!  Come--"

He ran and she raced after him for a few paces, but stopped half-way,
with her hand to her side.  The nuthatch was not hit after all, but
had bobbed away into the green gloom.

"Tell you what--you can't run as you used," he said critically.

"No? . . ."  She was wondering at the mysterious life a-flutter in
her side--that it should be his brother.

"Not half.  I'll have to get you into training. . . . Now show me the
stables, please."

They were retracing their steps when along a green alley they saw Mr.
Hanmer coming down to meet them.  He was alone, and his face, always
grave, seemed to Ruth graver than ever.

"Dicky!" said he.  "Service, if you please."

"Ay, sir!"  Dicky's small person stiffened at once, and Dicky's hand
went up to the salute.

"Wait here, please.  I wish a word in private with Lady Vyell--if you
will forgive me, ma'am?"

"Why to be sure, sir," she answered, wondering.  As he turned, she
walked on with him.  After some fifty paces she confronted him under
the pale-green dappled shadows of the alley.

"Something has happened?  Is it serious?"

"Yes."

Looking straight before him, as they resumed their walk, he told her;
in brief words that seemed, as he jerked them out, to be pumped from
him; that made no single coherent sentence, and yet were concise as a
despatch.

This in substance was Mr. Hanmer's report:--

They had remained on the terrace, seated, as she had left them--
Captain and Mrs. Harry, Miss Quiney and he. The Captain was talking.
. . . A servant brought word that two ladies--Mr. Hanmer could not
recall their names--had called from Boston and desired to see Mrs.
Vyell.  "Surely," protested Mrs. Harry, "they must mean Lady Vyell?"
The servant was positive: Mrs. Captain Vyell had been the name.
"They are anxious to pay their respects," suggested Miss Quiney.
"Anxious indeed!  Why we landed but a few hours since.  They must
have galloped."  Miss Quiney was sent to offer them refreshment and
discover their business.

Miss Quiney goes off on her errand.  Minutes elapse.  After many
minutes the servant reappears.  "Miss Quiney requests Mrs. Harry's
attendance." Mrs. Harry goes.

"Women are queer cattle," says Captain Harry sententiously, and
talks on.  By-and-by the servant appears yet again.  Mr. Hanmer is
sent for.  "Why, 'tis like a story I've read somewhere, about a
family sent one by one to stop a tap running," says Captain Harry.
"But I'll say this for the women--I'm always the last they bother."

Following the servant, Mr. Hanmer--so runs his report--enters the
great drawing-room to find Miss Quiney stretched on the sofa, her
face buried in cushions, and Mrs. Harry standing erect and
confronting two ladies of forbidding aspect.

"In brief," concluded Mr. Hanmer, "she sent me for you."

"To confront them with her?  I wonder what their business can
be. . . ."  With a glance at his side face she added, "I think you
have not told me all."

"No," he confessed haltingly; "that's true enough.  In--in fact
Mrs. Harry first employed me to show them to the door."

"And--on the way?"

"Honoured madam--"

"They said--what?--quoting whom?"

"A Mr. Silk.  But again--ma'am, I am awkward at lying.  I cannot
manage it."

"I like you the better for it."

"I did not believe--"

"Yet you might have believed. . . . And suppose that it were true,
sir?"

He shook visibly.  "I pray God to protect you," he managed to
stammer.

Her face was white, but she answered him steadily.  "I believe you to
be a good man. . . . I will go to them.  Where is Dicky?"
She glanced back along the alley.

"Dicky will stand where I have told him to stand: for hours unless I
release him."

"Is that your naval code?  And can a mere child stand by it so
proudly?  Oh," cried she, fixing on him a look he remembered all his
days, "would to God I had been born a man!"


Yet fearlessly as any man she entered the great drawing-room.  Miss
Quiney still lay collapsed on her sofa.  Mrs. Harry bent over her,
but faced about.

"Mr. Hanmer managed, then, to discover you?  Two women have called.
. . . I thought it better, their errand being what it was, to show
them out."

"I can guess it, perhaps," Ruth caught her up with a wan smile.
"They managed to talk with him before he gave them their dismissal."

"Forgive me.  I had not thought them capable--"

"There is nothing to forgive," Ruth assured her.  "They probably told
the truth, and the fault is mine."

Miss Quiney, incredulous, slowly raised her face from the cushions
and stared.

"Yes," repeated Ruth, "the fault is entirely mine."


"But--but," stammered Mrs. Harry.  Ruth had turned away towards the
window, and the honest wife stared after her, against the light.
"But he will make it all right when he returns."  She started, of a
sudden.  Cunningly as Ruth had dressed herself, Mrs. Harry's eyes
guessed the truth.  "You have written to him?"

"No."

"He guesses, at least?"

"No."

"Then you are writing to him?  There is enough time."

"No."

Their eyes met.  Ruth's asked, "And if I do not, will you?" Mrs.
Harry's met them for a few seconds and were abased.

No words passed between these two.  "And as for my Tatty," said Ruth
lightly, stepping to the sofa, "she is not to write.  I command her."



Chapter V.


A PROLOGUE TO NOTHING.


Sir Oliver wrote cheerfully.  His lawsuit was prospering; his prompt
invasion of the field had disconcerted Lady Caroline and her
advisers.  He had discovered fresh evidence of the late Sir Thomas's
insanity.  His own lawyers were sanguine.  They assured him that, at
the worst, the Courts would set aside the '46 will, and fall back for
a compromise on that of '44, which gave the woman a life-interest
only in the Downton estates.  But the case would not be taken this
side of the Long Vacation. . . . (It was certain, then, that he could
not return in time.)

He had visited Bath and spent some weeks with his mother.  He devoted
a page or two to criticism of that fashionable city.  It was clear he
had picked up many threads of his younger days; had renewed old
acquaintances and made a hundred new ones.  Play, he wrote, was a
craze in England; the stakes frightened a home-comer from New
England.  For his part, he gamed but moderately.

"As for the women, you have spoilt me for them.  I see none--not one,
dearest--who can hold a taper to you.  Their artifices disgust me;
and I watch them, telling myself that my Ruth has only to enter their
balls and assemblies to triumph--nay, to eclipse them totally. . . .
And this reminds me to say that I have spoken with my mother.
She had heard, of course, from more than one.  Lady Caroline's
account had been merely coarse and spiteful; but by that lady's later
conduct she was already prepared to discount it.  The pair
encountered in London, at my Lady Newcastle's; and my mother (who has
spirit) refused her bow.  Diana, to her credit, appears to have done
you more justice; and Mrs. Harry writes reams in your praise.
To be sure my mother, not knowing Mrs. Harry, distrusts her judgment
for a Colonial's; but I vow she is the soundest of women. . . .
In short, dear Ruth, we have only to regularise things and we are
forgiven.  The good soul dotes on me, and imagines she has but a few
years left to live.  This softens her. . . .

"There is a rumour--credit it, if you can!--that my Aunt Caroline
intends to espouse a Mr. Adam Rouffignac, a foreigner and a wine
merchant; I suppose (since he is reputed rich) to arm herself with
money to pay her lawyers.  What _his_ object can be, poor man, I am
unable to conjecture.  It is a strange world.  While her ugly mother
mates at the age of fifty, Diana--who started with all the advantages
of looks--withers upon the maiden thorn. . . ."

His letters, every one, concluded with protests of affection.
She rejoiced in them.  But it was now certain that he could not
return in time.


At length, as her day drew near, she wrote to him, conceiving this to
be her duty.  She knew that he would take a blow from what she had to
tell, and covered it up cleverly, lightly covering all her own dread.
She hoped the child would be a boy.  ("But why do I hope it?" she
asked herself as she penned the words, and thought of Dicky.)


She said nothing of Mr. Silk's treachery; nothing of her ostracism.
This indeed, during the later months, she recognised for the blessing
it was.


Towards the end she felt a strange longing to have her mother near,
close at hand, for her lying-in.  The poor silly soul could not travel
alone. . . . Ruth considered this and hit on the happy inspiration of
inviting Mrs. Strongtharm to bring her.  Tatty was useless, and among
the few women who had been kind Mrs. Strongtharm had been the
kindest.

Ruth sat down and penned a letter; and Mrs. Strongtharm, unable to
write, responded valiantly.  She arrived in a cart, with Mrs.
Josselin at her side; and straightway alighting and neglecting Mrs.
Josselin, sailed into a seventh heaven of womanly fuss.  She examined
the baby-clothes critically.

"Made with your own pretty hands--and with all this mort o' servants
tumblin' over one another to help ye.  But 'tis nat'ral. . . .
It came to nothing with me, but I know.  And expectin' a boy o'
course. . . . La! ye blushin' one, don't I know the way of it!"


When Ruth's travail came on her the three were gathered by
candle-light in Sir Oliver's dressing-room.  Beyond the door,
attended by her maid and a man-midwife, Ruth shut her teeth upon her
throes.  So the prologue opens.

                               PROLOGUE.

_Mrs. Josselin sits in an armchair, regarding the pattern of the
carpet with a silly air of self-importance; Mrs. Strongtharm in a
chair opposite.  By the window Miss Quiney, pulling at her knuckles,
stares out through the dark panes.  A clock strikes_.

_Miss Quiney (with a nervous start)_.  Four o'clock . . .
nine hours. . . .

_Mrs. Strongtharm._  More.  The pains took her soon after six. . . .
When her bell rang I looked at the clock.  I remember.

_Miss Quiney_.  My poor Ruth.

_Mrs. Strongtharm_.  Eh?  The first, o' course. . . .  But a long
labour's often the best.

_Miss Quiney_.  There has not been a sound for hours.

_Mrs. Strongtharm_.  She's brave.  They say, too, that a man-child,
if he's a real strong one, will wait for daybreak; but that's old
women's notions, I shouldn't wonder.

_Miss Quiney_.  A man-child?  You think it will be?

_Mrs. Strongtharm_.  (She exchanges a glance with Mrs. Josselin, who
has looked up suddenly and nods.)  Certain.

_Mrs. Josselin_.  Certain, certain!  I wonder, now, what they'll call
him!  After Sir Oliver, perhaps.  Her own father's name was Michael.
In my own family--that's the Pocock's--the men were mostly Williams
and Georges.  Called after the Kings of England.

_Mrs. Strongtharm (yawns)_.  Oliver Cromwell was as good as any king,
and better.  Leastways my mar says so.  For my part, I don't bother
my head wi' these old matters.

_Miss Quiney (tentatively)_.  Do you know, I was half hoping it would
be a girl, just like my darling.  _(To herself)_ God forgive me, when
I think--

_Mrs. Strongtharm (interrupting the thought)_.  _She_ won't be hoping
for a girl.  You don't understand these things, beggin' your pardon,
ma'am.

_Miss Quiney (meekly)_.  No.

_Mrs. Josselin_.  You don't neither of you understand.  How should
you?

_Mrs. Strongtharm (stung)_.  I understand as well as a fool, I should
hope!  _(She turns to Miss Quiney.)_  'Twas a nat'ral wish in ye,
ma'am, that such a piece o' loveliness should bear just such another.
But wait a while; they're young and there's time. . . . My lady wants
a boy first, like every true woman that loves her lord.
There's pride an' wonder in it.  All her life belike she's felt
herself weak an' shivered to think of battles, and now, lo an'
behold, she's the very gates o' strength with an army marchin' forth
to conquer the world.  Ha'n't ye never caught your breath an' felt
the tears swellin' when ye saw a regiment swing up the street?

_Miss Quiney_.  Ah! . . . Is it like that?

_Mrs. Strongtharm_.  It's like all that, an' more. . . . An' though
I've wet my pillow afore now with envy of it, I thank the Lord for
givin' a barren woman the knowledge.

                              _A pause_.

_Mrs. Josselin (with a silly laugh)_.  What wonderful patterns they
make in the carpets nowadays!  Look at this one, now--runnin' in and
out so that the eye can't hardly follow it; and all for my lord's
dressing-room!  Cost a hundred pound, I shouldn't wonder.

_Mrs. Strongtharm_.  T'cht!

_Mrs. Josselin_.  He must be amazing fond of her.  Fancy, my Ruth!
 . . . It's a pity he's not home, to take the child.

_Mrs. Strongtharm_.  Men at these times are best out o' the way.

_Mrs. Josselin_.  When my first was born, Michael--that's my
husband--stayed home from sea o' purpose to take it.  My first was a
girl.  No, not Ruth; Ruth was born after my man died, and I had her
christened Ruth because some one told me it stood for "sorrow."
I had three before Ruth--a girl an' two boys, an' buried them all.

_Miss Quiney (listening)_.  Hush!

_Mrs. Josselin (not hearing, immersed in her own mental flow)_.
If you call a child by a sorrowful name it's apt to ward off the
ill-luck.  Look at Ruth now--christened in sorrow an' married, after
all, to the richest in the land!

_Miss Quiney (in desperation)_.  Oh, hush! hush!

_A low moan comes from the next room.  The women sit silent, their
faces white in the dawn that now comes stealing in at the window,
conquering the candle-light by little and little_.

_Mrs. Strongtharm_.  I thought I heard a child's cry. . . . They cry
at once.

_Miss Quiney_.  Ah?  I fancied it, too--a feeble one.

_Mrs. Strongtharm (rising after a long pause)_.  Something is
wrong. . . .

_As she goes to listen at the door, it opens, and the man-midwife
enters.  His face is grave_.

_Mrs. Strongtharm and Miss Quiney ask him together, under their
breath_--Well?

_He answers:_ It is well.  We have saved her life, I trust.

--And the child?

--A boy.  It lived less than a minute. . . . Yet a shapely
child. . . .

_Miss Quiney clasps her hands.  Shall she, within her breast, thank
God?  She cannot.  She hears the voice saying_,--

A very shapely child. . . . But the labour was difficult.  There was
some pressure on the brain, some lesion.

They would have denied Ruth sight of the poor little body, but she
stretched out her arms for it and insisted.  Then as she held it,
flesh of her flesh, to her breast and felt it cold, she--she, whose
courage had bred wonder in them, even awe--she who had smiled between
her pangs, murmuring pretty thanks--wailed low, and, burying her
face, lay still.



Chapter VI.


CHILDLESS MOTHER.


In the sad and cheated days that followed, she, with the milk of
motherhood wasting in her, saw with new eyes--saw many things
heretofore hidden from her.

She did not believe in any scriptural God.  But she believed--she
could not help believing--in an awful Justice overarching all human
life with its law, as it overarched the very stars in heaven.
And this law she believed to rest in goodness, accessible to the pure
conscience, but stern against the transgressor.

Because she believed this, she had felt that the marriage rite, with
such an one as Mr. Silk for intercessor between her vows and a clean
Heaven, could be but a sullying of marriage.  Yes, and she felt it
still; of this, at any rate, she was sure.

But in her pride--as truly she saw it, in her pride of chastity--she
had left the child out of account.  _He_ had inherited the world to
face, not armed with her weapon of scorn.  _He_ had not won freedom
through a scourge.  He had grown to his fate in her womb, and in the
womb she had betrayed him.

She had been blind, blind!  She had lived for her lover and herself.
To him and to her (it had seemed) this warm, transitory life
belonged; a fleeting space of time, a lodge leased to bliss. . . .
Now she fronted the truth, that between the selfish rapture of lovers
Heaven slips a child, smiling at the rapture, provident for the race.
Now she read the secret of woman's nesting instinct; the underlying
wisdom stirring the root of it, awaking passion not to satisfy
passion, but that the world may go on and on to its unguessed ends.
Now she could read ironically the courtship of man and maid, dallying
by river-paths, beside running water, overarched by boughs that had
protected a thousand such courtships.  Each pair in turn--poor fools!
--had imagined the world theirs, compressed into their grasp; whereas
the wise world was merely flattering, coaxing them, preparing for the
child.

She should have been preparing, too.  For what are women made but for
motherhood?  She?  She had had but a hand to turn, a word to utter,
and this child--healthily begotten, if ever child was, and to claim,
if ever child could, the best--has broken triumphing through the gate
of her travail.  But she had betrayed him.  The new-born spirit had
arrived expectant, had cast one look across the threshold, and with
one wail had fled.  Through and beyond her answering wail, as she
laid her head on the pillow, she heard the lost feet, the small
betrayed feet, pattering away into darkness.


When she grew stronger, it consoled her a little to talk with Mrs.
Strongtharm; not confiding her regrets and self-reproaches, but
speculating much on this great book of Maternity into which she had
been given a glimpse.  The metaphor was Mrs. Strongtharm's.

"Ay," said that understanding female, "a book you may call it, and a
wonderful one; written by all the women, white an' black, copper-skin
an' red-skin, that ever groped their way in it with pangs an' joys;
for every one writes in it as well as reads.  What's more, 'tis all
in one language, though they come, as my man would say, from all the
airts o' Babel."

"I wonder," mused Ruth, "if somewhere in it there's a chapter would
tell me why, when I lie awake and think of my lost one, 'tis his
footsteps I listen for--feet that never walked!"

"Hush ye, now. . . . Isn't it always their feet, the darlings!
Don't the sound of it, more'n their voices, call me to door a dozen
times a day? . . .  I never bore child; but I made garments in hope
o' one.  Tell me, when you knitted his little boots, wasn't it
different from all the rest?"

"Ah, put them away!"

"To be sure, dearie, to be sure--all ready for the next."

"I shall never have another child."

Mrs. Strongtharm smiled tolerantly.

"Never," Ruth repeated; "never; I know it."


With the same assurance of prophesy she answered her lover on his
return, a bare two months later.

"But you must have known. . . .  Even your letters kept it secret.
Yet, had you written, the next ship would have brought me.  Surely
you did not doubt _that?_"

"No."

"Then why did you not tell me?"

It was the inevitable question.  She had forestalled it so often in
her thoughts that, when uttered at last, it gave her a curious
sensation of re-enacting some long-past scene.

"I thought you did not care for children."

He was pacing the room.  He halted, and stared at her in sheer
astonishment.  Many a beautiful woman touches the height of her
beauty after the birth of her first child; and this woman had never
stood before him in loveliness that, passing comprehension, so nearly
touched the divine.  But her perversity passed comprehension yet
farther.

"Do you call that an answer?" he demanded.

"No. . . . You asked, and I had to say something; but it is no
answer.  Forgive me.  It was the best I could find."

He still eyed her, between wrath and admiration.

"I think," she said, after a pause, "the true answer is just that I
did wrongly--wrongly for the child's sake."

"That's certain.  And your own?"

"My own? That does not seem to me to count so much. . . .  Neither of
us believe that a priest can hallow marriage; but once I felt that
the touch of a certain one could defile it."

"You have never before reproached me with that."

"Nor mean to now.  I chose to run from him; but, dear, I do not ask
to run from the consequences."

"The blackguard has had his pretty revenge.  Langton told me of it.
 . . . All the prudes of Boston gather up their skirts, he says."

"What matter?  Are we not happier missing them? . . .  Honester,
surely, and by that much at any rate the happier."

"Marry me, and I promise to force them all back to your feet."

She laughed quietly, almost to herself, a little wearily.  "Can you
not see, my dear lord, that I ask for no such triumph?  It is good of
you--oh, I see how good!--to desire it for me.  But did we want these
people in our forest days?"

"One cannot escape the world," he muttered.

"What?  Not when the world is so quick to cast one out?"

"Ruth," he said, coming and standing close to her, "I do not believe
you have given me the whole answer even yet.  The true reason,
please!"

"Must a woman give all her reasons? . . .  She follows her fate, and
at each new turning she may have a dozen, all to be forgotten at the
next."

"I am sure you harbour some grudge--some reservation?"  His eyes
questioned her.

She kept him waiting for some seconds.

"My lord, women have no consistency but in this--they are jealous
when they love.  As your slave, I demand nothing; as your mistress, I
demand only you.  But if you wished also to set me high among women,
you should have given me all or nothing. . . . You did not offer to
take me with you.  I was not worthy to be shown to that proud folk,
your family."

"If you had breathed a wish, even the smallest hint of one--"

"I had no wish, save that you should offer it.  I had only some
pride.  I was--I am--well content; only do not come back and offer me
these women of Boston, or anything second best in your eyes, however
much the gift may cost you."

"Have it as you will," said he, after a long pause.  "I was wrong,
and I beg your pardon.  But I was less wrong than your jealousy
suspects.  My family will welcome you.  Forgive me that I thought it
well--that it might save you any chance of humiliation--to prepare
them."

She swept him a curtsy.  "They are very good," she said.

He detected the irony, yet he persisted, holding his temper well in
control.  "But all this presupposes, you see, that you marry me.
 . . . Ruth, you confess that you were wrong, for the child's sake.
He is dead; and, on the whole, so much the better, poor mite!
But for another, should another be born--"

"There would be time," she said quietly.  "But we shall never have
another."


She had hardened strangely.  It was as if the milk of motherhood,
wasting in her, had packed itself in a crust about her heart.
He loved her; she never ceased to love him; but whereas under the
public scourge something had broken, letting her free of opinion, to
love the good and hate the evil for their own sakes, under this
second and more mysterious visitation, she kept her courage indeed,
but certainty was hers no longer; nor was she any longer free of
opinion, but hardened her heart against it consciously, as against an
enemy.

Not otherwise can I account for the image of Ruth Josselin--my Lady
Vyell--Lady Good-for-Nothing--as under these various names it flits,
for the next few years, through annals, memoirs, correspondence,
scandalous chronicles; now vindicated, now glanced at with unseemly
nods and becks, anon passionately denounced; now purely shining, now
balefully, above and between the clouds of those times; but always a
star and an object of wonder.

"In all Massachusetts," writes the Reverend Hiram Williams, B.D., in
his tract entitled _A Shoe Over Edom_, "was no stronghold of Satan to
compare with that built on a slope to the rearward of Boston, by Sir
O--V--, Baronet.  Here with a woman, born of this Colony, of passing
wit and beauty (both alike the dower of the Evil One), he kept house
to the scandal of all devout persons, entertaining none but professed
Enemies of our Liberties, Atheists, Gamesters."  Here one may pause
and suspect the reverend castigator of confusing several dislikes in
one argument.  It is done sometimes, even in our own day, by
religious folk who polemise in politics.  "Cards they played on the
Sabbath.  Plays they rehearsed too, by Shakespeare, Dryden, Congreve
and others, whose names may guarantee their lewdness. . . .  The
woman, I have said, was fair; but of that sort their feet go down
ever _to_ Hell. . . ."

"My Noll's _Belle Sauvage_," writes Langton to Walpole, "continues a
riddle.  I shall never solve it; yet 'till I have solved it, expect
me not.  'Tis certain she loves him; and because she loves him, her
loyalty allows not hint of sadness even to me, his best friend.
Guess why she likes me?  'Tis because (I am sure of it) even in the
old clouded days I never took money from Noll, nor borrowed a
shilling that I didn't repay within the week.  She is a puzzle, I
say; but somehow the key lies in this--_She is a woman that pays her
debts_. .  . .

"They sail for Europe next spring; but not, as I understand for
England, where his family may not receive her, and where by
consequence he will not expose her to their slights.  If I have made
you impatient to set eyes on her, you must e'enpack and pay that
long-promised visit to Florence.  She is worth the pilgrimage."


They sailed in the early spring of 1752--Langton with them--and duly
came to port in the Tagus.  From Lisbon, after a short stay, they
travelled to Paris, and from Paris across Switzerland to Italy,
visiting in turn Turin, Venice, Ravenna, Florence, Rome, Naples, and
returning from that port to Lisbon, where (the situation so charmed
him) Sir Oliver bought and furnished a villa overlooking the Tagus.


As she passes through Paris we get a glimpse of her in the Memoirs of
that agreeable rattle, Arnauld de Jouy:--

"I must not forget to tell of an amusing little comedy of error
played at the Opera-house this season (1752).  All Paris was agog to
see the famous English--or rather Irish--beauty, my Lady Coventry,
newly arrived in the Capital.  She was one of the Gunning sisters,
over whom all London had already lost its head so wildly that I am
assured a shoemaker made no small sum by exhibiting their
_pantoufles_ to the porters and chairmen at three sous a gaze. . . .
On a certain night, then, it was rumoured that she would pay her
first visit to the Opera, but none could say whose box she intended
to honour. . . . It turned out to be the Duc de Luxembourg's, and
upon my lady's entrance--a little late--the whole audience rose to
its feet in homage, though Visconti happened just then to be midway
in an _aria_.  The singer faltered at the interruption, perplexed;
her singing stopped, and lifting her eyes to the lines of boxes she
dropped a sweeping curtsy--to the opposite side of the house! . . .
All eyes turn, and behold! right opposite to Beauty Number One, into
the box of Mme. the Marechale de Lowendahl there has just entered a
Beauty Number Two, not one whit less fair--so regally fair indeed
that the audience, yet standing, turn from one to the other,
uncertain which to salute.  Nor were they resolved when the act
closed.

"Meantime my Lady Coventry (for in truth the first-comer was she) has
sent her husband out to the _foyer_, to make enquiries.  He comes
back and reports her to be the lady of Sir Oliver Vyell, a great
American Governor [But here we detect de Jouy in a slight error]
newly arrived from his Province; that she is by birth an American,
and has never visited Europe before.  'She must be Pocahontas
herself, then,' says the Gunning, and very prettily sends across
after the second Act, desiring the honour of her acquaintance.
Nay, this being granted, she goes herself to the Marechale's box, and
the pair sit together in full view of all--a superb challenge, and
made with no show (as I believe, with no feeling) of jealousy.  The
audience is entranced. . . . Report said later that my Lady Coventry,
who was given to these small indiscretions, asked almost in her first
breath, yet breathlessly, her rival's age.  Her rival smiled and told
it.  'Then you are older than I--but how long have you been married?'
This, too, her rival told her.  'Then,' sighed the Gunning, 'perhaps
you do not love your lord as I love my Cov.  It _is_ wearing to the
looks; but 'faith, I cannot help it!'"


From Lisbon Sir Oliver paid several flying visits to England, where
his suit against Lady Caroline still dragged.  Nor was it concluded
until the summer of 1754, when the _Gentleman's Magazine_ yields us
the following:--


"_June 4_.  A cause between Sir Oliver Vyell, baronet, plaintiff, and
the lady of the late Sir Thomas, defendant, was tried in the Court of
King's Bench by a special jury.  The subject of the litigation was a
will of Sir Thomas, suspected to be made when he was not of sound
mind; and it appeared that he had made three--one in 1741, another in
1744, and a third in 1746.  In the first only a slender provision was
made for his lady, by the second a family estate in Devonshire, of
2,000 pounds per annum, was given her for her life, and by the third
the whole estate real and personal was left to be disposed of at her
discretion without any provision for the heir-at-law.  The jury,
after having withdrawn for about an hour and a half, set aside the
last and confirmed the second.  In a hearing before the Lord
Chancellor some time afterwards in relation to the costs, it was
deemed that the lady should pay them all, both at common law and in
Chancery."


Thus we see our Ruth by glimpses in these years which were far from
being the best or the happiest of her life--"an innocent life, yet
far astray."

But one letter of hers abides, kept in contrition by the woman to
whom she wrote it, and in this surely the noble soul of her mounts
like a star and shines, clear above the wreck of her life.


"MY DEAR MRS. HARRY,--"

"Let there be few words between us.  My child
did not live, and I shall never bear my lord another; therefore,
outside of your feelings and mine, what you did or left undone
matters not at all in this world.  You talk of the next, and there
you go beyond me; but if there be a next world, and my forgiveness
can help you there, why you had it long ago! . . . 'You reproach
yourself constantly,' you say; 'You should have told him and you
withheld the letter;' 'You did wickedly'--and the rest.  Oh, my dear,
will you not see that I have been a mother, too, and understand?
In your place I might have done the same.  Yes?  No?  At any rate I
should have known the temptation.

"Yours affectionately,"

"RUTH."


The law business ended, she and Sir Oliver sailed for Boston and
spent a few weeks at Eagles.  He had resigned the Collectorship of
Customs, but with no intent to return and make England his home.
His attachment to Eagles had grown; he was perpetually making fresh
plans to enlarge and adorn it; and he proposed henceforth, laying
aside all official cares, to spend his summers in New England, his
winters in the softer climate of Lisbon.




BOOK V.




LISBON AND AFTER.




Chapter I.


ACT OF FAITH.


"How is it possible for people beholding that glorious Body to
worship any Being but Him who created it!"


Upon the stroke of nine the procession filed forth into the Square.
It was headed by about a hundred Dominican friars, bearing the banner
of their founder.  The banner displayed a Cross betwixt an olive tree
and a sword, with the motto _Justitia et Misericordia_.

After the Dominicans walked five penitents; each with a sergeant, or
Familiar, attending.  Two of the five wore black mitres, three were
bareheaded.  All walked barefoot, clad in black sleeveless coats, and
each carried a long wax candle.  These had escaped the extreme
sentence; and after them came one, a woman, who had escaped it also,
but narrowly and as by fire.  In token of this her black robe was
painted over with flames, having their points turned downward.
Close behind followed three men on whose san-benitos the flames
pointed upward.  These were being led to execution, and two of them
who carried boards on their breasts, painted with dogs and serpents,
were to die by fire for having professed doctrines contrary to the
Faith; the third, who carried no board, was a "Relapsed," and might
look forward to the privilege of being strangled before being cast to
the flame.  To each of these three was assigned, in addition to the
Familiar, a couple of Jesuit priests, to walk beside him and exhort
him.

The man who was to be strangled came through the gateway of the
Inquisition Office with his gaze bent to the ground, apparently
insensible to the mob of sightseers gathered in the Square.
The doomed man who followed--a mere youth, and, by his face,
a Jew--stared about him fiercely and eagerly.  The third was an old
man, with ragged hair and beard, and a complexion bleached by long
imprisonment in the dark.  He halted, blinking, uncertain how to
plant his steps.  Then, feeling rather than seeing the sun, he
stretched up both arms to it, dropping his taper, calling aloud as
might a preacher, "How is it possible for people, beholding that
glorious Body, to worship any Being but Him who created it!"

A Jesuit at his side flung an arm across the old man's mouth; and as
quickly the Familiar whipped out a cloth, pulled his head back, and
gagged him.  The young Jew had turned and was staring, still with his
fierce, eager look.  He was wheeled about and plucked forward.

Next through the gateway issued a troupe of Familiars on horseback,
some of them nobles of the first families in Portugal; after them the
Inquisitors and other Officers of the Court upon mules; last of all,
amid a train of nobles, the Inquisitor-General himself on a white
horse led by two grooms: his delicate hands resting on the reins, his
face a pale green by reason of the sunlight falling on it through a
silken scarf of that colour pendant over the brim of his immense
black hat.


All this passed before Ruth's eyes, and close, as she sat in the
mule-chaise beside Sir Oliver.  She would have drawn the leathern
curtains, but he had put out a hand forbidding this.

She could not at any rate have escaped hearing the old man's
exclamation; for their chaise was jammed in the crowd beside the
gateway.  Her ears still kept the echo of his vibrant voice; almost
she was persuaded that his eyes had singled her out from the crowd.

--And why not?  Had not she, also, cause to know what cruelties men
will commit in the name of religion?


Her heart was wrathful as well as pitiful.  Her lord had given her no
warning of the auto-da-fe, and she now suspected that in suggesting
this Sunday morning drive he had purposely decoyed her to it.
Presently, as the crowd began to clear, he confirmed the suspicion.

"Since we are here, we may as well see the sp--"  He was going to say
"sport," but, warned by a sudden stiffening of her body, he corrected
the word to "spectacle."  "They erect a grand stand on these
occasions; or, if you prefer, we can bribe them to give room for the
chaise."

He bent forward and called to the coachman, "Turn the mules' heads,
and follow!"

"Indeed I will not," she said firmly.  "Do you go--if such crimes
amuse you. . . . For me, I shall walk home."

He shrugged his shoulders.  "It is the custom of the country. . . .
But, as for your walking, I cannot allow it for a moment.  Juan shall
drive you home."

She glanced at him.  His eyes were fixed on the opposite side of the
square, and she surprised in them a look of recognition not intended
for her.  Following the look, she saw a chaise much like their own,
moving slowly with the throng, and in it a woman seated.

Ruth knew her.  She was Donna Maria, Countess of Montalagre; and of
late Sir Oliver's name had been much coupled with hers.

This Ruth did not know; but she had guessed for some time that he was
unfaithful.  She had felt no curiosity at all to learn the woman's
name.  Now an accident had opened her eyes, and she saw.

Her first feeling was of slightly contemptuous amusement.
Donna Maria, youthful wife of an aged and enfeebled lord, passed for
one of the extremely devout.  She had considerable beauty, but of an
order Ruth could easily afford to scorn.  It was the _bizarrerie_ of
the affair that tickled her, almost to laughter--Donna Maria's
down-dropt gaze, the long lashes veiling eyes too holy-innocent for
aught but the breviary; and he--he of all men!--playing the lover to
this little dunce, with her empty brain, her narrow religiosity!

But on afterthought, she found it somewhat disgusting too.

"I thank you," she said.  "Juan shall drive me home, then.  It will
not, I hope, inconvenience you very much, since I see the Countess of
Montalagre's carriage across the way.  No doubt she will offer you a
seat."

He glanced at her, but her face was cheerfully impassive.

"That's an idea!" he said.  "I will run and make interest with her."

He alighted, and gave Juan the order to drive home.  He lifted his
hat, and left her.  She saw Donna Maria's start of simulated
surprise.  Also she detected, or thought she detected, the sly
triumph of a woman who steals a man.

All this she had leisure to observe; for Juan, a Gallician, was by no
means in a hurry to turn the mules' heads for home.  He had slewed
his body about, and was gazing wistfully after the throng.

"Your Excellency, it would be a thousand pities!"

"Hey?"

"There has not been a finer burning these two years, they tell me.
And that old blasphemer's beard, when they set a light to it! . . .
I am a poor Gallego, your Excellency, and at home get so few chances
of enjoyment.  Also I have dropped my whip, and it is trodden on,
broken.  In the crowd at the Terreiro de Paco I may perchance borrow
another."

Ruth alighted in a blaze of wrath.

"Wretched man," she commanded, "climb down!"

"Your Excellency--"

"Climb down!  You shall go, as your betters have gone, to feed your
eyes with these abominations. . . . Nay, how shall I scold you, who
do what your betters teach?  But climb down.  I will drive the mules
myself."

"His Excellency will murder me when he hears of it.  But, indeed, was
ever such a thing heard of?"  Nevertheless the man was plainly in two
minds.

"It is not for you to argue, but to obey my orders."

He descended, still protesting.  She mounted to his seat, and took
the reins and whip.

"The brutes are spirited, your Excellency.  For the love of God have
a care of them!"

For answer she flicked them with the whip--he had lied about the
broken whip--and left him staring.

The streets were deserted.  All Lisbon had trooped to the auto-da-fe.
If any saw and wondered at the sight of a lady driving like a mere
_bolhero_, she heeded not.  The mules trotted briskly, and she kept
them to it.

She had ceased to be amused, even scornfully.  As she drove up the
slope of Buenos Ayres--the favourite English suburb, where his villa
stood overlooking Tagus--a deep disgust possessed her.  It darkened
the sunshine.  It befouled, it tarnished, the broad and noble mirror
of water spread far below.

"Were all men beasts, then?"



Chapter II.


DONNA MARIA.


They would dine at four o'clock.  On Sundays Sir Oliver chose to dine
informally with a few favoured guests; and these to-day would make
nine, not counting Mr. Langton, who might be reckoned one of the
household.

By four o'clock all had arrived--the British envoy, Mr. Castres, with
his lady; Lord Charles Douglas, about to leave Lisbon after a visit
of pleasure; Mrs. Hake, a sister of Governor Hardy of New York--she,
with an invalid husband and two children, occupied a villa somewhat
lower down the slope of Buenos Ayres; white-haired old Colonel
Arbuthnot, _doyen_ of the English residents; Mr. Hay, British Consul,
and Mr. Raymond, one of the chiefs of the English factory, with their
wives. . . . Ruth looked at the clock.  All were here save only their
host, Sir Oliver.

Mr. Langton, with Lord Charles Douglas, had returned from the
auto-da-fe.  Like his friend George Selwyn--friend these many years
by correspondence only--Mr. Langton was a dilettante in executions
and like horrors, and had taken Lord Charles to the show, to initiate
him.  He reported that they had left Sir Oliver in a press of the
crowd, themselves hurrying away on foot.  He would doubtless arrive
in a few minutes.  Mr. Langton said nothing of the executions.

Mr. Castres, too, ignored them.  He knew, of course, that the
auto-da-fe had taken place, and that the Court had witnessed it in
state from a royal box.  But his business, as tactful Envoy of a
Protestant country, was to know nothing of this.  He went on talking
with Mrs. Hake, who--good soul--actually knew nothing of it.
Her children absorbed all her care; and having heard Miriam, the
younger, cough twice that morning, she was consulting the Envoy on
the winter climate of Lisbon--was it, for instance, prophylactic
against croup.

At five minutes past four Sir Oliver arrived.  Before apologising he
stood aside ceremoniously in the doorway to admit a companion--the
Countess of Montalegre.

"I have told them," said he as Donna Maria tripped forward demurely
to shake hands, "to lay for the Countess.  The business was long, by
reason of an interminable sermon, and at the end there was a crush at
the exit from the Terreiro de Paco and a twenty good minutes' delay--
impossible to extricate oneself.  Had I not persuaded the Countess to
drive me all the way home, my apologies had been a million instead of
the thousand I offer."

Had he brought the woman in defiance?  Or was it merely to discover
how much, if anything, Ruth suspected?  If to discover, his design
had no success.  Ruth saw--it needed less than half a glance--Batty
Langton bite his lip and turn to the window.  Lord Charles wore a
faintly amused smile.  These two knew, at any rate.  For the others
she could not be sure.  She greeted Donna Maria with a gentle
courtesy.

"We will delay dinner with pleasure," she said, "while my
waiting-woman attends on you."

During the few minutes before the Countess reappeared she conversed
gaily with one and another of her guests.  Her face had told him
nothing, and her spirit rose on the assurance that, at least, she was
puzzling him.

Yet all the while she asked herself the same questions.  Had he done
this to defy her?  Or to sound her suspicions?

In part he was defying her; as he proved at table by talking freely
of the auto-da-fe.  Donna Maria sat at his right hand, and added a
detail here and there to his description.  The woman apparently had
no pity in her for the unhappy creatures she had seen slowly and
exquisitely murdered.  Were they not heretics, serpents, enemies of
the true Faith?

"But ah!" she cried once with pretty affectation.  "You make me
forget my manners! . . . Am I not, even now, talking of these things
among Lutherans?  Your good lady, for instance?"

At the far end of the table, Ruth--speaking across Mr. Castres and
engaging Mrs. Hake's ear, lest it should be attracted by this
horrible conversation--discussed the coming war with France.
She upheld that the key of it lay in America.  He maintained that
India held it--"Old England, you may trust her; money's her blood,
and the blood she scents in a fight.  She'll fasten on India like a
bulldog." Colonel Arbuthnot applauded.  "Where the treasure is,"
quoted Ruth, "there the heart is also.  You give it a good British
paraphrase. . . . But her real blood--some of the best of it--beats
in America.  There the French challenge her, and she'll have, spite
of herself, to take up the challenge.  Montcalm! . . . He means to
build an empire there."  "Pardon me"--Mr. Castres smiled
indulgently--"you are American born, and see all things American in
a high light.  We skirmish there . . . backwoods fighting, you may
call it."

"With a richer India at the back of the woods.  Oh! I trust England,
and Pitt, when his hour comes.  England reminds me of Saul, always
going forth to discover a few asses and always in the end discovering
a kingdom.  Other nations build the dream, dreams being no gift of
hers.  Then she steps in, thrusts out the dreamers, inherits the
reality.  America, though you laugh at it, has cost the best dreaming
of two nations--Spain first, and now France--and the best blood of
both.  Bating Joan of Arc--a woman--France hasn't bred a finer spirit
than Montcalm's since she bred Froissart's men.  But to what end?
England will break that great heart of his."

She was talking for talking's sake, only anxious to divert Mrs.
Hake's ears from the conversation her own ears caught, only too
plainly.

Mrs. Hake said, "I prefer to believe Mr. Castres.  My brother writes
that every one is quitting New York, and I'm only thankful-if war
must come, over there--that we've taken our house on a three years'
lease only.  No one troubles about Portugal, and I must say that I've
never found a city to compare with Lisbon.  The suburbs! . . . Why,
this very morning I saw the city itself one pall of smoke.
You'd have thought a main square was burning.  Yet up here, in Buenos
Ayres, it might have been midsummer. . . . The children, playing in
the garden, called me out to look at the smoke.  _Was_ there a fire?
I must ask Sir Oliver."

Mrs. Hake had raised her voice; but Ruth managed to intercept the
question.

All the while she was thinking, thinking to herself.--"And he, who
can speak thus, once endured shame to shield me!  He laughs at things
infinitely crueller. . . . Yet they differ in degree only from what
then stirred him to fight. . . ."

--"Have I then so far worsened him?  Is the blame mine?"

--"Or did the curse but delay to work in him?--in him, my love and my
hero?  Was it foreordained to come to this, though I would at any
time have given my life to prevent it?"

Again she thought.--"I have been wrong in holding religion to be the
great cause why men are cruel,--as in believing that free-thought
must needs humanise us all.  Strange! that I should discover my error
on this very day has showed me men being led by religion to deaths of
torture. . . . Yet an error it must be.  For see my lord--hear how he
laughs as cruelly, even, as the _devote_ at his elbow!"

They had loitered some while over dessert, and Ruth's eye sought
Donna Maria's, to signal her before rising and leaving the gentlemen
to their wine.  But Donna Maria was running a preoccupied glance
around the table and counting with her fingers. . . . Presently the
glance grew distraught and the silly woman fell back in her chair
with a cry.

"Jesus!  We are thirteen!"

"Faith, so we are," said Sir Oliver with an easy laugh, after
counting.

"And I the uninvited one!  The calamity must fall on _me_--there is
no other way!"

"But indeed there is another way," said Ruth, rising with a smile.
"In my country the ill-luck falls on the first to leave the table.
And who should that be, here, but the hostess?"



Chapter III.


EARTHQUAKE.


The auto-da-fe was but a preliminary to the festivities and great
processions of All Saints.  For a whole week Lisbon had been sanding
its squares and streets, painting its signboards, draping its
balconies and windows to the fourth and fifth stories with hangings
of crimson damask.  Street after street displayed this uniform vista
of crimson, foil for the procession, with its riot of gorgeous
dresses, gold lace, banners, precious stones.

Ruth leaned on the balustrade of her villa garden, and looked down
over the city, from which, made musical by distance, the bells of
thirty churches called to High Mass.  Their chorus floated up to her
on the delicate air; and--for the chimneys of Lisbon were smokeless,
the winter through, in all but severest weather, and the citizens did
their cooking over braziers--each belfry stood up distinct, edged
with gold by the brilliant morning sun.  Aloft the sky spread its
blue bland and transparent; far below her Tagus mirrored it in a lake
of blue.  Many vessels rode at anchor there.  The villas to right and
left and below her, or so much of them as rose out of their
embosoming trees, took the sunlight on walls of warm yellow, with
dove-coloured shadows.

She was thinking. . . . He had tried to discover how much she
suspected; and when neither in word or look would she lower her
guard, he had turned defiant.  This very morning he had told her
that, if she cared to use it, a carriage was at her disposal.
For himself, the Countess of Montalegre had offered him a seat in
hers, and he had accepted. . . . He had told her this at the last
moment, entering her room in the full court dress the state
procession demanded; and he had said it with a studied carelessness,
not meeting her eyes.

She had thanked him, and added that she was in two minds about going.
She was not dressed for the show, and doubted if her maid could array
her in time.

"We go to the Cathedral," said he.  "I should recommend that or the
Church of St. Vincent, where, some say, the Mass is equally fine."

"If I go, I shall probably content myself with the procession."

"If that's so, I've no doubt Langton will escort you.  He likes
processions, though he prefers executions.  To a religious service I
doubt your bribing him."

Upon this they had parted, each well aware that, but a few weeks ago,
this small expedition would have been planned together, discussed,
shared, as a matter of course.  At parting he kissed her hand--he had
always exquisite manners; and she wished him a pleasant day with a
voice quite cheerful and unconstrained.


From the sunlit terrace she looked almost straight down upon the
garden of Mrs. Hake's villa.  The two little girls were at play
there.  She heard their voices, shrill above the sound of the church
bells.  Now and again she caught a glimpse of them, at hide-and-seek
between the ilexes.

She was thinking.  If only fate had given her children such as these!
 . . . As it was, she could show a brave face.  But what could the
future hold?

She heard their mother calling to them.  They must have obeyed and
run to her, for the garden fell silent of a sudden.  The bells, too,
were ceasing--five or six only tinkled on.


She leaned forward over the balustrade to make sure that the children
were gone.  As she did so, the sound of a whimper caught her ear.
She looked down, and spoke soothingly to a small dog, an Italian
greyhound, a pet of Mr. Langton's, that had run to her trembling, and
was nuzzling against her skirt for shelter.  She could not think what
ailed the creature.  Belike it had taken fright at a noise below the
terrace--a rumbling noise, as of a cart mounting the hill heavily
laden with stones.

The waggon, if waggon it were, must be on the roadway to the left.
Again she leaned forward over the balustrade.  A faint tremor ran
through the stonework on which her arms rested.  For a moment she
fancied it some trick of her own pulse.

But the tremor was renewed.  The pulsation was actually in the
stonework. . . . And then, even while she drew back, wondering, the
terrace under her feet heaved as though its pavement rested on a wave
of the sea.  She was thrown sideways, staggering; and while she
staggered, saw the great flagstones of the terrace raise themselves
on end, as notes of a harpsichord when the fingers withdraw their
pressure.

She would have caught again at the balustrade.  But it had vanished,
or rather was vanishing under her gaze, toppling into the garden
below.  The sound of the falling stones was caught up in a long, low
rumble, prolonged, swelling to a roar from the city below.  Again the
ground heaved, and beneath her--she had dropped on her knees, and
hung, clutching the little dog, staring over a level verge where the
balustrade had run--she saw Lisbon fall askew, this way and that: the
roofs collapsing, like a toy structure of cards.  Still the roar of
it swelled on the ear; yet, strange to say, the roar seemed to have
nothing to do with the collapse, which went on piecemeal, steadily,
like a game.  The crescendo was drowned in a sharper roar and a crash
close behind her--a crash that seemed the end of all things. . . .
The house!  She had not thought of the house.  Turning, she faced a
cloud of dust, and above it saw, before the dust stung her eyes,
half-blinding her, that the whole front of the villa had fallen
outwards.  It had, in fact, fallen and spread its ruin within two
yards of her feet.  Had the terrace been by that much narrower, she
must have been destroyed.  As it was, above the dust, she gazed,
unhurt, into a house from which the front screen had been sharply
caught away, as a mask snatched from a face.

By this the horror had become a dream to her.  As in a dream she saw
one of her servants--a poor little under-housemaid, rise to her knees
from the floor where she had been flung, totter to the edge of the
house-front, and stand, piteously gazing down over a height
impossible to leap.

A man's voice shouted.  Around the corner of the house, from the
stables, Mr. Langton came running, by a bare moment escaping death
from a mass of masonry that broke from the parapet, and crashed to
the ground close behind his heels.

"Lady Vyell!  Where is Lady Vyell?"

Ruth called to him, and he scrambled towards her over the gaping
pavement.  He called as he came, but she could distinguish no words,
for within the last few seconds another and different sound had grown
on the ear--more terrible even than the first roar of ruin.

"My God! look!"  He was at her side, shouting in her ear, for a wind
like a gale was roaring past them down from the hills.  With one hand
he steadied her against it, lest it should blow her over the verge.
His other pointed out over Tagus.

She stared.  She did not comprehend; she only saw that a stroke more
awful than any was falling, or about to fall.  The first convulsion
had lifted the river bed, leaving the anchored ships high and dry.
Some lay canted almost on their beam ends.  As the bottom sank again
they slowly righted, but too late; for the mass of water, flung to
the opposite shore, and hurled back from it, came swooping with a
refluent wave, that even from this high hillside was seen to be
monstrous.  It fell on their decks, drowning and smothering: their
masts only were visible above the smother, some pointing firmly,
others tottering and breaking.  Some rose no more.  Others, as the
great wave passed on, lurched up into sight again, broken, dismasted,
wrenched from their moorings, spinning about aimlessly, tossed like
corks amid the spume; and still, its crest arching, its deep note
gathering, the great wave came on straight for the harbour quay.

Ruth and Langton, staring down on this portent, did not witness the
end; for a dense cloud of dust, on this upper side dun-coloured
against the sunlight, interposed itself between them and the city,
over which it made a total darkness.  Into that darkness the great
wave passed and broke; and almost in the moment of its breaking a
second tremor shook the hillside.  Then, indeed, wave and earthquake
together made universal roar, drowning the last cry of thousands; for
before it died away earthquake and wave together had turned the
harbour quay of Lisbon bottom up, and engulfed it.  Of all the
population huddled there to escape from death in the falling streets,
not a corpse ever rose to the surface of Tagus.

But Ruth saw nothing of this.  She clung to Langton, and his arm was
about her.  She believed, with so much of her mind as was not
paralysed, that the end of the world was come.

As the infernal hubbub died away on the dropping wind, she glanced
back over her shoulder at the house.  The poor little _criada-moga_
was no longer there, peering over the edge she dared not leap.  Nay,
the house was no longer there--only three gaunt walls, and between
them a heap where rooms, floors, roof had collapsed together.

Of a sudden complete silence fell about them.  As her eyes travelled
along the edge of the terrace where the balustrade had run, but ran
no longer, she had a sensation of standing on the last brink of the
world, high over nothingness.  Langton's arm still supported her.

"As safe here as anywhere," she heard him saying.  "For the chance
that led you here, thank whatever Gods may be."

"But I must find him!" she cried.

"Eh? Noll?--find Noll?  Dear lady, small chance of that!"

"I must find him."

"He was to attend High Mass in the Cathedral--"

"Yes . . . with that woman.  What help could such an one bring to him
if--if--Oh, I must find him, I say!"

"The Cathedral," he repeated.  "You are brave; let your own eyes look
for it."  He had withdrawn his arm.

"Yet I must search, and you shall search with me.  You were his
friend, I think?"

"Indeed, I even believed so. . . . I was thinking of _you_. . . .
It is almost certain death.  Do you say that he is worth it?"

"Do you fear death?" she asked.

"Moderately," he answered.  "Yet if you command me, I come; if you
go, I go with you."

"Come."



Chapter IV.


THE SEARCH.


They set out hand in hand.  The small dog ran with them.

Even the beginning of the descent was far from easy, for the high
walls that had protected the villa-gardens of Buenos Ayres lay in
heaps, cumbering the roadway, and in places obliterating it.

About a hundred and fifty yards down the road, by what had been the
walled entrance to the Hakes' garden, they sighted two forlorn small
figures--the six and five year old Hake children, Sophie and Miriam,
who recognised Ruth and, running, clung to her skirts.

"Mamma!  Where is mamma?"

"Dears, where did you leave her last?"

 "She pushed us out through the gateway, here, and told us to stand
in the middle of the road while she ran back to call daddy.  She said
no stones could fall on us here.  But she has been gone ever so long,
and we can't hear her calling at all."

While Ruth gathered them to her and attempted to console them,
Mr. Langton stepped within the ruined gateway.  In a minute or so he
came back, and his face was grave.

She noted it.  "What can we do with them?" she asked, and added with
a haggard little smile, "I had actually begun to tell them to run up
to our house and wait, forgetting--"

"They had best wait here, as their mother advised."

"It is terrible!"

He lifted his shoulders slightly.  "If once we begin--"

"No, you are right," she said, with a shuddering glance down the
road; and bade the little ones rest still as their mother had
commanded.  She was but going down to the city (she said) to see if
the danger was as terrible down there.  The two little ones cried and
clung to her; but she put them aside firmly, promising to look for
their mamma when she returned.  Langton did not dare to glance at her
face.

The dark cloud dust met them, a gunshot below, rolling up the
hillside from the city.  They passed within the fringe of it, and at
once the noonday sun was darkened for them.  In the unnatural light
they picked their way with difficulty.

"She was lying close within the entrance," said Langton.
"The gateway arch must have fallen on her as she turned. . . . One
side of her skull was broken.  I pulled down some branches and
covered her."

"Your own face is bleeding."

"Is it?"  He put up a hand.  "Yes--I remember, a brick struck me, on
my way from the stables--no, a beam grazed me as I ran for the
back-stairs, meaning to get you out that way.  The stairs were
choked. . . . I made sure you were in the house.  The horses . . .
have you ever heard a horse scream?"

She shivered.  At a turn of the road they came full in view of the
black pall stretching over the city.  Flames shot up through it, here
and there.  Lisbon was on fire in half a dozen places at least; and
now for the first time she became aware that the wind had sprung up
again and was blowing violently.  She could not remember when it
first started: the morning had been still, the Tagus--she recalled
it--unruffled.

At the very foot of the hill they came on the first of three fires--
two houses blazing furiously, and a whole side-street doomed, if the
wind should hold.  Among the ruins of a house, right in the face of
the fire, squatted a dozen persons, men and women, all dazed by
terror.  The women had opened their parasols--possibly to screen
their faces from the heat--albeit they might have escaped this quite
easily by shifting their positions a few paces.  None of these folk
betrayed the smallest interest in Ruth or in Langton.  Indeed, they
scarcely lifted their eyes.

The suburbs were deserted, for the earthquake had surprised all
Lisbon in a pack, crowded within its churches, or in its central
streets and squares.  Yet the emptiness of what should have been the
thoroughfares astonished them scarcely less than did the piles of
masonry, breast-high in places, over which they picked their way in
the uncanny twilight.  They had scarcely passed beyond the glare of
the burning houses when Langton stumbled over a corpse--the first
they encountered.  He drew Ruth aside from it, entreating her in a
low voice to walk warily.  But she had seen.

"We shall see many before we reach the Cathedral," she said quietly.

They stumbled on, meeting with few living creatures; and these few
asked them no questions, but went by, stumbling, with hands groping,
as though they moved in a dream.  A voice wailed "Jesus! Jesus!" and
the cry, issuing Heaven knew whence, shook Ruth's nerve for a moment.

Once Langton plucked her by the arm and pointed to some men with
torches moving among the ruins.  She supposed that they were seeking
for the dead; but they were, in fact, incendiaries, already at work
and in search of loot.

She passed three or four of these blazing houses, some kindled no
doubt by incendiaries, but others by natural consequences of the
earthquake; for the kitchens, heated for the great feast, had
communicated their fires to the falling timberwork on which the
houses were framed; and by this time the city was on fire in at least
thirty different places.  The scorched smell mingled everywhere with
an odour of sulphur.

There were rents in the streets, too--chasms, half-filled with
rubble, reaching right across the roadway.  After being snatched back
by Langton from the brink of one of these chasms, Ruth steeled her
heart to be thankful when a burning house shed light for her
footsteps.  At the houses themselves, after an upward glance or two,
she dared not look again.  They leaned this way and that, the fronts
of some thrust outward at an angle to forbid any but the foolhardiest
from passing underneath.

But, indeed, they had little time to look aloft as they penetrated to
streets littered, where the procession had passed, with wrecked
chaises, dead mules, human bodies half-buried and half-burnt, charred
limbs protruding awkwardly from heaps of stones.  Here, by ones and
twos, pedestrians tottered past, crying that the world was at an end;
here, on a heap where, belike, his shop had stood, a man knelt
praying aloud; here a couple of enemies met by chance, seeking their
dead, and embraced, beseeching forgiveness for injuries past.
These sights went by Ruth as in a dream; and as in a dream she heard
the topple and crack of masonry to right and left.  Langton guided
her; and haggard, perspiring, they bent their heads to the strange
wind now howling down the street as through a funnel, and foot by
foot battled their way.

The wind swept over their bent heads, carrying flakes of fire to
start new conflagrations.  The stream of these flakes became so
steady that Ruth began to count on it to guide her.  She began to
think that amid all this dissolution to right and left, some charm
must be protecting them both, when, as he stretched a hand to help
her across a mound of rubble she saw him turn, cast a look up and
fall back beneath a rush of masonry.  A flying brick struck her on
the shoulder, cutting the flesh.  For the rest, she stood unscathed;
but her companion lay at her feet, with legs buried deep, body buried
to the ribs.

"Your hand!" she gasped.

He stretched it out feebly, but withdrew it in an agony; for the
stones crushed his bowels.

"You are hurt?"

"Killed."  He contrived a smile.  "Not so wide as a church door," he
quoted, looking up at her strangely through the wan light; "but
'twill serve."

"My friend! and I cannot help you!"  She plucked vainly at the mass
of stones burying his legs.

He gasped on his anguish, and controlled it.

"Let be these silly bricks. . . . They belong to some grocer's
kitchen-chimney, belike--but they have killed me, and may as well
serve for my tomb.  Reach me your hand."

He took it and thrust it gently within the breast of his waistcoat.
There, guided by him, her fingers closed on the handle of a tiny
stiletto.

"The sheath too . . . it is sewn by a few stitches only." He looked
up into her eyes.  "You are too beautiful to be wandering these
streets alone."

"I understand," she said gravely.

"Now go."  He pressed the back of her hand to his lips, and released
it.

"Can I do nothing?" she asked, with a hard sob.

"Yes . . . 'tis unlucky, they say, to accept a knife without paying
for it.  One kiss. . . . You may tell Noll.  Is it too high a price?"

She knelt and kissed him on the brow.

"Ah! . . ."  He drew a long sigh.  "I have held you to-day, and
to-day you have kissed me.  Go now."

She went.  The dog ran with her a little way, then turned and crept
back to its master.



Chapter V.



THE FINDING.

"Hola!" hailed a man, signalling by a brazier with his back to the
wind.  "For what are you seeking?"

Ruth halted, gripping her stiletto.  This man might help her,
perhaps.  At any rate, he seemed a cool-headed fellow who made the
best of things.

For two hours she had searched, and for the time her strength was
nearly spent.  Dust filled her hair and caked her long eyelashes.
Her face, haggard with woe and weariness, was a mask of dust.

"For one," she answered, "who was to have attended High Mass in the
Cathedral."

"Eh?"  The man swept a hand to the ruined shell of that building, at
the end of the Square, and to a horrible pile of masonry covering
many hundreds of bodies.  "If he reached there, your Excellency had
better go home and pray for his soul; that is, if your Excellency
believes it efficacious.  But first, will your Excellency sit here
and rest?--no, not on the lee side, in the fumes of the charcoal, but
to windward here, where the fire is bright, and where I have the
honour to give room. . . . So your Excellency did not attend the
Mass?--not approving of it, maybe?"

"It would seem that you know me?" said Ruth, answering something in
his tone, not his words.

The question set him chuckling.  "Not by that token--though 'faith
'tis an ill wind blows nobody good.  This earthquake, considered
philosophically, is a great opportunity for heretics.  You and I, for
example, may sit here in the very middle of the square and talk
blasphemy to our heart's content; whereas--"  He broke off.
"But I forget my manners.  I ought to have started by saying that no
one, having once set eyes on your Excellency's face could ever forget
it; and, by St. James, that is no more than the truth!"

"Where have you seen me before?"

"By the gateway of the Holy Office, in a carriage with your lord
beside you.  I marked his face, too.  What it is to be young and rich
and beautiful! . . . And yet you might have remembered me, seeing
that I made part of the procession, though--praise be to fate!--
A modest one."

Ruth gazed at him.  "I remember you," she said slowly; "you were one
of the Penitents."

"They were gracious enough to call me so.  Yes, I can understand that
a san-benito makes some difference to a man's personal appearance.
 . . . And old Gonsalvez--I saw your Excellency wince and your
Excellency's beauty turn pale when he cast up his hands to the sun.
 . . . Hey?  _How is it possible_--how went the words?"

Ruth had them well by heart.  "_How is it possible for people,
beholding that glorious Body, to worship any Being but Him who
created it?_"

Right--word for word!  Well, they made a lens for that glorious Body
and fried old Gonsalvez with it.  Were you looking on?"

"No," said Ruth, and shivered.

"Well, I did--perforce.  'Twas part of my lesson; for you must know
that I, too, had had my little difficulty over that same glorious
Sun, touching his standing still over Gibeon at the command of
ancient Joshua.  'Faith, I've no quarrel with a miracle or so, up and
down; but that one! . . . Well, they convinced me I was a fool to
have any doubt, and a worse fool to let it slip off the tongue.
And yet," said the Penitent, warming his hands and casting a look up
at the sky, where the dust-cloud had given place to a rolling pall of
smoke, "what a treat it is to let the tongue wag at times!"

Ruth, her strength refreshed by the few minutes' rest, thanked him
and arose to continue her search.

"Stay," said the Penitent.  "Your Excellency has not heard all the
story, nor yet arrived near the moral. . . . Between ourselves the
reverend fathers were lenient with me because--well, it may have been
because I hold some influence among the beggars of Lisbon, who are
numerous and not always meek, in spite of the promise that meekness
shall inherit the earth.  I may confess, in short, that my presence
in the procession was to some extent a farce, and the result of a
compromise.  But, all the same, your Excellency does ill to
disbelieve in miracles: as I dare say your Excellency, casting an eye
about Lisbon on this particular day of All the Saints, will not
dispute?"

"Alas, sir! I have seen too many horrors to-day to be in any mood to
argue."

"Then," said the Penitent, skipping up, "you are in the precise mood
to be convinced; as I have seen men, under extremity of torture,
ready to believe anything.  Come!"

She hesitated.  "Where would you lead me?"

"To a miracle," he answered, and, with a fine gesture, flinging his
tattered cloak over his shoulder, he led the way.  He strode rapidly
down a couple of streets.  Once or twice coming to a chasm across the
roadway he paused, drew back, and cleared it with a leap.  But at
these pitfalls he neither turned nor offered Ruth a hand.
She followed him panting, so agile was his pace.

The first street ran south, the second east.  He entered a third
which turned north again as if to lead back into the Square.
After following it for twenty yards he halted and allowed her to
catch up with him.

"You are a devoted wife," said the Penitent admiringly.  "Would it
alter your devotion at all to know that he was with another woman?"

"No," answered Ruth.  "I knew it, in fact."  She wondered that this
beggar man could force her to speak so frankly.

"In an earthquake," said he, "one gets down to naked truth, or near
to it.  If he were unfaithful now--would that alter your desire to
find and save him?"

"Sir, why do you ask these things?"

"Did your Excellency not know that its beggars are the eyes of
Lisbon?  But you have not answered me."

"Nor will.  That I am here--is it not enough?"

The Penitent peered at her in the dim light and nodded.  He led her
forward a pace or two and pointed to something imbedded in a pile of
stones, lime, rubble.  It was the wreck of a chaise.  Two males lay
crushed under it, their heads and a couple of legs protruding.
A splintered door, wrenched from its hinges, lay face-uppermost
crowning the heap.  It bore a coronet and the arms of Montalegre.

"Are they--" she stammered, but caught at her voice and recovered it.
"--Are they _here_, under this?"

"No," he said, and again led the way, crossing the street to a house
of which the upper storey overhung the street, supported by a line of
pillars.  Three or four of these pillars had fallen.  Of the rest,
nine out of ten stood askew, barely holding up the house, through the
floors of which stout beams had thrust themselves and stuck at all
angles from the burst plaster.

"Here is Milord Vyell," said the Penitent, picking up a broken lath
and pointing with it.


He lay on his back, as he had lain for close upon three hours, deep
in the shadow of the overhanging house.  His eyes were wide open.
They stared up at the cobwebs that dangled from the broken plaster.
A pillar, in weight maybe half a ton, rested across his thighs; an
oaken beam across his chest and his broken left arm.  The two pinned
him hopelessly.

Clutched to him in his right lay Donna Maria.  She seemed to sleep,
with her head turned from his breast and laid upon the upper arm.
The weight of the pillar resting on her bowels had squeezed the life
out of her.  She was dead: her flesh by this time almost cold.

"Oliver!--Ah, look at me!--I am here--I have come to help!"

The lids twitched slightly over his wide eyes.  In the dim light she
could almost be sworn that the lips, too, moved as though to speak.
But no words came, and the eyes did not see her.

He was alive.  What else mattered?

She knelt and flung her arms about the pillar.  Frantically, vainly,
she tugged at it: not by an inch or the tenth part of an inch could
she stir it.

"Speak to me, Oliver! . . . Look at least!"

"If your Excellency will but have patience!"  The Penitent stepped
out into the street and she heard him blowing a whistle.  Clearly he
was a man to be obeyed; for in less than ten minutes a dozen figures
crowded about the entrance, shutting out the day.  This darkness of
their making was in truth their best commendation.  For against any
one of them coming singly Ruth had undoubtedly held her dagger ready.
They grumbled, too, and some even cursed the Penitent for having
dragged them away from their loot.  The Penitent called them
cheerfully his little sons of the devil, and adjured them to fall to
work or it would be the worse for them.

For his part, he lifted no hand: but stood overseer as the ruffians
lifted the pillar, Ruth straining her strength with theirs.

But when they came to lift Donna Maria, for a moment something
hitched, and Ruth heard the sound of rending cloth.  The poor wretch
in her death-agony had bitten through Sir Oliver's arm to the bone.
The corpse yet clenched its jaws on the bite.  They had to wrench the
teeth open--delicate pretty teeth made for nibbling sweetmeats.

To his last day Oliver Vyell bore the mark of those pretty teeth, and
took it to the grave with him.


Ruth drew out a purse.  But the Penitent, though they grumbled, would
suffer his scoundrels to take no fee.  Nay, he commanded two, and
from somewhere out of devastated Lisbon they fetched a sedan-chair
for the broken man.  "You may pay these if you will," said he.
"Honestly, they deserve it."

On her way westward, following the chair, she called to them to stop
and search whereabouts Mr. Langton had fallen.  They found him with
the small greyhound standing guard beside the body.  His head was
pillowed on his arm, and he lay as one quietly sleeping.



Chapter VI.


DOCUMENTS.

I.


_From Abraham Castres Esq.: his Majesty's Envoy Extraordinary to the
King of Portugal, to the Secretary of State, Whitehall, London._
LISBON, _November 6th_, 1755.

"SIR,--You will in all likelihood have heard before this of the
inexpressible Calamity befallen the whole Maritime Coast, and in
particular this opulent City, now reduced to a heap of Rubbish and
Ruin, by a most tremendous Earthquake on the first of this Month,
followed by a Conflagration which has done ten times more Mischief
than the Earthquake itself.  I gave a short account of our Misfortune
to _Sir Benjamin Keene_, by a _Spaniard_, who promised (as all
intercourse by Post was at a stand) to carry my Letter as far as
_Badajoz_ and see it safe put into the Post House.  It was merely to
acquaint His Excellency that, God be praised, my House stood out the
Shocks, though greatly damaged; and that, happening to be out of the
reach of the Flames, several of my Friends, burnt out of their
Houses, had taken refuge with me, where I have accommodated them as
well as I could, under Tents in my large Garden; no Body but _Lord
Charles Dowglass_, who is actually on board the Packet, besides my
Chaplain and myself having dared hitherto to sleep in my House since
the Day of our Disaster.  The Consul and his Family have been saved,
and are all well, in a Country House near this City.  Those with me
at present are the _Dutch_ Minister, his Lady, and their three
Children, with seven or eight of their Servants.  The rest of my
Company of the better Sort consists of several Merchants of this
Factory, who, for the most part have lost all they had; though some
indeed, as Messrs. _Parry_ and _Mellish's_ House, and Mr. _Raymond_,
and _Burrell_, have had the good Fortune to save their Cash, either
in whole or in part.  The number of the Dead and Wounded I can give
no certain Account of as yet; in that respect our Poor Factory has
escaped pretty well, considering the number of Houses we have here.
I have lost my Good and Worthy Friend the _Spanish_ Ambassador, who
was crushed under the Door, as he attempted to make his Escape into
the Street.  This with the Anguish I have been in for these five Days
past, occasioned by the dismal Accounts brought to us every instant
of the Accidents befallen to one or other of our Acquaintance among
the Nobility, who for the most part are quite Undone, has greatly
affected me; but in particular the miserable Objects among the lower
sort of His Majesty's Subjects, who fly also to me for Bread, and lie
scattered up and down in my Garden, with their Wives and Children.
I have helped them all hitherto, and shall continue to do so, as long
as Provisions do not fail Us, which I hope will not be the Case, by
the Orders which _M. de Carvalho_ has issued in that respect.
One of our great Misfortunes is, that we have neither an _English_ or
_Dutch_ Man of War in the Harbour.  Some of their Carpenters and
Sailors would have been of great use to me on this occasion, in
helping to prop up my House; for as the Weather, which has hitherto
been remarkably fair, seems to threaten us with heavy Rains, it will
be impossible for the Refugees in my Garden to hold out much longer;
and how to find Rooms in my House for them all I am at a loss to
devise; the Floors of most of them shaking under our Feet; and must
consequently be too weak to bear any fresh number of Inhabitants.
The Roads for the first Days having been impracticable, it was
but yesterday I had the Honour in Company with _M. de la Calmette_,
of waiting on the King of _Portugal_, and all the Royal Family at
_Belem_, whom we found encamped; none of the Royal Palaces being fit
to harbour Them.  Though the loss His Most Faithful Majesty has
sustained on this occasion is immense, and that His Capital-City is
utterly Destroyed; He received us with more Serenity than we
expected, and among other things told us, that He owed Thanks to
Providence for saving His and His Family's Lives: and that He was
extremely glad to see us both safe.  The Queen in her own Name, and
all the young Princesses, sent us word that they were obliged to us
for our attention; but that being under their Tents, and in a Dress
not fit to appear in, They desired that for the present we would
excuse their admitting our Compliments in Person.  Most of the
considerable Families in our Factory have already secured to
themselves a passage to _England_, by three or four of our _London_
Traders, that are preparing for their departure.  As soon as the
fatigue and great trouble of Mind I have endured for these first Days
are a little over, I shall be considering of some proper method for
sheltering the poorer Sort, either by hiring a _Portuguese_ Hulk, or
if that is not to be had, some _English_ Vessel till they can be sent
to _England; _and there are many who desire to remain, in hopes of
finding among the Ruins some of the little Cash they may have lost in
their Habitations.  The best orders have been given for preventing
Rapine, and Murders, frequent instances of which we have had within
these three Days, there being swarms of _Spanish_ Deserters in Town,
who take hold of this opportunity of doing their business.  As I have
large sums deposited in my House, belonging to such of my Countrymen
as have been happy enough to save some of their Cash, and that my
House was surrounded all last Night with _Ruffians_; I have wrote
this Morning to _M. de Carvalho_, to desire a Guard, which I hope
will not be refused.  We are to have in a Day or two a Meeting of our
scattered Factory at my House, to consider of what is best to be done
in our present wretched Circumstances.  I am determined to stay
within call of the Distressed, as long as I can remain on Shore with
the least Appearance of Security: and the same Mr. _Hay_ (the Consul)
seemed resolved to do, the last time I conferred with him about it.
I most humbly beg your Pardon, Sir, for the Disorder of this Letter,
surrounded as I am by many in Distress, who from one instant to the
other are applying to me either for Advice or Shelter.  The Packet
has been detained at the Desire of the Factory, till another appears
from _England_, or some Man of War drops in here from the
_Streights_.  This will go by the first of several of our Merchant
Ships bound to _England_.  I must not forget to acquaint you, that
_Sir Oliver Vyell_ and Lady are safe and well, and have the Honour to
be, &c."


II.


_From the Same to the Same._
'BELEM, _November 7th_, 1755.

"Sir,--. . . The present Scene of Misery and Distress is not to be
described; the Kingdom of _Portugal_ is ruined and undone, and
_Lisbon_, one of the finest Cities that ever was seen, is now no
more.  The Escape of the forementioned _Sir. O. Vyell_ is one of the
most providential Things that ever was heard of; for whilst he was
riding about the middle of the City in his Chaise, on the first
instant, he observed the Driver to look behind him, and immediately
to make the Mules gallop as fast as possible, but both he and they
were very soon killed and buried in the Ruins of a House which fell
on them; whereupon _Sir Oliver_ jumped out of the Chaise, and ran
into a House that instantly fell also to the Ground, and buried him
in the Ruins for a considerable Time; but it pleased God that he was
taken out alive, and not much bruised.  His Lady likewise was
providentially in the Garden when their House fell, and so escaped.
About half an Hour after the first Shock, the City was on fire in
five different Parts, and has been burning ever since, so that the
_English_ Merchants here are entirely ruined.  There have been three
Shocks every Day since the first, but none so violent as the first.
The King has ordered all the Soldiers to assist in burying the Dead,
to prevent a Plague; and indeed upon that Account the Fire was of
Service in consuming the Carcasses both of Men and Beasts.
The _English_ have miraculously escaped, for notwithstanding the
Factory was so numerous, not more than a Dozen are known to have been
killed; amongst whom was poor _Mrs. Hake_, Sister to Governor _Hardy_
of _New York_, who suffered as she was driving her Children before
her; and the _Spanish_ Ambassador was killed also, with his young
Child in his Arms.  Every person, from the King to the Beggar, is at
present obliged to lie in the Fields, and some are apprehensive that
a Famine may ensue."


III.

_An Extract of a Letter from on board a Ship in Lisbon Harbour,
Nov: 19, to the same Purport_.

"Mine will not bring you the first News of the most dreadful Calamity
befallen this City and whole Kingdom.  On _Saturday_ the first
instant, about half an Hour past nine o'clock, I was retired to my
Room after Breakfast, when I perceived the House began to shake, but
did not apprehend the Cause; however, as I saw the Neighbours about
me all running down Stairs, I also made the best of my Way; and by
the time I had cross'd the Street, and got under the Piazzas of some
low House, it was darker than the darkest Night I ever was out in,
and continued so for about a Minute, occasioned by the Clouds of Dust
from the falling of Houses on all sides.  After it cleared up, I ran
into a large Square adjoining; but being soon alarmed with a Cry that
the Sea was coming in, all the People crowded foreward to run to the
Hills, I among the rest, with Mr. _Wood_ and Family.  We went near
two Miles thro' the Streets, climbing over the Ruins of Churches,
Houses, &c., and stepping over hundreds of dead and dying People,
Carriages, Chaises and Mules, lying all crushed to Pieces; and that
Day being a great Festival in their Churches, and happening just at
the time of celebrating the first Mass, thousands were assembled in
the Churches, the major part of whom were killed; for the great
Buildings, particularly those which stood on any Eminence, suffered
the most Damage.  Very few of the Churches or Convents have escaped.
We staid near two Hours in an open Campo; and a dismal scene it was,
the People howling and crying, and the Sacrament going about to dying
persons: so I advised, as the best, to return to the Square near our
own House and there wait the event, which we did immediately; but by
the Time we got there the City was in Flames in several distant
Parts, being set on fire by some Villains, who confessed it before
Execution.  This completed the Destruction of the greatest Part of
the City; for in the Terror all Persons were, no Attempt was made to
stop it; and the Wind was very high, so that it was communicated from
one Street to another by the Flakes of Fire drove by the Winds.
It raged with great Violence for eight Days, and this in the
principal and most thronged Parts of the City; People being fled into
the Fields half naked, the Fire consumed all sorts of Merchandise,
Household Goods, and Wearing Apparel, so that hardly anything is left
to cover People, and they live in Tents in the Fields.  If the Fire
had not happened, People would have recovered their Effects out of
the Ruins; but this has made such a Scene of Desolation and Misery as
Words cannot describe."

"The King's Palace in the City is totally destroyed, with all the
Jewels, Furniture, &c.  The _India_ Warehouses adjoining, full of
rich Goods, are all consumed.  The Custom-house, piled up with Bales
upon Bales, is all destroyed; and the Tobacco and other Warehouses,
with the Cargoes of three _Brazil_ Fleets, shared the same Fate.
In short, there are few Goods left in the whole City."


IV.


_From a Ship's Captain writing home under the same date_.

". . . On Saturday the first instant, I arose at Five, in order to
remove my Ship from the Custom-house, agreeable to my Order; by Nine
we sailed down and anchored off the upper end of the _Terceras_.
Wind at N.E. a small Breeze, and a fine clear morning.  Ten Minutes
before Ten, I felt the Ship have an uncommon Motion, and could not
help thinking she was aground, although sure of the Depth of Water.
As the Motion increased, my Amazement increased also; and as I was
looking round to find out the Meaning of this uncommon Motion, I was
immediately acquainted with the direful Cause; when at that Instant
looking towards the City, I beheld the tall and stately Buildings
tumbling down, with great Cracks and Noise, and particularly that
part of the City from _St. Paul's_ in a direct Line to _Bairroalto_;
as also, at the same Time, that Part from the said Church along the
River-side Eastward as far as the Gallows, and so in a curve Line
Northward again; and the Buildings as far as _St. Joze_ and the
_Rofcio_, were laid in the three following Shocks, which were so
violent as I heard many say they could with great Difficulty stand on
their Legs.  There is scarce one House of this great City left
habitable.  The Earth opened, and rent in several Places, and many
expected to be swallowed up.--As it happened at a Time when the
Kitchens were furnished with Fires, they communicated their Heat to
the Timber with which their Houses were built or adorned, and in
which the Natives are very curious and expensive, both in Furniture
and Ceilings; and by this means the City was in a Blaze in different
Parts at once.  The Conflagration lasted a whole Week.--What chiefly
contributed to the Destruction of the City, was the Narrowness of the
Streets.  It is not to be expressed by Human Tongue, how dreadful and
how awful it was to enter the City after the Fire was abated: when
looking upwards one was struck with Terror at beholding frightful
Pyramids of ruined Fronts, some inclining one Way, some another; then
on the other hand with Horror, in viewing Heaps of Bodies crushed to
death, half-buried and half-burnt; and if one went through the broad
Places or Squares, there was nothing to be met with but People
bewailing their Misfortunes, wringing their Hands, and crying
_The World is at an End_.  In short, it was the most lamentable Scene
that Eyes could behold.  As the Shocks, though Small, are frequent,
the People keep building Wooden Houses in the Fields; but the King
has ordered no Houses to be built to the Eastward of _Alcantara_
Gate.--Just now four _English_ Sailors have been condemned for
stealing Goods, and hiding them in the Ballast, with Intent to make a
Property of them."



Chapter VII.


THE LAST OFFER


His villa being destroyed, they had carried Sir Oliver out to Belem,
to one of the wooden hospitals hastily erected in the royal grounds.
There the King's surgeon dressed his wounds and set the broken left
arm, Ruth attending with splints and bandages.

When all was done and the patient asleep, she crept forth.  She would
fain have stayed to watch by him; but this would have meant crowding
the air for the sufferers, who already had much ado to breathe.
She crept forth, therefore, and slept that night out on the naked
ground, close under the lee of the canvas.

Early next morning she was up and doing.  A dozen hospitals had been
improvised and each was crying out for helpers.  She chose that of
her friend Mr. Castres, the British envoy.  It stood within a
high-walled garden, sheltered from the wind which, for some days
after the earthquake, blew half a gale.  At first the hospital
consisted of two tents; but in the next three days these increased to
a dozen, filling the enclosure.  Then, just as doctors and nurses
despaired of coping with it, the influx of wounded slackened and
ceased, almost of a sudden.  In the city nothing remained now but to
bury the dead, and in haste, lest their corpses should breed
pestilence.  It was horribly practical; but every day, as she awoke,
her first thought was for the set of the wind; her first fear that in
the night it might have shifted, and might be blowing from the east
across Lisbon.  The wind, however, kept northerly, as though it had
been nailed to that quarter.  She heard that gangs were at work
clearing the streets and collecting the dead; at first burying them
laboriously after the third day, burning them in stacks.  As the
Penitent had said, in an earthquake one gets down to nakedness.
During those next ten days Ruth lived hourly face to face with her
kind, men and women, naked, bleeding, suffering.

She contrived too, all this while, to have the small motherless Hake
children near her, inventing a hundred errands to keep them busy.
Thus, to be sure, they saw many things too sad for their young eyes,
yet Ruth perceived that in feeling helpful they escaped the worst
broodings of bereavement, and, on the whole, watching them at times,
as their small hands were busy tearing up bandages or washing out
medicine bottles, she felt satisfied that their mother would have
wished it so.


Sir Oliver's arm healed well, and in general (it seemed) he was
making a rapid recovery.  It was remarkable, though, that he seldom
smiled, and scarcely spoke at all save to answer a question.
He would rest for hours at a time staring straight in front of him,
much as he had lain and stared up at the ceiling of the fatal house.
Something weighed on his mind; or maybe the brain had received a
shock and must have time to recover.  Ruth watched him anxiously,
keeping a cheerful face.

But there came an evening when, as she returned, tired but cheerful,
from the hospital, he called her to him.

"Ruth!"

"My lord." She was beside his couch in a moment.

"I have something to say to you; something I have wanted to say for
days.  But I wanted also to think it all out. . . . I have not yet
asked you to forgive me--"

"Dear, you were forgiven long ago."

"--But I have asked Heaven to forgive me."

Ruth gave a little start and stared at him doubtfully.

"Yes," he went on, "as I lay pinned--those hours through, waiting for
death--something opened to me; a new life, I hope."

"And by a blessing I do not understand--by a blessing of blessings--
you were given back to it, Oliver."

"Back to it?" he repeated.  "You do not understand me.  The blessing
was God's special grace; the new life I speak of was a life
acknowledging that grace."

There was silence for many seconds; for a minute almost, Ruth's hands
had locked themselves together, and she pulled at the intertwisted
fingers.

"I beg your pardon," she said at length.  "You are right--I do not
understand."  Her voice had lost its ring; the sound of it was
leaden, spiritless.  But he failed to note this, being preoccupied
with his own thoughts.  Nor did he observe her face.

"I would not speak of this before," he went on, still with his eyes
turned to the window, "because I wanted to think it all out.  But it
is true, Ruth; I am a changed man."

"I hope not."

Again he did not hear, or he failed to heed.  "Not," he pursued,
"that any amount of thinking could alter the truth.  The mercy of God
has been revealed to me.  When a man has been through such horrors--
lying there, with that infernal woman held to me--"

"Ah!" she interposed with a catch of the breath.  "Do not curse her.
She was dead, poor thing!"

"I tell you that I cursed her as I cursed myself. . . . Yes, we both
deserved to die.  She died with her teeth in my flesh--the flesh
whose desire was all we ever had in common."

"Yes . . . I knew."

"Have you the coat I wore?"

"It is folded away.  Some boxes of clothes were saved from the house,
and I laid it away in one of them."

"Her teeth must have torn it?"

"Yes." Ruth would have moved away in sheer heart-sickness.  Why would
he persist in talking thus?

"I shall always keep that coat.  If ever I am tempted to forget the
mercy of God, the rent in that coat shall remind me."

She wanted to cry aloud, "Oh, cease, cease!"  This new pietism of his
revolted her almost to physical sickness.  She recognised in it the
selfishness she had too fatally learned to detect in all pietism.
"At least he had owed enough to his poor little fellow-sinner to
spare a thought of pity!" . . . But a miserable restraint held her
tongue as he went on--

"Yes, Ruth.  God showed Himself to me in that hour; showed me, too,
all the evil of my past life.  I had no hope to live; but I vowed to
Him then, if I lived, to live as one reformed."

He paused here, as if waiting for her to speak.  She did not speak.
She felt her whole body stiffening; she wanted too to laugh outright,
scornfully.  "The evil of his past life?  Am I next to be expelled,
as a part of it?  Is it up to _this_ he would lead? . . . God help
me, if there be a God!--that this should be the man I loved!"

"And another oath I swore,"  he went on solemnly: "to do what
compensation I may to any my sinning has injured.  You are the chief
of these."

"I, Oliver?"

"You, who under Heaven were made, and properly, the means of saving
my life to repentance."

Somehow with this new piety he had caught the very phraseology and
intonation of its everyday professors, even those very tricks of bad
logic at which he had been used to laugh.  Ruth had always supposed,
for example, that the presumption of instructing the Deity in
appropriate conduct was impossible even to second-rate minds until by
imitation slowly acquired as a habit.  It was monstrous to her that
he should so suddenly and all unconsciously be guilty of it.
Indeed for the moment these small evidences of the change in him
distressed her more than the change itself, which she had yet to
realise; just as in company a solecism of speech or manners will make
us wince before we have time to trace it to the ill-breeding from
which it springs.  His mother, she had heard (he, in fact, had told
her), was given to these pious tricks of speech.  Surely his fine
brain had suffered some lesion.  He was not himself, and she must
wait for his recovery.  But surely, too, he would recover and be
himself again.

"Ruth, I have done you great wrong."

"O cease! cease, Oliver!"  Her voice cried it aloud now, as she
dropped to her knees and buried her face in the coverlet.  "Do not
talk like this--I had a hundred times rather you neglected me than
hear you talk so!  _You_ have done me evil?  _You_, my lord, my love?
You, who saved me?  You, in whose eyes I have found grace, and in
that my great, great happiness?  You, in whose light my life has
moved? . . . Ah, love, do not break my heart!"

"You misunderstand," he said quietly.  "Why should what I am saying
break your heart?  I am asking you to marry me."

She rose from her knees very slowly and went to the window.
Standing there, again she battled off the temptation to laugh wildly.
. . . She fought it down after a minute, and turned to encounter his
gaze, which had not ceased to rest on her as she stood with her
beautiful figure silhouetted against the evening light.

"You really think my marrying you would make a difference?"

"To me it would make all the difference," he urged, but still very
gently, as one who, sure of himself, might reason with a child.
"I doubt if I shall recover, indeed, until this debt is paid."

"A debt, Oliver?  What kind of debt?"

"Why, of gratitude, to be sure.  Did you not win me back from
death?--to be a new and different man henceforth, please God!"


Upon an excuse she left him and went to her own sleeping tent.
It stood a little within the royal garden of Belem and (the weather
being chilly) the guard of the gate usually kept a small brazier
alight for her.  This evening for some reason he had neglected it,
and the fire had sunk low.  She stooped to rake its embers together,
and, as she did so, at length her laughter escaped her; soft
laughter, terrible to hear.

In the midst of it a voice--a high, jolly, schoolboy voice--called
out from the gateway demanding, in execrable Portuguese, to be shown
Lady Vyell's tent.  She dropped the raking-iron with a clatter and
stood erect, listening.

"Dicky?" . . . she breathed.

Yes; the tent flap was lifted and Dicky stood there in the twilight;
a Dicky incredibly grown.

"Dicky!"

"Motherkin!"  He was folded in her arms.

"But what on earth brings you to this terrible Lisbon, of all
places?"

"Well, motherkin," said he with the finest air of importance, "a man
would say that if a crew of British sailors could be useful
anywhere--We'll teach your Portuguese, anyhow.  Oh, yes, the
_Pegasus_ was at Gibraltar--we felt the shock there pretty badly--and
the Admiral sent us up the coast to give help where we could.
A coaster found us off Lagos with word that Lisbon had suffered worst
of all.  So we hammered at it, wind almost dead foul all the
way . . . and here we are.  Captain Hanmer brought me ashore in his
gig.  My word, but the place is in a mess!"

"That is Captain Hanmer's footstep I hear by the gate."

"Yes, he has come to pay his respects.  But come," said the boy,
astonished, "you don't tell me you know Old Han's footstep--begging
his pardon--at all this distance."

Yes she did.  She could have distinguished that tread had it marched
among a thousand.  Her brain had held the note of it ever since the
night she had heard it at Sabines, crushing the gravel of the drive.
Dicky laughed, incredulous.  She held the boy at arm's length,
lovingly as Captain Hanmer came and stood by the tent door.

So life might yet sound with honest laughter; ay, and at the back of
laughter, with the firm tread of duty.


The story of Ruth Josselin and Oliver Vyell is told.  They were
married ten days later in the hospital at Belem by a priest of the
Church of Rome; and afterwards, on their way to England in His
Majesty's frigate _Calliope_, which had brought out stores for the
relief of the suffering city and was now returning with most of the
English survivors, Sir Oliver insisted on having the union again
ratified by the services of the ship's chaplain.  Ruth, whose sense
of humour had survived the earthquake, could smile at this
supererogation.

They landed at Plymouth and posting to Bath, were tenderly welcomed
by Lady Jane, to whom her son's conversion was hardly less a matter
of rejoicing than his rescue from a living tomb.  In Bath Ruth Lady
Vyell might have reigned as a toast, a queen of society; but Sir
Oliver had learnt a distaste for fashionable follies, nor did she
greatly yearn for them.

He remained a Whig, however, and two years later received appointment
to the post of Consul-General at Lisbon.  Its duties were not
arduous, and allowed him to cross the Atlantic half a dozen times
with Lady Vyell and revisit Eagles, where Miss Quiney held faithful
stewardship.  He never completely recovered his health.  The pressure
under which he had lain during those three terrible hours had left
him with some slight curvature of the spine.  It increased, and ended
in a constriction of the lungs, bringing on a slow decline.  In 1767
he again retired to Bath, where next year he died, aged fifty-one
years.  His epitaph on the wall of the Abbey nave runs as follows:--

     "To the memory of Sir Oliver Hastings Pelham Vyell of
      Carwithiel, Co. Cornwall, Baronet, Consul-General for many
      years at Lisbon, whence he came in hopes of Recovery from a Bad
      State of Health to Bath.  Here, after a tedious and painful
      illness, sustained with the Patience and Resignation becoming
      to a Christian, he died Jan. 11, 1768, in the Fifty-second Year
      of his Life, without Heir.  This Monument is erected by his
      affectionate Widow, Ruth Lady Vyell."



EPILOGUE


Ruth Lady Vyell stood in the empty minster beneath her husband's
epitaph, and conned it, puckering her brow slightly in the effort to
keep her thoughts collected.

She had not set eyes on the tablet since the day the stonemasons had
fixed it in place; and that was close upon eight years ago.  On the
morrow, her pious duty fulfilled, she had taken post for Plymouth,
there to embark for America; and the intervening years had been lived
in widowhood at Eagles until the outbreak of the Revolution had
forced her, early in 1775, to take shelter in Boston, and in the late
fall of the year to sail back to England.  For Eagles, though
unravaged, had passed into the hands of the "rebels"; and Ruth,
though an ardent loyalist, kept her old clearness of vision, and
foresaw that King George could not beat his Colonists; that the stars
in their courses fought against this stupid monarch.

This pilgrimage to Bath had been her first devoir on reaching
England.  She had nursed him tenderly through his last illness, as
she had been in all respects an exemplary wife.  Yet, standing
beneath his monument, she felt herself an impostor.  She could find
here no true memories of the man whose look had swayed her soul,
whose love she had served with rites a woman never forgets.
This city of Bath did not hold the true dust of her lord and love.
He had perished--though sinning against her, what mattered it?--years
ago, under a fallen pillar in a street of Lisbon.  Doubtless the site
had been built over; it would be hard to find now, so actively had
the Marquis de Pombal, Portugal's First Minister, renovated the
ruined city.  But whether discoverable or not, there and not here was
written the last of Oliver Vyell.

Somehow in her thoughts of him on the other side of the Atlantic,
in her demesne of Eagles where they had walked together as lovers,
she had not separated her memories of him so sharply.  Now, suddenly,
with a sense of having been cheated, she saw Oliver Vyell as two
separate men.  The one had possessed her; she had merely married the
other.

With the blank sense of having been cheated mingled a sense that she
herself was the cheat.  The tablet accused her of it, confronting her
with words which, all too sharply, she remembered as of her own
composing.  "_After a tedious and painful Illness, sustained with the
Patience and resignation becoming to a Christian_."  Why to a
Christian more than to another?  Was it not mere manliness to bear
(as, to do him justice, he had borne) ill-health with fortitude, and
face dissolution with courage?  How had she ever come to utter coin
that rang with so false and cheap a note?  She felt shame of it.
The taint of its falsehood seemed to blend and become one with a
general odour of humbug, sickly, infectious, insinuating itself,
stealing along the darkened Gothic aisles.  Since nothing is surer
than death, nothing can be corrupter than mortality deceiving itself.
 . . . The west door of the Abbey stood open.  Ruth, striving to
collect her thoughts, saw the sunlight beyond it spread broad upon
the city's famous piazza.  Sounds, too, were wafted in through the
doorway, penetrating the hush, distracting her; rumble of workday
traffic, voices of vendors in distant streets; among these--asserting
itself quietly, yet steadily, regularly as a beat in music--a
footfall on the pavement outside. . . . She knew the footfall.
She distinguished it from every other.  Scores of times in the
watches of the night she had lain and listened to it, hearing it in
imagination only, echoed from memory, yet distinct upon the ear as
the tramp of an actual foot, manly and booted; hearing it always with
a sense of helplessness, as though with that certain deliberate tread
marched her fate upon her, inexorably nearing.  This once again--she
told herself--it must be in fancy that she heard it.  For how should
_he_ be in Bath?

She stepped quickly out through the porchway to assure herself.
She stood there a moment, while her eyes accustomed themselves to the
sunlight, and Captain Hanmer came towards her from the shadow of the
colonnade by the great Pump-room.  He carried his left arm in a
sling, and with his right hand lifted his hat, but awkwardly.


"I had heard of your promotion," she said after they had exchanged
greetings, "and of your wound, and I dare say you will let me
congratulate you on both, since the same gallantry earned them.
 . . . But what brings you to Bath? . . .  To drink the waters, I
suppose, and help your convalescence."

"They have a great reputation," he answered gravely; "but I have
never heard it claimed that they can extract a ball or the splinters
from a shattered forearm.  The surgeons did the one, and time must do
the other, if it will be so kind. . . . No, I am in Bath because my
mother lives here.  It is my native city, in fact."

"Ah," she said, "I was wondering--"

"Wondering?"   He echoed the word after a long pause.  He was plainly
surprised.  "You knew that I was here, then?"

"Not until a moment ago, when I heard your footstep." As this
appeared to surprise him still more, she added, "You have, whether
you know it or not, a noticeable footstep, and I a quick ear.
Shall I tell you where, unless fancy played me a trick, I last proved
its quickness?"

He bent his head as sign for assent.

"It was in Boston," she said, "last June--on the evening after the
fight at Bunker Hill.  At midnight, rather.  Before seven o'clock the
hospitals were full, and they brought half a dozen poor fellows to my
lodgings in Garden Court Street.  Towards midnight one of them, that
had lain all the afternoon under the broiling sun by the _Mystic_ and
had taken a sunstroke on top of his wound, began raving.  My maid and
I were alone in the house, and we agreed that he was dangerous.
I told her that there was nothing to fear; that for an hour past some
one had been patrolling the side-walk before the house; and I bade
her go downstairs and desire him to fetch a surgeon.  You were that
sentinel."

Again he bent his head.  "I was serving on board the _Lively_," he
said, "in the ferry-way between you and Charlestown.  I had heard of
you--that you had taken lodgings in Boston, and that the temper of
the mob might be uncertain.  So that night I got leave ashore, on the
chance of being useful.  I brought the doctor, if you remember."

"But would not present yourself to claim our thanks."  She looked at
him shrewdly.  "To-day--did you know that I was in Bath?" she asked.

He owned, "Yes; he had read of her arrival in the _Gazette_, among
the fashionable announcements."  He did not add, but she divined,
that he had waited for her by the Abbey, well guessing that her steps
would piously lead her thither and soon.  She changed the subject in
some haste.

"Your mother lives in Bath?"

"She has lived here all her life."

"Sir Oliver spent his last days here.  I am sorry that I had not her
acquaintance to cheer me."

"It was unlikely that you should meet.  We live in the humblest of
ways."

"Nevertheless it would be kind of you to make us acquainted.
Indeed," she went on, "I very earnestly desire it, having a great
need--since you are so hard to thank directly--to thank you through
somebody for many things, and especially for helping Dicky."

He laughed grimly as he fell into step with her, or tried to--but his
obstinate stride would not be corrected.  "All the powers that ever
were," he said, "could not hinder Dicky.  He has his captaincy in
sight--at his age!--and will be flying the blue before he reaches
forty.  Mark my words."

On their way up the ascent of Lansdowne Hill he told her much
concerning Dicky--not of his success in the service, which she knew
already, but of the service's inner opinion of him, which set her
blood tingling.  She glanced sideways once or twice at the strong,
awkward man who, outpaced by the stripling, could rejoice in his
promotion without one twinge of jealousy, loving him merely as one
good sailor should love another.  She noted him as once or twice he
tried to correct his pace by hers.  Her thoughts went back to the
tablet in the Abbey, commemorating a husband who (if it told truth)
had never been hers.  She compared him, all in charity, with two who
had given her an unpaid devotion.  One slept at Lisbon, in the
English cemetery.  The other walked beside her even with such a tread
as out somewhere on the dark floor of the sea he had paced his
quarter-deck many a night through, pausing only to con his helm
beneath the stars.

They turned aside into an unfashionable by-street, and halted before
a modest door in a row.  Ruth noted the railings, that they were
spick-and-span as paint could make them; the dainty window-blinds.
Through the passage-way, as he opened the door, came wafted from a
back garden the clean odour of flowering stocks.

In the parlour to the right of the passage, a frail, small woman rose
from her chair to welcome them.

"Mother," said her son, "this is Lady Vyell."

The little woman stretched out her hands, and then, before Ruth could
take them, they were lifted and touched her temples softly, and she
bent to their benediction.

"My son has often talked of you.  May the Lord bless you my dear.
May the Lord bless you both.  May the Lord cause His face to shine
upon you all your days!"



***END OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK LADY GOOD-FOR-NOTHING***


******* This file should be named 15228.txt or 15228.zip *******


This and all associated files of various formats will be found in:
http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/1/5/2/2/15228



Updated editions will replace the previous one--the old editions
will be renamed.

Creating the works from public domain print editions means that no
one owns a United States copyright in these works, so the Foundation
(and you!) can copy and distribute it in the United States without
permission and without paying copyright royalties.  Special rules,
set forth in the General Terms of Use part of this license, apply to
copying and distributing Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works to
protect the PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm concept and trademark.  Project
Gutenberg is a registered trademark, and may not be used if you
charge for the eBooks, unless you receive specific permission.  If you
do not charge anything for copies of this eBook, complying with the
rules is very easy.  You may use this eBook for nearly any purpose
such as creation of derivative works, reports, performances and
research.  They may be modified and printed and given away--you may do
practically ANYTHING with public domain eBooks.  Redistribution is
subject to the trademark license, especially commercial
redistribution.



*** START: FULL LICENSE ***

THE FULL PROJECT GUTENBERG LICENSE
PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE YOU DISTRIBUTE OR USE THIS WORK

To protect the Project Gutenberg-tm mission of promoting the free
distribution of electronic works, by using or distributing this work
(or any other work associated in any way with the phrase "Project
Gutenberg"), you agree to comply with all the terms of the Full Project
Gutenberg-tm License (available with this file or online at
http://gutenberg.net/license).


Section 1.  General Terms of Use and Redistributing Project Gutenberg-tm
electronic works

1.A.  By reading or using any part of this Project Gutenberg-tm
electronic work, you indicate that you have read, understand, agree to
and accept all the terms of this license and intellectual property
(trademark/copyright) agreement.  If you do not agree to abide by all
the terms of this agreement, you must cease using and return or destroy
all copies of Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works in your possession.
If you paid a fee for obtaining a copy of or access to a Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic work and you do not agree to be bound by the
terms of this agreement, you may obtain a refund from the person or
entity to whom you paid the fee as set forth in paragraph 1.E.8.

1.B.  "Project Gutenberg" is a registered trademark.  It may only be
used on or associated in any way with an electronic work by people who
agree to be bound by the terms of this agreement.  There are a few
things that you can do with most Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works
even without complying with the full terms of this agreement.  See
paragraph 1.C below.  There are a lot of things you can do with Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic works if you follow the terms of this agreement
and help preserve free future access to Project Gutenberg-tm electronic
works.  See paragraph 1.E below.

1.C.  The Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation ("the Foundation"
or PGLAF), owns a compilation copyright in the collection of Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic works.  Nearly all the individual works in the
collection are in the public domain in the United States.  If an
individual work is in the public domain in the United States and you are
located in the United States, we do not claim a right to prevent you from
copying, distributing, performing, displaying or creating derivative
works based on the work as long as all references to Project Gutenberg
are removed.  Of course, we hope that you will support the Project
Gutenberg-tm mission of promoting free access to electronic works by
freely sharing Project Gutenberg-tm works in compliance with the terms of
this agreement for keeping the Project Gutenberg-tm name associated with
the work.  You can easily comply with the terms of this agreement by
keeping this work in the same format with its attached full Project
Gutenberg-tm License when you share it without charge with others.

1.D.  The copyright laws of the place where you are located also govern
what you can do with this work.  Copyright laws in most countries are in
a constant state of change.  If you are outside the United States, check
the laws of your country in addition to the terms of this agreement
before downloading, copying, displaying, performing, distributing or
creating derivative works based on this work or any other Project
Gutenberg-tm work.  The Foundation makes no representations concerning
the copyright status of any work in any country outside the United
States.

1.E.  Unless you have removed all references to Project Gutenberg:

1.E.1.  The following sentence, with active links to, or other immediate
access to, the full Project Gutenberg-tm License must appear prominently
whenever any copy of a Project Gutenberg-tm work (any work on which the
phrase "Project Gutenberg" appears, or with which the phrase "Project
Gutenberg" is associated) is accessed, displayed, performed, viewed,
copied or distributed:

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere 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 License included
with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net

1.E.2.  If an individual Project Gutenberg-tm electronic work is derived
from the public domain (does not contain a notice indicating that it is
posted with permission of the copyright holder), the work can be copied
and distributed to anyone in the United States without paying any fees
or charges.  If you are redistributing or providing access to a work
with the phrase "Project Gutenberg" associated with or appearing on the
work, you must comply either with the requirements of paragraphs 1.E.1
through 1.E.7 or obtain permission for the use of the work and the
Project Gutenberg-tm trademark as set forth in paragraphs 1.E.8 or
1.E.9.

1.E.3.  If an individual Project Gutenberg-tm electronic work is posted
with the permission of the copyright holder, your use and distribution
must comply with both paragraphs 1.E.1 through 1.E.7 and any additional
terms imposed by the copyright holder.  Additional terms will be linked
to the Project Gutenberg-tm License for all works posted with the
permission of the copyright holder found at the beginning of this work.

1.E.4.  Do not unlink or detach or remove the full Project Gutenberg-tm
License terms from this work, or any files containing a part of this
work or any other work associated with Project Gutenberg-tm.

1.E.5.  Do not copy, display, perform, distribute or redistribute this
electronic work, or any part of this electronic work, without
prominently displaying the sentence set forth in paragraph 1.E.1 with
active links or immediate access to the full terms of the Project
Gutenberg-tm License.

1.E.6.  You may convert to and distribute this work in any binary,
compressed, marked up, nonproprietary or proprietary form, including any
word processing or hypertext form.  However, if you provide access to or
distribute copies of a Project Gutenberg-tm work in a format other than
"Plain Vanilla ASCII" or other format used in the official version
posted on the official Project Gutenberg-tm web site (www.gutenberg.net),
you must, at no additional cost, fee or expense to the user, provide a
copy, a means of exporting a copy, or a means of obtaining a copy upon
request, of the work in its original "Plain Vanilla ASCII" or other
form.  Any alternate format must include the full Project Gutenberg-tm
License as specified in paragraph 1.E.1.

1.E.7.  Do not charge a fee for access to, viewing, displaying,
performing, copying or distributing any Project Gutenberg-tm works
unless you comply with paragraph 1.E.8 or 1.E.9.

1.E.8.  You may charge a reasonable fee for copies of or providing
access to or distributing Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works provided
that

- You pay a royalty fee of 20% of the gross profits you derive from
     the use of Project Gutenberg-tm works calculated using the method
     you already use to calculate your applicable taxes.  The fee is
     owed to the owner of the Project Gutenberg-tm trademark, but he
     has agreed to donate royalties under this paragraph to the
     Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation.  Royalty payments
     must be paid within 60 days following each date on which you
     prepare (or are legally required to prepare) your periodic tax
     returns.  Royalty payments should be clearly marked as such and
     sent to the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation at the
     address specified in Section 4, "Information about donations to
     the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation."

- You provide a full refund of any money paid by a user who notifies
     you in writing (or by e-mail) within 30 days of receipt that s/he
     does not agree to the terms of the full Project Gutenberg-tm
     License.  You must require such a user to return or
     destroy all copies of the works possessed in a physical medium
     and discontinue all use of and all access to other copies of
     Project Gutenberg-tm works.

- You provide, in accordance with paragraph 1.F.3, a full refund of any
     money paid for a work or a replacement copy, if a defect in the
     electronic work is discovered and reported to you within 90 days
     of receipt of the work.

- You comply with all other terms of this agreement for free
     distribution of Project Gutenberg-tm works.

1.E.9.  If you wish to charge a fee or distribute a Project Gutenberg-tm
electronic work or group of works on different terms than are set
forth in this agreement, you must obtain permission in writing from
both the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation and Michael
Hart, the owner of the Project Gutenberg-tm trademark.  Contact the
Foundation as set forth in Section 3 below.

1.F.

1.F.1.  Project Gutenberg volunteers and employees expend considerable
effort to identify, do copyright research on, transcribe and proofread
public domain works in creating the Project Gutenberg-tm
collection.  Despite these efforts, Project Gutenberg-tm electronic
works, and the medium on which they may be stored, may contain
"Defects," such as, but not limited to, incomplete, inaccurate or
corrupt data, transcription errors, a copyright or other intellectual
property infringement, a defective or damaged disk or other medium, a
computer virus, or computer codes that damage or cannot be read by
your equipment.

1.F.2.  LIMITED WARRANTY, DISCLAIMER OF DAMAGES - Except for the "Right
of Replacement or Refund" described in paragraph 1.F.3, the Project
Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation, the owner of the Project
Gutenberg-tm trademark, and any other party distributing a Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic work under this agreement, disclaim all
liability to you for damages, costs and expenses, including legal
fees.  YOU AGREE THAT YOU HAVE NO REMEDIES FOR NEGLIGENCE, STRICT
LIABILITY, BREACH OF WARRANTY OR BREACH OF CONTRACT EXCEPT THOSE
PROVIDED IN PARAGRAPH F3.  YOU AGREE THAT THE FOUNDATION, THE
TRADEMARK OWNER, AND ANY DISTRIBUTOR UNDER THIS AGREEMENT WILL NOT BE
LIABLE TO YOU FOR ACTUAL, DIRECT, INDIRECT, CONSEQUENTIAL, PUNITIVE OR
INCIDENTAL DAMAGES EVEN IF YOU GIVE NOTICE OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH
DAMAGE.

1.F.3.  LIMITED RIGHT OF REPLACEMENT OR REFUND - If you discover a
defect in this electronic work within 90 days of receiving it, you can
receive a refund of the money (if any) you paid for it by sending a
written explanation to the person you received the work from.  If you
received the work on a physical medium, you must return the medium with
your written explanation.  The person or entity that provided you with
the defective work may elect to provide a replacement copy in lieu of a
refund.  If you received the work electronically, the person or entity
providing it to you may choose to give you a second opportunity to
receive the work electronically in lieu of a refund.  If the second copy
is also defective, you may demand a refund in writing without further
opportunities to fix the problem.

1.F.4.  Except for the limited right of replacement or refund set forth
in paragraph 1.F.3, this work is provided to you 'AS-IS', WITH NO OTHER
WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO
WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTIBILITY OR FITNESS FOR ANY PURPOSE.

1.F.5.  Some states do not allow disclaimers of certain implied
warranties or the exclusion or limitation of certain types of damages.
If any disclaimer or limitation set forth in this agreement violates the
law of the state applicable to this agreement, the agreement shall be
interpreted to make the maximum disclaimer or limitation permitted by
the applicable state law.  The invalidity or unenforceability of any
provision of this agreement shall not void the remaining provisions.

1.F.6.  INDEMNITY - You agree to indemnify and hold the Foundation, the
trademark owner, any agent or employee of the Foundation, anyone
providing copies of Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works in accordance
with this agreement, and any volunteers associated with the production,
promotion and distribution of Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works,
harmless from all liability, costs and expenses, including legal fees,
that arise directly or indirectly from any of the following which you do
or cause to occur: (a) distribution of this or any Project Gutenberg-tm
work, (b) alteration, modification, or additions or deletions to any
Project Gutenberg-tm work, and (c) any Defect you cause.


Section  2.  Information about the Mission of Project Gutenberg-tm

Project Gutenberg-tm is synonymous with the free distribution of
electronic works in formats readable by the widest variety of computers
including obsolete, old, middle-aged and new computers.  It exists
because of the efforts of hundreds of volunteers and donations from
people in all walks of life.

Volunteers and financial support to provide volunteers with the
assistance they need, is critical to reaching Project Gutenberg-tm's
goals and ensuring that the Project Gutenberg-tm collection will
remain freely available for generations to come.  In 2001, the Project
Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation was created to provide a secure
and permanent future for Project Gutenberg-tm and future generations.
To learn more about the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation
and how your efforts and donations can help, see Sections 3 and 4
and the Foundation web page at http://www.gutenberg.net/fundraising/pglaf.


Section 3.  Information about the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive
Foundation

The Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation is a non profit
501(c)(3) educational corporation organized under the laws of the
state of Mississippi and granted tax exempt status by the Internal
Revenue Service.  The Foundation's EIN or federal tax identification
number is 64-6221541.  Contributions to the Project Gutenberg
Literary Archive Foundation are tax deductible to the full extent
permitted by U.S. federal laws and your state's laws.

The Foundation's principal office is located at 4557 Melan Dr. S.
Fairbanks, AK, 99712., but its volunteers and employees are scattered
throughout numerous locations.  Its business office is located at
809 North 1500 West, Salt Lake City, UT 84116, (801) 596-1887, email
business@pglaf.org.  Email contact links and up to date contact
information can be found at the Foundation's web site and official
page at http://www.gutenberg.net/about/contact

For additional contact information:
     Dr. Gregory B. Newby
     Chief Executive and Director
     gbnewby@pglaf.org

Section 4.  Information about Donations to the Project Gutenberg
Literary Archive Foundation

Project Gutenberg-tm depends upon and cannot survive without wide
spread public support and donations to carry out its mission of
increasing the number of public domain and licensed works that can be
freely distributed in machine readable form accessible by the widest
array of equipment including outdated equipment.  Many small donations
($1 to $5,000) are particularly important to maintaining tax exempt
status with the IRS.

The Foundation is committed to complying with the laws regulating
charities and charitable donations in all 50 states of the United
States.  Compliance requirements are not uniform and it takes a
considerable effort, much paperwork and many fees to meet and keep up
with these requirements.  We do not solicit donations in locations
where we have not received written confirmation of compliance.  To
SEND DONATIONS or determine the status of compliance for any
particular state visit http://www.gutenberg.net/fundraising/donate

While we cannot and do not solicit contributions from states where we
have not met the solicitation requirements, we know of no prohibition
against accepting unsolicited donations from donors in such states who
approach us with offers to donate.

International donations are gratefully accepted, but we cannot make
any statements concerning tax treatment of donations received from
outside the United States.  U.S. laws alone swamp our small staff.

Please check the Project Gutenberg Web pages for current donation
methods and addresses.  Donations are accepted in a number of other
ways including including checks, online payments and credit card
donations.  To donate, please visit:
http://www.gutenberg.net/fundraising/donate


Section 5.  General Information About Project Gutenberg-tm electronic
works.

Professor Michael S. Hart is the originator of the Project Gutenberg-tm
concept of a library of electronic works that could be freely shared
with anyone.  For thirty years, he produced and distributed Project
Gutenberg-tm eBooks with only a loose network of volunteer support.

Project Gutenberg-tm eBooks are often created from several printed
editions, all of which are confirmed as Public Domain in the U.S.
unless a copyright notice is included.  Thus, we do not necessarily
keep eBooks in compliance with any particular paper edition.

Most people start at our Web site which has the main PG search facility:

     http://www.gutenberg.net

This Web site includes information about Project Gutenberg-tm,
including how to make donations to the Project Gutenberg Literary
Archive Foundation, how to help produce our new eBooks, and how to
subscribe to our email newsletter to hear about new eBooks.


Colophon

This file was acquired from Project Gutenberg, and it is in the public domain. It is re-distributed here as a part of the Alex Catalogue of Electronic Texts (http://infomotions.com/alex/) by Eric Lease Morgan (Infomotions, Inc.) for the purpose of freely sharing, distributing, and making available works of great literature. Its Infomotions unique identifier is etext15228, and it should be available from the following URL:

http://infomotions.com/etexts/id/etext15228



Infomotions, Inc.

Infomotions Man says, "Give back to the 'Net."