The Amateur Gentleman
Jeffery Farnol et al
Part 3 out of 13
Viscount stepped out to the stables accompanied by the round-faced
landlord, while Barnabas, leaning out from the open casement, stared
idly into the lane. And thus he once more beheld the gentleman in
the jaunty hat, who stood lounging in the shade of one of the great
trees that grew before the inn, glancing up and down the lane in the
attitude of one who waits. He was tall and slender, and clad in a
tight-fitting blue coat cut in the extreme of the prevailing fashion,
and beneath his curly-brimmed hat, Barnabas saw a sallow face with
lips a little too heavy, nostrils a little too thin, and eyes a
little too close together, at least, so Barnabas thought, but what he
noticed more particularly was the fact that one of the buttons of
the blue coat had been wrenched away.
Now, as the gentleman lounged there against the tree, he switched
languidly at a bluebell that happened to grow within his reach, cut
it down, and with gentle, lazy taps beat it slowly into nothingness,
which done, he drew out his watch, glanced at it, frowned, and was
in the act of thrusting it back into his fob when the hedge opposite
was parted suddenly and a man came through. A wretched being he
looked, dusty, unkempt, unshorn, whose quick, bright eyes gleamed in
the thin oval of his pallid face. At sight of this man the
gentleman's lassitude vanished, and he stepped quickly forward.
"Well," he demanded, "did you find her?"
"And a cursed time you've been about it."
"Annersley is further than I thought, sir, and--"
"Pah! no matter, give me her answer," and the gentleman held out a
slim white hand.
"She had no time to write, sir," said the man, "but she bid me tell
"Damnation!" exclaimed the gentleman, glancing towards the inn,
"not here, come further down the lane," and with the word he turned
and strode away, with the man at his heels.
"Annersley," said Barnabas, as he watched them go; "Annersley."
But now, with a prodigious clatter of hoofs and grinding of wheels,
the Viscount drove round in his curricle, and drew up before the
door in masterly fashion; whereupon the two high-mettled bloods
immediately began to rear and plunge (as is the way of their kind),
to snort, to toss their sleek heads, and to dance, drumming their
hoofs with a sound like a brigade of cavalry at the charge, whereupon
the Viscount immediately fell to swearing at them, and his
diminutive groom to roaring at them in his "stable voice," and the
two ostlers to cursing them, and one another; in the midst of which
hubbub out came Barnabas to stare at them with the quick, appraising
eye of one who knows and loves horses.
To whom, thusly, the Viscount, speaking both to him and the horses:
"Oh, there you are, Bev--stand still, damn you! There's blood for you,
eh, my dear fellow--devil burn your hide! Jump up, my dear
fellow--Gad, they're pulling my arms off."
"Then you want me to come with you, Dick?"
"My dear Bev, of course I do--stand still, damn you--though we are
rivals, we're friends first--curse your livers and bones--so jump up,
Bev, and--oh dammem, there's no holding 'em--quick, up with you."
Now, as Barnabas stepped forward, afar off up the lane he chanced to
espy a certain jaunty hat, and immediately, acting for once upon
impulse, he shook his head.
"No, thanks," said he.
"Eh--no?" repeated the Viscount, "but you shall see her, I'll
introduce you myself."
"Thanks, Dick, but I've decided not to go back."
"What, you won't come then?"
"Ah, well, we shall meet in London. Inquire for me at White's or
Brooke's, any one will tell you where to find me. Good-by!"
Then, settling his feet more firmly, he took a fresh grip upon the
reins, and glanced over his shoulder to where Milo of Crotona sat
with folded arms in the rumble.
"All right behind?"
"Then give 'em their heads, let 'em go!"
The grooms sprang away, the powerful bays reared, once, twice, and
then, with a thunder of hoofs, started away at a gallop that set the
light vehicle rocking and swaying, yet which in no whit seemed to
trouble Milo of Crotona, who sat upon his perch behind with folded
arms as stiff and steady as a small graven image, until he and the
Viscount and the curricle had been whirled into the distance and
vanished in a cloud of dust.
IN WHICH THE PATIENT READER MAY LEARN SOMETHING OF THE GENTLEMAN IN
THE JAUNTY HAT
"Lord, but this is a great day for the old 'Cow,' sir," said the
landlord, as Barnabas yet stood staring down the road, "we aren't
had so many o' the quality here for years. Last night the young
Vi-count, this morning, bright and early, Sir Mortimer Carnaby and
friend, then the Vi-count again, along o' you, sir, an' now you an'
Sir Mortimer's friend; you don't be no ways acquainted wi' Sir
Mortimer's friend, be you, sir?"
"No," answered Barnabas, "what is his name?"
"Well, Sir Mortimer hailed him as 'Chichester,' I fancy, sir, though
I aren't prepared to swear it, no more yet to oath it, not 'aving
properly ob-served, but 'Chichester,' I think it were; and, 'twixt
you an' me, sir, he be one o' your fine gentlemen as I aren't no
wise partial to, an' he's ordered dinner and supper."
"Has he," said Barnabas, "then I think I'll do the same."
"Ay, ay, sir, very good."
"In the meantime could you let me have pen, ink and paper?"
"Ay, sir, surely, in the sanded parlor, this way, sir."
Forthwith he led Barnabas into a long, low panelled room, with a
wide fireplace at the further end, beside which stood a great
high-backed settle with a table before it. Then Barnabas sat down
and wrote a letter to his father, as here follows:--
* * * * *
My Dear Father and Natty Bell,--I have read somewhere in my books
that 'adventures are to the adventurous,' and, indeed, I have
already found this to be true. Now, since I am adventuring the great
world, I adventure lesser things also.
Thus I have met and talked with an entertaining pedler, from whom I
have learned that the worst place in the world is Giles's Rents down
by the River; from him, likewise, I purchased a book as to the
merits of which I begin to entertain doubts.
Then I have already thrashed a friend of the Prince Regent, and
somewhat spoiled a very fine gentleman, and, I fear, am like to be
necessitated to spoil another before the day is much older; from
each of whom I learn that a Prince's friend may be an arrant knave.
Furthermore, I have become acquainted with the son of an Earl, and
finding him a man also, have formed a friendship with him, which I
trust may endure.
Thus far, you see, much has happened to me; adventures have
befallen me in rapid succession. 'Wonderful!' say you. 'Not at all,'
say I, since I have found but what I sought after, for, as has been
said--'adventures are to the adventurous.' Therefore, within the
next few hours, I confidently expect other, and perchance weightier,
happenings to overtake me because--I intend them to. So much for
Now, as for you and Natty Bell, it is with deep affection that I
think of you--an affection that shall abide with me always. Also,
you are both in my thoughts continually. I remember our bouts with
the 'muffles,' and my wild gallops on unbroken horses with Natty Bell;
surely he knows a horse better than any, and is a better rider than
boxer, if that could well be. Indeed, I am fortunate in having
studied under two such masters.
Furthermore, I pray you to consider that this absence of mine will
only draw us closer together, in a sense. Indeed, now, when I think
of you both, I am half-minded to give up this project and come back
to you. But my destiny commands me, and destiny must be obeyed.
Therefore I shall persist unto the end; but whether I succeed or no,
remember, I pray of you, that I am always,
Your lover and friend,
P.S.--Regarding the friend of the Prince Regent, I could wish now
that I had struck a little harder, and shall do so next time, should
the opportunity be given.
Having finished this letter, in which it will be seen he made no
mention of the Lady Cleone, though his mind was yet full of her,
having finished his letter I say, Barnabas sanded it, folded it,
affixed wafers, and had taken up his pen to write the superscription,
when he was arrested by a man's voice speaking in a lazy drawl, just
outside the open lattice behind him.
"Now 'pon my soul and honor, Beatrix--so much off ended virtue for a
stolen kiss--begad! you were prodigal of 'em once--"
"How-dare you! Oh, coward that you are!" exclaimed another voice,
low and repressed, yet vibrant with bitter scorn; "you know that I
found you out--in time, thank God!"
"Beatrix?" said Barnabas to himself.
"In time; ah! and pray who'd believe it? You ran away from me--but
you ran away with me--first! In time? Did your father believe it,
that virtuous old miser? would any one, who saw us together, believe
it? No, Beatrix, I tell you all the world knows you for my--"
"Stop!" A moment's silence and then came a soft, gently amused laugh.
"Lord, Beatrix, how handsome you are!--handsomer than ever, begad!
I'm doubly fortunate to have found you again. Six years is a long
time, but they've only matured you--ripened you. Yes, you're
handsomer than ever; upon my life and soul you are!"
But here came the sudden rush of flying draperies, the sound of swift,
light footsteps, and Barnabas was aware of the door behind him being
opened, closed and bolted, and thereafter, the repressed sound of a
woman's passionate weeping. Therefore he rose up from the settle, and
glancing over its high back, beheld Clemency.
Almost in the same moment she saw him, and started back to the wall,
glanced from Barnabas to the open lattice, and covered her face with
her hands. And now not knowing what to do, Barnabas crossed to the
window and, being there, looked out, and thus espied again the
languid gentleman, strolling up the lane, with his beaver hat cocked
at the same jaunty angle, and swinging his betasselled stick as he
"You--you heard, then!" said Clemency, almost in a whisper.
"Yes," answered Barnabas, without turning; "but, being a great
rascal he probably lied."
"No, it is--quite true--I did run away with him; but oh! indeed,
indeed I left him again before--before--"
"Yes, yes," said Barnabas, a little hurriedly, aware that her face
was still hidden in her hands, though he kept his eyes studiously
averted. Then all at once she was beside him, her hands were upon
his arm, pleading, compelling; and thus she forced him to look at her,
and, though her cheeks yet burned, her eyes met his, frank and
"Sir," said she, "you do believe that I--that I found him out in
time--that I--escaped his vileness--you must believe--you shall!"
and her slender fingers tightened on his arm. "Oh, tell me--tell me,
"Yes," said Barnabas, looking down into the troubled depths of her
eyes; "yes, I do believe."
The compelling hands dropped from his arm, and she stood before him,
staring out blindly into the glory of the morning; and Barnabas
could not but see how the tears glistened under her lashes; also he
noticed how her brown, shapely hands griped and wrung each other.
"Sir," said she suddenly; "you are a friend of--Viscount Devenham."
"I count myself so fortunate."
"Indeed, it is my earnest wish."
"Then you will promise me that, should you ever hear anything spoken
to the dishonor of Beatrice Darville, you will deny it."
"Yes," said Barnabas, smiling a little grimly, "though I think I
should do--more than that."
Now when he said this, Clemency looked up at him suddenly, and in
her eyes there was a glow no tears could quench; her lips quivered
but no words came, and then, all at once, she caught his hand,
kissed it, and so was gone, swift and light, and shy as any bird.
And, in a while, happening to spy his letter on the table, Barnabas
sat down and wrote out the superscription with many careful
flourishes, which done, observing his hat near by, he took it up,
brushed it absently, put it on, and went out into the sunshine.
Yet when he had gone but a very little way, he paused, and seeing he
still carried the letter in his hand, thrust it into his breast, and
so remained staring thoughtfully towards that spot, green and shady
with trees, where he and the Viscount had talked with the Apostle of
Peace. And with his gaze bent thitherwards he uttered a name, and
the name was--
IN WHICH BARNABAS ENGAGES ONE WITHOUT A CHARACTER
Barnabas walked on along the lane, head on breast, plunged in a
profound reverie, and following a haphazard course, so much so that,
chancing presently to look about him, he found that the lane had
narrowed into a rough cart track that wound away between high banks
gay with wild flowers, and crowned with hedges, a pleasant, shady
spot, indeed, as any thoughtful man could wish for.
Now as he walked, he noticed a dry ditch--a grassy, and most
inviting ditch; therefore Barnabas sat him down therein, leaning his
back against the bank.
"Beatrix!" said he, again, and thrusting his hands into his pockets
he became aware of the "priceless wollum." Taking it out, he began
turning its pages, idly enough, and eventually paused at one headed
* * * * *
THE CULT OF DRESS.
* * * * *
But he had not read a dozen words when he was aware of a rustling of
leaves, near by, that was not of the wind, and then the panting of
breath drawn in painful gasps; and, therefore, having duly marked
his place with a finger, he raised his head and glanced about him.
As he did so, the hedge, almost opposite, was burst asunder and a man
came slipping down the bank, and, regaining his feet, stood staring
at Barnabas and panting. A dusty, bedraggled wretch he looked,
unshaven and unkempt, with quick, bright eyes that gleamed in the
pale oval of his face.
"What do you want?" Barnabas demanded.
"Everything!" the man panted, with the ghost of a smile on his
pallid lips; "but--the ditch would do."
"And why the ditch?"
"Because they're--after me."
"Then, you're a poacher?"
"And a very clumsy one--they had me once--close on me now."
"Then--hum!--get into the ditch," said Barnabas.
Now the ditch, as has been said, was deep and dry, and next moment,
the miserable fugitive was hidden from view by reason of this, and
of the grasses and wild flowers that grew luxuriantly there; seeing
which, Barnabas went back to his reading.
"It is permitted," solemnly writes the Person of Quality, "that
white waistcoats be worn,--though sparingly, for caution is always
advisable, and a buff waistcoat therefore is recommended as safer.
Coats, on the contrary, may occasionally vary both as to the height
of the collar, which must, of course, roll, and the number of
Thus far the Person of Quality when:
"Hallo, theer" roared a stentorian voice.
"Breeches, on the other hand," continues the Person of Quality
gravely, "are governed as inexorably as the Medes and Persians; thus,
for mornings they must be either pantaloons and Hessians--"
"Hallo theer! oho!--hi!--waken oop will 'ee!"
"Or buckskins and top boots--"
"Hi!" roared the voice, louder than ever, "you theer under
Once more Barnabas marked the place with his finger, and glancing up,
straightway espied Stentor, somewhat red-faced, as was but natural,
clad in a velveteen jacket and with a long barrelled gun on his
"Might you be shouting at me?" inquired Barnabas.
"Well," replied Stentor, looking up and down the lane, "I don't see
nobody else to shout at, so let's s'pose as I be shouting at ye,
bean't deaf, be ye?"
"No, thank God."
"'Cause if so be as y' are deaf, a can shout a tidy bit louder nor
that a reckon."
"I can hear you very well as it is."
"Don't go for to be too sartin, now; ye see I've got a tidy voice, I
have, which I aren't noways afeared o' usin'!"
"So it would appear!" nodded Barnabas.
"You're quite sure as ye can 'ear me, then?"
"Werry good then, if you are sure as you can 'ear me I'd like to ax
'ee a question, though, mark me, I'll shout it, ah! an' willin'; if
so be you're minded, say the word!"
But, before Barnabas could reply, another man appeared, being also
clad in velveteens and carrying a long barrelled gun.
"Wot be doin', Jarge?" he inquired of Stentor, in a surly tone,
"wot be wastin' time for"
"W'y, lookee, I be about to ax this 'ere deaf chap a question,
though ready, ah! an' willin' to shout it, if so be 'e gives the word."
"Stow yer gab, Jarge," retorted Surly, more surly than ever, "you be
a sight too fond o' usin' that theer voice o' your'n!" saying which
he turned to Barnabas:
"Did ye see ever a desprit, poachin' wagabone run down this 'ere lane,
sir?" he inquired.
"No," answered Barnabas.
"Well, did ye see ever a thievin' wastrel run oop this 'ere lane?"
"No," answered Barnabas.
"But we seen 'im run this way," demurred Surly.
"Ah!--he must ha' run oop or down this 'ere lane," said Stentor.
"He did neither," said Barnabas.
"Why, then p'r'aps you be stone blind as well as stone deaf?"
"Neither one nor the other," answered Barnabas, "and now, since I
have answered all your questions, suppose you go and look somewhere
"Look, is it?--look wheer--d'ye mean--?"
"Go!" repeated Stentor, round of eye, "then s'pose you tell us--wheer!"
"Anywhere you like, only--be off!"
"Now you can claw me!" exclaimed Stentor with an injured air,
nodding to his gun, seeing his companion had already hurried off,
"you can grab and duck me if this don't beat all!--you can burn an'
blister me if ever I met a deaf cove as was so ongrateful as this
'ere deaf cove,--me 'avin' used this yer v'ice o' mine for 'is
be'oof an' likewise benefit; v'ices like mine is a gift as was
bestowed for deaf 'uns like 'im;--I've met deaf 'uns afore, yes,--but
such a ongrateful deaf 'un as 'im,--no. All I 'opes is as 'e gets
deafer an' deafer, as deaf as a stock, as a stone, as a--dead
sow,--that's all I 'opes!"
Having said which, Stentor nodded to his gun again, glanced at
Barnabas again, and strode off, muttering, after his companion.
Hereupon Barnabas once more opened his book; yet he was quite aware
that the fugitive had thrust his head out of the ditch, and having
glanced swiftly about, was now regarding him out of the corners of
"Why do you stare at me?" he demanded suddenly.
"I was wondering why you took the trouble and risk of shielding such
a thing as I am," answered the fugitive.
"Hum!" said Barnabas, "upon my soul,--I don't know."
"No," said the man, with the ghostly smile upon his lips again,
"I thought not."
Now, as he looked at the man, Barnabas saw that his cheeks, beneath
their stubble, were hollow and pinched, as though by the cruel hands
of want and suffering. And yet in despite of all this and of the
grizzled hair at his temples, the face was not old, moreover there
was a merry twinkle in the eye, and a humorous curve to the
wide-lipped mouth that appealed to Barnabas.
"And you are a poacher, you say?"
"Yes, sir, and that is bad, I confess, but, what is worse, I was,
until I took to poaching, an honest man without a shred of character."
"I was discharged--under a cloud that was never dispelled."
"To be sure, you don't look like an ordinary poacher."
"That is because I am an extraordinary one."
"That I poach that I may live to--poach again, sir. I am, at once, a
necessitous poacher, and a poacher by necessity."
"And what by choice?"
"A gentleman, sir, with plenty of money and no ambitions."
"Why deny ambition?"
"Because I would live a quiet life, and who ever heard of an
ambitious man ever being quiet, much less happy and contented?"
"Hum!" said Barnabas, "and what were you by profession?"
"My calling, sir, was to work for, think for, and shoulder the blame
for others--generally fools, sir. I was a confidential servant, a
valet, sir. And I have worked, thought, and taken the blame for
others so very successfully, that I must needs take to poaching that
I may live."
"But--other men may require valets!"
"True, sir, and there are plenty of valets to be had--of a sort; but
the most accomplished one in the world, if without a character, had
better go and hang himself out of the way, and have done with it.
And indeed, I have seriously contemplated so doing."
"You rate yourself very highly."
"And I go in rags! Though a professed thief may do well in the world,
though the blackest rascal, the slyest rogue, may thrive and prosper,
the greatest of valets being without a character, may go in rags and
starve--and very probably will."
"Hum!" said Barnabas.
"Now, to starve, sir, is unpleasant; thus I, having a foolish,
though very natural, dread of it, poach rabbits that I may exist. I
possess also an inborn horror of rags and dirt, therefore
I--exchanged this coat and breeches from a farmhouse, the folk being
all away in the fields, and though they are awkward, badly-made
garments, still beggars--and--"
"Thieves!" added Barnabas.
"And thieves, sir, cannot always be choosers, can they?"
"Then you admit you are a thief?"
Here the fugitive glanced at Barnabas with a wry smile.
"Sir, I fear I must. Exchange is no robbery they say; but my rags
were so very ragged, and these garments are at least wearable."
"You have also been a--great valet, I understand?"
"And have served many gentlemen in my time."
"Then you probably know London and the fashionable world?"
"Yes, sir," said the man, with a sigh.
"Now," pursued Barnabas, "I am given to understand, on the authority
of a Person of Quality, that to dress properly is an art."
The fugitive nodded. "Indeed, sir, though your Person of Quality
should rather have called it the greatest of all the arts."
"Because by dress it is possible to make--something out of nothing!"
"Why, there was the case of young Lord Ambleside, a nobleman
remarkable for a vague stare, and seldom saying anything but 'What!'
or 'Dey-vil take me!' though I'll admit he could curse almost
coherently--at times. I found him nothing but a lord, and very crude
material at that, yet in less than six months he was made."
"Made, sir," nodded the fugitive. "I began him with a cravat, an
entirely original creation, which drew the approval of Brummell
himself, and, consequently, took London by storm, and I continued
him with a waistcoat."
"Not a--white one?" Barnabas inquired.
"No, sir, it was a delicate pink, embroidered with gold, and of
quite a new cut and design, which was the means of introducing him
to the notice of Royalty itself. The Prince had one copied from it,
and wore it at a state reception. And I finished him with a pair of
pantaloons which swept the world of fashion clean off its legs, and
brought him into lasting favor with the Regent. So my Lord was made,
and eventually I married him to an heiress."
"You married him?"
"That is to say, I dictated all his letters, and composed all his
verses, which speedily brought the affair to a happy culmination."
"You seem to be a man of many and varied gifts?"
"And one--without a character, sir."
"Nevertheless," said Barnabas, "I think you are the very man I
"Sir," exclaimed the fugitive, staring, "sir?"
"And therefore," continued Barnabas, "you may consider yourself
"Engaged, sir--engaged!" stammered the man--"me?"
"As my valet," nodded Barnabas.
"But, sir, I told you--I was--a thief!"
"Yes," said Barnabas, "and therefore I have great hopes of your
Now hereupon the man, still staring, rose up to his knees, and with
a swift, appealing gesture, stretched out his hands towards Barnabas,
and his hands were trembling all at once.
"Sir!" said he, "oh, sir--d'ye mean it? You don't know, you can't
know what such an offer means to me. Sir, you're not jesting with me?"
"No," answered Barnabas, calmly serious of eye, "no, I'm not jesting;
and to prove it, here is an advance of wages." And he dropped two
guineas into the man's open palm.
The man stared down at the coins in his hand, then rose abruptly to
his feet and turned away, and when he spoke again his voice was
"Sir," said he, jerkily, "for such trust I would thank you, only
words are too poor. But if, as I think, it is your desire to enter
the World of Fashion, it becomes my duty, as an honest man, to tell
you that all your efforts, all your money, would be unavailing, even
though you had been introduced by Barrymore, or Hanger, or Vibart, or
"Ah," said Barnabas, "and why?"
"Because you have made a fatal beginning."
"By knocking down the Prince's friend and favorite--Sir Mortimer
IN WHICH BARNABAS PARTS COMPANY WITH THE PERSON OF QUALITY
For a long moment the two remained silent, each staring at the other,
Barnabas still seated in the ditch and the man standing before him,
with the coins clutched in his hand.
"Ah!" said Barnabas, at last, "then you were in the wood?"
"I lay hidden behind a bush, and watched you do it, sir."
"And what were you doing in Annersley Wood?"
"I bore a message, sir, for the lady."
"Ah!" said Barnabas, "the lady--yes."
"Who lay watching you, also."
"No," said Barnabas, "the lady was unconscious."
"Yet recovered sufficiently to adjust her habit, and to watch you
knock him down."
"Hum!" said Barnabas, and was silent a while. "Have you heard such a
name as Chichester?" he inquired suddenly.
"And did you deliver the letter?"
"I did, sir."
"And she--sent back an answer?"
"The gentleman who sent the letter was tall and slender, I think,
with dark hair, and a scar on his cheek?"
"And when you came back with her answer, he met you down the lane
yonder, and I heard you say that the lady had no time to write."
"Yes, sir; but she promised to meet him at a place called Oakshott's
"Ah!" said Barnabas, "I think I know it."
"At sunset, sir!"
"That would be somewhere about half past seven," mused Barnabas,
staring blankly, down at the book on his knee.
"How came you to be carrying his letter?"
"He offered me five shillings to go and bring her answer."
"Did you know the lady?"
"No, sir, but he described her."
"To be sure." said Barnabas; "he mentioned her hair, perhaps?"
"And her eyes also, sir."
"Yes, her eyes, of course. He seemed to know her well, perhaps?"
"And she--promised to meet him--in a very lonely place?"
"At Oakshott's Barn, sir."
Once again Barnabas stared down at his book, and was silent so long
that his new servant wondered, grew fidgety, coughed, and at last
"Sir," said he, "what are your orders?"
Barnabas started and looked up.
"Orders?" he repeated; "why, first of all, get something to eat,
then find yourself a barber, and wait for me at 'The Spotted Cow.'"
"Yes, sir." The man bowed, turned away, took three or four steps,
and came back again.
"Sir," said he, "I have two guineas of yours, and you have never
even asked my name."
"True," said Barnabas.
"Supposing I go, and never come back?"
"Then I shall be two guineas the poorer, and you will have proved
yourself a thief; but until you do, you are an honest man, so far as
I am concerned."
"Sir, said the fugitive, hoarsely, but with a new light in his face,"
for that, if I were not your servant--I--should like to--clasp your
hand; and, sir, my name is John Peterby."
"Why, then," said Barnabas, smiling all at once, "why then, John
Peterby, here it is!"
So, for a moment their hands met, and then John Peterby turned sharp
about and strode away down the lane, his step grown light and his
head held high.
But as for Barnabas, he sat there in the ditch, staring at nothing;
and as he stared his brow grew black and ever blacker, until
chancing at last to espy the "priceless wollum," where it lay beside
him, he took it up, balanced it in his hand, then hurled it over the
opposite hedge: which done, he laughed sudden and harsh, and
clenched his fists.
"God!" he exclaimed, "a goddess and a satyr!" and so sat staring on
at nothingness again.
HOW BARNABAS CAME TO OAKSHOTT'S BARN
The sun was getting low, as Barnabas parted the brambles, and
looking about him, frowned. He stood in a grassy glade or clearing,
a green oasis hemmed in on every side with bushes. Before him was
Oakshott's Barn, an ancient structure, its rotting thatch dishevelled,
its doors gone long since, its aged walls cracked and scarred by
years, a very monument of desolation; upon its threshold weeds had
sprung up, and within its hoary shadow breathed an air damp, heavy,
and acrid with decay.
It was indeed a place of solitude full of the "hush" of leaves, shut
out from the world, close hidden from observation, a place apt for
the meetings of lovers. And, therefore, leaning in the shadow of the
yawning doorway, Barnabas frowned.
Evening was falling, and from shadowy wood, from dewy grass and
flower, stole wafts of perfume, while from some thicket near by a
blackbird filled the air with the rich note of his languorous song;
but Barnabas frowned only the blacker, and his hand clenched itself
on the stick he carried, a heavy stick, that he had cut from the
hedge as he came.
All at once the blackbird's song was hushed, and gave place to a
rustle of leaves that drew nearer and nearer; yet Barnabas never
moved, not even when the bushes were pushed aside and a man stepped
into the clearing--a tall, elegant figure, who having paused to
glance sharply about him, strolled on again towards the barn,
swinging his tasselled walking-cane, and humming softly to himself
as he came. He was within a yard of Barnabas when he saw him, and
"Ah!" he exclaimed, softly; and thereafter the two eyed each other
in an ominous silence.
"And who the devil are you?" he inquired at length, his eyes still
"Sir," said Barnabas, yet leaning in the doorway--"your name I think,
"Permit me to return your coat button!" and Barnabas held out the
article in question, but Mr. Chichester never so much as glanced at
"What do you want here?" he demanded, soft of voice.
"To tell you that this dismal place is called Oakshott's Barn, sir."
"To warn you that Oakshott's Barn is an unhealthy place--for your
"Ha!" said Mr. Chichester, his heavy-lidded eyes unwinking,
"do you threaten?"
"Let us rather say--I warn!"
"So you do threaten!"
"I warn!" repeated Barnabas.
"To the devil with you and your warning!" All this time neither of
them had moved or raised his voice, only Mr. Chichcster's thin,
curving nostrils began to twitch all at once, while his eyes gleamed
beneath their narrowed lids. But now Barnabas stepped clear of the
doorway, the heavy stick swinging in his hand.
"Then, sir," said he, "let me advise. Let me advise you to hurry
from this solitude."
Mr. Chichester laughed--a low, rippling laugh.
"Ah!" said he, "ah, so that's it!"
"Yes," nodded Barnabas, shifting his gaze to Mr. Chichester's right
hand, a white beringed hand, whose long, slender fingers toyed with
the seals that dangled at his fob, "so pray take up your button and
Mr. Chichester glanced at the heavy stick; at the powerful hand, the
broad shoulders and resolute face of him who held it, and laughed
again, and, laughing, bowed.
"Your solicitude for my health--touches me, sir,--touches me, my
thanks are due to you, for my health is paramount. I owe you a debt
which I shall hope to repay. This place, as you say, is dismal. I
wish you good evening!" saying which, Mr. Chichester turned away. But
in that same instant, swift and lithe as a panther, Barnabas leapt,
and dropping his stick, caught that slender, jewelled hand, bent it,
twisted it, and wrenched the weapon from its grasp. Mr. Chichester
stood motionless, white-lipped and silent, but a devil looked out of
"Ah!" said Barnabas, glancing down at the pistol he held, "I judged
you would not venture into these wilds without something of the sort.
The path, you will notice, lies to your left; it is a winding path,
I will go with you therefore, to see that you do not lose your way,
and wander--back here again."
Without a word Mr. Chichester turned, and coming to the path
followed it, walking neither fast nor slow, never once looking to
where Barnabas strode behind, and heedless of briar or bramble that
dragged at him as he passed. On they went, until the path lost
itself in a grassy lane, until the lane ended in a five-barred gate.
Now, having opened the gate, Mr. Chichester passed through into the
high road, and then, for one moment he looked at Barnabas, a long,
burning look that took in face, form and feature, and so, still
without uttering a word, he went upon his way, walking neither fast
nor slow, and swinging his tasselled cane as he went, while Barnabas,
leaning upon the gate, watched him until his tall, slender figure
had merged into the dusk, and was gone.
Then Barnabas sighed, and becoming aware of the pistol in his hand,
smiled contemptuously, and was greatly minded to throw it away, but
slipped it into his pocket instead, for he remembered the devil in
the eyes of Mr. Chichester.
WHICH TELLS HOW BARNABAS TALKS WITH MY LADY CLEONE FOR THE SECOND
It was dark among the trees, but, away to his left, though as yet
low down, the moon was rising, filling the woods with mystery, a
radiant glow wherein objects seemed to start forth with a new
significance; here the ragged hole of a tree, gnarled, misshapen;
there a wide-flung branch, weirdly contorted, and there again a
tangle of twigs and strange, leafy shapes that moved not. And over
all was a deep and brooding quietude.
Yes, it was dark among the trees, yet not so black as the frown that
clouded the face of Barnabas as he strode on through the wood, and
so betimes reached again the ancient barn of Oakshott. And lo! even
as he came there, it was night, and because the trees grew tall and
close together, the shadows lay thicker than ever save only in one
place where the moon, finding some rift among the leaves, sent down
a shaft of silvery light that made a pool of radiance amid the gloom.
Now, as Barnabas gazed at this, he stopped all at once, for, just
within this patch of light, he saw a foot. It was a small foot,
proudly arched, a shapely foot and slender, like the ankle above;
indeed, a haughty and most impatient foot, that beat the ground with
angry little taps, and yet, in all and every sense, surely, and
beyond a doubt, the most alluring foot in the world. Therefore
Barnabas sighed and came a step nearer, and in that moment it
vanished; therefore Barnabas stood still again. There followed a
moment's silence, and then:
"Dear," said a low, thrilling voice, "have you come--at last? Ah!
but you are late, I began to fear--" The soft voice faltered and
broke off with a little gasp, and, as Barnabas stepped out of the
shadows, she shrank away, back and back, to the mossy wall of the
barn, and leaned there staring up at him with eyes wide and fearful.
Her hood, close drawn, served but to enhance the proud beauty of her
face, pale under the moon, and her cloak, caught close in one white
hand, fell about her ripe loveliness in subtly revealing folds. Now
in her other hand she carried a silver-mounted riding-whip. And
because of the wonder of her beauty, Barnabas sighed again, and
because of the place wherein they stood, he frowned; yet, when he
spoke, his voice was gentle:
"Don't be afraid, madam, he is gone."
"Gone!" she echoed, faintly.
"Yes, we are quite alone; consequently you have no more reason to be
"Afraid, sir? I thought--why, 'twas you who startled me."
"Ay," nodded Barnabas, "you expected--him!"
"Where is he? When did he go?"
"Some half-hour since."
"Yet he expected me; he knew I should come; why did he go?"
Now hereupon Barnabas lifted a hand to his throat, and loosened his
"Why then," said he slowly, "you have--perhaps--met him
"Sir," she retorted, "you haven't answered me; why did he go so soon?"
"He was--forced to, madam."
"Forced to go,--without seeing me,--without one word! Oh, impossible!"
"I walked with him to the cross-roads, and saw him out of sight."
"But I--I came as soon as I could! Ah! surely he gave you some
message--some word for me?"
"None, madam!" said Barnabas evenly, but his hand had clenched
itself suddenly on the stick he held.
"But I--don't understand!" she sighed, with a helpless gesture of
her white hands, "to hurry away like this, without a word! Oh,
why--why did he go?"
"Madam," said Barnabas, "it was because I asked him to."
"You--asked him to?"
"Because, from what little I know of him, I judged it best."
"Sir," she said, softly, "sir--what do you mean?"
"I mean, that this is such a very lonely place for any woman
and--such as he."
Now even as Barnabas uttered the words she advanced upon him with
upflung head and eyes aflame with sudden passionate scorn.
"Insolent," she exclaimed. "So it was you--you actually dared to
"Madam," said Barnabas, "I did."
Very straight and proud she stood, and motionless save for the pant
and tumult of her bosom, fierce-eyed and contemptuous of lip.
"And remained to insult me--with impunity."
"To take you home again," said Barnabas, "therefore pray let us
"Us? Sir, you grow presumptuous."
"As you will," said Barnabas, "only let us go."
"With you?" she exclaimed.
"No--not a step, sir; When I choose to go, I go alone."
"But to-night," said Barnabas, gentle of voice but resolute of eye,
"to-night--I go with you."
"You!" she cried, "a man I have seen but once, a man who may be
anything, a--a thief, a ploughman, a runaway groom for aught I know."
Now, watching him beneath disdainful drooping lashes, she saw
Barnabas flinch at this, and the curve of her scornful lips grew
"And now I'm going--alone. Stand aside, and let me pass."
"Let me pass, I warn you!"
For a minute they fronted each other, eye to eye, very silent and
still, like two antagonists that measure each other's strength; then
Barnabas smiled and shook his head. And in that very instant, quick
and passionate, she raised her whip and struck him across the cheek.
Then, as she stood panting, half fearful of what she had done,
Barnabas reached out and took the whip, and snapped it between his
"And now," said he, tossing aside the broken pieces, "pray let us go."
"Why, then," sighed Barnabas, "I must carry you again."
Once more she shrank away from him, back and back to the crumbling
wall, and leaned there. But now because of his passionless strength,
she fell a-trembling and, because of his calmly resolute eyes and
grimly smiling mouth, fear came upon her, and therefore, because she
could not by him, because she knew herself helpless against him, she
suddenly covered her face from his eyes, and a great sob burst from
Barnabas stopped, and looking at her bowed head and shrinking figure,
knew not what to do. And as he stood there within a yard of her,
debating within himself, upon the quiet broke a sudden sound--a small,
sharp sound, yet full of infinite significance--the snapping of a dry
twig among the shadows; a sound that made the ensuing silence but
the more profound, a breathless quietude which, as moment after
moment dragged by, grew full of deadly omen. And now, even as
Barnabas turned to front these menacing shadows, the moon went out.
OF THE PROPHECY OF ONE BILLY BUTTON, A MADMAN
Upon the quiet stole a rustle of leaves, a whisper that came and went,
intermittently, that grew louder and louder, and so was gone again;
but in place of this was another sound, a musical jingle like the
chime of fairy bells, very far, and faint, and sweet. All at once
Barnabas knew that his companion's fear of him was gone, swallowed
up--forgotten in terror of the unknown. He heard a slow-drawn,
quivering sigh, and then, pale in the dimness, her hand came out to
him, crept down his arm, and finding his hand, hid itself in his
warm clasp; and her hand was marvellous cold, and her fingers
stirred and trembled in his.
Came again a rustling in the leaves, but louder now, and drawing
nearer and nearer, and ever the fairy chime swelled upon the air.
And even as it came Barnabas felt her closer, until her shoulder
touched his, until the fragrance of her breath fanned his cheek,
until the warmth of her soft body thrilled through him, until, loud
and sudden in the silence, a voice rose--a rich, deep voice:
"'Now is the witching hour when graveyards yawn'--the witching
hour--aha!--Oh! poor pale ghost, I know thee--by thy night-black
hair and sad, sweet eyes--I know thee. Alas, so young and
dead--while I, alas, so old and much alive! Yet I, too, must die
some day--soon, soon, beloved shadow. Then shall my shade encompass
thine and float up with thee into the infinite. But now, aha! now is
the witching hour! Oh! shades and phantoms, I summon thee, fairies,
pixies, ghosts and goblins, come forth, and I will sing you and
"Tis a rare song, mine--and well liked by the quality,--you've heard
it before, perchance--ay, ay for you, being dead, hear and see all
things, oh, Wise Ones! Come, press round me, so. Now, hearkee,
'Oysters! oysters! and away we go."
"'Many a knight and lady fair
My oysters fine would try,
They are the finest oysters, sir,
That ever you did buy.
Oysters! who'll buy my oysters, oh!'"
The bushes rustled again, and into the dimness leapt a tall, dark
figure that sang in a rich, sweet voice, and capered among the
shadows with a fantastic dancing step, then grew suddenly silent and
still. And in that moment the moon shone out again, shone down upon
a strange, wild creature, bareheaded and bare of foot. A very tall
man he was, with curling gray hair that hung low upon his shoulders,
and upon his coat were countless buttons of all makes and kinds that
winked and glittered in the moonlight, and jingled faintly as he
moved. For a moment he stood motionless and staring, then, laying one
hand to the gleaming buttons on his bosom, bowed with an easy,
"Who are you?" demanded Barnabas.
"Billy, sir, poor Billy--Sir William, perhaps--but, mum for that;
the moon knows, but cannot tell, then why should I?"
"And what do you want--here?"
"To sing, sir, for you and the lady, if you will. I sing for high
folk and low folk. I have many songs, old and new, grave and gay,
but folk generally ask for my Oyster Song. I sing for rich and poor,
for the sad and for the merry. I sing at country fairs sometimes,
and sometimes to trees in lonely places--trees are excellent
listeners always. But to-night I sing for--Them."
"And who are they?"
"The Wise Ones, who, being dead, know all things, and live on for
ever. Ah, but they're kind to poor Billy, and though they have no
buttons to give him, yet they tell him things sometimes. Aha! such
things!--things to marvel at! So I sing for them always when the moon
is full, but, most of all, I sing for Her."
"Who is she?"
"One who died, many years ago. Folk told her I was dead, killed at
sea, and her heart broke--hearts will break--sometimes. So when she
died, I put off the shoes from my feet, and shall go barefoot to my
grave. Folk tell me that poor Billy's mad--well, perhaps he is--but
he sees and hears more than folk think; the Wise Ones tell me things.
You now; what do they tell me of you? Hush! You are on your way to
London, they tell me--yes--yes, to London town; you are rich, and
shall feast with princes, but youth is over-confident, and thus
shall you sup with beggars. They tell me you came here to-night--oh,
Youth!--oh, Impulse!--hasting--hasting to save a wanton from herself."
"Fool!" exclaimed Barnabas, turning upon the speaker in swift anger;
for my lady's hand had freed itself from his clasp, and she had
drawn away from him.
"Fool?" repeated the man, shaking his head, "nay, sir, I am only mad,
folk tell me. Yet the Wise Ones make me their confidant, they tell
me that she--this proud lady--is here to aid an unworthy brother, who
sent a rogue instead."
"Brother!" exclaimed Barnabas, with a sudden light in his eyes.
"Who else, sir?" demands my lady, very cold and proud again all at
"But," stammered Barnabas, "but--I thought--"
"Evil of me!" says she.
"No--that is--I--I--Forgive me!"
"Sir, there are some things no woman can forgive; you dared to
"Of the rogue who came instead," said Barnabas.
"His name is Chichester," said Barnabas.
"Chichester!" she repeated, incredulously. "Chichester!"
"A tall, slender, dark man, with a scar on his cheek," added Barnabas.
"Do you mean he was here--here to meet me--alone?"
Now, at this she seemed to shrink into herself; and, all at once,
sank down, crouching upon her knees, and hid her face from the moon.
"Oh!" she sighed, "oh, that he should have come to this!"
"My Lady Cleone!" said Barnabas, and touched her very gently.
"And you--you!" she cried, shuddering away from him, "you thought me
what--he would have made me! You thought I--Oh, shame! Ah, don't
But Barnabas stooped and caught her hands, and sank upon his knees,
and thus, as they knelt together in the moonlight, he drew her so
that she must needs let him see her face.
"My lady," said he, very reverently, "my thought of you is this, that,
if such great honor may be mine, I will marry you--to-night."
But hereupon, with her two hands still prisoned in his, and with the
tears yet thick upon her lashes, she threw back her head, and
laughed with her eyes staring into his. Thereat Barnabas frowned
blackly, and dropped her hands, then caught her suddenly in his long
arms, and held her close.
"By God!" he exclaimed, "I'd kiss you, Cleone, on that scornful,
laughing mouth, only--I love you--and this is a solitude. Come away!"
"A solitude," she repeated; "yes, and he sent me here, to meet a
beast--a satyr! And now--you! You drove away the other brute, oh! I
can't struggle--you are too strong--and nothing matters now!" And so
she sighed, and closed her eyes. Then gazing down upon her rich,
warm beauty, Barnabas trembled, and loosed her, and sprang to his
"I think," said he, turning away to pick up his cudgel, "I think--we
But my lady remained crouched upon her knees, gazing up at him under
her wet lashes.
"You didn't--kiss me!" she said, wonderingly.
"You were so--helpless!" said Barnabas. "And I honor you because it
"Ah! but you doubted me first, you thought I came here to meet
"Forgive me," said Barnabas, humbly.
"Why should I?"
"Because I love you."
"So many men have told me that," she sighed.
"But I," said Barnabas, "I am the last, and it is written 'the last
shall be first,' and I love you because you are passionate, and pure,
and very brave."
"Love!" she exclaimed, "so soon; you have seen me only once!"
"Yes," he nodded, "it is, therefore, to be expected that I shall
worship you also--in due season."
Now Barnabas stood leaning upon his stick, a tall, impassive figure;
his voice was low, yet it thrilled in her ears, and there was that
in his steadfast eyes before which her own wavered and fell; yet,
even so, from the shadow of her hood, she must needs question him
"Worship me? When?"
"When you are--my--wife."
Again she was silent, while one slender hand plucked nervously at
"Are you so sure of me?" she inquired at last.
"No; only of myself."
"Ah! you mean to--force a promise from me--here?"
"Because it is night, and you are solitary; I would not have you
fear me again. But I shall come to you, one day, a day when the sun
is in the sky, and friends are within call. I shall come and ask you
"And if I refuse?"
"Then I shall wait."
"Until I wed another?"
"Until you change your mind."
"I think I shall--refuse you."
"Indeed, I fear it is very likely."
"Because of my unworthiness; and, therefore, I would not have you
kneel while I stand."
"And the grass is very damp," she sighed.
So Barnabas stepped forward with hand outstretched to aid her, but,
as he did so, the wandering singer was between them, looking from
one to the other with his keen, bright eyes.
"Stay!" said he. "The Wise Ones have told me that she who kneels
before you now, coveted for her beauty, besought for her money,
shall kneel thus in the time to come; and one--even I, poor
Billy--shall stand betwixt you and join your hands thus, and bid you
go forth trusting in each other's love and strength, even as poor
Billy does now. And, mayhap, in that hour you shall heed the voice,
for time rings many changes; the proud are brought low, the humble
exalted. Hush! the Wise Ones grow impatient for my song; I hear them
calling from the trees, and must begone. But hearkee! they have told
me your name, Barnabas? yes, yes; Barn--, Barnabas; for the other,
no matter--mum for that! Barnabas, aha! that minds me--at Barnaby
Bright we shall meet again, all three of us, under an orbed moon, at
"Oh, Barnaby Bright, Barnaby Bright,
The sun's awake, and shines all night!"
"Ay, ay, 't is the night o' the fairies--when spirits pervade the air.
Then will I tell you other truths; but now--They call me. She is
fair, and passing fair, and by her beauty, suffering shall come upon
thee; but 'tis by suffering that men are made, and because of pride,
shame shall come on her; but by shame cometh humility. Farewell; I
must begone--farewell till Barnaby Bright. We are to meet again in
London town, I think--yes, yes--in London. Oho! oysters! oysters, sir?"
"Many a knight and lady gay
My oysters fine would try,
They are the finest oysters
That ever you could buy!
And so he bowed, turned, and danced away into the shadows, and above
the hush of the leaves rose the silvery jingle of his many buttons,
that sank to a chime, to a murmur, and was gone. And now my lady
sighed and rose to her feet, and looking at Barnabas, sighed
again--though indeed a very soft, little sigh this time. As for
Barnabas, he yet stood wondering, and looking after the strange
creature, and pondering his wild words. Thus my lady, unobserved,
viewed him at her leisure; noted the dark, close-curled hair, the
full, well-opened, brilliant eye, the dominating jaw, the sensitive
nostrils, the tender curve of the firm, strong mouth. And she had
called him "a ploughman--a runaway footman," and had even--she could
see the mark upon his cheek--how red it glowed! Did it hurt much,
"Mad of course--yes a madman, poor fellow!" said Barnabas,
"And he said your name is Barnabas."
"Why, to be sure, so he did," said Barnabas, rubbing his chin as one
at a loss, "which is very strange, for I never saw or heard of him
"So then, your name is--Barnabas?"
"Yes. Barnabas Bar--Beverley."
"Yes--Beverley. But we must go."
"First, tell me how you learned my name?"
"From the Viscount--Viscount Devenham?"
"Then, you know the Viscount?"
"I do; we also know each other as rivals."
"Rivals? For what?"
"For me? Sir--sir--what did you tell him?"
"My name is Barnabas. And I told him that I should probably marry you,
"You told him--that?"
"I did. I thought it but honorable, seeing he is my friend."
"Your friend!--since when, sir?"
"Since about ten o'clock this morning."
"Sir--sir--are you not a very precipitate person?"
"I begin to think I am. And my name is Barnabas."
"Since ten o'clock this morning! Then you knew--me first?"
"By about an hour."
Swiftly she turned away, yet not before he had seen the betraying
dimple in her cheek. And so, side by side, they came to the edge of
Now as he stooped to open a way for her among the brambles, she must
needs behold again the glowing mark upon his cheek, and seeing it,
her glance fell, and her lips grew very tender and pitiful, and, in
that moment, she spoke.
"Sir," she said, very softly, "sir?"
"My name is Barnabas."
"I fear--I--does your cheek pain you very much, Mr. Beverley?"
"Thank you, no. And my name is Barnabas."
"I did not mean to--to--"
"No, no, the fault was mine--I--I frightened you, and indeed the
pain is quite gone," he stammered, holding aside the brambles for
her passage. Yet she stood where she was, and her face was hidden in
her hood. At last she spoke and her voice was very low.
"Quite gone, sir?"
"Quite gone, and my name is--"
Four words only, be it noted; yet on the face of Barnabas was a
light that was not of the moon, as they entered the dim woodland
IN WHICH BARNABAS UNDERTAKES A MISSION
Their progress through the wood was slow, by reason of the
undergrowth, yet Barnabas noticed that where the way permitted, she
hurried on at speed, and moreover, that she was very silent and kept
her face turned from him; therefore he questioned her.
"Are you afraid of these woods?"
"Then, I fear you are angry again."
"I think Barnab--your name is--hateful!"
"Strange!" said Barnabas, "I was just thinking how musical it
was--as you say it."
"I--oh! I thought your cheek was paining you," said she, petulantly.
"My cheek?--what has that to do with it?"
"That," said Barnabas, "that I don't understand."
"Of course you don't!" she retorted.
"Hum!" said Barnabas.
"And now!" she demanded, "pray how did you know I was to be at
Oakshott's Barn to-night?"
"From my valet."
"Yes; though to be sure, he was a poacher, then."
"Sir, pray be serious!"
"I generally am."
"But why have a poacher for your valet?"
"That he might poach no more; and because I understand that he is
the best valet in the world."
Here she glanced up at Barnabas and shook her head: "I fear I shall
never understand you, Mr. Beverley."
"That time will show; and my name is Barnabas."
"But how did--this poacher--know?"
"He was the man who brought you the letter from Mr. Chichester."
"It was written by my--brother, sir."
"He was the man who gave you your brother's letter in Annersley Wood."
"Yes--I remember--in the wood."
"Where I found you lying quite unconscious."
"Where you found me--yes."
"Yes," she answered, beginning to hasten her steps again. "And where
you left me without telling me your name--or--even asking mine."
"For which I blamed myself--afterwards," said Barnabas.
"Indeed, it was very remiss of you."
"Yes," sighed Barnabas, "I came back to try and find you."
"Really, sir?" said she, with black brows arched--"did you indeed,
"But I was too late, and I feared I had lost you--"
"Why, that reminds me, I lost my handkerchief."
"Oh!" said Barnabas, staring up at the moon.
"I think I must have dropped it--in the wood."
"Then, of course, it is gone--you may depend upon that," said
Barnabas, shaking his head at the moon.
"It had my monogram embroidered in one corner."
"Indeed!" said Barnabas.
"Yes; I was--hoping--that you had seen it, perhaps?"
"On a bramble-bush," said Barnabas, nodding at the moon.
"Then--you did find it, sir?"
"Yes; and I beg to remind you that my name--"
"Where is it?"
"In my pocket."
"Then why couldn't you say so before?"
"Because I wished to keep it there."
"Please give it to me!"
"Because no man shall have my favors to wear until he has my promise,
"Then, since I have the one--give me the other."
"Mr. Beverley, you will please return my handkerchief," and stopping
all at once, she held out her hand imperiously.
"Of course," sighed Barnabas, "on a condition--"
"On no condition, sir!"
"That you remember my name is Barnabas."
"But I detest your name."
"I am hoping that by use it may become a little less objectionable,"
said he, rather ponderously.
"It never can--never; and I want my handkerchief,--Barnabas."
So Barnabas sighed again, and perforce gave the handkerchief into
her keeping. And now it was she who smiled up at the moon; but as
for Barnabas, his gaze was bent earthwards. After they had gone some
way in silence, he spoke.
"Have you met--Sir Mortimer Carnaby--often?" he inquired.
"Yes," she answered, then seeing his scowling look, added, "very
often, oh, very often indeed, sir!"
"Ha!" said frowning Barnabas, "and is he one of the many who
have--told you their love?"
"Hum," said Barnabas, and strode on in gloomy silence. Seeing which
she smiled in the shadow of her hood, and thereafter grew angry all
"And pray, why not, sir?" she demanded, haughtily, "though, indeed,
it does not at all concern you; and he is at least a gentleman, and
a friend of the Prince--"
"And has an excellent eye for horseflesh--and women," added Barnabas.
Now when he said this, she merely looked at him once, and thereafter
forgot all about him, whereby Barnabas gradually perceived that his
offence was great, and would have made humble atonement, yet found
her blind and deaf, which was but natural, seeing that, for her, he
had ceased to exist.
But they reached a stile. It was an uncommonly high stile, an
awkward stile at any time, more especially at night. Nevertheless,
she faced it resolutely, even though Barnabas had ceased to exist.
When, therefore, having vaulted over, he would have helped her, she
looked over him, and past him, and through him, and mounted unaided,
confident of herself, proud and supremely disdainful both of the
stile and Barnabas; and then--because of her pride, or her disdain,
or her long cloak, or all three--she slipped, and to save herself
must needs catch at Barnabas, and yield herself to his arm; so, for
a moment, she lay in his embrace, felt his tight clasp about her,
felt his quick breath upon her cheek. Then he had set her down, and
was eyeing her anxiously.
"Your foot, is it hurt?" he inquired.
"Thank you, no," she answered, and turning with head carried high,
hurried on faster than ever.
"You should have taken my hand," said he; but he spoke to deaf ears.
"You will find the next stile easier, I think," he ventured; but
still she hurried on, unheeding.
"You walk very fast!" said he again, but still she deigned him no
reply; therefore he stooped till he might see beneath her hood.
"Dear lady," said he very gently, "if I offended you a while
"Indeed," said she, looking away from him; "it would seem I must be
always forgiving you, Mr. Beverley."
"Why, surely it is a woman's privilege to forgive, Cleone--and my
"And a man's prerogative to be forgiven, I suppose, Mr. Beverley."
"When he repents as I do, Cleone; and my--"
"Oh! I forgive you," she sighed.
"Yet you still walk very fast."
"It must be nearly ten o'clock."
"I suppose so," said Barnabas, "and you will, naturally, be anxious
to reach home again."
"Home," she said bitterly; "I have no home."
"I live in a gaol--a prison. Yes, a hateful, hateful prison, watched
by a one-legged gaoler, and guarded by a one-armed tyrant--yes, a
tyrant!" Here, having stopped to stamp her foot, she walked on
faster than ever.
"Can you possibly mean old Jerry and the Captain?"
Here my lady paused in her quick walk, and even condescended to look
"Do you happen to know them too, sir?"
"Yes; and my name is--"
"Perhaps you met them also this morning, sir?"
"Yes; and my--"
"Indeed," said she, with curling lip; "this has been quite an
eventful day for you."
"On the whole, I think it has; and may I remind you that my--"
"Perhaps you don't believe me when I say he is a tyrant?"
"Hum," said Barnabas.
"You don't, do you?"
"Why, I'm afraid not," he admitted.
"I'm nineteen!" said she, standing very erect.
"I should have judged you a little older," said Barnabas.
"So I am--in mind, and--and experience. Yet here I live, prisoned in
a dreary old house, and with nothing to see but trees, and toads,
and cows and cabbages; and I'm watched over, and tended from morning
till night, and am the subject of more councils of war than
Buonaparte's army ever was."
"What do you mean by councils of war?"
"Oh! whenever I do anything my tyrant disapproves of, he retires to
what he calls the 'round house,' summons the Bo'sun, and they argue
and talk over me as though I were a hostile fleet, and march up and
down forming plans of attack and defence, till I burst in on them,
and then--and then--Oh! there are many kinds of tyrants, and he is
one. And so to-night I left him; I ran away to meet--" She stopped
suddenly, and her head drooped, and Barnabas saw her white hands
"Your brother," said he.
"Yes, my--brother," but her voice faltered at the word, and she went
on through the wood, but slowly now, and with head still drooping.
And so, at last, they came out of the shadows into the soft radiance
of the moon, and thus Barnabas saw that she was weeping; and she,
because she could no longer hide her grief, turned and laid a
pleading hand upon his arm.
"Pray, think of him as kindly as you can," she sighed, "you see--he
is only a boy--my brother."
"So young?" said Barnabas.
"Just twenty, but younger than his age--much younger. You see," she
went on hastily, "he went to London a boy--and--and he thought
Mr. Chichester was his friend, and he lost much money at play, and,
somehow, put himself in Mr. Chichester's power. He is my half-brother,
really; but I--love him so, and I've tried to take care of him--I
was always so much stronger than he--and--and so I would have you
think of him as generously as you can."
"Yes," said Barnabas, "yes." But now she stopped again so that he
must needs stop too, and when she spoke her soft voice thrilled with
a new intensity.
"Will you do more? You are going to London--will you seek him out,
will you try to--save him from himself? Will you promise me to do
Now seeing the passionate entreaty in her eyes, feeling it in the
twitching fingers upon his arm, Barnabas suddenly laid his own above
that slender hand, and took it into his warm clasp.
"My lady," said he, solemnly, "I will." As he spoke he stooped his
head low and lower, until she felt his lips warm upon her palm, a
long, silent pressure, and yet her hand was not withdrawn.
Now although Barnabas had clean forgotten the rules and precepts set
down in the "priceless wollum," he did it all with a graceful ease
which could not have been bettered--no, not even by the Person of
"But it will be difficult," she sighed, as they went on together.
"Ronald is very headstrong and proud--it will be very difficult!"
"No matter," said Barnabas.
"No matter for that either," said Barnabas.
"Does it seem strange that I should ask so much of you?"
"The most natural thing in the world," said Barnabas.
"But you are a stranger--almost!"
"But I--love you, Cleone."
After this there fell a silence between them; and so having crossed
the moonlit meadow, they came to a tall hedge beyond whose shadow
the road led away, white under the moon; close by the ways divided,
and here stood a weather-beaten finger-post. Now beneath this hedge
they stopped, and it is to be noted that neither looked at the other.
"Sir," said she, softly, "we part here, my home lies yonder," and
she pointed to where above the motionless tree-tops rose the gables
and chimneys of a goodly house.
"It would seem to be fairly comfortable as prisons go," said Barnabas;
but my lady only sighed.
"Do you start for London--soon?"
"To-night," nodded Barnabas.
"Sir," said she, after a pause, "I would thank you, if I could,
for--for all that you have done for me."
"No, no," said Barnabas, hastily.
"Words are poor things, I know, but how else may I show my gratitude?"
And now it was Barnabas who was silent; but at last--
"There is a way," said he, staring at the finger-post.
"You might--kiss me--once, Cleone."
Now here she must needs steal a swift look at him, and thus she saw
that he still stared at the ancient finger-post, but that his hands
were tight clenched.
"I only ask," he continued heavily, "for what I might have taken."
"But didn't!" she added, with lips and eyes grown suddenly tender.
"No," sighed Barnabas, "nor shall I ever,--until you will
it so,--because, you see, I love you."
Now as he gazed at the finger-post, even so she gazed at him; and
thus she saw again the mark upon his cheek, and looking, sighed;
indeed, it was the veriest ghost of a sigh, yet Barnabas heard it,
and straightway forgot the finger-post, forgot the world and all
things in it, save her warm beauty, the red allurement of her mouth,
and the witchery of her drooping lashes; therefore he reached out
his hands to her, and she saw that they were trembling.
"Cleone," he murmured, "oh, Cleone--look up!"
But even as he spoke she recoiled from his touch, for, plain and
clear, came the sound of footsteps on the road near by. Sighing,
Barnabas turned thitherwards and beheld advancing towards them one
who paused, now and then, to look about him as though at a loss, and
then hurried on again. A very desolate figure he was, and quaintly
pathetic because of his gray hair, and the empty sleeve that flapped
helplessly to and fro with the hurry of his going--a figure, indeed,
that there was no mistaking. Being come to the finger-post, he
paused to look wistfully on all sides, and Barnabas could see that
his face was drawn and haggard. For a moment he gazed about him
wild-eyed and eager, then with a sudden, hopeless gesture, he leaned
his one arm against the battered sign-post and hid his face there.
"Oh, my lass--my dear!" he cried in a strangled voice, "why did you
leave me? Oh, my lass!"
Then all at once came a rustle of parting leaves, the flutter of
flying draperies, and Cleone had fled to that drooping, disconsolate
figure, had wreathed her protecting arms about it, and so all moans,
and sobs, and little tender cries, had drawn her tyrant's head down
upon her gentle bosom and clasped it there.
IN WHICH THE READER IS INTRODUCED TO AN ANCIENT FINGER-POST
"Why, Cleone!" exclaimed the Captain, and folded his solitary arm
about her; but not content with this, my lady must needs take his
empty sleeve also, and, drawing it close about her neck, she held it
"Oh, Cleone!" sighed the Captain, "my dear, dear lass!"
"No," she cried, "I'm a heartless savage, an ungrateful wretch! I am,
I am--and I hate myself!" and here, forthwith, she stamped her foot
"No, no, you're not--I say no! You didn't mean to break my heart.
You've come back to me, thank God, and--and--Oh, egad, Cleone, I
swear--I say I swear--by Gog and Magog, I'm snuffling like a
birched schoolboy; but then I--couldn't bear to--lose my dear maid."
"Dear," she sighed, brushing away his tears with the cuff of his
empty sleeve, "dear, if you'd only try to hate me a little--just a
little, now and then, I don't think I should be quite such a wretch
to you." Here she stood on tip-toe and kissed him on the chin, that
being nearest. "I'm a cat--yes, a spiteful cat, and I must scratch
sometimes; but ah! if you knew how I hated myself after! And I know
you'll go and forgive me again, and that's what makes it so hard to
"Forgive you, Clo'--ay, to be sure! You've come back to me, you see,
and you didn't mean to leave me solitary and--"
"Ah, but I did--I did! And that's why I am a wretch, and a cat, and
a savage! I meant to run away and leave you for ever and ever!"
"The house would be very dark without you, Cleone."
"Dear, hold me tighter--now listen! There are times when I hate the
house, and the country, and--yes, even you. And at such times I grow
afraid of myself--hold me tighter!--at such times I long for
London--and--and--Ah, but you do love me, don't you?"
"Love you--my own lass!" The Captain's voice was very low, yet
eloquent with yearning tenderness; but even so, his quick ear had
caught a rustle in the hedge, and his sharp eye had seen Barnabas
standing in the shadow. "Who's that?" he demanded sharply.
"Why, indeed," says my lady, "I had forgotten him. 'Tis a friend of
yours, I think. Pray come out, Mr. Beverley."
"Beverley!" exclaimed the Captain. "Now sink me! what's all this?
Come out, sir,--I say come out and show yourself!"
So Barnabas stepped out from the hedge, and uncovering his head,
"Your very humble, obedient servant, sir," said he.
"Ha! by Thor and Odin, so it's you again, is it, sir? Pray, what
brings you still so far from the fashionable world? What d'ye want,
sir, eh, sir?"
"Briefly, sir," answered Barnabas, "your ward."
"Eh--what? what?" cried the Captain.
"Sir," returned Barnabas, "since you are the Lady Cleone's lawful
guardian, it is but right to tell you that I hope to marry her--some
"Marry!" exclaimed the Captain. "Marry my--damme, sir, but you're
cool--I say cool and devilish impudent, and--and--oh, Gad, Cleone!"
"My dear," said she, smiling and stroking her tyrant's shaven cheek,
"why distress ourselves, we can always refuse him, can't we?"
"Ay, to be sure, so we can," nodded the Captain, "but oh! sink
me,--I say sink and scuttle me, the audacity of it! I say he's
a cool, impudent, audacious fellow!"
"Yes, dear, indeed I think he's all that," said my lady, nodding her
head at Barnabas very decidedly, "and I forgot to tell you that
beside all this, he is the--gentleman who--saved me from my folly
to-night, and brought me back to you."
"Eh? eh?" cried the Captain, staring.
"Yes, dear, and this is he who--" But here she drew down her
tyrant's gray head, and whispered three words in his ear. Whatever
she said it affected the Captain mightily, for his frown changed
suddenly into his youthful smile, and reaching out impulsively, he
grasped Barnabas by the hand.
"Aha, sir!" said he, "you have a good, big fist here!"
"Indeed," said Barnabas, glancing down at it somewhat ruefully,
"it is--very large, I fear."
"Over large, sir!" says my lady, also regarding it, and with her
head at a critical angle, "it could never be called--an elegant hand,
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