The Lion's Skin
Part 2 out of 6
you assumed too much when you assumed that I had such a
letter. I have obliged you to the fullest extent in my power.
I do not think you show a becoming gratitude."
Mr. Green eyed him blankly a moment; then exploded. "Ecod,
sir! You are cool."
"It is a condition we do not appear to share."
"D'ye say ye've brought his lordship no letter from France?"
thundered the spy. "What else ha' ye come to England for?"
"To study manners, sir," said Mr. Caryll, bowing.
That was the last drop in the cup of Mr. Green's endurance.
He waved his men towards the gentleman from France. "Find
it," he bade them shortly.
Mr. Caryll drew himself up with a great dignity, and waved the
bailiffs back, his white face set, an unpleasant glimmer in
his eyes. "A moment!" he cried. "You have no authority to go
to such extremes. I make no objection to being searched; but
every objection to being soiled, and I'll not have the fingers
of these scavengers about my person."
"And you are right, egad!" cried Lord Ostermore, advancing.
"Harkee, you dirty spy, this is no way to deal with gentlemen.
Be off, now, and take your carrion-crows with you, or I'll
have my grooms in with their whips to you."
"To me?" roared Green. "I represent the Secretary of State."
"Ye'll represent a side of raw venison if you tarry here," the
earl promised him. "D'ye dare look me in the eye? D'ye dare,
ye rogue? D'ye know who I am? And don't wag that pistol, my
fine fellow! Be off, now! Away with you!"
Mr. Green looked his name. The rosiness was all departed from
his cheeks; he quivered with suppressed wrath. "If I go -
giving way to constraint - what shall you say to my Lord
Carteret?" he asked.
"What concern may that be of yours, sirrah?''
"It will be some concern of yours, my lord."
Mr. Caryll interposed. "The knave is right," said he. "It
were to implicate your lordship. It were to give color to his
silly suspicions. Let him make his search. But be so good as
to summon my valet. He shall hand you my garments that you
may do your will upon them. But unless you justify yourself
by finding the letter you are seeking, you shall have to
reckon with the consequences of discomposing a gentleman for
nothing. Now, sir! Is it a bargain?" Mr. Green looked him
over, and if he was shaken by the calm assurance of Mr.
Caryll's tone and manner, he concealed it very effectively.
"We'll make no bargains," said he. "I have my duty to do."
He signed to one of the bailiffs. "Fetch the gentleman's
servant," said he.
"So be it," said Mr. Caryll. "But you take too much upon
yourself, sir. Your duty, I think, would have been to arrest
me and carry me to Lord Carteret's, there to be searched if
his lordship considered it necessary."
"I have no cause to arrest you until I find it," Mr. Green
"Your logic is faultless."
"I am following my Lord Carteret's orders to the letter. I am
to effect no arrest until I have positive evidence."
"Yet you are detaining me. What does this amount to but an
Mr. Green disdained to answer. Leduc entered, and Mr. Caryll
turned to Lord Ostermore.
"There is no reason why I should detain your lordship," said
he, "and these operations - The lady - " He waved an
expressive hand, bent an expressive eye upon the earl.
Lord Ostermore seemed to waver. He was not - he had never
been - a man to think for others. But Hortensia cut in before
he could reply.
"We will wait," she said. "Since you are travelling to town,
I am sure his lordship will be glad of your company, sir."
Mr. Caryll looked deep into those great brown eyes, and bowed
his thanks. "If it will not discompose your lordship - "
"No, no," said Ostermore, gruff of voice and manner. "We will
wait. I shall be honored, sir, if you will journey with us
Mr. Caryll bowed again, and went to hold the door for them,
Mr. Green's eyes keenly alert for an attempt at evasion. But
there was none. When his lordship and his ward had departed,
Mr. Caryll turned to Rotherby, who had taken a chair, his man
Gaskell behind him. He looked from the viscount to Mr. Green.
"Do we require this gentleman?" he asked the spy.
A smile broke over Rotherby's swam face. "By your leave, sir,
I'll remain to see fair play. You may find me useful, Mr.
Green. I have no cause to wish this marplot well," he
Mr. Caryll turned his back upon him, took off his coat and
waistcoat. He sat down while Mr. Green spread the garments
upon the table, emptied out the pockets, turned down the
cuffs, ripped up the satin linings. He did it in a consummate
fashion, very thoroughly. Yet, though he parted the linings
from the cloth, he did so in such a manner as to leave the
garments easily repairable.
Mr. Caryll watched him with interest and appreciation, and
what time he watched he was wondering might it not be better
straightway to place the spy in possession of the letter, and
thus destroy himself and Lord Ostermore, at the same time -
and have done with the task on which he was come to England.
It seemed almost an easy way out of the affair. His betrayal
of the earl would be less ugly if he, himself, were to share
the consequences of that betrayal.
Then he checked his thoughts. What manner of mood was this?
Besides, his inclination was all to become better acquainted
with this odd family upon which he had stumbled in so
extraordinary a manner. Down in his heart of hearts he had a
feeling that the thing he was come to do would never be done -
leastways, not by him. It was in vain that he might attempt
to steel himself to the task. It repelled him. It went not
with a nature such as his.
He thought of Everard, afire with the idea of vengence and to
such an extent that he had succeeded in infecting Justin
himself with a spark of it. He thought of him with pity
almost; pity that a man should obsess his life by such a
phantasm as this same vengeance must have been to him. Was it
worth while? Was anything worth while, he wondered.
Lord Rotherby approached the table, and took up the garments
upon which Mr. Green had finished. He turned them over and
supplemented Mr. Green's search.
"Ye're welcome to all that ye can find," sneered Mr. Green,
and turned to Mr. Caryll. "Let us have your shoes, sir."
Mr. Caryll removed his shoes, in silence, and Mr. Green
proceeded to examine them in a manner that provoked Mr.
Caryll's profound admiration. He separated the lining from
the Spanish leather, and probed slowly and carefully in the
space between. He examined the heels very closely, going over
to the window for the purpose. That done, he dropped them.
"Your breeches now," said he laconically.
Meanwhile Leduc had taken up the coat, and with a needle and
thread wherewith he had equipped himself he was industriously
restoring the stitches that Mr. Green had taken out.
Mr. Caryll surrendered his breeches. His fine Holland shirt
went next, his stockings and what other trifles he wore, until
he stood as naked as Adam before the fall. Yet all in vain.
His garments were restored to him, one by one, and one by one,
with Leduc's aid, he resumed them. Mr. Green was looking
"Are you satisfied?" inquired Mr. Caryll pleasantly, his good
The spy looked at him with a moody eye, plucking thoughtfully
at his lip with thumb and forefinger. Then he brightened
suddenly. "There's your man," said he, flashing a quick eye
upon Leduc, who looked up with a quiet smile.
"True," said Mr. Caryll, "and there's my portmantle
above-stairs, and my saddle on my horse in the stables. It is
even possible, for aught you know, that there may be a hollow
tooth or two in my head. Pray let your search be thorough."
Mr. Green considered him again. "If you had it, it would be
upon your person."
"Yet consider," Mr. Caryll begged him, holding out his foot
that Leduc might put on his shoe again, "I might have supposed
that you would suppose that, and disposed accordingly. You
had better investigate to the bitter end."
Mr. Green's small eyes continued to scrutinize Leduc at
intervals. The valet was a silent, serious-faced fellow.
"I'll search your servant, leastways," the spy announced.
"By all means. Leduc, I beg that you will place yourself at
this interesting gentleman's disposal."
What time Mr. Caryll, unaided now, completed the resumption of
his garments, Leduc, silent and expressionless, submitted to
"You will observe, Leduc," said Mr. Caryll, "that we have not
come to this country in vain. We are undergoing experiences
that would be interesting if they were not quite so dull,
amusing if they entailed less discomfort to ourselves.
Assuredly, it was worth while to cross to England to study
manners. And there are sights for you that you will never see
in France. You would not, for instance, had you not come
hither, have had an opportunity of observing a member of the
noblesse seconding and assisting a tipstaff in the discharge
of his duty. And doing it just as a hog wallows in foulness -
for the love of it.
"The gentlemen in your country, Leduc, are too fastidious to
enjoy life as it should be enjoyed; they are too prone to
adhere to the amusements of their class. You have here an
opportunity of perceiving how deeply they are mistaken, what
relish may lie in setting one's rank on one side, in
forgetting at times that by an accident - a sheer, incredible
accident, I assure you, Leduc - one may have been born to a
Rotherby had drawn himself up, his dark face crimsoning.
"D'ye talk at me, sir?" he demanded. "D'ye dare discuss me
with your lackey?"
"But why not, since you search me with my tipstaff! If you
can perceive a difference, you are too subtle for me, sir."
Rotherby advanced a step; then checked. He inherited mental
sluggishness from his father. "You are insolent!" he charged
Caryll. "You insult me."
"Indeed! Ha! I am working miracles."
Rotherby governed his anger by an effort. "There was enough
between us without this," said he.
"There could not be too much between us - too much space, I
The viscount looked at him furiously. "I shall discuss this
further with you," said he. "The present is not the time nor
place. But I shall know where to look for you."
"Leduc, I am sure, will always be pleased to see you. He,
too, is studying manner's."
Rotherby ignored the insult. "We shall see, then, whether you
can do anything more than talk."
"I hope that your lordship, too, is master of other
accomplishments. As a talker, I do not find you very gifted.
But perhaps Leduc will be less exigent than I."
"Bah!" his lordship flung at him, and went out, cursing him
profusely, Gaskell following at his master's heels.
My Lord Ostermore, though puzzled, entertained no tormenting
anxiety on the score of the search to which Mr. Caryll was to
be submitted. He assured himself from that gentleman's
confident, easy manner - being a man who always drew from
things the inference that was obvious - that either he carried
no such letter as my lord expected, or else he had so disposed
of it as to baffle search.
So, for the moment, he dismissed the subject from his mind.
With Hortensia he entered the parlor across the stone-flagged
passage, to which the landlady ushered them, and turned
whole-heartedly to the matter of his ward's elopement with his
"Hortensia," said he, when they were alone. "You have been
foolish; very foolish." He had a trick of repeating himself,
conceiving, no doubt, that the commonplace achieves
distinction by repetition.
Hortensia sat in an arm-chair by the window, and sighed,
looking out over the downs. "Do I not know it?" she cried,
and the eyes which were averted from his lordship were charred
with tears - tears of hot anger, shame and mortification.
"God help all women!" she added bitterly, after a moment, as
many another woman under similar and worse circumstances has
cried before and since.
A more feeling man might have conceived that this was a moment
in which to leave her to herself and her own thoughts, and in
that it is possible that a more feeling man had been mistaken.
Ostermore, stolid and unimaginative, but not altogether
without sympathy for his ward, of whom he was reasonably fond
- as fond, no doubt, as it was his capacity to be for any
other than himself - approached her and set a plump hand upon
the back of her chair.
"What was it drove you to this?"
She turned upon him almost fiercely. "My Lady Ostermore," she
His lordship frowned, and his eyes shifted uneasily from her
face. In his heart he disliked his wife excessively, disliked
her because she was the one person in the world who governed
him, who rode rough-shod over his feelings and desires;
because, perhaps, she was the mother of his unfeeling,
detestable son. She may not have been the only person living
to despise Lord Ostermore; but she was certainly the only one
with the courage to manifest her contempt, and that in no
circumscribed terms. And yet, disliking her as he did,
returning with interest her contempt of him, he veiled it, and
was loyal to his termagant, never suffering himself to utter a
complaint of her to others, never suffering others to censure
her within his hearing. This loyalty may have had its roots
in pride - indeed, no other soil can be assigned to them - a
pride that would allow no strangers to pry into the sore
places of his being. He frowned now to hear Hortensia's angry
mention of her ladyship's name; and if his blue eyes moved
uneasily under his beetling brows, it was because the
situation irked him. How should he stand as judge between
Mistress Winthrop - towards whom, as we have seen, he had a
kindness- and his wife, whom he hated, yet towards whom he
would not be disloyal?
He wished the subject dropped, since, did he ask the obvious
question - in what my Lady Ostermore could have been the cause
of Hortensia's flight - he would provoke, he knew, a storm of
censure from his wife. Therefore he fell silent.
Hortensia, however, felt that she had said too much not to say
"Her ladyship has never failed to make me feel my position -
my - my poverty," she pursued. "There is no slight her
ladyship has not put upon me, until not even your servants use
me with the respect that is due to my father's daughter. And
my father," she added, with a reproachful glance, "was your
friend, my lord."
He shifted uncomfortably on his feet, deploring now the
question with which he had fired the train of feminine
complaint. "Pish, pish!" he deprecated, "'tis fancy, child -
"So her Ladyship would say, did you tax her with it. Yet your
lordship knows I am not fanciful in other things. Should I,
then, be fanciful in this?"
"But what has her ladyship ever done, child?" he demanded,
thinking thus to baffle her - since he was acquainted with the
subtlety of her ladyship's methods.
"A thousand things," replied Hortensia hotly, "and yet not one
upon which I may fasten. 'Tis thus she works: by words,
half-words, looks, sneers, shrugs, and sometimes foul abuse
entirely disproportionate to the little cause I may
unwittingly have given."
"Her ladyship is a little hot," the earl admitted, "but a good
heart; 'tis an excellent heart, Hortensia."
"For hating-ay, my lord."
"Nay, plague on't! That's womanish in you. 'Pon honor it is!
"What else would you have a woman? Mannish and raffish, like
my Lady Ostermore?"
"I'll not listen to you," he said. "Ye're not just,
Hortensia. Ye're heated; heated! I'll not listen to you.
Besides, when all is said, what reasons be these for the folly
"Reasons?" she echoed scornfully. "Reasons and to spare! Her
ladyship has made my life so hard, has so shamed and crushed
me, put such indignities upon me, that existence grew
unbearable under your roof. It could not continue, my lord,"
she pursued, rising under the sway of her indignation. "It
could not continue. I am not of the stuff that goes to making
martyrs. I am weak, and - and - as your lordship has said -
"Indeed, you talk a deal," said his lordship peevishly. But
she did not heed the sarcasm.
"Lord Rotherby," she continued, "offered me the means to
escape. He urged me to elope with him. His reason was that
you would never consent to our marriage; but that if we took
the matter into our hands, and were married first, we might
depend upon your sanction afterwards; that you had too great a
kindness for me to withhold your pardon. I was weak, my lord
- womanish," (she threw the word at him again) "and it
happened - God help me for a fool!- that I thought I loved
Lord Rotherby. And so - and so - "
She sat down again, weakly, miserably, averting her face that
she might hide her tears. He was touched, and he even went so
far as to show something of his sympathy. He approached her
again, and laid a benign hand lightly upon her shoulder.
"But - but - in that case - Oh, the damned villain! - why this
"Does your lordship not perceive? Must I die of shame? Do
you not see?"
"See? No!" He was thoughtful a second; then repeated, "No!"
"I understood," she informed him, a smile - a cruelly bitter
smile - lifting and steadying the corner of her lately
quivering lip, "when he alluded to your lordship's straitened
circumstances. He has no disinheritance to fear because he
has no inheritance to look for beyond the entail, of which you
cannot disinherit him. My Lord Rotherby sets a high value
upon himself. He may - I do not know - he may have been in
love with me - though not as I know love, which is all
sacrifice, all self-denial. But by his lights he may have
cared for me; he must have done, by his lights. Had I been a
lady of fortune, not a doubt but he would have made me his
wife; as it was, he must aim at a more profitable marriage,
and meanwhile, to gratify his love for me - base as it was -
he would - he would - O God! I cannot say it. You
understand, my lord."
My lord swore strenuously. "There is a punishment for such a
crime as this."
"Ay, my lord - and a way to avoid punishment for a gentleman
in your son's position, even did I flaunt my shame in some
vain endeavor to have justice - a thing he knew I never could
My lord swore again. "He shall be punished," he declared
"No doubt. God will see to that," she said, a world of faith
in her quivering voice.
My lord's eyes expressed his doubt of divine intervention. He
preferred to speak for himself. "I'll disown the dog. He
shall not enter my house again. You shall not be reminded of
what has happened here. Gad! You were shrewd to have smoked
his motives so!" he cried in a burst of admiration for her
insight. "Gad, child! Shouldst have been a lawyer! A
"If it had not been for Mr. Caryll - " she began, but to what
else she said he lent no ear, being suddenly brought back to
his fears at the mention of that gentleman's name.
"Mr. Caryll! Save us! What is keeping him?" he cried. "Can
they - can they - "
The door opened, and Mr. Caryll walked in, ushered by the
hostess. Both turned to confront him, Hortensia's eyes
swollen from her weeping.
"Well?" quoth his lordship. "Did they find nothing?"
Mr. Caryll advanced with the easy, graceful carriage that was
one of his main charms, his clothes so skilfully restored by
Leduc that none could have guessed the severity of the
examination they had undergone.
"Since I am here, and alone, your lordship may conclude such
to be the case. Mr. Green is preparing for departure. He is
very abject; very chap-fallen. I am almost sorry for Mr.
Green. I am by nature sympathetic. I have promised to make
my complaint to my Lord Carteret. And so, I trust there is an
end to a tiresome matter."
"But then, sir?" quoth his lordship. "But then - are you the
bearer of no letter?"
Mr. Caryll shot a swift glance over his shoulder at the door.
He deliberately winked at the earl. "Did your lordship expect
letters?" he inquired. "That was scarcely reason enough to
suppose me a courier. There is some mistake, I imagine."
Between the wink and the words his lordship was bewildered.
Mr. Caryll turned to the lady, bowing. Then he waved a hand
over the downs. "A fine view," said he airily, and she stared
at him. "I shall treasure sweet memories of Maidstone." Her
stare grew stonier. Did he mean the landscape or some other
matter? His tone was difficult to read - a feature peculiar
to his tone.
"Not so shall I, sir," she made answer. "I shall never think
of it other than with burning cheeks - unless it be with
gratitude to your shrewdness which saved me."
"No more, I beg. It is a matter painful to you to dwell on.
Let me exhort you to forget it. I have already done so."
"That is a sweet courtesy in you."
"I am compounded of sweet courtesy," he informed her modestly.
His lordship spoke of departure, renewing his offer to carry
Mr. Caryll to town in his chaise. Meanwhile, Mr. Caryll was
behaving curiously. He was tiptoeing towards the door, along
the wall, where he was out of line with the keyhole. He
reached it suddenly, and abruptly pulled it open. There was a
squeal, and Mr. Green rolled forward into the room. Mr.
Caryll kicked him out again before he could rise, and called
Leduc to throw him outside. And that was the last they saw of
Mr. Green at Maidstone.
They set out soon afterwards, Mr. Caryll travelling in his
lordship's chaise, and Leduc following in his master's.
It was an hour or so after candle-lighting time when they
reached Croydon, the country lying all white under a full moon
that sailed in a clear, calm sky. His lordship swore that he
would go no farther that night. The travelling fatigued him;
indeed, for the last few miles of the journey he had been
dozing in his corner of the carriage, conversation having long
since been abandoned as too great an effort on so bad a road,
which shook and jolted them beyond endurance. His lordship's
chaise was of an old-fashioned pattern, and the springs far
from what might have been desired or expected in a nobleman's
They alighted at the "Bells." His lordship bespoke supper,
invited Mr. Caryll to join them, and, what time the meal was
preparing, went into a noisy doze in the parlor's best chair.
Mistress Winthrop sauntered out into the garden. The calm and
fragrance of the night invited her. Alone with her thoughts,
she paced the lawn a while, until her solitude was disturbed
by the advent of Mr. Caryll. He, too, had need to think, and
he had come out into the peace of the night to indulge his
need. Seeing her, he made as if to withdraw again; but she
perceived him, and called him to her side. He went most
readily. Yet when he stood before her in an attitude of
courteous deference, she was at a loss what she should say to
him, or, rather, what words she should employ. At last, with
a half-laugh of nervousness, "I am by nature very inquisitive,
sir," she prefaced.
"I had already judged you to be an exceptional woman," Mr.
Caryll commented softly.
She mused an instant. "Are you never serious?" she asked him.
"Is it worth while?" he counter-questioned, and, whether
intent or accident, he let her see something of himself. "Is
it even amusing - to be serious?"
"Is there in life nothing but amusement?"
"Oh, yes - but nothing so vital. I speak with knowledge. The
gift of laughter has been my salvation."
"From what, sir?"
"Ah - who shall say that? My history and my rearing have been
such that had I bowed before them, I had become the most
gloomy, melancholy man that steps this gloomy, melancholy
world. By now I might have found existence insupportable, and
so - who knows? I might have set a term to it. But I had the
wisdom to prefer laughter. Humanity is a delectable spectacle
if we but have the gift to observe it in a dispassionate
spirit. Such a gift have I cultivated. The squirming of the
human worm is interesting to observe, and the practice of
observing it has this advantage, that while we observe it we
forget to squirm ourselves."
"The bitterness of your words belies their purport."
He shrugged and smiled. "But proves my contention. That I
might explain myself, you made me for a moment serious, set me
squirming in my turn."
She moved a little, and he fell into step beside her. A
little while there was silence.
Presently - "You find me, no doubt, as amusing as any other of
your human worms," said she.
"God forbid!" he answered soberly.
She laughed. "You make an exception in my case, then. That
is a subtle flattery!"
"Have I not said that I had judged you to be an exceptional
"Exceptionally foolish, not a doubt."
"Exceptionally beautiful; exceptionally admirable," he
"A clumsy compliment, devoid of wit!"
"When we grow truthful, it may be forgiven us if we fall short
"That were an argument in favor of avoiding truth."
"Were it necessary," said he. "For truth is seldom so
intrusive as to need avoiding. But we are straying. There
was a score upon which you were inquisitive, you said; from
which I take it that you sought knowledge at my hands. Pray
seek it; I am a well, of knowledge."
"I desired to know - Nay, but I have asked you already. I
desired to know did you deem me a very pitiful little fool?"
They had reached the privet hedge, and turned. They paused
now before resuming their walk. He paused, also, before
"I should judge you wise in most things," he answered slowly,
critically. "But in the matter to which I owe the blessing of
having served you, I do not think you wise. Did you - do you
love Lord Rotherby?"
"What if so?"
"After what you have learned, I should account you still less
"You are impertinent, sir," she reproved him.
"Nay, most pertinent. Did you not ask me to sit in judgment
upon this matter? And unless you confess to me, how am I to
"I did not crave your absolution. You take too much upon
"So said Lord Rotherby. You seem to have something in common
when all is said."
She bit her lip in chagrin. They paced in silence to the
lawn's end, and turned again. Then: "You treat me like a
fool," she reproved him.
"How is that possible, when, already I think I love you."
She started from him, and stared at him for a long moment.
"You insult me!" she cried angrily, conceiving that she
understood his mind. "Do you think that because I may have
committed a folly I have forfeited all claim to be respected -
that I am a subject for insolent speeches?"
"You are illogical," said Mr. Caryll, the imperturbable. "I
have told you that I love you. Should I insult the woman I
have said I love?"
"You love me?" She looked at him, her face very white in the
white moonlight, her lips parted, a kindling anger in her
eyes. "Are you mad?"
"I a'n't sure. There have been moments when I have almost
feared it. This is not one of them."
"You wish me to think you serious?" She laughed a thought
stridently in her indignation. "I have known you just four
hours," said she.
"Precisely the time I think I have loved you."
"You think?" she echoed scornfully. "Oh, you make that
reservation! You are not quite sure?"
"Can we be sure of anything?" he deprecated.
"Of some things," she answered icily. "And I am sure of one -
that I am beginning to understand you."
"I envy you. Since that is so, help me - of your charity! -
to understand myself."
"Then understand yourself for an impudent, fleering coxcomb,"
she flung at him, and turned to leave him.
"That is not explanation," said Mr. Caryll thoughtfully. "It
is mere abuse."
"What else do you deserve?" she asked him over her shoulder.
"That you should have dared!" she withered him.
"To love you quite so suddenly?" he inquired, and misquoted:
"`Whoever loved at all, that loved not at first sight?'
"You have not the right to my name, sir."
"Yet I offer you the right to mine," he answered, with humble
"You shall be punished," she promised him, and in high dudgeon
"Punished? Oh, cruel! Can you then be -
"`Unsoft to him who's smooth to thee?
Tigers and bears, I've heard some say,
For proffered love will love repay."'
But she was gone. He looked up at the moon, and took it into
his confidence to reproach it. "'Twas your white face
beglamored me," he told it aloud. "See, how execrable a
beginning I've made, and, therefore, how excellent!" And he
laughed, but entirely without mirth.
He remained pacing in the moonlight, very thoughtful, and, for
once, it seemed, not at all amused. His life appeared to be
tangling itself beyond unravelling, and his vaunted habit of
laughter scarce served at present to show him the way out.
Mr. Caryll needs explaining as he walks there in the
moonlight; that is, if we are at all to understand him - a
matter by no means easy, considering that he has confessed he
did not understand himself. Did ever man make a sincere
declaration of sudden passion as flippantly as he had done, or
in terms-better calculated to alienate the regard he sought to
win? Did ever man choose his time with less discrimination,
or his words with less discretion? Assuredly not. To suppose
that Mr. Caryll was unaware of this, would be to suppose him a
fool, and that he most certainly was not.
His mood was extremely complex; its analysis, I fear, may
baffle us. It must have seemed to you - as it certainly
seemed to Mistress Winthrop - that he made a mock of her; that
in truth he was the impudent, fleering coxcomb she pronounced
him, and nothing more. Not so. Mock he most certainly did;
but his mockery was all aimed to strike himself on the recoil
- himself and the sentiments which had sprung to being in his
soul, and to which - nameless as he was, pledged as he was to
a task that would most likely involve his ruin - he conceived
that he had no right. He gave expression to his feelings, yet
chose for them the expression best calculated to render them
barren of all consequence where Mistress Winthrop was
concerned. Where another would have hidden those emotions,
Mr. Caryll elected to flaunt them half-derisively, that
Hortensia might trample them under foot in sheer disgust.
It was, perhaps, the knowledge that did he wait, and come to
her as an honest, devout lover, he must in honesty tell her
all there was to know of his odd history and of his bastardy,
and thus set up between them a barrier insurmountable.
Better, he may have thought, to make from the outset a mockery
of a passion for which there could be no hope. And so, under
that mocking, impertinent exterior, I hope you catch some
glimpse of the real, suffering man - the man who boasted that
he had the gift of laughter.
He continued a while to pace the dewy lawn after she had left
him, and a deep despondency descended upon the spirit of this
man who accounted seriousness a folly. Hitherto his rancor
against his father had been a theoretical rancor, a thing
educated into him by Everard, and accepted by him as we accept
a proposition in Euclid that is proved to us. In its way it
had been a make-believe rancor, a rancor on principle, for he
had been made to see that unless he was inflamed by it, he was
not worthy to be his mother's son. Tonight had changed all
this. No longer was his grievance sentimental, theoretical or
abstract. It was suddenly become real and very bitter. It
was no longer a question of the wrong done his mother thirty
years ago; it became the question of a wrong done himself in
casting him nameless upon the world, a thing of scorn to
cruel, unjust humanity. Could Mistress Winthrop have guessed
the bitter self-derision with which he had, in apparent
levity, offered her his name, she might have felt some pity
for him who had no pity for himself.
And so, to-night he felt - as once for a moment Everard had
made him feel - that he had a very real wrong of his own to
avenge upon his father; and the task before him lost much of
the repugnance that it had held for him hitherto.
All this because four hours ago he had looked into the brown
depths of Mistress Winthrop's eyes. He sighed, and declaimed
a line of Congreve's:
"`Woman is a fair image in a pool; who leaps at it is sunk.'"
The landlord came to bid him in to supper. He excused
himself. Sent his lordship word that he was over-tired, and
went off to bed.
They met at breakfast, at an early hour upon the morrow,
Mistress Winthrop cool and distant; his lordship grumpy and
mute; Mr. Caryll airy and talkative as was his habit. They
set out soon afterwards. But matters were nowise improved.
His lordship dozed in a corner of the carriage, while Mistress
Winthrop found more interest in the flowering hedgerows than
in Mr. Caryll, ignored him when he talked, and did not answer
him when he set questions; till, in the end, he, too, lapsed
into silence, and as a solatium for his soreness assured
himself by lengthy, wordless arguments that matters were best
They entered the outlying parts of London some two hours
later, and it still wanted on hour or so to noon when the
chaise brought up inside the railings before the earl's house
in Lincoln's Inn Fields.
There came a rush of footmen, a bustle of service, amid which
they alighted and entered the splendid residence that was part
of the little that remained Lord Ostermore from the wreck his
fortunes had suffered on the shoals of the South Sea.
Mr. Caryll paused a moment to dismiss Leduc to the address in
Old Palace Yard where he had hired a lodging. That done, he
followed his lordship and Hortensia within doors.
>From the inner hall a footman ushered him across an
ante-chamber to a room on the right, which proved to be the
library, and was his lordship's habitual retreat. It was a
spacious, pillared chamber, very richly panelled in damask
silk, and very richly furnished, having long French windows
that opened on a terrace above the garden.
As they entered there came a swift rustle of petticoats at
their heels, and Mr. Caryll stood aside, bowing, to give
passage to a tall lady who swept by with no more regard for
him than had he been one of the house's lackeys. She was, he
observed, of middle-age, lean and aquiline-featured, with an
exaggerated chin, that ended squarely as boot. Her sallow
cheeks were raddled to a hectic color, a monstrous head-dress
- like that of some horse in a lord mayor's show - coiffed
her, and her dress was a mixture of extravagance and
incongruity, the petticoat absurdly hooped.
She swept into the room like a battleship into action, and let
fly her first broadside at Mistress Winthrop from the
"Codso!" she shrilled. "You have come back! And for what
have you come back? Am I to live in the same house with you,
you shameless madam - that have no more thought for your
reputation than a slut in a smock-race?"
Hortensia raised indignant eyes from out of a face that was
very pale. Her lips were tightly pressed - in resolution,
thought Mr. Caryll, who was very observant of her - not to
answer her ladyship; for Mr. Caryll had little doubt as to the
identity of this dragon.
"My love - my dear - " began his lordship, advancing a step,
his tone a very salve. Then, seeking to create a diversion,
he waved a hand towards Mr. Caryll. "Let me present - "
"Did I speak to you?" she turned to bombard him. "Have you
not done harm enough? Had you been aught but a fool - had you
respected me as a husband should - you had left well alone and
let her go her ways."
"There was my duty to her father, to say aught of - "
"And what of your duty to me?" she blazed, her eyes puckering
most malignantly. She reminded Mr. Caryll of nothing so much
as a vulture. "Had ye forgotten that? Have ye no thought for
decency - no respect for your wife?"
Her strident voice was echoing through the house and drawing a
little crowd of gaping servants to the hall. To spare
Mistress Winthrop, Mr. Caryll took it upon himself to close
the door. The countess turned at the sound.
"Who is this?" she asked, measuring the elegant figure with an
evil eye. And Mr. Caryll felt it in his bones that she had
done him the honor to dislike him at sight.
"It is a gentleman who - who -" His lordship thought it
better, apparently, not to explain the exact circumstances
under which he had met the gentleman. He shifted ground. "I
was about to present him, my love. It is Mr. Caryll - Mr.
Justin Caryll. This, sir, is my Lady Ostermore."
Mr. Caryll made her a profound bow. Her ladyship retorted
with a sniff.
"Is it a kinsman of yours, my lord?" and the contempt of the
question was laden with a suggestion that smote Mr. Caryll
hard. What she implied in wanton offensive mockery was no
more than he alone present knew to be the exact and hideous
"Some remote kinsman, I make no doubt," the earl explained.
"Until yesterday I had not the honor of his acquaintance. Mr.
Caryll is from France."
"Ye'll be a Jacobite, no doubt, then," were her first,
uncompromising words to the guest.
Mr. Caryll made her another bow. "If I were, I should make no
secret of it with your ladyship," he answered with that
irritating suavity in which he clothed his most obvious
Her ladyship opened her eyes a little wider. Here was a tone
she was unused to. "And what may your business with his
"His lordship's business, I think," answered Mr. Caryll in a
tone of such exquisite politeness and deference that the words
seemed purged of all their rudeness.
"Will you answer me so, sir?" she demanded, nevertheless, her
"My love!" interpolated his lordship hurriedly, his florid
face aflush. "We are vastly indebted to Mr. Caryll, as you
shall learn. It was he who saved Hortensia."
"Saved the drab, did he? And from what, pray?"
"Madam!" It was Hortensia who spoke. She had risen, pale
with anger, and she made appeal now to her guardian. "My
lord, I'll not remain to be so spoken of. Suffer me to go.
That her ladyship should so speak of me to my face - and to a
"Stranger!" crowed her ladyship. "Lard! And what d'ye
suppose will happen? Are you so nice about a stranger hearing
what I may have to say of you - you that will be the talk of
the whole lewd town for this fine escapade? And what'll the
town say of you ?"
"My love!" his lordship sought again to soothe her. "Sylvia,
let me implore you! A little moderation! A little charity!
Hortensia has been foolish. She confesses so much, herself.
Yet, when all is said, 'tis not she is to blame."
"My love! Was it suggested?"
"I marvel it was not. Indeed, I marvel! Oh, Hortensia is not
to blame, the sweet, pure dove! What is she, then?"
"To be pitied, ma'am," said his lordship, stirred to sudden
anger, "that she should have lent an ear to your disreputable
"My son? My son?" cried her ladyship, her voice more and more
strident, her face flushing till the rouge upon it was put to
shame, revealed in all its unnatural hideousness. "And is he
not your son, my lord?"
"There are moments," he answered hardily, "when I find it
difficult to believe."
It was much for him to say, and to her ladyship, of all
people. It was pure mutiny. She gasped for air; pumped her
brain for words. Meantime, his lordship continued with an
eloquence entirely unusual in him and prompted entirely by his
strong feelings in the matter of his son. "He is a disgrace
to his name! He always has been. When a boy, he was a liar
and a thief, and had he had his deserts he had been lodged in
Newgate long ago - or worse. Now that he's a man, he's an
abandoned profligate, a brawler, a drunkard, a rakehell. So
much I have long known him for; but to-day he has shown
himself for something even worse. I had thought that my ward,
at least, had been sacred from his villainy. That is the last
drop. I'll not condone it. Damn me! I can't condone it.
I'll disown him. He shall not set foot in house of mine
again. Let him keep the company of his Grace of Wharton and
his other abandoned friends of the Hell Fire Club; he keeps
not mine. He keeps not mine, I say!"
Her ladyship swallowed hard. From red that she had been, she
was now ashen under her rouge. "And, is this wanton baggage
to keep mine? Is she to disgrace a household that has grown
too nice to contain your son?"
"My lord! Oh, my lord, give me leave to go," Hortensia
"Ay, go," sneered her ladyship. "Go! You had best go - back
to him. What for did ye leave him? Did ye dream there could
be aught to return to?"
Hortensia turned to her guardian again appealingly. But her
ladyship bore down upon her, incensed by this ignoring; she
caught the girl's wrist in her claw-like hand. "Answer me,
you drab! What for did you return? What is to be done with
you now that y' are soiled goods? Where shall we find a
husband for you?"
"I do not want a husband, madam," answered Hortensia.
"Will ye lead apes in hell, then? Bah! 'Tis not what ye
want, my fine madam; 'tis what we can get you; and where shall
we find you a husband now?"
Her eye fell upon Mr. Caryll, standing by one of the windows,
a look of profound disgust overplaying the usually immobile
face. "Perhaps the gentleman from France - the gentleman who
saved you," she sneered, "will propose to take the office."
"With all my heart, ma'am," Mr. Caryll startled them and
himself by answering. Then, perceiving that he had spoken too
much upon impulse - given utterance to what was passing in his
mind - "I but mention it to show your ladyship how mistaken
are your conclusions," he added.
The countess loosed her hold of Hortensia's wrist in her
amazement, and looked the gentleman from France up and down in
a mighty scornful manner. "Codso!" she swore, "I may take it,
then, that your saving her - as ye call it - was no accident."
"Indeed it was, ma'am - and a most fortunate accident for your
"For my son? As how?"
"It saved him from hanging, ma'am," Mr. Caryll informed her,
and gave her something other than the baiting of Hortensia to
occupy her mind.
"Hang?" she gasped. "Are you speaking of Lord Rotherby?"
"Ay, of Lord Rotherby - and not a word more than is true," put
in the earl. "Do you know - but you do not - the extent of
your precious son's villainy? At Maidstone, where I overtook
them - at the Adam and Eve - he had a make-believe parson, and
he was luring this poor child into a mock-marriage."
Her ladyship stared. "Mock-marriage?" she echoed. "Marriage?
La!" And again she vented her unpleasant laugh. "Did she
insist on that, the prude? Y' amaze me!"
"Surely, my love, you do not apprehend. Had Lord Rotherby's
parson not been detected and unmasked by Mr. Caryll, here - "
"Would you ha' me believe she did not know the fellow was no
"Oh!" cried Hortensia. "Your ladyship has a very wicked soul.
May God forgive you!"
"And who is to forgive you?" snapped the countess.
"I need no forgiveness, for I have done no wrong. A folly, I
confess to. I was mad to have heeded such a villain."
Her ladyship gathered forces for a fresh assault. But Mr.
Caryll anticipated it. It was no doubt a great impertinence
in him; but he saw Hortensia's urgent need, and he felt,
moreover, that not even Lord Ostermore would resent his
crossing swords a moment with her ladyship.
"You would do well, ma'am, to remember," said he, in his
singularly precise voice, "that Lord Rotherby even now - and
as things have fallen out - is by no means quit of all
She looked at this smooth gentleman, and his words burned
themselves into her brain. She quivered with mingling fear
"Wha' - what is't ye mean?" quoth she.
"That even at this hour, if the matter were put about, his
lordship might be brought to account for it, and it might fare
very ill with him. The law of England deals heavily with an
offense such as Lord Rotherby's, and the attempt at a
mock-marriage, of which there is no lack of evidence, would so
aggravate the crime of abduction, if he were informed against,
that it might go very hard with him."
Her jaw fell. She caught more than an admonition in his
words. It almost seemed to her that he was threatening.
"Who - who is to inform?" she asked point-blank, her tone a
challenge; and yet the odd change in it from its recent
aggressiveness was almost ludicrous.
"Ah - who?" said Mr. Caryll, raising his eyes and fetching a
sigh. "It would appear that a messenger from the Secretary of
State - on another matter - was at the Adam and Eve at the
time with two of his catchpolls, and he was a witness of the
whole affair. Then again," and he waved a hand doorwards,
"servants are servants. I make no doubt they are listening,
and your ladyship's voice has scarce been controlled. You can
never say when a servant may cease to be a servant, and become
an active enemy."
"Damn the servants!" she swore, dismissing them from
consideration. "Who is this messenger of the secretary's? Who
"He was named Green. 'Tis all I know."
"And where may he be found?"
"I cannot say."
She turned to Lord Ostermore. "Where is Rotherby?" she
inquired. She was a thought breathless.
"I do not know," said he, in a voice that signified how little
"He must be found. This fellow's silence must be bought.
I'll not have my son disgraced, and gaoled, perhaps. He must
Her alarm was very real now. She moved towards the door, then
paused, and turned again. "Meantime, let your lordship
consider what dispositions you are to make for this wretched
girt who is the cause of all this garboil."
And she swept out, slamming the door violently after her.
FATHER AND SON
Mr. Caryll stayed to dine at Stretton House. Although they
had journeyed but from Croydon that morning, he would have
preferred to have gone first to his lodging to have made -
fastidious as he was - a suitable change in his apparel. But
the urgency that his task dictated caused him to waive the
He had a half-hour or so to himself after the stormy scene
with her ladyship, in which he had played again - though in a
lesser degree - the part of savior to Mistress Winthrop, a
matter for which the lady had rewarded him, ere withdrawing,
with a friendly smile, which caused him to think her disposed
to forgive him his yesternight's folly.
In that half-hour he gave himself again very seriously to the
contemplation of his position. He had no illusions on the
score of Lord Ostermore, and he rated his father no higher
than he deserved. But he was just and shrewd in his judgment,
and he was forced to confess that he had found this father of
his vastly different from the man he had been led to expect.
He had looked to find a debauched old rake, a vile creature
steeped in vice and wickedness. Instead, he found a weak,
easy-natured, commonplace fellow, whose worst sin seemed to be
the selfishness that is usually inseparable from those other
characteristics. If Ostermore was not a man of the type that
inspires strong affection, neither was he of the type that
provokes strong dislike. His colorless nature left one
indifferent to him.
Mr. Caryll, somewhat to his dismay, found himself inclined to
extend the man some sympathy; caught himself upon the verge of
pitying him for being burdened with so very unfilial a son and
so very cursed a wife. It was one of his cherished beliefs
that the evil that men do has a trick of finding them out in
this life, and here, he believed, as shrew-ridden husband and
despised father, the Earl of Ostermore was being made to
expiate that sin of his early years.
Another of Mr. Caryll's philosophies was that, when all is
said, man is little of a free agent. His viciousness or
sanctity is temperamental; and not the man, but his nature -
which is not self-imbued - must bear the responsibility of a
man's deeds, be they good or bad.
In the abstract such beliefs are well enough; they are
excellent standards by which to judge where other sufferers
than ourselves are concerned. But when we ourselves are
touched, they are discounted by the measure in which a man's
deeds or misdeeds may affect us. And although to an extent
this might be the case now with Mr. Caryll, yet, in spite of
it, he found himself excusing his father on the score of the
man's weakness and stupidity, until he caught himself up with
the reflection that this was a disloyalty to Everard, to his
training, and to his mother. And yet - he reverted - in such
a man as Ostermore, sheer stupidity, a lack of imagination, of
insight into things as they really are, a lack of feeling that
would disable him from appreciating the extent of any wrong he
did, seemed to Mr. Caryll to be extenuating circumstances.
He conceived that he was amazingly dispassionate in his
judgment, and he wondered was he right or wrong so to be.
Then the thought of his task arose in his mind, and it bathed
him in a sweat of horror. Over in France he had allowed
himself to be persuaded, and had pledged himself to do this
thing. Everard, the relentless, unforgiving fanatic of
vengeance, had - as we have seen - trained him to believe that
the avenging of his mother's wrongs was the only thing that
could justify his own existence. Besides, it had all seemed
remote then, and easy as remote things are apt to seem. But
now - now that he had met in the flesh this man who was his
father - his hesitation was turned to very horror. It was not
that he did not conceive, in spite of his odd ideas upon
temperament and its responsibilities, that his mother's'
wrongs cried out for vengeance, and that the avenging of them
would be a righteous, fitting deed; but it was that he
conceived that his own was not the hand to do the work of the
executioner upon one who - after all - was still his own
father. It was hideously unnatural.
He sat in the library, awaiting his lordship and the
announcement of dinner. There was a book before him; but his
eyes were upon the window, the smooth lawns beyond, all
drenched in summer sunshine, and his thoughts were
introspective. He looked into his shuddering soul, and saw
that he could not - that he would not - do the thing which he
was come to do. He would await the coming of Everard, to tell
him so. There would be a storm to face, he knew. But sooner
that than carry this vile thing through. It was vile - most
damnably vile - he now opined.
The decision taken, he rose and crossed to the window. His
mind had been in travail; his soul had known the pangs of
labor. But now that this strong resolve had been brought
forth, an ease and peace were his that seemed to prove to him
how right he was, how wrong must aught else have been.
Lord Ostermore came in. He announced that they would be
dining alone together. "Her ladyship," he explained, "has
gone forth in person to seek Lord Rotherby. She believes that
she knows where to find him - in some disreputable haunt, no
doubt, whither her ladyship would have been better advised to
have sent a servant. But women are wayward cattle - wayward,
headstrong cattle! Have you not found them so, Mr. Caryll?"
"I have found that the opinion is common to most husbands,"
said Mr. Caryll, then added a question touching Mistress
Winthrop, and wondered would she not be joining them at table.
"The poor child keeps her chamber," said the earl. "She is
overwrought - overwrought! I am afraid her ladyship - " He
broke off abruptly, and coughed. "She is overwrought," he
repeated in conclusion. "So that we dine alone."
And alone they dined. Ostermore, despite the havoc suffered
by his fortunes, kept an excellent table and a clever cook,
and Mr. Caryll was glad to discover in his sire this one
The conversation was desultory throughout the repast; but when
the cloth was raised and the table cleared of all but the
dishes of fruit and the decanters of Oporto, Canary and
Madeira, there came a moment of expansion.
Mr. Caryll was leaning back in his chair, fingering the stem
of his wine-glass, watching the play of sunlight through the
ruddy amber of the wine, and considering the extraordinarily
odd position of a man sitting at table, by the merest chance,
almost, with a father who was not aware that he had begotten
him. A question from his lordship came to stir him partially
from the reverie into which he was beginning to lapse.
"Do you look to make a long sojourn in England, Mr. Caryll?"
"It will depend," was the vague and half-unconscious answer,
"upon the success of the matter I am come to transact."
There ensued a brief pause, during which Mr. Caryll fell again
into his abstraction.
"Where do you dwell when in France, sir?" inquired my lord, as
if to make polite conversation.
Mr. Caryll lulled by his musings into carelessness, answered
truthfully, "At Maligny, in Normandy."
The next moment there was a tinkle of breaking glass, and Mr.
Caryll realized his indiscretion and turned cold.
Lord Ostermore, who had been in the act of raising his glass,
fetched it down again so suddenly that the stem broke in his
fingers, and the mahogany was flooded with the liquor. A
servant hastened forward, and set a fresh glass for his
lordship. That done, Ostermore signed to the man to withdraw.
The fellow went, closing the door, and leaving those two
The pause had been sufficient to enable Mr. Caryll to recover,
and for all that his pulses throbbed more quickly than their
habit, outwardly he maintained his lazily indifferent pose, as
if entirely unconscious that what he had said had occasioned
his father the least disturbance.
"You - you dwelt at Maligny?" said his lordship, the usual
high color all vanished from his face. And again: "You dwelt
at Maligny, and - and - your name is Caryll."
Mr. Caryll looked up quickly, as if suddenly aware that his
lordship was expressing surprise. "Why, yes," said he. "What
is there odd in that?"
"How does it happen that you come to live there? Are you at
all connected with the family of Maligny? On your mother's
Mr. Caryll took up his wine-glass. "I take it," said he
easily, "that there was some such family at some time. But it
is clear it must have fallen upon evil days." He sipped at
his wine. "There are none left now," he explained, as he set
down his glass. "The last of them died, I believe, in
England." His eyes turned full upon the earl, but their
glance seemed entirely idle. "It was in consequence of that
that my father was enabled to purchase the estate."
Mr. Caryll accounted it no lie that he suppressed the fact
that the father to whom he referred was but his father by
Relief spread instantly upon Lord Ostermore's countenance.
Clearly, he saw, here was pure coincidence, and nothing more.
Indeed, what else should there have been? What was it that he
had feared? He did not know. Still he accounted it an odd
matter, and said so.
"What is odd?" inquired Mr. Caryll. "Does it happen that your
lordship was acquainted at any time with that vanished
"I was, sir - slightly acquainted - at one time with one or
two of its members. 'Tis that that is odd. You see, sir, my
name, too, happens to be Caryll."
"True - yet I see nothing so oddly coincident in the matter,
particularly if your acquaintance with these Malignys was but
"Indeed, you are right. You are right. There is no such
great coincidence, when all is said. The name reminded me of
a - a folly of my youth. 'Twas that that made impression."
"A folly?" quoth Mr. Caryll, his eyebrows raised.
"Ay, a folly - a folly that went near undoing me, for had it
come to my father's ears, he had broke me without mercy. He
was a hard man, my father; a puritan in his ideas."
"A greater than your lordship?" inquired Mr. Caryll blandly,
masking the rage that seethed in him.
His lordship laughed. "Ye're a wag, Mr. Caryll - a damned
wag!" Then reverting to the matter that was uppermost in his
mind. "'Tis a fact, though - 'pon honor. My father would ha'
broke me. Luckily she died."
"Who died?" asked Mr. Caryll, with a show of interest.
"The girl. Did I not tell you there was a girl? 'Twas she
was the folly - Antoinette de Maligny. But she died - most
opportunely, egad! 'Twas a very damned mercy that she did. It
- cut the - the - what d'ye call it - knot?"
"The Gordian knot?" suggested Mr. Caryll.
"Ay - the Gordian knot. Had she lived and had my father
smoked the affair - Gad! he would ha' broke me; he would so!"
he repeated, and emptied his glass.
Mr. Caryll, white to the lips, sat very still a moment. Then
he did a curious thing; did it with a curious suddenness. He
took a knife from the table, and hacked off the lowest button
from his coat. This he pushed across the board to his father.
"To turn to other matters," said he; "there is the letter you
were expecting from abroad."
"Eh? What?" Lord Ostermore took up the button. It was of
silk, interwoven with gold thread. He turned it over in his
fingers, looking at it with a heavy eye, and then at his
guest. "Eh? Letter?" he muttered, puzzled.
"If your lordship will cut that open, you will see what his
majesty has to propose." He mentioned the king in a voice
charged with suggestion, so that no doubt could linger on the
score of the king he meant.
"Gad!" cried his lordship. "Gad! 'Twas thus ye bubbled Mr.
Green? Shrewd, on my soul. And you are the messenger, then?"
"I am the messenger," answered Mr. Caryll coldly.
"And why did you not say so before?"
For the fraction of a second Mr. Caryll hesitated. Then:
"Because I did not judge that the time was come," said he.
His lordship ripped away the silk covering of the button with
a penknife, and disembowelled it of a small packet, which
consisted of a sheet of fine and very closely-folded and
tightly-compressed paper. This he spread, cast an eye over,
and then looked up at his companion, who was watching him with
His lordship had paled a little, and there was about the lines
of his mouth a look of preternatural gravity. He looked
furtively towards the door, his heavy eyebrows lowering.
"I think," he said, "that we shall be more snug in the
library. Will you bear me company, Mr. Caryll?"
Mr. Caryll rose instantly. The earl folded the letter, and
turned to go. His companion paused to pick up the fragments
of the button and slip them into his pocket. He performed the
office with a smile on his lips that was half pity, half
contempt. It did not seem to him that there would be the
least need to betray Lord Ostermore once his lordship was
wedded to the Stuart faction. He would not fail to betray
himself through some act of thoughtless stupidity such as
In the library - the door, and that of the ante-room beyond
it, carefully closed - his lordship unlocked a secretaire of
walnut, very handsomely inlaid, and, drawing up a chair, he
sat down to the perusal of the king's letter. When he had
read it through, he remained lost in thought a while. At
length he looked up and across towards Mr. Caryll, who was
standing by one of the windows.
"You are no doubt a confidential agent, sir," said he. "And
you will be fully aware of the contents of this letter that
you have brought me."
"Fully, my lord," answered Mr. Caryll, "and I venture to hope
that his majesty's promises will overcome any hesitation that
you may feel."
"His majesty's promises?" said my lord thoughtfully. "His
majesty may never have a chance of fulfilling them."
"Very true, sir. But who gambles must set a stake upon the
board. Your lordship has been something of a gamester
already, and - or so I gather - with little profit. Here is a
chance to play another game that may mend the evil fortunes of
The earl scanned him in surprise. "You are excellent well
informed," said he, between surprise and irony.
"My trade demands it. Knowledge is my buckler."
His lordship nodded slowly, and fell very thoughtful, the
letter before him, his eyes wandering ever and anon to con
again some portion of it. "It is a game in which I stake my
head," he muttered presently.
"Has your lordship anything else to stake?" inquired Mr.
The earl looked at him again with a gloomy eye, and sighed,
but said nothing. Mr. Caryll resumed. "It is for your
lordship to declare," he said quite coolly, "whether his
majesty has covered your stake. If you think not, it is even
possible that he may be induced to improve his offer. Though
if you think not, for my own part I consider that you set too
high a value on that same head of yours."
Touched in his vanity, Ostermore looked up at him with a
sudden frown. "You take a bold tone, sir," said he, "a very
"Boldness is the attribute next to knowledge most essential to
my calling," Mr. Caryll reminded him.
His lordship's eye fell before the other's cold glance, and
again he lapsed into thoughtfulness, his cheek now upon his
hand. Suddenly he looked up again. "Tell me," said he. "Who
else is in this thing? Men say that Atterbury is not above
suspicion. Is it - "
Mr. Caryll bent forward to tap the king's letter with a rigid
forefinger. "When your lordship tells me that you are ready
to concert upon embarking your fortunes in this bottom, you
shall find me disposed, perhaps, to answer questions
concerning others. Meanwhile, our concern is with yourself."
"Dons and the devil!" swore his lordship angrily. "Is this a
way to speak to me?" He scowled at the agent. "Tell me, my
fine fellow, what would happen if I were to lay this letter
you have brought me before the nearest justice?"
"I cannot say for sure," answered Mr. Caryll quietly, "but it
is very probable it would help your lordship to the gallows.
For if you will give yourself the trouble of reading it again
- and more carefully - you will see that it makes
acknowledgment of the offer of services you wrote his majesty
a month or so ago."
His lordship's eyes dropped to the letter again. He caught
his breath in sudden fear.
"Were I your lordship, I should leave the nearest justice to
enjoy his dinner in peace," said Mr. Caryll, smiling.
His lordship laughed in a sickly manner. He felt foolish - a
rare condition in him, as in most fools. "Well, well," said
he gruffly. "The matter needs reflection. It needs
Behind them the door opened noiselessly, and her ladyship
appeared in cloak and wimple. She paused there, unperceived
by either, arrested by the words she had caught, and waiting
in the hope of hearing more.
"I must sleep on't, at least," his lordship was continuing.
"'Tis too grave a matter to be determined thus in haste."
A faint sound caught the keen ears of Mr. Caryll. He turned
with a leisureliness that bore witness to his miraculous
self-control. Perceiving the countess, he bowed, and casually
put his lordship on his guard.
"Ah!" said he. "Here is her ladyship returned."
Lord Ostermore gasped audibly and swung round in an alarm than
which nothing could have betrayed him more effectively. "My -
my love!" he cried, stammering, and by his wild haste to
conceal the letter that he held, drew her attention to it.
Mr. Caryll stepped between them, his back to his lordship,
that he might act as a screen under cover of which to dispose
safely of that dangerous document. But he was too late. Her
ladyship's quick eyes had flashed to it, and if the distance
precluded the possibility of her discovering anything that
might be written upon it, she, nevertheless, could see the
curious nature of the paper, which was of the flimsiest tissue
of a sort extremely uncommon.
"What is't ye hide?" said she, as she came forward. "Why, we
are very close, surely! What mischief is't ye hatch, my
"Mis - mischief, my love?" He smiled propitiatingly - hating
her more than ever in that moment. He had stuffed the letter
into an inner pocket of his coat, and but that she had another
matter to concern her at the moment she would not have allowed
the question she had asked to be so put aside. But this other
matter upon her mind touched her very closely.
"Devil take it, whatever it may be! Rotherby is here."
"Rotherby?" His demeanor changed; from conciliating it was of
a sudden transformed to indignant. "What makes he here?" he
demanded. "Did I not forbid him my house?"
"I brought him," she answered pregnantly.
But for once he was not to be put down. "Then you may take
him hence again," said he. "I'll not have him under my roof -
under the same roof with that poor child he used so
infamously. I'll not suffer it!"
The Gorgon cannot have looked more coldly wicked than her
ladyship just then. "Have a care, my lord!" she muttered
threateningly. "Oh, have a care, I do beseech you. I am not
so to be crossed!"
"Nor am I, ma'am," he rejoined, and then, before more could be
said, Mr. Caryll stepped forward to remind them of his
presence - which they seemed to stand in danger of forgetting.
"I fear that I intrude, my lord," said he, and bowed in
leave-taking. "I shall wait upon your lordship later. Your
most devoted. Ma'am, your very humble servant." And he bowed
In the ante-room he came upon Lord Rotherby, striding to and
fro, his brow all furrowed with care. At sight of Mr. Caryll,
the viscount's scowl grew blacker. "Oons and the devil!" he
cried. "What make you here?"
"That," said Mr. Caryll pleasantly, "is the very question your
father is asking her ladyship concerning yourself. Your
servant, sir." And airy, graceful, smiling that damnable
close smile of his, he was gone, leaving Rotherby very hot and
Outside Mr. Caryll hailed a chair, and had himself carried to
his lodging in Old Palace Yard, where Leduc awaited him. As
his bearers swung briskly along, Mr. Caryll sat back and gave
himself up to thought.
Lord Ostermore interested him vastly. For a moment that day
the earl had aroused his anger, as you may have judged from
the sudden resolve upon which he had acted when he delivered
him that letter, thus embarking at the eleventh hour upon a
task which he had already determined to abandon. He knew not
now whether to rejoice or deplore that he had acted upon that
angry impulse. He knew not, indeed, whether to pity or
despise this man who was swayed by no such high motives as
must have affected most of those who were faithful to the
exiled James. Those motives - motives of chivalry and
romanticism in most cases - Lord Ostermore would have despised
if he could have understood them; for he was a man of the type
that despises all things that are not essentially practical,
whose results are not immediately obvious. Being all but
ruined by his association with the South Sea Company, he was
willing for the sake of profit to turn traitor to the king de
facto, even as thirty years ago, actuated by similar motives,
he had turned traitor to the king de jure.
What was one to make of such a man, wondered Mr. Caryll. If
he were equipped with wit enough to apprehend the baseness of
his conduct, he would be easily understood and it would be
easy to despise him. But Mr. Caryll perceived that he was
dealing with one who never probed into the deeps of anything -
himself and his own conduct least of all - and that a
deplorable lack of perception, of understanding almost,
deprived his lordship of the power to feel as most men feel,
to judge as most men judge. And hence was it that Mr. Caryll
thought him a subject for pity rather than contempt. Even in
that other thirty-year-old matter that so closely touched Mr.
Caryll, the latter was sure that the same pitiful shortcomings
might be urged in the man's excuse.
Meanwhile, behind him at Stretton House, Mr. Caryll had left a
scene of strife between Lady Ostermore and her son on one side
and Lord Ostermore on the other. Weak and vacillating as he
was in most things, it seemed that the earl could be strong in
his dislike of his son, and firm in his determination not to
condone the infamy of his behavior toward Hortensia Winthrop.
"The fault is yours," Rotherby sought to excuse himself again
- employing the old argument, and in an angry, contemptuous
tone that was entirely unfilial. "I'd ha' married the girl in
earnest, but for your threats to disinherit me."
"You fool!" his father stormed at him, "did you suppose that
if I should disinherit you for marrying her, I should be
likely to do less for your luring her into a mock marriage?
I've done with you! Go your ways for a damned profligate - a
scandal to the very name of gentleman. I've done with you!"
And to that the earl adhered in spite of all that Rotherby and
his mother could urge. He stamped out of the library with a
final command to his son to quit his house and never disgrace
it again by his presence. Rotherby looked ruefully at his
"He means it,"' said he. "He never loved me. He was never a
father to me."
"Were you ever greatly a son to him?" asked her ladyship.
"As much as he would ha' me be," he answered, his black face
very sullen. "Oh, 'sdeath! I am damnably used by him." He
paced the chamber, storming. "All this garboil about
nothing!", he complained. "Was he never young himself? And
when all is said, there's no harm done. The girl's been
fetched home again."
"Pshaw! Ye're a fool, Rotherby - a fool, and there's an end
on't," said his mother. "I sometimes wonder which is the
greater fool - you or your father. And yet he can marvel that
you are his son. What do ye think would have happened if you
had had your way with that bread-and-butter miss? It had been
matter enough to hang you."
"Pooh!" said the viscount, dropping into a chair and staring
sullenly at the carpet. Then sullenly he added: "His lordship
would have been glad on't - so some one would have been
pleased. As it is - "
"As it is, ye'd better find the man Green who was at
Maidstone, and stop his mouth with guineas. He is aware of
"Bah! Green was there on other business." And he told her of
the suspicions the messenger entertained against Mr. Caryll.
It set her ladyship thinking. "Why," she said presently,
"'twill be that!"
"'Twill be what, ma'am?" asked Rotherby, looking up.
"Why, this fellow Caryll must ha' bubbled the messenger in
spite of the search he may have made. I found the popinjay
here with your father, the pair as thick as thieves - and your
father with a paper in his hand as fine as a cobweb. 'Sdeath!
I'll be sworn he's a damned Jacobite."
Rotherby was on his feet in an instant. He remembered
suddenly all that he had overheard at Maidstone. "Oho!" he
crowed. "What cause have ye to think that ?"
"Cause? Why, what I have seen. Besides, I feel it in my
bones. My every instinct tells me 'tis so."
"If you should prove right! Oh, if you should prove right!
Death! I'd find a way to settle the score of that pert fellow
from France, and to dictate terms to his lordship at the same
Her ladyship stared at him. "Ye're an unnatural hound,
Rotherby. Would ye betray your own father?"
"Betray him? No! But I'll set a term to his plotting. Egad!
Has he not lost enough in the South Sea Bubble, without
sinking the little that is left in some wild-goose Jacobite
"How shall it matter to you, since he's sworn to disinherit
"How, madam?" Rotherby laughed cunningly. "I'll prevent the
one and the other - and pay off Mr. Caryll at the same time.
Three birds with one stone, let me perish!" He reached for
his hat. "I must find this fellow Green."
"What will you do?" she asked, a slight anxiety trembling in
"Stir up his suspicions of Caryll. He'll be ready enough to
act after his discomfiture at Maidstone. I'll warrant he's
smarting under it. If once we can find cause to lay Caryll by
the heels, the fear of the consequences should bring his
lordship to his senses. 'Twill be my turn then."
"But you'll do nothing that - that will hurt your father?" she
enjoined him, her hand upon his shoulder.
"Trust me," he laughed, and added cynically: "It would hardly
sort with my interests to involve him. It will serve me best
to frighten him into reason and a sense of his paternal duty."
Mr. Caryll was well and handsomely housed, as became the man
of fashion, in the lodging he had taken in Old Palace Yard.
Knowing him from abroad, it was not impossible that the
government - fearful of sedition since the disturbance caused
by the South Sea distress, and aware of an undercurrent of
Jacobitism - might for a time, at least, keep an eye upon him.
It behooved him, therefore, to appear neither more nor less
than a lounger, a gentleman of pleasure who had come to London
in quest of diversion. To support this appearance, Mr. Caryll
had sought out some friends of his in town. There were
Stapleton and Collis, who had been at Oxford with him, and
with whom he had ever since maintained a correspondence and a
friendship. He sought them out on the very evening of his
arrival - after his interview with Lord Ostermore. He had the
satisfaction of being handsomely welcomed by them, and was
plunged under their guidance into the gaieties that the town
afforded liberally for people of quality.
Mr. Caryll was - as I hope you have gathered - an agreeable
fellow, very free, moreover, with the contents of his
well-equipped purse; and so you may conceive that the town
showed him a very friendly, cordial countenance. He fell into
the habits of the men whose company he frequented; his days
were as idle as theirs, and spent at the parade, the Ring, the
play, the coffeehouse and the ordinary.
But under the gay exterior he affected he carried a spirit of
most vile unrest. The anger which had prompted his impulse to
execute, after all, the business on which he was come, and to
deliver his father the letter that was to work his ruin, was
all spent. He had cooled, and cool it was idle for him to
tell himself that Lord Ostermore, by his heartless allusion to
the crime of his early years, had proved himself worthy of
nothing but the pit Mr. Caryll had been sent to dig for him.
There were moments when he sought to compel himself so to
think, to steel himself against all other considerations. But
it was idle. The reflection that the task before him was
unnatural came ever to revolt him. To gain ease, the most
that he could do - and he had the faculty of it developed in a
preternatural degree - was to put the business from him for
the time, endeavor to forget it. And he had another matter to
consider and to plague him - the matter of Hortensia Winthrop.
He thought of her a great deal more than was good for his
peace of mind, for all that he pretended to a gladness that
things were as they were. Each morning that he lounged at the
parade in St. James's Park, each evening that he visited the
Ring, it was in the hope of catching some glimpse of her among
the fashionable women that went abroad to see and to be seen.
And on the third morning after his arrival the thing he hoped
for came to pass.
It had happened that my lady had ordered her carriage that
morning, dressed herself with the habitual splendor, which but
set off the shortcomings of her lean and angular person,
egregiously coiffed, pulvilled and topknotted, and she had
sent a message amounting to a command to Mistress Winthrop
that she should drive in the park with her.
Poor Hortensia, whose one desire was to hide her face from the
town's uncharitable sight just then, fearing, indeed, that
Rumor's unscrupulous tongue would be as busy about her
reputation as her ladyship had represented, attempted to
assert herself by refusing to obey the command. It was in
vain. Her ladyship dispensed with ambassadors, and went in
person to convey her orders to her husband's ward, and to
"What's this I am told?" quoth she, as she sailed into
Hortensia's room. "Do my wishes count for nothing, that you
send me pert answers by my woman?"
Hortensia rose. She had been sitting by the window, a book in
her lap. "Not so, indeed, madam. Not pert, I trust. I am
none so well, and I fear the sun."
"'Tis little wonder," laughed her ladyship; "and I'm glad
on't, for it shows ye have a conscience somewhere. But 'tis
no matter for that. I am tender for your reputation,
mistress, and I'll not have you shunning daylight like the
guilty thing ye know yourself to be."
"'Tis false, madam," said Hortensia, with indignation. "Your
ladyship knows it to be false."
"Harkee, ninny, if you'd have the town believe it false,
you'll show yourself - show that ye have no cause for shame,
no cause to hide you from the eyes of honest folk. Come,
girl; bid your woman get your hood and tippet. The carriage
stays for us."
To Hortensia her ladyship's seemed, after all, a good
argument. Did she hide, what must the town think but that it
confirmed the talk that she made no doubt was going round
already. Better to go forth and brave it, and surely it
should disarm the backbiters if she showed herself in the park
with Lord Rotherby's own mother.
It never occurred to her that this seeming tenderness for her
reputation might be but wanton cruelty on her ladyship's part;
a gratifying of her spleen against the girl by setting her in
the pillory of public sight to the end that she should
experience the insult of supercilious glances and lips that
smile with an ostentation of furtiveness; a desire to put down
her pride and break the spirit which my lady accounted
insolent and stubborn.
Suspecting naught of this, she consented, and drove out with
her ladyship as she was desired to do. But understanding of
her ladyship's cruel motives, and repentance of her own
acquiescence, were not long in following. Soon - very soon -
she realized that anything would have been better than the
ordeal she was forced to undergo.
It was a warm, sunny morning, and the park was crowded with
fashionable loungers. Lady Ostermore left her carriage at the
gates, and entered the enclosure on foot, accompanied by
Hortensia and followed at a respectful distance by a footman.
Her arrival proved something of a sensation. Hats were swept
off to her ladyship, sly glances flashed at her companion, who
went pale, but apparently serene, eyes looking straight before
her; and there was an obvious concealing of smiles at first,
which later grew to be all unconcealed, and, later still,
became supplemented by remarks that all might hear, remarks
which did not escape - as they were meant not to escape - her
ladyship and Mistress Winthrop.
"Madam," murmured the girl, in her agony of shame, "we were
not well-advised to come. Will not your ladyship turn back?"
Her ladyship displayed a vinegary smile, and looked at her
companion over the top of her slowly moving fan. "Why? Is't
not pleasant here?" quoth she. "'Twill be more agreeable
under the trees yonder. The sun will not reach you there,
"'Tis not the sun I mind, madam," said Hortensia, but received
no answer. Perforce she must pace on beside her ladyship.
Lord Rotherby came by, arm in arm with his friend, the Duke of
Wharton. It was a one-sided friendship. Lord Rotherby was
but one of the many of his type who furnished a court, a
valetaille, to the gay, dissolute, handsome, witty duke, who
might have been great had he not preferred his vices to his
As they went by, Lord Rotherby bared his head and bowed, as
did his companion. Her ladyship smiled upon him, but
Hortensia's eyes looked rigidly ahead, her face a stone. She
heard his grace's insolent laugh as they passed on; she heard
his voice - nowise subdued, for he was a man who loved to let
the world hear what he might have to say
"Gad! Rotherby, the wind has changed! Your Dulcinea flies
with you o' Wednesday, and has ne'er a glance for you o'
Saturday! I' faith! ye deserve no better. Art a clumsy
gallant to have been overtaken, and the maid's in the right
on't to resent your clumsiness."
Rotherby's reply was lost in a splutter of laughter from a
group of sycophants who had overheard his grace's criticism
and were but too ready to laugh at aught his grace might deign
to utter. Her cheeks burned; it was by an effort that she
suppressed the tears that anger was forcing to her eyes.
The duke, 'twas plain, had set the fashion. Emulators were
not wanting. Stray words she caught; by instinct was she
conscious of the oglings, the fluttering of fans from the
women, the flashing of quizzing-glasses from the men. And
everywhere was there a suppressed laugh, a stifled exclamation
of surprise at her appearance in public - yet not so stifled
but that it reached her, as it was intended that it should.
In the shadow of a great elm, around which there was a seat, a
little group had gathered, of which the centre was the
sometime toast of the town and queen of many Wells, the Lady
Mary Deller, still beautiful and still unwed - as is so often
the way of reigning toasts - but already past her pristine
freshness, already leaning upon the support of art to maintain
the endowments she had had from nature. She was accounted
witty by the witless, and by some others.
Of the group that paid its court to her and her companions -
two giggling cousins in their first season were Mr. Caryll and
his friends, Sir Harry Collis and Mr. Edward Stapleton, the
former of whom - he was the lady's brother-in-law - had just
presented him. Mr. Caryll was dressed with even more than his
ordinary magnificence. He was in dove-colored cloth, his coat
very richly laced with gold, his waistcoat - of white brocade
with jeweled buttons, the flower-pattern outlined in finest
gold thread - descended midway to his knees, whilst the
ruffles at his wrists and the Steinkirk at his throat were of
the finest point. He cut a figure of supremest elegance, as
he stood there, his chestnut head slightly bowed in deference
as my Lady Mary spoke, his hat tucked under his arm, his right
hand outstretched beside him to rest upon the gold head of his
To the general he was a stranger still in town, and of the
sort that draws the eye and provokes inquiry. Lady Mary, the
only goal of whose shallow existence was the attention of the
sterner sex, who loved to break hearts as a child breaks toys,
for the fun of seeing how they look when broken - and who,
because of that, had succeeded in breaking far fewer than she
fondly imagined - looked up into his face with the "most
perditiously alluring" eyes in England - so Mr. Craske, the
poet, who stood at her elbow now, had described them in the
dedicatory sonnet of his last book of poems. (Wherefore, in
parenthesis be it observed, she had rewarded him with twenty
guineas, as he had calculated that she would.)
There was a sudden stir in the group. Mr. Craske had caught
sight of Lady Ostermore and Mistress Winthrop, and he fell to
giggling, a flimsy handkerchief to his painted lips. "Oh,
'Sbud!" he bleated. "Let me die! The audaciousness of the
creature! And behold me the port and glance of her! Cold as
a vestal, let me perish!"
Lady Mary turned with the others to look in the direction he
was pointing - pointing openly, with no thought of
Mr. Caryll's eyes fell upon Mistress Winthrop, and his glance
was oddly perceptive. He observed those matters of which Mr.
Craske had seemed to make sardonic comment: the erect
stiffness of her carriage, the eyes that looked neither to
right nor left, and the pallor of her face. He observed, too,
the complacent air with which her ladyship advanced beside her
husband's ward, her fan moving languidly, her head nodding to
her acquaintance, as in supreme unconcern of the stir her
coming had effected.
Mr. Caryll had been dull indeed, knowing what he knew, had he
not understood to the full the humiliation to which Mistress
Hortensia was being of purpose set submitted.
And just then Rotherby, who had turned, with Wharton and
another now, came by them again. This time he halted, and his
companions with him, for just a moment, to address his mother.
She turned; there was an exchange of greetings, in which
Mistress Hortensia standing rigid as stone - took no part. A
silence fell about; quizzing-glasses went up; all eyes were
focussed upon the group. Then Rotherby and his friends
resumed their way.
"The dog!" said Mr. Caryll, between his teeth, but went
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