Infomotions, Inc.Fair Margaret / Haggard, H. Rider (Henry Rider), 1856-1925



Author: Haggard, H. Rider (Henry Rider), 1856-1925
Title: Fair Margaret
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): castell; margaret; morella; betty; peter; senor; peter brome; marquis; dona margaret; john castell; senor d'aguilar; senor brome
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Identifier: etext9780
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Title: Fair Margaret

Author: H. Rider Haggard

Release Date: January, 2006 [EBook #9780]
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[This file was first posted on October 15, 2003]
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*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK FAIR MARGARET ***




Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Steve Flynn, Tonya Allen
and PG Distributed Proofreaders




FAIR MARGARET

By

H. RIDER HAGGARD

_Author of "King Solomons Mines" "She" "Jess" etc._

WITH 15 ILLUSTRATIONS BY J. R. SKELTON

London: HUTCHINSON & CO.
Paternoster Row 1907.






CONTENTS

CHAPTER I
HOW PETER MET THE SPANIARD

CHAPTER II
JOHN CASTELL

CHAPTER III
PETER GATHERS VIOLETS

CHAPTER IV
LOVERS DEAR

CHAPTER V
CASTELL'S SECRET

CHAPTER VI
FAREWELL

CHAPTER VII
NEWS FROM SPAIN

CHAPTER VIII
D'AGUILAR SPEAKS

CHAPTER IX
THE SNARE

CHAPTER X
THE CHASE

CHAPTER XI
THE MEETING ON THE SEA

CHAPTER XII
FATHER HENRIQUES

CHAPTER XIII
THE ADVENTURE OF THE INN

CHAPTER XIV
INEZ AND HER GARDEN

CHAPTER XV
PETER PLAYS A PART

CHAPTER XVI
BETTY SHOWS HER TEETH

CHAPTER XVII
THE PLOT

CHAPTER XVIII
THE HOLY HERMANDAD

CHAPTER XIX
BETTY PAYS HER DEBTS

CHAPTER XX
ISABELLA OF SPAIN

CHAPTER XXI
BETTY STATES HER CASE

CHAPTER XXII
THE DOOM OF JOHN CASTELL

CHAPTER XXIII
FATHER HENRIQUES AND THE BAKER'S OVEN

CHAPTER XXIV
THE FALCON STOOPS

CHAPTER XXV
HOW THE _MARGARET_ WON OUT TO SEA

ENVOI




LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS;

"A DOVE, COMRADES!--A DOVE!"

CASTELL DECLARES HIMSELF A JEW

"YOU MEAN THAT YOU WISH TO MURDER ME"

MARGARET APPEARED DESCENDING THE BROAD OAK STAIRS

IN ANOTHER MOMENT THAT STEEL WOULD HAVE PIERCED HIS HEART

THE GALE CAUGHT HIM AND BLEW HIM TO AND FRO

"LADY," HE SAID, "THIS IS NO DEED OF MINE"

A CRUEL-LOOKING KNIFE AND A NAKED ARM PROJECTED
THROUGH THE PANELLING

"MY NAME IS INEZ. YOU WANDER STILL, SENOR"

"THERE ARE OTHERS WHERE THEY CAME FROM"

"TO-DAY I DARE TO HOPE THAT IT MAY BE OTHERWISE"

"WAY! MAKE WAY FOR THE MARCHIONESS OF MORELLA!"

"I CUT HIM DOWN, AND BY MISFORTUNE KILLED HIM"

"WE ARE PLAYERS IN A STRANGE GAME, MY LADY MARGARET"

"YOU WILL HAVE TO FIGHT ME FIRST, PETER"






FAIR MARGARET




CHAPTER I

HOW PETER MET THE SPANIARD

It was a spring afternoon in the sixth year of the reign of King Henry
VII. of England. There had been a great show in London, for that day his
Grace opened the newly convened Parliament, and announced to his
faithful people--who received the news with much cheering, since war is
ever popular at first--his intention of invading France, and of leading
the English armies in person. In Parliament itself, it is true, the
general enthusiasm was somewhat dashed when allusion was made to the
finding of the needful funds; but the crowds without, formed for the
most part of persons who would not be called upon to pay the money, did
not suffer that side of the question to trouble them. So when their
gracious liege appeared, surrounded by his glittering escort of nobles
and men-at-arms, they threw their caps into the air, and shouted
themselves hoarse.

The king himself, although he was still young in years, already a weary-
looking man with a fine, pinched face, smiled a little sarcastically at
their clamour; but, remembering how glad he should be to hear it who
still sat upon a somewhat doubtful throne, said a few soft words, and
sending for two or three of the leaders of the people, gave them his
royal hand, and suffered certain children to touch his robe that they
might be cured of the Evil. Then, having paused a while to receive
petitions from poor folk, which he handed to one of his officers to be
read, amidst renewed shouting he passed on to the great feast that was
made ready in his palace of Westminster.

Among those who rode near to him was the ambassador, de Ayala,
accredited to the English Court by the Spanish sovereigns, Ferdinand and
Isabella, and his following of splendidly attired lords and secretaries.
That Spain was much in favour there was evident from his place in the
procession. How could it be otherwise, indeed, seeing that already, four
years or more before, at the age of twelve months, Prince Arthur, the
eldest son of the king, had been formally affianced to the Infanta
Catherine, daughter of Ferdinand and Isabella, aged one year and nine
months? For in those days it was thought well that the affections of
princes and princesses should be directed early into such paths as their
royal parents and governors considered likely to prove most profitable
to themselves.

At the ambassador's left hand, mounted on a fine black horse, and
dressed richly, but simply, in black velvet, with a cap of the same
material in which was fastened a single pearl, rode a tall cavalier. He
was about five-and-thirty years of age, and very handsome, having
piercing black eyes and a stern, clean-cut face.

In every man, it is said, there can be found a resemblance, often far
off and fanciful enough, to some beast or bird or other creature, and
certainly in this case it was not hard to discover. The man resembled an
eagle, which, whether by chance or design, was the crest he bore upon
his servants' livery, and the trappings of his horse. The unflinching
eyes, the hooked nose, the air of pride and mastery, the thin, long
hand, the quick grace of movement, all suggested that king of birds,
suggested also, as his motto said, that what he sought he would find,
and what he found he would keep. Just now he was watching the interview
between the English king and the leaders of the crowd whom his Grace had
been pleased to summon, with an air of mingled amusement and contempt.

"You find the scene strange, Marquis," said the ambassador, glancing at
him shrewdly.

"Senor, here in England, if it pleases your Excellency," he answered
gravely, "Senor d'Aguilar. The marquis you mentioned lives in Spain--an
accredited envoy to the Moors of Granada; the Senor d'Aguilar, a humble
servant of Holy Church," and he crossed himself, "travels abroad--upon
the Church's business, and that of their Majesties'."

"And his own too, sometimes, I believe," answered the ambassador drily.
"But to be frank, what I do not understand about you, Senor d'Aguilar,
as I know that you have abandoned political ambitions, is why you do not
enter my profession, and put on the black robe once and for all. What
did I say--black? With your opportunities and connections it might be
red by now, with a hat to match."

The Senor d'Aguilar smiled a little as he replied.

"You said, I think, that sometimes I travel on my own business. Well,
there is your answer. You are right, I have abandoned worldly
ambitions--most of them. They are troublesome, and for some people, if
they be born too high and yet not altogether rightly, very dangerous.
The acorn of ambition often grows into an oak from which men hang."

"Or into a log upon which men's heads can be cut off. Senor, I
congratulate you. You have the wisdom that grasps the substance and lets
the shadows flit. It is really very rare."

"You asked why I do not change the cut of my garments," went on
d'Aguilar, without noticing the interruption. "Excellency, to be frank,
because of my own business. I have failings like other men. For
instance, wealth is that substance of which you spoke, rule is the
shadow; he who has the wealth has the real rule. Again, bright eyes may
draw me, or a hate may seek its slaking, and these things do not suit
robes, black or red."

"Yet many such things have been done by those who wore them," replied
the ambassador with meaning.

"Aye, Excellency, to the discredit of Holy Church, as you, a priest,
know better than most men. Let the earth be evil as it must; but let the
Church be like heaven above it, pure, unstained, the vault of prayer,
the house of mercy and of righteous judgment, wherein walks no sinner
such as I," and again he crossed himself.

There was a ring of earnestness in the speaker's voice that caused de
Ayala, who knew something of his private reputation, to look at him
curiously.

"A true fanatic, and therefore to us a useful man," he thought to
himself, "though one who knows how to make the best of two worlds as
well as most of them;" but aloud he said, "No wonder that our Church
rejoices in such a son, and that her enemies tremble when he lifts her
sword. But, Senor, you have not told me what you think of all this
ceremony and people."

"The people I know well, Excellency, for I dwelt among them in past
years and speak their language; and that is why I have left Granada to
look after itself for a while, and am here to-day, to watch and make
report----" He checked himself, then added, "As for the ceremony, were I
a king I would have it otherwise. Why, in that house just now those
vulgar Commons--for so they call them, do they not?--almost threatened
their royal master when he humbly craved a tithe of the country's wealth
to fight the country's war. Yes, and I saw him turn pale and tremble at
the rough voices, as though their echoes shook his throne. I tell you,
Excellency, that the time will come in this land when those Commons will
be king. Look now at that fellow whom his Grace holds by the hand,
calling him 'sir' and 'master,' and yet whom he knows to be, as I do, a
heretic, a Jew in disguise, whose sins, if he had his rights, should be
purged by fire. Why, to my knowledge last night, that Israelite said
things against the Church----"

"Whereof the Church, or its servant, doubtless made notes to be used
when the time comes," broke in de Ayala. "But the audience is done, and
his Highness beckons us forward to the feast, where there will be no
heretics to vex us, and, as it is Lent, not much to eat. Come, Senor!
for we stop the way."

Three hours had gone by, and the sun sank redly, for even at that spring
season it was cold upon the marshy lands of Westminster, and there was
frost in the air. On the open space opposite to the banqueting-hall, in
front of which were gathered squires and grooms with horses, stood and
walked many citizens of London, who, their day's work done, came to see
the king pass by in state. Among these were a man and a lady, the latter
attended by a handsome young woman, who were all three sufficiently
striking in appearance to attract some notice in the throng.

The man, a person of about thirty years of age, dressed in a merchant's
robe of cloth, and wearing a knife in his girdle, seemed over six feet
in height, while his companion, in her flowing, fur-trimmed cloak, was,
for a woman, also of unusual stature. He was not, strictly speaking, a
handsome man, being somewhat too high of forehead and prominent of
feature; moreover, one of his clean-shaven cheeks, the right, was marred
by the long, red scar of a sword-cut which stretched from the temple to
the strong chin. His face, however, was open and manly, if rather stern,
and the grey eyes were steady and frank. It was not the face of a
merchant, but rather that of one of good degree, accustomed to camps and
war. For the rest, his figure was well-built and active, and his voice
when he spoke, which was seldom, clear and distinct to loudness, but
cultivated and pleasant--again, not the voice of a merchant.

Of the lady's figure little could be seen because of the long cloak that
hid it, but the face, which appeared within its hood when she turned and
the dying sunlight filled her eyes, was lovely indeed, for from her
birth to her death-day Margaret Castell--fair Margaret, as she was
called--had this gift to a degree that is rarely granted to woman.
Rounded and flower-like was that face, most delicately tinted also,
with rich and curving lips and a broad, snow-white brow. But the wonder
of it, what distinguished her above everything else from other beautiful
women of her time, was to be found in her eyes, for these were not blue
or grey, as might have been expected from her general colouring, but
large, black, and lustrous; soft, too, as the eyes of a deer, and
overhung by curling lashes of an ebon black. The effect of these eyes of
hers shining above those tinted cheeks and beneath the brow of ivory
whiteness was so strange as to be almost startling. They caught the
beholder and held him, as might the sudden sight of a rose in snow, or
the morning star hanging luminous among the mists of dawn. Also,
although they were so gentle and modest, if that beholder chanced to be
a man on the good side of fifty it was often long before he could forget
them, especially if he were privileged to see how well they matched the
hair of chestnut, shading into black, that waved above them and fell,
tress upon tress, upon the shapely shoulders and down to the
slender waist.

Peter Brome, for he was so named, looked a little anxiously about him at
the crowd, then, turning, addressed Margaret in his strong, clear voice.

"There are rough folk around," he said; "do you think you should stop
here? Your father might be angered, Cousin."

Here it may be explained that in reality their kinship was of the
slightest, a mere dash of blood that came to her through her mother.
Still they called each other thus, since it is a convenient title that
may mean much or nothing.

"Oh! why not?" she answered in her rich, slow tones, that had in them
some foreign quality, something soft and sweet as the caress of a
southern wind at night. "With you, Cousin," and she glanced approvingly
at his stalwart, soldier-like form, "I have nothing to fear from men,
however rough, and I do greatly want to see the king close by, and so
does Betty. Don't you, Betty?" and she turned to her companion.

Betty Dene, whom she addressed, was also a cousin of Margaret, though
only a distant connection of Peter Brome. She was of very good blood,
but her father, a wild and dissolute man, had broken her mother's heart,
and, like that mother, died early, leaving Betty dependent upon
Margaret's mother, in whose house she had been brought up. This Betty
was in her way remarkable, both in body and mind. Fair, splendidly
formed, strong, with wide, bold, blue eyes and ripe red lips, such was
the fashion of her. In speech she was careless and vigorous. Fond of the
society of men, and fonder still of their admiration, for she was
romantic and vain, Betty at the age of five-and-twenty was yet an
honest girl, and well able to take care of herself, as more than one of
her admirers had discovered. Although her position was humble, at heart
she was very proud of her lineage, ambitious also, her great desire
being to raise herself by marriage back to the station from which her
father's folly had cast her down--no easy business for one who passed as
a waiting-woman and was without fortune.

For the rest, she loved and admired her cousin Margaret more than any
one on earth, while Peter she liked and respected, none the less perhaps
because, try as she would--and, being nettled, she did try hard
enough--her beauty and other charms left him quite unmoved.

In answer to Margaret's question she laughed and answered:

"Of course. We are all too busy up in Holborn to get the chance of so
many shows that I should wish to miss one. Still, Master Peter is very
wise, and I am always counselled to obey him. Also, it will soon
be dark."

"Well, well," said Margaret with a sigh and a little shrug of her
shoulders, "as you are both against me, perhaps we had best be going.
Next time I come out walking, cousin Peter, it shall be with some one
who is more kind."

Then she turned and began to make her way as quickly as she could
through the thickening crowd. Finding this difficult, before Peter could
stop her, for she was very swift in her movements, Margaret bore to the
right, entering the space immediately in front of the banqueting-hall
where the grooms with horses and soldiers were assembled awaiting their
lords, for here there was more room to walk. For a few moments Peter and
Betty were unable to escape from the mob which closed in behind her, and
thus it came about that Margaret found herself alone among these people,
in the midst, indeed, of the guard of the Spanish ambassador de Ayala,
men who were notorious for their lawlessness, for they reckoned upon
their master's privilege to protect them. Also, for the most part, they
were just then more or less in liquor.

One of these fellows, a great, red-haired Scotchman, whom the priest-
diplomatist had brought with him from that country, where he had also
been ambassador, suddenly perceiving before him a woman who appeared to
be young and pretty, determined to examine her more closely, and to this
end made use of a rude stratagem. Pretending to stumble, he grasped at
Margaret's cloak as though to save himself, and with a wrench tore it
open, revealing her beautiful face and graceful figure.

"A dove, comrades!--a dove!" he shouted in a voice thick with drink,
"who has flown here to give me a kiss." And, casting his long arms about
her, he strove to draw her to him.

"Peter! Help me, Peter!" cried Margaret as she struggled fiercely in his
grip.

"No, no, if you want a saint, my bonny lass," said the drunken
Scotchman, "Andrew is as good as Peter," at which witticism those of the
others who understood him laughed, for the man's name was Andrew.

Next instant they laughed again, and to the ruffian Andrew it seemed as
though suddenly he had fallen into the power of a whirlwind. At least
Margaret was wrenched away from him, while he spun round and round to
fall violently upon his face.

"That's Peter!" exclaimed one of the soldiers in Spanish.

"Yes," answered another, "and a patron saint worth having"; while a
third pulled the recumbent Andrew to his feet.

The man looked like a devil. His cap had gone, and his fiery red hair
was smeared with mud. Moreover, his nose had been broken on a cobble
stone, and blood from it poured all over him, while his little red eyes
glared like a ferret's, and his face turned a dirty white with pain and
rage. Howling out something in Scotch, of a sudden he drew his sword and
rushed straight at his adversary, purposing to kill him.

Now, Peter had no sword, but only his short knife, which he found no
time to draw. In his hand, however, he carried a stout holly staff shod
with iron, and, while Margaret clasped her hands and Betty screamed, on
this he caught the descending blow, and, furious as it was, parried and
turned it. Then, before the man could strike again, that staff was up,
and Peter had leapt upon him. It fell with fearful force, breaking the
Scotchman's shoulder and sending him reeling back.

"Shrewdly struck, Peter! Well done, Peter!" shouted the spectators.

But Peter neither saw nor heard them, for he was mad with rage at the
insult that had been offered to Margaret. Up flew the iron-tipped staff
again, and down it came, this time full on Andrew's head, which it
shattered like an egg-shell, so that the brute fell backwards, dead.

For a moment there was silence, for the joke had taken a tragic turn.
Then one of the Spaniards said, glancing at the prostrate form:

"Name of God! our mate is done for. That merchant hits hard."

Instantly there arose a murmur among the dead man's comrades, and one of
them cried:

"Cut him down!"

Understanding that he was to be set on, Peter sprang forward and
snatched the Scotchman's sword from the ground where it had fallen, at
the same time dropping his staff and drawing his dagger with the left
hand. Now he was well armed, and looked so fierce and soldier-like as he
faced his foes, that, although four or five blades were out, they held
back. Then Peter spoke for the first time, for he knew that against so
many he had no chance.

"Englishmen," he cried in ringing tones, but without shifting his head
or glance, "will you see me murdered by these Spanish dogs?"

There was a moment's pause, then a voice behind cried:

"By God! not I," and a brawny Kentish man-at-arms ranged up beside him,
his cloak thrown over his left arm, and his sword in his right hand.

"Nor I," said another. "Peter Brome and I have fought together before."

"Nor I," shouted a third, "for we were born in the same Essex hundred."

And so it went on, until there were as many stout Englishmen at his side
as there were Spaniards and Scotchmen before him.

"That will do," said Peter, "we want no more than man to man. Look to
the women, comrades behind there. Now, you murderers, if you would see
English sword-play, come on, or, if you are afraid, let us go in peace."

"Yes, come on, you foreign cowards," shouted the mob, who did not love
these turbulent and privileged guards.

By now the Spanish blood was up, and the old race-hatred awake. In
broken English the sergeant of the guard shouted out some filthy insult
about Margaret, and called upon his followers to "cut the throats of the
London swine." Swords shone red in the red sunset light, men shifted
their feet and bent forward, and in another instant a great and bloody
fray would have begun.

But it did not begin, for at that moment a tall senor, who had been
standing in the shadow and watching all that passed, walked between the
opposing lines, as he went striking up the swords with his arm.

"Have done," said d'Aguilar quietly, for it was he, speaking in Spanish.
"You fools! do you want to see every Spaniard in London torn to pieces?
As for that drunken brute," and he touched the corpse of Andrew with his
foot, "he brought his death upon himself. Moreover, he was not a
Spaniard, there is no blood quarrel. Come, obey me! or must I tell you
who I am?"

"We know you, Marquis," said the leader in a cowed voice. "Sheath your
swords, comrades; after all, it is no affair of ours."

The men obeyed somewhat unwillingly; but at this moment arrived the
ambassador de Ayala, very angry, for he had heard of the death of his
servant, demanding, in a loud voice, that the man who had killed him
should be given up.

"We will not give him up to a Spanish priest," shouted the mob. "Come
and take him if you want him," and once more the tumult grew, while
Peter and his companions made ready to fight.

Fighting there would have been also, notwithstanding all that d'Aguilar
could do to prevent it; but of a sudden the noise began to die away, and
a hush fell upon the place. Then between the uplifted weapons walked a
short, richly clad man, who turned suddenly and faced the mob. It was
King Henry himself.

"Who dare to draw swords in my streets, before my very palace doors?" he
asked in a cold voice.

A dozen hands pointed at Peter.

"Speak," said the king to him.

"Margaret, come here," cried Peter; and the girl was thrust forward to
him.

"Sire," he said, "that man," and he pointed to the corpse of Andrew,
"tried to do wrong to this maiden, John Castell's child. I, her cousin,
threw him down. He drew his sword and came at me, and I killed him with
my staff. See, it lies there. Then the Spaniards--his comrades--would
have cut me down, and I called for English help. Sire, that is all."

The king looked him up and down.

"A merchant by your dress," he said; "but a soldier by your mien. How
are you named?"

"Peter Brome, Sire."

"Ah! There was a certain Sir Peter Brome who fell at Bosworth Field--not
fighting for me," and he smiled. "Did you know him perchance?"

"He was my father, Sire, and I saw him slain--aye, and slew the slayer."

"Well can I believe it," answered Henry, considering him. "But how comes
it that Peter Brome's son, who wears that battle scar across his face,
is clad in merchant's woollen?"

"Sire," said Peter coolly, "my father sold his lands, lent his all to
the Crown, and I have never rendered the account. Therefore I must live
as I can."

The king laughed outright as he replied:

"I like you, Peter Brome, though doubtless you hate me."

"Not so, Sire. While Richard lived I fought for Richard. Richard is
gone; and, if need be, I would fight for Henry, who am an Englishman,
and serve England's king."

"Well said, and I may have need of you yet, nor do I bear you any
grudge. But, I forgot, is it thus that you would fight for me, by
causing riot in my streets, and bringing me into trouble with my good
friends the Spaniards?"

"Sire, you know the story."

"I know your story, but who bears witness to it? Do you, maiden, Castell
the merchant's daughter?"

"Aye, Sire. The man whom my cousin killed maltreated me, whose only
wrong was that I waited to see your Grace pass by. Look on my
torn cloak."

"Little wonder that he killed him for the sake of those eyes of yours,
maiden. But this witness may be tainted." And again he smiled, adding,
"Is there no other?"

Betty advanced to speak, but d'Aguilar, stepping forward, lifted his
bonnet from his head, bowed and said in English:

"Your Grace, there is; I saw it all. This gallant gentleman had no
blame. It was the servants of my countryman de Ayala who were to blame,
at any rate at first, and afterwards came the trouble."

Now the ambassador de Ayala broke in, claiming satisfaction for the
killing of his man, for he was still very angry, and saying that if it
were not given, he would report the matter to their Majesties of Spain,
and let them know how their servants were treated in London.

At these words Henry grew grave, who, above all things, wished to give
no offence to Ferdinand and Isabella.

"You have done an ill day's work, Peter Brome," he said, "and one of
which my attorney must consider. Meanwhile, you will be best in safe
keeping," and he turned as though to order his arrest.

"Sire," exclaimed Peter, "I live at Master Castell's house in Holborn,
nor shall I run away."

"Who will answer for that," asked the king, "or that you will not make
more riots on your road thither?"

"I will answer, your Grace," said d'Aguilar quietly, "if this lady will
permit that I escort her and her cousin home. Also," he added in a low
voice, "it seems to me that to hale him to a prison would be more like
to breed a riot than to let him go."

Henry glanced round him at the great crowd who were gathered watching
this scene, and saw something in their faces which caused him to agree
with d'Aguilar.

"So be it, Marquis," he said. "I have your word, and that of Peter
Brome, that he will be forthcoming if called upon. Let that dead man be
laid in the Abbey till to-morrow, when this matter shall be inquired of.
Excellency, give me your arm; I have greater questions of which I wish
to speak with you ere we sleep."



CHAPTER II

JOHN CASTELL

When the king was gone, Peter turned to those men who had stood by him
and thanked them very heartily. Then he said to Margaret:

"Come, Cousin, that is over for this time, and you have had your wish
and seen his Grace. Now, the sooner you are safe at home, the better I
shall be pleased."

"Certainly," she replied. "I have seen more than I desire to see again.
But before we go let us thank this Spanish senor----" and she paused.

"D'Aguilar, Lady, or at least that name will serve," said the Spaniard
in his cultured voice, bowing low before her, his eyes fixed all the
while upon her beautiful face.

"Senor d'Aguilar, I thank you, and so does my cousin, Peter Brome, whose
life perhaps you saved--don't you, Peter? Oh! and so will my father."

"Yes," answered Peter somewhat sulkily, "I thank him very much; though
as for my life, I trusted to my own arm and to those of my friends
there. Good night, Sir."

"I fear, Senor," answered d'Aguilar with a smile, "that we cannot part
just yet. You forget, I have become bond for you, and must therefore
accompany you to where you live, that I may certify the place. Also,
perhaps, it is safest, for these countrymen of mine are revengeful, and,
were I not with you, might waylay you."

Now, seeing from his face that Peter was still bent upon declining this
escort, Margaret interposed quickly.

"Yes, that is wisest, also my father would wish it. Senor, I will show
you the way," and, accompanied by d'Aguilar, who gallantly offered her
his arm, she stepped forward briskly, leaving Peter to follow with her
cousin Betty.

Thus they walked in the twilight across the fields and through the
narrow streets beyond that lay between Westminster and Holborn. In front
tripped Margaret beside her stately cavalier, with whom she was soon
talking fast enough in Spanish, a tongue which, for reasons that shall
be explained, she knew well, while behind, the Scotchman's sword still
in his hand, and the handsome Betty on his arm, came Peter Brome in the
worst of humours.

John Castell lived in a large, rambling, many-gabled, house, just off
the main thoroughfare of Holborn, that had at the back of it a garden
surrounded by a high wall. Of this ancient place the front part served
as a shop, a store for merchandise, and an office, for Castell was a
very wealthy trader--how wealthy none quite knew--who exported woollen
and other goods to Spain under the royal licence, bringing thence in his
own ships fine, raw Spanish wool to be manufactured in England, and with
it velvet, silks, and wine from Granada; also beautiful inlaid armour of
Toledo steel. Sometimes, too, he dealt in silver and copper from the
mountain mines, for Castell was a banker as well as a merchant, or
rather what answered to that description in those days.

It was said that beneath his shop were dungeon-like store-vaults, built
of thick cemented stone, with iron doors through which no thief could
break, and filled with precious things. However this might be, certainly
in that great house, which in the time of the Plantagenets had been the
fortified palace of a noble, existed chambers whereof he alone knew the
secret, since no one else, not even his daughter or Peter, ever crossed
their threshold. Also, there slept in it a number of men-servants, very
stout fellows, who wore knives or swords beneath their cloaks, and
watched at night to see that all was well. For the rest, the
living-rooms of this house where Castell, Margaret his daughter, and
Peter dwelt, were large and comfortable, being new panelled with oak
after the Tudor fashion, and having deep windows that looked out upon
the garden.

When Peter and Betty reached the door, not that which led into the shop,
but another, it was to find that Margaret and d'Aguilar, who were
walking very quickly, must have already passed it, since it was shut,
and they had vanished. At his knock--a hard one--a serving-man opened,
and Peter strode through the vestibule, or ante-chamber, into the hall,
where for the most part they ate and sat, for thence he heard the sound
of voices. It was a fine room, lit by hanging lamps of olive oil, and
having a large, open hearth where a fire burned pleasantly, while the
oaken table in front of it was set for supper. Margaret, who had thrown
off her cloak, stood warming herself at the fire, and the Senor
d'Aguilar, comfortably seated in a big chair, which he seemed to have
known for years, leaned back, his bonnet in his hand, and watched
her idly.

Facing them stood John Castell, a stout, dark-bearded man of between
fifty and sixty years of age, with a clever, clean-cut face and piercing
black eyes. Now, in the privacy of his home, he was very richly attired
in a robe trimmed with the costliest fur, and fastened with a gold chain
that had a jewel on its clasp. When Castell served in his shop or sat in
his counting-house no merchant in London was more plainly dressed; but
at night, loving magnificence at heart, it was his custom thus to
indulge in it, even when there were none to see him. From the way in
which he stood, and the look upon his face, Peter knew at once that he
was much disturbed. Hearing his step, Castell wheeled round and
addressed him at once in the clear, decided voice which was his
characteristic.

"What is this I am told, Peter? A man killed by you before the palace
gates? A broil! A public riot in which things went near to great
bloodshed between the English, with you at the head of them, and the
bodyguard of his Excellency, de Ayala. You arrested by the king, and
bailed out by this senor. Is all this true?"

"Quite," answered Peter calmly.

"Then I am ruined; we are all ruined. Oh! it was an evil hour when I
took one of your bloodthirsty trade into my house. What have you
to say?"

"Only that I want my supper," said Peter. "Those who began the story can
finish it, for I think their tongues are nimbler than my own," and he
glanced wrathfully at Margaret, who laughed outright, while even the
solemn d'Aguilar smiled.

"Father," broke in Margaret, "do not be angry with cousin Peter, whose
only fault is that he hits too hard. It is I who am to blame, for I
wished to stop to see the king against his will and Betty's, and
then--then that brute," and her eyes filled with tears of shame and
anger, "caught hold of me, and Peter threw him down, and afterwards,
when he attacked him with a sword, Peter killed him with his staff,
and--all the rest happened."

"It was beautifully done," said d'Aguilar in his soft voice and foreign
accent. "I saw it all, and made sure that you were dead. The parry I
understood, but the way you got your smashing blow in before he could
thrust again--ah! that----"

"Well, well," said Castell, "let us eat first and talk afterwards. Senor
d'Aguilar, you will honour my poor board, will you not, though it is
hard to come from a king's feast to a merchant's fare?"

"It is I who am honoured," answered d'Aguilar; "and as for the feast,
his Grace is sparing in this Lenten season. At least, I could get little
to eat, and, therefore, like the senor Peter, I am starved."

Castell rang a silver bell which stood near by, whereon servants brought
in the meal, which was excellent and plentiful. While they were setting
it on the table, the merchant went to a cupboard in the wainscoting, and
took thence two flasks, which he uncorked himself with care, saying that
he would give the senor some wine of his own country. This done, he said
a Latin grace and crossed himself, an example which d'Aguilar followed,
remarking that he was glad to find that he was in the house of a good
Christian.

"What else did you think that I should be?" asked Castell, glancing at
him shrewdly.

"I did not think at all, Senor," he answered; "but alas! every one is
not a Christian. In Spain, for instance, we have many Moors and--Jews."

"I know," said Castell, "for I trade with them both."

"Then you have never visited Spain?"

"No; I am an English merchant. But try that wine, Senor; it came from
Granada, and they say that it is good."

D'Aguilar tasted it, then drank off his glass.

"It is good, indeed," he said; "I have not its equal in my own cellars
there."

"Do you, then, live in Granada, Senor d'Aguilar?" asked Castell.

"Sometimes, when I am not travelling. I have a house there which my
mother left me. She loved the town, and bought an old palace from the
Moors. Would you not like to see Granada, Senora?" he asked, turning to
Margaret as though to change the subject. "There is a wonderful building
there called the Alhambra; it overlooks my house."

"My daughter is never likely to see it," broke in Castell; "I do not
purpose that she should visit Spain."

"Ah! you do not purpose; but who knows? God and His saints alone," and
again he crossed himself, then fell to describing the beauties
of Granada.

He was a fine and ready talker, and his voice was very pleasant, so
Margaret listened attentively enough, watching his face, and forgetting
to eat, while her father and Peter watched them both. At length the meal
came to an end, and when the serving-men had cleared away the dishes,
and they were alone, Castell said:

"Now, kinsman Peter, tell me your story."

So Peter told him, in few words, yet omitting nothing.

"I find no blame in you," said the merchant when he had done, "nor do I
see how you could have acted otherwise than you did. It is Margaret whom
I blame, for I only gave her leave to walk with you and Betty by the
river, and bade her beware of crowds."

"Yes, father, the fault is mine, and for it I pray your pardon," said
Margaret, so meekly that her father could not find the heart to scold
her as he had meant to do.

"You should ask Peter's pardon," he muttered, "seeing that he is like to
be laid by the heels in a dungeon over this business, yes, and put upon
his trial for causing the man's death. Remember, he was in the service
of de Ayala, with whom our liege wishes to stand well, and de Ayala, it
seems, is very angry."

Now Margaret grew frightened, for the thought that harm might come to
Peter cut her heart. The colour left her cheek, and once again her eyes
swam with tears.

"Oh! say not so," she exclaimed. "Peter, will you not fly at once?"

"By no means," he answered decidedly. "Did I not say it to the king, and
is not this foreign lord bond for me?"

"What can be done?" she went on; then, as a thought struck her, turned
to d'Aguilar, and, clasping her slender hands, looked pleadingly into
his face and asked: "Senor, you who are so powerful, and the friend of
great people, will you not help us?"

"Am I not here to do so, Senora? Although I think that a man who can
call half London to his back, as I saw your cousin do, needs little help
from me. But listen, my country has two ambassadors at this Court--de
Ayala, whom he has offended, and Doctor de Puebla, the friend of the
king; and, strangely enough, de Puebla does not love de Ayala. Yet he
does love money, which perhaps will be forthcoming. Now, if a charge is
to be laid over this brawl, it will probably be done, not by the
churchman, de Ayala, but through de Puebla, who knows your laws and
Court, and--do you understand me, Senor Castell?"

"Yes," answered the merchant; "but how am I to get at de Puebla? If I
were to offer him money, he would only ask more."

"I see that you know his Excellency," remarked d'Aguilar drily. "You are
right, no money should be offered; a present must be made after the
pardon is delivered--not before. Oh! de Puebla knows that John Castell's
word is as good in London as it is among the Jews and infidels of
Granada and the merchants of Seville, at both of which places I have
heard it spoken."

At this speech Castell's eyes flickered, but he only answered:

"May be; but how shall I approach him, Senor?"

"If you will permit me, that is my task. Now, to what amount will you go
to save our friend here from inconvenience? Fifty gold angels?"

"It is too much," said Castell; "a knave like that is not worth ten.
Indeed, he was the assailant, and nothing should be paid at all."

"Ah! Senor, the merchant is coming out in you; also the dangerous man
who thinks that right should rule the world, not kings--I mean might.
The knave is worth nothing, but de Puebla's word in Henry's ear is
worth much."

"Fifty angels be it then," said Castell, "and I thank you, Senor, for
your good offices. Will you take the money now?"

"By no means; not till I bring the debt discharged. Senor, I will come
again and let you know how matters stand. Farewell, fair maiden; may the
saints intercede for that dead rogue who brought me into your company,
and that of your father and your cousin of the quick eye and the
stalwart arm! Till we meet again," and, still murmuring compliments, he
bowed himself out of the room in charge of a manservant.

"Thomas," said Castell to this servant when he returned, "you are a
discreet fellow; put on your cap and cloak, follow that Spaniard, see
where he lodges, and find out all you can about him. Go now, swiftly."

The man bowed and went, and presently Castell, listening, heard a side
door shut behind him. Then he turned and said to the other two:

"I do not like this business. I smell trouble in it, and I do not like
the Spaniard either."

"He seems a very gallant gentleman, and high-born," said Margaret.

"Aye, very gallant--too gallant, and high-born--too high-born, unless I
am mistaken. So gallant and so high-born----" And he checked himself,
then added, "Daughter, in your wilfulness you have stirred a great rock.
Go to your bed and pray God that it may not fall upon your house and
crush it and us."

So Margaret crept away frightened, a little indignant also, for after
all, what wrong had she done? And why should her father mistrust this
splendid-looking Spanish cavalier?

When she was gone, Peter, who all this while had said little, looked up
and asked straight out:

"What are you afraid of, Sir?"

"Many things, Peter. First, that use will be made of this matter to
extort much money from me, who am known to be rich, which is a sin best
absolved by angels. Secondly, that if I make trouble about paying, other
questions will be set afoot."

"What questions?"

"Have you ever heard of the new Christians, Peter, whom the Spaniards
call Maranos?"

He nodded.

"Then you know that a Marano is a converted Jew. Now, as it chances--I
tell you who do not break secrets--my father was a Marano. His name does
not matter--it is best forgotten; but he fled from Spain to England for
reasons of his own, and took that of the country whence he
came--Castile, or Castell. Also, as it is not lawful for Jews to live in
England, he became converted to the Christian faith--seek not to know
his motives, they are buried with him. Moreover, he converted me, his
only child, who was but ten years old, and cared little whether I swore
by 'Father Abraham' or by the 'Blessed Mary.' The paper of my baptism
lies in my strong box still. Well, he was clever, and built up this
business, and died unharmed five-and-twenty years ago, leaving me
already rich. That same year I married an Englishwoman, your mother's
second cousin, and loved her and lived happily with her, and gave her
all her heart could wish. But after Margaret's birth, three-and-twenty
years gone by, she never had her health, and eight years ago she died.
You remember her, since she brought you here when you were a stout lad,
and made me promise afterwards that I would always be your friend, for
except your father, Sir Peter, none other of your well-born and ancient
family were left. So when Sir Peter--against my counsel, staking his all
upon that usurping rogue Richard, who had promised to advance him, and
meanwhile took his money--was killed at Bosworth, leaving you landless,
penniless, and out of favour, I offered you a home, and you, being a
wise man, put off your mail and put on woollen and became a merchant's
partner, though your share of profit was but small. Now, again you have
changed staff for steel," and he glanced at the Scotchman's sword that
still lay upon a side table, "and Margaret has loosed that rock of which
I spoke to her."

"What is the rock, Sir?"

"That Spaniard whom she brought home and found so fine."

"What of the Spaniard?"

"Wait a while and I will tell you." And, taking a lamp, he left the
room, returning presently with a letter which was written in cipher, and
translated upon another sheet in John Castell's own hand.

"This," he said, "is from my partner and connection, Juan Bernaldez, a
Marano, who lives at Seville, where Ferdinand and Isabella have their
court. Among other matters he writes this: 'I warn all brethren in
England to be careful. I have it that a certain one whose name I will
not mention even in cipher, a very powerful and high-born man, and,
although he appears to be a pleasure-seeker only, and is certainly of a
dissolute life, among the greatest bigots in all Spain, has been sent,
or is shortly to be sent, from Granada, where he is stationed to watch
the Moors, as an envoy to the Court of England to conclude a secret
treaty with its king. Under this treaty the names of rich Maranos that
are already well known here are to be recorded, so that when the time
comes, and the active persecution of Jews and Maranos begins, they may
be given up and brought to Spain for trial before the Inquisition. Also
he is to arrange that no Jew or Marano may be allowed to take refuge in
England. This is for your information, that you may warn any whom it
concerns.'"

"You think that d'Aguilar is this man?" asked Peter, while Castell
folded up the letter and hid it in the pocket of his robe.

"I do; indeed I have heard already that a fox was on the prowl, and that
men should look to their hen-houses. Moreover, did you note how he
crossed himself like a priest, and what he said about being among good
Christians? Also, it is Lent and a fast-day, and by ill-fortune,
although none of us ate of it, there was meat upon the table, for as you
know," he added hurriedly, "I am not strict in such matters, who give
little weight to forms and ceremonies. Well, he observed it, and touched
fish only, although he drank enough of the sweet wine. Doubtless a
report of that meat will go to Spain by the next courier."

"And if it does, what matter? We are in England, and Englishmen will not
suffer their Spanish laws and ways. Perhaps the senor d'Aguilar learned
as much as that to-night outside the banqueting-hall. There is something
to be feared from this brawl at home; but while we are safe in London,
no more from Spain."

"I am no coward, but I think there is much more to be feared, Peter. The
arm of the Pope is long, and the arm of the crafty Ferdinand is longer,
and both of them grope for the throats and moneybags of heretics."

"Well, Sir, we are not heretics."

"No, perhaps not heretics; but we are rich, and the father of one of us
was a Jew, and there is something else in this house which even a true
son of Holy Church might desire," and he looked at the door through
which Margaret had passed to her chamber.

Peter understood, for his long arms moved uneasily, and his grey eyes
flashed.

"I will go to bed," he said; "I wish to think."

"Nay, lad," answered Castell, "fill your glass and stay awhile. I have
words to say to you, and there is no time like the present. Who knows
what may happen to-morrow?"



CHAPTER III

PETER GATHERS VIOLETS

Peter obeyed, sat down in a big oak chair by the dying fire, and waited
in his silent fashion.

"Listen," said Castell. "Fifteen months ago you told me something, did
you not?"

Peter nodded.

"What was it, then?"

"That I loved my cousin Margaret, and asked your leave to tell her so."

"And what did I answer?"

"That you forbade me because you had not proved me enough, and she had
not proved herself enough; because, moreover, she would be very wealthy,
and with her beauty might look high in marriage, although but a
merchant's daughter."

"Well, and then?"

"And then--nothing," and Peter sipped his wine deliberately and put it
down upon the table.

"You are a very silent man, even where your courting is concerned," said
Castell, searching him with his sharp eyes.

"I am silent because there is no more to say. You bade me be silent, and
I have remained so."

"What! Even when you saw those gay lords making their addresses to
Margaret, and when she grew angry because you gave no sign, and was
minded to yield to one or the other of them?"

"Yes, even then--it was hard, but even then. Do I not eat your bread?
and shall I take advantage of you when you have forbid me?"

Castell looked at him again, and this time there were respect and
affection in his glance.

"Silent and stern, but honest," he said as though to himself, then
added, "A hard trial, but I saw it, and helped you in the best way by
sending those suitors--who were worthless fellows--about their business.
Now, say, are you still of the same mind towards Margaret?"

"I seldom change my mind, Sir, and on such a business, never."

"Good! Then I give you my leave to find out what her mind may be."

In the joy which he could not control, Peter's face flushed. Then, as
though he were ashamed of showing emotion, even at such a moment, he
took up his glass and drank a little of the wine before he answered.

"I thank you; it is more than I dared to hope. But it is right that I
should say, Sir, that I am no match for my cousin Margaret. The lands
which should have been mine are gone, and I have nothing save what you
pay me for my poor help in this trade; whereas she has, or will
have, much."

Castell's eyes twinkled; the answer amused him.

"At least you have an upright heart," he said, "for what other man in
such a case would argue against himself? Also, you are of good blood,
and not ill to look on, or so some maids might think; whilst as for
wealth, what said the wise king of my people?--that ofttimes riches make
themselves wings and fly away. Moreover, man, I have learned to love and
honour you, and sooner would I leave my only child in your hands than in
those of any lord in England."

"I know not what to say," broke in Peter.

"Then say nothing. It is your custom, and a good one--only listen. Just
now you spoke of your Essex lands in the fair Vale of Dedham as gone.
Well, they have come back, for last month I bought them all, and more,
at a price larger than I wished to give because others sought them, and
but this day I have paid in gold and taken delivery of the title. It is
made out in your name, Peter Brome, and whether you marry my daughter,
or whether you marry her not, yours they shall be when I am gone, since
I promised my dead wife to befriend you, and as a child she lived there
in your Hall."

Now moved out of his calm, the young man sprang from his seat, and,
after the pious fashion of the time, addressed his patron saint, on
whose feast-day he was born.

"Saint Peter, I thank thee--"

"I asked you to be silent," interrupted Castell, breaking him short.
"Moreover, after God, it is one John who should be thanked, not St.
Peter, who has no more to do with these lands than Father Abraham or the
patient Job. Well, thanks or no thanks, those estates are yours, though
I had not meant to tell you of them yet. But now I have something to
propose to you. Say, first, does Margaret think aught of that wooden
face and those shut lips of yours?"

"How can I know? I have never asked her; you forbade me."

"Pshaw! Living in one house as you do, at your age I would have known
all there was to know on such a matter, and yet kept my word. But there,
the blood is different, and you are somewhat over-honest for a lover.
Was she frightened for you, now, when that knave made at you with
the sword?"

Peter considered the question, then answered:

"I know not. I did not look to see; I looked at the Scotchman with his
sword, for if I had not, I should have been dead, not he. But she was
certainly frightened when the fellow caught hold of her, for then she
called for me loud enough."

"And what is that? What woman in London would not call for such a one as
Peter Brome in her trouble? Well, you must ask her, and that soon, if
you can find the words. Take a lesson from that Spanish don, and scrape
and bow and flatter and tell stories of the war and turn verses to her
eyes and hair. Oh, Peter! are you a fool, that I at my age should have
to teach you how to court a woman?"

"Mayhap, Sir. At least I can do none of these things, and poesy wearies
me to read, much more to write. But I can ask a question and take
an answer."

Castell shook his head impatiently.

"Ask the question, man, if you will, but never take the answer if it is
against you. Wait rather, and ask it again--"

"And," went on Peter without noticing, his grey eyes lighting with a
sudden fire, "if need be, I can break that fine Spaniard's bones as
though he were a twig."

"Ah!" said Castell, "perhaps you will be called upon to make your words
good before all is done. For my part, I think his bones will take some
breaking. Well, ask in your own way--only ask and let me hear the answer
before to-morrow night. Now it grows late, and I have still something to
say. I am in danger here. My wealth is noised abroad, and many covet it,
some in high places, I think. Peter, it is in my mind to have done with
all this trading, and to withdraw me to spend my old age where none will
take any notice of me, down at that Hall of yours in Dedham, if you will
give me lodging. Indeed for a year and more, ever since you spoke to me
on the subject of Margaret, I have been calling in my moneys from Spain
and England, and placing them out at safe interest in small sums, or
buying jewels with them, or lending them to other merchants whom I
trust, and who will not rob me or mine. Peter, you have worked well for
me, but you are no chapman; it is not in your blood. Therefore, since
there is enough for all of us and more, I shall pass this business and
its goodwill over to others, to be managed in their name, but on shares,
and if it please God we will keep next Yule at Dedham."

As he spoke the door at the far end of the hall opened, and through it
came that serving-man who had been bidden to follow the Spaniard.

"Well," said Castell, "what tidings?"

The man bowed and said:

"I followed the Don as you bade me to his lodging, which I reached
without his seeing me, though from time to time he stopped to look about
him. He rests near the palace of Westminster, in the same big house
where dwells the ambassador de Ayala, and those who stood round lifted
their bonnets to him.

"Watching I saw some of these go to a tavern, a low place that is open
all night, and, following them there, called for a drink and listened to
their talk, who know the Spanish tongue well, having worked for five
years in your worship's house at Seville. They spoke of the fray
to-night, and said that if they could catch that long-legged fellow,
meaning Master Brome yonder, they would put a knife into him, since he
had shamed them by killing the Scotch knave, who was their officer and
the best swordsman in their company, with a staff, and then setting his
British bulldogs on them. I fell into talk with them, saying that I was
an English sailor from Spain, which they were too drunk to question, and
asked who might be the tall don who had interfered in the fray before
the king came. They told me he is a rich senor named d'Aguilar, but ill
to serve in Lent because he is so strict a churchman, although not
strict in other matters. I answered that to me he looked like a great
noble, whereon one of them said that I was right, that there was no
blood in Spain higher than his, but unfortunately, there was a bend in
its stream, also an inkpot had been upset into it."

"What does that mean?" asked Peter.

"It is a Spanish saying," answered Castell, "which signifies that a man
is born illegitimate, and has Moorish blood in his veins."

"Then I asked what he was doing here, and the man answered that I had
best put that question to the Holy Father and to the Queen of Spain.
Lastly, after I had given the soldier another cup, I asked where the don
lived, and whether he had any other name. He replied that he lived at
Granada for the most part, and that if I called on him there I should
see some pretty ladies and other nice things. As for his name, it was
the Marquis of Nichel. I said that meant Marquis of Nothing, whereon the
soldier answered that I seemed very curious, and that was just what he
meant to tell me--nothing. Also he called to his comrades that he
believed I was a spy, so I thought it time to be going, as they were
drunk enough to do me a mischief."

"Good," said Castell. "You are watchman tonight, Thomas, are you not?
See that all doors are barred so that we may sleep without fear of
Spanish thieves. Rest you well, Peter. Nay, I do not come yet; I have
letters to send to Spain by the ship which sails to-morrow night."

When Peter had gone, John Castell extinguished all the lamps save one.
This he took in his hand and passed from the hall into an apartment that
in old days, when this was a noble's house, had been the private chapel.
There was an altar in it, and over the altar a crucifix. For a few
moments Castell knelt before the altar, for even now, at dead of night,
how knew he what eyes might watch him? Then he rose and, lamp in hand,
glided behind it, lifted some tapestry, and pressed a spring in the
panelling beneath. It opened, revealing a small secret chamber built in
the thickness of the wall and without windows; a mere cupboard that once
perhaps had been a place where a priest might robe or keep the
sacred vessels.

In this chamber was a plain oak table on which stood candles and an ark
of wood, also some rolls of parchment. Before this table he knelt down,
and put up earnest prayers to the God of Abraham, for, although his
father had caused him to be baptized into the Christian Church as a
child, John Castell remained a Jew. For this good reason, then, he was
so much afraid, knowing that, although his daughter and Peter knew
nothing of his secret, there were others who did, and that were it
revealed ruin and perhaps death would be his portion and that of his
house, since in those days there was no greater crime than to adore God
otherwise than Holy Church allowed. Yet for many years he had taken the
risk, and worshipped on as his fathers did before him.

His prayer finished, he left the place, closing the spring-door behind
him, and passed to his office, where he sat till the morning light,
first writing a letter to his correspondent at Seville, and then
painfully translating it into cipher by aid of a secret key. His task
done, and the cipher letter sealed and directed, he burned the draft,
extinguished his lamp, and, going to the window, watched the rising of
the sun. In the garden beneath blackbirds sang, and the pale primroses
were abloom.

"I wonder," he said aloud, "whether when those flowers come again I
shall live to see them. Almost I feel as though the rope were tightening
about my throat at last; it came upon me while that accursed Spaniard
crossed himself at my table. Well, so be it; I will hide the truth while
I can, but if they catch me I'll not deny it. The money is safe, most of
it; my wealth they shall never get, and now I will make my daughter safe
also, as with Peter she must be. I would I had not put it off so long;
but I hankered after a great marriage for her, which, being a Christian,
she well might make. I'll mend that fault; before to-morrow's morn she
shall be plighted to him, and before May-day his wife. God of my
fathers, give us one month more of peace and safety, and then, because I
have denied Thee openly, take my life in payment if Thou wilt."

Before John Castell went to bed Peter was already awake--indeed, he had
slept but little that night. How could he sleep whose fortunes had
changed thus wondrously between sun set and rise? Yesterday he was but a
merchant's assistant--a poor trade for one who had been trained to arms,
and borne them bravely. To-day he was a gentleman again, owner of the
broad lands where he was bred, and that had been his forefathers' for
many a generation. Yesterday he was a lover without hope, for in himself
he had never believed that the rich John Castell would suffer him, a
landless man, to pay court to his daughter, one of the loveliest and
wealthiest maids in London. He had asked his leave in past days, and
been refused, as he had expected that he would be refused, and
thenceforward, being on his honour as it were, he had said no tender
word to Margaret, nor pressed her hand, nor even looked into her eyes
and sighed. Yet at times it had seemed to him that she would not have
been ill-pleased if he had done one of these things, or all; that she
wondered, indeed, that he did not, and thought none the better of him
for his abstinence. Moreover, now he learned that her father wondered
also, and this was a strange reward of virtue.

For Peter loved Margaret with heart and soul and body. Since he, a lad,
had played with her, a child, he loved her, and no other woman. She was
his thought by day and his dream by night, his hope, his eternal star.
Heaven he pictured as a place where for ever he would be with Margaret,
earth without her could be nothing but a hell. That was why he had
stayed on in Castell's shop, bending his proud neck to this tradesman's
yoke, doing the bidding and taking the rough words of chapmen and of
lordly customers, filling in bills of exchange, and cheapening bargains,
all without a sign or murmur, though oftentimes he felt as though his
gorge would burst with loathing of the life. Indeed, that was why he had
come there at all, who otherwise would have been far away, hewing a road
to fame and fortune, or digging out a grave with his broadsword. For
here at least he could be near to Margaret, could touch her hand at morn
and evening, could watch the light shine in her beauteous eyes, and
sometimes, as she bent over him, feel her breath upon his hair. And now
his purgatory was at an end, and of a sudden the gates of joy were open.

But what if Margaret should prove the angel with the flaming sword who
forbade him entrance to his paradise? He trembled at the thought. Well,
if so, so it must be; he was not the man to force her fancy, or call her
father to his aid. He would do his best to win her, and if he failed,
why then he would bless her, and let her go.

Peter could lie abed no longer, but rose and dressed himself, although
the dawn was not fully come. By his open window he said his prayers,
thanking God for mercies past, and praying that He would bless him in
his great emprise. Presently the sun rose, and there came a great
longing on him to be alone in the countryside, he who was country-born
and hated towns, with only the sky and the birds and the trees
for company.

But here in London was no country, wherever he went he would meet men;
moreover, he remembered that it might be best that just now he should
not wander through the streets unguarded, lest he should find Spaniards
watching to take him unawares. Well, there was the garden; he would go
thither, and walk a while. So he descended the broad oak stairs, and,
unbolting a door, entered this garden, which, though not too well kept,
was large for London, covering an acre of ground perhaps, surrounded by
a high wall, and having walks, and at the end of it a group of ancient
elms, beneath which was a seat hidden from the house. In summer this was
Margaret's favourite bower, for she too loved Nature and the land, and
all the things it bore. Indeed, this garden was her joy, and the flowers
that grew there were for the most part of her own planting--primroses,
snowdrops, violets, and, in the shadow of the trees, long
hartstongue ferns.

For a while Peter walked up and down the central path, and, as it
chanced, Margaret, who also had risen early and not slept too well,
looking through her window curtains, saw him wandering there, and
wondered what he did at this hour; also, why he was dressed in the
clothes he wore on Sundays and holidays. Perhaps, she thought, his
weekday garments had been torn or muddied in last night's fray. Then she
fell to thinking how bravely he had borne him in that fray. She saw it
all again; the great red-headed rascal tossed up and whirled to the
earth by his strong arms; saw Peter face that gleaming steel with
nothing but a staff; saw the straight blows fall, and the fellow go
reeling to the earth, slain with a single stroke.

Ah! her cousin, Peter Brome, was a man indeed, though a strange one, and
remembering certain things that did not please her, she shrugged her
ivory shoulders, turned red, and pouted. Why, that Spaniard had said
more civil words to her in an hour than had Peter in two years, and he
was handsome and noble-looking also; but then the Spaniard was--a
Spaniard, and other men were--other men, whereas Peter was--Peter, a
creature apart, one who cared as little for women as he did for trade.

Why, then, if he cared for neither women nor trade, did he stop here?
she wondered. To gather wealth? She did not think it; he seemed to have
no leanings that way either. It was a mystery. Still, she could wish to
get to the bottom of Peter's heart, just to see what was hid there,
since no man has a right to be a riddle to his loving cousin. Yes, and
one day she would do it, cost what it might.

Meanwhile, she remembered that she had never thanked Peter for the brave
part which he had played, and, indeed, had left him to walk home with
Betty, a journey that, as she gathered from her sprightly cousin's talk
while she undressed her, neither of them had much enjoyed. For Betty, be
it said here, was angry with Peter, who, it seemed, once had told her
that she was a handsome, silly fool, who thought too much of men and too
little of her business. Well, since after the day's work had begun she
would find no opportunity, she would go down and thank Peter now, and
see if she could make him talk for once.

So Margaret threw her fur-trimmed cloak about her, drawing its hood over
her head, for the April air was cold, and followed Peter into the
garden. When she reached it, however, there was no Peter to be seen,
whereon she reproached herself for having come to that damp place so
early and meditated return. Then, thinking that it would look foolish if
any had chanced to see her, she walked down the path pretending to seek
for violets, and found none. Thus she came to the group of great elms at
the end, and, glancing between their ancient boles, saw Peter standing
there. Now, too, she understood why she could find no violets, for Peter
had gathered them all, and was engaged, awkwardly enough, in trying to
tie them and some leaves into a little posy by the help of a stem of
grass. With his left hand he held the violets, with his right one end of
the grass, and since he lacked fingers to clasp the other, this he
attempted with his teeth. Now he drew it tight, and now the brittle
grass stem broke, the violets were scattered, and Peter used words that
he should not have uttered even when alone.

"I knew you would break it, but I never thought you could lose your
temper over so small a thing, Peter," said Margaret; and he in the
shadow looked up to see her standing there in the sunlight, fresh and
lovely as the spring itself.

Solemnly, in severe reproof, she shook her head, from which the hood had
fallen back, but there was a smile upon her lips, and laughter in her
eyes. Oh! she was beautiful, and at the sight of her Peter's heart stood
still. Then, remembering what he had just said, and certain other things
that Master Castell had said, he blushed so deeply that her own cheeks
went red in sympathy. It was foolish, but she could not help it, for
about Peter this morning there was something strange, something that
bred blushes.

"For whom are you gathering violets so early," she asked, "when you
ought to be praying for that Scotchman's soul?"

"I care nothing for his soul," answered Peter testily. "If the brute had
one, he can look after it himself; and I was gathering the
violets--for you."

She stared. Peter was not in the habit of making her presents of
flowers. No wonder he had looked strange.

"Then I will help you to tie them. Do you know why I am up so early? It
is for your sake. I behaved badly to you last night, for I was cross
because you wanted to thwart me about seeing the king. I never thanked
you for all you did, you brave Peter, though I thanked you enough in my
heart. Do you know that when you stood there with that sword, in the
middle of those Englishmen, you looked quite noble? Come out into the
sunlight, and I will thank you properly."

In his agitation Peter let the remainder of the flowers fall. Then an
idea struck him, and he answered:

"Look! I can't; if you are really grateful for nothing at all, come in
here and help me to pick up these violets--a pest on their
short stalks!"

She hesitated a little, then by degrees drew nearer, and, bending down,
began to find the flowers one by one. Peter had scattered them wide, so
that at first the pair were some way apart, but when only a few
remained, they drew close. Now there was but one violet left, and, both
stretching for it, their hands met. Margaret held the violet, and Peter
held Margaret's fingers. Thus linked they straightened themselves, and
as they rose their faces were very near together and oh! most sweet were
Margaret's wonderful eyes; while in the eyes of Peter there shone a
flame. For a second they looked at each other, and then of a sudden he
kissed her on the lips.



CHAPTER IV

LOVERS DEAR

"Peter!" gasped Margaret--"_Peter!_"

But Peter made no answer, only he who had been red of face went white,
so that the mark of the sword-cut across his cheek showed like a scarlet
line upon a cloth.

"Peter!" repeated Margaret, pulling at her hand which he still held, "do
you know what you have done?"

"It seems that you do, so what need is there for me to tell you?" he
muttered.

"Then it was not an accident; you really meant it, and you are not
ashamed."

"If it was, I hope that I may meet with more such accidents."

"Peter, leave go of me. I am going to tell my father, at once."

His face brightened.

"Tell him by all means," he said; "he won't mind. He told me----"

"Peter, how dare you add falsehood to--to--you know what. Do you mean to
say that my father told you to kiss me, and at six o'clock in the
morning, too?"

"He said nothing about kissing, but I suppose he meant it. He said that
I might ask you to marry me."

"That," replied Margaret, "is a very different thing. If you had asked
me to marry you, and, after thinking it over for a long while, I had
answered Yes, which of course I should not have done, then, perhaps,
before we were married you might have--Well, Peter, you have begun at
the wrong end, which is very shameless and wicked of you, and I shall
never speak to you again."

"I daresay," said Peter resignedly; "all the more reason why I should
speak to you while I have the chance. No, you shan't go till you have
heard me. Listen. I have been in love with you since you were twelve
years old--"

"That must be another falsehood, Peter, or you have gone mad. If you had
been in love with me for eleven years, you would have said so."

"I wanted to, always, but your father refused me leave. I asked him
fifteen months ago, but he put me on my word to say nothing."

"To say nothing--yes, but he could not make you promise to show
nothing."

"I thought that the one thing meant the other; I see now that I have
been a fool, and, I suppose, have overstayed my market," and he looked
so depressed that Margaret relented a little.

"Well," she said, "at any rate it was honest, and of course I am glad
that you were honest."

"You said just now that I told falsehoods--twice; if I am honest, how
can I tell falsehoods?"

"I don't know. Why do you ask me riddles? Let me go and try to forget
all this."

"Not till you have answered me outright. Will you marry me, Margaret? If
you won't, there will be no need for you to go, for I shall go and
trouble you no more. You know what I am, and all about me, and I have
nothing more to say except that, although you may find many finer
husbands, you won't find one who would love and care for you better. I
know that you are very beautiful and very rich, while I am neither one
nor the other, and often I have wished to Heaven that you were not so
beautiful, for sometimes that brings trouble on women who are honest and
only have one heart to give, or so rich either. But thus things are, and
I cannot change them, and, however poor my chance of hitting the dove, I
determined to shoot my bolt and make way for the next archer. Is there
any chance at all, Margaret? Tell me, and put me out of pain, for I am
not good at so much talking."

Now Margaret began to grow disturbed; her wayward assurance departed
from her.

"It is not fitting," she murmured, "and I do not wish--I will speak to
my father; he shall give you your answer."

"No need to trouble him, Margaret. He has given it already. His great
desire is that we should marry, for he seeks to leave this trade and to
live with us in the Vale of Dedham, in Essex, where he has bought back
my father's land."

"You are full of strange tidings this morning, Peter."

"Yes, Margaret, our wheel of life that went so slow turns fast enough
to-day, for God above has laid His whip upon the horses of our Fate,
and they begin to gallop, whither I know not. Must they run side by
side, or separate? It is for you to say."

"Peter," she said, "will you not give me a little time?"

"Aye, Margaret, ten whole minutes by the clock, and then if it is nay,
all your life, for I pack my chest and go. It will be said that I feared
to be taken for that soldier's death."

"You are unkind to press me so."

"Nay, it is kindest to both of us. Do you then love some other man?"

"I must confess I do," she murmured, looking at him out of the corners
of her eyes.

Now Peter, strong as he was, turned faint, and in his agitation let go
her hand which she lifted, the violets still between her fingers,
considering it as though it were a new thing to her.

"I have no right to ask you who he is," he muttered, striving to control
himself.

"Nay, but, Peter, I will tell you. It is my father--what other man
should I love?"

"Margaret!" he said in wrath, "you are fooling me."

"How so? What other man should I love--unless, indeed, it were
yourself?"

"I can bear no more of this play," he said. "Mistress Margaret, I bid
you farewell. God go with you!" And he brushed past her.

"Peter," she said when he had gone a few yards, "would you have these
violets as a farewell gift?"

He turned and hesitated.

"Come, then, and take them."

So back he came, and with little trembling fingers she began to fasten
the flowers to his doublet, bending ever nearer as she fastened, until
her breath played upon his face, and her hair brushed his bonnet. Then,
it matters not how, once more the violets fell to earth, and she sighed,
and her hands fell also, and he put his strong arms round her and drew
her to him and kissed her again and yet again on the hair and eyes and
lips; nor did Margaret forbid him.

At length she thrust him from her and, taking him by the hand, led him
to the seat beneath the elms, and bade him sit at one end of it, while
she sat at the other.

"Peter," she whispered, "I wish to speak with you when I can get my
breath. Peter, you think poorly of me, do you not? No--be silent; it is
my turn to talk. You think that I am heartless, and have been playing
with you. Well, I only did it to make sure that you really do love me,
since, after that--accident of a while ago (when we were picking up the
violets, I mean), you would have been in honour bound to say it, would
you not? Well, now I am quite sure, so I will tell you something. I love
you many times as well as you love me, and have done so for quite as
long. Otherwise, should I not have married some other suitor, of whom
there have been plenty? Aye, and I will tell you this to my sin and
shame, that once I grew so angry with you because you would not speak or
give some little sign, that I went near to it. But at the last I could
not, and sent him about his business also. Peter, when I saw you last
night facing that swordsman with but a staff, and thought that you must
die, oh! then I knew all the truth, and my heart was nigh to bursting,
as, had you died, it would have burst. But now it is all done with, and
we know each other's secret, and nothing shall ever part us more till
death comes to one or both."

Thus Margaret spoke, while he drank in her words as desert sands,
parched by years of drought, drink in the rain--and watched her face,
out of which all mischief and mockery had departed, leaving it that of a
most beauteous and most earnest woman, to whom a sense of the weight of
life, with its mingled joys and sorrows, had come home suddenly. When
she had finished, this silent man, to whom even his great happiness
brought few words, said only:

"God has been very good to us. Let us thank God."

So they did, then, even there, seated side by side upon the bench,
because the grass was too wet for them to kneel on, praying in their
simple, childlike faith that the Power which had brought them together,
and taught them to love each other, would bless them in that love and
protect them from all harms, enemies, and evils through many a long
year of life.

Their prayer finished, they sat together on the seat, now talking, and
now silent in their joy, while all too fast the time wore on. At
length--it was after one of these spells of blissful silence--a change
came over them, such a change as falls upon some peaceful scene when,
unexpected and complete, a black stormcloud sweeps across the sun, and,
in place of its warm light, pours down gloom full of the promise of
tempest and of rain. Apprehension got a hold of them. They were both
afraid of what they could not guess.

"Come," she said, "it is time to go in. My father will miss us."

So without more words or endearments they rose and walked side by side
out of the shelter of the elms into the open garden. Their heads were
bent, for they were lost in thought, and thus it came about that
Margaret saw her feet pass suddenly into the shadow of a man, and,
looking up, perceived standing in front of her, grave, alert, amused,
none other than the Senor d'Aguilar. She uttered a little stifled
scream, while Peter, with the impulse that causes a brave and startled
hound to rush at that which frightens it, gave a leap forward towards
the Spaniard.

"Mother of God! do you take me for a thief?" he asked in a laughing
voice, as he stepped to one side to avoid him.

"Your pardon," said Peter, shaking himself together; "but you surprised
us appearing so suddenly where we never thought to see you."

"Any more than I thought to see you here, for this seems a strange place
to linger on so cold a morning," and he looked at them again with his
curious, mocking eyes that appeared to read the secret of their souls,
while they grew red as roses beneath his scrutiny. "Permit me to
explain," he went on. "I came here thus early on your service, to warn
you, Master Peter, not to go abroad to-day, since a writ is out for your
arrest, and as yet I have had no time to quash it by friendly
settlement. Well, as it chanced, I met that handsome lady who was with
you yesterday, returning from her marketing--a friendly soul--she says
she is your cousin. She brought me to the house, and having learned that
your father, whom I wished to see, was at his prayers, good man, in the
old chapel, led me to its door and left me to seek him. I entered, but
could not find him, so, having waited a while, strayed into this garden
through the open door, purposing to walk here till some one should
appear, and, you see, I have been fortunate beyond my expectations
or deserts."

"So!" said Peter shortly, for the man's manner and elaborated
explanations filled him with disgust. "Let us seek Master Castell that
he may hear the story."

"And we thank you much for coming to warn us," murmured Margaret. "I
will go find my father," and she slipped past him towards the door.

D'Aguilar watched her enter it, then turned to Peter and said:

"You English are a hardy folk who take the spring air so early. Well, in
such company I would do the same. Truly she is a beauteous maiden. I
have some experience of the sex, but never do I remember one so fair."

"My cousin is well enough," answered Peter coldly, for this Spaniard's
very evident admiration of Margaret did not please him.

"Yes," answered d'Aguilar, taking no notice of his tone, "she is well
enough to fill the place, not of a merchant's daughter, but of a great
lady--a countess reigning over towns and lands, or a queen even; the
royal robes and ornaments would become that carriage and that brow."

"My cousin seeks no such state who is happy in her quiet lot," answered
Peter again; then added quickly, "See, here comes Master Castell
seeking you."

D'Aguilar advanced and greeted the merchant courteously, noticing as he
did so that, notwithstanding his efforts to appear unconcerned, Castell
seemed ill at ease.

"I am an early visitor," he said, "but I knew that you business folk
rise with the lark, and I wished to catch our friend here before he went
out," and he repeated to him the reason of his coming.

"I thank you, Senor," answered Castell. "You are very good to me and
mine. I am sorry that you have been kept waiting. They tell me that you
looked for me in the chapel, but I was not there, who had already left
it for my office."

"So I found. It is a quaint place, that old chapel of yours, and while I
waited I went to the altar and told my beads there, which I had no time
to do before I left my lodgings."

Castell started almost imperceptibly, and glanced at d'Aguilar with his
quick eyes, then turned the subject and asked if he would not breakfast
with them. He declined, however, saying that he must be about their
business and his own, then promptly proposed that he should come to
supper on the following night that was--Sunday--and make report how
things had gone, a suggestion that Castell could not but accept.

So he bowed and smiled himself out of the house, and walked thoughtfully
into Holborn, for it had pleased him to pay this visit on foot, and
unattended. At the corner whom should he meet again but the tall,
fair-haired Betty, returning from some errand which she had found it
convenient to fulfil just then.

"What," he said, "you once more! The saints are very kind to me this
morning. Come, Senora, walk a little way with me, for I would ask you a
few questions."

Betty hesitated, then gave way. It was seldom that she found the chance
of walking through Holborn with such a noble-looking cavalier.

"Never look at your working-dress," he said.

"With such a shape, what matters the robe that covers it?"--a compliment
at which Betty blushed, for she was proud of her fine figure.

"Would you like a mantilla of real Spanish lace for your head and
shoulders? Well, you shall have one that I brought from Spain with me,
for I know no other lady in the land whom it would become better. But,
Mistress Betty, you told me wrong about your master. I went to the
chapel and he was not there."

"He was there, Senor," she answered, eager to set herself right with
this most agreeable and discriminating foreigner, "for I saw him go in a
moment before, and he did not come out again."

"Then, Senora, where could he have hidden himself? Has the place a
crypt?"

"None that I have heard of; but," she added, "there is a kind of little
room behind the altar."

"Indeed. How do you know that? I saw no room."

"Because one day I heard a voice behind the tapestry, Senor, and,
lifting it, saw a sliding door left open, and Master Castell kneeling
before a table and saying his prayers aloud."

"How strange! And what was there on the table?"

"Only a queer-shaped box of wood like a little house, and two
candlesticks, and some rolls of parchment. But I forgot, Senor; I
promised Master Castell to say nothing about that place, for he turned
and saw me, and came at me like a watchdog out of its kennel. You won't
say that I told you, will you, Senor?"

"Not I; your good master's private cupboard does not interest me. Now I
want to know something more. Why is that beautiful cousin of yours not
married? Has she no suitors?"

"Suitors, Senor? Yes, plenty of them, but she sends them all about their
business, and seems to have no mind that way."

"Perhaps she is in love with her cousin, that long-legged, strong-armed,
wooden-headed Master Brome."

"Oh! no, Senor, I don't think so; no lady could be in love with him--he
is too stern and silent."

"I agree with you, Senora. Then perhaps he is in love with her."

Betty shook her head, and replied:

"Peter Brome doesn't think anything of women, Senor. At least he never
speaks to or of them."

"Which shows that probably he thinks about them all the more. Well,
well, it is no affair of ours, is it? Only I am glad to hear that there
is nothing between them, since your mistress ought to marry high, and be
a great lady, not a mere merchant's wife."

"Yes, Senor. Though Peter Brome is not a merchant, at least by birth, he
is high-born, and should be Sir Peter Brome if his father had not fought
on the wrong side and sold his land. He is a soldier, and a very brave
one, they say, as all might see last night."

"No doubt, and perhaps would make a great captain, if he had the chance,
with his stern face and silent tongue. But, Senora Betty, say, how comes
it that, being so handsome," and he bowed, "you are not married either?
I am sure it can be from no lack of suitors."

Again Betty, foolish girl, flushed with pleasure at the compliment.

"You are right, Senor," she answered. "I have plenty of them; but I am
like my cousin--they do not please me. Although my father lost his
fortune, I come of good blood, and I suppose that is why I do not care
for these low-born men, and would rather remain as I am than marry
one of them."

"You are quite right," said d'Aguilar in his sympathetic voice. "Do not
stain your blood. Marry in your own class, or not at all, which, indeed,
should not be difficult for one so beautiful and charming." And he
looked into her large eyes with tender admiration.

This quality, indeed, soon began to demonstrate itself so actively, for
they were now in the fields where few people wandered, that Betty, who
although vain was proud and upright, thought it wise to recollect that
she must be turning homewards. So, in spite of his protests, she left
him and departed, walking upon air.

How splendid and handsome this foreign gentleman was, she thought to
herself, really a great cavalier, and surely he admired her truly. Why
should he not? Such things had often been. Many a rich lady whom she
knew was not half so handsome or so well born as herself, and would make
him a worse wife--that is, and the thought chilled her somewhat--if he
were not already married.

From all of which it will be seen that d'Aguilar had quickly succeeded
in the plan which only presented itself to him a few hours before. Betty
was already half in love with him. Not that he had any desire to possess
this beautiful but foolish woman's heart, who saw in her only a useful
tool, a stepping-stone by means of which he might draw near to Margaret.

For with Margaret, it may be said at once, he was quite in love. At the
sight of her sweet yet imperial beauty, as he saw her first,
dishevelled, angry, frightened, in the crowd outside the king's
banqueting-hall, his southern blood had taken sudden fire. Finished
voluptuary though he was, the sensation he experienced then was quite
new to him. He longed for this woman as he had never longed for any
other, and, what is more, he desired to make her his wife. Why not?
Although there was a flaw in it, his rank was high, and therefore she
was beneath him; but for this her loveliness would atone, and she had
wit and learning enough to fill any place that he could give her. Also,
great as was his wealth, his wanton, spendthrift way of life had brought
him many debts, and she was the only child of one of the richest
merchants in England, whose dower, doubtless, would be a fortune that
many a royal princess might envy. Why not again? He would turn Inez and
those others adrift--at any rate, for a while--and make her mistress of
his palace there in Granada. Instantly, as is often the fashion of those
who have Eastern blood in their veins, d'Aguilar had made up his mind,
yes, before he left her father's table on the previous night. He would
marry Margaret and no other woman.

Yet at once he had seen many difficulties in his path. To begin with, he
mistrusted him of Peter, that strong, quiet man who could kill a great
armed knave with his stick, and at a word call half London to his side.
Peter, he was sure, being human, must be in love with Margaret, and he
was a rival to be feared. Well, if Margaret had no thoughts of Peter,
this mattered nothing, and if she had--and what were they doing together
in the garden that morning?--Peter must be got rid of, that was all. It
was easy enough if he chose to adopt certain means; there were many of
those Spanish fellows who would not mind sticking a knife into his back
in the dark.

But sinful as he was, at such steps his conscience halted. Whatever
d'Aguilar had done, he had never caused a man to be actually murdered,
he who was a bigot, who atoned for his misdoings by periods of remorse
and prayer, in which he placed his purse and talents at the service of
the Church, as he was doing at this moment. No, murder must not be
thought of; for how could any absolution wash him clean of that stain?
But there were other ways. For instance, had not this Peter, in
self-defence it is true, killed one of the servants of an ambassador of
Spain? Perhaps, however, it would not be necessary to make use of them.
It had seemed to him that the lady was not ill pleased with him, and,
after all, he had much to offer. He would court her fairly, and if he
were rejected by her, or by her father, then it would be time enough to
act. Meanwhile, he would keep the sword hanging over the head of Peter,
pretending that it was he alone who had prevented it from falling, and
learn all that he could as to Castell and his history.

Here, indeed, Fortune, in the shape of the foolish Betty, had favoured
him. Without a doubt, as he had heard in Spain, and been sure from the
moment that he first saw him, Castell was still secretly a Jew. Mistress
Betty's story of the room behind the altar, with the ark and the candles
and the rolls of the Law, proved as much. At least here was evidence
enough to send him to the fires of the Inquisition in Spain, and,
perhaps, to drive him out of England. Now, if John Castell, the Spanish
Jew, should not wish, for any reason, to give him his daughter in
marriage, would not a hint and an extract from the Commissions of their
Majesties of Spain and the Holy Father suffice to make him change
his mind?

Thus pondering, d'Aguilar regained his lodgings, where his first task
was to enter in a book all that Betty had told him, and all that he had
observed in the house of John Castell.



CHAPTER V

CASTELL'S SECRET

In John Castell's house it was the habit, as in most others in those
days, for his dependents, clerks, and shopmen to eat their morning and
mid-day meals with him in the hall, seated at two lower tables, all of
them save Betty, his daughter's cousin and companion, who sat with them
at the upper board. This morning Betty's place was empty, and presently
Castell, lifting his eyes, for he was lost in thought, noted it, and
asked where she might be--a question that neither Margaret nor Peter
could answer.

One of the servants at the lower table, however--it was that man who had
been sent to follow d'Aguilar on the previous night--said that as he
came down Holborn a while before he had seen her walking with the
Spanish don, a saying at which his master looked grave.

Just as they were finishing their meal, a very silent one, for none of
them seemed to have anything to say, and after the servants had left the
hall, Betty arrived, flushed as though with running.

"Where have you been that you are so late?" asked Castell.

"To seek the linen for the new sheets, but it was not ready," she
answered glibly. "The mercer kept you waiting long," remarked Castell
quietly. "Did you meet any one?"

"Only the folk in the street."

"I will ask you no more questions, lest I should cause you to lie and
bring you into sin," said Castell sternly. "Girl, how far did you walk
with the Senor d'Aguilar, and what was your business with him?"

Now Betty knew that she had been seen, and that it was useless to deny
the truth.

"Only a little way," she answered, "and that because he prayed me to
show him his path."

"Listen, Betty," went on Castell, taking no notice of her words. "You
are old enough to guard yourself, therefore as to your walking abroad
with gallants who can mean you no good I say nothing. But know this--no
one who has knowledge of the matters of my house," and he looked at her
keenly, "shall mix with any Spaniard. If you are found alone with this
senor any more, that hour I have done with you, and you never pass my
door again. Nay, no words. Take your food and eat it elsewhere."

So she departed half weeping, but very angry, for Betty was strong and
obstinate by nature. When she had gone, Margaret, who was fond of her
cousin, tried to say some words on her behalf; but her father
stopped her.

"Pshaw!" he said, "I know the girl; she is vain as a peacock, and,
remembering her gentle birth and good looks, seeks to marry above her
station; while for some purpose of his own--an ill one, I'll warrant--
that Spaniard plays upon her weakness, which, if it be not curbed, may
bring trouble on us all. Now, enough of Betty Dene; I must to my work."

"Sir," said Peter, speaking for the first time, "we would have a
private word with you."

"A private word," he said, looking up anxiously. "Well, speak on. No,
this place is not private; I think its walls have ears. Follow me," and
he led the way into the old chapel, whereof, when they had all passed
it, he bolted the door. "Now," he said, "what is it?"

"Sir," answered Peter, standing before him, "having your leave at last,
I asked your daughter in marriage this morning."

"At least you lose no time, friend Peter; unless you had called her from
her bed and made your offer through the door you could not have done it
quicker. Well, well, you ever were a man of deeds, not words, and what
says my Margaret?"

"An hour ago she said she was content," answered Peter.

"A cautious man also," went on Castell with a twinkle in his eye, "who
remembers that women have been known to change their minds within an
hour. After such long thought, what say you now, Margaret?"

"That I am angry with Peter," she answered, stamping her small foot,
"for if he does not trust me for an hour, how can he trust me for his
life and mine?"

"Nay, Margaret, you do not understand me," said Peter. "I wished not to
bind you, that is all, in case----"

"Now you are saying it again," she broke in vexed, and yet amused. "Do
so a third time, and I will you at your word."

"It seems best that I should remain silent. Speak you," said Peter
humbly.

"Aye, for truly you are a master of silence, as I should know, if any
do," replied Margaret, bethinking her of the weary months and years of
waiting. "Well, I will answer for you.--Father, Peter was right; I am
content to marry him, though to do so will be to enter the Order of the
Silent Brothers. Yes, I am content; not for himself, indeed, who has so
many faults, but for myself, who chance to love him," and she smiled
sweetly enough.

"Do not jest on such matters, Margaret."

"Why not, father? Peter is solemn enough for both of us--look at him.
Let us laugh while we may, for who knows when tears may come?"

"A good saying," answered Castell with a sigh. "So you two have plighted
your troth, and, my children, I am glad of it, for who knows when those
tears of which Margaret spoke may come, and then you can wipe away each
other's? Take now her hand, Peter, and swear by the Rood, that symbol
which you worship"--here Peter glanced at him, but he went on--"swear,
both of you that come what may, together or separate, through good
report or evil report, through poverty or wealth, through peace or
persecutions, through temptation or through blood, through every good or
ill that can befall you in this world of bittersweet, you will remain
faithful to your troth until you be wed, and after you are wed, faithful
to each other till death do part you."

These words he spoke to them in a voice that was earnest almost to
passion, searching their faces the while with his quick eyes as though
he would read their very hearts. His mood crept from him to them; once
again they felt something of that fear which had fallen on them in the
garden when they passed into the shadow of the Spaniard. Very solemnly
then, and with little of true lovers' joy, did they take each other's
hands and swear by the Cross and Him Who hung on it, that through these
things, and all others they could not foretell, they would, if need
were, be faithful to the death.

"And beyond it also," added Peter; while Margaret bowed her stately head
in sweet assent.

"Children," said Castell, "you will be rich--few richer in this
land--though mayhap it would be wise that you should not show all your
wealth at once, or ape the place of a great house, lest envy should fall
upon your heads and crush you. Be content to wait, and rank will find
you in its season, or if not you, your children. Peter, I tell you now,
lest I should forget it, that the list of all my moneys and other
possessions in chattels or lands or ships or merchandise is buried
beneath the floor of my office, just under where my chair stands. Lift
the boards and dig away a foot of rubbish, and you will find a stone
trap, and below an iron box with the deeds, inventories, and some very
precious jewels. Also, if by any mischance that box should be lost,
duplicates of nearly all these papers are in the hands of my good friend
and partner in our inland British trade, Simon Levett, whom you know.
Remember my words, both of you."

"Father," broke in Margaret in an anxious voice, "why do you speak of
the future thus?--I mean, as though you had no share in it? Do you
fear aught?"

"Yes, daughter, much, or rather I expect, I do not fear, who am
prepared and desire to meet all things as they come. You have sworn that
oath, have you not? And you will keep it, will you not?"

"Aye!" they answered with one breath.

"Then prepare you to feel the weight of the first of those trials
whereof it speaks, for I will no longer hold back the truth from you.
Children, I, whom for all these years you have thought of your own
faith, am a Jew as my forefathers were before me, back to the days
of Abraham."

The effect of this declaration upon its hearers was remarkable. Peter's
jaw dropped, and for the second time that day his face went white; while
Margaret sank down into a chair that stood near by, and stared at him
helplessly. In those times it was a very terrible thing to be a Jew.
Castell looked from one to the other, and, feeling the insult of their
silence, grew angry.

"What!" he exclaimed in a bitter voice, "are you like all the others? Do
you scorn me also because I am of a race more ancient and honourable
than those of any of your mushroom lords and kings? You know my life:
say, what have I done wrong? Have I caught Christian children and
crucified them to death? Have I defrauded my neighbour or oppressed the
poor? Have I mocked your symbol of the Host? Have I conspired against
the rulers of this land? Have I been a false friend or a cruel father?
You shake your heads; then why do you stare at me as though I were a
thing accursed and unclean? Have I not a right to the faith of my
fathers? May I not worship God in my own fashion?" And he looked at
Peter, a challenge in his eyes. "Sir," answered Peter, "without a
doubt you may, or so it seems to me. But then, why for all these years
have you appeared to worship Him in ours?"

At this blunt question, so characteristic of the speaker, Castell seemed
to shrink like a pin-pricked bladder, or some bold fighter who has
suddenly received a sword-thrust in his vitals. All courage went out of
the man, his fiery eyes grew tame, he appeared to become visibly
smaller, and to put on something of the air of those mendicants of his
own race, who whine out their woes and beg alms of the passer-by. When
next he spoke, it was as a suppliant for merciful judgment at the hands
of his own child and her lover.

"Judge me not harshly," he said. "Think what it is to be a Jew--an
outcast, a thing that the lowest may spurn and spit at, one beyond the
law, one who can be hunted from land to land like a mad wolf, and
tortured to death, when caught, for the sport of gentle Christians, who
first have stripped him of his gains and very garments. And then think
what it means to escape all these woes and terrors, and, by the doffing
of a bonnet, and the mumbling of certain prayers with the lips in
public, to find sanctuary, peace, and protection within the walls of
Mother Church, and thus fostered, to grow rich and great."

He paused as though for a reply, but as they did not speak, went on:

"Moreover, as a child, I was baptized into your Church; but my heart,
like that of my father, remained with the Jews, and where the heart goes
the feet follow."

"That makes it worse," said Peter, as though speaking to himself.

"My father taught me thus," Castell went on, as though pleading his case
before a court of law.

"We must answer for our own sins," said Peter again.

Then at length Castell took fire.

"You young folk, who as yet know little of the terrors of the world,
reproach me with cold looks and colder words," he said; "but I wonder,
should you ever come to such a pass as mine, whether you will find the
heart to meet it half as bravely? Why do you think that I have told you
this secret, that I might have kept from you as I kept it from your
mother, Margaret? I say because it is a part of my penance for the sin
which I have sinned. Aye, I know well that my God is a jealous God, and
that this sin will fall back on my head, and that I shall pay its price
to the last groat, though when and how the blow will strike me I know
not. Go you, Peter, or you, Margaret, and denounce me if you will. Your
priests will speak well of you for the deed, and open to you a shorter
road to Heaven, and I shall not blame you, nor lessen your wealth by a
single golden noble."

"Do not speak so madly, Sir," said Peter; "these matters are between you
and God. What have we to do with them, and who made us judges over you?
We only pray that your fears may come to nothing, and that you may reach
your grave in peace and honour."

"I thank you for your generous words, which are such as befit your
nature," said Castell gently; "but what says Margaret?"

"I, father?" she answered, wildly. "Oh! I have nothing to say. He is
right. It is between you and God; but it is hard that I must lose my
love so soon." Peter looked up, and Castell answered:

"Lose him! Why, what did he swear but now?"

"I care not what he swore; but how can I ask him, who is of noble,
Christian birth, to marry the daughter of a Jew who all his life has
passed himself off as a worshipper of that Jesus Whom he denies?"

Now Peter held up his hand.

"Have done with such talk," he said. "Were your father Judas himself,
what is that to you and me? You are mine and I am yours till death part
us, nor shall the faith of another man stand between us for an hour.
Sir, we thank you for your confidence, and of this be sure, that
although it makes us sorrowful, we do not love or honour you the less
because now we know the truth."

Margaret rose from her chair, looked a while at her father, then with a
sob threw herself suddenly upon his breast.

"Forgive me if I spoke bitterly," she said, "who, not knowing that I was
half a Jewess, have been taught to hate their race. What is it to me of
what faith you are, who think of you only as my dearest father?"

"Why weep then?" asked Castell, stroking her hair tenderly.

"Because you are in danger, or so you say, and if anything happened to
you--oh! what shall I do then?"

"Accept it as the will of God, and bear the blow bravely, as I hope to
do, should it fall," he answered, and, kissing her, left the chapel.

"It seems that joy and trouble go hand in hand," said Margaret, looking
up presently.

"Yes, Sweet, they were ever twins; but provided we have our share of the
first, do not let us quarrel with the second. A pest on the priests and
all their bigotry, say I! Christ sought to convert the Jews, not to kill
them; and for my part I can honour the man who clings to his own faith,
aye, and forgive him because they forced him to feign to belong to ours.
Pray then that neither of us may live to commit a greater sin, and that
we may soon be wed and dwell in peace away from London, where we can
shelter him."

"I do--I do," she answered, drawing close to Peter, and soon they forgot
their fears and doubts in each other's arms.

On the following morning, that of Sunday, Peter, Margaret, and Betty
went together to Mass at St. Paul's church; but Castell said that he was
ill, and did not come. Indeed, now that his conscience was stirred as to
the double life he had led so long, he purposed, if he could avoid it,
to worship in a Christian church no more. Therefore he said that he was
sick; and they, knowing that this sickness was of the heart, answered
nothing. But privately they wondered what he would do who could not
always remain sick, since not to go to church and partake of its
Sacraments was to be published as a heretic.

But if he did not accompany them himself, Castell, without their
knowledge, sent two of his stoutest servants, bidding these keep near to
them and see that they came home safe.

Now, when they left the church, Peter saw two Spaniards, whose faces he
thought he knew, who seemed to be watching them, but, as he lost sight
of them presently in the throng, said nothing. Their shortest way home
ran across some fields and gardens where there were few houses. This
lane, then, they followed, talking earnestly to each other, and noting
nothing till Betty behind called out to them to beware. Then Peter
looked up and saw the two Spaniards scrambling through a gap in the
fence not six paces ahead of them, saw also that they laid their hands
upon their sword-hilts.

"Let us pass them boldly," he muttered to Margaret; "I'll not turn my
back on a brace of Spaniards," but he also laid his hand upon the hilt
of the sword he wore beneath his cloak, and bade her get behind him.

Thus, then, they came face to face. Now, the Spaniards, who were
evil-looking fellows, bowed courteously enough, and asked if he were not
Master Peter Brome. They spoke in Spanish; but, like Margaret Peter knew
this tongue, if not too well, having been taught it as a child, and
practised it much since he came into the service of John Castell, who
used it largely in his trade.

"Yes," he answered. "What is your business with me?"

"We have a message for you, Senor, from a certain comrade of ours, one
Andrew, a Scotchman, whom you met a few nights ago," replied the
spokesman of the pair. "He is dead, but still he sends his message, and
it is that we should ask you to join him at once. Now, all of us
brothers have sworn to deliver that message, and to see that you keep
the tryst. If some of us should chance to fail, then others will meet
you with the message until you keep that tryst."

"You mean that you wish to murder me," said Peter, setting his mouth and
drawing the sword from beneath his cloak. "Well, come on, cowards, and
we will see whom Andrew gets for company in hell to-day. Run back,
Margaret and Betty--run." And he tore off his cloak and threw it over
his left arm.

So for a moment they stood, for he looked fierce and ill to deal with.
Then, just as they began to feint in front of him, there came a rush of
feet, and on either side of Peter appeared the two stout serving-men,
also sword in hand.

"I am glad of your company," he said, catching sight of them out of the
corners of his eyes. "Now, Senors Cut-throats, do you still wish to
deliver that message?"

The answer of the Spaniards, who saw themselves thus unexpectedly
out-matched, was to turn and run, whereon one of the serving-men,
picking up a big stone that lay in the path, hurled it after them with
all his force. It struck the hindmost Spaniard full in the back, and so
heavy was the blow that he fell on to his face in the mud, whence he
rose and limped away, cursing them with strange, Spanish oaths, and
vowing vengeance.

"Now," said Peter, "I think that we may go home in safety, for no more
messengers will come from Andrew to-day."

"No," gasped Margaret, "not to-day, but to-morrow or the next day they
will come, and oh! how will it end?"

"That God knows alone," answered Peter gravely as he sheathed his sword.

When the story of this attempt was told to Castell he seemed much
disturbed.

"It is clear that they have a blood-feud against you on account of that
Scotchman whom you killed in self-defence," he said anxiously. "Also
these Spaniards are very revengeful, nor have they forgiven you for
calling the English to your aid against them. Peter, I fear that if you
go abroad they will murder you."

"Well, I cannot stay indoors always, like a rat in a drain," said Peter
crossly, "so what is to be done? Appeal to the law?"

"No; for you have just broken the law by killing a man. I think you had
best go away for a while till this storm blows over."

"Go away! Peter go away?" broke in Margaret, dismayed.

"Yes," answered her father. "Listen, daughter. You cannot be married at
once. It is not seemly; moreover, notice must be given and arrangement
made. A month hence will be soon enough, and that is not long for you to
wait who only became affianced yesterday. Also, until you are wed, no
word must be said to any one of this betrothal of yours, lest those
Spaniards should lay their feud at your door also, and work you some
mischief. Let none know of it, I charge you, and in company be distant
to each other, as though there were nothing between you."

"As you will, Sir," replied Peter; "but for my part I do not like all
these hidings of the truth, which ever lead to future trouble. I say,
let me bide here and take my chance, and let us be wed as soon as
may be."

"That your wife may be made a widow before the week is out, or the house
burnt about our ears by these rascals and their following? No, no,
Peter; walk softly that you may walk safely. We will hear the report of
the Spaniard d'Aguilar, and afterwards take counsel."



CHAPTER VI

FAREWELL

D'Aguilar came to supper that night as he had promised, and this time
not on foot and unattended, but with pomp and circumstance as befitted a
great lord. First appeared two running footmen to clear the way; then
followed D'Aguilar, mounted on a fine white horse, and splendidly
apparelled in a velvet cloak and a hat with nodding ostrich plumes,
while after him rode four men-at-arms in his livery.

"We asked one guest, or rather he asked himself, and we have got seven,
to say nothing of their horses," grumbled Castell, watching their
approach from an upper window. "Well, we must make the best of it.
Peter, go, see that man and beast are fed, and fully, that they may not
grumble at our hospitality. The guard can eat in the little hall with
our own folk. Margaret, put on your richest robe and your jewels, those
which you wore when I took you to that city feast last summer. We will
show these fine, foreign birds that we London merchants have brave
feathers also."

Peter hesitated, misdoubting him of the wisdom of this display, who, if
he could have his will, would have sent the Spaniard's following to the
tavern, and received him in sober garments to a simple meal.

But Castell, who seemed somewhat disturbed that night, who loved,
moreover, to show his wealth at times after the fashion of a Jew, began
to fume and ask if he must go himself. So the end of it was that Peter
went, shaking his head, while, urged to it by her father, Margaret
departed also to array herself.

A few minutes later Castell, in his costliest feast-day robe, greeted
d'Aguilar in the ante-hall, and, the two of them being alone, asked him
how matters went as regarded de Ayala and the man who had been killed.

"Well and ill," answered d'Aguilar. "Doctor de Puebla, with whom I hoped
to deal, has left London in a huff, for he says that there is not room
for two Spanish ambassadors at Court, so I had to fall back upon de
Ayala after all. Indeed, twice have I seen that exalted priest upon the
subject of the well-deserved death of his villainous servant, and, after
much difficulty, for having lost several men in such brawls, he thought
his honour touched, he took the fifty gold angels--to be transmitted to
the fellow's family, of course, or so he said--and gave a receipt. Here
it is," and he handed a paper to Castell, who read it carefully.

It was to the effect that Peter Brome, having paid a sum of fifty angels
to the relatives of Andrew Pherson, a servant of the Spanish ambassador,
which Andrew the said Peter had killed in a brawl, the said ambassador
undertook not to prosecute or otherwise molest the said Peter on account
of the manslaughter which he had committed.

"But no money has been paid," said Castell.

"Indeed yes, I paid it. De Ayala gives no receipts against promises."

"I thank you for your courtesy, Senor. You shall have the gold before
you leave this house. Few would have trusted a stranger thus far."

D'Aguilar waved his hand.

"Make no mention of such a trifle. I would ask you to accept it as a
token of my regard for your family, only that would be to affront so
wealthy a man. But listen, I have more to say. You are, or rather your
kinsman Peter, is still in the wood. De Ayala has pardoned him; but
there remains the King of England, whose law he has broken. Well, this
day I have seen the King, who, by the way, talked of you as a worthy
man, saying that he had always thought only a Jew could be so wealthy,
and that he knew you were not, since you had been reported to him as a
good son of the Church," and he paused, looking at Castell.

"I fear his Grace magnifies my wealth, which is but small," answered
Castell coolly, leaving the rest of his speech unnoticed. "But what said
his Grace?"

"I showed him de Ayala's receipt, and he answered that if his Excellency
was satisfied, he was satisfied, and for his part would not order any
process to issue; but he bade me tell you and Peter Brome that if he
caused more tumult in his streets, whatever the provocation, and
especially if that tumult were between English and Spaniards, he would
hang him at once with trial or without it. All of which he said very
angrily, for the last thing which his Highness desires just now is any
noise between Spain and England."

"That is bad," answered Castell, "for this very morning there was near
to being such a tumult," and he told the story of how the two Spaniards
had waylaid Peter, and one of them been knocked down by the serving-man
with a stone. At this news d'Aguilar shook his head.

"Then that is just where the trouble lies," he exclaimed. "I know it
from my people, who keep me well informed, that all those servants of de
Ayala, and there are more than twenty of them, have sworn an oath by the
Virgin of Seville that before they leave this land they will have your
kinsman's blood in payment for that of Andrew Pherson, who, although a
Scotchman, was their officer, and a brave man whom they loved much. Now,
if they attack him, as they will, there must be a brawl, for Peter
fights well, and if there is a brawl, though Peter and the English get
the best of it, as very likely they may, Peter will certainly be hanged,
for so the King has promised."

"Before they leave the land? When do they leave it?"

"De Ayala sails within a month, and his folk with him, for his
co-ambassador, the Doctor de Puebla, will bear with him no more, and has
written from the country house where he is sulking that one of them
must go."

"Then I think it is best, Senor, that Peter should travel for a month."

"Friend Castell, you are wise; I think so too, and, I counsel you,
arrange it at once. Hush! here comes the lady, your daughter."

As he spoke, Margaret appeared descending the broad oak stairs which led
into the ante-room. Holding a lamp in her hand, she was in full light,
whereas the two men stood in the shadow. She wore a low-cut dress of
crimson velvet, embroidered about the bodice with dead gold, which
enhanced the dazzling whiteness of her shapely neck and bosom. Round her
throat hung a string of great pearls, and on her head was a net of
gold, studded with smaller pearls, from beneath which her glorious,
chestnut-black hair flowed down in rippling waves almost to her knees.
Having her father's bidding so to do, she had adorned herself thus that
she might look her fairest, not in the eyes of their guest, but in those
of her new-affianced husband. So fair was she seen thus that d'Aguilar,
the artist, the adorer of loveliness, caught his breath and shivered at
the sight of her.

"By the eleven thousand virgins!" he said, "your daughter is more
beautiful than all of them put together. She should be crowned a queen,
and bewitch the world."

"Nay, nay, Senor," answered Castell hurriedly; "let her remain humble
and honest, and bewitch her husband."

"So I should say if I were the husband," he muttered, then stepped
forward, bowing, to meet her.

Now the light of the silver lamp she held on high flowed over the two of
them, d'Aguilar and Margaret, and certainly they seemed a well-matched
pair. Both were tall and cast by Nature in a rich and splendid mould;
both had that high air of breeding which comes with ancient blood--for
what bloods are more ancient than those of the Jew and the
Eastern?--both were slow and stately of movement, low-voiced, and
dignified of speech. Castell noted it and was afraid, he knew not
of what.

Peter, entering the room by another door, clad only in his grey clothes,
for he would not put on gay garments for the Spaniard, noted it also,
and with the quick instinct of love knew this magnificent foreigner for
a rival and an enemy. But he was not afraid, only jealous and angry.
Indeed, nothing would have pleased him better then than that the
Spaniard should have struck him in the face, so that within five minutes
it might be shown which of them was the better man. It must come to
this, he felt, and very glad would he have been if it could come at the
beginning and not at the end, so that one or the other of them might be
saved much trouble. Then he remembered that he had promised to say or
show nothing of how things stood between him and Margaret, and, coming
forward, he greeted d'Aguilar quietly but coldly, telling him that his
horses had been stabled, and his retinue accommodated.

The Spaniard thanked him very heartily, and they passed in to supper. It
was a strange meal for all four of them, yet outwardly pleasant enough.
Forgetting his cares, Castell drank gaily, and began to talk of the many
changes which he had seen in his life, and of the rise and fall of
kings. D'Aguilar talked also, of the Spanish wars and policy, for in the
first he had seen much service, and of the other he knew every turn. It
was easy to see that he was one of those who mixed with courts, and had
the ear of ministers and majesty. Margaret also, being keen-witted and
anxious to learn of the great world that lay beyond Holborn and London
town, asked questions, seeking to know, amongst other things, what were
the true characters of Ferdinand, King of Aragon, and Isabella his wife,
the famous queen.

"I will tell you in few words, Senora. Ferdinand is the most ambitious
man in Europe, false also if it serves his purpose. He lives for self
and gain--that money and power. These are his gods, for he has no true
religion. He is not clever but, being very cunning, he will succeed and
leave a famous name behind him."

"An ugly picture," said Margaret. "And what of his queen?"

"She," answered d'Aguilar, "is a great woman, who knows how to use the
temper of her time and so attain her ends. To the world she shows a
tender heart, but beneath it lies hid an iron resolution."

"What are those ends?" asked Margaret again.

"To bring all Spain under her rule; utterly to crush the Moors and take
their territories; to make the Church of Christ triumphant upon earth;
to stamp out heresy; to convert or destroy the Jews," he added slowly,
and as he spoke the words, Peter, watching, saw his eyes open and
glitter like a snake's--"to bring their bodies to the purifying flames,
and their vast wealth into her treasury, and thus earn the praise of the
faithful upon earth, and for herself a throne in heaven."

For a while there was silence after this speech, then Margaret said
boldly:

"If heavenly thrones are built of human blood and tears, what stone and
mortar do they use in hell, I wonder?" Then, without pausing for an
answer, she rose, saying that she was weary, curtseyed to d'Aguilar, her
father and Peter, each in turn, and left the hall.

When she had gone the talk flagged, and presently d'Aguilar asked for
his men and horses and departed also, saying as he went:

"Friend Castell, you will repeat my news to your good kinsman here. I
pray for all your sakes that he may bow his head to what cannot be
helped, and thus keep it safe upon his shoulders."

"What meant the man?" asked Peter, when the sound of the horses' hoofs
had died away.

Castell told him of what had passed between him and d'Aguilar before
supper, and showed him de Ayala's receipt, adding in a vexed voice:

"I have forgotten to repay him the gold; it shall be sent to-morrow."

"Have no fear; he will come for it," answered Peter coldly. "Now, if I
have my way, I will take the risk of these Spaniards' swords and King
Henry's rope, and bide here."

"That you must not do," said Castell earnestly, "for my sake and
Margaret's, if not for yours. Would you make her a widow before she is a
wife? Listen: it is my wish that you travel down to Essex to take
delivery of your father's land in the Vale of Dedham and see to the
repairing of the mansion house, which, I am told, needs it much. Then,
when these Spaniards are gone, you can return and at once be married,
say one short month hence."

"Will not you and Margaret come with me to Dedham?"

Castell shook his head.

"It is not possible. I must wind up my affairs, and Margaret cannot go
with you alone. Moreover, there is no place for her to lodge. I will
keep her here till you return."

"Yes, Sir; but will you keep her safe? The cozening words of Spaniards
are sometimes more deadly than their swords."

"I think that Margaret has a medicine against all such arts," answered
her father with a little smile, and left him.

On the morrow when Castell told Margaret that her lover must leave her
for a while that night--for this Peter would not do himself--she prayed
him even with tears that he would not send him so far from her, or that
they might all go together. But he reasoned with her kindly, showing her
that the latter was impossible, and that if Peter did not go at once it
was probable that Peter would soon be dead, whereas, if he went, there
would be but one short month of waiting till the Spaniards had sailed,
after which they might be married and live in peace and safety.

So she came to see that this was best and wisest, and gave way; but oh!
heavy were those hours, and sore was their parting. Essex was no far
journey, and to enter into lands which only two days before Peter
believed he had lost for ever, no sad errand, while the promise that at
the end of a single month he should return to claim his bride hung
before them like a star. Yet they were sad-hearted, both of them, and
that star seemed very far away.

Margaret was afraid lest Peter might be waylaid upon the road, but he
laughed at her, saying that her father was sending six stout men with
him as an escort, and thus companioned he feared no Spaniards. Peter,
for his part, was afraid lest d'Aguilar might make love to her while he
was away. But now she laughed at him, saying that all her heart was his,
and that she had none to give to d'Aguilar or any other man. Moreover,
that England was a free land in which women, who were no king's wards,
could not be led whither they did not wish to go. So it seemed that they
had naught to fear, save the daily chance of life and death. And yet
they were afraid.

"Dear love," said Margaret to him after she had thought a while, "our
road looks straight and easy, and yet there may be pitfalls in it that
we cannot guess. Therefore you must swear one thing to me: That whatever
you shall hear or whatever may happen, you will never doubt me as I
shall never doubt you. If, for instance, you should be told that I have
discarded you, and given myself to some other husband; if even you
should believe that you see it signed by my hand, or if you think that
you hear it told to you by my voice--still, I say, believe it not."

"How could such a thing be?" asked Peter anxiously.

"I do not suppose that it could be; I only paint the worst that might
happen as a lesson for us both. Heretofore my life has been calm as a
summer's day; but who knows when winter storms may rise, and often I
have thought that I was born to know wind and rain and lightning as well
as peace and sunshine. Remember that my father is a Jew, and that to the
Jews and their children terrible things chance at times. Why, all this
wealth might vanish in an hour, and you might find me in a prison, or
clad in rags begging my bread. Now do you swear?" and she held towards
him the gold crucifix that hung upon her bosom.

"Aye," he said, "I swear it by this holy token and by your lips," and he
kissed first the cross and then her mouth, adding, "Shall I ask the same
oath of you?"

She laughed.

"If you will; but it is not needful. Peter, I think that I know you too
well; I think that your heart will never stir even if I be dead and you
married to another. And yet men are men, and women have wiles, so I will
swear this: That should you slip, perchance, and I live to learn it, I
will try not to judge you harshly." And again she laughed, she who was
so certain of her empire over this man's heart and body.

"Thank you," said Peter; "but for my part I will try to stand straight
upon my feet, so should any tales be brought to you of me, sift them
well, I pray you."

Then, forgetting their doubts and dreads, they talked of their marriage,
which they fixed for that day month, and of how they would dwell happily
in Dedham Vale. Also Margaret, who well knew the house, named the Old
Hall, where they should live, for she had stayed there as a child, gave
him many commands as to the new arrangement of its chambers and its
furnishing, which, as there was money and to spare, could be as costly
as they willed, saying that she would send him down all things by wain
so soon as he was ready for them.

Thus, then, the hours wore away, until at length night came and they
took their last meal together, the three of them, for it was arranged
that Peter should start at moonrise, when none were about to see him go.
It was not a very happy meal, and, though they made a brave show of
eating, but little food passed their lips. Now the horses were ready,
and Margaret buckled on Peter's sword and threw his cloak about his
shoulders, and he, having shaken Castell by the hand and bade him guard
their jewel safely, without more words kissed her in farewell, and went.

Taking the silver lamp in her hand, she followed him to the ante-room.
At the door he turned and saw her standing there gazing after him with
wide eyes and a strained, white face. At the sight of her silent pain
almost his heart failed him, almost he refused to go. Then he
remembered, and went.

For a while Margaret still stood thus, until the sound of the horses'
hoofs had died away indeed. Then she turned and said:

"Father, I know not how it is, but it seems to me that when Peter and I
meet again it will be far off, yes, far off upon the stormy sea--but
what sea I know not." And without waiting for an answer she climbed the
stairs to her chamber, and there wept herself to sleep.

Castell watched her depart, then muttered to himself:

"Pray God she is not foresighted like so many of our race; and yet why
is my own heart so heavy? Well, according to my judgment, I have done my
best for him and her, and for myself I care nothing."



CHAPTER VII

NEWS FROM SPAIN

Peter Brome was a very quiet man, whose voice was not often heard about
the place, and yet it was strange how dull and different the big, old
house in Holborn seemed without him. Even the handsome Betty, with whom
he was never on the best of terms, since there was much about her of
which he disapproved, missed him, and said so to her cousin, who only
answered with a sigh. For in the bottom of her heart Betty both feared
and respected Peter. The fear was of his observant eyes and caustic
words, which she knew were always words of truth, and the respect for
the general uprightness of his character, especially where her own sex
was concerned.

In fact, as has been hinted, some little time before, when Peter had
first come to live with the Castells, Betty, thinking him a proper man
of gentle birth, such a one indeed as she would wish to marry, had made
advances to him, which, as he did not seem to notice them, became by
degrees more and more marked. What happened at last they two knew alone,
but it was something that caused Betty to become very angry, and to
speak of Peter to her friends as a cold-blooded lout who thought only of
work and gain. The episode was passing, and soon forgotten by the lady
in the press of other affairs; but the respect remained. Moreover, on
one or two occasions, when the love of admiration had led her into
griefs, Peter had proved a good friend, and what was better, a friend
who did not talk. Therefore she wished him back again, especially now,
when something that was more than mere vanity and desire for excitement
had taken hold of her, and Betty found herself being swept off her feet
into very deep and doubtful waters.

The shopmen and the servants missed him also, for to him all disputes
were brought for settlement, nor, provided it had not come about through
lack of honesty, were any pains too great for him to take to help them
in a trouble. Most of all Castell missed him, since until Peter had gone
he did not know how much he had learned to rely upon him, both in his
business and as a friend. As for Margaret, her life without him was one
long, empty night.

Thus it chanced that in such a house any change was welcome, and, though
she liked him little enough, Margaret was not even displeased when one
morning Betty told her that the lord d'Aguilar was coming to call on her
that day, and purposed to bring her a present.

"I do not seek his presents," said Margaret indifferently; then added,
"But how do you know that, Betty?"

The young woman coloured, and tossed her head as she answered:

"I know it, Cousin, because, as I was going to visit my old aunt
yesterday, who lives on the wharf at Westminster, I met him riding, and
he called out to me, saying that he had a gift for you and one for
me also."

"Be careful you do not meet him too often, Betty, when you chance to be
visiting your aunt. These Spaniards are not always over-honest, as you
may learn to your sorrow."

"I thank you for your good counsel," said Betty, shortly, "but I, who am
older than you, know enough of men to be able to guard myself, and can
keep them at a distance."

"I am glad of it, Betty, only sometimes I have thought that the distance
was scarcely wide enough," answered Margaret, and left the subject, for
she was thinking of other things.

That afternoon, when Margaret was walking in the garden, Betty, whose
face seemed somewhat flushed, ran up to her and said that the lord
d'Aguilar was waiting in the hall.

"Very good," answered Margaret, "I will come. Go, tell my father, that
he may join us. But why are you so disturbed and hurried?" she added
wonderingly.

"Oh!" answered Betty, "he has brought me a present, so fine a present--a
mantle of the most wonderful lace that ever I saw, and a comb of mottled
shell mounted in gold to keep it off the hair. He made me wait while he
showed me how to put it on, and that was why I ran."

Margaret did not quite see the connection; but she answered slowly:

"Perhaps it would have been wiser if you had run first. I do not
understand why this fine lord brings you presents."

"But he has brought one for you also, Cousin, although he would not say
what it was."

"That I understand still less. Go, tell my father that the Senor
d'Aguilar awaits him."

Then she went into the hall, and found d'Aguilar looking at an
illuminated Book of Hours in which she had been reading, that was
written in Spanish in one column and in Latin in that opposite. He
greeted her in his usual graceful way, that, where Margaret was
concerned, was easy and well-bred without being bold, and said at once:

"So you read Spanish, Senora?"

"A little. Not very well, I fear."

"And Latin also?"

"A little again. I have been taught that tongue. By studying them thus I
try to improve myself in both."

"I perceive that you are learned as you are beautiful," and he bowed
courteously.

"I thank you, Senor; but I lay claim to neither grace."

"What need is there to claim that which is evident?" replied d'Aguilar;
then added, "But I forgot, I have brought you a present, if you will be
pleased to accept it. Or, rather, I bring you what is your own, or at
the least your father's. I bargained with his Excellency Don de Ayala,
pointing out that fifty gold angels were too much to pay for that dead
rogue of his; but he would give me nothing back in money, since with
gold he never parts. Yet I won some change from him, and it stands
without your door. It is a Spanish jennet of the true Moorish blood,
which, hundreds of years ago, that people brought with them from the
East. He needs it no longer, as he returns to Spain, and it is trained
to bear a lady." Margaret did not know what to answer, but,
fortunately, at that moment her father appeared, and to him d'Aguilar
repeated his tale, adding that he had heard his daughter say that the
horse she rode had fallen with her, so that she could use it no more.


Now, Castell did not wish to accept this gift, for such he felt it to
be; but d'Aguilar assured him that if he did not he must sell it and
return him the price in money, as it did not belong to him. So, there
being no help for it, he thanked him in his daughter's name and his own,
and they went into the stable-yard, whither it had been taken, to look
at this horse.

The moment that Castell saw it he knew that it was a creature of great
value, pure white in colour, with a long, low body, small head, gentle
eyes, round hoofs, and flowing mane and tail, such a horse, indeed, as a
queen might have ridden. Now again he was confused, being sure that this
beast had never been given back as a luck-penny, since it would have
fetched more than the fifty angels on the market; moreover, it was
harnessed with a woman's saddle and bridle of the most beautifully
worked red Cordova leather, to which were attached a silver bit and
stirrup. But d'Aguilar smiled, and vowed that things were as he had told
them, so there was nothing more to be said. Margaret, too, was so
pleased with the mare, which she longed to ride, that she forgot her
scruples, and tried to believe that this was so. Noting her delight,
which she could not conceal as she patted the beautiful beast,
d'Aguilar said:

"Now I will ask one thing in return for the bargain that I have
made--that I may see you mount this horse for the first time. You told
me that you and your father were wont to go out together in the
morning. Have I your leave, Sir," and he turned to Castell, "to ride
with you before breakfast, say, at seven of the clock, for I would show
the lady, your daughter, how she should manage a horse of this blood,
which is something of a trick?"

"If you will," answered Castell--"that is, if the weather is fine," for
the offer was made so courteously that it could scarcely be refused.

D'Aguilar bowed, and they re-entered the house, talking of other
matters. When they were in the hall again, he asked whether their
kinsman Peter had reached his destination safely, adding:

"I pray you, do not tell me where it is, for I wish to be able to put my
hand upon my heart and swear to all concerned, and especially to certain
fellows who are still seeking for him, that I know nothing of his
hiding-place."

Castell answered that he had, since but a few minutes before a letter
had come from him announcing his safe arrival, tidings at which Margaret
looked up, then, remembering her promise, said that she was glad to hear
of it, as the roads were none too safe, and spoke indifferently of
something else. D'Aguilar added that he also was glad, then, rising,
took his leave "till seven on the morrow."

When he had gone, Castell gave Margaret a letter, addressed to her in
Peter's stiff, upright hand, which she read eagerly. It began and ended
with sweet words, but, like his speech, was brief and to the point,
saying only that he had accomplished his journey without adventure, and
was very glad to find himself again in the old house where he was born,
and amongst familiar fields and faces. On the morrow he was to see the
tradesmen as to alterations and repairs which were much needed, even the
moat being choked with mud and weeds. His last sentence was: "I much
mistrust me of that fine Spaniard, and I am jealous to think that he
should be near to you while I am far away. Beware of him, I say--beware
of him. May the Mother of God and all the saints have you in their
keeping! Your most true affianced lover."

This letter Margaret answered before she slept, for the messenger was to
return at dawn, telling Peter, amongst other things, of the gift which
d'Aguilar had brought her, and how she and her father were forced to
accept it, but bidding him not be jealous, since, although the gift was
welcome, she liked the giver little, who did but count the hours till
her true lover should come back again and take her to himself.

Next morning she was up early, clothed in her riding-dress, for the day
was very fine, and by seven o'clock d'Aguilar appeared, mounted on a
great horse. Then the Spanish jennet was brought out, and deftly he
lifted her to the saddle, showing her how she must pull but lightly on
the reins, and urge or check her steed with her voice alone, using no
whip or spur.

A perfect beast it proved to be, indeed, gentle as a lamb, and easy, yet
very spirited and swift.

D'Aguilar was a pleasant cavalier also, talking of many things grave and
gay, until at length even Castell forgot his thoughts, and grew cheerful
as they cantered forward through the fresh spring morning by heath and
hill and woodland, listening to the singing of the birds, and watching
the husbandmen at their labour. This ride was but the first of several
that they took, since d'Aguilar knew their hours of exercise, even when
they changed them, and whether they asked him or not, joined or met them
in such a natural fashion that they could not refuse his company.
Indeed, they were much puzzled to know how he came to be so well
acquainted with their movements, and even with the direction in which
they proposed to ride, but supposed that he must have it from the
grooms, although these were commanded to say nothing, and always denied
having spoken with him. That Betty should speak of such matters, or even
find opportunity of doing so, never chanced to cross their minds, who
did not guess that if they rode with d'Aguilar in the morning, Betty
often walked with him in the evening when she was supposed to be at
church, or sewing, or visiting her aunt upon the wharf at Westminster.
But of these walks the foolish girl said nothing, for her own reasons.

Now, as they rode together, although he remained very courteous and
respectful, the manner of d'Aguilar towards Margaret grew ever more
close and intimate. Thus he began to tell her stories, true or false, of
his past life, which seemed to have been strange and eventful enough; to
hint, too, of a certain hidden greatness that pertained to him which he
did not dare to show, and of high ambitions which he had. He spoke also
of his loneliness, and his desire to lose it in the companionship of a
kindred heart, if he could find one to share his wealth, his station,
and his hopes; while all the time his dark eyes, fixed on Margaret,
seemed to say, "The heart I seek is such a one as yours." At length,
at some murmured word or touch, she took affright, and, since she could
not avoid him abroad, determined to stay at home, and, much as she loved
the sport, to ride no more till Peter should return. So she gave out
that she had hurt her knee, which made the saddle painful to her, and
the beautiful Spanish mare was left idle in the stable, or mounted only
by the groom.

Thus for some days she was rid of d'Aguilar, and employed herself in
reading and working, or in writing long letters to Peter, who was busy
enough at Dedham, and sent her thence many commissions to fulfil.

One afternoon Castell was seated in his office deciphering letters which
had just reached him. The night before his best ship, of over two
hundred tons burden, which was named the _Margaret_, after his daughter,
had come safely into the mouth of the Thames from Spain. That evening
she was to reach her berth at Gravesend with the tide, when Castell
proposed to go aboard of her to see to the unloading of her cargo. This
was the last of his ships which remained unsold, and it was his plan to
re-load and victual her at once with goods that were waiting, and send
her back to the port of Seville, where his Spanish partners, in whose
name she was already registered, had agreed to take her over at a fixed
price. This done, it was only left for him to hand over his business to
the merchants who had purchased it in London, after which he would be
free to depart, a very wealthy man, and spend the evening of his days at
peace in Essex, with his daughter and her husband, as now he so greatly
longed to do. So soon as they were within the river banks the captain of
this ship, Smith by name, had landed the cargo-master with letters and
a manifest of cargo, bidding him hire a horse and bring them to Master
Castell's house in Holborn. This the man had done safely, and it was
these letters that Castell read.

One of them was from his partner Bernaldez in Seville; not in answer to
that which he had written on the night of the opening of this
history--for this there had been no time--yet dealing with matters
whereof it treated. In it was this passage:

"You will remember what I wrote to you of a certain envoy who has been
sent to the Court of London, who is called d'Aguilar, for as our cipher
is so secret, and it is important that you should be warned, I take the
risk of writing his name. Since that letter I have learned more
concerning this grandee, for such he is. Although he calls himself plain
Don d'Aguilar, in truth he is the Marquis of Morella, and on one side,
it is said, of royal blood, if not on both, since he is reported to be
the son born out of wedlock of Prince Carlos of Viana, the half-brother
of the king. The tale runs that Carlos, the learned and gentle, fell in
love with a Moorish lady of Aguilar of high birth and great wealth, for
she had rich estates at Granada and elsewhere, and, as he might not
marry her because of the difference of their rank and faiths, lived with
her without marriage, of which union one son was born. Before Prince
Carlos died, or was poisoned, and while he was still a prisoner at
Morella, he gave to, or procured for this boy the title of marquis,
choosing from some fancy the name of Morella, that place where he had
suffered so much. Also he settled some private lands upon him. After the
prince died, the Moorish lady, his lover, who had secretly become a
Christian, took her son to live at her palace in Granada, where she died
also some ten years ago, leaving all her great wealth to him, for she
never married. At this time it is said that his life was in danger, for
the reason that, although he was half a Moor, too much of the
blood-royal ran in his veins. But the Marquis was clever, and persuaded
the king and queen that he had no ambition beyond his pleasures. Also
the Church interceded for him, since to it he proved himself a faithful
son, persecuting all heretics, especially the Jews, and even Moors,
although they are of his own blood. So in the end he was confirmed in
his possessions and left alone, although he refused to become a priest.

"Since then he has been made an agent of the Crown at Granada, and
employed upon various embassies to London, Rome, and elsewhere, on
matters connected with the faith and the establishment of the Holy
Inquisition. That is why he is again in England at this moment, being
charged to obtain the names and particulars concerning all Maranos
settled there, especially if they trade with Spain. I have seen the
names of those of whom he must inquire most closely, and that is why I
write to you so fully, since yours is first upon the list. I think,
therefore, that you do wisely to wind up your business with this
country, and especially to sell your ships to us outright and quickly,
since otherwise they might be seized--like yourself, if you came here.
My counsel to you is--hide your wealth, which will be great when we have
paid you all we owe, and go to some place where you will be forgotten
for a while, since that bloodhound d'Aguilar, for so he calls himself,
after his mother's birthplace, has not tracked you to London for
nothing. As yet, thanks be to God, no suspicion has fallen on any of us;
perhaps because we have many in our pay."

When Castell had finished transcribing all this passage he read it
through carefully. Then he went into the hall, where a fire burned, for
the day was cold, and threw the translation on to it, watching until it
was consumed, after which he returned to his office, and hid away the
letter in a secret cupboard behind the panelling of the wall. This done,
he sat himself in his chair to think.

"My good friend Juan Bernaldez is right," he said to himself;
"d'Aguilar, or the Marquis Morella, does not nose me and the others out
for nothing. Well, I shall not trust myself in Spain, and the money,
most of it, except what is still to come from Spain, is put out where it
will never be found by him, at good interest too. All seems safe
enough--and yet I would to God that Peter and Margaret were fast
married, and that we three sat together, out of sight and mind, in the
Old Hall at Dedham. I have carried on this game too long. I should have
closed my books a year ago; but the trade was so good that I could not.
I was wise also, who in this one lucky year have nearly doubled my
fortune. And yet it would have been safer, before they guessed that I
was so rich. Greed--mere greed--for I do not need this money which may
destroy us all! Greed! The ancient pitfall of my race."

As he thought thus there came a knock upon his door. Snatching up a pen
he dipped it in the ink-horn and, calling "Enter," began to add a column
of figures on a paper before him.

The door opened; but he seemed to take no heed, so diligently did he
count his figures. Yet, although his eyes were fixed upon the paper, in
some way that he could not understand he was well aware that d'Aguilar
and no other stood in the room behind him, the truth being, no doubt,
that unconsciously he had recognised his footstep. For a moment the
knowledge turned him cold--he who had just been reading of the mission
of this man--and feared what was to come. Yet he acted well.

"Why do you disturb me, Daughter?" he said testily, and without looking
round. "Have not things gone ill enough with half the cargo destroyed by
sea-water, and the rest, that you must trouble me while I sum up my
losses?" And, casting the pen down, he turned his stool round
impatiently.

Yes! there sure enough stood d'Aguilar, very handsomely arrayed, and
smiling and bowing as was his custom.



CHAPTER VIII

D'AGUILAR SPEAKS

"Losses?" said d'Aguilar. "Do I hear the wealthy John Castell, who holds
half the trade with Spain in the hollow of his hand, talk of losses?"

"Yes, Senor, you do. Things have gone ill with this ship of mine that
has barely lived through the spring gales. But be seated."

"Indeed, is that so?" said d'Aguilar as he sat down. "What a lying jade
is rumour! For I was told that they had gone very well. Doubtless,
however, what is loss to you would be priceless gain to one like me."

Castell made no answer, but waited, feeling that his visitor had not
come to speak with him of his trading ventures.

"Senor Castell," said d'Aguilar, with a note of nervousness in his
voice, "I am here to ask you for something."

"If it be a loan, Senor, I fear that the time is not opportune." And he
nodded towards the sheet of figures.

"It is not a loan; it is a gift."

"Anything in my poor house is yours," answered Castell courteously, and
in Oriental form.

"I rejoice to hear it, Senor, for I seek something from your house."

Castell looked a question at him with his quick black eyes.

"I seek your daughter, the Senora Margaret, in marriage."

Castell stared at him, then a single word broke from his lips.

"Impossible."

"Why impossible?" asked d'Aguilar slowly, yet as one who expected some
such answer. "In age we are not unsuited, nor perhaps in fortune, while
of rank I have enough, more than you guess perhaps. I vaunt not myself,
yet women have thought me not uncomely. I should be a good friend to the
house whence I took a wife, where perchance a day may come when friends
will be needed; and lastly, I desire her not for what she may bring with
her, though wealth is always welcome, but--I pray you to believe
it--because I love her."

"I have heard that the Senor d'Aguilar loves many women, yonder in
Granada."

"As I have heard that the _Margaret_ had a prosperous voyage, Senor
Castell. Rumour, as I said but now, is a lying jade. Yet I will not copy
her. I have been no saint. Now I would become one, for Margaret's sake.
I will be true to your daughter, Senor. What say you now?"

Castell only shook his head.

"Listen," went on d'Aguilar. "I am more than I seem to be; she who weds
me will not lack for rank and titles."

"Yes, you are the Marquis de Morella, the reputed son of Prince Carlos
of Viana by a Moorish mother, and therefore nephew to his Majesty
of Spain."

D'Aguilar looked at him, then bowed and said:

"Your information is good--as good as mine, almost. Doubtless you do not
like that bar in the blood. Well, if it were not there, I should be
where Ferdinand is, should I not? So I do not like it either, though it
is good blood and ancient--that of those high-bred Moors. Now, may not
the nephew of a king and the son of a princess of Granada be fit to mate
with the daughter of--a Jew, yes, a Marano, and of a Christian English
lady, of good family, but no more?"

Castell lifted his hand as though to speak; but d'Aguilar went on:

"Deny it not, friend; it is not worth while here in private. Was there
not a certain Isaac of Toledo who, hard on fifty years ago, left Spain,
for his own reasons, with a little son, and in London became known as
Joseph Castell, having, with his son, been baptized into the Holy
Church? Ah! you see you are not the only one who studies genealogies."

"Well, Senor, if so, what of it?"

"What of it? Nothing at all, friend Castell. It is an old story, is it
not, and, as that Isaac is long dead and his son has been a good
Christian for nearly fifty years and had a Christian wife and child, who
will trouble himself about such a matter? If he were openly a Hebrew
now, or worse still, if pretending to be a Christian, he in secret
practised the rites of the accursed Jews, why then----"

"Then what?"

"Then, of course, he would be expelled this land, where no Jew may
live, his wealth would be forfeit to its king, whose ward his daughter
would become, to be given in marriage where he willed, while he himself,
being Spanish born, might perhaps be handed over to the power of Spain,
there to make answer to these charges. But we wander to strange matters.
Is that alliance still impossible, Senor?"

Castell looked him straight in the eyes and answered:

"Yes."

There was something so bold and direct in his utterance of the word that
for a moment d'Aguilar seemed to be taken aback. He had not expected
this sharp denial.

"It would be courteous to give a reason," he said presently.

"The reason is simple, Marquis. My daughter is already betrothed, and
will ere long be wedded."

D'Aguilar did not seem surprised at this intelligence.

"To that brawler, your kinsman, Peter Brome, I suppose?" he said
interrogatively. "I guessed as much, and by the saints I am sorry for
her, for he must be a dull lover to one so fair and bright; while as a
husband--" And he shrugged his shoulders. "Friend Castell, for her sake
you will break off this match."

"And if I will not, Marquis?"

"Then I must break it off for you in the interest of all of us,
including, of course, myself, who love her, and wish to lift her to a
great place, and of yourself, whom I desire should pass your old age in
peace and wealth, and not be hunted to your death like a mad dog."

"How will you break it, Marquis? by--"

"Oh no, Senor!" answered d'Aguilar, "not by other men's swords--if that
is what you mean. The worthy Peter is safe from them so far as I am
concerned, though if he should come face to face with mine, then let the
best man win. Have no fear, friend, I do not practise murder, who value
my own soul too much to soak it in blood, nor would I marry a woman
except of her own free will. Still, Peter may die, and the fair Margaret
may still place her hand in mine and say, 'I choose you as my husband.'"

"All these things, and many others, may happen, Marquis; but I do not
think it likely that they will happen, and for my part, whilst thanking
you for it, I decline your honourable offer, believing that my daughter
will be more happy in her present humble state with the man she has
chosen. Have I your leave to return to my accounts?" And he rose.

"Yes, Senor," answered d'Aguilar, rising also; "but add an item to those
losses of which you spoke, that of the friendship of Carlos, Marquis de
Morella, and on the other side enter again that of his hate. Man!" he
added, and his dark, handsome face turned very evil as he spoke, "are
you mad? Think of the little tabernacle behind the altar in your chapel,
and what it contains."

Castell stared at him, then said:

"Come, let us see. Nay, fear no trick; like you I remember my soul, and
do not stain my hands with blood. Follow me, so you will be safe."

Curiosity, or some other reason, prompted d'Aguilar to obey, and
presently they stood behind the altar.

"Now," said Castell, as he drew the tapestry and opened the secret door,
"look!" D'Aguilar peered into the place; but where should have been
the table, the ark, the candlesticks, and the roll of the law of which
Betty had told him, were only old dusty boxes filled with parchments and
some broken furniture.

"What do you see?" asked Castell.

"I see, friend, that you are even a cleverer Jew than I thought. But
this is a matter that you must explain to others in due season. Believe
me, I am no inquisitor." Then without more words he turned and left him.

When Castell, having shut the secret door and drawn the tapestry,
hurried from the chapel, it was to find that the marquis had departed.

He went back to his office much disturbed, and sat himself down there to
think. Truly Fate, that had so long been his friend, was turning its
face against him. Things could not have gone worse. D'Aguilar had
discovered the secret of his faith through his spies, and, having by
some accursed mischance fallen in love with his daughter's beauty, was
become his bitter enemy because he must refuse her to him. Why must he
refuse her? The man was of great position and noble blood; she would
become the wife of one of the first grandees of Spain, one who stood
nearest to the throne. Perhaps--such a thing was possible--she might
live herself to be queen, or the mother of kings. Moreover, that
marriage meant safety for himself; it meant a quiet age, a peaceable
death in his own bed--for, were he fifty times a Marano, who would touch
the father-in-law of the Marquis de Morella? Why? Just because he had
promised her in marriage to Peter Brome, and through all his life as a
merchant he had never yet broken with a bargain because it went against
himself. That was the answer. Yet almost he could find it in his heart
to wish that he had never made that bargain; that he had kept Peter, who
had waited so long, waiting for another month. Well, it was too late
now. He had passed his word, and he would keep it, whatever the
cost might be.

Rising, he called one of the servants, and bade her summon Margaret.
Presently she returned, saying that her mistress had gone out walking
with Betty, adding also that his horse was at the door for him to ride
to the river, where he was to pass the night on board his ship.

Taking paper, he bethought him that he would write to Margaret, warning
her against the Spaniard. Then, remembering that she had nothing to fear
from him, at any rate at present, and that it was not wise to set down
such matters, he told her only to take good care of herself, and that he
would be back in the morning.

That evening, when Margaret was in her own little sitting-chamber which
adjoined the great hall, the door opened, and she looked up from the
work upon which she was engaged, to see d'Aguilar standing before her.

"Senor!" she said, amazed, "how came you here?"

"Senora," he answered, closing the door and bowing, "my feet brought me.
Had I any other means of coming I think that I should not often be
absent from our side."

"Spare me your fine words, I pray you, Senor," answered Margaret,
frowning. "It is not fitting that I should receive you thus alone at
night, my father being absent from the house." And she made as though
she would pass him and reach the door.

D'Aguilar, who stood in front of it, did not move, so perforce she
stopped half way.

"I found that he was absent," he said courteously, "and that is why I
venture to address you upon a matter of some importance. Give me a few
minutes of your time, therefore, I beseech you."

Now, at once the thought entered Margaret's mind that he had some news
of Peter to communicate to her--bad news perhaps.

"Be seated, and speak on, Senor," she said, sinking into a chair, while
he too sat down, but still in front of the door.

"Senora," he said, "my business in this country is finished, and in a
few days I sail hence for Spain." And he hesitated a moment.

"I trust that your voyage will be pleasant," said Margaret, not knowing
what else to answer.

"I trust so also, Senora, since I have come to ask you if you will share
it. Listen, before you refuse. To-day I saw your father, and begged your
hand of him. He would give me no answer, neither yea nor nay, saying
that you were your own mistress, and that I must seek it from
your lips."

"My father said that?" gasped Margaret, astonished, then bethought her
that he might have had reasons for speaking so, and went on rapidly,
"Well, it is short and simple. I thank you, Senor; but stay
in England."

"Even that I would be willing to do for your sake Senora, though, in
truth, I find it a cold and barbarous country."

"If so, Senor d'Aguilar, I think that I should go to Spain. I pray you
let me pass."

"Not till you have heard me out, Senora, when I trust that your words
will be more gentle. See now I am a great man in my own country.
Although it suits me to pass here incognito as plain Senor d'Aguilar I
am the Marquis of Morella, the nephew of Ferdinand the King, with some
wealth and station, official and private. If you disbelieve me, I can
prove it to you."

"I do not disbelieve," answered Margaret indifferently, "it may well be
so; but what is that to me?"

"Then is it not something, Lady, that I, who have blood-royal in my
veins, should seek the daughter of a merchant to be my wife?"

"Nothing at all--to me, who am satisfied with my humble lot."

"Is it nothing to you that I should love as I do, with all my heart and
soul? Marry me, and I tell you that I will lift you high, yes, perhaps
even to the throne."

She thought a moment, then asked:

"The bribe is great, but how would you do that? Many a maid has been
deceived with false jewels, Senor."

"How has it been done before? Not every one loves Ferdinand. I have many
friends who remember that my father was poisoned by his father and
Ferdinand's, he being the elder son. Also, my mother was a princess of
the Moors, and if I, who dwell among them as the envoy of their
Majesties, threw in my sword with theirs--or there are other ways. But I
am speaking things that have never passed my lips before, which, were
they known, would cost me my head--let it serve to show how much I
trust you."

"I thank you, Senor, for your trust; but this crown seems to me set upon
a peak that it is dangerous to climb, and I had sooner sit in safety on
the plain."

"You reject the pomp," went on d'Aguilar in his passionate, pleading
voice, "then will not the love move you? Oh! you shall be worshipped as
never woman was. I swear to you that in your eyes there is a light which
has set my heart on fire, so that it burns night and day, and will not
be quenched. Your voice is my sweetest music, your hair is a cord that
binds me to you faster than the prisoner's chain, and, when you pass,
for me Venus walks the earth. More, your mind is pure and noble as your
beauty, and by the aid of it I shall be lifted up through the high
places of the earth to some white throne in heaven. I love you, my lady,
my fair Margaret; because of you, all other women are become coarse and
hateful in my sight. See how much I love you, that I, one of the first
grandees of Spain, do this for your sweet sake," and suddenly he cast
himself upon his knees before her, and lifting the hem of her dress
pressed it to his lips.

Margaret looked down at him, and the anger that was rising in her breast
melted, while with it went her fear. This man was much in earnest; she
could not doubt it. The hand that held her robe trembled like shaken
water, his face was ashen, and in his dark eyes swam tears. What cause
had she to be afraid of one who was so much her slave?

"Senor," she said very gently, "rise, I pray you. Do not waste all this
love upon one who chances to have caught your fancy, but who is quite
unworthy of it, and far beneath you; one, moreover, by whom it may not
be returned. Senor, I am already affianced. Therefore, put me out of
your mind and find some other love."

He rose and stood in front of her.

"Affianced," he said, "I knew it. Nay, I will say no ill of the man; to
revile one more fortunate is poor argument. But what is it to me if you
are affianced? What to me if you were wed? I should seek you all the
same, who have no choice. Beneath me? You are as far above me as a star,
and it would seem as hard to reach. Seek some other love? I tell you,
lady, that I have sought many, for not all are so hard to win, and I
hate them every one. You I desire alone, and shall desire till I be
dead, aye, and you I will win or die. No, I will not die till you are my
own. Have no fear, I will not kill your lover, save perhaps in fair
fight; I will not force you to give yourself to me, should I find the
chance, but with your own lips I will yet listen to you asking me to be
your husband. I swear it by Him Who died for us. I swear that, laying
aside all other ends, to that sole purpose I will devote my days. Yes,
and should you chance to pass from earth before me, then I will follow
you to the very gates of death and clasp you there."

Now again Margaret's fear returned to her. This man's passion was
terrible, yet there was a grandeur in it; Peter had never spoken to her
in so high a fashion.

"Senor," she said almost pleadingly, "corpses are poor brides; have done
with such sick fancies, which surely must be born of your
Eastern blood."

"It is your blood also, who are half a Jew, and, therefore, at least you
should understand them."

"Mayhap I do understand, mayhap I think them great in their own fashion,
yes, noble even, and admire, if it can be noble to seek to win away
another man's betrothed. But, Senor, I am that man's betrothed, and all
of me, my body and my soul, is his, nor would I go back upon my word,
and so break his heart, to win the empire of the earth. Senor, once more
I implore you to leave this poor maid to the humble life that she has
chosen, and to forget her."

"Lady," answered d'Aguilar, "your words are wise and gentle, and I thank
you for them. But I cannot forget you, and that oath I swore just now I
swear again, thus." And before she could prevent him, or even guess what
he was about to do, he lifted the gold crucifix that hung by a chain
about her neck, kissed it, and let it fall gently back upon her breast,
saying, "See, I might have kissed your lips before you could have stayed
me, but that I will never do until you give me leave, so in place of
them I kiss the cross, which till then we both must carry. Lady, my lady
Margaret, within a day or two I sail for Spain, but your image shall
sail with me, and I believe that ere long our paths must cross again.
How can it be otherwise since the threads of your life and mine were
intertwined on that night outside the Palace of Westminster
--intertwined never to be separated till one of us has ceased
to be, and then only for a little while. Lady, for the present,
farewell."


Then swiftly and silently as he had come, d'Aguilar went.

It was Betty who let him out at the side door, as she had let him in.
More, glancing round to see that she was not observed--for it chanced
now that Peter was away with some of the best men, and the master was
out with others, no one was on watch this night--leaving the door ajar
that she might re-enter, she followed him a little way, till they came
to an old arch, which in some bygone time had led to a house now pulled
down. Into this dark place Betty slipped, touching d'Aguilar on the arm
as she did so. For a moment he hesitated, then, muttering some Spanish
oath between his teeth, followed her.

"Well, most fair Betty," he said, "what word have you for me now?"

"The question is, Senor Carlos," answered Betty with scarcely suppressed
indignation, "what word you have for me, who dared so much for you
to-night? That you have plenty for my cousin, I know, since standing in
the cold garden I could hear you talk, talk, talk, through the shutters,
as though for your very life."

"I pray that those shutters had no hole in them," reflected d'Aguilar to
himself. "No, there was a curtain also; she can have seen nothing." But
aloud he answered: "Mistress Betty, you should not stand about in this
bitter wind; you might fall ill, and then what should I suffer?"

"I don't know, nothing perhaps; that would be left to me. What I want to
understand is, why you plan to come to see me, and then spend an hour
with Margaret?"

"To avert suspicion, most dear Betty. Also I had to talk to her of this
Peter, in whom she seems so greatly interested. You are very shrewd,
Betty--tell me, is that to be a match?"

"I think so; I have been told nothing, but I have noticed many things,
and almost every day she is writing to him, though why she should care
for that owl of a man I cannot guess."

"Doubtless because she appreciates solid worth, Betty, as I do in you.
Who can account for the impulses of the heart, which come, say some of
the learned, from heaven, and others, from hell? At least it is no
affair of ours, so let us wish them happiness, and, after they are
married, a large and healthy family. Meanwhile, dear Betty, are you
making ready for your voyage to Spain?"

"I don't know," answered Betty gloomily. "I am not sure that I trust you
and your fine words. If you want to marry me, as you swear, and be sure
I look for nothing less, why cannot it be before we start, and how am I
to know that you will do so when we get there?"

"You ask many questions, Betty, all of which I have answered before. I
have told you that I cannot marry you here because of that permission
which is necessary on account of the difference in our ranks. Here,
where your place is known, it is not to be had; there, where you will
pass as a great English lady--as of course you are by birth--I can
obtain it in an hour. But if you have any doubts, although it cuts me
to the heart to say it, it would be best that we should part at once. I
will take no wife who does not trust me fully and alone. Say then, cruel
Betty, do you wish to leave me?"

"You know I don't; you know it would kill me," she answered in a voice
that was thick with passion, "you know I worship the ground you tread on,
and hate every woman you go near, yes, even my cousin who has been so
good to me, and whom I love. I will take the risk and come with you,
believing you to be an honest gentleman, who would not deceive a girl
who trusts him; and if you do, may God deal with you as I shall, for I
am no toy to be broken and thrown away, as you would find out. Yes, I
will take the risk because you have made me love you so that I cannot
live without you."

"Betty, your words fill me with rapture, showing me that I have not
misread your noble mind; but speak a little lower--there are echoes in
this hole. Now for the plans, for time is short, and you may be missed.
When I am about to sail I will invite Mistress Margaret and yourself to
come aboard my ship."

"Why not invite me without my cousin Margaret?" asked Betty.

"Because it would excite suspicion which we must avoid--do not interrupt
me. I will invite you both or get you there upon some other pretext, and
then I will arrange that she shall be brought ashore again and you taken
on. Leave it all to me, only swear that you will obey any instructions I
may send you for if you do not, I tell you that we have enemies in high
places who may part us for ever. Betty, I will be frank, there is a
great lady who is jealous, and watches you very closely. Do you swear?"

"Yes, yes, I swear. But about the great lady?"

"Not a word about her--on your life--and mine. You shall hear from me
shortly. And now, sweetheart--good-night."

"Good-night," said Betty, but still she did not stir.

Then, understanding that she expected something more, d'Aguilar nerved
himself to the task, and touched her hair with his lips.

Next moment he regretted it, for even that tempered salute fanned her
passion into flame.

Throwing her arms about his neck Betty drew his face to hers and kissed
him many times, till at length he broke, half choking, from her embrace,
and escaped into the street.

"Mother of Heaven!" he muttered to himself, "the woman is a volcano in
eruption. I shall feel her kisses for a week," and he rubbed his face
ruefully with his hand. "I wish I had made some other plan; but it is
too late to change it now--she would betray everything. Well, I will be
rid of her somehow, if I have to drown her. A hard fate to love the
mistress and be loved of the maid!"



CHAPTER IX

THE SNARE

On the following morning, when Castell returned, Margaret told him of
the visit of d'Aguilar, and of all that had passed between them, told
him also that he was acquainted with their secret, since he had spoken
of her as half a Jew.

"I know it, I know it," answered her father, who was much disturbed and
very angry, "for yesterday he threatened me also. But let that go, I can
take my chance; now I would learn who brought this man into my house
when I was absent, and without my leave."

"I fear that it was Betty," said Margaret, "who swears that she thought
she did no wrong."

"Send for her," said Castell. Presently Betty came, and, being
questioned, told a long story.

She said she was standing by the side door, taking the air, when Senor
d'Aguilar appeared, and, having greeted her, without more words walked
into the house, saying that he had an appointment with the master.

"With me?" broke in Castell. "I was absent."

"I did not know that you were absent, for I was out when you rode away
in the afternoon, and no one had spoken of it to me, so, thinking that
he was your friend, I let him in, and let him out again afterwards. That
is all I have to say."

"Then I have to say that you are a hussy and a liar, and that, in one
way or the other, this Spaniard has bribed you," answered Castell
fiercely. "Now, girl, although you are my wife's cousin, and therefore
my daughter's kin, I am minded to turn you out on to the street
to starve."

At this Betty first grew angry, then began to weep; while Margaret
pleaded with her father, saying that it would mean the girl's ruin, and
that he must not take such a sin upon him. So the end of it was, that,
being a kind-hearted man, remembering also that Betty Dene was of his
wife's blood, and that she had favoured her as her daughter did, he
relented, taking measures to see that she went abroad no more save in
the company of Margaret, and that the doors were opened only by
men-servants.

So this matter ended.

That day Margaret wrote to Peter, telling him of all that had happened,
and how the Spaniard had asked her in marriage, though the words that he
used she did not tell. At the end of her letter, also, she bade him have
no fear of the Senor d'Aguilar or of any other man, as he knew where her
heart was.

When Peter received this writing he was much vexed to learn that both
Master Castell and Margaret had incurred the enmity of d'Aguilar, for so
he guessed it must be, also that Margaret should have been troubled with
his love-making; but for the rest he thought little of the matter, who
trusted her as he trusted heaven. Still it made him anxious to return to
London as soon as might he, even though he must take the risk of the
Spaniards' daggers. Within three days, however, he received other
letters both from Castell and from Margaret, which set his fears
at rest.

These told him that d'Aguilar had sailed for Spain indeed, Castell said
that he had seen him standing on the poop of the Ambassador de Ayala's
vessel as it dropped down the Thames towards the sea. Moreover, Margaret
had a note of farewell from his hand, which ran:

"Adieu, sweet lady, till that predestined hour when
we meet again. I go, as I must, but, as I told you, your
image goes with me.

    "Your worshipper till death,

    "MORELLA."

"He may take her image so long as I keep herself and if he comes back
with his worship, I promise him that death and he shall not be far
apart," was Peter's grim comment as he laid the paper down. Then he went
on with his letters, which told that now, when the Spaniards had gone,
and there was nothing more to fear, he was awaited in London. Indeed,
Castell fixed a day when he should arrive--May 31st--that was within a
week, adding that on its morrow--namely, June 1st, for Margaret would
not be wed in May, the Virgin Mary's month, since she held it to be
unlucky--their marriage might take place as quietly as they would.

Margaret wrote the same news, and in such sweet words that he kissed her
letter, then hastened to answer it, shortly, after his custom, for Peter
was no great scribe, saying, that if the saints willed it he would be
with them by nightfall on the last day of May, and that in all England
there was no happier man than he.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now all that week Margaret was very busy preparing her marriage robe,
and other garments also, for it was settled that on the next day they
should ride together down to Dedham, in Essex, whither her father would
follow them shortly. The Old Hall was not ready, indeed, nor would it be
for some time; but Peter had furnished certain rooms in it which might
serve them for the summer season, and by winter time the house would be
finished and open.

Castell was busy also, for now, having worked very hard at the task, his
ship the _Margaret_ was almost refitted and laden, so that he hoped to
get her to sea on this same May 31st, and thus be clear of the last of
his business, except the handing over of his warehouses and stock to
those who had bought them. These great affairs kept him much at
Gravesend, where the ship lay, but, as he had no dread of further
trouble now that d'Aguilar and the other Spaniards, among them that band
of de Ayala's servants who had vowed to take Peter's life, were gone,
this did not disturb him.

Oh! happy, happy was Margaret during those sweet spring days, when her
heart was bright and clear as the skies from which all winter storms had
passed. So happy was she indeed, and so full of a hundred joyful cares,
that she found no time to take note of her cousin Betty, who worked with
her at her wedding broideries, and helped to make preparations for the
journey which should follow after. Had she done so, she might have seen
that Betty was anxious and distressed, like one who waited for some
tidings that did not come, and from hour to hour fought against anguish
and despair But she took no note, whose heart was too full of her own
matters, and who did but count the hours till she should see her lover
back and pass to his arms, a wife.

Thus the time went on until the appointed day of Peter's return, the
morrow of her marriage, for which all things were now prepared, down to
Peter's wedding garments, that were finer than any she had yet seen him
wear, and the decking of the neighbouring church with flowers. In the
early morning her father rode away to Gravesend with the most of his
men-servants for the ship _Margaret_ was to sail at the following dawn
and there was yet much to be done before she could lift anchor. Still,
he had promised to be back by nightfall in time to meet Peter who,
leaving Dedham that morning, could not reach them before then.

At length it was past four of the afternoon, and everything being
finished, Margaret went to her room to dress herself anew, that she
might look fine in Peter's eyes when he should come. Betty she did not
take with her, for there were things to which her cousin must attend;
moreover, her heart was so full that she wished to be alone a while.

Betty's heart was full also, but not with joy. She had been deceived.
The fine Spanish Don, who had made her love him so desperately, had
sailed away and left her without a word. She could not doubt it, he had
been seen standing on the ship--and not one word. It was cruel, cruel,
and now she must help another woman to be made a happy wife, she who was
beggared of hope and love. Moodily, full of bitterness, she went about
her tasks, biting her lips and wiping her fine eyes with the sleeve of
her robe, when suddenly the door opened, and a servant, not one of
their own, but a strange man who had been brought in to help at the
morrow's feast, called out that a sailor wished to speak with her.

"Then let him enter here; I have no time to go out to listen to his
talk," snapped Betty.

Presently the sailor was shown in, the man who brought him leaving the
room at once. He was a dark fellow, with sly black eyes, who, had he not
spoken English so well, might have been taken for a Spaniard.

"Who are you, and what is your business?" asked Betty sharply.

"I am the carpenter of the ship _Margaret_," he answered, "and I am here
to say that our master Castell has met with an accident there, and
desires that Mistress Margaret, his daughter, should come to him
at once."

"What accident?" asked Betty.

"In seeing to the stowage of cargo he slipped and fell down the hold,
hurting his back and breaking his right arm, and that is why he cannot
write. He is in great pain; but the physician whom we summoned bade me
tell Mistress Margaret that at present he has no fear for his life. Are
you Mistress Margaret?"

"No," answered Betty; "but I will go to her at once; do you bide here."

"Then are you her cousin, Mistress Betty Dene, for if so I have
something for you?"

"I am. What is it?"

"This," said the man, drawing out a letter which he handed to her.

"Who gave you this?" asked Betty suspiciously. "I do not know his
name, but he was a noble-looking Spanish Don, and a liberal one too. He
had heard of the accident on the _Margaret_, and, knowing my errand,
asked me if I would deliver this letter to you, for the fee of a gold
ducat, and promise to say nothing of it to any one else."

"Some rude gallant, doubtless," said Betty, tossing her head; "they are
ever writing to me. Bide here; I go to Mistress Margaret."

Once she was outside the door Betty broke the seal of the letter eagerly
enough, for she had been taught with Margaret, and could read well.
It ran:

    "BELOVED,

    "You thought me faithless and gone, but
    it is not so. I was silent only because I knew you
    could not come alone who are watched; but now
    the God of Love gives us our chance. Doubtless
    your cousin will bring you with her to visit her father,
    who lies on his ship sadly hurt. While she is with
    him I have made a plan to rescue you, and then we
    can be wed and sail at once--yes, to-night or to-morrow,
    for with much trouble, knowing that you
    wished it, I have even succeeded in bringing that
    about, and a priest will be waiting to marry us. Be
    silent, and show no doubt or fear, whatever happens,
    lest we should be parted for always. Be sure then
    that your cousin comes that you may accompany her.
    Remember that your true love waits you.

    "C. d'A."

When Betty had mastered the contents of this amorous effusion she went
pale with joy, and turned so faint that she was like to fall. Then a
doubt struck her that it might be some trick. No, she knew the
writing--it was d'Aguilar's, and he was true to her, and would marry her
as he had promised, and take her to be a great lady in Spain. If she
hesitated now she might lose him for ever--him whom she would follow to
the end of the world. In an instant her mind was made up, for Betty had
plenty of courage. She would go, even though she must desert the cousin
whom she loved.

Thrusting the letter into her bosom she ran to Margaret's room, and,
bursting into it, told her of the man and his sad message. But of that
letter she said nothing. Margaret turned white at the news, then,
recovering herself, said:

"I will come and speak with him at once." And together they went down
the stairs.

To Margaret the sailor repeated his story, nor could all her questions
shake it. He told her how the mischance had happened, for he had seen
it, so he said, and where her father's hurts were, adding, that although
the physician held that as yet he was in no danger of his life, Master
Castell thought otherwise, and did nothing but cry that his daughter
should be brought to him at once.

Still Margaret doubted and hesitated, for she feared she knew not what.

"Peter should be here within two hours at most," she said to Betty.
"Would it not be best to wait for him?"

"Oh! Margaret, and what if your father should die in the meanwhile?
Perhaps he knows better how deep his hurts are than does this leech. If
so, you would have a sore heart for all your life. Sure you had better
go, or at the least I will."

Still Margaret wavered, till the sailor said:

"Lady, if it is your will to come, I can guide you to where a boat waits
to take you across the river. If not, I must be gone, for the ship sails
with the moonrise, and they only wait your coming to carry the master,
your father, to the warehouse on shore thinking it best that you should
be present. If you do not come, this will be done as gently as possible,
and there you must seek him to-morrow, alive or dead." And the man took
up his cap as though to leave.

"I will come with you," said Margaret. "Betty you are right; order the
two horses to be saddled mine and the groom's, with a pillion on which
you can ride, for I will not send you or go alone, understand that this
sailor has his own horse."

The man nodded, and accompanied Betty to the stable. Then Margaret took
pen and wrote hastily to Peter, telling him of their evil chance, and
bidding him follow her at once to the ship, or, if it had sailed to the
warehouse. "I am loth to go," she added "alone with a girl and a strange
man, yet I must since my heart is torn with fear for my beloved father.
Sweetheart, follow me quickly."

This done, she gave the letter to that servant who had shown in the
sailor, bidding him hand it, without fail, to Master Peter Brome when he
came, which the man promised to do.

Then she fetched plain dark cloaks for herself and Betty, with hoods to
them, that their faces might not be seen, and presently they
were mounted.

"Stay!" said Margaret to the sailor as they were about to start. "How
comes it that my father did not send one of his own men instead of you,
and why did none write to me?"

The man looked surprised; he was a very good actor.

"His people were tending him," he said, "and he bade me to go because I
knew the way, and had a good, hired horse ashore which I have used when
riding with messages to London about new timbers and other matters. As
for writing, the physician began a letter, but he was so slow and long
that Master Castell ordered me to be off without it. It seems," the man
added, addressing Betty with some irritation, "that Mistress Margaret
misdoubts me. If so, let her find some other guide, or bide at home. It
is naught to me, who have only done as I was bidden."

Thus did this cunning fellow persuade Margaret that her fears were
nothing, though, remembering the letter from d'Aguilar, Betty was
somewhat troubled. The thing had a strange look, but, poor, vain fool,
she thought to herself that, even if there were some trick, it was
certainly arranged only that she might seem to be taken, who could not
come alone. In truth she was blind and mad, and cared not what she did,
though, let this be said for her, she never dreamed that any harm was
meant towards her cousin Margaret, or that a lie had been told as to
Master Castell and his hurts.

Soon they were out of London, and riding swiftly by the road that
followed the north bank of the river, for their guide did not take them
over the bridge, as he said the ship was lying in mid-stream and that
the boat would be waiting on the Tilbury shore. But there was more than
twenty miles to travel, and, push on as they would, night had fallen ere
ever they came there. At length, when they were weary of the dark and
the rough road, the sailor pulled up at a spot upon the river's
brink--where there was a little wharf, but no houses that they could
see--saying that this was the place. Dismounting, he gave his horse to
the groom to hold, and, going to the wharf, asked in a loud voice if the
boat from the _Margaret_ was there, to which a voice answered, "Aye."
Then he talked for a minute to those in the boat, though what he said
they could not hear, and ran back again, bidding them dismount, and
adding that they had done well to come, as Master Castell was much
worse, and did nothing but cry for his daughter.

The groom he told to lead the horses a little way along the bank till he
found an inn that stood there, where he must await their return or
further orders, and to Betty he suggested that she should go with him,
as there was but little place left in the boat. This she was willing
enough to do, thinking it all part of the plan for her carrying off; but
Margaret would have none of it, saying that unless her cousin came with
her she would not stir another step. So grumbling a little the sailor
gave way, and hurried them both to some wooden steps and down these into
a boat, of which they could but dimly see the outline.

So soon as ever they were seated side by side in the stern it was pushed
off, and rowed away rapidly into the darkness, while one of the sailors
lit a lantern which he fastened to the bow, and far out on the river, as
though in answer to the signal, another star of light appeared, towards
which they headed. Now Margaret, speaking through the gloom, asked the
rowers of her father's state; but the sailor, their guide, prayed her
not to trouble them, as the tide ran very swiftly and they must give all
their mind to their business lest they should overset. So she was
silent, and, racked with doubts and fears, watched that star of light
growing ever nearer, till at length it hung above them.

"Is that the ship _Margaret_?" cried their guide, and again a voice
answered "Aye."

"Then tell Master Castell that his daughter has come at last," he
shouted again, and in another minute a rope had been thrown to them, and
they were fast alongside a ladder on to which Betty, who was nearest to
it, was pushed the first, except for their guide, who had run up the
wooden steps very swiftly.

Betty, who was active and strong, followed him, Margaret coming next. As
she reached the deck Betty thought she heard a voice say in Spanish, of
which she understood something, "Fool! Why have you brought both?" but
the answer she could not catch. Then she turned and gave her hand to
Margaret, and together they walked forward to the foot of the mast.

"Lead me to my father," said Margaret.

Whereon the guide answered:

"Yes, this way, Mistress, but come alone, for the sight of two of you at
once may disturb him."

"Nay," she answered, "my cousin comes with me." And she took Betty's
hand and clung to it.

Shrugging his shoulders the sailor led them forwards, and as they went
she noted that men were hauling on a sail, while other men, who sang a
strange, wild song, worked on what seemed to be a windlass. Now they
reached a cabin, and entered it, the door being shut behind them. In the
cabin a man sat at a table with a lamp hanging over his head. He rose
and turned towards them, bowing, and Margaret saw that it
was--_d'Aguilar_!

Betty stood silent; she had expected to meet him, though not here and
thus. Her foolish heart bounded so at the sight of him that she seemed
to choke, and could only wonder dimly what mistake had been made, and
how he would explain to Margaret and get her away, leaving herself and
him together to be married. Indeed, she searched the cabin with her eyes
to see where the priest was waiting, then noting a door beyond, thought
that doubtless he must be hidden there. As for Margaret, she uttered a
little stifled cry, then, being a brave woman, one of that high nature
which grows strong in the face of trouble, straightened herself to her
full height and said in a low, fierce voice:

"What do you here? Where is my father?"

"Senora," he answered humbly, "I am on board my ship, the _San Antonio_,
and as for your father, he is either on his ship, the _Margaret_, or
more likely, by now, at his house in Holborn."

At these words Margaret reeled back till the wall of the cabin stayed
her, and there she rested.

"Spare me your reproaches," went on d'Aguilar hurriedly. "I will tell
you all the truth. First, be not anxious as to your father; no accident
has happened to him; he is sound and well. Forgive me if you have
suffered pain and doubt; but there was no other way. That tale was only
one of love's snares and tricks----" He paused, overcome, fascinated by
Margaret's face, which of a sudden had grown awful--that of a goddess of
vengeance, of a Medusa, which seemed to chill his blood to ice.

"A snare! A trick!" she muttered hoarsely, while her eyes flamed on him
like burning stars. "Thus then I pay you for your tricks." And in an
instant he became aware that she had snatched a dagger from her bosom
and was springing on him.

He could not move; those fearful eyes held him fast. In another moment
that steel would have pierced his heart. But Betty had seen also, and,
thrusting her strong arms about Margaret, held her back, crying:

"Listen, you do not understand. It is I he wants--not you; I whom he
loves, and who love him, and am about to marry him. You he will send
back home."

"Loose me," said Margaret, in such a voice that Betty's arms fell from
her, and she stood there, the dagger still in her hand. "Now," she said
to d'Aguilar, "the truth, and be swift with it. What means this woman?"

"She knows best," answered d'Aguilar uneasily. "It has pleased her to
wrap herself in this web of conceits."

"Which it has pleased you to spin, perchance. Speak, girl!"

"He made love to me," gasped Betty; "and I love him. He promised to
marry me. He sent me a letter but to-day--here it is," and she drew
it out.

"Read," said Margaret; and Betty read.

"So _you_ have betrayed me," said Margaret, "you, my cousin, whom I have
sheltered and cherished."

"No," cried Betty. "I never thought to betray you; sooner would I have
died. I believed that your father was hurt, and that while you were
visiting him that man would take me."

"What have you to say?" asked Margaret of d'Aguilar in the same dreadful
voice. "You offered your accursed love to me--and to her, and you have
snared us both. Man, what have you to say?"

"Only this", he answered, trying to look brave, "that woman is a fool,
whose vanity I played on that I might make use of her to keep near
to you."

"Do you hear, Betty? do you hear?" cried Margaret with a terrible little
laugh; but Betty only groaned as though she were dying.

"I love you, and you only," went on d'Aguilar "As for your cousin, I
will send her ashore. I have committed this sin because I could not help
myself. The thought that you were to be married to another man to-morrow
drove me mad, and I dared all to take you from his arms, even though you
should never come to mine. Did I not swear to you," he said with an
attempt at his old gallantry, "that your image should accompany me to
Spain, whither we are sailing now?" And as he spoke the words the ship
lurched a little in the wind.

Margaret made no answer, only toyed with the dagger blade, and watched
him with eyes that glittered more coldly than its steel.

"Kill me, if you will, and have done," he went on in a voice that was
desperate with love and shame. "So shall I be rid of all this torment."

Then Margaret seemed to awake, for she spoke to him in a new voice--a
measured, frozen voice. "No," she answered, "I will not stain my hands
even with your blood, for why should I rob God of His own vengeance? If
you attempt to touch me, or even to separate me from this poor woman
whom you have fooled, then I will kill--not you, but myself, and I swear
to you that my ghost shall accompany you to Spain, and from Spain down
to the hell that awaits you. Listen, Carlos d'Aguilar, Marquis of
Morella, this I know about you, that you believe in God and hear His
anger. Well, I call down upon you the vengeance of Almighty God. I see
it hang above your head. I say that it shall fall upon you, waking and
sleeping, loving and hating, in life and in death to all eternity. Do
your worst, for you shall do it all in vain. Whether I die or whether I
live, every pang that you cause me to suffer, every misery that you have
brought, or shall bring, upon the head of my betrothed, my father, and
this woman, shall be repaid to you a millionfold in this world and the
next. Now do you still wish that I should accompany you to Spain, or
will you let me go?"

"I cannot," he answered hoarsely; "it is too late."

"So be it, I will accompany you to Spain, I and Betty Dene, and the
vengeance of Almighty God that hovers over you. Of this at least be
sure--I hate you, I despise you, but I fear you not at all. Go." Then
d'Aguilar stumbled from that cabin, and the two women heard the door
bolted behind him.



CHAPTER X

THE CHASE

About the time that Margaret and Betty were being rowed aboard the _San
Antonio_, Peter Brome and his servants, who had been delayed an hour or
more by the muddy state of the roads, pulled rein at the door of the
house in Holborn. For over a month he had been dreaming of this moment
of return, as a man does who expects such a welcome as he knew awaited
him, and who on the morrow was to be wed to a lovely and beloved bride.
He had thought how Margaret would be watching at the window, how, spying
him advancing down the street, she would speed to the door, how he would
leap from his horse and take her to his arms in front of every one if
need be--for why should they be ashamed who were to be wed upon
the morrow?

But there was no Margaret at the window, or at any rate he could not see
her, for it was dark. There was not even a light; indeed the whole face
of the old house seemed to frown at him through the gloom. Still, Peter
played his part according to the plan; that is, he leapt from his horse,
ran to the door and tried to enter, but could not for it was locked, so
he hammered on it with the handle of his sword, till at length some one
came and unbolted. It was the hired man with whom Margaret had left the
letter, and he held a lantern in his hand.

The sight of him frightened Peter, striking a chill to his heart.

"Who are you?" he asked; then, without waiting for an answer, went on,
"Where are Master Castell and Mistress Margaret?"

The man answered that the master was not yet back from his ship, and
that the Lady Margaret had gone out nearly three hours before with her
cousin Betty and a sailor--all of them on horseback.

"She must have ridden to meet me, and missed us in the dark," said Peter
aloud, whereon the man asked whether he spoke to Master Brome, since, if
so, he had a letter for him.

"Yes," answered Peter, and snatched it from his hand, bidding him close
the door and hold up the lantern while he read, for he could see that
the writing was that of Margaret.

"A strange story," he muttered, as he finished it. "Well, I must away,"
and he turned to the door again.

As he stretched out his hand to the key, it opened, and through it came
Castell, as sound as ever he had been.

"Welcome, Peter!" he cried in a jolly voice. "I knew you were here, for
I saw the horses; but why are you not with Margaret?"

"Because Margaret has gone to be with you, who should be hurt almost to
death, or so says this letter."

"To be with me--hurt to the death! Give it me--nay, read it, I cannot
see."

So Peter read.

"I scent a plot," said Castell in a strained voice as he finished, "and
I think that hound of a Spaniard is at the bottom of it, or Betty, or
both. Here, you fellow, tell us what you know, and be swift if you would
keep a sound skin."

"That would I, why not?" answered the man, and told all the tale of the
coming of the sailor.

"Go, bid the men bring back the horses, all of them," said Castell
almost before he had done; "and, Peter, look not so dazed, but come,
drink a cup of wine. We shall need it, both of us, before this night is
over. What! is there never a fellow of all my servants in the house?" So
he shouted till his folk, who had returned with him from the ship, came
running from the kitchen.

He bade them bring food and liquor, and while they gulped down the wine,
for they could not eat, Castell told how their Mistress Margaret had
been tricked away, and must be followed. Then, hearing the horses being
led back from the stables, they ran to the door and mounted, and,
followed by their men, a dozen or more of them, in all, galloped off
into the darkness, taking another road for Tilbury, that by which
Margaret went, not because they were sure of this, but because it was
the shortest.

But the horses were tired, and the night was dark and rainy, so it came
about that the clock of some church struck three of the morning before
ever they drew near to Tilbury. Now they were passing the little quay
where Margaret and Betty had entered the boat, Castell and Peter riding
side by side ahead of the others in stern silence, for they had nothing
to say, when a familiar voice hailed them--that of Thomas the groom.

"I saw your horses' heads against the sky," he explained, "and knew
them."

"Where is your mistress?" they asked both in a breath.

"Gone, gone with Betty Dene in a boat, from this quay, to be rowed to
the _Margaret_, or so I thought. Having stabled the horses as I was
bidden, I came back here to await them. But that was hours ago, and I
have seen no soul, and heard nothing except the wind and the water, till
I heard the galloping of your horses."

"On to Tilbury, and get boats," said Castell. "We must catch the
_Margaret_ ere she sails at dawn. Perhaps the women are aboard of her."

"If so, I think Spaniards took them there, for I am sure they were not
English in that craft," said Thomas, as he ran by the side of Castell's
horse, holding to the stirrup leather.

His master made no answer, only Peter groaned aloud, for he too was sure
that they were Spaniards.

An hour later, just as the dawn broke, they with their men climbed to
the deck of the _Margaret_ while she was hauling up her anchor. A few
words with her captain, Jacob Smith, told them the worst. No boat had
left the ship, no Margaret had come aboard her. But some six hours
before they had watched the Spanish vessel, _San Antonio_, that had been
berthed above them, pass down the river. Moreover, two watermen in a
skiff, who brought them fresh meat, had told them that while they were
delivering three sheep and some fowls to the _San Antonio_, just before
she sailed, they had seen two tall women helped up her ladder, and
heard one of them say in English, "Lead me to my father."

Now they knew all the awful truth, and stared at each other like dumb
men.

It was Peter who found his tongue the first, and said slowly:

"I must away to Spain to find my bride, if she still lives, and to kill
that fox. Get you home, Master Castell."

"My home is where my daughter is," answered Castell fiercely. "I go
a-sailing also."

"There is danger for you in that land of Spaniards, if ever we get
yonder," said Peter meaningly.

"If it were the mouth of hell, still I would go," replied Castell. "Why
should I not who seek a devil?"

"That we do both," said Peter, and stretching out his hand he took that
of Castell. It was the pledge of the father and the lover to follow her
who was all to them, till death stayed their quest.

Castell thought a little while, then gave orders that all the crew
should be called together on deck in the waist of the ship, which was a
carack of about two hundred tons burden, round fashioned, and sitting
deep in the water, but very strongly built of oak, and a swift sailer.
When they were gathered, and with them the officers and their own
servants, accompanied by Peter, he went and addressed them just as the
sun was rising. In few and earnest words he told them of the great
outrage that had been done, and how it was his purpose and that of Peter
Brome who had been wickedly robbed of the maid who this day should have
become his wife, to follow the thieves across the sea to Spain, in the
hope that by the help of God, they might rescue Margaret and Betty. He
added that he knew well this was a service of danger, since it might
chance that there would be fighting, and he was loth to ask any man to
risk life or limb against his will, especially as they came out to trade
and not to fight. Still, to those who chose to accompany them, should
they win through safely, he promised double wage, and a present charged
upon his estate, and would give them writings to that effect. As for
those who did not, they could leave the ship now before she sailed.

When he had finished, the sailormen, of whom there were about thirty,
with the stout-hearted captain, Jacob Smith, a sturdy-built man of fifty
years of age, at the head of them, conferred together, and at last, with
one exception--that of a young new-married man, whose heart failed
him--they accepted the offer, swearing that they would see the thing
through to the end, were it good or ill, for they were all Englishmen,
and no lovers of the Spaniards. Moreover, so bitter a wrong stirred
their blood. Indeed, although for the most part they were not sailors,
six of the twelve men who had ridden with them from London prayed that
they might come too, for the love they had to Margaret, their master,
and Peter; and they took them. The other six they sent ashore again,
bearing letters to Castell's friends, agents, and reeves, as to the
transfer of his business and the care of his lands, houses, and other
properties during his absence. Also, they took a short will duly signed
by Castell and witnessed, wherein he left all his goods of whatever
sort that remained unsettled or undevised, to Margaret and Peter, or
the survivor of them, or their heirs, or failing these, for the purpose
of founding a hospital for the poor. Then these men bade them farewell
and departed, very heavy at heart, just as the anchor was hauled home,
and the sails began to draw in the stiff morning breeze.

About ten o'clock they rounded the Nore bank safely, and here spoke a
fishing-boat, who told them that more than six hours before they had
seen the _San Antonio_ sail past them down Channel, and noted two women
standing on her deck, holding each other's hands and gazing shorewards.
Then, knowing that there was no mistake, there being nothing more that
they could do, worn out with grief and journeying, they ate some food
and went to their cabin to sleep.

As he laid him down Peter remembered that at this very hour he should
have been in church taking Margaret as his bride--Margaret, who was now
in the power of the Spaniard--and swore a great and bitter oath that
d'Aguilar should pay him back for all this shame and agony. Indeed,
could his enemy have seen the look on Peter's face he might well have
been afraid, for this Peter was an ill man to cross, and had no
forgiving heart; also, his wrong was deep.

For four days the wind held, and they ran down Channel before it, hoping
to catch sight of the Spaniard; but the _San Antonio_ was a swift
caravel of 250 tons with much canvas, for she carried four masts, and
although the _Margaret_ was also a good sailer, she had but two masts,
and could not come up with her. Or, for anything they knew, they might
have missed her on the seas. On the afternoon of the fourth day, when
they were off the Lizard, and creeping along very slowly under a light
breeze, the look-out man reported a ship lying becalmed ahead. Peter,
who had the eyes of a hawk, climbed up the mast to look at her, and
presently called down that he believed from her shape and rig she must
be the caravel, though of this he could not be sure as he had never seen
her. Then the captain, Smith, went up also, and a few minutes later
returned saying that without doubt it was the _San Antonio._

Now there was a great and joyful stir on board the _Margaret_, every man
seeing to his sword and their long or cross bows, of which there were
plenty, although they had no bombards or cannon, that as yet were rare
on merchant ships. Their plan was to run alongside the _San Antonio_ and
board her, for thus they hoped to recover Margaret. As for the anger of
the king, which might well fall on them for this deed, since he would
think little of the stealing of a pair of Englishwomen, of that they
must take their chance.

Within half an hour everything was ready, and Peter, pacing to and fro,
looked happier than he had done since he rode away to Dedham. The light
breeze still held, although, if it reached the _San Antonio_, it did not
seem to move her, and, with the help of it, by degrees they came to
within half a mile of the caravel. Then the wind dropped altogether, and
there the two ships lay. Still the set of the tide, or some current,
seemed to be drawing them towards each other, so that when the night
closed in they were not more than four hundred paces apart, and the
Englishmen had great hopes that before morning they would close, and be
able to board by the light of the moon.

But this was not to be, since about nine o'clock thick clouds rose up
which covered the heavens, while with the clouds came strong winds
blowing off the land, and, when at length the dawn broke, all they could
see of the _San Antonio_ was her topmasts as she rose upon the seas,
flying southwards swiftly. This, indeed, was the last sight they had of
her for two long weeks.

From Ushant all across the Bay the airs were very light and variable,
but when at length they came off Finisterre a gale sprang up from the
north-east which drove them forward very fast. It was on the second
night of this gale, as the sun set, that, running out of some mist and
rain, suddenly they saw the _San Antonio_ not a mile away, and rejoiced,
for now they knew that she had not made for any port in the north of
Spain, as, although she was bound for Cadiz, they feared she might have
done to trick them. Then the rain came on again, and they saw her
no more.

All down the coast of Portugal the weather grew more heavy day by day,
and when they reached St. Vincent's Cape and bore round for Cadiz, it
blew a great gale. Now it was that for the third time they viewed the
_San Antonio_ labouring ahead of them, nor, except at night, did they
lose sight of her any more until the end of that voyage. Indeed, on the
next day they nearly came up with her, for she tried to beat in to
Cadiz, but, losing one of her masts in a fierce squall, and seeing that
the _Margaret_, which sailed better in this tempest, would soon be
aboard of her, abandoned her plan, and ran for the Straits of Gibraltar.

Past Tarifa Point they went, having the coast of Africa on their
right; past the bay of Algegiras, where the _San Antonio_ did not try to
harbour; past Gibraltar's grey old rock, where the signal fires were
burning, and so at nightfall, with not a mile between them, out into the
Mediterranean Sea.

Here the gale was furious, so that they could scarcely carry a rag of
canvas, and before morning lost one of their topmasts. It was an anxious
night, for they knew not if they would live through it; moreover, the
hearts of Castell and of Peter were torn with fear lest the Spaniard
should founder and take Margaret with her to the bottom of the sea. When
at length the wild, stormy dawn broke, however, they saw her, apparently
in an evil case, labouring away upon their starboard bow, and by noon
came to within a furlong of her, so that they could see the sailors
crawling about on her high poop and stern. Yes, and they saw more than
this, for presently two women ran from some cabin waving a white cloth
to them; then were hustled back, whereby they learned that Margaret and
Betty still lived and knew that they followed, and thanked God.
Presently, also, there was a flash, and, before ever they heard the
report, a great iron bullet fell upon their decks and, rebounding,
struck a sailor, who stood by Peter, on the breast, and dashed him away
into the sea. The _San Antonio_ had fired the bombard which she carried,
but as no more shots came they judged that the cannon had broke its
lashings or burst.

A while after the _San Antonio_, two of whose masts were gone, tried to
put about and run for Malaga, which they could see far away beneath the
snow-capped mountains of the Sierra. But this the Spaniard could not
do, for while she hung in the wind the _Margaret_ came right atop of
her, and as her men laboured at the sails, every one of the Englishmen
who could be spared, under the command of Peter, let loose on them with
their long shafts and crossbows, and, though the heaving deck of the
_Margaret_ was no good platform, and the wind bent the arrows from their
line, they killed and wounded eight or ten of them, causing them to
loose the ropes so that the _San Antonio_ swung round into the gale
again. On the high tower of the caravel, his arm round the sternmost
mast, stood d'Aguilar, shouting commands to his crew. Peter fitted an
arrow to his string and, waiting until the _Margaret_ was poised for a
moment on the crest of a great sea, aimed and loosed, making allowance
for the wind.

True to line sped that shaft of his, yet, alas! a span too high, for
when a moment later d'Aguilar leapt from the mast, the arrow quivered in
its wood, and pinned to it was the velvet cap he wore. Peter ground his
teeth in rage and disappointment; almost he could have wept, for the
vessels swung apart again, and his chance was gone.

"Five times out of seven," he said bitterly, "can I send a shaft
through a bull's ring at fifty paces to win a village badge, and now I
cannot hit a man to save my love from shame. Surely God has
forsaken me!"

Through all that afternoon they held on, shooting with their bows
whenever a Spaniard showed himself, and being shot at in return, though
little damage was done to either side. But this they noted--that the
_San Antonio_ had sprung a leak in the gale, for she was sinking deeper
in the water. The Spaniards knew it also, and, being aware that they
must either run ashore or founder, for the second time put about, and,
under the rain of English arrows, came right across the bows of the
_Margaret_, heading for the little bay of Calahonda, that is the port of
Motril, for here the shore was not much more than a league away.

"Now," said Jacob Smith, the captain of the _Margaret_, who stood under
the shelter of the bulwarks with Castell and Peter, "up that bay lies a
Spanish town. I know it, for I have anchored there, and if once the _San
Antonio_ reaches it, good-bye to our lady, for they will take her to
Granada, not thirty miles away across the mountains, where this Marquis
of Morella is a mighty man, for there is his palace. Say then, master,
what shall we do? In five more minutes the Spaniard will be across our
bows again. Shall we run her down, which will be easy, and take our
chance of picking up the women, or shall we let them be taken captive to
Granada and give up the chase?"

"Never," said Peter. "There is another thing that we can do--follow them
into the bay, and attack them there on shore."

"To find ourselves among hundreds of the Spaniards, and have our throats
cut," answered Smith, the captain, coolly.

"If we ran them down," asked Castell, who had been thinking deeply all
this while, "should we not sink also?"

"It might be so," answered Smith; "but we are built of English oak, and
very stout forward, and I think not. But she would sink at once, being
near to it already, and the odds are that the women are locked in the
cabin or between decks out of reach of the arrows, and must go
with her."

"There is another plan," said Peter sternly, "and that is to grapple
with her and board her, and this I will do."

The captain, a stout man with a flat face that never changed, lifted his
eyebrows, which was his only way of showing surprise.

"What!" he said. "In this sea? I have fought in some wars, but never
have I known such a thing."

"Then, friend, you shall know it now, if I can but find a dozen men to
follow me," answered Peter with a savage laugh. "What? Shall I see my
mistress carried off before my eyes and strike no blow to save her?
Rather will I trust in God and do it, and if I die, then die I must, as
a man should. There is no other way."

Then he turned and called in a loud voice to those who stood around or
loosed arrows at the Spaniard:

"Who will come with me aboard yonder ship? Those who live shall spend
their days in ease thereafter, that I promise, and those who fall will
win great fame and Heaven's glory."

The crew looked at the waves running hill high, and the water-logged
Spaniard labouring in the trough of them as she came round slowly in a
wide circle, very doubtfully, as well they might, and made no answer.
Then Peter spoke again.

"There is no choice," he said. "If we give that ship our stem we can
sink her, but then how will the women be saved? If we leave her alone,
mayhap she will founder, and then how will the women be saved? Or she
may win ashore, and they will be carried away to Granada, and how can we
snatch them out of the hand of the Moors or of the power of Spain? But
if we can take the ship, we may rescue them before they go down or reach
land. Will none back me at this inch?"

"Aye, son," said old Castell, "I will."

Peter stared at him in surprise. "You--at your years!" he said.

"Yes, at my years. Why not? I have the fewer to risk."

Then, as though he were ashamed of his doubts, one brawny sailorman
stepped forward and said that he was ready for a cut at the Spanish
thieves in foul weather as in fair. Next all Castell's household
servants came out in a body for love of him and Peter and their lady,
and after them more sailors, till nearly half of those aboard, something
over twenty in all, declared that they were ready for the venture,
wherein Peter cried, "Enough." Smith would have come also; but Castell
said No, he must stop with the ship.

Then, while the carack's head was laid so as to cut the path of the _San
Antonio_ circling round them slowly like a wounded swan, and the
boarders made ready their swords and knives, for here archery would not
avail them, Castell gave some orders to the captain. He bade him, if
they were cut down or taken, to put about and run for Seville, and there
deliver over the ship and her cargo to his partners and correspondents,
praying them in his name to do their best by means of gold, for which
the sale value of the vessel and her goods should be chargeable, or
otherwise, to procure the release of Margaret and Betty, if they still
lived, and to bring d'Aguilar, the Marquis of Morella, to account for
his crime. This done, he called to one of his servants to buckle on him
a light steel breastplate from the ship's stores. But Peter would wear
no iron because it was too heavy, only an archer's jerkin of bull-hide,
stout enough to turn a sword-cut, such as the other boarders put on also
with steel caps, of both of which they had a plenty in the cabin.

Now the _San Antonio_, having come round, was steering for the mouth of
the bay in such fashion that she would pass them within fifty yards.
Hoisting a small sail to give his ship way, the captain, Smith, took the
helm of the _Margaret_ and steered straight at her so as to cut her
path, while the boarders, headed by Peter and Castell, gathered near the
bowsprit, lay down there under shelter of the bulwarks, and waited.



CHAPTER XI

THE MEETING ON THE SEA

For another minute or more the _San Antonio_ held on until she divined
the desperate purpose of her foe. Then, seeing that soon the carack's
prow must crash into her frail side, she shifted her helm and came round
several points, so that in the end the _Margaret_ ran, not into her, but
alongside of her, grinding against her planking, and shearing away a
great length of her bulwark. For a few seconds they hung together thus,
and, before the seas bore them apart, grapnels were thrown from the
_Margaret_ whereof one forward got hold and brought them bow to bow.
Thus the end of the bowsprit of the _Margaret_ projected over the high
deck of the _San Antonio_.

"Now for it," said Peter. "Follow me, all." And springing up, he ran to
the bowsprit and began to swarm along it.

It was a fearful task. One moment the great seas lifted him high into
the air, and the next down he came again till the massive spar crashed
on to the deck of the _San Antonio_ with such a shock that he nearly
flew from it like a stone from a sling. Yet he hung on, and, biding his
chance, seized a broken stay-rope that dangled from the end of the
bowsprit like a lash from a whip, and began to slide down it. The gale
caught him and blew him to and fro; the vessel, pitching wildly, jerked
him into the air; the deck of the _San Antonio_ rose up and receded like
a thing alive. It was near--not a dozen feet beneath him--and loosing
his hold he fell upon the forward tower without being hurt then, gaining
his feet, ran to the broken mast and flinging his left arm about it,
with the other drew his sword.

Next instant--how, he never knew--Castell was at his side, and after him
came two more men, but one of these rolled from the deck into the sea
and was lost. As he vanished, the chain of the grappling iron parted,
and the _Margaret_ swung away from them, leaving those three alone in
the power of their foes, nor, do what she would, could she make fast
again. As yet, however, there were no Spaniards to be seen, for the
reason that none had dared to stand upon this high tower whereof the
bulwarks were all gone, while the bowsprit of the _Margaret_ crashed
down upon it like a giant's club, and, as she rolled, swept it with
its point.

So there they stood, clinging to the mast and waiting for the end, for
now their friends were a hundred yards away, and they knew that their
case was desperate. A shower of arrows came, loosed from other parts of
the ship, and one of these struck the man with them through the throat,
so that he fell to the deck clasping at it, and presently rolled into
the sea also. Another pierced Castell through his right forearm, causing
his sword to drop and slide away from him. Peter seized the arrow,
snapped it in two, and drew it out; but Castell's right arm was now
helpless, and with his left he could do no more than cling to the
broken mast.

"We have done our best, son," he said, "and failed. Margaret will learn
that we would have saved her if we could, but we shall not meet
her here."

Peter ground his teeth, and looked about him desperately, for he had no
words to say. What should he do? Leave Castell and rush for the waist of
the ship and so perish, or stay and die there? Nay, he would not be
butchered like a bird on a bough, he would fall fighting.

"Farewell," he called through the gale. "God rest our souls!" Then,
waiting till the ship steadied herself, he ran aft, and reaching the
ladder that led to her tower, staggered down it to the waist of the
vessel, and at its foot halted, holding to the rail.

The scene before him was strange enough, for there, ranged round the
bulwarks, were the Spanish men, who watched him curiously, whilst a few
paces away, resting against the mast, stood d'Aguilar, who lifted his
hand, in which there was no weapon, and addressed him.

"Senor Brome," he shouted, "do not move another step or you are a dead
man. Listen to me first, and then do what you will. Am I safe from your
sword while I speak?"

Peter nodded his head in assent, and d'Aguilar drew nearer, for even in
that more sheltered place it was hard to hear because of the howling of
the tempest.

"Senor," he said to Peter, "you are a very brave man, and have done a
deed such as none of us have seen before; therefore, I wish to spare you
if I may. Also, I have worked you bitter wrong, driven to it by the
might of love and jealousy, for which reason also I wish to spare you.
To set upon you now would be but murder, and, whatever else I do, I will
not murder. First, let me ease your mind. Your lady and mine is aboard
here; but fear not, she has come and will come to no harm from me, or
from any man while I live. If for no other reason, I do not desire to
affront one who, I hope, will be my wife by her own free will, and whom
I have brought to Spain that she might not make this impossible by
becoming yours. Senor, believe me, I would no more force a woman's will
than I would do murder on her lover."

"What did you, then, when you snatched her from her home by some foul
trick?" asked Peter fiercely.

"Senor, I did wrong to her and all of you, for which I would make
amends."

"What amends? Will you give her back to me?"

"No, that I cannot do, even if she should wish it, of which I am not
sure; no--never while I live."

"Bring her forth, and let us hear whether she wishes it or no," shouted
Peter, hoping that his words would reach Margaret.

But d'Aguilar only smiled and shook his head, then went on:

"That I cannot either, for it would give her pain. Still, Senor, I will
repay the heavy debt that I owe to you, and to you also, Senor." And he
bowed towards Castell who, unseen by Peter, had crept down the ladder,
and now stood behind him staring at d'Aguilar with cold rage and
indignation. "You have wrought us much damage, have you not? hunting us
across the seas, and killing sundry of us with your arrows, and now you
have striven to board our ship and put us to the sword, a design in
which God has frustrated you. Therefore your lives are justly forfeit,
and none would blame us if we slew you. Yet I spare you both. If it is
possible I will put you back aboard the _Margaret_, and if it is not
possible you shall be set free ashore to go unmolested whither you will.
Thus I will wipe out my debt and be free of all reproach."

"Do you take me for such a man as yourself?" asked Peter, with a bitter
laugh. "I do not leave this ship alive unless my affianced wife,
Mistress Margaret, goes with me."

"Then, Senor Brome, I fear that you will leave it dead, as indeed we may
all of us, unless we make land soon, for the vessel is filling fast with
water. Still, knowing your metal, I looked for some such words from you,
and am prepared with another offer which I am sure you will not refuse.
Senor, our swords are much of the same length, shall we measure them
against each other? I am a grandee of Spain, the Marquis of Morella, and
it will, therefore, be no dishonour for you to fight with me."

"I am not so sure," said Peter, "for I am more than that--an honest man
of England, who never practised woman-stealing. Still, I will fight you
gladly, at sea or on shore, wherever and whenever we meet, till one or
both are dead. But what is the stake, and how do I know that some of
these," and he pointed to the crew, who were listening intently, "will
not stab me from behind?"

"Senor, I have told you that I do not murder, and that would be the
foulest murder. As for the stake, it is Margaret to the victor. If you
kill me, on behalf of all my company, I swear by our Saviour's Blood
that you shall depart with her and her father unharmed, and if I kill
you, then you both shall swear that she shall be left with me, and no
suit or question raised but to her woman I give liberty, who have seen
more than enough of her."

"Nay," broke in Castell, speaking for the first time "I demand the right
to fight with you also when my arm is healed."

"I refuse it," answered d'Aguilar haughtily. "I cannot lift my sword
against an old man who is the father of the maid who shall be my wife,
and, moreover, a merchant and a Jew. Nay, answer me not, lest all these
should remember your ill words. I will be generous, and leave you out of
the oath. Do your worst against me, Master Castell, and then leave me to
do my worst against you. Senor Brome, the light grows bad, and the water
gains upon us. Say, are you ready?"

Peter nodded his head, and they stepped forward.

"One more word," said d'Aguilar, dropping his sword-point. "My friends,
you have heard our compact. Do you swear to abide by it, and, if I fall,
to set these two men and the two ladies free on their own ship or on the
land, for the honour of chivalry and of Spain?"

The captain of the _San Antonio_ and his lieutenants answered that they
swore on behalf of all the crew.

"You hear, Senor Brome. Now these are the conditions--that we fight to
the death, but, if both of us should be hurt or wounded, so that we
cannot despatch each other, then no further harm shall be done to either
of us, who shall be tended till we recover or die by the will of God."

"You mean that we must die on each other's swords or not at all, and if
any foul chance should overtake either, other than by his adversary's
hand, that adversary shall not dispatch him?"

"Yes, Senor, for in our case such things may happen," and he pointed to
the huge seas that towered over them, threatening to engulf the
water-logged caravel. "We will take no advantage of each other, who wish
to fight this quarrel out with our own right arms."

"So be it," said Peter, "and Master Castell here is the witness to our
bargain."

D'Aguilar nodded, kissed the cross-hilt of his sword in confirmation of
the pact, bowed courteously, and put himself on his defence.

For a moment they stood facing each other, a well-matched pair--Peter,
lean, fierce-faced, long-armed, a terrible man to see in the fiery light
that broke upon him from beneath the edge of a black cloud; the Spaniard
tall also, and agile, but to all appearance as unconcerned as though
this were but a pleasure bout, and not a duel to the death with a
woman's fate hanging on the hazard. D'Aguilar wore a breastplate of
gold-inlaid black steel and a helmet, while Peter had but his tunic of
bull's hide and iron-lined cap, though his straight cut-and-thrust sword
was heavier and mayhap half an inch longer than that of his foe.

Thus, then, they stood while Castell and all the ship's company, save
the helmsman who steered her to the harbour's mouth, clung to the
bulwarks and the cordage of the mainmast, and, forgetful of their own
peril, watched in utter silence.

It was Peter who thrust the first, straight at the throat, but d'Aguilar
parried deftly, so that the sword point went past his neck, and before
it could be drawn back again, struck at Peter. The blow fell upon the
side of his steel cap, and glanced thence to his left shoulder, but,
being light, did him no harm. Swiftly came the answer, which was not
light, for it fell so heavily upon d'Aguilar's breastplate, that he
staggered back. After him sprang Peter, thinking that the game was his,
but at that moment the ship, which had entered the breakers of the
harbour bar, rolled terribly, and sent them both reeling to the
bulwarks. Nor did she cease her rolling, so that, smiting and thrusting
wildly, they staggered backwards and forwards across the deck, gripping
with their left hands at anything they could find to steady them, till
at length, bruised and breathless, they fell apart unwounded, and
rested awhile.

"An ill field this to fight on, Senor," gasped d'Aguilar.

"I think that it will serve our turn," said Peter grimly, and rushed at
him like a bull. It was just then that a great sea came aboard the ship,
a mass of green water which struck them both and washed them like straws
into the scuppers, where they rolled half drowned. Peter rose the first,
coughing out salt water, and rubbing it from his eyes, to see d'Aguilar
still upon the deck, his sword lying beside him, and holding his right
wrist with his left hand.

"Who gave you the hurt?" he asked, "I or your fall?"

"The fall, Senor," answered d'Aguilar; "I think that it has broken my
wrist. But I have still my left hand. Suffer me to arise, and we will
finish this fray."

As the words passed his lips a gust of wind, more furious than any that
had gone before, concentrated as it was through a gorge in the
mountains, struck the caravel at the very mouth of the harbour, and laid
her over on her beam ends. For a while it seemed as though she must
capsize and sink, till suddenly her mainmast snapped like a stick and
went overboard, when, relieved of its weight, by slow degrees she
righted herself. Down upon the deck came the cross yard, one end of it
crashing through the roof of the cabin in which Margaret and Betty were
confined, splitting it in two, while a block attached to the other fell
upon the side of Peter's head and, glancing from the steel cap, struck
him on the neck and shoulder, hurling him senseless to the deck, where,
still grasping his sword, he lay with arms outstretched.

Out of the ruin of the cabin appeared Margaret and Betty, the former
very pale and frightened, and the latter muttering prayers, but, as it
chanced, both uninjured. Clinging to the tangled ropes they crept
forward, seeking refuge in the waist of the ship, for the heavy spar
still worked and rolled above them, resting on the wreck of the cabin
and the bulwarks, whence presently it slid into the sea. By the stump of
the broken mainmast they halted, their long locks streaming in the gale,
and here it was that Margaret caught sight of Peter lying upon his back,
his face red with blood, and sliding to and fro as the vessel rolled.

She could not speak, but in mute appeal pointed first to him and then to
d'Aguilar, who stood near, remembering as she did so her vision in the
house at Holborn, which was thus terribly fulfilled. Holding to a rope,
d'Aguilar drew near to her and spoke into her ear. "Lady," he said,
"this is no deed of mine. We were fighting a fair fight, for he had
boarded the ship when the mast fell and killed him. Blame me not for his
death, but seek comfort from God."

She heard, and, looking round her wildly, perceived her father
struggling towards her; then, with a bitter cry, fell senseless on
his breast.



CHAPTER XII

FATHER HENRIQUES

The night came down swiftly, for a great stormcloud, in which jagged
lightning played, blotted out the last rays of the sunk sun. Then, with
rolling thunder and torrents of rain, the tempest burst over the sinking
ship. The mariners could no longer see to steer, they knew not whither
they were going, only the lessened seas told them that they had entered
the harbour mouth. Presently the _San Antonio_ struck upon a rock, and
the shock of it threw Castell, who was bending over the senseless shape
of Margaret, against the bulwarks and dazed him.

There arose a great cry of "The vessel founders!" and water seemed to be
pouring on the deck, though whether this were from the sea or from the
deluge of the falling rain he did not know. Then came another cry of
"Get out the boat, or we perish!" and a sound of men working in the
darkness. The ship swung round and round and settled down. There was a
flash of lightning, and by it Castell saw Betty holding the unconscious
Margaret in her strong arms. She saw him also, and screamed to him to
come to the boat. He started to obey, then remembered Peter. Peter might
not be dead; what should he say to Margaret if he left him there to
drown? He crept to where he lay upon the deck, and called to a sailor
who rushed by to help him. The man answered with a curse, and vanished
into the deep gloom. So, unaided, Castell essayed the task of lifting
this heavy body, but his right arm being almost useless, could do no
more than drag it into a sitting posture, and thus, by slow degrees,
across the deck to where he imagined the boat to be.

But here there was no boat, and now the sound of voices came from the
other side of the ship, so he must drag it back again. By the time he
reached the starboard bulwarks all was silent, and another flash of
lightning showed him the boat, crowded with people, upon the crest of a
wave, fifty yards or more from him, whilst others, who had not been able
to enter, clung to its stern and gunwale. He shouted aloud, but no
answer came, either because none were left living on the ship, or
because in all that turmoil they could not hear him.

Then Castell, knowing that he had done everything that he could, dragged
Peter under the overhanging deck of the forward tower, which gave some
little shelter from the rain, and, laying his bleeding head upon his
knees so that it might be lifted above the wash of the waters, sat
himself down and began to say prayers after the Jewish fashion whilst
awaiting his end.

That he was about to die he had no doubt, for the waist of the ship, as
he could perceive by the lightning, was almost level with the sea,
which, however, here in the harbour was now much calmer than it had
been. This he knew, for although the rain still fell steadily and the
wind howled above, no spray broke over them. Deeper and deeper sank the
caravel as she drifted onwards, till at length the water washed over her
deck from side to side, so that Castell was obliged to seat himself on
the second step of the ladder down which Peter had charged up on the
Spaniards. A while passed, and he became aware that the _San Antonio_
had ceased to move, and wondered what this might mean. The storm had
rolled away now, and he could see the stars; also with it went the wind.
The night grew warmer, too, which was well for him, for otherwise, wet
as he was, he must have perished. Still it was a long night, the longest
that ever he had spent, nor did any sleep come to relieve his misery or
make his end easier, for the pain from the arrow wound in his arm kept
him awake.

So there he sat, wondering if Margaret was dead, as Peter seemed to be
dead, and if so, whether their spirits were watching him now, watching
and waiting till he joined them. He thought, too, of the days of his
prosperity until he had seen the accursed face of d'Aguilar, and of all
the worthless wealth that was his, and what would become of it. He hoped
even that Margaret was gone; better that she should be dead than live on
in shame and misery. If there were a God, how came it that He could
allow such things to happen in the world? Then he remembered how, when
Job sat in just such an evil case, his wife had invited him to curse God
and die, and how the patriarch had answered to her, "What! shall we
receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?"
Remembered, too, after all his troubles, what had been the end of that
just man, and therefrom took some little comfort. After this a stupor
crept over him, and his last thought was that the vessel had sunk and
he was departing into the deeps of death.

       *       *       *       *       *

Listen! A voice called, and Castell awoke to see that it was growing
light, and that before him supporting himself on the rail of the ladder,
stood the tall form of Peter--Peter with a ghastly, blood-stained
countenance, chattering teeth, and glazed, unnatural eyes.

"Do you live, John Castell?" said that hollow voice, "or are we both
dead and in hell?"

"Nay," he answered, "I live yet; we are still this side of doom."

"What has chanced?" asked Peter. "I have been lost in a great
blackness."

Castell told him briefly.

Peter listened till he had done, then staggered to the bulwark rail and
looked about him, making no comment.

"I can see nothing," he said presently--"the mist is too deep; but I
think we must lie near the shore. Come, help me. Let us try to find
victuals; I am faint."

Castell rose, stretched his cramped limbs, and going to him, placed his
uninjured arm round Peter's middle, and thus supported him towards the
stern of the ship, where he guessed that the main cabin would be. They
found and entered it, a small place, but richly furnished, with a carved
crucifix screwed to its sternmost wall. A piece of pickled meat and some
of the hard wheaten cakes such as sailors use, lay upon the floor where
they had been cast from the table, while in a swinging rack above stood
flagons of wine and of water. Castell found a horn mug, and filling it
with wine gave it to Peter, who drank greedily, then handed it back to
him, who also drank. Afterwards they cut off portions of the meat with
their knives, and swallowed them, though Peter did this with great
difficulty because of the hurt to his head and neck. Then they drank
more wine, and, somewhat refreshed, left the place.

The mist was still so thick that they could see nothing, and therefore
they went into the wreck of that cabin which had been occupied by
Margaret and Betty, sat themselves down upon the bed wherein they had
slept, and waited. Resting thus, Peter noted that this cabin had been
fitted sumptuously as though for the occupation of a great lady, for
even the vessels were of silver, and in a wardrobe, whereof the doors
were open, hung beautiful gowns. Also, there were a few written books,
on the outer leaves of one of which Margaret had set down some notes and
a prayer of her own making, petitioning that Heaven would protect her;
that Peter and her father might be living and learn the truth of what
had befallen, and that it would please the saints to deliver her, and to
bring them together again. This book Peter thrust away within his jerkin
to study at his leisure.

Now the sun rose suddenly above the eastern range of the mountains
wherewith they were surrounded. Leaving the cabin, they climbed to the
forecastle tower and gazed about them, to find that they were in a
land-locked harbour, and stranded not more than a hundred yards from
the shore. By tying a piece of iron to a rope and letting it down into
the sea, they discovered that they lay upon a ridge, and that there
were but four feet of water beneath their bow, and, having learned
this, determined to wade to the beach. First, however, they went back to
the cabin and filled a leather bag they found with food and wine. Then,
by an afterthought, they searched for the place where d'Aguilar slept,
and discovered it between decks; also a strong-box which they made shift
to break open with an iron bar.

In it was a great store of gold, placed there, no doubt, for the payment
of the crew, and with it some jewels. The jewels they left, but the
money they divided and stowed it about them to serve their needs should
they come safe ashore. Then they washed each other's wounds and bound
them up, and descending the ladder which had been thrown over the ship's
side when the Spaniards escaped in the boat, let themselves down into
the sea and bade farewell to the _San Antonio_.

By now the wind had fallen and the sun shone brightly, warming their
chilled blood; also the water, which was quite calm, did not rise much
above their middles, so that they were able--the bottom being smooth and
sandy--to wade without trouble to the shore. As they drew near to it
they saw people gathering there, and guessed that they came from the
little town of Motril, which lay up the river that here ran into the
bay. Also they saw other things--namely, the boat of the _San Antonio_
upon the shore, and rejoiced to know that it had come safe to land, for
it rested upon its keel with but little water in its bottom. Lying here
and there also were the corpses of drowned men, five or six of them: no
doubt those sailors who had swum after the boat or clung to its
gunwale, but among these bodies none were those of women.

When at length they reached the shore, very few people were left there,
for of the rest some had begun to wade out towards the ship to plunder
her, whilst others had gone to fetch boats for the same purpose.
Therefore, the company who awaited them consisted only of women,
children, three old men, and a priest. The last, a hungry-eyed,
smooth-faced, sly-looking man, advanced to greet them courteously,
bidding them thank God for their escape.

"That we do indeed," said Castell; "but tell us, Father, where are our
companions?"

"There are some of them," answered the priest, pointing to the dead
bodies; "the rest, with the two senoras, started two hours ago for
Granada. The Marquis of Morella, from whom I hold this cure, told us
that his ship had sunk, and that no one else was left alive, and, as the
mist hid everything, we believed him. That is why we were not here
before, for," he added significantly, "we are poor folk, to whom the
saints send few wrecks."

"How did they go to Granada, Father?" asked Castell. "On foot?"

"Nay, Senor, they took all the horses and mules in the village by force,
though the marquis promised that he would return them and pay for their
hire later, and we trusted him because we must. The ladies wept much,
and prayed us to take them in and keep them; but this the marquis would
not allow, although they seemed so sad and weary. God send that we see
our good beasts back again," he added piously.

"Have you any left for us? We have a little money, and can pay for them
if they be not too dear."

"Not one, Senor--not one; the place has been cleared even down to the
mares in foal. But, indeed you seem scarcely fit to ride at present, who
have undergone so much," and he pointed to Peter's wounded head and
Castell's bandaged arm. "Why do you not stay and rest awhile?"

"Because I am the father of one of the senoras, and doubtless she thinks
me drowned, and this senor is her affianced husband," answered
Castell briefly.

"Ah!" said the priest, looking at them with interest, "then what
relation to her is the marquis? Well, perhaps I had better not ask, for
this is no confessional, is it? I understand that you are anxious, for
that great grandee has the reputation of being gay--an excellent son of
the Church, but without doubt very gay," and he shook his shaven head
and smiled. "But come up to the village, Senors, where you can rest and
have your hurts attended to; afterwards we will talk."

"We had best go," said Castell in English to Peter. "There are no horses
on this beach, and we cannot walk to Granada in our state."

Peter nodded, and, led by the priest, whose name they discovered to be
Henriques, they started.

On the crest of the hill a few hundred paces away they turned and looked
back, to see that every able-bodied inhabitant of the village seemed by
now to be engaged in plundering the stranded vessel.

"They are paying themselves for the mules and horses," said Fray
Henriques with a shrug. "So I see," answered Castell, "but you----"
and he stopped.

"Oh, do not be afraid for me," replied the priest with a cunning little
smile. "The Church does not loot; but in the end the Church gets her
share. These are a pious folk. Only when he learns that the caravel did
not sink after all, I fear the marquis will demand an account of us."

Then they limped on over the hill, and presently saw the white-walled
and red-roofed village beneath them on the banks of the river.

Five minutes later their guide stopped at a door in a roughly paved
street, which he opened with a key.

"My humble dwelling, when I am in residence here, and not at Granada,"
he said, "in which I shall be honoured to receive you. Look, near by is
the church."

Then they entered a patio, or courtyard, where some orange-trees grew
round a fountain of water, and a life-sized crucifix stood against the
wall. As he passed this sacred emblem Peter bowed and crossed himself,
an example that Castell did not follow. The priest looked at
him sharply.

"Surely, Senor," he said, "you should do reverence to the symbol of our
Saviour, who, by His mercy, have just been saved from the death which
the marquis told me had overtaken both of you."

"My right arm is hurt," answered Castell readily, "so I must do that
reverence in my heart."

"I understand, Senor; but if you are a stranger to this country, which
you do not seem to be, who speak its tongue so well, with your
permission I will warn you that here it is wise not to confine your
reverences to the heart. Of late the directors of the Inquisition have
become somewhat strict, and expect that the outward forms should be
observed as well. Indeed, when I was a familiar of the Holy Office at
Seville, I have seen men burned for the neglect of them. You have two
arms and a head, Senor, also a knee that can be bent."

"Pardon me," answered Castell to this lecture. "I was thinking of other
matters. The carrying off of my daughter at the hands of your patron,
the Marquis of Morella, for instance."

Then, making no reply, the priest led them through his sitting-room to a
bed-chamber with high barred windows, that, although it was large and
lofty, reminded them somehow of a prison cell. Here he left them, saying
that he would go to find the local surgeon, who, it seemed, was a barber
also, if, indeed, he were not engaged in "lightening the ship,"
recommending them meanwhile to take off their wet clothes and lie
down to rest.

A woman having brought hot water and some loose garments in which to
wrap themselves while their own were drying, they undressed and washed
and afterwards, utterly worn out, threw themselves down and fell asleep
upon the beds, having first hidden away their gold in the food bag,
which Peter placed beneath his pillow. Two hours later or more they were
awakened by the arrival of Father Henriques and the barber-surgeon,
accompanied by the woman-servant, and who brought them back their
clothes cleaned and dried.

When the surgeon saw Peter's hurt to the left side of his neck and
shoulder, which now were black, swollen, and very stiff, he shook his
head, and said that time and rest alone could cure it, and that he must
have been born under a fortunate star to have escaped with his life,
which, save for his steel cap and leather jerkin, he would never have
done. As no bones were broken, however, all that he could do was to
dress the parts with some soothing ointment and cover them with clean
cloths. This finished, he turned to Castell's wound, that was through
the fleshy part of the right forearm, and, having syringed it out with
warm water and oil, bound it up, saying that he would be well in a week.
He added drily that the gale must have been fiercer even than he
thought, since it could blow an arrow through a man's arm--a saying at
which the priest pricked up his ears.

To this Castell made no answer, but producing a piece of Morella's gold,
offered it to him for his services, asking him at the same time to
procure them mules or horses, if he could. The barber promised to try to
do so, and being well pleased with his fee, which was a great one for
Motril, said that he would see them again in the evening, and if he
could hear of any beasts would tell them of it then. Also he promised to
bring them some clothes and cloaks of Spanish make, since those they had
were not fit to travel in through that country, being soiled and
blood-stained.

After he had gone, and the priest with him, who was busy seeing to the
division of the spoils from the ship and making sure of his own share,
the servant, a good soul, brought them soup, which they drank. Then they
lay down again upon the beds and talked together as to what they
should do.

Castell was downhearted, pointing out that they were still as far from
Margaret as ever, who was now once more lost to them, and in the hand of
Morella, whence they could scarcely hope to snatch her. It would seem
also that she was being taken to the Moorish city of Granada, if she
were not already there, where Christian law and justice had no power.

When he had heard him out, Peter, whose heart was always stout,
answered:

"God has as much power in Granada as in London, or on the seas whence He
has saved us. I think, Sir, that we have great reason to be thankful to
God, seeing that we are both alive to-day, who might so well have been
dead, and that Margaret is alive also, and, as we believe, unharmed.
Further, this Spanish thief of women is, it would seem, a strange man,
that is, if there be any truth in his words, for although he could steal
her, it appears that he cannot find it in his heart to do her violence,
but is determined to win her only with her own consent, which I think
will not be had readily. Also, he shrinks from murder, who, when he
could have butchered us, did not do so."

"I have known such men before," said Castell, "who hold some sins
venial, but others deadly to their souls. It is a fruit of
superstition."

"Then, Sir, let us pray that Morella's superstitions may remain strong,
and get us to Granada as quickly as we can, for there, remember, you
have friends, both among the Jews and Moors, who have traded with the
place for many years, and these may give us shelter. Therefore, though
things are bad, still they might be worse."

"That is so," answered Castell more cheerfully, "if, indeed, she has
been taken to Granada; and as to this, we will try to learn something
from the barber or the Father Henriques."

"I put no faith in that priest, a sly fellow who is in the pay of
Morella," answered Peter.

Then they were silent, being still very weary, and having nothing more
to say, but much to think about.

About sundown the doctor came back and dressed their wounds. He brought
with him a stock of clothes of Spanish make, hats and two heavy cloaks
fit to travel in, which they bought from him at a good price. Also, he
said that he had two fine mules in the courtyard, and Castell went out
to look at them. They were sorry beasts enough, being poor and wayworn,
but as no others were to be had they returned to the room to talk as to
the price of them and their saddles. The chaffering was long, for he
asked twice their value, which Castell said poor shipwrecked men could
not pay; but in the end they struck a bargain, under which the barber
was to keep and feed the mules for the night, and bring them round next
morning with a guide who would show them the road to Granada. Meanwhile,
they paid him for the clothes, but not for the beasts.

Also they tried to learn something from him about the Marquis of
Morella, but, like the Fray Henriques, the man was cunning, and kept his
mouth shut, saying that it was ill for poor men like himself to chatter
of the great, and that at Granada they could hear everything. So he went
away, leaving some medicine for them to drink, and shortly afterwards
the priest appeared.

He was in high good-humour, having secured those jewels which they had
left behind in the iron coffer as his share of the spoil of the ship.
Taking note of him as he showed and fondled them, Castell added up the
man, and concluded that he was very avaricious; one who hated the
poverty in which he had been reared, and would do much for money.
Indeed, when he spoke bitterly of the thieves who had been at the ship's
strong-box and taken nearly all the gold, Castell determined that he
must never know who those thieves were, lest they should meet with some
accident on their journey.

At length the trinkets were put away, and the priest said that they must
sup with him, but lamented that he had no wine to give them, who was
forced to drink water; whereon Castell prayed him to procure a few
flasks of the best at their charges, which, nothing loth, he sent his
servant out to do.

So, dressed in their new Spanish clothes, and having all the gold hidden
about them in two money-belts that they had bought from the barber at
the same time, they went in to supper, which consisted of a Spanish dish
called _olla podrida_--a kind of rich stew--bread, cheese, and fruit.
Also the wine that they had bought was there, very good and strong, and,
whilst taking but little of it themselves for fear they should fever
their wounds, they persuaded Father Henriques to drink heartily, so that
in the end he forgot his cunning, and spoke with freedom. Then, seeing
that he was in a ripe humour, Castell asked him about the Marquis of
Morella, and how it happened that he had a house in the Moorish capital
of Granada.

"Because he is half a Moor," answered the priest. "His father, it is
said, was the Prince of Viana, and his mother a lady of royal Moorish
blood, from whom he inherited great wealth, and his lands and palace in
Granada. There, too, he loves to dwell, who, although he is so good a
Christian by faith, has many heathen tastes, and, like the Moors,
surrounds himself with a seraglio of beautiful women, as I know, for
often I act as his chaplain, as in Granada there are no priests.
Moreover, there is a purpose in all this, for, being partly of their
blood, he is accredited to the court of their sultan, Boabdil, by
Ferdinand and Isabella in whose interests he works in secret. For,
strangers, you should know, if you do not know it already, that their
Majesties have for long been at war against the Moor, and purpose to
take what remains of his kingdom from him, and make it Christian, as
they have already taken Malaga, and purified it by blood and fire from
the accursed stain of infidelity."

"Yes," said Castell, "we heard that in England, for I am a merchant who
have dealings with Granada, whither I am going on my affairs."

"On what affairs then goes the senora, who you say is your daughter, and
what is that story that the sailors told of, about a fight between the
_San Antonio_ and an English ship, which indeed we saw in the offing
yesterday? And why did the wind blow an arrow through your arm, friend
Merchant? And how came it that you two were left aboard the caravel when
the marquis and his people escaped?"

"You ask many questions, holy Father. Peter, fill the glass of his
reverence; he drinks nothing who thinks that it is always Lent. Your
health, Father. Ah! well emptied. Fill it again, Peter, and pass me the
flask. Now I will begin to answer you with the story of the shipwreck."
And he commenced an endless tale of the winds and sails and rocks and
masts carried away, and of the English ship that tried to help the
Spanish ship, and so forth, till at length the priest, whose glass Peter
filled whenever his head was turned, fell back in his chair asleep.

"Now," whispered Peter in English across the table to Castell--"now I
think that we had best go to bed, for we have learned much from this
holy spy--as I take him to be--and told little."

So they crept away quietly to their chamber, and, having swallowed the
draught that the doctor had given them, said their prayers each in his
own fashion, locked the door, and lay down to rest as well as their
wounds and sore anxieties would allow them.



CHAPTER XIII

THE ADVENTURE OF THE INN

Peter did not sleep well, for, notwithstanding all the barber's
dressing, his hurt pained him much. Moreover, he was troubled by the
thought that Margaret must be sure that both he and her father were
dead, and of the sufferings of her sore heart. Whenever he dozed off he
seemed to see her awake and weeping, yes, and to hear her sobs and
murmurings of his name. When the first light of dawn crept through the
high-barred windows, he arose and called Castell, for they could not
dress without each other's help. Then they waited until they heard the
sound of men talking and of beasts stamping in the courtyard without.
Guessing that this was the barber with the mules, they unlocked their
door and, finding the servant yawning in the passage, persuaded her to
let them out of the house.

The barber it was, sure enough, and with him a one-eyed youth mounted on
a pony, who, he said, would guide them to Granada. So they returned with
him into the house, where he looked at their wounds, shaking his head
over that of Peter, who, he said, ought not to travel so soon. After
this came more haggling as to the price of the mules, saddlery,
saddle-bags in which they packed their few spare clothes, hire of the
guide and his horse, and so forth, since, anxious as they were to get
away, they did not dare to seem to have money to spare.

At length everything was settled, and as their host, Father Henriques,
had not yet appeared, they determined to depart without bidding him
farewell, leaving some money in acknowledgment of his hospitality and as
a gift to his church. Whilst they were handing it over to the servant,
however, together with a fee for herself, the priest joined them,
unshaven, and holding his hand to his tonsured head whilst he explained,
what was not true, that he had been celebrating some early Mass in the
church; then asked whither they were going.

They told him, and pressed their gift upon him, which he accepted,
nothing loth, though its liberality seemed to make him more urgent to
delay their departure. They were not fit to travel; the roads were most
unsafe; they would be taken captive by the Moors, and thrown into a
dungeon with the Christian prisoners; no one could enter Granada without
a passport, he declared, and so forth, to all of which they answered
that they must go.

Now he appeared to be much disturbed, and said finally that they would
bring him into trouble with the Marquis of Morella--how or why, he would
not explain, though Peter guessed that it might be lest the marquis
should learn from them that this priest, his chaplain, had been
plundering the ship which he thought sunk, and possessing himself of his
jewels. At length, seeing that the man meant mischief and would stop
them in some fashion if they delayed, they bade him farewell hastily,
and, pushing past him, mounted the mules that stood outside and rode
away with their guide.

As they went they heard the priest, who now was in a rage, abusing the
barber who had sold them the beasts, and caught the words "Spies,"
"English senoras," and "Commands of the Marquis," so that they were glad
when at length they found themselves outside the town, where as yet few
were stirring, and riding unmolested on the road to Granada.

This road proved to be no good one, and very hilly; moreover, the mules
were even worse than they had thought, that which Peter rode stumbling
continually. Now they asked the youth, their guide, how long it would
take them to reach Granada; but all he answered them was:

"_Quien sabe_?" (Who knows?) "It depends upon the will of God."

An hour later they asked him again, whereon he replied:

Perhaps to-night, perhaps to-morrow, perhaps never, as there were many
thieves about, and if they escaped the thieves they would probably be
captured by the Moors.

"I think there is one thief very near to us," said Peter in English,
looking at this ill-favoured young man, then added in his broken
Spanish, "Friend, if we fall in with robbers or Moors, the first one who
dies will be yourself," and he tapped the hilt of his sword.

The lad uttered a Spanish curse, and turned the head of his pony round
as though he would ride back to Motril, then changed his mind and pushed
on a long way in front of them, nor could they come near him again for
hours. So hard was the road and so feeble were the mules that,
notwithstanding a midday halt to rest them, it was nightfall before they
reached the top of the Sierra, and in the last sunset glow, separated
from them by the rich _vega_ or plain, saw the minarets and palaces of
Granada. Now they wished to push on, but their guide swore that it was
impossible, as in the dark they would fall over precipices while
descending to the plain. There was a _venta_ or inn near by, he said,
where they could sleep, starting again at dawn.

When Castell said that they did not wish to go to an inn, he answered
that they must, since they had eaten what food they had, and here on
the road there was no fodder for the beasts. So, reluctantly enough,
they consented, knowing that unless they were fed the mules would never
carry them to Granada, whereon the guide, pointing out the house to
them, a lonely place in a valley about a hundred yards from the road,
said that he would go on to make arrangements, and galloped off.

As they approached this hostelry, which was surrounded by a rough wall
for purposes of defence, they saw the one-eyed youth engaged in earnest
conversation with a fat, ill-favoured man who had a great knife stuck in
his girdle. Advancing to them, bowing, this man said that he was the
host, and, in reply to their request for food and a room, told them that
they could have both.

They rode into the courtyard, whereon the inn-keeper locked the door in
the wall behind them, explaining that it was to keep out robbers, and
adding that they were fortunate to be where they could sleep quite
safely. Then a Moor came and led away their mule to the stable, and
they accompanied the landlord into the sitting-room, a long, low
apartment furnished with tables and benches, on which sat several
rough-looking fellows, drinking wine. Here the host suddenly demanded
payment in advance, saying that he did not trust strangers. Peter would
have argued with him; but Castell, thinking it best to comply,
unbuttoned his garments to get at his money, for he had no loose coin in
his pocket, having paid away the last at Motril.

His right hand being still helpless, this he did with his left, and so
awkwardly that the small doubloon he took hold of slipped from his
fingers and fell on to the floor. Forgetting that he had not re-fastened
the belt, he bent down to pick it up, whereon a number of gold pieces of
various sorts, perhaps twenty of them, fell out and rolled hither and
thither on the ground. Peter, watching, saw the landlord and the other
men in the room exchange a quick and significant glance. They rose,
however, and assisted to find the money, which the host returned to
Castell, remarking with an unpleasant smile, that if he had known that
his guests were so rich he would have charged them more for their
accommodation.

"Of your good heart I pray you not," answered Castell, "for that is all
our worldly goods," and even as he spoke another gold piece, this time a
large doubloon, which had remained in his clothing, slipped to
the floor.

"Of course, Senor," the host replied as he picked this up also and
handed it back politely, "but shake yourself, there may still be a coin
or two in your doublet." Castell did so, whereon the gold in his belt,
loosened by what had fallen out, rattled audibly, and the audience
smiled again, while the host congratulated him on the fact that he was
in an honest house, and not wandering on the mountains, which were the
home of so many bad men.

Having pocketed his money with the best grace he could, and buckled his
belt beneath his robe, Castell and Peter sat down at a table a little
apart, and asked if they could have some supper. The host assented, and
called to the Moorish servant to bring food, then sat down also, and
began to put questions to them, of a sort which showed that their guide
had already told all their story.

"How did you learn of our shipwreck?" asked Castell by way of answer.

"How? Why, from the people of the marquis, who stopped here to drink a
cup of wine when he passed to Granada yesterday with his company and two
senoras. He said that the _San Antonio_ had sunk, but told us nothing of
your being left aboard of her."

"Then forgive us, friend, if we, whose business is of no interest to
you, copy his discretion, as we are weary and would rest."

"Certainly, Senors--certainly," replied the man; "I go to hasten your
supper, and to fetch you a flask of the wine of Granada worthy of your
degree," and he left them.

A while later their food came--good meat enough of its sort--and with it
the wine in an earthenware jug, which, as he filled their horn mugs, the
host said he had poured out of the flask himself that the crust of it
might not slip. Castell thanked him, and asked him to drink a cup to
their good journey; but he declined, answering that it was a fast day
with him, on which he was sworn to touch only water. Now Peter, who had
said nothing all this time, but noted much, just touched the wine with
his lips, and smacked them as though in approbation while he whispered
in English to Castell:

"Drink it not; it is drugged!"

"What says your son?" asked the host.

"He says that it is delicious, but suddenly he has remembered what I too
forgot, that the doctor at Motril forbade us to touch wine for fear lest
we should worsen the hurts that we had in the shipwreck. Well, let it
not be wasted. Give it to your friends. We must be content with thinner
stuff." And taking up a jug of water that stood upon the table, he
filled an empty cup with it and drank, then passed it to Peter, while
the host looked at them sourly.

Then, as though by an afterthought, Castell rose and politely presented
the jug of wine and the two filled mugs to the men who were sitting at a
table close by, saying that it was a pity that they should not have the
benefit of such fine liquor. One of these fellows, as it chanced, was
their own guide, who had come in from tending the mules. They took the
mugs readily enough, and two of them tossed off their contents, whereon,
with a smothered oath, the landlord snatched away the jug and
vanished with it.

Castell and Peter went on with their meal, for they saw their neighbours
eating of the same dish, as did the landlord also, who had returned,
and, it seemed to Peter, was watching the two men who had drunk the
wine with an anxious eye. Presently one of these rose from the table
and, going to a bench on the other side of the room, flung himself down
upon it and became quite silent, while their one-eyed guide stretched
out his arms and fell face forward so that his head rested on an empty
plate, where he remained apparently insensible. The host sprang up and
stood irresolute, and Castell, rising, said that evidently the poor lad
was sleepy after his long ride, and as they were the same, would he be
so courteous as to show them to their room?

He assented readily, indeed it was clear that he wished to be rid of
them, for the other men were staring at the guide and their companion,
and muttering amongst themselves.

"This way, Senors," he said, and led them to the end of the place where
a broad step-ladder stood. Going up it, a lamp in his hand, he opened a
trap-door and called to them to follow him, which Castell did. Peter,
however, first turned and said good-night to the company who were
watching them; at the same moment, as though by accident or
thoughtlessly, half drawing his sword from its scabbard. Then he too
went up the ladder, and found himself with the others in an attic.

It was a bare place, the only furniture in it being two chairs and two
rough wooden bedsteads without heads to them, mere trestles indeed, that
stood about three feet apart against a boarded partition which appeared
to divide this room from some other attic beyond. Also, there was a hole
in the wall immediately beneath the eaves of the house that served the
purpose of a window, over which a sack was nailed. "We are poor folk,"
said the landlord as they glanced round this comfortless garret, "but
many great people have slept well here, as doubtless you will also," and
he turned to descend the ladder.

"It will serve," answered Castell; "but, friend, tell your men to leave
the stable open, as we start at dawn, and be so good as to give me
that lamp."

"I cannot spare the lamp," he grunted sulkily, with his foot already on
the first step.

Peter strode to him and grasped his arm with one hand, while with the
other he seized the lamp. The man cursed, and began to fumble at his
belt, as though for a knife, whereon Peter, putting out his strength,
twisted his arm so fiercely that in his pain he loosed the lamp, which
remained in Peter's hand. The inn-keeper made a grab at it, missed his
footing and rolled down the ladder, falling heavily on the floor below.

Watching from above, to their relief they saw him pick himself up, and
heard him begin to revile them, shaking his fist and vowing vengeance.
Then Peter shut down the trap-door. It was ill fitted, so that the edge
of it stood up above the flooring, also the bolt that fastened it had
been removed, although the staples in which it used to work remained.
Peter looked round for some stick or piece of wood to pass through these
staples, but could find nothing. Then he bethought him of a short length
of cord that he had in his pocket, which served to tie one of the
saddle-bags in its place on his mule. This he fastened from one staple
to the other, so that the trap-door could not be lifted more than an
inch or two.

Reflecting that this might be done, and the cord cut with a knife
passed through the opening, he took one of the chairs and stood it so
that two of its legs rested on the edge of the trap-door and the other
two upon the boarding of the floor. Then he said to Castell:

"We are snared birds; but they must get into the cage before they wring
our necks. That wine was poisoned, and, if they can, they will murder us
for our money--or because they have been told to do so by the guide. We
had best keep awake to-night."

"I think so," answered Castell anxiously. "Listen, they are talking down
below."

Talking they were, as though they debated something, but after a while
the sound of voices died away. When all was silent they hunted round the
attic, but could find nothing that was unusual to such places. Peter
looked at the window-hole, and, as it was large enough for a man to pass
through, tried to drag one of the beds beneath it, thinking that if any
such attempt were made, he who lay thereon would have the thief at his
mercy, only to find, however, that these were screwed to the floor and
immovable. As there was nothing more that they could do, they went and
sat upon these beds, their bare swords in their hands, and waited a long
while, but nothing happened.

At length the lamp, which had been flickering feebly for some time, went
out, lacking oil, and except for the light which crept through the
window-place, for now they had torn away the sacking that hung over it,
they were in darkness.

A little while later they heard the sound of a horse's hoofs, and the
door of the house open and shut, after which there was more talking
below, and mingling with it a new voice which Peter seemed to remember.

"I have it," he whispered to Castell. "Here is our late host, Father
Henriques, come to see how his guests are faring."

Another half-hour and the waning moon rose, throwing a beam of light
into their chamber; also they heard horse's hoofs again. Going to the
window, Peter looked out of it and saw the horse, a fine beast, being
held by the landlord, then a man came and mounted it and, at some remark
of his, turned his face upwards towards their window. It was that of
Father Henriques.

The two whispered together for a while till the priest blessed the
landlord in Latin words and rode away, and again they heard the door of
the house close.

"He is off to Granada, to warn Morella his master of our coming," said
Castell, as they reseated themselves upon the beds.

"To warn Morella that we shall never come, perhaps; but we will beat him
yet," replied Peter.

The night wore on, and Castell, who was very weary, sank back upon the
bolster and began to doze, when suddenly the chair that was set upon the
trap-door fell over with a great clatter, and he sprang up, asking what
that noise might be.

"Only a rat," answered Peter, who saw no good in telling him the
truth--namely, that thieves or murderers had tried to open the
trap-door.

Then he crept down the room, felt the cord, to find that it was still
uncut, and replaced the chair where it had been. This done, Peter came
back to the bed and threw himself down upon it as though he would
slumber, though never was he more wide awake. The weariness of Castell
had overcome him again, however, for he snored at his side.

For a long while nothing further happened, although once the ray of
moonlight was cut off, and for an instant Peter thought that he saw a
face at the window. If so, it vanished and returned no more. Now from
behind their heads came faint sounds, like those of stifled breathing,
like those of naked feet; then a slight creaking and scratching in the
wall--a mouse's tooth might have caused it--and suddenly, right in that
ray of moonlight, a cruel-looking knife and a naked arm projected
through the panelling.

The knife flickered for a second over the breast of the sleeping Castell
as though it were a living thing that chose the spot where it would
strike. One second--only one--for the next Peter had drawn himself up,
and with a sweep of the sword which lay unscabbarded at his side, had
shorn that arm off above the elbow, just where it projected from the
panelling.

"What was that?" asked Castell again, as something fell upon him.

"A snake," answered Peter, "a poisonous snake. Wake up now, and look."

Castell obeyed, staring in silence at the horrible arm which still
clasped the great knife, while from beyond the panelling there came a
stifled groan, then a sound as of a heavy body stumbling away.

"Come," said Peter, "let us be going, unless we would stop here for
ever. That fellow will soon be back to seek his arm."

"Going! How?" asked Castell.

"There seems to be but one road, and that a rough one, through the
window and over the wall," answered Peter. "Ah! there they come; I
thought so." And as he spoke they heard the sound of men scrambling up
the ladder.

They ran to the window-place and looked out, but there seemed to be no
one below, and it was not more than twelve feet from the ground. Peter
helped Castell through it, then, holding his sound arm with both his
own, lowered him as far as he could, and let go. He dropped on to his
feet, fell to the ground, then rose again, unhurt. Peter was about to
follow him when he heard the chair tumble over again, and, looking
round, saw the trap-door open, to fall back with a crash. They had
cut the cord!

The figure of a man holding a knife appeared in the faint light,
followed by the head of another man. Now it was too late for him to get
through the window-place safely; if he attempted it he would be stabbed
in the back. So, grasping his sword with both hands, Peter leapt at that
man, aiming a great stroke at his shadowy mass. It fell upon him
somewhere, for down he went and lay quite still. By now the second man
had his knee upon the edge of flooring. Peter thrust him through, and he
sank backwards on to the heads of others who were following him,
sweeping the ladder with his weight, so that all of them tumbled in a
heap at its foot, save one who hung to the edge of the trap frame by his
hands. Peter slammed its door to, crushing them so that he loosed his
grip, with a howl. Then, as he had nothing else, he dragged the body of
the dead man on to it and left him there.

Next he rushed to the window, sheathing his sword as he ran, scrambled
through it, and, hanging by his arms, let himself drop, coming to the
ground safely, for he was very agile, and in the excitement of the fray
forgot the hurt to his head and shoulder.

"Where now?" asked Castell, as he stood by him panting.

"To the stable for the mules. No, it is useless; we have no time to
saddle them, and the outer gate is locked. The wall--the wall--we must
climb it! They will be after us in a minute."

They ran thither and found that, though ten feet high, fortunately this
wall was built of rough stone, which gave an easy foothold. Peter
scrambled up first, then, lying across its top, stretched down his hand
to Castell, and with difficulty--for the man was heavy and
crippled--dragged him to his side. Just then they heard a voice from
their garret shout:

"The English devils have gone! Get to the door and cut them off."

"Come on," said Peter. So together they climbed, or rather fell, down
the wall on to a mass of prickly-pear bush, which broke the shock but
tore them so sorely in a score of places that they could have shrieked
with the pain. Somehow they freed themselves, and, bleeding all over,
broke from that accursed bush, struggling up the bank of the ditch in
which it grew, ran for the road, and along it towards Granada.

Before they had gone a hundred yards they heard shoutings, and guessed
that they were being followed. Just here the road crossed a ravine full
of boulders and rough scrubby growth, whereas beyond it was bare and
open. Peter seized Castell and dragged him up this ravine till they came
to a place where, behind a great stone, there was a kind of hole, filled
with bushes and tall, dead grass, into which they plunged and hid
themselves.

"Draw your sword," he said to Castell. "If they find us, we will die as
well as we can."

He obeyed, holding it in his left hand.

They heard the robbers run along the road; then, seeing that they had
missed their victims, these returned again, five or six of them, and
fell to searching the ravine. But the light was very bad, for here the
rays of the moon did not penetrate, and they could find nothing.
Presently two of them halted within five paces of them and began to
talk, saying that the swine must still be hidden in the yard, or perhaps
had doubled back for Motril.

"I don't know where they are hidden," answered the other man; "but this
is a poor business. Fat Pedro's arm is cut clean off, and I expect he
will bleed to death, while two of the other fellows are dead or dying,
for that long-legged Englishman hits hard, to say nothing of those who
drank the drugged wine, and look as though they would never wake. Yes, a
poor business to get a few doubloons and please a priest, but oh! if I
had the hogs here I----" And he hissed out a horrible threat. "Meanwhile
we had best lie up at the mouth of this place in case they should still
be hidden here."

Peter heard him and listened. All the other men had gone, running back
along the road. His blood was up, and the thorn pricks stung him sorely.
Saying no word, out of his lair he came with that terrible sword of
his aloft.

The men caught sight of him, and gave a gasp of fear. It was the last
sound that one of them ever made. Then the other turned and ran like a
hare. This was he who had uttered the threat.

"Stop!" whispered Peter, as he overtook him--"stop, and do what you
promised."

The brute turned, and asked for mercy, but got none.

"It was needful," said Peter to Castell presently; "you heard--they were
going to wait for us."

"I do not think that they will try to murder any more Englishmen at that
inn," panted Castell, as he ran along beside him.



CHAPTER XIV

INEZ AND HER GARDEN

For two hours or more John Castell and Peter travelled on the Granada
road, running when it was smooth, walking when it was rough, and
stopping from time to time to get their breath and listen. But the night
was quite silent, no one seemed to be pursuing them. Evidently the
remaining cut-throats had either taken another way or, having their fill
of this adventure, wanted to see no more of Peter and his sword.

At length the dawn broke over the great misty plain, for now they were
crossing the _vega_. Then the sun rose and dispelled the vapours, and a
dozen miles or more away they saw Granada on its hill. They saw each
other also, and a sorry sight they were, torn by the sharp thorns, and
stained with blood from their scratches. Peter was bare-headed too, for
he had lost his cap, and almost beside himself now that the excitement
had left him, from lack of sleep, pain, and weariness. Moreover, as the
sun rose, it grew fearfully hot upon that plain, and its fierce rays,
striking full upon his head, seemed to stupefy him, so that at last they
were obliged to halt and weave a kind of hat out of corn and grasses,
which gave him so strange an appearance that some Moors, whom they met
going to their toil, thought that he must be a madman, and ran away.

Still they crawled forward, refreshing themselves with water whenever
they could find any in the irrigation ditches that these people used for
their crops, but covering little more than a mile an hour. Towards noon
the heat grew so dreadful that they were obliged to lie down to rest
under the shade of some palm-like trees, and here, absolutely outworn,
they sank into a kind of sleep.

They were awakened by a sound of voices, and staggered to their feet,
drawing their swords, for they thought that the thieves from the inn had
overtaken them. Instead of these ruffianly murderers, however, they saw
before them a body of eight Moors, beautifully mounted upon white
horses, and clad in turbans and flowing robes, the like of which Peter
had never yet beheld, who sat there regarding them gravely with their
quiet eyes, and, as it seemed, not without pity.

"Put up your swords, Senors," said the leader of these Moors in
excellent Spanish--indeed, he seemed to be a Spaniard dressed in Eastern
garments--"for we are many and fresh; and you are but two and wounded."

They obeyed, who could do nothing else.

"Now tell us, though there is little need to ask," went on the captain,
"you are those men of England who boarded the _San Antonio_ and escaped
when she was sinking, are you not?"

Castell nodded, then answered:

"We boarded her to seek----"

"Never mind what you sought," the captain answered; "the names of
exalted ladies should not be mentioned before strange men. But you have
been in trouble again since then, at the inn yonder, where this tall
senor bore himself very bravely. Oh! we have heard all the story, and
give him honour who can wield a sword so well in the dark."

"We thank you," said Castell, "but what is your business with us?"

"Senor, we are sent by our master, his Excellency, the high Lord and
Marquis of Morella, to find you and bring you to be his guests
at Granada."

"So the priest has told. I thought as much," muttered Peter.

"We pray you to come without trouble, as we do not wish to do any
violence to such gallant men," went on the captain. "Be pleased to mount
two of these horses, and ride with us."

"I am a merchant, with friends of my own at Granada," answered Castell.
"Cannot we go to them, who do not seek the hospitality of the marquis?"

"Senor, our orders are otherwise, and here the word of our master, the
marquis, is a law that may not be broken."

"I thought that Boabdil was king of Granada," said Castell.

"Without doubt he is king, Senor, and by the grace of Allah will remain
so, but the marquis is allied to him in blood; also, while the truce
lasts, he is a representative of their Majesties of Spain in our city,"
and, at a sign, two of the Moors dismounted and led forward their
horses, holding the stirrups, and offering to help them to the saddle.

"There is nothing for it," said Peter; "we must go." So, awkwardly
enough, for they were very stiff, they climbed on to the beasts and rode
away with their captors.

The sun was sinking now, for they had slept long, and by the time they
reached the gates of Granada the muezzins were calling to the sunset
prayer from the minarets of the mosques.

It was but a very dim and confused idea that Peter gathered of the great
city of the Moors, as, surrounded by their white-robed escort, he rode
he knew not whither. Narrow winding streets, white houses, shuttered
windows, crowds of courteous, somewhat silent people, all men, and all
clad in those same strange, flowing dresses, who looked at them
curiously, and murmured words which afterwards he came to learn meant
"Christian prisoners," or sometimes "Christian dogs"; fretted and
pointed arches, and a vast fairy-like building set upon a hill. He was
dazed with pain and fatigue as, a long-legged, blood-stained figure,
crowned with his quaint hat of grasses, he rode through that wondrous
and imperial place.

Yet no man laughed at him, absurd as he must have seemed; but perhaps
this was because under the grotesqueness of his appearance they
recognised something of his quality. Or they might have heard rumours of
his sword-play at the inn and on the ship. At any rate, their attitude
was that of courteous dislike of the Christian, mingled with respect for
the brave man in misfortune.

At length, after mounting a long rise, they came to a palace on a mount,
facing the vast, red-walled fortress which seemed to dominate the place,
which he afterwards knew as the Alhambra, but separated from it by a
valley. This palace was a very great building, set on three sides of a
square, and surrounded by gardens, wherein tall cypress-trees pointed to
the tender sky. They rode through the gardens and sundry gateways till
they came to a courtyard where servants, with torches in their hands,
ran out to meet them. Somebody helped him off his horse, somebody
supported him up a flight of marble steps, beneath which a fountain
splashed, into a great, cool room with an ornamented roof. Then Peter
remembered no more.

       *       *       *       *       *

A time went by, a long, long time--in fact it was nearly a month--before
Peter really opened his eyes to the world again. Not that he had been
insensible for all this while--that is, quite--for at intervals he had
become aware of that large, cool room, and of people talking about
him--especially of a dark-eyed, light-footed, and pretty woman with a
white wimple round her face, who appeared to be in charge of him.
Occasionally he thought that this must be Margaret, and yet knew that it
could not, for she was different. Also, he remembered that once or twice
he had seemed to see the haughty, handsome face of Morella bending over
him, as though he watched curiously to learn whether he would live or
not, and then had striven to rise to fight him, and been pressed back by
the soft, white hands of the woman that yet were so terribly strong.

Now, when he awoke at last, it was to see her sitting there with a ray
of sunlight from some upper window falling on her face, sitting with her
chin resting on her hand and her elbow on her knee, and contemplating
him with a pretty, puzzled look. She made a sweet picture thus, he
thought. Then he spoke to her in his slow Spanish, for somehow he knew
that she would not understand his own tongue.

"You are not Margaret," he said.

At once the dream went out of the woman's soft eyes; she became
intensely interested, and, rising, advanced towards him, a very gracious
figure, who seemed to sway as she walked.

"No, no," she said, bending over him and touching his forehead with her
taper fingers; "my name is Inez. You wander still, Senor."

"Inez what?" he asked.

"Inez only," she answered, "Inez, a woman of Granada, the rest is lost.
Inez, the nurse of sick men, Senor."

"Where then is Margaret--the English Margaret?"

A veil of secrecy seemed to fall over the woman's face, and her voice
changed as she answered, no longer ringing true, or so it struck his
senses made quick and subtle by the fires of fever:

"I know no English Margaret. Do you then love her--this English
Margaret?"

"Aye," he answered, "she was stolen from me; I have followed her from
far, and suffered much. Is she dead or living?"

"I have told you, Senor, I know nothing, although"--and again the voice
became natural--"it is true that I thought you loved somebody from your
talk in your illness."

Peter pondered a while, then he began to remember, and asked again:

"Where is Castell?"

"Castell? Was he your companion, the man with a hurt arm who looked like
a Jew? I do not know where he is. In another part of the city, perhaps.
I think that he was sent to his friends. Question me not of such
matters, who am but your sick-nurse. You have been very ill, Senor.
Look!" And she handed him a little mirror made of polished silver, then,
seeing that he was too weak to take it, held it before him.

Peter saw his face, and groaned, for, except the red scar upon his
cheek, it was ivory white and wasted to nothing.

"I am glad Margaret did not see me like this," he said, with an attempt
at a smile, "bearded too, and what a beard! Lady, how could you have
nursed one so hideous?"

"I have not found you hideous," she answered softly; "besides, that is
my trade. But you must not talk, you must rest. Drink this, and rest,"
and she gave him soup in a silver bowl, which he swallowed readily
enough, and went to sleep again.

Some days afterwards, when Peter was well on the road to convalescence,
his beautiful nurse came and sat by him, a look of pity in her tender,
Eastern eyes.

"What is it now, Inez?" he asked, noting her changed face.

"Senor Pedro, you spoke to me a while ago, when you woke up from your
long sleep, of a certain Margaret, did you not? Well, I have been
inquiring of this Dona Margaret, and have no good news to tell of her."

Peter set his teeth, and said:

"Go on, tell me the worst."

"This Margaret was travelling with the Marquis of Morella, was she
not?"

"She had been stolen by him," answered Peter.

"Alas! it may be so; but here in Spain, and especially here in Granada,
that will scarcely screen the name of one who has been known to travel
with the Marquis of Morella."

"So much the worse for the Marquis of Morella when I meet him again,"
answered Peter sternly. "What is your story, Nurse Inez?"

She looked with interest at his grim, thin face, but, as it seemed to
him, with no displeasure.

"A sad one. As I have told you, a sad one. It seems that the other day
this senora was found dead at the foot of the tallest tower of the
marquis's palace, though whether she fell from it, or was thrown from
it, none know."

Peter gasped, and was silent for a while; then asked:

"Did you see her dead?"

"No, Senor; others saw her."

"And told you to tell me? Nurse Inez, I do not believe your tale. If the
Dona Margaret, my betrothed, were dead I should know it; but my heart
tells me that she is alive."

"You have great faith, Senor," said the woman, with a note of admiration
in her voice which she could not suppress, but, as he observed, without
contradicting him.

"I have faith," he answered. "Nothing else is left; but so far it has
been a good crutch."

Peter made no further allusion to the subject, only presently he asked:

"Tell me, where am I?"

"In a prison, Senor."

"Oh! a prison, with a beautiful woman for jailer, and other beautiful
women"--and he pointed to a fair creature who had brought something into
the room--"as servants. A very fine prison also," and he looked about
him at the marbles and arches and lovely carving.

"There are men without the gate, not women," she replied, smiling.

"I daresay; captives can be tied with ropes of silk, can they not? Well,
whose is this prison?"

She shook her head.

"I do not know, Senor. The Moorish king's perhaps--you yourself have
said that I am only the jailer."

"Then who pays you?"

"Perhaps I am not paid, Senor; perhaps I work for love," and she glanced
at him swiftly, "or hate," and her face changed.

"Not hate of me, I think," said Peter.

"No, Senor, not hate of you. Why should I hate you who have been so
helpless and so courteous to me?" and she bent the knee to him a little.

"Why indeed? especially as I am also grateful to you who have nursed me
back to life. But then, why hide the truth from a helpless man?"

Inez glanced about her; the room was empty now. She bent over him and
whispered:

"Have you never been forced to hide the truth? No, I read it in your
face, and you are not a woman--an erring woman."

They looked into each other's eyes a while, then Peter asked: "Is the
Dona Margaret really dead?"

"I do not know," she answered; "I was told so." And as though she feared
lest she should betray herself, Inez turned and left him quickly.

The days went by, and through the slow degrees of convalescence Peter
grew strong again. But they brought him no added knowledge. He did not
know where he dwelt or why he was there. All he knew was that he lived a
prisoner in a sumptuous palace, or as he suspected, for of this he could
not be sure, since the arched windows of one side of the building were
walled up, in the wing of a palace. Nobody came near to him except the
fair Inez, and a Moor who either was deaf or could understand nothing
that he said to him in Spanish. There were other women about, it is
true, very pretty women all of them, who acted as servants, but none of
these were allowed to approach him; he only saw them at a distance.

Therefore Inez was his sole companion, and with her he grew very
intimate, to a certain extent, but no further. On the occasion that has
been described she had lifted a corner of her veil which hid her true
self, but a long while passed before she enlarged her confidence. The
veil was kept down very close indeed. Day by day he questioned her, and
day by day, without the slightest show of irritation, or even annoyance,
she parried his questions. They knew perfectly well that they were
matching their wits against each other; but as yet Inez had the best of
the game, which, indeed, she seemed to enjoy. He would talk to her also
of all sorts of things--the state of Spain, the Moorish court, the
danger that threatened Granada, whereof the great siege now drew near,
and so forth--and of these matters she would discourse most
intelligently, with the result that he learned much of the state of
politics in Castile and Granada, and greatly improved his knowledge of
the Spanish tongue.

But when of a sudden, as he did again and again, he sprang some question
on her about Morella, or Margaret, or John Castell, that same subtle
change would come over her face, and the same silence would seal
her lips.

"Senor," she said to him one day with a laugh, "you ask me of secrets
which I might reveal to you--perhaps--if you were my husband or my love,
but which you cannot expect a nurse, whose life hangs on it, to answer.
Not that I wish you to become my husband or my lover," she added, with a
little nervous laugh.

Peter looked at her with his grave eyes.

"I know that you do not wish that," he said, "for how could I attract
one so gay and beautiful as you are?"

"You seem to attract the English Margaret," she replied quickly in a
nettled voice.

"To have attracted, you mean, as you tell me that she is dead," he
answered; and, seeing her mistake, Inez bit her lip. "But," he went on,
"I was going to add, though it may have no value for you, that you have
attracted me as your true friend."

"Friend!" she said, opening her large eyes, "what talk is this? Can the
woman Inez find a friend in a man who is under sixty?"

"It would appear so," he answered. And again with that graceful little
curtsey of hers she went away, leaving him very puzzled. Two days
later she appeared in his room, evidently much disturbed.

"I thought that you had left me altogether, and I am glad to see you,
for I tire of that deaf Moor and of this fine room. I want fresh air."

"I know it," she answered; "so I have come to take you to walk in a
garden."

He leapt for joy at her words, and snatching at his sword, which had
been left to him, buckled it on.

"You will not need that," she said.

"I thought that I should not need it in yonder inn, but I did," he
answered. Whereat she laughed, then turned, put her hand upon his
shoulder and spoke to him earnestly.

"See, friend," she whispered, "you want to walk in the fresh air--do you
not?--and to learn certain things--and I wish to tell you them. But I
dare not do it here, where we may at any moment be surrounded by spies,
for these walls have ears indeed. Well, when we walk in that garden,
would it be too great a penance for you to put your arm about my
waist--you who still need support?"

"No penance at all, I assure you," answered Peter with something like a
smile. For after all he was a man, and young; while the waist of Inez
was as pretty as all the rest of her. "But," he added, "it might be
misunderstood."

"Quite so, I wish it to be misunderstood: not by me, who know that you
care nothing for me and would as soon place your arm round that
marble column."

Peter opened his lips to speak, but she stopped him at once.

"Oh! do not waste falsehoods on me, in which of a truth you have no
art," she said with evident irritation. "Why, if you had the money, you
would offer to pay me for my nursing, and who knows, I might take it!
Understand, you must either do this, seeming to play the lover to me, or
we cannot walk together in that garden."

Peter hesitated a little, guessing a plot, while she bent forward till
her lips almost touched his ear and said in a still lower voice:

"And I cannot tell you how, perhaps--I say perhaps--you may come to see
the remains of the Dona Margaret, and certain other matters. Ah!" she
added after a pause, with a little bitter laugh, "now you will kiss me
from one end of the garden to the other, will you not? Foolish man!
Doubt no more; take your chance, it may be the last."

"Of what? Kissing you? Or the other things?"

"That you will find out," she said, with a shrug of her shoulders.
"Come!"

Then, while he followed dubiously, she led him down the length of the
great room to a door with a spy-hole in the top of it, that was set in a
Moorish archway at the corner.

This door she opened, and there beyond it, a drawn scimitar in his hand,
stood a tall Moor on guard. Inez spoke a word to him, whereon he saluted
with his scimitar and let them pass across the landing to a turret stair
that lay beyond, which they descended. At its foot was another door,
whereon she knocked four times. Bolts shot back, keys turned, and it was
opened by a black porter, beyond whom stood a second Moor, also with
drawn sword. They passed him as they had passed the first, turned down a
little passage to the right, ending in some steps, and came to a third
door, in front of which she halted.

"Now," she said, "nerve yourself for the trial."

"What trial?" he asked, supporting himself against the wall, for he
found his legs still weak.

"This," she answered, pointing to her waist, "and these," and she
touched her rich, red lips with her taper finger-points. "Would you
like to practise a little, my innocent English knight, before we go out?
You look as though you might seem awkward and unconvincing."

"I think," answered Peter drily, for the humour of the situation moved
him, "that such practice is somewhat dangerous for me. It might annoy
you before I had done. I will postpone my happiness until we are in
the garden."

"I thought so," she answered; "but look now, you must play the part, or
I shall suffer, who am bearing much for you."

"I think that I may suffer also," he murmured, but not so low that she
did not catch his words.

"No, friend Pedro," she said, turning on him, "it is the woman who
suffers in this kind of farce. She pays; the man rides away to play
another," and without more ado she opened the door, which proved to be
unlocked and unguarded.

Beyond the foot of some steps lay a most lovely garden. Great, tapering
cypresses grew about it, with many orange-trees and flowering shrubs
that filled the soft, southern air with odours. Also there were marble
fountains into which water splashed from the mouths of carven lions, and
here and there arbours with stone seats, whereon were laid soft cushions
of many colours. It was a veritable place of Eastern delight and
dreams, such as Peter had never known before he looked upon it on that
languorous eve--he who had not seen the sky or flowers for so many weary
weeks of sickness. It was secluded also, being surrounded by a high
wall, but at one place the tall, windowless tower of some other building
of red stone soared up between and beyond two lofty cypress-trees.

"This is the harem garden," Inez whispered, "where many a painted
favourite has flitted for a few happy, summer hours, till winter came
and the butterfly was broken," and, as she spoke, she dropped her veil
over her face and began to descend the stairs.



CHAPTER XV

PETER PLAYS A PART

"Stop," said Peter from the shadow of the doorway, "I fear this
business, Inez, and I do not understand why it is needful. Why cannot
you say what you have to say here?"

"Are you mad?" she answered almost fiercely through her veil. "Do you
think that it can be any pleasure for me to seem to make love to a stone
shaped like a man, for whom I care nothing at all--except as a friend?"
she added quickly. "I tell you, Senor Peter, that if you do not do as I
tell you, you will never hear what I have to say, for I shall be held to
have failed in my business, and within a few minutes shall vanish from
you for ever--to my death perhaps; but what does that matter to you?
Choose now, and quickly, for I cannot stand thus for long."

"I obey you, God forgive me!" said the distraught Peter from the
darkness of the doorway; "but must I really----?"

"Yes, you must," she answered with energy, "and some would not think
that so great a penance."

Then she lifted the corner of her veil coyly and, peeping out beneath
it, called in a soft, clear voice, "Oh! forgive me, dear friend, if I
have run too fast for you, forgetting that you are still so very weak.
Here, lean upon me; I am frail, but it may serve." And she passed up the
steps again, to reappear in another moment with Peter's hand resting on
her shoulder.

"Be careful of these steps," she said, "they are so slippery"--a
statement to which Peter, whose pale face had grown suddenly red,
murmured a hearty assent. "Do not be afraid," she went on in her
flute-like voice; "this is the secret garden, where none can hear words,
however sweet, and none can see even a caress, no, not the most jealous
woman. That is why in old days it was called the Sultana's Chamber, for
there at the end of it was where she bathed in the summer season. What
say you of spies? Oh! yes, in the palace there are many, but to look
towards this place, even for the Guardian of the Women, was always
death. Here there are no witnesses, save the flowers and the birds."

As she spoke thus they reached the central path, and passed up it
slowly, Peter's hand still upon the shoulder of Inez, and her white arm
about him, while she looked up into his eyes.

"Bend closer over me," she whispered, "for truly your face is like that
of a wooden saint," and he bent. "Now," she went on, "listen. Your lady
lives, and is well--kiss me on the lips, please, that news is worth it.
If you shut your eyes you can imagine that I am she."

Again Peter obeyed, and with a better grace than might have been
expected.

"She is a prisoner in this same palace," she went on, "and the marquis,
who is mad for love of her, seeks by all means, fair or foul, to make
her his wife!"

"Curse him!" exclaimed Peter with another embrace.

"Till a few days ago she thought you dead; but now she knows that you
are alive and recovering. Her father, Castell, escaped from the place
where he was put, and is in hiding among his friends, the Jews, where
even Morella cannot find him; indeed, he believes him fled from the
city. But he is not fled, and, having much gold, has opened a door
between himself and his daughter."

Here she stopped to return the embrace with much warmth. Then they
passed under some trees, and came to the marble baths where the sultanas
were supposed to have bathed in summer, for this place had been one of
the palaces of the Kings of Granada before they lived in the Alhambra.
Here Inez sat down upon a seat and loosened some garment about her
throat, for the evening was very hot.

"What are you doing?" Peter asked doubtfully, for he was filled with
many fears.

"Cooling myself," she answered; "your arm was warm, and we may sit here
for a few minutes."

"Well, go on with your tale," he said.

"I have little more to say, friend, except that if you wish to send any
message, I might perhaps be able to take it."

"You are an angel," he exclaimed.

"That is another word for messenger, is it not? Continue."

"Tell her--that if she hears anything of all this business, it isn't
true."

"On that point she may form her own opinion," replied Inez demurely. "If
I were in her place I know what mine would be. Don't waste time; we
must soon begin to walk again."

Peter stared at her, for he could understand nothing of all this play.
Apparently she read his look, for she answered it in a quiet,
serious voice:

"You are wondering what everything means, and why I am doing what I do.
I will tell you, Senor, and you can believe me or not as you like.
Perhaps you think that I am in love with you. It would not be wonderful,
would it? Besides, in the old tales, that always happens--the lady who
nurses the Christian knight and worships him and so forth."

"I don't think anything of the sort; I am not so vain."

"I know it, Senor, you are too good a man to be vain. Well, I do all
these things, not for love of you, or any one, but for hate--for hate.
Yes, for hate of Morella," and she clenched her little hand, hissing the
words out between her teeth.

"I understand the feeling," said Peter. "But--but what has he done to
_you_?"

"Do not ask me, Senor. Enough that once I loved him--that accursed
priest Henriques sold me into his power--oh! a long while ago, and he
ruined me, making me what I am, and--I bore his child, and--and it is
dead. Oh! Mother of God, my boy is dead, and since then I have been an
outcast and his slave--they have slaves here in Granada, Senor--
dependent on him for my bread, forced to do his bidding, forced to wait
upon his other loves; I, who once was the sultana; I, of whom he has
wearied. Only to-day--but why should I tell you of it? Well, he has
driven me even to this, that I must kiss an unwilling stranger in a
garden," and she sobbed aloud.

"Poor girl!--poor girl!" said Peter, patting her hand kindly with his
thin fingers. "Henceforth I have another score against Morella, and I
will pay it too."

"Will you?" she asked quickly. "Ah! if so, I would die for you, who now
live only to be revenged upon him. And it shall be my first vengeance to
rob him of that noble-looking mistress of yours, whom he has stolen away
and has set his heart upon wholly, because she is the first woman who
ever resisted him--him, who thinks that he is invincible."

"Have you any plan?" asked Peter.

"As yet, none. The thing is very difficult. I go in danger of my life,
for if he thought that I betrayed him he would kill me like a rat, and
think no harm of it. Such things can be done in Granada without sin,
Senor, and no questions asked--at least if the victim be a woman of the
murderer's household. I have told you already that if I had refused to
do what I have done this evening I should certainly have been got rid of
in this way or that, and another set on at the work. No, I have no plan
yet, only it is I through whom the Senor Castell communicates with his
daughter, and I will see him again, and see her, and we will make some
plan. No, do not thank me. He pays me for my services, and I am glad to
take his money, who hope to escape from this hell and live on it
elsewhere. Yet, not for all the money in the world would I risk what I
am risking, though in truth it matters not to me whether I live or die.
Senor, I will not disguise it from you, all this scene will come to the
Dona Margaret's ears, but I will explain it to her."

"I pray you, do," said Peter earnestly--"explain it fully."

"I will--I will. I will work for you and her and her father, and if I
cease to work, know that I am dead or in a dungeon, and fend for
yourselves as best you may. One thing I can tell you for your
comfort--no harm has been done to this lady of yours. Morella loves her
too well for that. He wishes to make her his wife. Or perhaps he has
sworn some oath, as I know that he has sworn that he will not murder
you--which he might have done a score of times while you have lain a
prisoner in his power. Why, once when you were senseless he came and
stood over you, a dagger in his hand, and reasoned out the case with me.
I said, 'Why do you not kill him?' knowing that thus I could best help
to save your life. He answered, 'Because I will not take my wife with
her lover's blood upon my hands, unless I slay him in fair fight. I
swore it yonder in London. It was the offering which I made to God and
to my patron saint that so I might win her fairly, and if I break that
oath, God will be avenged upon me here and hereafter. Do my bidding,
Inez. Nurse him well, so that if he dies, he dies without sin of mine,'
No, he will not murder you or harm her. Friend Pedro, he dare not."

"Can you think of nothing?" asked Peter.

"Nothing--as yet nothing. These walls are high, guards watch them day
and night, and outside is the great city of Granada where Morella has
much power, and whence no Christian may escape. But he would marry her.
And there is that handsome fool-woman, her servant, who is in love with
him--oh! she told me all about it in the worst Spanish I ever heard, but
the story is too long to repeat; and the priest, Father Henriques--he
who wished that you might be killed at the inn, and who loves money so
much. Ah! now I think I see some light. But we have no more time to
talk, and I must have time to think. Friend Pedro, make ready your
kisses, we must go on with our game, and, in truth, you play but badly.
Come now, your arm. There is a seat prepared for us yonder. Smile and
look loving. I have not art enough for both. Come!--come!" And together
they walked out of the dense shadow of the trees and past the marble
bath of the sultanas to a certain seat beneath a bower on which were
cushions, and lying among them a lute.

"Seat yourself at my feet," she said, as she sank on to the bench. "Can
you sing?"

"No more than a crow," he answered.

"Then I must sing to you. Well, it will be better than the love-making."
Then in a very sweet voice she began to warble amorous Moorish ditties
that she accompanied upon the lute, whilst Peter, who was weary in body
and disturbed in mind, played a lover's part to the best of his ability,
and by degrees the darkness gathered.

At length, when they could no longer see across the garden, Inez ceased
singing and rose with a sigh.

"The play is finished and the curtain down," she said; "also it is time
that you went in out of this damp. Senor Pedro, you are a very bad
actor; but let us pray that the audience was compassionate, and took the
will for the deed."

"I did not see any audience," answered Peter.

"But it saw you, as I dare say you will find out by-and-by. Follow me
now back to your room, for I must be going about your business--and my
own. Have you any message for the Senor Castell?"

"None, save my love and duty. Tell him that, thanks to you, although
still somewhat feeble, I am recovered of my hurt upon the ship and the
fever which I took from the sun, and that if he can make any plan to get
us all out of this accursed city and the grip of Morella I will bless
his name and yours."

"Good, I will not forget. Now be silent. Tomorrow we will walk here
again; but be not afraid, then there will be no more need for
love-making."

Margaret sat by the open window-place of her beautiful chamber in
Morella's palace. She was splendidly arrayed in a rich, Spanish dress,
whereof the collar was stiff with pearls, she who must wear what it
pleased her captor to give her. Her long tresses, fastened with a
jewelled band, flowed down about her shoulders, and, her hand resting on
her knee, from her high tower prison she gazed out across the valley at
the dim and mighty mass of the Alhambra and the ten thousand lights of
Granada which sparkled far below. Near to her, seated beneath a silver
hanging-lamp, and also clad in rich array, was Betty.

"What is it, Cousin?" asked the girl, looking at her anxiously. "At
least you should be happier than you were, for now you know that Peter
is not dead, but almost recovered from his sickness and in this very
palace; also, that your father is well and hidden away, plotting for our
escape. Why, then, are you so sad, who should be more joyful than
you were?"

"Would you learn, Betty? Then I will tell you. I am betrayed. Peter
Brome, the man whom I looked upon almost as my husband, is false
to me."

"Master Peter false!" exclaimed Betty, staring at her open-mouthed. "No,
it is not possible. I know him; he could not be, who will not even look
at another woman, if that is what you mean."

"You say so. Then, Betty, listen and judge. You remember this afternoon,
when the marquis took us to see the wonders of this palace, and I went
thinking that perhaps I might find some path by which afterwards we
could escape?"

"Of course I remember, Margaret. We do not leave this cage so often that
I am likely to forget."

"Then you will remember also that high-walled garden in which we walked,
where the great tower is, and how the marquis and that hateful priest
Father Henriques and I went up the tower to study the prospect from its
roof, I thinking that you were following me."

"The waiting-women would not let me," said Betty. "So soon as you had
passed in they shut the door and told me to bide where I was till you
returned. I went near to pulling the hair out of the head of one of them
over it, since I was afraid for you alone with those two men. But she
drew her knife, the cat, and I had none."

"You must be careful, Betty," said Margaret, "lest some of these heathen
folk should do you a mischief."

"Not they," she answered; "they are afraid of me. Why, the other day I
bundled one of them, whom I found listening at the door, head first down
the stairs. She complained to the marquis, but he only laughed at her,
and now she lies abed with a plaster on her nose. But tell me
your tale."

"We climbed the tower," said Margaret, "and from its topmost room looked
out through the windows that face south at all the mountains and the
plain over which they dragged us from Motril. Presently the priest, who
had gone to the north wall, in which there are no windows, and entered
some recess there, came out with an evil smile upon his face, and
whispered something to the marquis, who turned to me and said:

"'The father tells me of an even prettier scene which we can view
yonder. Come, Senora, and look.'

"So I went, who wished to learn all that I could of the building. They
led me into a little chamber cut in the thickness of the stone-work, in
the wall of which are slits like loop-holes for the shooting of arrows,
wide within, but very narrow without, so that I think they cannot be
seen from below, hidden as they are between the rough stones of
the tower.

"'This is the place,' said the marquis, 'where in the old days the kings
of Granada, who were always jealous, used to sit to watch their women in
the secret garden. It is told that thus one of them discovered his
sultana making love to an astrologer, and drowned them both in the
marble bath at the end of the garden. Look now, beneath us walk a couple
who do not guess that we are the witnesses of their vows.'

"So I looked idly enough to pass the time, and there I saw a tall man in
a Moorish dress, and with him, for their arms were about each other, a
woman. As I was turning my head away who did not wish to spy upon them
thus, the woman lifted her face to kiss the man, and I knew her for that
beautiful Inez who has visited us here at times, as a spy I think.
Presently, too, the man, after paying her back her embrace, glanced
about him guiltily, and I saw his face also, and knew it."

"Who was it?" asked Betty, for this gossip of lovers interested her.

"Peter Brome, no other," Margaret answered calmly, but with a note of
despair in her voice. "Peter Brome, pale with recent sickness, but no
other man."

"The saints save us! I did not think he had it in him!" gasped Betty
with astonishment.

"They would not let me go," went on Margaret; "they forced me to see it
all. The pair tarried for a while beneath some trees by the bath and
were hidden there. Then they came out again and sat them down upon a
marble seat, while the woman sang songs and the man leaned against her
lovingly. So it went on until the darkness fell, and we went, leaving
them there. Now," she added, with a little sob, "what say you?"

"I say," answered Betty, "that it was not Master Peter, who has no
liking for strange ladies and secret gardens."

"It was he, and no other man, Betty."

"Then, Cousin, he was drugged or drunk or bewitched, not the Peter whom
we know."

"Bewitched, perchance, by that bad woman, which is no excuse for him."

Betty thought a while. She could not doubt the evidence, but from her
face it was clear that she took no severe view of the offence.

"Well, at the worst," she said, "men, as I have known them, are men. He
has been shut up for a long while with that minx, who is very fair and
witching, and it was scarcely right to watch him through a slit in a
tower. If he were my lover, I should say nothing about it."

"I will say nothing to him about that or any other matter," replied
Margaret sternly. "I have done with Peter Brome."

Again Betty thought, and spoke.

"I seem to see a trick. Cousin Margaret, they told you he was dead, did
they not? And then that news came to us that he was not dead, only sick,
and here. So the lie failed. Now they tell you, and seem to show you,
that he is faithless. May not all this have been some part played for a
purpose by the woman?"

"It takes two to play such parts, Betty. If you had seen----"

"If I had seen, _I_ should have known whether it was but a part or love
made in good earnest; but you are too innocent to judge. What said the
marquis all this while, and the priest?"

"Little or nothing, only smiled at each other, and at length, when it
grew dark and we could see no more, asked me if I did not think that it
was time to go--me! whom they had kept there all that while to be the
witness of my own shame."

"Yes, they kept you there--did they not?--and brought you there just at
the right time--did they not?--and shut me out of the tower so that I
might not be with you--oh! and all the rest. Now, if you have any
justice in you, Cousin, you will hear Peter's side of this story before
you judge him."

"I have judged him," answered Margaret coldly, "and, oh! I wish that I
were dead."

Margaret rose from her seat and, stepping to the window-place in the
tower which was built upon the edge of a hill, searched the giddy depth
beneath with her eyes, where, two hundred feet below, the white line of
a roadway showed faintly in the moonlight.

"It would be easy, would it not," she said, with a strained laugh, "just
to lean out a little too far upon this stone, and then one swift rush
and darkness--or light--for ever--which, I wonder?"

"Light, I think," said Betty, jerking her back from the window--"the
light of hell fire, and plenty of it, for that would be self-murder,
nothing else, and besides, what would one look like on that road?
Cousin, don't be a fool. If you are right, it isn't you who ought to go
out of that window; and if you are wrong, then you would only make a bad
business worse. Time enough to die when one must, say I--which, perhaps,
will be soon enough. Meanwhile, if I were you, I would try to speak to
Master Peter first, if only to let him know what I thought of him."

"Mayhap," answered Margaret, sinking back into a chair, "but I
suffer--how can you know what I suffer?"

"Why should I not know?" asked Betty. "Are you the only woman in the
world who has been fool enough to fall in love? Can I not be as much in
love as you are? You smile, and think to yourself that the poor
relation, Betty, cannot feel like her rich cousin. But I do--I do. I
know that he is a villain, but I love this marquis as much as you hate
him, or as much as you love Peter, because I can't help myself; it is my
luck, that's all. But I am not going to throw myself out of a window; I
would rather throw him out and square our reckoning, and that I swear
I'll do, in this way or the other, even if it should cost me what I
don't want to lose--my life," And Betty drew herself up beneath the
silver lamp with a look upon her handsome, determined face, which was so
like Margaret's and yet so different, that, could he have seen it, might
well have made Morella regret that he had chosen this woman for a tool.

While Margaret studied her wonderingly she heard a sound, and glanced up
to see, standing before them, none other than the beautiful Spaniard, or
Moor, for she knew not which she was, Inez, that same woman whom, from
her hiding-place in the tower, she had watched with Peter in the garden.

"How did you come here?" she asked coldly.

"Through the door, Senora, that was left unlocked, which is not wise of
those who wish to talk privately in such a place as this," she answered
with a humble curtsey.

"The door is still unlocked," said Margaret, pointing towards it.

"Nay, Senora, you are mistaken; here is its key in my hand. I pray you
do not tell your lady to put me out, which, being so strong, she well
can do, for I have words to say to you, and if you are wise you will
listen to them."

Margaret thought a moment, then answered:

"Say on, and be brief."



CHAPTER XVI

BETTY SHOWS HER TEETH

"Senora," said Inez, "you think that you have something against me."

"No," answered Margaret, "you are--what you are; why should I blame
you?"

"Well, against the Senor Brome then?"

"Perhaps, but that is between me and him. I will not discuss it with
you."

"Senora," went on Inez, with a slow smile, "we are both innocent of what
you thought you saw."

"Indeed; then who is guilty?"

"The Marquis of Morella."

Margaret made no answer, but her eyes said much.

"Senora, you do not believe me, nor is it wonderful. Yet I speak the
truth. What you saw from the tower was a play in which the Senor Brome
took his part badly enough, as you may have noticed, because I told him
that my life hung on it. I have nursed him through a sore sickness,
Senora, and he is not ungrateful."

"So I judged; but I do not understand you."

"Senora, I am a slave in this house, a discarded slave. Perhaps you can
guess the rest, it is a common story here. I was offered my freedom at a
price, that I should weave myself into this man's heart, I who am held
fair, and make him my lover. If I failed, then perhaps I should be sold
as a slave--perhaps worse. I accepted--why should I not? It was a small
thing to me. On the one hand, life, freedom, and wealth, an hidalgo of
good blood and a gallant friend for a little while, and, on the other,
the last shame or blackness which doubtless await me now--if I am found
out. Senora, I failed, who in truth did not try hard to succeed. The man
looked on me as his nurse, no more, and to me he was one very sick, no
more. Also, we grew to be true friends, and in this way or in that I
learned all his story, learned also why the trap was baited thus--that
you might be deceived and fall into a deeper trap. Senora, I could not
explain it all to him, indeed, in that chamber where we were spied on, I
had but little chance. Still, it was necessary that he should seem to be
what he is not, so I took him into the garden and, knowing well who
watched us, made him act his part, well enough to deceive you it
would seem."

"Still I do not understand," said Margaret more softly. "You say that
your life or welfare hung on this shameful business. Then why do you
reveal it to me now?"

"To save you from yourself, Senora, to save my friend the Senor Brome,
and to pay back Morella in his own coin."

"How will you do these things?"

"The first two are done, I think, but the third is difficult. It is of
that I come to speak with you, at great risk. Indeed, had not my master
been summoned to the court of the Moorish king I could not have come,
and he may return at any time."

"Have you some plan?" asked Margaret, leaning towards her eagerly.

"No plan as yet, only an idea." She turned and looked at Betty, adding,

"This lady is your cousin, is she not, though of a different station,
and somewhat far away?"

Margaret nodded.

"You are not unlike," went on Inez, "of much the same height and shape,
although the Senora Betty is stronger built, and her eyes are blue and
her hair golden, whereas your eyes are black and your hair chestnut.
Beneath a veil, or at night, it would not be easy to tell you apart if
your hands were gloved and neither of you spoke above a whisper."

"Yes," said Margaret, "what then?"

"Now the Senora Betty comes into the play," replied Inez. "Senora Betty,
have you understood our talk?"

"Something, not quite all," answered Betty.

"Then what you do not understand your lady must interpret, and be not
angry with me, I pray you, if I seem to know more of you and your
affairs than you have ever told me. Render my words now, Dona Margaret."

Then, after this was done, and she had thought awhile, Inez continued
slowly, Margaret translating from Spanish into English whenever Betty
could not understand:

"Morella made love to you in England, Senora Betty--did he not?--and won
your heart as he has won that of many another woman, so that you came to
believe that he was carrying you off to marry you, and not your cousin?"

"What affair is that of yours, woman?" asked Betty, flushing angrily.

"None at all, save that I could tell much such another story, if you
cared to listen. But hear me out, and then answer me a question, or
rather, answer the question first. Would you like to be avenged upon
this high-born knave?"

"Avenged?" answered Betty, clenching her hands and hissing the words
through her firm, white teeth. "I would risk my life for it."

"As I do. It seems that we are of one mind there. Then I think that
perhaps I can show you a way. Look now, your cousin has seen certain
things which women placed as she is do not like to see. She is jealous,
she is angry--or was until I told her the truth. Well, to-night or
to-morrow, Morella will come to her and say, 'Are you satisfied? Do you
still refuse me in favour of a man who yields his heart to the first
light-of-love who tempts him? Will you not be my wife?' What if she
answer, 'Yes, I will.' Nay, be silent both of you, and hear me out. What
if then there should be a secret marriage, _and the Senora Betty should
chance to wear the bride's veil_, while the Dona Margaret, in the robe
of Betty, was let go with the Senor Brome and her father?"

Inez paused, watching them both, and playing with the fan she held,
while, the rendering of her words finished, Margaret and Betty stared at
her and at each other, for the audacity and fearfulness of this plot
took their breath away. It was Margaret who spoke the first.

"You must not do it, Betty," she said. "Why, when the man found you out,
he would kill you." But Betty took no heed of her, and thought on. At
length she looked up and answered:

"Cousin, it was my vain folly that brought you all into this trouble,
therefore I owe something to you, do I not? I am not afraid of the
man--he is afraid of me; and if it came to killing--why, let Inez lend
me that knife of hers, and I think that perhaps I should give the first
blow. And--well, I think I love him, rascal though he is, and,
afterwards, perhaps we might make it up, who can say?--while, if not----
But tell me, you, Inez, should I be his legal wife according to the law
of this land?"

"Assuredly," answered Inez, "if a priest married you and he placed the
ring upon your hand and named you wife. Then, when once the words of
blessing have been said, the Pope alone can loose that knot, which may
be risked, for there would be much to explain, and is this a tale that
Morella, a good servant of the Church, would care to take to Rome?"

"It would be a trick," broke in Margaret--"a very ugly trick."

"And what was it he played on me and you?" asked Betty. "Nay, I'll
chance it, and his rage, if only I can be sure that you and Peter will
go free, and your father with you."

"But what of this Inez?" asked Margaret, bewildered.

"She will look after herself," answered Inez. "Perchance, if all goes
well, you will let me ride with you. And now I dare stop no longer, I go
to see your father, the Senor Castell, and if anything can be arranged,
we will talk again. Meanwhile, Dona Margaret, your affianced is nearly
well again at last and sends his heart's love to you, and, I counsel
you, when Morella speaks turn a gentle ear to him."

Then with another deep curtsey she glided to the door, unlocked it, and
left the room.

       *       *       *       *       *

An hour later Inez was being led by an old Jew, dressed in a Moslem robe
and turban, through one of the most tortuous and crowded parts of
Granada. It would seem that this Jew was known there, for his
appearance, accompanied by a veiled woman, apparently caused no surprise
to those followers of the Prophet that he met, some of whom, indeed,
saluted him with humility.

"These children of Mahomet seem to love you, Father Israel," said Inez.

"Yes, yes, my dear," answered the old fellow with a chuckle; "they owe
me money, that is why, and I am getting it in before the great war comes
with the Spaniards, so they would sweep the streets for me with their
beards--all of which is very good for the plans of our friend yonder.
Ah! he who has crowns in his pocket can put a crown upon his head; there
is nothing that money will not do in Granada. Give me enough of it, and
I will buy his sultana from the king."

"This Castell has plenty?" asked Inez shortly.

"Plenty, and more credit. He is one of the richest men in England. But
why do you ask? He would not think of you, who is too troubled about
other things."

Inez only laughed bitterly, but did not resent the words. Why should
she? It was not worth while.

"I know," she answered, "but I mean to earn some of it all the same,
and I want to be sure that there is enough for all of us."

"There is enough, I have told you there is enough and to spare,"
answered the Hebrew Israel as he tapped on a door in a
dirty-looking wall.

It opened as though by magic, and they crossed a paved patio, or
courtyard, to a house beyond, a tumble-down place of Moorish
architecture.

"Our friend Castell, being in seclusion just now, has hired the cellar
floor," said Israel with a chuckle to Inez, "so be pleased to follow me,
and take care of the rats and beetles."

Then he led her down a rickety stair which opened out of the courtyard
into vaults filled with vats of wine, and, having lit a taper, through
these, shutting and locking sundry doors behind him, to what appeared to
be a very damp wall covered with cobwebs, and situated in a dark corner
of a wine-cave. Here he stopped and tapped again in his peculiar
fashion, whereon a portion of the wall turned outwards on a pivot,
leaving an opening through which they could pass.

"Well managed, isn't it?" chuckled Israel. "Who would think of looking
for an entrance here, especially if he owed the old Jew money? Come in,
my pretty, come in."

Inez followed him into this darksome hole, and the wall closed behind
them. Then, taking her by the arm, he turned first to the right, next to
the left, opened a door with a key which he carried, and, behold, they
stood in a beautifully furnished room well lighted with lamps, for it
seemed to have no windows. "Wait here," he said to Inez, pointing to a
couch on which she sat herself down, "while I fetch my lodger," and he
vanished through some curtains at the end of the room.

Presently these opened again, and Israel reappeared through them with
Castell, dressed now in Moorish robes, and looking somewhat pale from
his confinement underground, but otherwise well enough. Inez rose and
stood before him, throwing back her veil that he might see her face.
Castell searched her for a while with his keen eyes that noted
everything, then said:

"You are the lady with whom I have been in communication through our
friend here, are you not? Prove it to me now by repeating my messages."

Inez obeyed, telling him everything.

"That is right," he said, "but how do I know that I can trust you? I
understand you are, or have been, the lover of this man Morella, and
such an one he might well employ as a spy to bring us all to ruin."

"Is it not too late to ask such questions, Senor? If I am not to be
trusted, already you and your people are in the hollow of my hand?"

"Not at all, not at all, my dear," said Israel. "If we see the slightest
cause to doubt you, why, there are many great vats in this place, one of
which, at a pinch, would serve you as a coffin, though it would be a
pity to spoil the good wine."

Inez laughed as she answered:

"Save your wine, and your time too. Morella has cast me off, and I hate
him, and wish to escape from him and rob him of his prize. Also, I
desire money to live on afterwards, and this you must give to me or I
do not stir, or rather the promise of it, for you Jews keep your word,
and I do not ask a maravedi from you until I have played my part."

"And then how many maravedis do you ask, young woman?"

Inez named a sum, at the mention of which both of them opened their
eyes, and old Israel exclaimed drily:

"Surely--surely you must be one of us."

"No," she answered, "but I try to follow your example, and, if I am to
live at all, it shall be in comfort."

"Quite so," said Castell, "we understand. But now tell us, what do you
propose to do for this money?"

"I propose to set you, your daughter, the Dona Margaret, and her lover,
the Senor Brome, safe and free outside the walls of Granada, and to
leave the Marquis of Morella married to another woman."

"What other woman? Yourself?" asked Castell, fixing on this last point
in the programme.

"No, Senor, not for all the wealth of both of you. To your dependent and
your daughter's relative, the handsome Betty."

"How will you manage that?" exclaimed Castell, amazed.

"These cousins are not unlike, Senor, although the link of blood between
them is so thin. Listen now, I will tell you." And she explained the
outlines of her plan.

"A bold scheme enough," said Castell, when she had finished, "but even
if it can be done, would that marriage hold?"

"I think so," answered Inez, "if the priest knew--and he could be
bribed--and the bride knows. But if not, what would it matter, since
Rome alone can decide the question, and long before that is done the
fates of all of us will be settled."

"Rome--or death," said Castell; and Inez read what he was afraid of in
his eyes.

"Your Betty takes her chance," she replied slowly, "as many a one has
done before her with less cause. She is a woman with a mind as strong as
her body. Morella made her love him and promised to marry her. Then he
used her to steal your daughter, and she learned that she had been no
more than a stalking-heifer, from behind which he would net the white
swan. Do you not think, therefore, that she has something to pay him
back, she through whom her beloved mistress and cousin has been brought
into all this trouble? If she wins, she becomes the wife of a grandee of
Spain, a marchioness; and if she loses, well, she has had her fling for
a high stake, and perhaps her revenge. At least she is willing to take
her chance, and, meanwhile, all of you can be gone."

Castell looked doubtfully at the Jew Israel, who stroked his white beard
and said:

"Let the woman set out her scheme. At any rate she is no fool, and it is
worth our hearing, though I fear that at the best it must be costly."

"I can pay," said Castell, and motioned to Inez to proceed.

As yet, however, she had not much more to say, save that they must have
good horses at hand, and send a messenger to Seville, whither the
_Margaret_ had been ordered to proceed, bidding her captain hold his
ship ready to sail at any hour, should they succeed in reaching him.

These things, then, they arranged, and a while later Inez and Israel
departed, the former carrying with her a bag of gold.

That same night Inez sought the priest, Henriques of Motril, in that
hall of Morella's palace which was used as a private chapel, saying that
she desired to speak with him under pretence of making confession, for
they were old friends--or rather enemies.

As it chanced she found the holy father in a very ill humour. It
appeared that Morella also was in a bad humour with Henriques, having
heard that it was he who had possessed himself of the jewels in his
strong-box on the _San Antonio_. Now he insisted upon his surrendering
everything, and swore, moreover, that he would hold him responsible for
all that his people had stolen from the ship, and this because he said
that it was his fault that Peter Brome had escaped the sea and come on
to Granada.

"So, Father," said Inez, "you, who thought yourself rich, are poor
again."

"Yes, my daughter, and that is what chances to those who put their faith
in princes. I have served this marquis well for many years--to my soul's
hurt, I fear me--hoping that he who stands so high in the favour of the
Church would advance me to some great preferment. But instead, what does
he do? He robs me of a few trinkets that, had I not found them, the sea
would have swallowed or some thief would have taken, and declares me his
debtor for the rest, of which I know nothing."

"What preferment did you want, Father? I see that you have one in your
mind."

"Daughter, a friend had written to me from Seville that if I have a
hundred gold doubloons to pay for it, he can secure me the place of a
secretary in the Holy Office where I served before as a familiar until
the marquis made me his chaplain, and gave the benefice of Motril, which
proved worth nothing, and many promises that are worth less. Now those
trinkets would fetch thirty, and I have saved twenty, and came here to
borrow the other fifty from the marquis, to whom I have done so many
good turns--as _you_ know well, Inez. You see the end of that quest,"
and he groaned angrily.

"It is a pity," said Inez thoughtfully, "since those who serve the
Inquisition save many souls, do they not, including their own? For
instance," she added, and the priest winced at the words, "I remember
that they saved the soul of my own sister and would have saved mine, had
I been--what shall I say?--more--more prejudiced. Also, they get a
percentage of the goods of wicked heretics, and so become rich and able
to advance themselves."

"That is so, Inez. It was the chance of a lifetime, especially to one
who, like myself, hates heretics. But why speak of it now when that
cursed, dissolute marquis----" and he checked himself.

Inez looked at him.

"Father," she asked, "if I happen to be able to find you those hundred
gold doubloons, would you do something for me?"

The priest's foxy face lit up.

"I wonder what there is that I would not do, my daughter!"

"Even if it brought you into a quarrel with the marquis?

"Once I was a secretary to the Inquisition of Seville, he would have
more reason to fear me than I him. Aye, and fear me he should, who bear
him no love," answered the priest with a snarl.

"Then listen, Father. I have not made my confession yet; I have not told
you, for instance, that I also hate this marquis, and with good
cause--though perhaps you know that already. But remember that if you
betray me, you will never see those hundred gold doubloons, and some
other holy priest will be appointed secretary at Seville. Also worse
things may happen to you."

"Proceed, my daughter," he said unctuously; "are we not in the
confessional--or near it?"

So she told him all the plot, trusting to the man's avarice and other
matters to protect her, for Inez hated Fray Henriques bitterly, and knew
him from the crown of his shaven head to the soles of his erring feet,
as she had good cause to do. Only she did not tell him whence the money
was to come.

"That does not seem a very difficult matter," he said, when she had
finished. "If a man and a woman, unwed and outside the prohibited
degrees, appear before me to be married, I marry them, and once the ring
has passed and the office is said, married they are till death or the
Pope part them."

"And suppose that the man thinks he is marrying another woman, Father?"

The priest shrugged his shoulders.

"He should know whom he is marrying; that is his affair, not the
Church's or mine. The names need not be spoken too loudly, my daughter."

"But you would give me a writing of the marriage with them set out
plain?"

"Certainly. To you or to anybody else; why should I not?--that is, if I
were sure of this wedding fee."

Inez lifted her hand, and showed beneath it a little pile of ten
doubloons.

"Take them, Father," she said; "they will not be counted in the
contract. There are others where they came from, whereof twenty will be
paid before the marriage, and eighty when I have that writing
at Seville."

He swept up the coins and pocketed them, saying:

"I will trust you, Inez."

"Yes," she answered as she left him, "we must trust each other now--must
we not?--seeing that you have the money, and both our necks are in the
same noose. Be here, Father, to-morrow at the same time, in case I have
more confessions to make, for, alas! this is a sinful world, as you
should know very well."



CHAPTER XVII

THE PLOT

On the morning following these conversations, just after Margaret and
Betty had breakfasted, Inez appeared, and, as before, locked the door
behind her.

"Senoras," she said calmly, "I have arranged that little business of
which I spoke to you yesterday, or at least the first act of the play,
since it remains for you to write the rest. Now I am sent to say that
the noble Marquis of Morella craves leave to see you, Dona Margaret, and
within an hour. So there is no time to lose."

"Tell us what you have done, Inez?" said Margaret.

"I have seen your worshipful father, Dona Margaret; here is the token of
it, which you will do well to destroy when you have read." And she
handed her a slip of paper, whereon was written in her father's writing,
and in English:

"BELOVED DAUGHTER,

"This messenger, who I think may be trusted by you, has made
arrangements with me which she will explain. I approve, though the risk
is great. Your cousin is a brave girl, but, understand, I do not force
her to this dangerous enterprise. She must choose her own road, only I
promise that if she escapes and we live I will not forget her deed. The
messenger will bring me your answer. God be with us all, and farewell.

"J.C."

Margaret read this letter first to herself and then aloud to Betty, and,
having read, tore it into tiny fragments and threw them from the
turret window.

"Speak now," she said; and Inez told her everything.

"Can you trust the priest?" asked Margaret, when she had finished.

"He is a great villain, as I have reason to know; still, I think I can,"
she answered, "while the cabbage is in front of the donkey's nose--I
mean until he has got all the money. Also, he has committed himself by
taking some on account. But before we go further, the question is--does
this lady play?" and she pointed to Betty.

"Yes, I play," said Betty, when she understood everything. "I won't go
back upon my word; there is too much at stake. It is an ugly business
for me, I know well enough, but," she added slowly, setting her firm
mouth, "I have debts to pay all round, and I am no Spanish putty to be
squeezed flat--like some people," and she glanced at the humble-looking
Inez. "So, before all is done, it may be uglier for him."

When she had mastered the meaning of this speech the soft-voiced Inez
lifted her gentle eyes in admiration, and murmured a Spanish proverb as
to what is supposed to occur when Satan encounters Beelzebub in a
high-walled lane. Then, being a lady of resource and experience, the
plot having been finally decided upon, not altogether with Margaret's
approval, who feared for Betty's fate when it should be discovered, Inez
began to instruct them both in various practical expedients, by means of
which the undoubted general resemblance of these cousins might be
heightened and their differences toned down. To this end she promised to
furnish them with certain hair-washes, pigments, and articles
of apparel.

"It is of small use," said Betty, glancing first at herself and then at
the lovely Margaret, "for even if they change skins, who can make the
calf look like the fawn, though they chance to feed in the same meadow?
Still, bring your stuffs and I will do my best; but I think that a thick
veil and a shut mouth will help me more than any of them, also a long
gown to hide my feet."

"Surely they are charming feet," said Inez politely, adding to herself,
"to carry you whither you wish to go." Then she turned to Margaret and
reminded her that the marquis desired to see her, and waited for
her answer.

"I will not meet him alone," said Margaret decidedly.

"That is awkward," answered Inez, "as I think he has words to say to you
which he does not wish others to hear, especially the senora yonder,"
and she nodded towards Betty.

"I will not meet him alone," repeated Margaret.

"Yet, if things are to go forward as we have arranged, you must meet
him, Dona Margaret, and give him that answer which he desires. Well, I
think it can be arranged. The court below is large. Now, while you and
the marquis talk at one end of it, the Senora Betty and I might walk out
of earshot at the other. She needs more instruction in our Spanish
tongue; it would be a good opportunity to begin our lessons."

"But what am I to say to him?" asked Margaret nervously.

"I think," answered Inez, "that you must copy the example of that
wonderful actor, the Senor Peter, and play a part as well as you saw him
do, or even better, if possible."

"It must be a very different part then," replied Margaret, stiffening
visibly at certain recollections.

The gentle Inez smiled as she said:

"Yes, but surely you can seem jealous, for that is natural to us all,
and you can yield by degrees, and you can make a bargain as the price of
yourself in marriage."

"What exact bargain should I make?"

"I think that you shall be securely wed by a priest of your own Church,
and that letters, signed by that priest and announcing the marriage,
shall be delivered to the Archbishop of Seville, and to their Majesties
King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Also, of course, you must arrange
that the Senor Brome and your father, the Senor Castell, and your cousin
Betty here shall be escorted safe out of Granada before your marriage,
and that you shall see them pass through the gate beneath your turret
window, swearing that thereafter, at nightfall of the same day, you will
suffer the priest to do his office and make you Morella's wife. By that
time they should be well upon their road, and, after the rite is
celebrated, I will receive the signed papers from the priest and follow
them, leaving the false bride to play her part as best she can."

Again Margaret hesitated; the thing seemed too complicated and full of
danger. But while she thought, a knock came on the door.

"That is to tell me that Morella awaits your answer in the court," said
Inez. "Now, which is it to be? Remember that there is no other chance of
escape for you, or the others, from this guarded town--at least I can
see none."

"I accept," said Margaret hurriedly, "and God help us all, for we shall
need Him."

"And you, Senora Betty?"

"Oh! I made up my mind long ago," answered Betty coolly. "We can only
fail, when we shall be no worse off than before."

"Good. Then play your parts well, both of you. After all, they should
not be so difficult, for the priest is safe, and the marquis will never
scent such a trick as this. Fix the marriage for this day week, as I
have much to think of and make ready," and she went.

       *       *       *       *       *

Half an hour later Margaret sat under the cool arcade of the marble
court, and with her, Morella, while upon the further side of its
splashing fountain and out of earshot, Betty and Inez walked to and fro
in the shadow.

"You sent for me, Marquis," said Margaret presently, "and, being your
prisoner, I have come because I must. What is your pleasure with me?"

"Dona Margaret," he answered gravely, "can you not guess? Well, I will
tell you, lest you should guess wrong. First, it is to ask your
forgiveness as I have done before, for the many crimes to which my love,
my true love, for you has driven me. This time yesterday I knew well
that I could expect none. To-day I dare to hope that it may be
otherwise."

"Why so, Marquis?"

"Last evening you looked into a certain garden and saw two people
walking there--yonder is one of them," and he nodded towards Inez.
"Shall I go on?"

"No," she answered in a low voice, and passing her hands before her
face. "Only tell me who and what is that woman?" and in her turn she
looked towards Inez.

"Is it necessary?" he asked. "Well, if you wish to know, she is a
Spaniard of good blood who with her sister was taken captive by the
Moors. A certain priest, who took an interest in the sister, brought her
to my notice and I bought her from them; so, as her parents were dead
and she had nowhere else to go, she elected to stay in my house. You
must not judge such things too harshly; they are common here. Also, she
has been very useful to me, being clever, for through her I have
intelligence of many things. Of late, however, she has grown tired of
this life, and wishes to earn her freedom, which I have promised her in
return for certain services, and to leave Granada."

"Was the nursing of my betrothed one of those services, Marquis?"

He shrugged his shoulders.

"As you will, Senora. Certainly I forgive her this indiscretion, if at
last she has shown you the truth about that man for whose sake you have
endured so much. Margaret, now that you know him for what he is, say, do
you still cling to him?"

She rose and walked a few steps down the arcade, then came back and
asked:

"Are you any better than this fallen man?"

"I think so, Margaret, for since I knew you I am a risen man; all my old
self is left behind me, I am a new creature, and my sins have been for
you, not against you. Hear me, I beseech you. I stole you away, it is
true, but I have done you no harm, and will do you none. For your sake
also I have spared your father when I had but to make a sign to remove
him from my path. I suffered him to escape from the prison where he was
confined, and I know the place where he thinks himself hidden to-day
among the Jews of Granada. Also, I nursed Peter Brome back to life, when
at any hour I could have let him die, lest afterwards I might have it on
my conscience that, but for my love for you, he might perhaps still be
living. Well, you have seen him as he is, and what say you now? Will you
still reject me? Look on me," and he drew up his tall and stately shape,
"and tell me, am I such a man as a woman should be ashamed to own as
husband? Remember, too, that I have much to give you in this land of
Spain, whereof you shall become one of the greatest ladies, or perhaps
in the future," he added significantly, "even more. War draws near,
Margaret; this city and all its rich territories will fall into the
hands of Spain, and afterwards I shall be their governor, almost
their king."

"And if I refuse?" asked Margaret.

"Then," he answered sternly, "you bide here, and that false lover of
yours bides here, and your father bides here to take the chance of war
as Christian captives with a thousand others who languish in the
dungeons of the Alhambra, while, my mission ended, I go hence to play my
part in battle amongst my peers, as one of the first captains of their
Most Catholic Majesties. Yet it is not to your fears that I would
appeal, but to your heart, for I seek your love and your dear
companionship through life, and, if I can help it, desire to work you
and yours no harm."

"You desire to work them no harm. Then, if I were to fall in with your
humour, would you let them go in safety?--I mean my father and the Senor
Brome and my cousin Betty, whom, if you were as honest as you pretend to
be, you should ask to bide with you as your wife, and not myself."

"The last I cannot do," he answered, flushing. "God knows I meant her no
hurt, and only used her to keep near to and win news of you, thinking
her, to tell truth, somewhat other than she is."

"Are no women honest here in Spain, then, my lord Marquis?"

"A few, a very few, Dona Margaret. But I erred about Betty, whom I took
for a simple serving-girl, and to whom, if need be, I am ready to make
all amends."

"Except that which is due to a woman you have asked to be your wife, and
who in our country could claim the fulfilment of your promise, or
declare you shamed. But you have not answered. Would they go free?"

"As free as air--especially the Senora Betty," he added with a little
smile, "for to speak truth, there is something in that woman's eyes
which frightens me at times. I think that she has a long memory. Within
an hour of our marriage you shall look down from your window and see
them depart under escort, every one, to go whither they will."

"Nay," answered Margaret, "it is not enough. I should need to see them
go before, and then, if I consented, not till the sun had set would I
pay the price of their ransom."

"Then do you consent? he asked eagerly.

"My lord Marquis, it would seem that I must. My betrothed has played me
false. For a month or more I have been prisoner in your palace, which I
understand has no good name, and, if I refuse, you tell me that all of
us will be cast into yonder dungeons to be sold as slaves or die
prisoners of the Moors. My lord Marquis, fate and you leave me but
little choice. On this day week I will marry you, but blame me not if
you find me other than you think, as you have found my cousin whom you
befooled. Till then, also, I pray you that you will leave me quite
untroubled. If you have arrangements to make or commands to send, the
woman Inez yonder will serve as messenger, for of her I know the worst."

"I will obey you in all things, Dona Margaret," he answered humbly. "Do
you desire to see your father or--" and he paused.

"Neither of them," she answered. "I will write to them and send my
letters by this Inez. Why should I see them," she added passionately,
"who have done with the old days when I was free and happy, and am about
to become the wife of the most noble Marquis of Morella, that honourable
grandee of Spain, who tricked a poor girl by a false promise of
marriage, and used her blind and loving folly to trap and steal me from
my home? My lord, till this day week I bid you farewell," and, walking
from the arcade to the fountain, she called aloud to Betty to accompany
her to their rooms.

The week for which Margaret had bargained had gone by. All was prepared.
Inez had shown to Morella the letters that his bride to be wrote to her
father and to Peter Brome; also the answers, imploring and passionate,
to the same. But there were other letters and other answers which she
had not shown. It was afternoon, swift horses were ready in the
courtyard, and with them an escort, while, disguised as Moors, Castell
and Peter waited under guard in a chamber close at hand. Betty, dressed
in the robes of a Moorish woman, and thickly veiled, stood before
Morella, to whom Inez had led her.

"I come to tell you," she said, "that at sundown, three hours after we
have passed beneath her window, my cousin and mistress will wait to be
made your wife, but if you try to disturb her before then she will be no
wife of yours, or any man's."

"I obey," answered Morella; "and, Senora Betty, I pray your pardon, and
that you will accept this gift from me in token of your forgiveness."
And with a low bow he handed to her a beautiful necklace of pearls.

"I take them," said Betty, with a bitter laugh, "as they may serve to
buy me a passage back to England. But forgive you I do not, Marquis of
Morella, and I warn you that there is a score between us which I may
yet live to settle. You seem to have won, but God in Heaven takes note
of the wickedness of men, and in this way or in that He always pays His
debts. Now I go to bid farewell to my cousin Margaret, but to you I do
not bid farewell, for I think that we shall meet again," and with a sob
she let fall the veil which she had lifted above her lips to speak and
departed with Inez, to whom she whispered as they went, "He will not
linger for any more good-byes with Betty Dene."

They entered Margaret's room and locked the door behind them. She was
seated on a low divan wrapped in a loose robe, and by her side,
glittering with silver and with gems, lay her bridal veil and garments.

"Be swift," said Inez to Betty, who stripped off her Moorish dress and
the long, flowing veil that was wrapped about her head, whereon it was
seen that her hair had changed greatly in colour, from yellow to dark
chestnut indeed, while her eyes, ringed about with pigments, and made
lustrous by drugs dropped into them, looked no longer blue, but black
like Margaret's. Yes, and wonder of wonders, on the right side of the
chin and on the back of the neck were moles, or beauty-spots, just such
as Margaret had borne there from her birth! In short, their stature
being much the same, though Betty was more thickly built, except in the
strongest light it would not have been easy to distinguish them apart,
even unveiled, for at all such arts of the altering of the looks of
women, Inez was an adept, and she had done her best.

Now Margaret clothed herself in the white robes and the thick head-dress
that hid her face, all except a little crack left for the eyes to peep
through, whilst Betty, with the help of Inez, arrayed herself in the
wondrous wedding robe beset with jewels that was Morella's bridal gift,
and hid her dyed tresses beneath the pearl-sewn veil. Within ten minutes
all was finished, even to the dagger that Betty had tied about her
beneath her robe, and the two transformed women stood staring at
each other.

"It is time to go," said Inez.

Then Margaret broke out:

"I do not like this business; I never did. When he discovers all, that
man's rage will be terrible, and he will kill her. I repent that I have
consented to the plot."

"It is too late to repent now, Senora," said Inez.

"Cannot Betty be got away also?" asked Margaret desperately.

"It is just possible," answered Inez; "thus, before the marriage,
according to the old custom here, I hand the cups of wine to the
bridegroom and the bride. That for the marquis will be drugged, since he
must not see too clear to-night. Well, I might brew it stronger so that
within half an hour he would not know whether he were married or single,
and then, perhaps, she might escape with me and come to join you. But it
is very risky, and, of course, if we were discovered--the stitch would
be out of the wineskin, and the cellar floor might be stained!"

Now Betty interrupted:

"Keep your stitches whole, Cousin; if any skins are to be pricked it
can't be helped, and at least you won't have to wipe up the mess. I am
not going to run away from the man, more likely he will run away from
me. I look well in this fine dress of yours, and I mean to wear it out.
Now begone--begone, before some of them come to seek me. Don't you
grieve for me; I'll lie in the bed that I have made, and if the worst
comes to the worst, I have money in my pocket--or its worth--and we will
meet again in England. Come, give my love and duty to Master Peter and
your father, and if I should see them no more, bid them think kindly of
Betty Dene, who was such a plague to them."

Then, taking Margaret in her strong arms, she kissed her again and
again, and fairly thrust her from the room.

But when they were gone, poor Betty sat down and cried a little, till
she remembered that hot tears might melt the paint upon her face, and,
drying them, went to the window and watched.

A while later, from her lofty niche, she saw six Moorish horsemen riding
along the white road to the embattled gate. After them came two men and
a woman, all splendidly mounted, also dressed as Moors, and then six
other horsemen. They passed the gate which was opened for them and began
to mount the slope beyond. At the crest of it the woman halted and,
turning, waved a handkerchief. Betty answered the signal, and in another
minute they had vanished, and she was alone.

Never did she spend a more weary afternoon. Two hours later, still
watching at her window, she saw the Moorish escort return, and knew that
all was well, and that by now, Margaret, her lover, and her father were
safely started on their journey. So she had not risked her life in vain.



CHAPTER XVIII

THE HOLY HERMANDAD

Down the long passages, through the great, fretted halls, across the
cool marble courts, flitted Inez and Margaret. It was like a dream. They
went through a room where women, idling or working at tapestries, looked
at them curiously. Margaret heard one of them say to another:

"Why does the Dona Margaret's cousin leave her?" And the answer,
"Because she is in love with the marquis herself, and cannot bear
to stay."

"What a fool!" said the first woman. "She is good looking, and would
only have had to wait a few weeks."

They passed an open door, that of Morella's own chambers. Within it he
stood and watched them go by. When they were opposite to him some doubt
or idea seemed to strike his mind, for he looked at them keenly, stepped
forward, then, thinking better of it, or perhaps remembering Betty's
bitter tongue, halted and turned aside. That danger had gone by!

At length, none hindering them, they reached the yard where the escort
and the horses waited. Here, standing under an archway, were Castell and
Peter. Castell greeted Margaret in English and kissed her through her
veil, while Peter, who had not seen her close since months before he
rode away to Dedham, stared at her with all his eyes, and began to draw
near to her, designing to find out, as he was sure he could do if once
he touched her, whether indeed this were Margaret, or only Betty after
all. Guessing what was in his mind, and that he might reveal everything,
Inez, who held a long pin in her hand with which she was fastening her
veil that had come loose, pretended to knock against him, and ran the
point deep into his arm, muttering, "Fool!" as she did so. He sprang
back with an oath, the guard smiled, and she began to pray his pardon.

Castell helped Margaret on to her horse, then mounted his own, as did
Peter, still rubbing his arm, but not daring to look towards Margaret,
whose hand Inez shook familiarly in farewell as though she were her
equal, addressing her the while in terms of endearment such as Spanish
women use to each other. An officer of Morella's household came and
counted them, saying:

"Two men and a woman. That is right, though I cannot see the woman's
face."

For a moment he seemed to be about to order her to unveil, but Inez
called to him that it was not decent before all these Moors, whereon he
nodded and ordered the captain to proceed.

They rode through the arch of the castle along the roadway, through the
great gate of the wall also, where the guard questioned their escort,
stared at them, and, after receiving a present from Castell, let them
go, telling them they were lucky Christians to get alive out of Granada,
as indeed they were.

At the brow of the rise Margaret turned and waved her handkerchief
towards that high window which she knew so well. Another handkerchief
was waved in answer, and, thinking of the lonely Betty watching them
there while she awaited the issue of her desperate venture, Margaret
went on, weeping beneath her veil. For an hour they rode forward,
speaking few words to each other, till at length they came to the
cross-roads, one of which ran to Malaga, and the other towards Seville.

Here the escort halted, saying that their orders were to leave them at
this point, and asking which road they intended to take. Castell
answered that to Malaga, whereon the captain replied that they were
wise, as they were less likely to meet bands of marauding thieves who
called themselves Christian soldiers, and murdered or robbed all
travellers who fell into their hands. Then Castell offered him a
present, which he accepted gravely, as though he did him a great favour,
and, after bows and salutations, they departed.

As soon as the Moors were gone the three rode a little way towards
Malaga. Then, when there was nobody in sight, they turned across country
and gained the Seville road. At last they were alone and, halting
beneath the walls of a house that had been burnt in some Christian raid,
they spoke together freely for the first time, and oh! what a moment was
that for all of them!

Peter pushed his horse alongside that of Margaret, crying:

"Speak, beloved. Is it truly you?"

But Margaret, taking no heed of him, leant over and, throwing her arm
around her father's neck, kissed him again and again through her veil,
blessing God that they had lived to meet in safety. Peter tried to kiss
her also; but she caused her horse to move so that he nearly fell from
his saddle.

"Have a care, Peter," she said to him, "or your love of kissing will
lead you into more trouble." Whereon, guessing of what she spoke, he
coloured furiously, and began to explain at length.

"Cease," she said--"cease. I know all that story, for I saw you," then,
relenting, with some brief, sweet words of greeting and gratitude, gave
him her hand, which he kissed often enough.

"Come," said Castell, "we must push on, who have twenty miles to cover
before we reach that inn where Israel has arranged that we should sleep
to-night. We will talk as we go." And talk they did, as well as the
roughness of the road and the speed at which they must travel
would allow.

Riding as hard as they were able, at length they came to the _venta_, or
rough hostelry, just as the darkness closed in. At the sight of it they
thanked God aloud, for this place was across the Moorish border, and now
they had little to fear from Granada. The host, a half-bred Spaniard and
a Christian, expected them, having received a message from Israel, with
whom he had had dealings, and gave them two rooms, rude enough, but
sufficient, and good food and wine, also stabling and barley for their
horses, bidding them sleep well and have no fear, as he and his people
would watch and warn them of any danger.

Yet it was late before they slept, who had so much to say to each
other--especially Peter and Margaret--and were so happy at their escape,
if only for a little while. Yet across their joy, like the sound of a
funeral bell at a merry feast, came the thought of Betty and that
fateful marriage in which ere now she must have played her part. Indeed,
at last Margaret knelt down and offered up prayers to Heaven that the
saints might protect her cousin in the great peril which she had
incurred for them, nor was Peter ashamed to join her in that prayer.
Then they embraced--especially Peter and Margaret--and laid them down,
Castell and his daughter in one room, and Peter in the other, and slept
as best they could.

Half an hour before dawn Peter was up seeing to the horses while the
others breakfasted and packed the food that the landlord had made ready
for their journey. Then he also swallowed some meat and wine, and at the
first break of day, having discharged their reckoning and taken a letter
from their host to those of other inns upon the road, they pressed on
towards Seville, very thankful to find that as yet there were no signs
of their being pursued.

All that day, with short pauses to rest themselves and their horses,
they rode on without accident, for the most part over a fertile plain
watered by several rivers which they crossed at fords or over bridges.
As night fell they reached the old town of Oxuna, which for many hours
they had seen set upon its hill before them, and, notwithstanding their
Moorish dress, made their way almost unobserved in the darkness to that
inn to which they had been recommended. Here, although he stared at
their garments, on finding that they had plenty of money, the landlord
received them well enough, and again they were fortunate in securing
rooms to themselves. It had been their purpose to buy Spanish clothes in
this town, but, as it happened, it was a feast day, and at night every
shop in the place was closed, so they could get none. Now, as they
greatly desired to reach Seville by the following nightfall, hoping
under cover of the darkness to find and come aboard of their ship, the
_Margaret_, which they knew lay safely in the river, and had been
advised by messenger of their intended journey, it was necessary for
them to leave Oxuna before the dawn. So, unfortunately enough as it
proved, it was impossible for them to put off their Moorish robes and
clothe themselves as Christians.

They had hoped, too, that here at Oxuna Inez might overtake them, as she
had promised to do if she could, and give them tidings of what had
happened since they left Granada. But no Inez came. So, comforting
themselves with the thought that however hard she rode it would be
difficult for her to reach them, who had some hours' start, they left
Oxuna in the darkness before any one was astir.

Having crossed some miles of plain, they passed up through olive groves
into hills where cork-trees grew, and here stopped to eat and let the
horses feed. Just as they were starting on again, Peter, looking round,
saw mounted men--a dozen or more of them of very wild aspect--cantering
through the trees evidently with the object of cutting them off.

"Thieves!" he said shortly. "Ride for it."

So they began to gallop, and their horses, although somewhat jaded,
being very swift, passed in front of these men before they could regain
the road. The band shouted to them to surrender, and, as they did not
stop, loosed a few arrows and pursued them, while they galloped down the
hillside on to a plain which separated them from more hills also clothed
with cork-trees. This plain was about three miles wide and boggy in
places. Still they kept well ahead of the brigands, as they took them to
be, hoping that they would give up the pursuit or lose sight of them
amongst the trees. As they entered these, however, to their dismay they
saw, drawn up in front of them and right across the road, another band
of rough-looking men, perhaps twelve in all.

"Trap!" said Peter. "We must ride through them--it is our only chance,"
at the same time spurring his horse to the front and drawing his sword.

Choosing the spot where their line was weakest he dashed through it
easily enough but next second heard a cry from Margaret, and pulled his
horse round to see that her mare had fallen, and that she and Castell
were in the hands of the thieves. Indeed, already rough men had hold of
her, and one of them was trying to tear the veil from her face. With a
shout of rage Peter charged them, and struck so fierce a blow that his
sword cut through the fellow's helmet into his skull, so that he fell
down, dying or dead, Margaret's veil still in his hand.

Then they rushed at him, five or six of them, and, although he wounded
another man, dragged him from his horse, and, as he lay upon his back,
sprang at him to finish him before he could rise. Already their knives
and swords were over him, and he was making his farewells to life, when
he heard a voice command them to desist and bind his arms. This was
quickly done, and he was suffered to rise from the ground to see before
him, not Morella, as he half expected, but a man clad in fine armour
beneath his rough cloak, evidently an officer of rank. "What kind of a
Moor are you," he asked, "who dare to kill the soldiers of the Holy
Hermandad in the heart of the King's country?" and he pointed to
the dead man.

"I am not a Moor," answered Peter in his rough Spanish. "I am a
Christian escaped from Granada, and I cut down that man because he was
trying to insult my betrothed, as you would have done, Senor. I did not
know that he was a soldier of the Hermandad; I thought him a common
thief of the hills."

This speech, or as much as he could understand of it, seemed to please
the officer, but before he could answer, Castell said:

"Sir Officer, the senor is an Englishman, and does not speak your
language well--"

"He uses his sword well, anyhow," interrupted the captain, glancing at
the dead soldier's cloven helm and head.

"Yes, Sir, he is of your trade and, as the scar upon his face shows, has
fought in many wars. Sir, what he tells you is true. We are Christian
captives escaped from Granada and flying to Seville with my daughter, to
whom I pray you to do no harm, to ask for the protection of their
gracious Majesties, and to find a passage back to England."

"You do not look like an Englishman," answered the captain; "you look
like a Marano."

"Sir, I cannot help my looks. I am a merchant of London, Castell by
name. It is one well known in Seville and throughout this land, where I
have large dealings, as, if I can but see him, your king himself will
acknowledge. Be not deceived by our dress, which we had to put on in
order to escape from Granada, but, I beseech you, let us go on
to Seville."

"Senor Castell," answered the officer, "I am the Captain Arrano of
Puebla, and, since you would not stop when we called to you, and have
killed one of my best soldiers, to Seville you must certainly go, but
with me, not by yourselves. You are my prisoners, but have no fear. No
violence shall be done to you or the lady, who must take your trials for
your deeds before the King's court, and there tell your story, true
or false."

So, having been disarmed of their swords, they were allowed to remount
their horses and taken on towards Seville as prisoners.

"At least," said Margaret to Peter, "we have nothing more to fear from
highwaymen, and have escaped these soldiers' swords unhurt."

"Yes," answered Peter with a groan, "but I hoped that to-night we should
have slept upon the _Margaret_ while she slipped down the river towards
the open sea, and not in a Spanish jail. Now, as fate will have it, for
the second time I have killed a man on your behalf, and all the business
will begin again. Truly our luck is bad!"

"I think it might be worse, and I cannot blame you for that deed,"
answered Margaret, remembering the rough hands of the dead soldier, whom
some of his comrades had stopped behind to bury.

During all the remainder of that long day they rode on through the
burning heat, across the rich, cultivated plain, towards the great city
of Seville, whereof the Giralda, which once had been the minaret of a
Moorish mosque, towered hundreds of feet into the air before them. At
length, towards evening, they entered the eastern suburbs of the vast
city and, passing through them and a great gate beyond, began to thread
its tortuous streets.

"Whither go we, Captain Arrano?" asked Castell presently.

"To the prison of the Holy Hermandad to await your trial for the slaying
of one of its soldiers," answered the officer.

"I pray that we may get there soon then," said Peter, looking at
Margaret, who, overcome with fatigue, swayed upon her saddle like a
flower in the wind.

"So do I," muttered Castell, glancing round at the dark faces of the
people, who, having discovered that they had killed a Spanish soldier,
and taking them to be Moors, were marching alongside of them in great
numbers, staring sullenly, or cursing them for infidels. Indeed, once
when they passed a square, a priest in the mob cried out, "Kill them!"
whereon a number of rough fellows made a rush to pull them off their
horses, and were with difficulty beaten back by the soldiers.

Foiled in this attempt they began to pelt them with garbage, so that
soon their white robes were stained and filthy. One fellow, too, threw a
stone which struck Margaret on the wrist, causing her to cry out and
drop her rein. This was too much for the hot-blooded Peter, who,
spurring his horse alongside of him, before the soldiers could
interfere, hit him such a buffet in the face that the man rolled upon
the ground. Now Castell thought that they would certainly be killed, but
to his surprise the mob only laughed and shouted such things as "Well
hit, Moor!" "That infidel has a strong arm," and so forth.

Nor was the officer angry, for when the man rose, a knife in his hand,
he drew his sword and struck him down again with the flat of it,
saying to Peter:

"Do not sully your hand with such street swine, Senor."

Then he turned and commanded his men to charge the crowd ahead of them.

So they got through these people and, after many twists and turns down
side streets to avoid the main avenues, came to a great and gloomy
building and into a courtyard through barred gates that were opened at
their approach and shut after them. Here they were ordered to dismount
and their horses led away, while the officer, Arrano, entered into
conversation with the governor of the prison, a man with a stern but not
unkindly face, who surveyed them with much curiosity. Presently he
approached and asked them if they could pay for good rooms, as if not he
must put them in the common cells.

Castell answered, "Yes," and, by way of earnest of it, produced five
pieces of gold, and giving them to the Captain Arrano, begged him to
distribute them among his soldiers as a thankoffering for their
protection of them through the streets. Also, he said loudly enough for
every one to hear, that he would be willing to compensate the relatives
of the man whom Peter had killed by accident--an announcement that
evidently impressed his comrades very favourably. Indeed one of them
said he would bear the message to his widow, and, on behalf of the rest,
thanked him for his gift. Then having bade farewell to the officer, who
told them that they would meet again before the judges, they were led
through the various passages of the prison to two rooms, one small and
one of a fair size with heavily barred windows, given water to wash in,
and told that food would be brought to them.

In due course it came, carried by jailers--meat, eggs, and wine, and
glad enough were they to see it. While they ate, also the governor
appeared with a notary, and, having waited till their meal was finished,
began to question them.

"Our story is long," said Castell, "but with your leave I will tell it
you, only, I pray you, suffer my daughter, the Dona Margaret, to go to
rest, for she is quite outworn, and if you will you can question her
to-morrow."

The governor assenting, Margaret threw off her veil to embrace her
father, thus showing her beauty for the first time, whereat the governor
and the notary stared amazed. Then having given Peter her hand to kiss,
and curtseyed to the governor and the notary, she went to her bed in the
next room, which opened out of that in which they were.

When she had gone, Castell told his story of how his daughter had been
kidnapped by the Marquis of Morella, a name that caused the governor to
open his eyes very wide, and brought from London to Granada, whither
they, her father and her betrothed, had followed her and escaped. But of
Betty and all the business of the changed bride he said nothing. Also,
knowing that these must come out in any case, he told them his name and
business, and those of his partners and correspondents in Seville, the
firm of Bernaldez, which was one that the governor knew well enough,
and prayed that the head of that firm, the Senor Juan Bernaldez, might
be communicated with and allowed to visit them on the next morning.
Lastly, he explained that they were no thieves or adventurers, but
English subjects in misfortune, and again hinted that they were both
able and willing to pay for any kindness or consideration that was shown
to them, of all of which sayings the governor took note.

Also this officer said that he would communicate with his superiors,
and, if no objection were made, send a messenger to ask the Senor
Bernaldez to attend at the prison on the following day. Then at length
he and the notary departed, and, the jailers having cleared away the
food and locked the door, Castell and Peter lay down on the beds that
they had made ready for them, thankful enough to find themselves at
Seville, even though in a prison, where indeed they slept very well
that night.

On the following morning they woke much refreshed, and, after they had
breakfasted, the governor appeared, and with him none other than the
Senor Juan Bernaldez, Castell's secret correspondent and Spanish
partner, whom he had last seen some years before in England, a stout man
with a quiet, clever face, not over given to words.

Greeting them with a deference that was not lost upon the governor, he
asked whether he had leave to speak with them alone. The governor
assented and went, saying he would return within an hour. As soon as the
door was closed behind him, Bernaldez said:

"This is a strange place to meet you in, John Castell, yet I am not
altogether surprised, since some of your messages reached me through
our friends the Jews; also your ship, the _Margaret_, lies refitted in
the river, and to avoid suspicion I have been lading her slowly with a
cargo for England, though how you will come aboard that ship is more
than I can say. But we have no time to waste. Tell me all your story,
keeping nothing back."

So they told him everything as quickly as they could, while he listened
silently. When they had done, he said, addressing Peter:

"It is a thousand pities, young sir, that you could not keep your hands
off that soldier, for now the trouble that was nearly done with has
begun anew, and in a worse shape. The Marquis of Morella is a very
powerful man in this kingdom, as you may know from the fact that he was
sent to London by their Majesties to negotiate a treaty with your
English King Henry as to the Jews and their treatment, should any of
them escape thither after they have been expelled from Spain. For
nothing less is in the wind, and I would have you know that their
Majesties hate the Jews, and especially the Maranos, whom already they
burn by dozens here in Seville," and he glanced meaningly at Castell.

"I am very sorry," said Peter, "but the fellow handled her roughly, and
I was maddened at the sight and could not help myself. This is the
second time that I have come into trouble from the same cause. Also, I
thought that he was but a bandit."

"Love is a bad diplomatist," replied Bernaldez, with a little smile,
"and who can count last year's clouds? What is done, is done. Now I will
try to arrange that the three of you shall be brought straight before
their Majesties when they sit to hear cases on the day after to-morrow.
With the Queen you will have a better chance than at the hands of any
alcalde. She has a heart, if only one can get at it--that is, except
where Jews and Maranos are concerned," and again he glanced at Castell.
"Meanwhile, there is money in plenty, and in Spain we ride to heaven on
gold angels," he added, alluding to that coin and the national
corruption.

Before they could say more the governor returned, saying that the Senor
Bernaldez' time was up, and asking if they had finished their talk.

"Not altogether," said Margaret. "Noble Governor, is it permitted that
the Senor Bernaldez should send me some Christian clothes to wear, for I
would not appear before your judges in this soiled heathen garb, nor, I
think, would my father or the Senor Brome?"

The governor laughed, and said he thought that might be arranged, and
even allowed them another five minutes, while they talked of what these
clothes should be. Then he departed with Bernaldez, leaving them alone.

It was not until the latter had gone, however, that they remembered that
they had forgotten to ask him whether he had heard anything of the woman
Inez, who had been furnished with his address, but, as he had said
nothing of her, they felt sure that she could not have arrived in
Seville, and once more were much afraid as to what might have happened
after they had left Granada.

That night, to their grief and alarm, a new trouble fell on them. Just
as they finished their supper the governor appeared and said that, by
order of the Court before which they must be tried, the Senor Brome,
who was accused of murder, must be separated from them. So, in spite of
all they could say or do, Peter was led away to a separate cell, leaving
Margaret weeping.



CHAPTER XIX

BETTY PAYS HER DEBTS

Betty Dene was not a woman afflicted with fears or apprehensions. Born
of good parents, but in poverty, for six-and-twenty years she had fought
her own way in a rough world and made the best of circumstances.
Healthy, full-blooded, tough, affectionate, romantic, but honest in her
way, she was well fitted to meet the ups and downs of life, to keep her
head above the waters of a turbulent age, and to pay back as much as she
received from man or woman.

Yet those long hours which she passed alone in the high turret chamber,
waiting till they summoned her to play the part of a false bride, were
the worst that she had ever spent. She knew that her position was, in a
sense, shameful, and like to end in tragedy, and, now that she faced it
in cold blood, began to wonder why she had chosen so to do. She had
fallen in love with the Spaniard almost at first sight, though it is
true that something like this had happened to her before with other men.
Then he had played his part with her, till, quite deceived, she gave all
her heart to him in good earnest, believing in her infatuation that,
notwithstanding the difference of their place and rank, he desired to
make her his wife for her own sake.

Afterwards came that bitter day of disillusion when she learned, as
Inez had said to Castell, that she was but a stalking heifer used for
the taking of the white swan, her cousin and mistress--that day when she
had been beguiled by the letter which was still hid in her garments, and
for her pains heard herself called a fool to her face. In her heart she
had sworn to be avenged upon Morella then, and now the hour had come in
which to fulfil her oath and play him back trick for cruel trick.

Did she still love the man? She could not say. He was pleasing to her as
he had always been, and when that is so women forgive much. This was
certain, however--love was not her guide to-night. Was it vengeance then
that led her on? Perhaps; at least she longed to be able to say to him,
"See what craft lies hid even in the bosom of an outwitted fool."

Yet she would not have done it for vengeance' sake alone, or rather she
would have paid herself in some other fashion. No, her real reason was
that she must discharge the debt due to Margaret and Peter, and to
Castell who had sheltered her for years. She it was who had brought them
into all this woe, and it seemed but just that she should bring them out
again, even at the cost of her own life and womanly dignity. Or,
perchance, all three of these powers drove her on,--love for the man if
it still lingered, the desire to be avenged upon him, and the desire to
snatch his prey from out his maw. At least she had set the game, and she
would play it out to its end, however awful that might be.

The sun sank, the darkness closed about her, and she wondered whether
ever again she would see the dawn. Her brave heart quailed a little, and
she gripped the dagger hilt beneath her splendid, borrowed robe,
thinking to herself that perhaps it might be wisest to drive it into her
own breast, and not wait until a balked madman did that office for her.
Yet not so, for it is always time to die when one must.

A knock came at the door, and her courage, which had sunk so low, burned
up again within her. Oh! she would teach this Spaniard that the
Englishwoman, whom he had made believe was his desired mistress, could
be his master. At any rate, he should hear the truth before the end.

She unlocked the door, and Inez entered bearing a lamp, by the light of
which she scanned her with her quiet eyes.

"The bridegroom is ready," she said slowly that Betty might understand,
"and sends me to lead you to him. Are you afraid?"

"Not I," answered Betty. "But tell me, how will the thing be done?"

"The marquis meets us in the ante-room to that hall which is used as a
chapel, and there on behalf of the household I, as the first of the
women, give you both the cups of wine. Be sure that you drink of that
which I hold in my left hand, passing the cup up beneath your veil so as
not to show your face, and speak no word, lest he should recognise your
voice. Then we shall go into the chapel, where the priest Henriques
waits, also all the household. But that hall is great, and the lamps are
feeble, so none will know you there. By this time also the drugged wine
will have begun to work upon Morella's brain, wherefore, provided that
you use a low voice, you may safely say, 'I, Betty, wed thee, Carlos,'
not 'I, Margaret, wed thee.' Then, when it is over, he will lead you
away to the chambers prepared for you, where, if there is any virtue in
my wine, he will sleep sound to-night, that is, as soon as the priest
has given me the marriage-lines, whereof I will hand you one copy and
keep the others. Afterwards----" and she shrugged her shoulders.

"What becomes of you?" asked Betty, when she had fully mastered these
instructions.

"Oh! I and the priest start to-night for a ride together to Seville,
where his money awaits him; ill company for a woman who means henceforth
to be honest and rich, but better than none. Perhaps we shall meet again
there, or perhaps we shall not; at least, you know where to seek me and
the others, at the house of the Senor Bernaldez. Now it is time. Are you
ready to be made a marchioness of Spain?"

"Of course," answered Betty coolly, and they started.

Through the empty halls and corridors they went, and oh! surely no
Eastern plot that had been conceived in them was quite so bold and
desperate as theirs. They reached the ante-chamber to the chapel, and
took their stand outside of the circle of light that fell from its
hanging lamps. Presently a door opened, and through it came Morella,
attended by two of his secretaries. He was splendidly arrayed in his
usual garb of black velvet, and about his neck hung chains of gold and
jewels, and to his breast were fastened the glittering stars and orders
pertaining to his rank. Never, or so thought Betty, had Morella seemed
more magnificent and handsome. He was happy also, who was about to drink
of that cup of joy which he so earnestly desired. Yes, his face showed
that he was happy, and Betty, noting it, felt remorse stirring in her
breast. Low he bowed before her, while she curtseyed to him, bending her
tall and graceful form till her knee almost touched the ground. Then he
came to her and whispered in her ear:

"Most sweet, most beloved," he said, "I thank heaven that has led me to
this joyous hour by many a rough and dangerous path. Most dear, again I
beseech you to forgive all the sorrow and the ill that I have brought
upon you, remembering that it was done for your adored sake, that I
love you as woman has been seldom loved, you and you only, and that to
you, and you only, will I cling until my death's day. Oh! do not tremble
and shrink, for I swear that no woman in Spain shall have a better or a
more loyal lord. You I will cherish alone, for you I will strive by
night and day to lift you to great honour and satisfy your every wish.
Many and pleasant may the years be that we shall spend side by side, and
peaceful our ends when at last we lay us down side by side to sleep
awhile and wake again in heaven, whereof the shadow lies on me to-night.
Remembering the past, I do not ask much of you--as yet; still, if you
are minded to give me a bridal gift that I shall prize above crowns or
empires, say that you forgive me all that I have done amiss, and in
token, lift that veil of yours and kiss me on the lips."

Betty heard this speech, whereof she only fully understood the end, and
trembled. This was a trial that she had not foreseen. Yet it must be
faced, for speak she dared not. Therefore, gathering up her courage, and
remembering that the light was at her back, after a little pause, as
though of modesty and reluctance, she raised the pearl-embroidered
veil, and, bending forward beneath its shadow, suffered Morella to kiss
her on the lips.

It was over, the veil had fallen again, and the man suspected nothing.

"I am a good artist," thought Inez to herself, "and that woman acts
better than the wooden Peter. Scarcely could I have done it so
well myself."

Then, the jealousy and hate that she could not control glittering in her
soft eyes, for she too had loved this man, and well, Inez lifted the
golden cups that had been prepared, and, gliding forward, beautiful in
her broidered, Eastern robe, fell upon her knee and held them to the
bridegroom and the bride. Morella took that from her right hand, and
Betty that from her left, nor, intoxicated as he was already with that
first kiss of love, did he pause to note the evil purpose which was
written on the face of his discarded slave. Betty, passing the cup
beneath her veil, touched it with her lips and returned it to Inez; but
Morella, exclaiming, "I drink to you, sweet bride, most fair and adored
of women," drained his to the dregs, and cast it back to Inez as a gift
in such fashion that the red wine which clung to its rim stained her
white robes like a splash of blood.

Humbly she bowed, humbly she gathered the precious vessel from the
floor; but when she rose again there was triumph in her eyes--not hate.

Now Morella took his bride's hand and, followed by his gentlemen and
Inez, walked to the curtains that were drawn as they came into the great
hall beyond, where had mustered all his household, perhaps a hundred of
them. Between their bowing ranks they passed, a stately pair, and,
whilst sweet voices sang behind some hidden screen, walked onward to the
altar, where stood the waiting priest. They kneeled down upon the
gold-embroidered cushions while the office of the Church was read over
them. The ring was set upon Betty's hand--scarce, it would seem, could
he find her finger--the man took the woman to wife, the woman took the
man for husband. His voice was thick, and hers was very low; of all that
listening crowd none could hear the names they spoke.

It was over. The priest bowed and blessed them. They signed some papers,
there by the light of the altar candles. Father Henriques filled in
certain names and signed them also, then, casting sand upon them, placed
them in the outstretched hand of Inez, who, although Morella never
seemed to notice, gave one to the bride, and thrust the other two into
the bosom of her robe. Then both she and the priest kissed the hands of
the marquis and his wife, and asked his leave to be gone. He bowed his
head vaguely, and--if any had been there to listen--within ten short
minutes they might have heard two horses galloping hard towards the
Seville gate.

Now, escorted by pages and torch-bearers, the new-wed pair repassed
those dim and stately halls, the bride, veiled, mysterious, fateful; the
bridegroom, empty-eyed, like one who wanders in his sleep. Thus they
reached their chamber, and its carved doors shut behind them.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was early morning, and the serving-women who waited without that room
were summoned to it by the sound of a silver gong. Two of them entered
and were met by Betty, no longer veiled, but wrapped in a loose robe,
who said to them:

"My lord the marquis still sleeps. Come, help me dress and make ready
his bath and food."

The women stared at her, for now that she had washed the paint from her
face they knew well that this was the Senora Betty and not the Dona
Margaret, whom, they had understood, the marquis was to marry. But she
chid them sharply in her bad Spanish, bidding them be swift, as she
would be robed before her husband should awake. So they obeyed her, and
when she was ready she went with them into the great hall where many of
the household were gathered, waiting to do homage to the new-wed pair,
and greeted them all, blushing and smiling, saying that doubtless the
marquis would be among them soon, and commanding them meanwhile to go
about their several tasks.

So well did Betty play her part indeed, that, although they also were
bewildered, none questioned her place or authority, who remembered that
after all they had not been told by their lord himself which of these
two English ladies he meant to marry. Also, she distributed among the
meaner of them a present of money on her husband's behalf and her own,
and then ate food and drank some wine before them all, pledging them,
and receiving their salutations and good wishes.

When all this was done, still smiling, Betty returned to the
marriage-chamber, closing its door behind her, sat her down on a chair
near the bed, and waited for the worst struggle of all--that struggle on
which hung her life. See! Morella stirred. He sat up, gazing about him
and rubbing his brow. Presently his eyes lit upon Betty, seated stern
and upright in her high chair. She rose and, coming to him, kissed him
and called him "Husband," and, still half-asleep, he kissed her back.
Then she sat down again in her chair and watched his face.

It changed, and changed again. Wonder, fear, amaze, bewilderment,
flitted over it, till at last he said in English:

"Betty, where is my wife?"

"Here," answered Betty.

He stared at her. "Nay, I mean the Dona Margaret, your cousin and my
lady, whom I wed last night. And how come you here? I thought that you
had left Granada."

Betty looked astonished.

"I do not understand you," she answered. "It was my cousin Margaret who
left Granada. I stayed here to be married to you, as you arranged with
me through Inez."

His jaw dropped.

"Arranged with you through Inez! Mother of Heaven! what do you mean?"

"Mean?" she answered--"I mean what I say. Surely"--and she rose in
indignation--"you have never dared to try to play some new trick
upon me?"

"Trick!" muttered Morella. "What says the woman? Is all this a dream, or
am I mad?"

"A dream, I think. Yes, it must be a dream, since certainly it was to no
madman that I was wed last night. Look," and she held before him that
writing of marriage signed by the priest, by him, and by herself, which
stated that Carlos, Marquis of Morella, was on such a date, at Granada,
duly married to the Senora Elizabeth Dene of London in England.

He read it twice, then sank back gasping; while Betty hid away the
parchment in her bosom.

Then presently he seemed to go mad indeed. He raved, he cursed, he
ground his teeth, he looked round for a sword to kill her or himself,
but could find none. And all the while Betty sat still and gazed at him
like some living fate.

At length he was weary, and her turn came.

"Listen," she said. "Yonder in London you promised to marry me; I have
it hidden away, and in your own writing. By agreement I fled with you to
Spain. By the mouth of your messenger and former love this marriage was
arranged between us, I receiving your messages to me, and sending back
mine to you, since you explained that for reasons of your own you did
not wish to speak of these matters before my cousin Margaret, and could
not wed me until she and her father and her lover were gone from
Granada. So I bade them farewell, and stayed here alone for love of you,
as I fled from London for love of you, and last night we were united, as
all your household know, for but now I have eaten with them and received
their good wishes. And now you dare--you dare to tell me, that I, your
wife--I, who have sacrificed everything for you, I, the Marchioness of
Morella, am _not_ your wife. Well, go, say it outside this chamber, and
hear your very slaves cry 'Shame' upon you. Go, say it to your king and
your bishops, aye, and to his Holiness the Pope himself, and listen to
their answer. Why, great as you are, and rich as you are, they will
hale you to a mad-house or a prison."

Morella listened, rocking himself to and fro upon the bed, then with an
oath sprang towards her, to be met by a dagger-point glinting in
his eyes.

"Hear me again," she said as he shrank back from that cold steel. "I am
no slave and no weakling; you shall not murder me or thrust me away. I
am your wife and your equal, aye, and stronger than you in body and in
mind, and I will have my rights in the face of God and man."

"Certainly," he said with a kind of unwilling admiration--"certainly you
are no weakling. Certainly, also, you have paid back all you owe me with
a Jew's interest. Or, mayhap, you are not so clever as I think, but just
a strong-minded fool, and it is that accursed Inez who has settled her
debts. Oh! to think of it," and he shook his fist in the air, "to think
that I believed myself married to the Dona Margaret, and find you in her
place--_you_!"

"Be silent," she said, "you man without shame, who first fly at the
throat of your new-wedded wife and then insult her by saying that you
wish you were wedded to another woman. Be silent, or I will unlock the
door and call your own people and repeat your monstrous talk to them."
And she drew herself to her full height and stood over him on the bed.

Morella, his first rage spent, looked at her reflectively, and not
without a certain measure of homage.

"I think," he remarked, "that if he did not happen to be in love with
another woman and to believe that he had married her, you, my good
Betty, would make a useful wife to any man who wished to get on in the
world. I understood you to say that the door is locked, and if I might
hazard a guess, you have the key, as also you happen to have a dagger.
Well, I find the air in this place close, and I want to go _out_."

"Where to?" asked Betty.

"Let us say, to join Inez."

"What," she asked, "would you already be running after that woman
again? Do you already forget that you are married?"

"It seems that I am not to be allowed to forget it. Now, let us bargain.
I wish to leave Granada for a while, and without scandal. What are your
terms? Remember that there are two to which I will not consent. I will
not stop here with you, and you shall not accompany me. Remember also,
that, although you hold the dagger at present, it is not wise of you to
try to push this jest too far."

"As you did when you decoyed me on board the _San Antonio_," said Betty.
"Well, our honeymoon has not begun too sweetly, and I do not mind if you
go away for a while--to look for Inez. Swear now that you mean me no
harm, and that you will not plot my death or disgrace, or in any way
interfere with my liberty or position here in Granada. Swear it on the
Rood." And she took down a silver crucifix that hung upon the wall over
the bed and handed it to him. For she knew Morella's superstitions, and
that if once he swore upon this symbol he dare not break his oath.

"And if I will not swear?" he asked sullenly.

"Then," she answered, "you stop here until you do, you who are anxious
to be gone. I have eaten food this morning, you have not; I have a
dagger, you have none; and, being as we are, I am sure that no one will
venture to disturb us until Inez and your friend the priest have gone
further than you can follow."

"Very well, I will swear," he said, and he kissed the crucifix and threw
it down, "You can stop here and rule my house in Granada, and I will do
you no mischief, nor trouble you in any way. But if you come out of
Granada, then we cross swords."

"You mean that you intend to leave this city? Then, here is paper and
ink. Be so good as to sign an order to the stewards of your estates,
within the territories of the Moorish king, to pay all their revenue to
me during your absence, and to your servants to obey me in everything."

"It is easy to see that you were brought up in the house of a Jew
merchant," said Morella, biting the pen and considering this woman who,
whether she were hawk or pigeon, knew so well how to feather her nest.
"Well, if I grant you this position and these revenues, will you leave
me alone and cease to press other claims upon me?"

Now Betty, bethinking her of those papers that Inez had carried away
with her, and that Castell and Margaret would know well how to use them
if there were need, bethinking her also that if she pushed him too far
at the beginning she might die suddenly as folk sometimes did in
Granada, answered:

"It is much to ask of a deluded woman, but I still have some pride, and
will not thrust myself in where it seems I am not wanted. Therefore, so
be it. Till you seek me or send for me, I will not seek you so long as
you keep your bargain. Now write the paper, sign it, and call in your
secretaries to witness the signature."

"In whose favour must I word it?" he asked.

"In that of the Marquessa of Morella," she answered, and he, seeing a
loophole in the words, obeyed her, since if she were not his wife this
writing would have no value.

Somehow he must be rid of this woman. Of course he might cause her to be
killed; but even in Granada people could not kill one to whom they had
seemed to be just married without questions being asked. Moreover, Betty
had friends, and he had enemies who would certainly ask them if she
vanished away. No, he would sign the paper and fight the case
afterwards, for he had no time to lose. Margaret had slipped away from
him, and if once she escaped from Spain he knew that he would never see
her more. For aught he knew, she might already have escaped or be
married to Peter Brome. The very thought of it filled him with madness.
There had been a conspiracy against him; he was outwitted, robbed,
befooled. Well, hope still remained--and vengeance. He could still fight
Peter, and perhaps kill him. He could hand over Castell, the Jew, to the
Inquisition. He could find a way to deal with the priest Henriques and
the woman Inez, and, perhaps, if fortune favoured him he could get
Margaret back into his power.

Oh! yes, he would sign anything if only thereby he was set at liberty
and freed for a while from this servant who called herself his wife,
this strong-minded, strong-bodied, clever Englishwoman, of whom he had
thought to make a tool, and who had made a tool of him.

So Betty dictated and he wrote: yes, it had come to this--she dictated
and he wrote, and signed too. The order was comprehensive. It gave power
to the most honourable Marquessa of Morella to act for him, her husband,
in all things during his absence from Granada. It commanded that all
rents and profits due to him should be paid to her, and that all his
servants and dependants should obey her as though she were himself, and
that her receipt should be as good as his receipt.

When the paper was written, and Betty had spelt it over carefully to see
that there was no omission or mistake, she unlocked the door, struck
upon the gong, and summoned the secretaries to witness their lord's
signature to a settlement. Presently they came, bowing, and offering
many felicitations, which to himself Morella vowed he would remember
against them.

"I have to go a journey," he said. "Witness my signature to this
document, which provides for the carrying on of my household and the
disposal of my property during my absence."

They stared and bowed.

"Read it aloud first," said Betty, "so that my lord and husband may be
sure that there is no mistake."

One of them obeyed, but before ever he had finished the furious Morella
shouted to them from the bed:

"Have done and witness, then go, order me horses and an escort, for I
ride at once."

So they witnessed in a great hurry, and left the room. Betty left with
them, holding the paper in her hand, and when she reached the large hall
where the household were gathered waiting to greet their lord, she
commanded one of the secretaries to read it out to all of them, also to
translate it into the Moorish tongue that every one might understand.
Then she hid it away with the marriage lines, and, seating herself in
the midst of the household, ordered them to prepare to receive the most
noble marquis.

They had not long to wait, for presently he came out of the room like a
bull into the arena, whereon Betty rose and curtseyed to him, and at her
word all his servants bowed themselves down in the Eastern fashion. For
a moment he paused, again like the bull when he sees the picadors and is
about to charge. Then he thought better of it, and, with a muttered
curse, strode past them.

Ten minutes later, for the third time within twenty-four hours, horses
galloped from the palace and through the Seville gate.

"Friends," said Betty in her awkward Spanish, when she knew that he had
gone, "a sad thing has happened to my husband, the marquis. The woman
Inez, whom it seems he trusted very much, has departed, stealing a
treasure that he valued above everything on earth, and so I, his
new-made wife, am left desolate while he tries to find her."



CHAPTER XX

ISABELLA OF SPAIN

On the afternoon following his first visit, Castell's agent, Bernaldez,
arrived again at the prison of the Hermandad at Seville accompanied by a
tailor, a woman, and a chest full of clothes. The governor ordered these
two persons to wait while the garments were searched under his own eye,
but Bernaldez he permitted to be led at once to the prisoners. As soon
as he was with them he said:

"Your marquis has been married fast enough."

"How do you know that?" asked Castell.

"From the woman Inez, who arrived with the priest last night, and gave
me the certificates of his union with Betty Dene signed by himself. I
have not brought them with me lest I should be searched, when they might
have been taken away; but Inez has come disguised as a sempstress, so
show no surprise when you see her, if she is admitted. Perhaps she will
be able to tell the Dona Margaret something of what passed if she is
allowed to fit her robes alone. After that she must lie hidden for fear
of the vengeance of Morella; but I shall know where to put my hand upon
her if she is wanted. You will all of you be brought before the queen
to-morrow, and then I, who shall be there, will produce the writings."
Scarcely were the words out of his mouth when the governor appeared, and
with him the tailor and Inez, who curtseyed and glanced at Margaret out
of the corners of her soft eyes, looking at them all as though with
curiosity, like one who had never seen or heard of them before.

When the dresses had been produced, Margaret asked whether she might be
allowed to try them on with the woman in her own chamber, as she had not
been measured for them.

The governor answered that as both the sempstress and the robes had been
searched, there was no objection, so the two of them retired--Inez, with
her arms full of garments.

"Tell me all about it," whispered Margaret as soon as the door was
closed. "I die to hear your story."

So, while she fitted the clothes, since in that place they could never
be sure but that they were watched through some secret loophole, Inez,
with her mouth full of aloe thorns, which those of the trade used as
pins, told her everything down to the time of her escape from Granada.
When she came to that part of the tale where the false bride had lifted
her veil and kissed the bridegroom, Margaret gasped in her amaze.

"Oh! how could she do it?" she said, "I should have fainted first."

"She has a good courage, that Betty--turn to the light, please,
Senora--I could not have acted better myself--I think it is a little
high on the left shoulder. He never guessed a thing, the besotted fool,
and that was before I gave him the wine, for he wasn't likely to guess
much afterwards. Did the senora say it was tight under the arm? Well,
perhaps a little, but this stuff stretches. What I want to know is, what
happened afterwards? Your cousin is the bull that I put my money on: I
believe she will clear the ring. A woman with a nerve of steel; had I as
much I should have been the Marchioness of Morella long ago, or there
would be another marquis by now. There, the sit of the skirt is perfect;
the senora's beautiful figure looks more beautiful in it than ever.
Well, whoever lives will learn all about it, and it is no use worrying.
Meanwhile, Bernaldez has paid me the money--and a handsome sum too--so
you needn't thank me. I only worked for hire--and hate. Now I am going
to lie low, as I don't want to get my throat cut, but he can find me if
I am really needed.

"The priest? Oh, he is safe enough. We made him sign a receipt for his
cash. Also, I believe that he has got his post as a secretary to the
Inquisition, and began his duties at once as they were short-handed,
torturing Jews and heretics, you know, and stealing their goods, both of
which occupations will exactly suit him. I rode with him all the way to
Seville, and he tried to make love to me, the slimy knave, but I paid
him out," and Inez smiled at some pleasant recollection. "Still, I did
not quarrel with him outright, as he may come in useful. Who knows?
There's the governor calling me. One moment, Excellency, only
one moment!

"Yes, Senora, with those few alterations the dress will be perfect. You
shall have it back tonight without fail, and I can cut the others that
you have been pleased to order from the same pattern. Oh! I thank you,
Senora, you are too good to a poor girl, and," in a whisper, "the
Mother of God have you in her guard, and send that Peter has improved in
his love making!" and, half hidden in garments, Inez bowed herself out
of the room through the door which the governor had already opened.

About nine o'clock on the following morning one of the jailers came to
summon Margaret and her father to be led before the court. Margaret
asked anxiously if the Senor Brome was coming too, but the man replied
that he knew nothing of the Senor Brome, as he was in one of the cells
for dangerous criminals, which he did not serve.

So forth they went, dressed in their new clothes, which were as fine as
money could buy, and in the latest Seville fashion, and were conducted
to the courtyard. Here, to her joy, Margaret saw Peter waiting for them
under guard, and dressed also in the Christian garments which they had
begged might be supplied to him at their cost. She sprang to his side,
none hindering her, and, forgetting her bashfulness, suffered him to
embrace her before them all, asking him how he had fared since they
were parted.

"None too well," answered Peter gloomily, "who did not know if we should
ever meet again; also, my prison is underground, where but little light
comes through a grating, and there are rats in it which will not let a
man sleep, so I must lie awake the most of the night thinking of you.
But where go we now?"

"To be put upon our trial before the queen, I think. Hold my hand and
walk close beside me, but do not stare at me so hard. Is aught wrong
with my dress?"

"Nothing," answered Peter. "I stare because you look so beautiful in
it. Could you not have worn a veil? Doubtless there are more marquises
about this court."

"Only the Moors wear veils, Peter, and now we are Christians again.
Listen--I think that none of them understand English. I have seen Inez,
who asked after you very tenderly--nay, do not blush, it is unseemly in
a man. Have you seen her also? No--well, she escaped from Granada as she
planned, and Betty is married to the marquis."

"It will never hold good," answered Peter shaking his head, "being but a
trick, and I fear that she will pay for it, poor woman! Still, she gave
us a start, though, so far as prisons go, I was better off in Granada
than in that rat-trap."

"Yes," answered Margaret innocently, "you had a garden to walk in there,
had you not? No, don't be angry with me. Do you know what Betty did?"
And she told him of how she had lifted her veil and kissed Morella
without being discovered.

"That isn't so wonderful," said Peter, "since if they are painted up
young women look very much alike in a half-lit room----"

"Or garden?" suggested Margaret.

"What is wonderful," went on Peter, scorning to take note of this
interruption, "is that she could consent to kiss the man at all. The
double-dealing scoundrel! Has Inez told you how he treated her? The very
thought of it makes me ill."

"Well, Peter, he didn't ask you to kiss him, did he? And as for the
wrongs of Inez, though doubtless you know more about them than I do, I
think she has given him an orange for his pomegranate. But look, there
is the Alcazar in front of us. Is it not a splendid castle? You know, it
was built by the Moors."

"I don't care who it was built by," said Peter, "and it looks to me like
any other castle, only larger. All I know about it is that I am to be
tried there for knocking that ruffian on the head--and that perhaps this
is the last we shall see of each other, as probably they will send me to
the galleys, if they don't do worse."

"Oh! say no such thing. I never thought of it; it is not possible!"
answered Margaret, her dark eyes filling with tears.

"Wait till your marquis appears, pleading the case against us, and you
will see what is or is not possible," replied Peter with conviction.
"Still, we have come through some storms, so let us hope for the best."

At that moment they reached the gate of the Alcazar, which they had
approached from their prison through gardens of orange-trees, and
soldiers came up and separated them. Next they were led across a court,
where many people hurried to and fro, into a great marble-columned room
glittering with gold, which was called the Hall of Justice. At the far
end of this place, seated on a throne set upon a richly carpeted dais
and surrounded by lords and counsellors, sat a magnificently attired
lady of middle age. She was blue-eyed and red-haired, with a
fair-skinned, open countenance, but very reserved and quiet in her
demeanour.

"The Queen," muttered the guard, saluting, as did Castell and Peter,
while Margaret curtseyed.

A case had just been tried, and the queen Isabella, after consultation
with her assessors, was delivering judgment in few words and a gentle
voice. As she spoke, her mild blue eyes fell upon Margaret, and, held
it would seem by her beauty, rested on her till they wandered off to the
tall form of Peter and the dark, Jewish-looking Castell by him, at the
sight of whom she frowned a little.

That case was finished, and other suitors stood up in their turn, but
the queen, waving her hand and still looking at Margaret, bent down and
asked a question of one of the officers of the court, then gave an
order, whereon the officer rising, summoned "John Castell, Margaret
Castell, and Peter Brome, all of England," to appear at the bar and
answer to the charge of murder of one Luiz of Basa, a soldier of the
Holy Hermandad.

At once they were brought forward, and stood in a line in front of the
dais, while the officer began to read the charge against them.

"Stay, friend," interposed the queen, "these accused are the subjects
of our good brother, Henry of England, and may not understand our
language, though one of them, I think"--and she glanced at Castell--"was
not born in England, or at any rate of English blood. Ask them if they
need an interpreter."

The question was put, and all of them answered that they could speak
Spanish, though Peter added that he did so but indifferently.

"You are the knight, I think, who is charged with the commission of this
crime," said Isabella, looking at him.

"Your Majesty, I am not a knight, only a plain esquire, Peter Brome of
Dedham in England. My father was a knight, Sir Peter Brome, but he fell
at my side, fighting for Richard, on Bosworth Field, where I had this
wound," and he pointed to the scar upon his face, "but was not knighted
for my pains."

Isabella smiled a little, then asked:

"And how came you to Spain, Senor Peter Brome?"

"Your Majesty," answered Peter, Margaret helping from time to time when
he did not know the Spanish words, "this lady at my side, the daughter
of the merchant John Castell who stands by her, is my affianced----"

"Then you have won the love of a very beautiful maiden, Senor,"
interrupted the queen; "but proceed."

"She and her cousin, the Senora Dene, were kidnapped in London by one
who I understand is the nephew of the King Ferdinand, and an envoy to
the English court, who passed there as the Senor d'Aguilar, but who in
Spain is the Marquis of Morella."

"Kidnapped! and by Morella!" exclaimed the queen.

"Yes, your Majesty, cozened on board his ship and kidnapped. The Senor
Castell and I followed them, and, boarding their vessel, tried to rescue
them, but were shipwrecked at Motril. The marquis carried them away to
Granada, whither we followed also, I being sorely hurt in the shipwreck.
There, in the palace of the marquis, we have lain prisoners many weeks,
but at length escaped, purposing to come to Seville and seek the
protection of your Majesties. On the road, while we were dressed as
Moors, in which garb we compassed our escape, we were attacked by men
that we thought were bandits, for we had been warned against such evil
people. One of them rudely molested the Dona Margaret, and I cut him
down, and by misfortune killed him, for which manslaughter I am here
before you to-day. Your Majesty, I did not know that he was a soldier of
the Holy Hermandad, and I pray you pardon my offence, which was done in
ignorance, fear, and anger, for we are willing to pay compensation for
this unhappy death."

Now some in the court exclaimed:

"Well spoken, Englishman!"

Then the queen said:

"If all this tale be true, I am not sure that we should blame you over
much, Senor Brome; but how know we that it is true? For instance, you
said that the noble marquis stole two ladies, a deed of which I can
scarcely think him capable. Where then is the other?"

"I believe," answered Peter, "that she is now the wife of the Marquis of
Morella."

"The wife! Who bears witness that she is the wife? He has not advised us
that he was about to marry, as is usual."

Then Bernaldez stood forward, stating his name and occupation, and that
he was a correspondent of the English merchant, John Castell, and
producing the certificate of marriage signed by Morella, Betty, and the
priest Henriques, handed it up to the queen saying that he had received
them in duplicate by a messenger from Granada, and had delivered the
other to the Archbishop of Seville.

The queen, having looked at the paper, passed it to her assessors, who
examined it very carefully, one of them saying that the form was not
usual, and that it might be forged.

The queen thought a little while, then said:

"That is so, and in one way only can we know the truth. Let our warrant
issue summoning before us our cousin, the noble Marquis of Morella, the
Senora Dene, who is said to be his wife, and the priest Henriques of
Motril, who is said to have married them. When they have arrived, all of
them, the king my husband and I will examine into the matter, and, until
then, we will not suffer our minds to be prejudiced by hearing any more
of this cause."

Now the governor of the prison stood forward, and asked what was to be
done with the captives until the witnesses could be brought from
Granada. The queen answered that they must remain in his charge, and be
well treated, whereon Peter prayed that he might be given a better cell
with fewer rats and more light. The queen smiled, and said that it
should be so, but added that it would be proper that he should still be
kept apart from the lady to whom he was affianced, who could dwell with
her father. Then, noting the sadness on their faces, she added:

"Yet I think they may meet daily in the garden of the prison."

Margaret curtseyed and thanked her, whereon she said very graciously:

"Come here, Senora, and sit by me a little," and she pointed to a
footstool at her side. "When I have done this business I desire a few
words with you."

So Margaret was brought up upon the dais, and sat down at her Majesty's
left hand upon the broidered footstool, and very fair indeed she looked
placed thus above the crowd, she whose beauty and whose bearing were so
royal; but Castell and Peter were led away back to the prison, though,
seeing so many gay lords about, the latter went unwillingly enough. A
while later, when the cases were finished, the queen dismissed the court
save for certain officers, who stood at a distance, and, turning to
Margaret, said:

"Now, fair maiden, tell me your story, as one woman to another, and do
not fear that anything you say will be made use of at the trial of your
lover, since against you, at any rate at present, no charge is laid.
Say, first, are you really the affianced of that tall gentleman, and has
he really your heart?"

"All of it, your Majesty," answered Margaret, "and we have suffered much
for each other's sake." Then in as few words as she could she told their
tale, while the queen listened earnestly.

"A strange story indeed, and if it be all true, a shameful," she said
when Margaret had finished. "But how comes it that if Morella desired to
force you into marriage, he is now wed to your companion and cousin?
What are you keeping back from me?" and she glanced at her shrewdly.

"Your Majesty," answered Margaret, "I was ashamed to speak the rest, yet
I will trust you and do so, praying your royal forgiveness if you hold
that we, who were in desperate straits, have done what is wrong. My
cousin, Betty Dene, has paid back Morella in his own false gold. He won
her heart and promised to marry her, and at the risk of her own life she
took my place at the altar, thereby securing our escape."

"A brave deed, if a doubtful," said the queen, "though I question
whether such a marriage will be upheld. But that is a matter for the
Church to judge of, and I must speak of it no more. Certainly it is hard
to be angry with any of you. What did you say that Morella promised you
when he asked you to marry him in London?"

"Your Majesty, he promised that he would lift me high, perhaps
even"--and she hesitated--"to that seat in which you sit."

Isabella frowned, then laughed, and said, as she looked her up and down:

"You would fit it well, better than I do in truth. But what else did he
say?"

"Your Majesty, he said that not every one loves the king, his uncle;
that he had many friends who remembered that his father was poisoned by
the father of the king, who was Morella's grandfather; also, that his
mother was a princess of the Moors, and that he might throw in his lot
with theirs, or that there were other ways in which he could gain
his end."

"So, so," said the queen. "Well, though he is such a good son of the
Church, and my lord is so fond of him, I never loved Morella, and I
thank you for your warning. But I must not speak to you of such high
matters, though it seems that some have thought otherwise. Fair
Margaret, have you aught to ask of me?"

"Yes, your Majesty--that you will deal gently with my true love when he
comes before you for trial, remembering that he is hot of head and
strong of arm, and that such knights as he--for knightly is his blood--
cannot brook to see their ladies mishandled by rough men, and the
wrappings that shield them torn from off their bosoms. Also, I pray that
I may be protected from Morella, that he may not be allowed to touch or
even to speak to me, who, for all his rank and splendour, hate him as
though he were some poisoned snake."

"I have said that I must not prejudge your case, you beautiful English
Margaret," the queen answered with a smile, "yet I think that neither of
those things you ask will cause justice to slip the bandage that is
about her eyes. Go, and be at peace. If you have spoken truth to me, as
I am sure you have, and Isabella of Spain can prevent it, the Senor
Brome's punishment shall not be heavy, nor shall the shadow of the
Marquis of Morella, the base-born son of a prince and of some royal
infidel"--these words she spoke with much bitterness--"so much as fall
upon you, though I warn you that my lord the king loves the man, as is
but natural, and will not condemn him lightly. Tell me one thing. This
lover of yours is brave, is he not?"

"Very brave," answered Margaret, smiling.

"And he can ride a horse and hold a lance, can he not, at any rate in
your quarrel?"

"Aye, your Majesty, and wield a sword too, as well as most knights,
though he has been but lately sick. Some learned that on
Bosworth Field."

"Good. Now farewell," and she gave Margaret her hand to kiss. Then,
calling two of her officers, she bade them conduct her back to the
prison, and say that she should have liberty to send messages or to
write to her, the queen, if she should so desire.

On the night of that same day Morella galloped into Seville. Indeed he
should have been there long before, but misled by the story of the Moors
who had escorted Peter, Margaret, and her father out of Granada and seen
them take the Malaga road, he travelled thither first, only to find no
trace of them in that city. Then he returned and tracked them to
Seville, where he was soon made acquainted with all that had happened.
Amongst other things, he discovered that ten hours before swift
messengers had been despatched to Granada, commanding his attendance and
that of Betty, with whom he had gone through the form of marriage.

On the following morning he asked an audience with the queen, but it was
refused to him, and the king, his uncle, was away. Next he tried to win
admission into the prison and see Margaret, only to find that neither
his high rank and authority nor any bribe would suffice to unlock its
doors. The queen had commanded otherwise, he was informed, and knew
therefrom that in this matter he must reckon with Isabella as an enemy.
Then he bethought him of revenge, and began a search for Inez and the
priest Henriques of Motril, only to find that the former had vanished,
none knew whither, and the holy father was safe within the walls of the
Inquisition, whence he was careful not to emerge, and where no layman,
however highly placed, could enter to lay a hand upon one of its
officers. So, full of rage and disappointment, he took counsel of
lawyers and friends, and prepared to defend the suit which he saw would
be brought against him, hoping that chance might yet deliver Margaret
into his hands. One good card he held, which now he determined to play.
Castell, as he knew, was a Jew who for years had posed as a Christian,
and for such there was no mercy in Seville. Perhaps for her father's
sake he might yet be able to work upon Margaret, whom now he desired to
win more fiercely than ever before.

At least it was certain that he would try this, or any other means,
however base, rather than see her married to his rival, Peter Brome.
Also there was the chance that this Peter might be condemned to
imprisonment, or even to death, for the killing of a soldier of the
Hermandad.

So Morella made him ready for the great struggle as best he could, and,
since he could not stop her coming, awaited the arrival of Betty
in Seville.



CHAPTER XXI

BETTY STATES HER CASE

Seven days had passed, during which time Margaret and her father had
rested quietly in the prison, where, indeed, they dwelt more as guests
than as captives. Thus they were allowed to receive what visitors they
would, and among them Juan Bernaldez, Castell's connection and agent,
who told them of all that passed without. Through him they sent
messengers to meet Betty on her road and apprise her of how things
stood, and of the trial in which her cause would be judged.

Soon the messengers returned, stating that the "Marchioness of Morella"
was travelling in state, accompanied by a great retinue, that she
thanked them for their tidings, and hoped to be able to defend herself
at all points.

At this news Castell stared and Margaret laughed, for, although she did
not know all the story, she was sure that in some way Betty had the
mastery of Morella, and would not be easily defeated, though how she
came to be travelling with a great retinue she could not imagine. Still,
fearing lest she should be attacked or otherwise injured, she wrote a
humble letter to the queen, praying that her cousin might be defended
from all danger at the hands of any one whomsoever until she had an
opportunity of giving evidence before their Majesties.

Within an hour came the answer that the lady was under the royal
protection, and that a guard had been sent to escort her and her party
and to keep her safe from interference of any sort; also, that for her
greater comfort, quarters had been prepared for her in a fortress
outside of Seville, which would be watched night and day, and whence she
would be brought to the court.

Peter was still kept apart from them, but each day at noon they were
allowed to meet him in the walled garden of the prison, where they
talked together to their heart's content. Here, too, he exercised
himself daily at all manly games, and especially at sword-play with some
of the other prisoners, using sticks for swords. Further, he was allowed
the use of his horse that he had ridden from Granada, on which he
jousted in the yard of the castle with the governor and certain other
gentlemen, proving himself better at that play than any of them. These
things he did vigorously and with ardour, for Margaret had told him of
the hint which the queen gave her, and he desired to get back his full
strength, and to perfect himself in the handling of every arm which was
used in Spain.

So the time went by, until one afternoon the governor informed them that
Peter's trial was fixed for the morrow, and that they must accompany him
to the court to be examined also upon all these matters. A little later
came Bernaldez, who said that the king had returned and would sit with
the queen, and that already this affair had made much stir in Seville,
where there was much curiosity as to the story of Morella's marriage, of
which many different tales were told. That Margaret and her father would
be discharged he had little doubt, in which case their ship was ready
for them; but of Peter's chances he could say nothing, for they depended
upon what view the king took of his offence, and, though unacknowledged,
Morella was the king's nephew and had his ear.

Afterwards they went down into the garden, and there found Peter, who
had just returned from his jousting, flushed with exercise, and looking
very manly and handsome. Margaret took his hand and, walking aside, told
him the news.

"I am glad," he answered, "for the sooner this business is begun the
sooner it will be done. But, Sweet," and here his face grew very
earnest, "Morella has much power in this land, and I have broken its
law, so none know what the end will be. I may be condemned to death or
imprisoned, or perhaps, if I am given the chance, with better luck I may
fall fighting, in any of which cases we shall be separated for a while,
or altogether. Should this be so, I pray that you will not stay here,
either in the hope of rescuing me, or for other reasons; since, while
you are in Spain, Morella will not cease from his attempts to get hold
of you, whereas in England you will be safe from him."

When Margaret heard these words she sobbed aloud, for the thought that
harm might come to Peter seemed to choke her.

"In all things I will do your bidding," she said, "yet how can I leave
you, dear, while you are alive, and if, perchance, you should die, which
may God prevent, how can I live on without you? Rather shall I seek to
follow you very swiftly."

"I do not desire that," said Peter. "I desire that you should endure
your days till the end, and come to meet me where I am in due season,
and not before. I will add this, that if in after-years you should meet
any worthy man, and have a mind to marry him, you should do so, for I
know well that you will never forget me, your first love, and that
beyond this world lie others where there are no marryings or giving in
marriage. Let not my dead hand lie heavy upon you, Margaret."

"Yet," she replied in gentle indignation, "heavy must it always lie,
since it is about my heart. Be sure of this, Peter, that if such
dreadful ill should fall upon us, as you left me so shall you find me,
here or hereafter."

"So be it," he said with a sigh of relief, for he could not bear to
think of Margaret as the wife of some other man, even after he was gone,
although his honest, simple nature, and fear lest her life might be made
empty of all joy, caused him to say what he had said.

Then behind the shelter of a flowering bush they embraced each other as
do those who know not whether they will ever kiss again, and, the hour
of sunset having come, parted as they must.

On the following morning once more Castell and Margaret were led to the
Hall of Justice in the Alcazar; but this time Peter did not go with
them. The great court was already full of counsellors, officers,
gentlemen, and ladies who had come from curiosity, and other folk
connected with or interested in the case. As yet, however, Margaret
could not see Morella or Betty, nor had the king and queen taken their
seats upon the throne. Peter was already there, standing before the bar
with guards on either side of him, and greeted them with a smile and a
nod as they were ushered to their chairs near by. Just as they reached
them also trumpets were blown, and from the back of the hall, walking
hand in hand, appeared their Majesties of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella,
whereat all the audience rose and bowed, remaining standing till they
were seated on the thrones.

The king, whom they now saw for the first time, was a thickset, active
man with pleasant eyes, a fair skin, and a broad forehead, but, as
Margaret thought, somewhat sly-faced--the face of a man who never forgot
his own interests in those of another. Like the queen, he was
magnificently attired in garments broidered with gold and the arms of
Aragon, while in his hand he held a golden sceptre surmounted by a
jewel, and about his waist, to show that he was a warlike king, he wore
his long, cross-handled sword. Smilingly he acknowledged the homage of
his subjects by lifting his hand to his cap and bowing. Then his eye
fell upon the beautiful Margaret, and, turning, he put a question to the
queen in a light, sharp voice, asking if that were the lady whom Morella
had married, and, if so, why in the name of heaven he wished to be
rid of her.

Isabella answered that she understood that this was the senora whom he
had desired to marry when he married some one else, as he alleged by
mistake, but who was in fact affianced to the prisoner before them; a
reply at which all who heard it laughed.

At this moment the Marquis of Morella, accompanied by his gentlemen and
some long-gowned lawyers, appeared walking up the court, dressed in the
black velvet that he always wore, and glittering with orders. Upon his
head was a cap, also of black velvet, from which hung a great pearl, and
this cap he did not remove even when he bowed to the king and queen, for
he was one of the few grandees of Spain who had the right to remain
covered before their Majesties. They acknowledged his salutation,
Ferdinand with a friendly nod and Isabella with a cold bow, and he, too,
took the seat that had been prepared for him. Just then there was a
disturbance at the far end of the court, where one of its officers could
be heard calling:

"Way! Make way for the Marchioness of Morella!" At the sound of this
name the marquis, whose eyes were fixed on Margaret, frowned fiercely,
rising from his seat as though to protest, then, at some whispered word
from a lawyer behind him, sat down again.

Now the crowd of spectators separated, and Margaret, turning to look
down the long hall, saw a procession advancing up the lane between them,
some clad in armour and some in white Moorish robes blazoned with the
scarlet eagle, the cognisance of Morella. In the midst of them, her
train supported by two Moorish women, walked a tall and beautiful lady,
a coronet upon her brow, her fair hair outspread, a purple cloak hanging
from her shoulders, half hiding that same splendid robe sewn with pearls
which had been Morella's gift to Margaret, and about her white bosom the
chain of pearls which he had presented to Betty in compensation for
her injuries.

Margaret stared and stared again, and her father at her side murmured:

"It is our Betty! Truly fine feathers make fine birds." Yes, Betty it
was without a doubt, though, remembering her in her humble woollen dress
at the old house in Holborn, it was hard to recognise the poor companion
in this proud and magnificent lady, who looked as though all her life
she had trodden the marble floors of courts, and consorted with nobles
and with queens. Up the great hall she came, stately, imperturbable,
looking neither to the right nor to the left, taking no note of the
whisperings about her, no, nor even of Morella or of Margaret, till she
reached the open space in front of the bar where Peter and his guards,
gazing with all their eyes, hastened to make place for her. There she
curtseyed thrice, twice to the queen, and once to the king, her consort;
then, turning, bowed to the marquis, who fixed his eyes upon the ground
and took no note, bowed to Castell and Peter, and lastly, advancing to
Margaret, gave her her cheek to kiss. This Margaret did with becoming
humility, whispering in her ear:

"How fares your Grace?"

"Better than you would in my shoes," whispered Betty back with ever so
slight a trembling of her left eyelid; while Margaret heard the king
mutter to the queen:

"A fine peacock of a woman. Look at her figure and those big eyes.
Morella must be hard to please."

"Perhaps he prefers swans to peacocks," answered the queen in the same
voice with a glance at Margaret, whose quieter and more refined beauty
seemed to gain by contrast with that of her nobly built and
dazzling-skinned cousin. Then she motioned to Betty to take the seat
prepared for her, which she did, with her suite standing behind her and
an interpreter at her side.

"I am somewhat bewildered," said the king, glancing from Morella to
Betty and from Margaret to Peter, for evidently the humour of the
situation did not escape him. "What is the exact case that we have
to try?"

Then one of the legal assessors, or alcaldes, rose and said that the
matter before their Majesties was a charge against the Englishman at the
bar of killing a certain soldier of the Holy Hermandad, but that there
seemed to be other matters mixed up with it.

"So I gather," answered the king; "for instance, an accusation of the
carrying off of subjects of a friendly Power out of the territory of
that Power; a suit for nullity of a marriage, and a cross-suit for the
declaration of the validity of the said marriage--and the holy saints
know what besides. Well, one thing at a time. Let us try this tall
Englishman."

So the case was opened against Peter by a public prosecutor, who
restated it as it had been laid before the queen. The Captain Arrano
gave his evidence as to the killing of the soldier, but, in
cross-examination by Peter's advocate, admitted, for evidently he bore
no malice against the prisoner, that the said soldier had roughly
handled the Dona Margaret, and that the said Peter, being a stranger to
the country, might very well have taken them for a troop of bandits or
even Moors. Also, he added, that he could not say that the Englishman
had intended to kill the soldier.

Then Castell and Margaret gave their evidence, the latter with much
modest sweetness. Indeed, when she explained that Peter was her
affianced husband, to whom she was to have been wed on the day after she
had been stolen away from England, and that she had cried out to him
for help when the dead soldier caught hold of her and rent away her
veil, there was a murmur of sympathy, and the king and queen began to
talk with each other without paying much heed to her further words.

Next they spoke to two of the judges who sat with them, after which the
king held up his hand and announced that they had come to a decision on
the case. It was, that, under the circumstances, the Englishman was
justified in cutting down the soldier, especially as there was nothing
to show that he meant to kill him, or that he knew that he belonged to
the Holy Hermandad. He would, therefore, be discharged on the condition
that he paid a sum of money, which, indeed, it appeared had already been
paid to the man's widow, in compensation for the man's death, and a
further small sum for Masses to be said for the welfare of his soul.

Peter began to give thanks for this judgment; but while he was still
speaking the king asked if any of those present wished to proceed in
further suits. Instantly Betty rose and said that she did. Then, through
her interpreter, she stated that she had received the royal commands to
attend before their Majesties, and was now prepared to answer any
questions or charges that might be laid against her.

"What is your name, Senora?" asked the king.

"Elizabeth, Marchioness of Morella, born Elizabeth Dene, of the ancient
and gentle family of Dene, a native of England," answered Betty in a
clear and decided voice.

The king bowed, then asked:

"Does any one dispute this title and description?"

"I do," answered the Marquis of Morella, speaking for the first time.

"On what grounds, Marquis?"

"On every ground," he answered. "She is not the Marchioness of Morella,
inasmuch as I went through the ceremony of marriage with her believing
her to be another woman. She is not of ancient and gentle family, since
she was a servant in the house of the merchant Castell yonder,
in London."

"That proves nothing, Marquis," interrupted the king. "My family may, I
think, be called ancient and gentle, which you will be the last to deny,
yet I have played the part of a servant on an occasion which I think the
queen here will remember"--an allusion at which the audience, who knew
well enough to what it referred, laughed audibly, as did her Majesty[1].
"The marriage and rank are matters for proof," went on the king, "if
they are questioned; but is it alleged that this lady has committed any
crime which prevents her from pleading?"

"None," answered Betty quickly, "except that of being poor, and the
crime, if it is one, as it may be, of having married that man, the
Marquis of Morella," whereat the audience laughed again.

"Well, Madam, you do not seem to be poor now," remarked the king,
looking at her gorgeous and bejewelled apparel; "and here we are more
apt to think marriage a folly than a crime," a light saying at which the
queen frowned a little. "But," he added quickly, "set out your case,
Madam, and forgive me if, until you have done so, I do not call you
Marchioness."

[Footnote 1: When travelling from Saragossa to Valladolid to be married
to Isabella, Ferdinand was obliged to pass himself off as a valet.
Prescott says: "The greatest circumspection, therefore, was necessary.
The party journeyed chiefly in the night; Ferdinand assumed the disguise
of a servant and, when they halted on the road, took care of the mules
and served his companions at table."]

"Here is my case, Sire," said Betty, producing the certificate of
marriage and handing it up for inspection.

The judges and their Majesties inspected it, the queen remarking that a
duplicate of this document had already been submitted to her and passed
on to the proper authorities.

"Is the priest who solemnised the marriage present?" asked the king;
whereon Bernaldez, Castell's agent, rose and said that he was, though he
neglected to add that his presence had been secured for no mean sum.

One of the judges ordered that he should be called, and presently the
foxy-faced Father Henriques, at whom the marquis glared angrily,
appeared bowing, and was sworn in the usual form, and, on being
questioned, stated that he had been priest at Motril, and chaplain to
the Marquis of Morella, but was now a secretary of the Holy Office at
Seville. In answer to further questions he said that, apparently by the
bridegroom's own wish, and with his full consent, on a certain date at
Granada, he had married the marquis to the lady who stood before them,
and whom he knew to be named Betty Dene; also, that at her request,
since she was anxious that proper record should be kept of her marriage,
he had written the certificates which the court had seen, which
certificates the marquis and others had signed immediately after the
ceremony in his private chapel at Granada. Subsequently he had left
Granada to take up his appointment as a secretary to the Inquisition at
Seville, which had been conferred on him by the ecclesiastical
authorities in reward of a treatise which he had written upon heresy.
That was all he knew about the affair.

Now Morella's advocate rose to cross-examine, asking him who had made
the arrangements for the marriage. He answered that the marquis had
never spoken to him directly on the subject--at least he had never
mentioned to him the name of the lady; the Senora Inez arranged
everything.

Now the queen broke in, asking where was the Senora Inez, and who she
was. The priest replied that the Senora Inez was a Spanish woman, one of
the marquis's household at Granada, whom he made use of in all
confidential affairs. She was young and beautiful, but he could say no
more about her. As to where she was now he did not know, although they
had ridden together to Seville. Perhaps the marquis knew.

Now the priest was ordered to stand down, and Betty tendered herself as
a witness, and through her interpreter told the court the story of her
connection with Morella. She said that she had met him in London when
she was a member of the household of the Senor Castell, and that at once
he began to make love to her and won her heart. Subsequently he
suggested that she should elope with him to Spain, promising to marry
her at once, in proof of which she produced the letter he had written,
which was translated and handed up for the inspection of the court--a
very awkward letter, as they evidently thought, although it was not
signed with the writer's real name. Next Betty explained the trick by
which she and her cousin Margaret were brought on board his ship, and
that when they arrived there the marquis refused to marry her, alleging
that he was in love with her cousin and not with her--a statement which
she took to be an excuse to avoid the fulfilment of his promise. She
could not say why he had carried off her cousin Margaret also, but
supposed that it was because, having once brought her upon the ship, he
did not know how to be rid of her.

Then she described the voyage to Spain, saying that during that voyage
she kept the marquis at a distance, since there was no priest to marry
them; also, she was sick and much ashamed, who had involved her cousin
and mistress in this trouble. She told how the Senors Castell and Brome
had followed in another vessel, and boarded the caravel in a storm; also
of the shipwreck and their journey to Granada as prisoners, and of their
subsequent life there. Finally she described how Inez came to her with
proposals of marriage, and how she bargained that if she consented, her
cousin, the Senor Castell, and the Senor Brome should go free. They went
accordingly, and the marriage took place as arranged, the marquis first
embracing her publicly in the presence of various people--namely, Inez
and his two secretaries, who, except Inez, were present, and could bear
witness to the truth of what she said.

After the marriage and the signing of the certificates she had
accompanied him to his own apartments, which she had never entered
before, and there, to her astonishment, in the morning, he announced
that he must go a journey upon their Majesties' business. Before he
went, however, he gave her a written authority, which she produced, to
receive his rents and manage his matters in Granada during his absence,
which authority she read to the gathered household before he left. She
had obeyed him accordingly until she had received the royal command,
receiving moneys, giving her receipt for the same, and generally
occupying the unquestioned position of mistress of his house.

"We can well believe it," said the king drily. "And now, Marquis, what
have you to answer to all this?"

"I will answer presently," replied Morella, who trembled with rage.
"First suffer that my advocate cross-examine this woman."

So the advocate cross-examined, though it cannot be said that he had the
better of Betty. First he questioned her as to her statement that she
was of ancient and gentle family, whereon Betty overwhelmed the court
with a list of her ancestors, the first of whom, a certain Sieur Dene de
Dene, had come to England with the Norman Duke, William the Conqueror.
After him, so she still swore, the said Denes de Dene had risen to great
rank and power, having been the favourites of the kings of England, and
fought for them generation after generation.

By slow degrees she came down to the Wars of the Roses, in which she
said her grandfather had been attainted for his loyalty, and lost his
land and titles, so that her father, whose only child she was--being now
the representative of the noble family, Dene de Dene--fell into poverty
and a humble place in life. However, he married a lady of even more
distinguished race than his own, a direct descendant of a noble Saxon
family, far more ancient in blood than the upstart Normans. At this
point, while Peter and Margaret listened amazed, at a hint from the
queen, the bewildered court interfered through the head alcalde, praying
her to cease from the history of her descent, which they took for
granted was as noble as any in England.

Next she was examined as to her relations with Morella in London, and
told the tale of his wooing with so much detail and imaginative power
that in the end that also was left unfinished. So it was with
everything. Clever as Morella's advocate might be, sometimes in English
and sometimes in the Spanish tongue, Betty overwhelmed him with words
and apt answers, until, able to make nothing of her, the poor man sat
down wiping his brow and cursing her beneath his breath.

Then the secretaries were sworn, and after them various members of
Morella's household, who, although somewhat unwillingly, confirmed all
that Betty had said as to his embracing her with lifted veil and the
rest. So at length Betty closed her case, reserving the right to address
the court after she had heard that of the marquis.

Now the king, queen, and their assessors consulted for a little while,
for evidently there was a division of opinion among them, some thinking
that the case should be stopped at once and referred to another
tribunal, and others that it should go on. At length the queen was heard
to say that at least the Marquis of Morella should be allowed to make
his statement, as he might be able to prove that all this story was a
fabrication, and that he was not even at Granada at the time when the
marriage was alleged to have taken place.

The king and the alcaldes assenting, the marquis was sworn and told his
story, admitting that it was not one which he was proud to repeat in
public. He narrated how he had first met Margaret, Betty, and Peter at a
public ceremony in London, and had then and there fallen in love with
Margaret, and accompanied her home to the house of her father, the
merchant John Castell.

Subsequently he discovered that this Castell, who had fled from Spain
with his father in childhood, was that lowest of mankind, an unconverted
Jew who posed as a Christian (at this statement there was a great
sensation in court, and the queen's face hardened), although it is true
that he had married a Christian lady, and that his daughter had been
baptized and brought up as a Christian, of which faith she was a loyal
member. Nor did she know--as he believed--that her father remained a
Jew, since, otherwise, he would not have continued to seek her as his
wife. Their Majesties would be aware, he went on, that, owing to reasons
with which they were acquainted, he had means of getting at the truth of
these matters concerning the Jews in England, as to which, indeed, he
had already written to them, although, owing to his shipwreck and to the
pressure of his private affairs, he had not yet made his report on his
embassy in person.

Continuing, he said that he admitted that he had made love to the
serving-woman, Betty, in order to gain access to Margaret, whose father
mistrusted him, knowing something of his mission. She was a person of no
character.

Here Betty rose and said in a clear voice:

"I declare the Marquis of Morella to be a knave and a liar. There is
more good character in my little finger than in his whole body, and,"
she added, "than in that of his mother before him"--an allusion at which
the marquis flushed, while, satisfied for the present with this
home-thrust, Betty sat down.

He had proposed to Margaret, but she was not willing to marry him, as he
found that she was affianced to a distant cousin of hers, the Senor
Peter Brome, a swashbuckler who was in trouble for the killing of a man
in London, as he had killed the soldier of the Holy Hermandad in Spain.
Therefore, in his despair, being deeply enamoured of her, and knowing
that he could offer her great place and fortune, he conceived the idea
of carrying her off, and to do so was obliged, much against his will, to
abduct Betty also.

So after many adventures they came to Granada, where he was able to show
the Dona Margaret that the Senor Peter Brome was employing his
imprisonment in making love to that member of his household, Inez, who
had been spoken of, but now could not be found.

Here Peter, who could bear this no longer, also rose and called him a
liar to his face, saying that if he had the opportunity he would prove
it on his body, but was ordered by the king to sit down and be silent.

Having been convinced of her lover's unfaithfulness, the marquis went
on, the Dona Margaret had at length consented to become his wife on
condition that her father, the Senor Brome, and her servant, Betty Dene,
were allowed to escape from Granada----

"Where," remarked the queen, "you had no right to detain them, Marquis.
Except, perhaps, the father, John Castell," she added significantly.

Where, he admitted with sorrow, he had no right to detain them.

"Therefore," went on the queen acutely, "there was no legal or moral
consideration for this alleged promise of marriage,"--a point at which
the lawyers nodded approvingly.

The marquis submitted that there was a consideration; that at any rate
the Dona Margaret wished it. On the day arranged for the wedding the
prisoners were let go, disguised as Moors, but he now knew that through
the trickery of the woman Inez, whom he believed had been bribed by
Castell and his fellow-Jews, the Dona Margaret escaped in place of her
servant, Betty, with whom he subsequently went through the form of
marriage, believing her to be Margaret.

As regards the embrace before the ceremony, it took place in a shadowed
room, and he thought that Betty's face and hair must have been painted
and dyed to resemble those of Margaret. For the rest, he was certain
that the ceremonial cup of wine that he drank before he led the woman to
the altar was drugged, since he only remembered the marriage itself very
dimly, and after that nothing at all until he woke upon the following
morning with an aching brow to see Betty sitting by him. As for the
power of administration which she produced, being perfectly mad at the
time with rage and disappointment, and sure that if he stopped there any
longer he should commit the crime of killing this woman who had deceived
him so cruelly, he gave it that he might escape from her. Their
Majesties would notice also that it was in favour of the Marchioness of
Morella. As this marriage was null and void, there was no Marchioness of
Morella. Therefore, the document was null and void also. That was the
truth, and all he had to say.



CHAPTER XXII

THE DOOM OF JOHN CASTELL

His evidence finished, the Marquis of Morella sat down, whereon, the
king and queen having whispered together, the head alcalde asked Betty
if she had any questions to put to him. She rose with much dignity, and
through her interpreter said in a quiet voice:

"Yes, a great many. Yet she would not debase herself by asking a single
one until the stain which he had cast upon her was washed away, which
she thought could only be done in blood. He had alleged that she was a
woman of no character, and he had further alleged that their marriage
was null and void. Being of the sex she was, she could not ask him to
make good his assertions at the sword's point, therefore, as she
believed she had the right to do according to all the laws of honour,
she asked leave to seek a champion--if an unfriended woman could find
one in a strange land--to uphold her fair name against this base and
cruel slander."

Now, in the silence that followed her speech, Peter rose and said:

"I ask the permission of your Majesties to be that champion. Your
Majesties will note that according to his own story I have suffered from
this marquis the bitterest wrong that one man can receive at the hands
of another. Also, he has lied in saying that I am not true to my
affianced lady, the Dona Margaret, and surely I have a right to avenge
the lie upon him. Lastly, I declare that I believe the Senora Betty to
be a good and upright woman, upon whom no shadow of shame has ever
fallen, and, as her countryman and relative, I desire to uphold her good
name before all the world. I am a foreigner here with few friends, or
none, yet I cannot believe that your Majesties will withhold from me the
right of battle which all over the world in such a case one gentleman
may demand of another. I challenge the Marquis of Morella to mortal
combat without mercy to the fallen, and here is the proof of it."

Then, stepping across the open space before the bar, he drew the
leathern gauntlet off his hand and threw it straight into Morella's
face, thinking that after such an insult he could not choose but fight.

With an oath Morella snatched at his sword; but, before he could draw
it, officers of the court threw themselves on him, and the king's stern
voice was heard commanding them to cease their brawling in the royal
presences.

"I ask your pardon, Sire," gasped Morella, "but you have seen what this
Englishman did to me, a grandee of Spain."

"Yes," broke in the queen, "but we have also heard what you, a grandee
of Spain, did to this gentleman of England, and the charge you brought
against him, which, it seems, the Dona Margaret does not believe."

"In truth, no, your Majesty," said Margaret. "Let me be sworn also, and
I can explain much of what the marquis has told to you. I never wished
to marry him or any man, save this one," and she touched Peter on the
arm, "and anything that he or I may have done, we did to escape the evil
net in which we were snared."

"We believe it," answered the queen with a smile, then fell to
consulting with the king and the alcaldes.

For a long time they debated in voices so low that none could hear what
they said, looking now at one and now at another of the parties to this
strange suit. Also, some priest was called into their council, which
Margaret thought a bad omen. At length they made up their minds, and in
a low, quiet voice and measured words her Majesty, as Queen of Castile,
gave the judgment of them all. Addressing herself first to Morella,
she said:

"My lord Marquis, you have brought very grave charges against the lady
who claims to be your wife, and the Englishman whose affianced bride you
admit you snatched away by fraud and force. This gentleman, on his own
behalf and on behalf of these ladies, has challenged you to a combat to
the death in a fashion that none can mistake. Do you accept his
challenge?"

"I would accept it readily enough, your Majesty," answered Morella in
sullen tones, "since heretofore none have doubted my courage; but I must
remember that I am"--and he paused, then added--"what your Majesties
know me to be, a grandee of Spain, and something more, wherefore it is
scarcely lawful for me to cross swords with a Jew-merchant's clerk, for
that was this man's high rank and office in England."

"You could cross them with me on your ship, the _San Antonio_,"
exclaimed Peter bitterly, "why then are you ashamed to finish what you
were not ashamed to begin? Moreover, I tell you that in love or war I
hold myself the equal of any woman-thief and bastard in this kingdom,
who am one of a name that has been honoured in my own."

Now again the king and queen spoke together of this question of rank--no
small one in that age and country. Then Isabella said:

"It is true that a grandee of Spain cannot be asked to meet a simple
foreign gentleman in single combat. Therefore, since he has thought fit
to raise it, we uphold the objection of the Marquis of Morella, and
declare that this challenge is not binding on his honour. Yet we note
his willingness to accept the same, and are prepared to do what we can
to make the matter easy, so that it may not be said that a Spaniard, who
has wrought wrong to an Englishman, and been asked openly to make the
amend of arms in the presence of his sovereigns, was debarred from so
doing by the accident of his rank. Senor Peter Brome, if you will
receive it at our hands, as others of your nation have been proud to do,
we propose, believing you to be a brave and loyal man of gentle birth,
to confer upon you the knighthood of the Order of St. James, and thereby
and therein the right to consort with as equal, or to fight as equal,
any noble of Spain, unless he should be of the right blood-royal, to
which place we think the most puissant and excellent Marquis of Morella
lays no claim."

"I thank your Majesties," said Peter, astonished, "for the honour that
you would do to me, which, had it not been for the fact that my father
chose the wrong side on Bosworth Field, being of a race somewhat
obstinate in the matter of loyalty, I should not have needed to accept
from your Majesties. As it is I am very grateful, since now the noble
marquis need not feel debased in settling our long quarrel as he would
desire to do."

"Come hither and kneel down, Senor Peter Brome," said the queen when he
had finished speaking.

He obeyed, and Isabella, borrowing his sword from the king, gave him the
accolade by striking him thrice upon the right shoulder and saying:

"Rise, Sir Peter Brome, Knight of the most noble Order of Saint Iago,
and by creation a Don of Spain."

He rose, he bowed, retreating backwards as was the custom, and thereby
nearly falling off the dais, which some people thought a good omen for
Morella. As he went the king said:

"Our Marshal, Sir Peter, will arrange the time and manner of your combat
with the marquis as shall be most convenient to you both. Meanwhile, we
command you both that no unseemly word or deed should pass between you,
who must soon meet face to face to abide the judgment of God in battle
_a l'outrance_. Rather, since one of you must die so shortly, do we
entreat you to prepare your souls to appear before His judgment-seat. We
have spoken."

Now the audience appeared to think that the court was ended, for many of
them began to rise; but the queen held up her hand and said:

"There remain other matters on which we must give judgment. The senora
here," and she pointed to Betty, "asks that her marriage should be
declared valid, or so we understand, and the Marquis of Morella asks
that his marriage with the said senora should be declared void, or so
we understand. Now this is a question over which we claim no power, it
having to do with a sacrament of the Church. Therefore we leave it to
his Holiness the Pope in person, or by his legate, to decide according
to his wisdom in such manner as may seem best to him, if the parties
concerned should choose to lay their suit before him. Meanwhile, we
declare and decree that the senora, born Elizabeth Dene, shall
everywhere throughout our dominions, until or unless his Holiness the
Pope shall decide to the contrary, be received and acknowledged as the
Marchioness of Morella, and that during his lifetime her reputed husband
shall make due provision for her maintenance, and that after his death,
should no decision have been come to by the court of Rome upon her suit,
she shall inherit and enjoy that proportion of his lands and property
which belongs to a wife under the laws of this realm."

Now, while Betty bowed her thanks to their Majesties till the jewels on
her bodice rattled, and Morella scowled till his face looked as black as
a thunder-cloud above the mountains, the audience, whispering to each
other, once more rose to disperse. Again the queen held up her hand, for
the judgment was not yet finished.

"We have a question to ask of the gallant Sir Peter Brome and the Dona
Margaret, his affianced. Is it still their desire to take each other in
marriage?"

Now Peter looked at Margaret, and Margaret looked at Peter, and there
was that in their eyes which both of them understood, for he answered in
a clear voice:

"Your Majesty, that is the dearest wish of both of us."

The queen smiled a little, then asked: "And do you, Senor John
Castell, consent and allow your daughter's marriage to this knight?"

"I do, indeed," he answered gravely. "Had it not been for this man
here," and he glanced with bitter hatred at Morella, "they would have
been united long ago, and to that end," he added with meaning, "such
little property as I possessed has been made over to trustees in England
for their benefit and that of their children. Therefore I am
henceforward dependent upon their charity."

"Good," said the queen. "Then one question remains to be put, and only
one. Is it your wish, both of you, that you should be wed before the
single combat between the Marquis of Morella and Sir Peter Brome?
Remember, Dona Margaret, before you answer, that in this event you may
soon be made a widow, and that if you postpone the ceremony you may
never be a wife."

Now Margaret and Peter spoke a few words together, then the former
answered for them both.

"Should my lord fall," she said in her sweet voice that trembled as she
uttered the words, "in either case my heart will be widowed and broken.
Let me live out my days, therefore, bearing his name, that, knowing my
deathless grief, none may thenceforth trouble me with their love, who
desire to remain his bride in heaven."

"Well spoken," said the queen. "We decree that here in our cathedral of
Seville you twain shall be wed on the same day, but before the Marquis
of Morella and you, Sir Peter Brome, meet in single combat. Further,
lest harm should be attempted against either of you," and she looked
sideways at Morella, "you, Senora Margaret, shall be my guest until you
leave my care to become a bride, and you, Sir Peter, shall return to
lodge in the prison whence you came, but with liberty to see whom you
will, and to go when and where you will, but under our protection, lest
some attempt should be made on you."

She ceased, whereon suddenly the king began speaking in his sharp, thin
voice.

"Having settled these matters of chivalry and marriage," he said, "there
remains another, which I will not leave to the gentle lips of our
sovereign Lady, that has to do with something higher than either of
them--namely, the eternal welfare of men's souls, and of the Church of
Christ on earth. It has been declared to us that the man yonder, John
Castell, merchant of London, is that accursed thing, a Jew, who for the
sake of gain has all his life feigned to be a Christian, and, as such,
deceived a Christian woman into marriage; that he is, moreover, of our
subjects, having been born in Spain, and therefore amenable to the civil
and spiritual jurisdiction of this realm."

He paused, while Margaret and Peter stared at each other affrighted.
Only Castell stood silent and unmoved, though he guessed what must
follow better than either of them.

"We judge him not," went on the king, "who claim no authority in such
high matters, but we do what we must do--we commit him to the Holy
Inquisition, there to take his trial!"

Now Margaret cried aloud. Peter stared about him as though for help,
which he knew could never come, feeling more afraid than ever he had
been in all his life, and for the first time that day Morella smiled.
At least he would be rid of one enemy. But Castell went to Margaret and
kissed her tenderly. Then he shook Peter by the hand, saying:

"Kill that thief," and he looked at Morella, "as I know you will, and
would if there were ten as bad at his back. And be a good husband to my
girl, as I know you will also, for I shall ask an account of you of
these matters when we meet where there is neither Jew nor Christian,
priest nor king. Now be silent, and bear what must be borne as I do, for
I have a word to say before I leave you and the world.

"Your Majesties, I make no plea for myself, and when I am questioned
before your Inquisition the task will be easy, for I desire to hide
nothing, and will tell the truth, though not from fear or because I
shrink from pain. Your Majesties, you have told us that these two, who,
at least, are good enough Christians from their birth, shall be wed. I
would ask you if any spiritual crime, or supposed crime, of mine will be
allowed to work their separation, or to their detriment in any way
whatsoever."

"On that point," answered the queen quickly, as though she wished to get
in her words before the king or any one else could speak, "you have our
royal word, John Castell. Your case is apart from their case, and
nothing of which you may be convicted shall affect them in person or,"
she added slowly, "in property."

"A large promise," muttered the king.

"It is my promise," she answered decidedly, "and it shall be kept at any
cost. These two shall marry, and if Sir Peter lives through the fray
they shall depart from Spain unharmed, nor shall any fresh charge be
brought against them in any court of the realm, nor shall they be
persecuted or proceeded against in any other realm or on the high seas
at our instance or that of our officers. Let my words be written down,
and one copy of them signed and filed and another copy given to the Dona
Margaret."

"Your Majesty," said Castell, "I thank you, and now, if die I must, I
shall die happy. Yet I make bold to tell you that had you not spoken
them it was my purpose to kill myself, here before your eyes, since that
is a sin for which none can be asked to suffer save the sinner. Also, I
say that this Inquisition which you have set up shall eat out the heart
of Spain and bring her greatness to the dust of death. The torture and
the misery of those Jews, than whom you have no better or more faithful
subjects, shall be avenged on the heads of your children's children for
so long as their blood endures."

He finished speaking, and, while something that sounded like a gasp of
fear rose from that crowded court as the meaning of Castell's bold words
came home to his auditors, the crowd behind him separated, and there
appeared, walking two by two, a file of masked and hooded monks and a
guard of soldiers, all of whom doubtless were in waiting. They came to
John Castell, they touched him on the shoulder, they closed around him,
hiding him as it were from the world, and in the midst of them he
vanished away.

Peter's memories of that strange day in the Alcazar at Seville always
remained somewhat dim and blurred. It was not wonderful. Within the
space of a few hours he had been tried for his life and acquitted. He
had seen Betty, transformed from a humble companion into a magnificent
and glittering marchioness, as a chrysalis is transformed into a
butterfly, urge her strange suit against the husband who had tricked
her, and whom she had tricked, and, for the while at any rate, more than
hold her own, thanks to her ready wit and native strength of character.

As her champion, and that of Margaret, he had challenged Morella to a
single combat, and when his defiance was refused on the ground of his
lack of rank, by the favour of the great Isabella, who wished to use him
as her instrument, doubtless because of those secret ambitions of
Morella's which Margaret had revealed to her, he had been suddenly
advanced to the high station of a Knight of the Order of St. James of
Spain, to which, although he cared little for it, otherwise he might
vainly have striven to come.

More, and better far, the desire of his heart would at length be
attained, for now it was granted to him to meet his enemy, the man whom
he hated with just cause, upon a fair field, without favour shown to one
or the other, and to fight him to the death. He had been promised,
further, that within some few days Margaret should be given to him as
wife, although it well might be that she would keep that name but for a
single hour, and that until then they both should dwell safe from
Morella's violence and treachery; also that, whatever chanced, no suit
should lie against them in any land for aught that they did or had
done in Spain.

Lastly, when all seemed safe save for that chance of war, whereof,
having been bred to such things, he took but little count; when his cup,
emptied at length of mire and sand, was brimming full with the good red
wine of battle and of love, when it was at his very lips indeed, Fate
had turned it to poison and to gall. Castell, his bride's father, and
the man he loved, had been haled to the vaults of the Inquisition,
whence he knew well he would come forth but once more, dressed in a
yellow robe "relaxed to the civil arm," to perish slowly in the fires of
the Quemadero, the place of burning of heretics.

What would his conquest over Morella avail if Heaven should give him
power to conquer? What kind of a bridal would that be which was sealed
and consecrated by the death of the bride's father in the torturing
fires of the Inquisition? How would they ever get the smell of the smoke
of that sacrifice out of their nostrils? Castell was a brave man; no
torments would make him recant. It was doubtful even if he would be at
the pains to deny his faith, he who had only been baptized a Christian
by his father for the sake of policy, and suffered the fraud to continue
for the purposes of his business, and that he might win and keep a
Christian wife. No, Castell was doomed, and he could no more protect him
from priest and king than a dove can protect its nest from a pair of
hungry peregrines.

Oh that last scene! Never could Peter forget it while he lived--the
vast, fretted hall with its painted arches and marble columns; the rays
of the afternoon sun piercing the window-places, and streaming like
blood on to the black robes of the monks as, with their prey, they
vanished back into the arcade where they had lurked; Margaret's wild cry
and ashen face as her father was torn away from her, and she sank
fainting on to Betty's bejewelled bosom; the cruel sneer on Morella's
lips; the king's hard smile; the pity in the queen's eye; the excited
murmurings of the crowd; the quick, brief comments of the lawyers; the
scratching of the clerk's quill as, careless of everything save his
work, he recorded the various decrees; and above it all as it were,
upright, defiant, unmoved, Castell, surrounded by the ministers of
death, vanishing into the blackness of the arcade, vanishing into the
jaws of the tomb.



CHAPTER XXIII

FATHER HENRIQUES AND THE BAKER'S OVEN

A week had gone by. Margaret was in the palace, where Peter had been to
see her twice, and found her broken-hearted. Even the fact that they
were to be wed upon the following Saturday, the day fixed also for the
combat between Peter and Morella, brought her no joy or consolation. For
on the next day, the Sunday, there was to be an "Act of Faith," an
_auto-da-fe_ in Seville, when wicked heretics, such as Jews, Moors, and
persons who had spoken blasphemy, were to suffer for their crimes--some
by fire on the Quemadero, or place of burning, outside the city; some by
making public confession of their grievous sin before they were carried
off to perpetual and solitary imprisonment; some by being garotted
before their bodies were given to the flames, and so forth. In this
ceremony it was known that John Castell had been doomed to play a
leading part.

On her knees, with tears and beseechings, Margaret had prayed the queen
for mercy. But in this matter those tears produced no more effect upon
the heart of Isabella than does water dripping on a diamond. Gentle
enough in other ways, where questions of the Faith were concerned she
had the craft of a fox and the cruelty of a tiger. She was even
indignant with Margaret. Had not enough been done for her? she asked.
Had she not even passed her royal word that no steps should be taken to
deprive the accused of such property as he might own in Spain if he were
found guilty, and that none of those penalties which, according to law
and custom fell upon the children of such infamous persons, should
attach to her, Margaret? Was she not to be publicly married to her
lover, and, should he survive the combat, allowed to depart with him in
honour without even being asked to see her father expiate his iniquity?
Surely, as a good Christian she should rejoice that he was given this
opportunity of reconciling his soul with God and be made an example to
others of his accursed faith. Was she then a heretic also?

So she stormed on, till Margaret crept from her presence wondering
whether this creed could be right that would force the child to inform
against and bring the parent to torment. Where were such things written
in the sayings of the Saviour and His Apostles? And if they were not
written, who had invented them?

"Save him!--save him!" Margaret had gasped to Peter in despair. "Save
him, or I swear to you, however much I may love you, however much we may
seem to be married, never shall you be a husband to me."

"That seems hard," replied Peter, shaking his head mournfully, "since it
was not I who gave him over to these devils, and probably the end of it
would be that I should share his fate. Still, I will do what a man can."

"No, no," she cried in despair; "do nothing that will bring you into
danger." But he had gone without waiting for her answer.

It was night, and Peter sat in a secret room in a certain baker's shop
in Seville. There were present there besides himself the Fray
Henriques--now a secretary to the Holy Inquisition, but disguised as a
layman--the woman Inez, the agent Bernaldez, and the old Jew, Israel
of Granada.

"I have brought him here, never mind how," Inez was saying, pointing to
Henriques. "A risky and disagreeable business enough. And now what is
the use of it?"

"No use at all," answered the Fray coolly, "except to me who pocket my
ten gold pieces."

"A thousand doubloons if our friend escapes safe and sound," put in the
old Jew Israel. "God in Heaven! think of it, a thousand doubloons."

The secretary's eyes gleamed hungrily.

"I could do with them well enough," he answered, "and hell could spare
one filthy Jew for ten years or so, but I see no way. What I do see, is
that probably all of you will join him. It is a great crime to try to
tamper with a servant of the Holy Office."

Bernaldez turned white, and the old Jew bit his nails; but Inez tapped
the priest upon the shoulder.

"Are you thinking of betraying us?" she asked in her gentle voice.
"Look here, friend, I have some knowledge of poisons, and I swear to you
that if you attempt it, you shall die within a week, tied in a double
knot, and never know whence the dose came. Or I can bewitch you, I, who
have not lived a dozen years among the Moors for nothing, so that your
head swells and your body wastes, and you utter blasphemies, not
knowing what you say, until for very shame's sake they toast you among
the faggots also."

"Bewitch me!" answered Henriques with a shiver. "You have done that
already, or I should not be here."

"Then, if you do not wish to be in another place before your time," went
on Inez, still tapping his shoulder gently, "think, think! and find a
way, worthy servant of the Holy Office."

"A thousand doubloons!--a thousand gold doubloons!" croaked old Israel,
"or if you fail, sooner or later, this month or next, this year or next,
death--death as slow and cruel as we can make it. There are two
Inquisitions in Spain, holy Father; but one of them does its business in
the dark, and your name is on its ledger."

Now Henriques was very frightened, as well he might be with all those
eyes glaring at him.

"You need fear nothing," he said, "I know the devilish power of your
league too well, and that, if I kill you all, a hundred others I have
never seen or heard of would dog me to my death, who have taken your
accursed money."

"I am glad that you understand at last, dear friend," said the soft,
mocking voice of Inez, who stood behind the monk like an evil genius,
and again tapped him affectionately on the shoulder, this time with the
bare blade of a poniard. "Now be quick with that plan of yours. It grows
late, and all holy people should be abed."

"I have none. I defy you," he answered furiously.

"Very well, friend--very well; then I will say good night, or rather
farewell, since I am not likely to meet you again in this world."
"Where are you going?" he asked anxiously.

"Oh! to the palace to meet the Marquis of Morella and a friend of his, a
relation indeed. Look you here. I have had an offer of pardon for my
part in that marriage if I can prove that a certain base priest knew
that he was perpetrating a fraud. Well, I _can_ prove it--you may
remember that you wrote me a note--and, if I do, what happens to such a
priest who chances to have incurred the hatred of a grandee of Spain and
of his noble relation?"

"I am an officer of the Holy Inquisition; no one dare touch me," he
gasped.

"Oh! I think that there are some who would take the risk. For
instance--the king."

Fray Henriques sank back in his chair. Now he understood whom Inez meant
by the noble relative of Morella, understood also that he had been
trapped. "On Sunday morning," he began in a hollow whisper, "the
procession will be formed, and wind through the streets of the city to
the theatre, where the sermon will be preached before those who are
relaxed proceed to the Quemadero. About eight o'clock it turns on to the
quay for a little way only, and here will be but few spectators, since
the view of the pageant is bad, nor is the road guarded there. Now, if a
dozen determined men were waiting disguised as peasants with a boat at
hand, perhaps they might----" and he paused.

Then Peter, who had been watching and listening to all this play, spoke
for the first time, asking:

"In such an event, reverend Sir, how would those determined men know
which was the victim that they sought?"

"The heretic John Castell," he answered, "will be seated on an ass,
clad in a _zamarra_ of sheepskin painted with fiends and a likeness of
his own head burning--very well done, for I, who can draw, had a hand in
it. Also, he alone will have a rope round his neck, by which he may
be known."

"Why will he be seated on an ass?" asked Peter savagely. "Because you
have tortured him so that he cannot walk?"

"Not so--not so," said the Dominican, shrinking from those fierce eyes.
"He has never been questioned at all, not a single turn of the
_mancuerda_, I swear to you, Sir Knight. What was the use, since he
openly avows himself an accursed Jew?"

"Be more gentle in your talk, friend," broke in Inez, with her familiar
tap upon the shoulder. "There are those here who do not think so ill of
Jews as you do in your Holy House, but who understand how to apply the
_mancuerda_, and can make a very serviceable rack out of a plank and a
pulley or two such as lie in the next room. Cultivate courtesy, most
learned priest, lest before you leave this place you should add a cubit
to your stature."

"Go on," growled Peter.

"Moreover," added Fray Henriques shakily, "orders came that it was not
to be done. The Inquisitors thought otherwise, as they believed
--doubtless in error--that he might have accomplices whose names
he would give up; but the orders said that as he had lived so long in
England, and only recently travelled to Spain, he could have none.
Therefore he is sound--sound as a bell; never before, I am told, has an
impenitent Jew gone to the stake in such good case, however worthy and
worshipful he might be."

"So much the better for you, if you do not lie," answered Peter.
"Continue!"

"There is nothing more to say, except that I shall be walking near to
him with the two guards, and, of course, if he were snatched away from
us, and there were no boats handy in which to pursue, we could not help
it, could we? Indeed, we priests, who are men of peace, might even fly
at the sight of cruel violence."

"I should advise you to fly fast and far," said Peter. "But, Inez, what
hold have you on this friend of yours? He will trick everybody."

"A thousand doubloons--a thousand doubloons!" muttered old Israel like a
sleepy parrot.

"He may think to screw more than that out of the carcases of some of us,
old man. Come, Inez, you are quick at this game. How can we best hold
him to his word?"

"Dead, I think," broke in Bernaldez, who knew his danger as the partner
and relative of Castell, and the nominal owner of the ship _Margaret_ in
which it was purposed that he should escape. "We know all that he can
tell, and if we let him go he will betray us soon or late. Kill him out
of the way, I say, and burn his body in the oven."

Now Henriques fell upon his knees, and with groans and tears began to
implore mercy.

"Why do you complain so?" asked Inez, watching him with reflective eyes.
"The end would be much gentler than that which you righteous folk mete
out to many more honest men, yes, and women too. For my part, I think
that the Senor Bernaldez gives good counsel. Better that you should
die, who are but one, than all of us and others, for you will understand
that we cannot trust you. Has any one got a rope?"

Now Henriques grovelled on the ground before her, kissing the hem of her
robe, and praying her in the name of all the saints to show pity on one
who had been betrayed into this danger by love of her.

"Of money you mean, Toad," she answered, kicking him with her slippered
foot. "I had to listen to your talk of love while we journeyed together,
and before, but here I need not, and if you speak of it again you shall
go living into that baker's oven. Oh! you have forgotten it, but I have
a long score to settle with you. You were a familiar of the Holy Office
here at Seville--were you not?--before Morella promoted you to Motril
for your zeal, and made you one of his chaplains? Well, I had a sister,"
And she knelt down and whispered a name into his ear.

He uttered a sound--it was more of a scream than a gasp.

"I had nothing to do with her death," he protested. "She was brought
within the walls of the Holy House by some one who had a grudge against
her and bore false witness."

"Yes, I know. It was you who had the grudge, you snake-souled rogue, and
it was you who gave the false witness. It was you, also, who but the
other day volunteered the corroborative evidence that was necessary
against Castell, saying that he had passed the Rood at your house in
Motril without doing it reverence, and other things. It was you, too,
who urged your superiors to put him to the question, because you said he
was rich and had rich friends, and much money could be wrung out of him
and them, whereof you were to get your share. Oh! yes, my information is
good, is it not? Even what passes in the dungeons of the Holy House
comes to the ears of the woman Inez. Well, do you still think that
baker's oven too hot for you?"

By this time Henriques was speechless with terror. There he knelt upon
the floor, glaring at this soft-voiced, remorseless woman who had made a
tool and a fool of him; who had beguiled him there that night, and who
hated him so bitterly and with so just a cause. Peter was speaking now.

"It would be better not to stain our hands with the creature's blood,"
he said. "Caged rats give little sport, and he might be tracked. For my
part, I would leave his judgment to God. Have you no other way, Inez?"

She thought a while, then prodded the Fray Henriques with her foot,
saying:

"Get up, sainted secretary to the Holy Office, and do a little writing,
which will be easy to you. See, here are pens and paper. Now
I'll dictate:

"'Most Adorable Inez,

"'Your dear message has reached me safely here in this accursed Holy
House, where we lighten heretics of their sins to the benefit of their
souls, and of their goods to the benefit of our own bodies----'"

"I cannot write it," groaned Henriques; "it is rank heresy."

"No, only the truth," answered Inez.

"Heresy and the truth--well, they are often the same thing. They would
burn me for it."

"That is just what many heretics have urged. They have died gloriously
for what they hold to be the truth, why should not you? Listen," she
went on more sternly. "Will you take your chance of burning on the
Quemadero, which you will not do unless you betray us, or will you
certainly burn more privately, but better, in a baker's oven, and within
half an hour? Ah! I thought you would not hesitate. Continue your
letter, most learned scribe. Are those words down? Yes. Now add these:

"'I note all you tell me about the trial at the Alcazar before their
Majesties. I believe that the Englishwoman will win her case. That was a
very pretty trick that I played on the most noble marquis at Granada.
Nothing neater was ever done, even in this place. Well, I owed him a
long score, and I have paid him off in full. I should like to have seen
his exalted countenance when he surveyed the features of his bride, the
waiting-woman, and knew that the mistress was safe away with another
man. The nephew of the king, who would like himself to be king some day,
married to an English waiting-woman! Good, very good, dear Inez.

"'Now, as regards the Jew, John Castell. I think that the matter may
possibly be managed, provided that the money is all right, for, as you
know, I do not work for nothing. Thus----'" And Inez dictated with
admirable lucidity those suggestions as to the rescue of Castell, with
which the reader is already acquainted, ending the letter as follows:

"'These Inquisitors here are cruel beasts, though fonder of money than
of blood; for all their talk about zeal for the Faith is so much wind
behind the mountains. They care as much for the Faith as the mountain
cares for the wind, or, let us say, as I do. They wanted to torture the
poor devil, thinking that he would rain maravedis; but I gave a hint in
the right quarter, and their fun was stopped. Carissima, I must stop
also; it is my hour for duty, but I hope to meet you as arranged, and we
will have a merry evening. Love to the newly married marquis, if you
meet him, and to yourself you know how much.

"'Your

"'HENRIQUES.

"'POSTSCRIPTUM.--This position will scarcely be as remunerative as I
hoped, so I am glad to be able to earn a little outside, enough to buy
you a present that will make your pretty eyes shine.'

"There!" said Inez mildly, "I think that covers everything, and would
burn you three or four times over. Let me read it to see that it is
plainly written and properly signed, for in such matters a good deal
turns on handwriting. Yes, that will do. Now you understand, don't you,
if anything goes wrong about the matter we have been talking of--that
is, if the worthy John Castell is not rescued, or a smell of our little
plot should get into the wind--this letter goes at once to the right
quarter, and a certain secretary will wish that he had never been born.
Man!" she added in a hissing whisper, "you shall die by inches as my
sister did."

"A thousand doubloons if the thing succeeds, and you live to claim
them," croaked old Israel. "I do not go back upon my word. Death and
shame and torture or a thousand doubloons. Now he knows our terms,
blindfold him again, Senor Bernaldez, and away with him, for he poisons
the air. But first you, Inez, be gone and lodge that letter where
you know."

       *       *       *       *       *

That same night two cloaked figures, Peter and Bernaldez, were rowed in
a little boat out to where the _Margaret_ lay in the river, and, making
her fast, slipped up the ship's side into the cabin. Here the stout
English captain, Smith, was waiting for them, and so glad was the honest
fellow to see Peter that he cast his arms about him and hugged him, for
they had not met since that desperate adventure of the boarding of the
_San Antonio_.

"Is your ship fit for sea, Captain?" asked Peter.

"She will never be fitter," he answered. "When shall I get sailing
orders?"

"When the owner comes aboard," answered Peter.

"Then we shall stop here until we rot; they have trapped him in their
Inquisition. What is in your mind, Peter Brome?--what is in your mind?
Is there a chance?"

"Aye, Captain, I think so, if you have a dozen fellows of the right
English stuff between decks."

"We have got that number, and one or two more. But what's the plan?"

Peter told him.

"Not so bad," said Smith, slapping his heavy hand upon his knee; "but
risky--very risky. That Inez must be a good girl. I should like to marry
her, notwithstanding her bygones."

Peter laughed, thinking what an odd couple they would make. "Hear the
rest, then talk," he said. "See now! On Saturday next Mistress Margaret
and I are to be married in the cathedral; then, towards sunset, the
Marquis of Morella and I run our course in the great bull-ring yonder,
and you and half a dozen of your men will be present. Now, I may conquer
or I may fail----"

"Never!--never!" said the captain. "I wouldn't give a pair of old boots
for that fine Spaniard's chance when you get at him. Why, you will crimp
him like a cod-fish!"

"God knows!" answered Peter. "If I win, my wife and I make our adieux to
their Majesties, and ride away to the quay, where the boat will be
waiting, and you will row us on board the _Margaret_. If I fail, you
will take up my body, and, accompanied by my widow, bring it in the same
fashion on board the _Margaret_, for I shall give it out that in this
case I wish to be embalmed in wine and taken back to England for burial.
In either event, you will drop your ship a little way down the river
round the bend, so that folk may think that you have sailed. In the
darkness you must work her back with the tide and lay her behind those
old hulks, and if any ask you why, say that three of your men have not
yet come aboard, and that you have dropped back for them, and whatever
else you like. Then, in case I should not be alive to guide you, you and
ten or twelve of the best sailors will land at the spot that this
gentleman will show you to-morrow, wearing Spanish cloaks so as not to
attract attention, but being well armed underneath them, like idlers
from some ship who had come ashore to see the show. I have told you how
you may know Master Castell. When you see him make a rush for him, cut
down any that try to stop you, tumble him into the boat, and row for
your lives to the ship, which will slip her moorings and get up her
canvas as soon as she sees you coming, and begin to drop down the river
with the tide and wind, if there is one. That is the plot, but God alone
knows the end of it! which depends upon Him and the sailors. Will you
play this game for the love of a good man and the rest of us? If you
succeed, you shall be rich for life, all of you."

"Aye," answered the captain, "and there's my hand on it. So sure as my
name is Smith, we will hook him out of that hell if men can do it, and
not for the money either. Why, Peter, we have sat here idle so long,
waiting for you and our lady, that we shall be glad of the fun. At any
rate, there will be some dead Spaniards before they have done with us,
and, if we are worsted, I'll leave the mate and enough hands upon the
ship to bring her safe to Tilbury. But we won't be--we won't be. By this
day week we will all be rolling homewards across the Bay with never a
Spaniard within three hundred miles, you and your lady and Master
Castell, too. I know it! I tell you, lad, I know it!"

"How do you know it?" asked Peter curiously.

"Because I dreamed it last night. I saw you and Mistress Margaret
sitting sweet as sugar, with your arms around each other's middles,
while I talked to the master, and the sun went down with the wind
blowing stiff from sou-sou-west, and a gale threatening. I tell you that
I dreamed it--I who am not given to dreams."



CHAPTER XXIV

THE FALCON STOOPS

It was the marriage day of Margaret and Peter. Clad in white armour that
had been sent to him as a present from the queen, a sign and a token of
her good wishes for his success in his combat with Morella, wearing the
insignia of a Knight of St. James hanging by a ribbon from his neck, his
shield emblazoned with his coat of the stooping falcon, which appeared
also upon the white cloak that hung from his shoulders, behind him a
squire of high degree, who carried his plumed casque and lance, and
accompanied by an escort of the royal guards, Peter rode from his
quarters in the prison to the palace gates, and waited there as he had
been bidden. Presently they opened, and through them, seated on a
palfrey, appeared Margaret, wonderfully attired in white and silver, but
with her veil lifted so that her face could be seen. She was companioned
by a troop of maidens mounted, all of them, on white horses, and at her
side, almost outshining her in glory of apparel, and attended by all her
household, rode Betty, Marchioness of Morella--at any rate for that
present time.

Although she could never be less than beautiful, it was a worn and pale
Margaret who bowed her greetings to the bridegroom without those palace
gates. What wonder, since she knew that within a few hours his life
must be set upon the hazard of a desperate fray. What wonder, since she
knew that to-morrow her father was doomed to be burnt living upon the
Quemadero.

They met, they greeted; then, with silver trumpets blowing before them,
the glittering procession wound its way through the narrow streets of
Seville. But few words passed between them, whose hearts were too full
for words, who had said all they had to say, and now abided the issue of
events. Betty, however, whom many of the populace took for the bride,
because her air was so much the happier of the two, would not be silent.
Indeed she chid Margaret for her lack of gaiety upon such an occasion.

"Oh, Betty!--Betty!" answered Margaret, "how can I be gay, upon whose
heart lies the burden of to-morrow?"

"A pest upon the burden of to-morrow!" exclaimed Betty. "The burden of
to-day is enough for me, and that is not so bad to bear. Never shall we
have another such ride as this, with all the world staring at us, and
every woman in Seville envying us and our good looks and the favour of
the queen."

"I think it is you they stare at and envy," said Margaret, glancing at
the splendid woman at her side, whose beauty she knew well over-shadowed
her own rarer loveliness, at any rate in a street pageant, as in the
sunshine the rose overshadows the lily.

"Well," answered Betty, "if so, it is because I put the better face on
things, and smile even if my heart bleeds. At least, your lot is more
hopeful than mine. If your husband has to fight to the death presently,
so has mine, and between ourselves I favour Peter's chances. He is a
very stubborn fighter, Peter, and wonderfully strong--too stubborn and
strong for any Spaniard."

"Well, that is as it should be," said Margaret, smiling faintly, "seeing
that Peter is your champion, and if he loses, you are stamped as a
serving-girl, and a woman of no character."

"A serving-girl I was, or something not far different," replied Betty in
a reflective voice, "and my character is a matter between me and Heaven,
though, after all, it might scrape through where others fail to pass. So
these things do not trouble me over much. What troubles me is that if my
champion wins he kills my husband."

"You don't want him to be killed then?" asked Margaret, glancing at her.

"No, I think not," answered Betty with a little shake in her voice, and
turning her head aside for a moment. "I know he is a scoundrel, but, you
see, I always liked this scoundrel, just as you always hated him, so I
cannot help wishing that he was going to meet some one who hits a little
less hard than Peter. Also, if he dies, without doubt his heirs will
raise suits against me."

"At any rate your father is not going to be burnt to-morrow," said
Margaret to change the subject, which, to tell the truth, was an
awkward one.

"No, Cousin, if my father had his deserts, according to all accounts,
although the lineage that I gave of him is true enough, doubtless he was
burnt long ago, and still goes on burning--in Purgatory, I mean--though
God knows I would never bring a faggot to his fire. But Master Castell
will not be burnt, so why fret about it."

"What makes you say that?" asked Margaret, who had not confided the
details of a certain plot to Betty.

"I don't know, but I am sure that Peter will get him out somehow. He is
a very good stick to lean on, Peter, although he seems so hard and
stupid and silent, which, after all, is in the nature of sticks. But
look, there is the cathedral--is it not a fine place?--and a great crowd
of people waiting round the gate. Now smile, Cousin. Bow and smile as
I do."

They rode up to the great doors, where Peter, springing to the ground,
assisted his bride from her palfrey. Then the procession formed, and
they entered the wonderful place, preceded by vergers with staves, and
by acolytes. Margaret had never visited it before, and never saw it
again, but all her life the memory of it remained clear and vivid in her
mind. The cold chill of the air within, the semi-darkness after the
glare of the sunshine, the seven great naves, or aisles, stretching
endlessly to right and left, the dim and towering roof, the pillars that
sprang to it everywhere like huge forest trees aspiring to the skies,
the solemn shadows pierced by lines of light from the high-cut windows,
the golden glory of the altars, the sounds of chanting, the sepulchres
of the dead--a sense of all these things rushed in upon her,
overpowering her and stamping the picture of them for ever on
her memory.

Slowly they passed onward to the choir, and round it to the steps of the
great altar of the chief chapel. Here, between the choir and the chapel,
was gathered the congregation--no small one--and here, side by side to
the right and without the rails, in chairs of state, sat their Majesties
of Spain, who had chosen to grace this ceremony with their presence.
More, as the bride came, the queen Isabella, as a special act of grace,
rose from her seat and, bending forward, kissed her on the cheek, while
the choir sang and the noble music rolled. It was a splendid spectacle,
this marriage of hers, celebrated in perhaps the most glorious fane in
Europe. But even as Margaret noted it and watched the bishops and
priests decked with glittering embroideries, summoned there to do her
honour, as they moved to and fro in the mysterious ceremonial of the
Mass, she bethought her of other rites equally glorious that would take
place on the morrow in the greatest square of Seville, where these same
dignitaries would condemn fellow human beings--perhaps among them her
own father--to be married to the cruel flame.

Side by side they knelt before the wondrous altar, while the
incense-clouds from the censers floated up one by one till they were
lost in the gloom above, as the smoke of to-morrow's sacrifice would
lose itself in the heavens, she and her husband, won at last, won after
so many perils, perhaps to be lost again for ever before night fell upon
the world. The priests chanted, the gorgeous bishop bowed over them and
muttered the marriage service of their faith, the ring was set upon her
hand, the troths were plighted, the benediction spoken, and they were
man and wife till death should them part, that death which stood so near
to them in this hour of life fulfilled. Then they two, who already that
morning had made confession of their sins, kneeling alone before the
altar, ate of the holy Bread, sealing a mystery with a mystery.

All was done and over, and rising, they turned and stayed a moment hand
in hand while the sweet-voiced choir sang some wondrous chant.
Margaret's eyes wandered over the congregation till presently they
lighted upon the dark face of Morella, who stood apart a little way,
surrounded by his squires and gentlemen, and watched her. More, he came
to her, and bowing low, whispered to her:

"We are players in a strange game, my lady Margaret, and what will be
its end, I wonder? Shall I be dead to-night, or you a widow? Aye, and
where was its beginning? Not here, I think. And where, oh where shall
this seed we sow bear fruit? Well, think as kindly of me as you can,
since I loved you who love me not."

And again bowing, first to her, then to Peter, he passed on, taking no
note of Betty, who stood near, considering him with her large eyes, as
though she also wondered what would be the end of all this play.

Surrounded by their courtiers, the king and queen left the cathedral,
and after them came the bridegroom and the bride. They mounted their
horses and in the glory of the southern sunlight rode through the
cheering crowd back to the palace and to the marriage feast, where their
table was set but just below that of their Majesties. It was long and
magnificent; but little could they eat, and, save to pledge each other
in the ceremonial cup, no wine passed their lips. At length some
trumpets blew, and their Majesties rose, the king saying in his thin,
clear voice that he would not bid his guests farewell, since very
shortly they would all meet again in another place, where the gallant
bridegroom, a gentleman of England, would champion the cause of his
relative and countrywoman against one of the first grandees of Spain
whom she alleged had done her wrong. That fray, alas! would be no
pleasure joust, but to the death, for the feud between these knights was
deep and bitter, and such were the conditions of their combat. He could
not wish success to the one or to the other; but of this he was sure,
that in all Seville there was no heart that would not give equal honour
to the conqueror and the conquered, sure also that both would bear
themselves as became brave knights of Spain and England.

Then the trumpets blew again, and the squires and gentlemen who were
chosen to attend him came bowing to Peter, and saying that it was time
for him to arm. Bride and bridegroom rose and, while all the spectators
fell back out of hearing, but watching them with curious eyes, spoke
some few words together.

"We part," said Peter, "and I know not what to say."

"Say nothing, husband," she answered him, "lest your words should weaken
me. Go now, and bear you bravely, as you will for your own honour and
that of England, and for mine. Dead or living you are my darling, and
dead or living we shall meet once more and be at rest for aye. My
prayers be with you, Sir Peter, my prayers and my eternal love, and may
they bring strength to your arm and comfort to your heart."

Then she, who would not embrace him before all those folk, curtseyed
till her knee almost touched the ground, while low he bent before her, a
strange and stately parting, or so thought that company; and taking the
hand of Betty, Margaret left him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Two hours had gone by. The Plaza de Toros, for the great square where
tournaments were wont to be held was in the hands of those who prepared
it for the _auto-da-fe_ of the morrow, was crowded as it had seldom been
before. This place was a huge amphitheatre--perchance the Romans built
it--where all sorts of games were celebrated, among them the baiting of
bulls as it was practised in those days, and other semi-savage sports.
Twelve thousand people could sit upon the benches that rose tier upon
tier around the vast theatre, and scarce a seat was empty. The arena
itself, that was long enough for horses starting at either end of it to
come to their full speed, was strewn with white sand, as it may have
been in the days when gladiators fought there. Over the main entrance
and opposite to the centre of the ring were placed the king and queen
with their lords and ladies, and between them, but a little behind, her
face hid by her bridal veil, sat Margaret, upright and silent as a
statue. Exactly in front of them, on the further side of the ring in a
pavilion, and attended by her household, appeared Betty, glittering with
gold and jewels, since she was the lady in whose cause, at least in
name, this combat was to be fought _a l'outrance._ Quite unmoved she
sat, and her presence seemed to draw every eye in that vast assembly
which talked of her while it waited, with a sound like the sound of the
sea as it murmurs on a beach at night.

Now the trumpets blew, and silence fell, and then, preceded by heralds
in golden tabards, Carlos, Marquis of Morella, followed by his squires,
rode into the ring through the great entrance. He bestrode a splendid
black horse, and was arrayed in coal-black armour, while from his casque
rose black ostrich plumes. On his shield, however, painted in scarlet,
appeared the eagle crowned with the coronet of his rank, and beneath,
the proud motto--"What I seize I tear." A splendid figure, he pressed
his horse into the centre of the arena, then causing it to wheel round,
pawing the air with its forelegs, saluted their Majesties by raising his
long, steel-tipped lance, while the multitude greeted him with a shout.
This done, he and his company rode away to their station at the north
end of the ring.

Again the trumpets sounded, and a herald appeared, while after him,
mounted on a white horse, and clad in his white armour that glistened in
the sun, with white plumes rising from his casque, and on his shield the
stooping falcon blazoned in gold with the motto of "For love and honour"
beneath it, appeared the tall, grim shape of Sir Peter Brome. He, too,
rode out into the centre of the arena, and, turning his horse quite
soberly, as though it were on a road, lifted his lance in salute. Now
there was no cheering, for this knight was a foreigner, yet soldiers who
were there said to each other that he looked like one who would not
easily be overthrown.

A third time the trumpets sounded, and the two champions, advancing from
their respective stations, drew rein side by side in front of their
Majesties, where the conditions of the combat were read aloud to them by
the chief herald. They were short. That the fray should be to the death
unless the king and queen willed otherwise and the victor consented;
that it should be on horse or on foot, with lance or sword or dagger,
but that no broken weapon might be replaced and no horse or armour
changed; that the victor should be escorted from the place of combat
with all honour, and allowed to depart whither he would, in the kingdom
or out of it, and no suit or blood-feud raised against him; and that the
body of the fallen be handed over to his friends for burial, also with
all honour. That the issue of this fray should in no way affect any
cause pleaded in Courts ecclesiastical or civil, by the lady who
asserted herself to be the Marchioness of Morella, or by the most noble
Marquis of Morella, whom she claimed as her husband.

These conditions having been read, the champions were asked if they
assented to them, whereon each of them answered, "Aye!" in a clear
voice. Then the herald, speaking on behalf of Sir Peter Brome, by
creation a knight of St. Iago and a Don of Spain, solemnly challenged
the noble Marquis of Morella to single combat to the death, in that he,
the said marquis, had aspersed the name of his relative, the English
lady, Elizabeth Dene, who claimed to be his wife, duly united to him in
holy wedlock, and for sundry other causes and injuries worked towards
him, the said Sir Peter Brome, and his wife, Dame Margaret Brome, and in
token thereof, threw down a gauntlet, which gauntlet the Marquis of
Morella lifted upon the point of his lance and cast over his shoulder,
thus accepting the challenge.

Now the combatants dropped their visors, which heretofore had been
raised, and their squires, coming forward, examined the fastenings of
their armour, their weapons, and the girths and bridles of their
horses. These being pronounced sound and good, pursuivants took the
steeds by the bridles and led them to the far ends of the lists. At a
signal from the king a single clarion blew, whereon the pursuivants
loosed their hold of the bridles and sprang back. Another clarion blew,
and the knights gathered up their reins, settled their shields, and set
their lances in rest, bending forward over their horses' necks.

An intense silence fell upon all the watching multitude as that of night
upon the sea, and in the midst of it the third clarion blew--to Margaret
it sounded like the trump of doom. From twelve thousand throats one
great sigh went up, like the sigh of wind upon the sea, and ere it died
away, from either end of the arena, like arrows from the bow, like
levens from a cloud, the champions started forth, their stallions
gathering speed at every stride. Look, they met! Fair on each shield
struck a lance, and backward reeled their holders. The keen points
glanced aside or up, and the knights, recovering themselves, rushed past
each other, shaken but unhurt. At the ends of the lists the squires
caught the horses by the bridles and turned them. The first course
was run.

Again the clarions blew, and again they started forward, and presently
again they met in mid career. As before, the lances struck upon the
shields; but so fearful was the impact, that Peter's shivered, while
that of Morella, sliding from the topmost rim of his foe's buckler, got
hold in his visor bars. Back went Peter beneath the blow, back and still
back, till almost he lay upon his horse's crupper. Then, when it seemed
that he must fall, the lacings of his helm burst. It was torn from his
head, and Morella passed on bearing it transfixed upon his spear point.

"The Falcon falls," screamed the spectators; "he is unhorsed."

But Peter was not unhorsed. Freed from that awful pressure, he let drop
the shattered shaft and, grasping at his saddle strap, dragged himself
back into the selle. Morella tried to stay his charger, that he might
come about and fall upon the Englishman before he could recover himself;
but the brute was heady, and would not be turned till he saw the wall of
faces in front of him. Now they were round, both of them, but Peter had
no spear and no helm, while the lance of Morella was cumbered with his
adversary's casque that he strove to shake free from it, but in vain.

"Draw your sword," shouted voices to Peter--the English voices of Smith
and his sailors--and he put his hand down to do so, then bethought him
of some other counsel, for he let it lie within its scabbard, and,
spurring the white horse, came at Morella like a storm.

"The Falcon will be spiked," they screamed. "The Eagle wins!--the Eagle
wins!" And indeed it seemed that it must be so. Straight at Peter's
undefended face drove Morella's lance, but lo! as it came he let fall
his reins and with his shield he struck at the white plumes about its
point, the plumes torn from his own head. He had judged well, for up
flew those plumes, a little, a very little, yet far enough to give him
space, crouching on his saddle-bow, to pass beneath the deadly spear.
Then, as they swept past each other, out shot that long, right arm of
his and, gripping Morella like a hook of steel, tore him from his
saddle, so that the black horse rushed forward riderless, and the white
sped on bearing a double burden.

Grasping desperately, Morella threw his arms about his neck, and
intertwined, black armour mixed with white, they swayed to and fro,
while the frightened horse beneath rushed this way and that till,
swerving suddenly, together they fell upon the sand, and for a moment
lay there stunned.

"Who conquers?" gasped the crowd; while others answered, "Both are
sped!" And, leaning forward in her chair, Margaret tore off her veil and
watched with a face like the face of death.

See! As they had fallen together, so together they stirred and
rose--rose unharmed. Now they sprang back, out flashed the long swords,
and, while the squires caught the horses and, running in, seized the
broken spears, they faced each other. Having no helm, Peter held his
buckler above his head to shelter it, and, ever calm, awaited the
onslaught.

At him came Morella, and with a light, grating sound his sword fell upon
the steel. Before he could recover himself Peter struck back; but
Morella bent his knees, and the stroke only shore the black plumes from
his casque. Quick as light he drove at Peter's face with his point; but
the Englishman leapt to one side, and the thrust went past him. Again
Morella came at him, and struck so mighty a blow that, although Peter
caught it on his buckler, it sliced through the edge of it and fell upon
his unprotected neck and shoulder, wounding him, for now red blood
showed on the white armour, and Peter reeled back beneath the stroke.

"The Eagle wins!--the Eagle wins! Spain and the Eagle" shouted ten
thousand throats. In the momentary silence that followed, a single
voice, a clear woman's voice, which even then Margaret knew for that of
Inez, cried from among the crowd:

"Nay, the Falcon stoops!"

Before the sound of her words died away, maddened it would seem, by the
pain of his wound, or the fear of defeat, Peter shouted out his war-cry
of _"A Brome! A Brome"_! and, gathering himself together, sprang
straight at Morella as springs a starving wolf. The blue steel flickered
in the sunlight, then down it fell, and lo! half the Spaniard's helm lay
on the sand, while it was Morella's turn to reel backward--and more, as
he did so, he let fall his shield.

"A stroke!--a good stroke!" roared the crowd. "The Falcon!--the Falcon!"

Peter saw that fallen shield, and whether for chivalry's sake, as
thought the cheering multitude, or to free his left arm, he cast away
his own, and grasping the sword with both hands rushed on the Spaniard.
From that moment, helmless though he was, the issue lay in doubt no
longer. Betty had spoken of Peter as a stubborn swordsman and a hard
hitter, and both of these he now showed himself to be. As fresh to all
appearance as when he ran the first course, he rained blow after blow
upon the hapless Spaniard, till the sound of his sword smiting on the
good Toledo steel was like the sound of a hammer falling continually on
the smith's red iron. They were fearful blows, yet still the tough steel
held, and still Morella, doing what he might, staggered back beneath
them, till at length he came in front of the tribune, in which sat their
Majesties and Margaret. Out of the corner of his eye Peter saw the
place, and determined in his stout heart that then and there he would
end the thing. Parrying a cut which the desperate Spaniard made at his
head, he thrust at him so heavily that his blade bent like a bow, and,
although he could not pierce the black mail, almost lifted Morella from
his feet. Then, as he reeled backwards, Peter whirled his sword on high,
and, shouting "_Margaret!_" struck downwards with all his strength. It
fell as lightning falls, swift, keen, dazzling the eyes of all who
watched. Morella raised his arm to break the blow. In vain! The weapon
that he held was shattered, the casque beneath was cloven, and, throwing
his arms wide, he fell heavily to the ground and lay there
moving feebly.

For an instant there was silence, and in it a shrill woman's voice that
cried:

"The Falcon has stooped. The English hawk _has stooped!_"

Then there arose a tumult of shouting. "He is dead!" "Nay, he stirs."
"Kill him!" "Spare him; he fought well!"

Peter leaned upon his sword, looking at the fallen foe. Then he glanced
upwards at their Majesties, but these sat silent, making no sign, only
he saw Margaret try to rise from her seat and speak, to be pulled back
to it again by the hands of women. A deep hush fell upon the watching
thousands who waited for the end. Peter looked at Morella. Alas! he
still lived, his sword and the stout helmet had broken the weight of
that stroke, mighty though it had been. The man was but wounded in three
places and stunned. "What must I do?" asked Peter in a hollow voice to
the royal pair above him.

Now the king, who seemed moved, was about to speak; but the queen bent
forward and whispered something to him, and he remained silent. They
both were silent. All the intent multitude was silent. Knowing what this
dreadful silence meant, Peter cast down his sword and drew his dagger,
wherewith to cut the lashings of Morella's gorget and give the _coup
de grace_.

Just then it was that for the first time he heard a sound, far away upon
the other side of the arena, and, looking thither, saw the strangest
sight that ever his eyes beheld. Over the railing of the pavilion
opposite to him a woman climbed nimbly as a cat, and from it, like a
cat, dropped to the ground full ten feet below, then, gathering up her
dress about her knees, ran swiftly towards him. It was Betty! Betty
without a doubt! Betty in her gorgeous garb, with pearls and braided
hair flying loose behind her. He stared amazed. All stared amazed, and
in half a minute she was on them, and, standing over the fallen Morella,
gasped out:

"Let him be! I bid you let him be."

Peter knew not what to do or say, so advanced to speak with her, whereon
with a swoop like that of a swallow she pounced upon his sword that lay
in the sand and, leaping back to Morella, shook it on high, shouting:

"You will have to fight me first, Peter."

Indeed, she did more, striking at him so shrewdly with his own sword
that he was forced to spring sideways to avoid the stroke. Now a great
roar of laughter went up to heaven. Yes, even Peter laughed, for no
such thing as this had ever before been seen in Spain. It died away, and
again Betty, who had no low voice, shouted in her villainous Spanish:

"He shall kill me before he kills my husband. Give me my husband!"

"Take him, for my part," answered Peter, whereon, letting fall the
sword, Betty, filled with the strength of despair, lifted the senseless
Spaniard in her strong white arms as though he were a child, and his
bleeding head lying on her shoulder, strove to carry him away, but
could not.

Then, while all that audience cheered frantically, Peter with a gesture
of despair threw down his dagger and once more appealed to their
Majesties. The king rose and held up his hand, at the same time
motioning to Morella's squires to take him from the woman, which, seeing
their cognizance, Betty allowed them to do.

"Marchioness of Morella," said the king, for the first time giving her
that title, "your honour is cleared, your champion has conquered, and
this fierce fray was to the death. What have you to say?"

"Nothing," answered Betty, "except that I love the man, though he has
treated me and others ill, and, as I knew he would if he crossed swords
with Peter, has got his deserts for his deeds. I say I love him, and if
Peter wishes to kill him, he must kill me first."

"Sir Peter Brome," said the king, "the judgment lies in your hand. We
give you the man's life, to grant or to take."

Peter thought a while, then answered:

"I grant him his life if he will acknowledge this lady to be his true
and lawful wife, and live with her as such, now and for ever, staying
all suits against her."

"How can he do that, you fool," asked Betty, "when you have knocked all
his senses out of him with that great sword of yours?"

"Perhaps," suggested Peter humbly, "some one will do it for him."

"Yes," said Isabella, speaking for the first time, "I will. On behalf of
the Marquis of Morella I promise these things, Don Peter Brome, before
all these people here gathered. I add this: that if he should live, and
it pleases him to break this promise made on his behalf to save him from
death, then let his name be shamed, yes, let it become a byword and a
scorn. Proclaim it, heralds."

So the heralds blew their trumpets and one of them called out the
queen's decree, whereat the spectators cheered again, shouting that it
was good, and they bore witness to that promise.

Then Morella, still senseless, was borne away by his squires, Betty in
her blood-stained robe marching at his side, and his horse having been
brought to him again, Peter, wounded though he was, mounted and galloped
round the arena amidst plaudits such as that place had never heard,
till, lifting his sword in salutation, suddenly he and his gentlemen
vanished by the gate through which he had appeared.

Thus strangely enough ended that combat which thereafter was always
known as the Fray of the Eagle and the English Hawk.



CHAPTER XXV

HOW THE _MARGARET_ WON OUT TO SEA

It was night. Peter, faint with loss of blood and stiff with bruises,
had bade his farewell to their Majesties of Spain, who spoke many soft
words to him, calling him the Flower of Knighthood, and offering him
high place and rank if he would abide in their service. But he thanked
them and said No, for in Spain he had suffered too much to dwell there.
So they kissed his bride, the fair Margaret, who clung to her wounded
husband like ivy to an oak, and would not be separated from him, even
for a moment, that husband whom living she had scarcely hoped to clasp
again. Yes, they kissed her, and the queen threw about her a chain from
her own neck as a parting gift, and wished her joy of so gallant a lord.

"Alas! your Majesty," said Margaret, her dark eyes filling with tears,
"how can I be joyous, who must think of to-morrow?"

Thereon Isabella set her face and answered:

"Dona Margaret Brome, be thankful for what to-day has brought you, and
forget to-morrow and that which it must justly take away. Go now, and
God be with you both!"

So they went, the little knot of English sailormen, who, wrapped in
Spanish cloaks, had sat together in the amphitheatre and groaned when
the Eagle struck, and cheered when the Falcon swooped, leading, or
rather carrying Peter under cover of the falling night to a boat not far
from this Place of Bulls. In this they embarked unobserved, for the
multitude, and even Peter's own squires believed that he had returned
with his wife to the palace, as he had given out that he would do. So
they were rowed to the _Margaret_, which straightway made as though she
were about to sail, and indeed dropped a little way down stream. Here
she anchored again, just round a bend of the river, and lay there for
the night.

It was a heavy night, and in it there was no place for love or lovers'
tenderness. How could there be between these two, who for so long had
been tormented by doubts and fears, and on this day had endured such
extremity of terror and such agony of joy? Peter's wound also was deep
and wide, though his shield had broken the weight of Morella's sword,
and its edge had caught upon his shoulder-piece, so that by good chance
it had not reached down to the arteries, or shorn into the bone; yet he
had lost much blood, and Smith, the captain, who was a better surgeon
than might have been guessed from his thick hands, found it needful to
wash out the cut with spirit that gave much pain, and to stitch it up
with silk. Also Peter had great bruises on his arms and thighs, and his
back was hurt by that fall from the white charger with Morella in
his arms.

So it came about that most of that night he lay outworn, half-sleeping
and half-waking, and when at sunrise he struggled from his berth, it was
but to kneel by the side of Margaret and join her in her prayers that
her father might be rescued from the hands of these cruel priests
of Spain.

Now during the night Smith had brought his ship back with the tide, and
laid her under the shelter of those hulks whereof Peter had spoken,
having first painted out her name of _Margaret_, and in its place set
that of the _Santa Maria_, a vessel of about the same build and tonnage,
which, as they had heard, was expected in port. For this reason, or
because there were at that time many ships in the river, it happened
that none in authority noted her return, or if they did, neglected to
report the matter as one of no moment. Therefore, so far all went well.

According to the tale of Henriques, confirmed by what they had learned
otherwise, the great procession of the Act of Faith would turn on to the
quay at about eight o'clock, and pass along it for a hundred yards or so
only, before it wound away down a street leading to the _plaza_ where
the theatre was prepared, the sermon would be preached, the Mass
celebrated, and the "relaxed" placed in cages to be carried to the
Quemadero.

At six in the morning Smith mustered those twelve men whom he had chosen
to help him in the enterprise, and Peter, with Margaret at his side,
addressed them in the cabin, telling them all the plan, and praying them
for the sake of their master and of the Lady Margaret, his daughter, to
do what men might to save one whom they loved and honoured from so
horrible a death.

They swore that they would, every one of them, for their English blood
was up, nor did they so much as speak of the great rewards that had been
promised to those who lived through this adventure, and to the families
of those who fell. Then they breakfasted, girded their swords and knives
about them, and put on their Spanish cloaks, though, to speak truth,
these lads of Essex and of London made but poor Spaniards. Now, at
length the boat was ready, and Peter, although he could scarcely stand,
desired to be carried into it that he might accompany them. But the
captain, Smith, to whom perhaps Margaret had been speaking, set down his
flat foot on the deck and said that he, who commanded there, would
suffer no such thing. A wounded man, he declared, would but cumber them
who had little room to spare in that small boat, and could be of no
service, either on land or water. Moreover, Master Peter's face was
known to thousands who had watched it yesterday, and would certainly be
recognised, whereas none would take note at such a time of a dozen
common sailors landed from some ship to see the show. Lastly, he would
do best to stop on board the vessel, where, if anything went wrong, they
must be short-handed enough, who, if they could, ought to get her away
to sea and across it with all speed.

Still Peter would have gone, till Margaret, throwing her arms about him,
asked him if he thought that she would be the better if she lost both
her father and her husband, as, if things miscarried, well might happen.
Then, being in pain and very weak, he yielded, and Smith, having given
his last directions to the mate, and shaken Peter and Margaret by the
hand, asking their prayers for all of them, descended with his twelve
men into the boat, and dropping down under shelter of the hulks, rowed
to the shore as though they came from some other vessel. Now the quay
was not more than a bowshot from them, and from a certain spot upon the
_Margaret_ there was a good view of it between the stern of one hulk and
the bow of another. Here, then, Peter and Margaret sat themselves down
behind the bulwark, and watched with fears such as cannot be told, while
a sharp-eyed seaman climbed to the crow's-nest on the mast, whence he
could see over much of the city, and even the old Moorish castle that
was then the Holy House of the Inquisition. Presently this man reported
that the procession had started, for he saw its banners and the people
crowding to the windows and to the roof-tops; also the cathedral bell
began to toll slowly. Then came a long, long wait, during which their
little knot of sailors, wearing the Spanish cloaks, appeared upon the
quay and mingled with the few folk that were gathered there, since the
most of the people were collected by thousands on the great _plaza_ or
in the adjacent streets.

At length, just as the cathedral clock struck eight, the "triumphant"
march, as it was called, began to appear upon the quay. First came a
body of soldiers with lances; then a crucifix, borne by a priest and
veiled in black crape; then a number of other priests, clad in
snow-white robes to symbolise their perfect purity. Next followed men
carrying wood or leather images of some man or woman who, by flight to a
foreign land or into the realms of Death, had escaped the clutches of
the Inquisition. After these marched other men in fours, each four of
them bearing a coffin that contained the body or bones of some dead
heretic, which, in the absence of his living person, like the effigies,
were to be committed to the flames as a token of what the Inquisition
would have done to him if it could--to enable it also to seize
his property.

Then came many penitents, their heads shaven, their feet bare, and clad,
some in dark-coloured cloaks, some in yellow robes, called the
_sanbenito_, which were adorned with a red cross. These were followed by
a melancholy band of "relaxed" heretics, doomed to the fire or
strangulation at the stake, and clothed in _zamarras_ of sheepskin,
painted all over with devils and the portraits of their own faces
surrounded by flames. These poor creatures wore also flame-adorned caps
called _corozas_, shaped like bishops' mitres, and were gagged with
blocks of wood, lest they should contaminate the populace by some
declaration of their heresy, while in their hands they bore tapers,
which the monks who accompanied them relighted from time to time if they
became extinguished.

Now the hearts of Peter and Margaret leaped within them, for at the end
of this hideous troop rode a man mounted on an ass, clothed in a
_zamarra_ and _coroza_, but with a noose about his neck. So the Fray
Henriques had told the truth, for without doubt this was John Castell.
Like people in a dream, they saw him advance in his garb of shame, and
after him, gorgeously attired, civil officers, inquisitors, and
familiars of noble rank, members of the Council of Inquisition, behind
whom was borne a flaunting banner, called the Holy Standard of
the Faith.

Now Castell was opposite to the little group of seamen, and, or so it
seemed, something went wrong with the harness of the ass on which he
sat, for it stopped, and a man in the garb of a secretary stepped to it,
apparently to attend to a strap, thus bringing all the procession
behind to a halt, while that in front proceeded off the quay and round
the corner of a street. Whatever it might be that had happened, it
necessitated the dismounting of the heretic, who was pulled roughly off
the brute's back, which, as though in joy at this riddance of its
burden, lifted its head and brayed loudly.

Men from the thin line of crowd that edged the quay came forward as
though to help, and among them were several in capes, such as were worn
by the sailors of the _Margaret_. The officers and grandees behind
shouted, "Forward!--forward!" whereon those attending to the ass hustled
it and its rider a little nearer to the water's edge, while the guards
ran back to explain what had happened. Then suddenly a confusion arose,
of which it was impossible to distinguish the cause, and next instant
Margaret and Peter, still gripping each other, saw the man who had been
seated on the ass being dragged rapidly down the steps of the quay, at
the foot of which lay the boat of the _Margaret_.

The mate at the helm saw also, for he blew his whistle, a sign at which
the anchor was slipped--there was no time to lift it--and men who were
waiting on the yards loosed the lashings of certain sails, so that
almost immediately the ship began to move.

Now they were fighting on the quay. The heretic was in the boat, and
most of the sailors; but others held back the crowd of priests and armed
familiars who strove to get at him. One, a priest with a sword in his
hand, slipped past them and tumbled into the boat also. At last all were
in save a single man, who was attacked by three adversaries--John Smith,
the captain. The oars were out, but his mates waited for him. He struck
with his sword, and some one fell. Then he turned to run. Two masked
familiars sprang at him, one landing on his back, one clinging to his
neck. With a desperate effort he cast himself into the water, dragging
them with him. One they saw no more, for Smith had stabbed him, the
other floated up near the boat, which already was some yards from the
quay, and a sailor battered him on the head with an oar, so that
he sank.

Smith had vanished also, and they thought he must be drowned. The
sailors thought it too, for they began to give way, when suddenly a
great brown hand appeared and clasped the stern-sheets, while a
bull-voice roared:

"Row on, lads, I'm right enough."

Row they did indeed, till the ashen oars bent like bows, only two of
them seized the officer who had sprung into the boat and flung him
screaming into the river, where he struggled a while, for he could not
swim, gripping at the air with his hands, then disappeared. The boat was
in mid-stream now, and shaping her course round the bow of the first
hulk beyond which the prow of the _Margaret_ began to appear, for the
wind was fresh, and she gathered way every moment.

"Let down the ladder, and make ready ropes," shouted Peter.

It was done, but not too soon, for next instant the boat was bumping on
their side. The sailors in her caught the ropes and hung on, while the
captain, Smith, half-drowned, clung to the stern-sheets, for the water
washed over his head.

"Save him first," cried Peter. A man, running down the ladder, threw a
noose to him, which Smith seized with one hand and by degrees worked
beneath his arms. Then they tackled on to it, and dragged him bodily
from the river to the deck, where he lay gasping and spitting out foam
and water. By now the ship was travelling swiftly, so swiftly that
Margaret was in an agony of fear lest the boat should be towed under
and sink.

But these sailor men knew their trade. By degrees they let the boat drop
back till her bow was abreast of the ladder. Then they helped Castell
forward. He gripped its rungs, and eager hands gripped him. Up he
staggered, step by step, till at length his hideous, fiend-painted cap,
his white face, whence the beard had been shaved, and his open mouth, in
which still was fixed the wooden gag, appeared above the bulwarks, as
the mate said afterwards, like that of a devil escaped from hell. They
lifted him over, and he sank fainting in his daughter's arms. Then one
by one the sailors came up after him--none were missing, though two had
been wounded, and were covered with blood. No, none were missing--God
had brought them, every one, safe back to the deck of the _Margaret_.

Smith, the captain, spat up the last of his river water and called for a
cup of wine, which he drank; while Peter and Margaret drew the accursed
gag from her father's mouth, and poured spirit down his throat. Shaking
the water from him like a great dog, but saying never a word, Smith
rolled to the helm and took it from the mate, for the navigation of the
river was difficult, and none knew it so well as he. Now they were
abreast the famous Golden Tower, and a big gun was fired at them; but
the shot went wide. "Look!" said Margaret, pointing to horsemen
galloping southwards along the river's bank.

"Yes," said Peter, "they go to warn the ports. God send that the wind
holds, for we must fight our way to sea."

The wind did hold, indeed it blew ever more strongly from the north; but
oh! that was a long, evil day. Hour after hour they sped forward down
the widening river; now past villages, where knots of people waved
weapons at them as they went; now by desolate marshes, plains, and banks
clothed with pine.

When they reached Bonanza the sun was low, and when they were off San
Lucar it had begun to sink. Out into the wide river mouth, where the
white waters tumbled on the narrow bar, rowed two great galleys to cut
them off, very swift galleys, which it seemed impossible to escape.

Margaret and Castell were sent below, the crew went to quarters, and
Peter crept stiffly aft to where the sturdy Smith stood at the helm,
which he would suffer no other man to touch. Smith looked at the sky, he
looked at the shore, and the safe, open sea beyond. Then he bade them
hoist more sail, all that she could carry, and looked grimly at the two
galleys lurking like deerhounds in a pass, that hung on their oars in
the strait channel, with the tumbling breakers on either side, through
which no ship could sail. "What will you do?" asked Peter. "Master
Peter," he answered between his teeth, "when you fought the Spaniard
yesterday I did not ask you what _you_ were going to do. Hold your
tongue, and leave me to my own trade."

The _Margaret_ was a swift ship, but never yet had she moved so
swiftly. Behind her shrilled the gale, for now it was no less. Her stout
masts bent like fishing poles, her rigging creaked and groaned beneath
the weight of the bellying canvas, her port bulwarks slipped along
almost level with the water, so that Peter must lie down on the deck,
for stand he could not, and watch it running by within three feet
of him.

The galleys drew up right across her path. Half a mile away they lay bow
by bow, knowing well that no ship could pass the foaming shallows; lay
bow by bow, waiting to board and cut down this little English crew when
the _Margaret_ shortened sail, as shorten sail she must. Smith yelled an
order to the mate, and presently, red in the setting sun, out burst the
flag of England upon the mainmast top, a sight at which the sailors
cheered. He shouted another order, and up ran the last jib, so that now
from time to time the port bulwarks dipped beneath the sea, and Peter
felt salt water stinging his sore back.

Thus did the _Margaret_ shorten sail, and thus did she yield her to the
great galleys of Spain.

The captains of the galleys hung on. Was this foreigner mad, or ignorant
of the river channel, they wondered, that he would sink with every soul
there upon the bar? They hung on, waiting for that leopard flag and
those bursting sails to come down; but they never stirred; only straight
at them rushed the _Margaret_ like a bull. She was not two furlongs
away, and she held dead upon her course, till at last those galleys saw
_that she would not sink alone_. Like a bull with shut eyes she held
dead upon her furious course!

Confusion arose upon the Spanish ships, whistles were blown, men
shouted, overseers ran down the planks flogging the slaves, lifted oars
shone red in the light of the dying sun as they beat the water wildly.
The prows began to back and separate, five feet, ten feet, a dozen feet
perhaps; then straight into that tiny streak of open water, like a stone
from the hand of the slinger, like an arrow from a bow, rushed the
wind-flung _Margaret_.

What happened? Go ask it of the fishers of San Lucar and the pirates of
Bonanza, where the tale has been told for generations. The great oars
snapped like reeds, the slaves were thrown in crushed and mangled heaps,
the tall deck of the port galley was ripped out of her like rent paper
by the stout yards of the stooping _Margaret_, the side of the starboard
galley rolled up like a shaving before a plane, and the _Margaret_
rushed through.

Smith, the captain, looked aft to where, ere they sank, the two great
ships, like wounded swans, rolled and fluttered on the foaming bar. Then
he put his helm about, called the carpenter, and asked what water
she made.

"None, Sir," he answered; "but she will want new tarring. It was oak
against eggshells, and we had the speed."

"Good!" said Smith, "shallows on either side; life or death, and I
thought I could make room. Send the mate to the helm. I'll have
a sleep."

Then the sun vanished beneath the roaring open sea, and, escaped from
all the power of Spain, the _Margaret_ turned her scarred and splintered
bow for Ushant and for England.



ENVOI

Ten years had gone by since Captain Smith took the good ship _Margaret_
across the bar of the Guadalquiver in a very notable fashion. It was
late May in Essex, and all the woods were green, and all the birds sang,
and all the meadows were bright with flowers. Down in the lovely vale of
Dedham there was a long, low house with many gables--a charming old
house of red brick and timbers already black with age. It stood upon a
little hill, backed with woods, and from it a long avenue of ancient
oaks ran across the park to the road which led to Colchester and London.
Down that avenue on this May afternoon an aged, white-haired man, with
quick black eyes, was walking, and with him three children--very
beautiful children--a boy of about nine and two little girls, who clung
to his hand and garments and pestered him with questions.

"Where are we going, Grandfather?" asked one little girl.

"To see Captain Smith, my dear," he answered.

"I don't like Captain Smith," said the other little girl; "he is so fat,
and says nothing."

"I do," broke in the boy, "he gave me a fine knife to use when I am a
sailor, and Mother does, and Father, yes, and Grandad too, because he
saved him when the cruel Spaniards wanted to put him in the fire. Don't
you, Grandad?"

"Yes, my dear," answered the old man. "Look! there is a squirrel
running over the grass; see if you can catch it before it reaches
that tree."

Off went the children at full pelt, and the tree being a low one, began
to climb it after the squirrel. Meanwhile John Castell, for it was he,
turned through the park gate and walked to a little house by the
roadside, where a stout man sat upon a bench contemplating nothing in
particular. Evidently he expected his visitor, for he pointed to the
place beside him, and, as Castell sat down, said:

"Why didn't you come yesterday, Master?"

"Because of my rheumatism, friend," he answered. "I got it first in the
vaults of that accursed Holy House at Seville, and it grows on me year
by year. They were very damp and cold, those vaults," he added
reflectively.

"Many people found them hot enough," grunted Smith, "also, there was
generally a good fire at the end of them. Strange thing that we should
never have heard any more of that business. I suppose it was because our
Margaret was such a favourite with Queen Isabella who didn't want to
raise questions with England, or stir up dirty water."

"Perhaps," answered Castell. "The water _was_ dirty, wasn't it?"

"Dirty as a Thames mud-bank at low tide. Clever woman, Isabella. No one
else would have thought of making a man ridiculous as she did by Morella
when she gave his life to Betty, and promised and vowed on his behalf
that he would acknowledge her as his lady. No fear of any trouble from
him after that, in the way of plots for the Crown, or things of that
sort. Why, he must have been the laughing-stock of the whole land--and
a laughing-stock never does anything. You remember the Spanish saying,
'King's swords cut and priests' fires burn, but street-songs kill
quickest!' I should like to learn more of what has become of them all,
though, wouldn't you, Master? Except Bernaldez, of course, for he's been
safe in Paris these many years, and doing well there, they say."

"Yes," answered Castell, with a little smile--"that is, unless I had to
go to Spain to find out."

Just then the three children came running up, bursting through the gate
all together.

"Mind my flower-bed, you little rogues," shouted Captain Smith, shaking
his stick at them, whereat they got behind him and made faces.

"Where's the squirrel, Peter?" asked Castell.

"We hunted it out of the tree, Grandad, and right across the grass, and
got round it by the edge of the brook, and then--"

"Then what? Did you catch it?"

"No, Grandad, for when we thought we had it sure, it jumped into the
water and swam away."

"Other people in a fix have done that before," said Castell, laughing,
and bethinking him of a certain river quay.

"It wasn't fair," cried the boy indignantly. "Squirrels shouldn't swim,
and if I can catch it I will put it in a cage."

"I think that squirrel will stop in the woods for the rest of its life,
Peter."

"Grandad!--Grandad!" called out the youngest child from the gate,
whither she had wandered, being weary of the tale of the squirrel,
"there are a lot of people coming down the road on horses, such fine
people. Come and see."

This news excited the curiosity of the old gentlemen, for not many fine
people came to Dedham. At any rate both of them rose, somewhat stiffly,
and walked to the gate to look. Yes, the child was right, for there,
sure enough, about two hundred yards away, advanced an imposing
cavalcade. In front of it, mounted on a fine horse, sat a still finer
lady, a very large and handsome lady, dressed in black silks, and
wearing a black lace veil that hung from her head. At her side was
another lady, much muffled up as though she found the climate cold, and
riding between them, on a pony, a gallant looking little boy. After
these came servants, male and female, six or eight of them, and last of
all a great wain, laden with baggage, drawn by four big Flemish horses.

"Now, whom have we here?" ejaculated Castell, staring at them.

Captain Smith stared too, and sniffed at the wind as he had often done
upon his deck on a foggy morning.

"I seem to smell Spaniards," he said, "which is a smell I don't like.
Look at their rigging. Now, Master Castell, of whom does that barque
with all her sails set remind you?"

Castell shook his head doubtfully.

"I seem to remember," went on Smith, "a great girl decked out like a
maypole running across white sand in that Place of Bulls at Seville--but
I forgot, you weren't there, were you?"

Now a loud, ringing voice was heard speaking in Spanish, and commanding
some one to go to yonder house and inquire where was the gate to the
Old Hall. Then Castell knew at once.

"It is Betty," he said. "By the beard of Abraham, it is Betty."

"I think so too; but don't talk of Abraham, Master. He is a dangerous
man, Abraham, in these very Christian lands; say, 'By the Keys of St.
Peter,' or, 'By St. Paul's infirmities.'"

"Child," broke in Castell, turning to one of the little girls, "run up
to the Hall and tell your father and mother that Betty has come, and
brought half Spain with her. Quickly now, and remember the
name, _Betty!_"

The child departed, wondering, by the back way; while Castell and Smith
walked towards the strangers.

"Can we assist you, Senora?" asked the former in Spanish.

"Marchioness of Morella, _if_ you please--" she began in the same
language, then suddenly added in English, "Why, bless my eyes! If it
isn't my old master, John Castell, with white wool instead of black!"

"It came white after my shaving by a sainted barber in the Holy House,"
said Castell. "But come off that tall horse of yours, Betty, my dear--I
beg your pardon--most noble and highly born Marchioness of Morella, and
give me a kiss."

"That I will, twenty, if you like," she answered, arriving in his arms
so suddenly from on high, that had it not been for the sturdy support of
Smith behind, they would both of them have rolled upon the ground.

"Whose are those children?" she asked, when she had kissed Castell and
shaken Smith by the hand. "But no need to ask, they have got my cousin
Margaret's eyes and Peter's long nose. How are they?" she added
anxiously.

"You will see for yourself in a minute or two. Come, send on your people
and baggage to the Hall, though where they will stow them all I don't
know, and walk with us."

Betty hesitated, for she had been calculating upon the effect of a
triumphal entry in full state. But at that moment there appeared
Margaret and Peter themselves--Margaret, a beautiful matron with a child
in her arms, running, and Peter, looking much as he had always been,
spare, long of limb, stern but for the kindly eyes, striding away
behind, and after him sundry servants and the little girl Margaret.

Then there arose a veritable babel of tongues, punctuated by embracings;
but in the end the retinue and the baggage were got off up the drive,
followed by the children and the little Spanish-looking boy, with whom
they had already made friends, leaving only Betty and her closely
muffled-up attendant. This attendant Peter contemplated for a while, as
though there were something familiar to him in her general air.

Apparently she observed his interest, for as though by accident she
moved some of the wrappings that hid her face, revealing a single soft
and lustrous eye and a few square inches of olive-coloured cheek. Then
Peter knew her at once.

"How are you, Inez?" he said, stretching out his hand with a smile, for
really he was delighted to see her.

"As well as a poor wanderer in a strange and very damp country can be,
Don Peter," she answered in her languorous voice, "and certainly
somewhat the better for seeing an old friend whom last she met in a
certain baker's shop. Do you remember?"

"Remember!" answered Peter. "It is not a thing I am likely to forget.
Inez, what became of Fray Henriques? I have heard several
different stories."

"One never can be sure," she answered as she uncovered her smiling red
lips; "there are so many dungeons in that old Moorish Holy House, and
elsewhere, that it is impossible to keep count of their occupants,
however good your information. All I know is that he got into trouble
over that business, poor man. Suspicions arose about his conduct in the
procession which the captain here will recall," and she pointed to
Smith. "Also, it is very dangerous for men in such positions to visit
Jewish quarters and to write incautious letters--no, not the one you
think of; I kept faith--but others, afterwards, begging for it back
again, some of which miscarried."

"Is he dead then?" asked Peter.

"Worse, I think," she answered--"a living death, the 'Punishment of the
Wall.'"

"Poor wretch!" said Peter, with a shudder.

"Yes," remarked Inez reflectively, "few doctors like their own
medicine."

"I say, Inez," said Peter, nodding his head towards Betty, "that marquis
isn't coming here, is he?"

"In the spirit, perhaps, Don Peter, not otherwise."

"So he is really dead? What killed him?"

"Laughter, I think, or, rather, being laughed at. He got quite well of
the hurts you gave him, and then, of course, he had to keep the queen's
gage, and take the most noble lady yonder, late Betty, as his
marchioness. He couldn't do less, after she beat you off him with your
own sword and nursed him back to life. But he never heard the last of
it. They made songs about him in the streets, and would ask him how his
godmother, Isabella, was, because she had promised and vowed on his
behalf; also, whether the marchioness had broken any lances for his sake
lately, and so forth."

"Poor man!" said Peter again, in tones of the deepest sympathy. "A cruel
fate; I should have done better to kill him."

"Much; but don't say so to the noble Betty, who thinks that he had a
very happy married life under her protecting care. Really, he ate his
heart out till even I, who hated him, was sorry. Think of it! One of the
proudest men in Spain, and the most gallant, a nephew of the king, a
pillar of the Church, his sovereigns' plenipotentiary to the Moors, and
on secret matters--the common mock of the vulgar, yes, and of the
great too!"

"The great! Which of them?"

"Nearly all, for the queen set the fashion--I wonder why she hated him
so?" Inez added, looking shrewdly at Peter; then without waiting for an
answer, went on: "She did it very cleverly, by always making the most of
the most honourable Betty in public, calling her near to her, talking
with her, admiring her English beauty, and so forth, and what her
Majesty did, everybody else did, until my exalted mistress nearly went
off her head, so full was she of pride and glory. As for the marquis, he
fell ill, and after the taking of Granada went to live there quietly.
Betty went with him, for she was a good wife, and saved lots of money.
She buried him a year ago, for he died slow, and gave him one of the
finest tombs in Spain--it isn't finished yet. That is all the story. Now
she has brought her boy, the young marquis, to England for a year or
two, for she has a very warm heart, and longed to see you all. Also, she
thought she had better go away a while, for her son's sake. As for me,
now that Morella is dead, I am head of the household--secretary, general
purveyor of intelligence, and anything else you like at a good salary."

"You are not married, I suppose?" asked Peter.

"No," Inez answered; "I saw so much of men when I was younger that I
seem to have had enough of them. Or perhaps," she went on, fixing that
mild and lustrous eye upon him, "there was one of them whom I liked too
well to wish----"

She paused, for they had crossed the drawbridge and arrived opposite to
the Old Hall. The gorgeous Betty and the fair Margaret, accompanied by
the others, and talking rapidly, had passed through the wide doorway
into its spacious vestibule. Inez looked after them, and perceived,
standing like a guard at the foot of the open stair, that scarred suit
of white armour and riven shield blazoned with the golden falcon,
Isabella's gift, in which Peter had fought and conquered the Marquis of
Morella. Then she stepped back and contemplated the house critically.

At each end of it rose a stone tower, built for the purposes of defence,
and all around ran a deep moat. Within the circle of this moat, and
surrounded by poplars and ancient yews, on the south side of the Hall
lay a walled pleasaunce, or garden, of turf pierced by paths and planted
with flowering hawthorns and other shrubs, and at the end of it, almost
hidden in drooping willows, a stone basin of water. Looking at it, Inez
saw at once that so far as the circumstances of climate and situation
would allow, Peter, in the laying out of this place, had copied another
in the far-off, southern city of Granada, even down to the details of
the steps and seats. She turned to him and said innocently:

"Sir Peter, are you minded to walk with me in that garden this pleasant
evening? I do not see any window in yonder tower."

Peter turned red as the scar across his face, and laughed as he
answered:

"There may be one for all that. Get you into the house, dear Inez, for
none can be more welcome there; but I walk no more alone with you
in gardens."

THE END







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