The Lion's Skin
Part 5 out of 6
"Very deplorable, very deplorable!" he muttered. "So hale a
man, too, despite his years. Very deplorable!" He looked up.
"A Jacobite, ye say he is, sir?"
"Will he live?" inquired Mr. Caryll shortly, by way of
recalling the man of medicine to the fact that politics was
not the business on which he had been summoned.
The doctor pursed his lips, and looked at Mr. Caryll over the
top of his spectacles. "He will live - ",
"Thank God!" breathed Mr. Caryll.
" - perhaps an hour," the doctor concluded, and never knew how
near was Mr. Caryll to striking him. He turned again to his
patient, producing a probe. "Very deplorable!" Mr. Caryll
heard him muttering, parrot-like.
A pause ensued, and a silence broken only by occasional
cluckings from the little doctor, and Mr. Caryll stood by, a
prey to an anguish more poignant than he had ever known. At
last there was a groan from the wounded man. Mr. Caryll
Sir Richard's eyes were open, and he was looking about him at
the doctor, the valet, and, lastly, at his adopted son. He
smiled faintly at the latter. Then the doctor touched Mr.
Caryll's sleeve, and drew him aside.
"I cannot reach the bullet," he said. "But 'tis no matter for
that." He shook his head solemnly. "The lung has been
pierced. A little time now, and - I can do nothing more."
Mr. Caryll nodded in silence, his face drawn with pain. With
a gesture he dismissed the doctor, who went out with Bentley.
When the valet returned, Mr. Caryll was on his knees beside
the bed, Sir Richard's hand in his, and Sir Richard was
speaking in a feeble, hoarse voice - gasping and coughing at
"Don't - don't grieve, Justin," he was saying. "I am an old
man. My time must have been very near. I - I am glad that it
is thus. It is much better than if they had taken me. They'd
ha' shown me no mercy. 'Tis swifter thus, and - and easier."
Silently Justin wrung the hand he held.
"You'll miss me a little, Justin," the old man resumed
presently. "We have been good friends, lad - good friends for
"Father!" Justin cried, a sob in his voice.
Sir Richard smiled. "I would I were your father in more than
name, Justin. Hast been a good son to me - no son could have
been more than you."
Bentley drew nigh with a long glass containing a cordial the
doctor had advised. Sir Richard drank avidly, and sighed
content when he returned the glass. "How long yet, Justin?"
"Not long, father," was the gloomy answer.
"It is well. I am content. I am happy, Justin. Believe me,
I am happy. What has my life been? Dissipated in the pursuit
of a phantom." He spoke musingly, critically calm, as one who
already upon the brink of dissolution takes already but an
impersonal interest in the course he has run in life.
Judging so, his judgment was clearer than it had yet been; it
grew sane, and was freed at last from the hackles of
fanaticism; and there was something that e saw in its true
proportions. He sighed heavily.
"This is a judgment upon me," he said presently. He turned his
great eyes full upon Justin, and their dance was infinitely
wistful. "Do you remember, Justin, that night at your lodging
- that first night on which we talked here in London of the
thing you were come to do - the thing to which I urged you?
Do you recall how you upbraided me for having set you a task
hat was unworthy and revolting?"
"I remember," answered Justin, with an inward shudder, fearful
of what might follow.
"Oh, you were right, Justin; right, and I was entirely wrong -
wickedly wrong. I should have left vengeance to God. He is
wreaking it. Ostermore's whole life has been a punishment;
his end will be a punishment. I understand it now. We do no
wrong in life, Justin, for which in this same life payment is
not exacted. Ostermore has been paying. I should lave been
content with that. After all, he is your father in the flesh,
and it was not for you to raise your hand against him. 'Tis
what you have felt, and I am glad you should have felt it, for
it proves your worthiness. Can you forgive me?"
"Nay, nay, father! Speak not of forgiveness."
"I have sore need of it."
"Ah, but not from me; not from me! What is there I should
forgive? There is a debt between us I had hoped to repay some
day when you were grown truly old. I had looked to tend you
in your old age, to be the comfort of it, and the support that
you were to my infancy."
"It had been sweet, Justin," sighed Sir Richard, smiling upon
his adopted son, and putting forth an unsteady hand to stroke
the white, drawn face. "It had been sweet. It is sweet to
hear that you so proposed."
A shudder convulsed him. He sank back coughing, and there was
froth and blood on his lips. Reverently Justin wiped them,
and signed for the cordial to Bentley, who stood, numbed, in
"It is the end," said Sir Richard feebly. "God has been good
to me beyond my deserts, and this is a crowning mercy.
Consider, Justin, it might have been the gibbet and a crowd -
instead of this snug bed, and you and Bentley here - just two
Bentley, losing all self-control at this mention of himself,
sank weeping to his knees. Sir Richard put out a hand, and
touched his head.
"You will serve Mr. Caryll, Bentley. You'll find him a good
master if you are as good a servant to him as you have been to
Then suddenly he made the quick movement of one who bethinks
himself of something. He waved Bentley away.
"There is a case in the drawer yonder," he said, when the
servant was beyond earshot. "It contains papers that concern
you - certificates of your birth and of your mothers death. I
brought them with me as proofs of your identity, against the
time when the hour of vengeance upon Ostermore should strike.
They twill serve no purpose now. Burn them. They are best
Mr. Caryll nodded understanding, and on Sir Richard's part
there followed another fight for breath, another attack of
coughing, during which Bentley instinctively approached again.
When the paroxysm was past, Sir Richard turned once more to
Justin, who was holding him in his arms, upright, to ease his
breathing. "Be good to Bentley," he murmured, his voice very
faint and exhausted now. "You are my heir, Justin. All that
I have - I set all in order ere I left Paris. It - it is
growing dark. You have not snuffed the candles, Bentley.
They are burning very low."
Suddenly he started forward, held as he was in Justin's arms.
He half-raised his arms, holding out his hands toward the foot
of the bed. His eyes dilated; the expression of his livid
face grew first surprised, then joyous - beatific.
"Antoinette!" he cried in a loud voice. "Antoi - " "
And thus, abruptly, but in great happiness, he passed.
AMID THE GRAVES
What time Sir Richard had been dying in the inner room, Mr.
Green and two of his acolytes had improved the occasion by
making a thorough search in Sir Richard's writing-table and a
thorough investigation of every scrap of paper found there.
>From which you will understand how much Mr. Green was a
gentleman who set business above every other consideration.
The man who had shot Sir Richard had been ordered by Mr. Green
to take himself off, and had been urged to go down on his
knees, for once in a way, and pray Heaven that his rashness
might not bring him to the gallows as he so richly deserved.
His fourth myrmidon Mr. Green had dispatched with a note to my
Lord Rotherby, and it was entirely upon the answer he should
receive that it must depend whether he proceeded or not,
forthwith, to the apprehension of Mr. Caryll. Meanwhile the
search went on amain, and was extended presently to the very
bedroom where the dead Sir Richard lay. Every nook and cranny
was ransacked; the very mattress under the dead man was
removed, and investigated, and even Mr. Caryll and Bentley had
to submit to being searched. But it all proved fruitless.
Not a line of treasonable matter was to be found anywhere. To
the certificates upon Mr. Caryll the searcher made the mistake
of paying but little heed in view of their nature.
But if there were no proofs of plots and treasonable dealings,
there was, at least, abundant proof of Sir Richard's identity,
and Mr. Green appropriated these against any awkward inquiries
touching the manner in which the baronet had met his death.
Of such inquiries, however, there were none. It was formally
sworn to Lord Carteret by Green and his men that the
secretary's messenger, Jerry - the fellow owned no surname -
had shot Sir Richard in self-defence, when Sir Richard had
produced firearms upon being arrested on a charge of high
treason, for which they held the secretary's own warrant.
At first Lord Carteret considered it a thousand pities that
they should not have contrived matters better so as to take
Sir Richard alive; but upon reflection he was careful not to
exaggerate to himself the loss occasioned by his death, for
Sir Richard, after all, was a notoriously stubborn man, not in
the least likely to have made any avowals worth having. So
that his trial, whilst probably resulting sterile of such
results as the government could desire, would have given
publicity to the matter of a plot that was hatching; and such
publicity at a time of so much unrest was the last thing the
government desired. Where Jacobitism was concerned, Lord
Carteret had the wise discretion to proceed with the extremest
caution. Publicity might serve to fan the smouldering embers
into a blaze, whereas it was his cunning aim quietly to stifle
them as he came upon them.
So, upon the whole, he was by no means sure but that Jerry had
done the state the best possible service in disposing thus
summarily of that notorious Jacobite agent, Sir Richard
Everard. And his lordship saw to it that there was no inquiry
and that nothing further was heard of the matter.
As for Lord Rotherby, had the affair transpired twenty-four
hours earlier, he would certainly have returned Mr. Green a
message to effect the arrest of Mr. Caryll upon suspicion.
But as it chanced, he had that very afternoon received a visit
from his mother, who came in great excitement to inform him
that she had forced from Lord Ostermore an acknowledgment that
he was plotting with Mr. Caryll to go over to King James.
So, before they could move further against Mr. Caryll, it
behooved them to ascertain precisely to what extent Lord
Ostermore might not be incriminated, as otherwise the arrest
of Caryll might lead to exposures that would ruin the earl
more thoroughly than could any South Sea bubble revelations.
Thus her ladyship to her son. He turned upon her.
"Why, madam," said he, "these be the very arguments I used
t'other day when we talked of this; and all you answered me
then was to call me a dull-witted clod, for not seeing how the
thing might be done without involving my lord."
"Tcha!" snapped her ladyship, beating her knuckles impatiently
with her fan. "A dull-witted clod did I call you? 'Twas
flattery - sheer flattery; for I think ye're something worse.
Fool, can ye not see the difference that lies betwixt your
disclosing a plot to the secretary of state, and causing this
Caryll to disclose it - as might happen if he were seized?
First discover the plot - find out in what it may consist, and
then go to Lord Carteret to make your terms."
He looked at her, out of temper by her rebuke. "I may be as
dull as your ladyship says - but I do not see in what the
position now is different from what it was."
"It isn't different - but we thought it was different," she
explained impatiently. "We assumed that your father would not
have betrayed himself, counting upon his characteristic
caution. But it seems we are mistook. He has betrayed
himself to Caryll. And before we can move in this matter, we
must have proofs of a plot to lay before the secretary of
Lord Rotherby understood, and accounted himself between Scylla
and Charybdis, and when that evening Green's messenger found
him, he gnashed his teeth in rage at having to allow this
chance to pass, at being forced to temporize until he should
be less parlously situated. He returned Mr. Green an urgent
message to take no steps concerning Mr. Caryll until they
should have concerted together.
Mr. Green was relieved. Mr. Caryll arrested might stir up
matters against the slayer of Sir Richard, and this was a
business which Mr. Green had prevision enough to see his
master, Lord Carteret, would prefer should not be stirred up.
He had a notion, for the rest, that if Mr. Caryll were left to
go his ways, he would not be likely to give trouble touching
that same matter. And he was right in this. Before his
overwhelming sense of loss, Mr. Caryll had few thoughts to
bestow upon the manner in which that loss had been sustained.
Moreover, if he had a quarrel with any one on that account, it
was with the government whose representative had issued the
warrant for Sir Richard's arrest, and no more with the
wretched tipstaff who had fired the pistol than with the
pistol itself. Both alike were but instruments, of slightly
different degrees of insensibility.
For twenty-four hours Mr. Caryll's grief was overwhelming in
its poignancy. His sense of solitude was awful. Gone was the
only living man who had stood to him for kith and kin. He was
left alone in the world; utterly alone. That was the
selfishness of his sorrow - the consideration of Sir Richard's
death as it concerned himself.
Presently an alloy of consolation was supplied by the
reflection of Sir Richard's own case - as Sir Richard himself
had stated it upon his deathbed. His life had not been happy;
it had been poisoned by a monomania, which, like a worm in the
bud, had consumed the sweetness of his existence. Sir Richard
was at rest. And since he had been discovered, that shot was,
indeed, the most merciful end that could have been measured
out to him. The alternative might have been the gibbet and
the gaping crowd, and a moral torture to precede the end.
Better - a thousand times better - as it was.
So much did all this weigh with him that when on the following
Monday he accompanied the body to its grave, he found his
erstwhile passionate grief succeeded by an odd thankfulness
that things were as they were, although it must be confessed
that a pang of returning anguish smote him when he heard the
earth clattering down upon the wooden box that held all that
remained of the man who had been father, mother, brother and
all else to him.
He turned away at last, and was leaving the graveyard, when
some one touched him on the arm. It was a timid touch. He
turned sharply, and found himself looking into the sweet face
of Hortensia Winthrop, wondering how came she there. She wore
a long, dark cloak and hood, but her veil was turned back. A
chair was waiting not fifty paces from them along the
"I came but to tell you how much I feel for you in this great
loss," she said.
He looked at her in amazement. "How did you know?" he asked
"I guessed," said she. "I heard that you were with him at the
end, and I caught stray words from her ladyship of what had
passed. Lord Rotherby had the information from the tipstaff
who went to arrest Sir Richard Everard. I guessed he was your
- your foster-father, as you called him; and I came to tell
you how deeply I sorrow for you in your sorrow."
He caught her hands in his and bore them to his lips, reckless
of who might see the act. "Ah, this is sweet and kind in
you," said he.
She drew him back into the churchyard again. Along the wall
there was an avenue of limes - a cool and pleasant walk
wherein idlers lounged on Sundays in summer after service.
Thither she drew him. He went almost mechanically. Her
sympathy stirred his sorrow again, as sympathy so often does.
"I have buried my heart yonder, I think," said he, with a wave
of his hand towards that spot amid the graves where the men
were toiling with their shovels. "He was the only living
being that loved me."
"Ah, surely not," said she, sorrow rather than reproach in her
"Indeed, yes. Mine is a selfish grief. It is for myself that
I sorrow, for myself and my own loneliness. It is thus with
all of us. When we argue that we weep the dead, it would be
more true to say that we bewail the living. For him - it is
better as it is. No doubt it is better so for most men, when
all is said, and we do wrong to weep their passing."
"Do not talk so," she said. "It hurts."
"Ay - it is the way of truth to hurt, which is why, hating
pain, we shun truth so often." He sighed. "But, oh, it was
good in you to seek me, to bring me word with your own lips of
your sweet sympathy. If aught could lighten the gloom of my
sorrow, surely it is that."
They stepped along in silence until they came to the end of
the avenue, and turned. It was no idle silence: the silence
of two beings who have naught to say. It was a grave,
portentous silence, occasioned by the unutterable much in the
mind of one, and by the other's apprehension of it. At last
she spoke, to ask him what he meant to do.
"I shall return to France," he said. "It had perhaps been
better had I never crossed to England."
"I cannot think so," she said, simply, frankly and with no
touch of a coquetry that had been harshly at discord with time
He shot her a swift, sidelong glance; then stopped, and
turned. "I am glad on't," said he. "'Twill make my going the
"I mean not that," she cried, and held out her hands to him.
"I meant not what you think - you know, you know what 'twas I
meant. You know - you must - what impulse brought me to you
in this hour, when I knew you must need comfort. And in
return how cruel, were you not - to tell me that yonder lay
buried the only living being that - that loved you?"
His fingers were clenched upon her arm. "Don't - don't!" he
implored hoarsely, a strange fire in his eyes, a hectic flush
on either cheek. "Don't! Or I'll forget what I am, and take
advantage of this midsummer folly that is upon you."
"Is it no more than folly, Justin?" she asked him, brown eyes
looking up into gray-green.
"Ay, something more - stark madness. All great emotions are.
It will pass, and you will be thankful that I was man enough -
strong enough - to allow it the chance of passing."
She hung her head, shaking it sorrowfully. Then very softly:
"Is it no more than the matter of - of that, that stands
between us?" she inquired.
"No more than that," he answered, "and yet more than enough.
I have no name to offer any woman."
"A name?" she echoed scornfully. "What store do you think I
lay by that? When you talk so, you obey some foolish
prejudice; no more."
"Obedience to prejudices is the whole art of living," he
She made a gesture of impatience, and went on. "Justin, you
said you loved me; and when you said so much, you gave me the
right - or so I understood it - to speak to you as I am doing
now. You are alone in the world, without kith or kin. The
only one you had - the one who represented all for you - lies
buried there. Would you return thus, lonely and alone, to
"Ah, now I understand!" he cried. "Now I understand. Pity is
the impulse that has urged you - pity for my loneliness, is't
"I'll not deny that without the pity there might not have been
the courage. Why should I - since it is a pity that gives you
no offense, a pity that is rooted firmly in - in love for you,
He set his hands upon her shoulders, and with glowing eyes
regarded her. "Ah, sweet!" said he, "you make me very, very
And then his arms dropped again limply to his sides. He
sighed, and shook his head drearily. "And yet - reflect.
When I come to beg your hand in marriage of your guardian,
what shall I answer him of the questions he will ask me of
myself - touching my family, my parentage and all the rest
that he will crave to know?"
She observed that he was very white again. "Need you enter
into that? A man is himself; not his father or his family."
And then she checked. "You make me plead too much," she said,
a crimson flood in her fair cheeks. "I'll say no more than I
have said. Already have I said more than I intended. And you
have wanted mercy that you could drive me to it. You know my
mind - my - my inmost heart. You know that I care nothing for
your namelessness. It is yours to decide what you will do.
Come, now; my chair is staying for me."
He bowed; he sought again to convey some sense of his
appreciation of her great nobility; then led her through the
gate and to her waiting chair.
"Whatever I may decide, Hortensia'' was the last thing he said
to her, "and I shall decide as I account best for you, rather
than for myself; and for myself there needs no thought or
hesitation - whatever I may decide, believe me when I say from
my soul that all my life shall be the sweeter for this hour."
THE GHOST OF THE PAST
Temptation had seized Mr. Caryll in a throttling grip, and for
two whole days he kept the house, shunning all company and
wrestling with that same Temptation. In the end he took a
whimsical resolve, entirely worthy of himself.
He would go to Lord Ostermore formally to ask in marriage the
hand of Mistress Winthrop, and he would be entirely frank with
the earl, stating his exact condition, but suppressing the
names of his parents.
He was greatly taken with the notion. It would create a
situation ironical beyond any, grotesque beyond belief; and
its development should be stupendously interesting. It
attracted him irresistibly. That he should leave it to his
own father to say whether a man born as he was born might
aspire to marry his father's ward, had in it something that
savored of tragi-comedy. It was a pretty problem, that once
set could not be left unsolved by a man of Mr. Caryll's
temperament. And, indeed, no sooner was the idea conceived
than it quickened into a resolve upon which he set out to act.
He bade Leduc call a chair, and, dressed in mourning, but with
his habitual care, he had himself carried to Lincoln's Inn
Engrossed as he was in his own thoughts, he paid little heed
to the hum of excitement about the threshold of Stretton
House. Within the railed enclosure that fronted the mansion
two coaches were drawn up, and a little knot of idlers stood
by one of these in busy gossip.
Paying no attention to them, Mr. Caryll mounted the steps, nor
noticed the gravity of the porter's countenance as he passed
In the hall he found a little flock of servants gathered
together, and muttering among themselves like conspirators in
a tragedy; and so engrossed that they paid no heed to him as
he advanced, nor until he had tapped one of them on the
shoulder with his cane - and tapped him a thought
"How now?" said he. "Does no one wait here?"
They fell apart a little, and stood at attention, with
something curious in their bearing, one and all.
"My service to his lordship, and say that I desire to speak
They looked at one another in hesitation for a moment; then
Humphries, the butler, came forward. "Your honor'll not have
heard the news?" said he, a solemn gravity in face and tone.
"News?" quoth Mr. Caryll sharply, intrigued by so much show of
mystery. "What news?"
"His lordship is very ill, sir. He had a seizure this morning
when they came for him."
"A seizure?" said Mr. Caryll. And then: "When they came for
him?" he echoed, struck by something odd in the man's
utterance of those five words. "When who came for him?"
"The messengers, sir," replied the butler dejectedly. "Has
your honor not heard?" And seeing the blank look on Mr.
Caryll's face, he proceeded without waiting for an answer:
"His lordship was impeached yesterday by his Grace of Wharton
on a matter concerning the South Sea Company, and Lord
Carteret - the secretary of state, your honor - sent this
morning to arrest him."
"'Sdeath!" ejaculated Mr. Caryll in his surprise, a surprise
that was tempered with some dismay. "And he had a seizure, ye
"An apoplexy, your honor. The doctors are with him now; Sir
James, himself, is here. They're cupping him - so I hear from
Mr. Tom, his lordship's man. I'd ha' thought your honor would
ha' heard. 'Tis town talk, they say."
Mr. Caryll would have found it difficult to have said exactly
what impression this news made upon him. In the main,
however, he feared it left him cold.
"'Tis very regrettable," said he. He fell thoughtful a
moment. Then: "Will you send word to Mistress Winthrop that I
am here, and would speak with her, Humphries?"
Humphries conducted Mr. Caryll to the little white and gold
withdrawing-room that was Hortensia's. There, in the little
time that he waited, he revolved the situation as it now
stood, and the temptation that had been with him for the past
three days rose up now with a greater vigor. Should Lord
Ostermore die, Temptation argued, he need no longer hesitate.
Hortensia would be as much alone in the world as he was;
worse, for life at Stretton House with her ladyship - from
which even in the earl's lifetime she had been led to attempt
to escape - must be a thing unbearable, and what alternative
could he suggest but that she should become his wife?
She came to him presently, white-faced and with startled eyes.
As she took his outstretched hands, she attempted a smile.
"It is kind in you to come to me at such a time," she said.
"You mistake," said he, "as is but natural. I had not heard
what had befallen. I came to ask your hand in marriage of his
Some faint color tinged her cheeks. "You had decided, then?"
"I had decided that his lordship must decide," he answered.
"And now it seems we must decide for ourselves if his lordship
Her mind swung to the graver matter. "Sir James has every
hope," she said, and added miserably: "I know not which to
pray for, his recovery or his death."
"Because if he survive it may be for worse. The secretary's
agent is even now seeking evidence against him among his own
papers. He is in the library at this moment, going through
his lordship's desk."
Mr. Caryll started. That mention of Ostermore's desk brought
vividly before his mind the recollection of the secret drawer
wherein the earl had locked away the letter he had received
from King James and his own reply, all packed as it was, with
treason. If that drawer were discovered, and those papers
found, then was Ostermore lost indeed, and did he survive this
apoplexy, it would be to surrender his head upon the scaffold.
A moment he considered this, dispassionately. Then it broke
upon his mind that were this to happen, Ostermore's blood
would indirectly be upon his own head, since for the purpose
of betrayal had he sought him out with that letter from the
exiled Stuart - which, be it remembered, King James himself
had no longer wished delivered.
It turned him cold with horror. He could not remain idle and
let matters run their course. He must avert these discoveries
if it lay within his power to do so, or else he must submit to
a lifetime of remorse should Ostermore survive to be attainted
of treason. He had made an end - a definite end - long since
of his intention of working Ostermore's ruin; he could not
stand by now and see that ruin wrought as a result of the
little that already he had done towards encompassing it.
"His papers must be saved," he said shortly. "I'll go to the
library at once."
"But the secretary's agent is there already," she repeated.
"'Tis no matter for that," said he, moving towards the door.
"His desk contains that which will cost him his head if
discovered. I know it," he assured her, and left her cold
"But, then, you - you?" she cried. "Is it true that you are a
"True enough," he answered.
"Lord Rotherby knows it," she informed him. "He told me it
was so. If - if you interfere in this, it - it may mean your
ruin." She came to him swiftly, a great fear written or her
"Sh," said he. "I am not concerned to think of that at
present. If Lord Ostermore perishes through his connection
with the cause, it will mean worse than ruin for me - though
not the ruin that you are thinking of."
"But what can you do?"
"That I go to learn."
"I will come with you, then."
He hesitated a moment, looking at her; then he opened the
door, and held it for her, following after. He led the way
across the hall to the library, and they went in together.
Lord Ostermore's secretaire stood open, and leaning over it,
his back towards them was a short, stiffly-built man in a
snuff-colored coat. He turned at the sound of the closing
door, and revealed the pleasant, chubby face of Mr. Green.
"Ha!" said Mr. Caryll. "Mr. Green again. I declare, sir,
ye've the gift of ubiquity."
The spy stood up to regard him, and for all that his voice
inclined to sharpness when he spoke, the habitual grin sat
like a mask upon the mobile features. "What d'ye seek here?"
""Tis what I was about to ask you - what you are seeking; for
that you seek is plain. I thought perhaps I might assist
"I nothing doubt you could," answered Mr. Green with a fresh
leer, that contained this time something ironic. "I nothing
doubt it! But by your leave, I'll pursue my quest without
Mr. Caryll continued, nevertheless, to advance towards him,
Mistress Hortensia remaining in the background, a quiet
spectator, betraying nothing of the anxieties by which she was
"Ye're mighty curt this morning, Mr. Green," said Mr. Caryll,
very airy. "Ye're mighty curt, and ye're entirely wrong so to
be. You might find me a very useful friend."
"I've found you so before," said Mr. Green sourly.
"Ye've a nice sense of humor," said Mr. Caryll, head on one
side, contemplating the spy with admiration in his glance.
"And a nicer sense of a Jacobite," answered Mr. Green.
"He will have the last word, you perceive," said Mr. Caryll to
"Harkee, Mr. Caryll," quoth Mr. Green, quite grimly now. "I'd
ha' laid you by the heels a month or more ago, but for certain
friends o' mine who have other ends to serve."
"Sir, what you tell me shocks me. It shakes the very
foundations of my faith in human nature. I have esteemed you
an honest man, Mr. Green, and it seems - on your own
confessing - that ye're no better than a damned rogue who
neglects his duty to the state. I've a mind to see Lord
Carteret, and tell him the truth of the matter."
"Ye shall have an opportunity before long, ecod!" said Mr.
Green. "Good-morning to you! I've work to do." And he
turned back to the desk.
"'Tis wasted labor," said Mr. Caryll, producing his snuff-box,
and tapping it. "You might seek from now till the crack of
doom, and not find what ye seek - not though you hack the desk
to pieces. It has a secret, Mr. Green. I'll make a bargain
with you for that secret."
Mr. Green turned again, and his shrewd, bright eyes scanned
more closely that lean face, whose keenness was all dissembled
now in an easy, languid smile. "A bargain?" grumbled the spy.
"I' faith, then, the secret's worthless."
"Ye think that? Pho! 'Tis not like your usual wit, Mr.
Green. The letter that I carried into England, and that you
were at such splendid pains to find at Maidstone, is in here."
And he tapped the veneered top of the secretaire with his
forefinger. "But ye'll not find it without my help. It is
concealed as effectively - as effectively as it was upon my
person when ye searched me. Now, sir, will ye treat with me?
It'll save you a world of labor."
Mr. Green still looked at him. He licked his lips
thoughtfully, cat-like. "What terms d'ye make?" he inquired,
but his tone was very cold. His busy brain was endeavoring to
conjecture what exactly might be Mr. Caryll's object in this
frankness which Mr. Green was not fool enough to believe
"Ah," said Mr. Caryll. "That is more the man I know." He
tapped his snuff-box, and in that moment memory rather than
inspiration showed him the thing he needed. "Did ye ever see
`The Constant Couple,' Mr. Green?" he inquired.
"`The Constant Couple'?" echoed Mr. Green, and though
mystified, he must air his little jest. "I never saw any
couple that was constant - leastways, not for long."
"Ha! Ye're a roguish wag! But `The Constant Couple' I mean
is a play."
"Oh, a play! Ay, I mind me I saw it some years ago, when
'twas first acted. But what has that to do with - "
"Ye'll understand in a moment," said Mr. Caryll, with a smile
the spy did not relish. "D'ye recall a ruse of Sir Harry
Wildairs to rid himself of the company of an intrusive old
fool who was not wanted? D'ye remember what 'twas he did?"
Mr. Green, his head slightly on one side, was watching Mr.
Caryll very closely, and not without anxiety. "I don't," said
he, and dropped a hand to the pocket where a pistol lay, that
he might be prepared for emergencies. "What did he do?"
"I'll show you," said Mr. Caryll. "He did this." And with a
swift upward movement, he emptied his snuff-box full into the
face of Mr. Green.
Mr. Green leapt back, with a scream of pain, hands to his
eyes, and quite unconsciously set himself to play to the life
the part of the intrusive old fellow in the comedy. Dancing
wildly about the room, his eyes smarting and burning so that
he could not open them, he bellowed of hell-fire and other hot
things of which he was being so intensely reminded.
"'Twill pass," Mr. Caryll consoled him. "A little water, and
all will be well with you." He stepped to the door as be
spoke, and flung it open. "Ho, there! Who waits?" he called.
Two or three footmen sprang to answer him. He took Mr. Green,
still blind and vociferous, by the shoulders, and thrust him
into their care. "This gentleman has had a most unfortunate
accident. Get him water to wash his eyes - warm water. So!
Take him. 'Twill pass, Mr. Green. 'Twill soon pass, I assure
He shut the door upon them, locked it, and turned to
Hortensia, smiling grimly. Then he crossed quickly to the
desk, and Hortensia followed him. He sat down, and pulled out
bodily the bottom drawer on the right inside of the upper part
of the desk, as he had seen Lord Ostermore do that day, a
little over a week ago. He thrust his hand into the opening,
and felt along the sides for some moments in vain. He went
over the ground again slowly, inch by inch, exerting constant
pressure, until he was suddenly rewarded by a click. The
small trap disclosed itself. He pulled it up, and took some
papers from the recess. He spread them before him. They were
the documents he sought - the king's letter to Ostermore, and
Ostermore's reply, signed and ready for dispatch. "These must
be burnt," he said, "and burnt at once, for that fellow Green
may return, or he may send others. Call Humphries. Get a
taper from him."
She sped to the door, and did his bidding. Then she returned.
She was plainly agitated. "You must go at once," she said,
imploringly. "You must return to France without an instant's
"Why, indeed, it would mean my ruin to remain now," he
admitted. "And yet - " He held out his hands to her.
"I will follow you," she promised him. "I will follow you as
soon as his lordship is recovered, or - or at peace."
"You have well considered, sweetheart?" he asked her, holding
her to him, and looking down into her gentle eyes.
"There is no happiness for me apart from you."
Again his scruples took him. "Tell Lord Ostermore - tell him
all," he begged her. "Be guided by him. His decision for you
will represent the decision of the world."
"What is the world to me? You are the world to me," she
There was a rap upon the door. He put her from him, and went
to open. It was Humphries with a lighted taper. He took it,
thanked the man with a word, and shut the door in his face,
ignoring the fact that the fellow was attempting to tell him
He returned to the desk. "Let us make quite sure that this is
all," he said, and held the taper so that the light shone into
the recess. It seemed empty at first; then, as the light
penetrated farther, he saw something that showed white at the
back of the cachette. He thrust in his hand, and drew out a
small package bound with a ribbon that once might have been
green but was faded now to yellow. He set it on the desk, and
returned to his search. There was nothing else. The recess
was empty. He closed the trap and replaced the drawer. Then
he sat down again, the taper at his elbow, Mistress Winthrop
looking on, facing him across the top of the secretaire, and
he took up the package.
The ribbon came away easily, and some half-dozen sheets fell
out and scattered upon the desk. They gave out a curious
perfume, half of age, half of some essence with which years
ago they had been imbued. Something took Mr. Caryll in the
throat, and he could never explain whether it was that perfume
or some premonitory emotion, some prophetic apprehension of
what he was about to see.
He opened the first of those folded sheets, and found it to be
a letter written in French and in an ink that had paled to
yellow with the years that were gone since it had been penned.
The fine, pointed writing was curiously familiar to Mr.
Caryll. He looked at the signature at the bottom of the page.
It swam before his eyes - ANTOINETTE-"Celle qui l'adore,
Antoinette," he read, and the whole world seemed blotted out
for him; all consciousness, his whole being, his
every sense, seemed concentrated into his eyes as they gazed
upon that relic of a deluded woman's dream.
He did not read. It was not for him to commit the sacrilege
of reading what that girl who had been his mother had written
thirty years ago to the man she loved - the man who had proved
false as hell.
He turned the other letters over; opened them one by one, to
make sure that they were of the same nature as the first, and
what time he did so he found himself speculating upon the
strangeness of Ostermore's having so treasured them. Perhaps
he had thrust them into that secret recess, and there
forgotten them; 'twas an explanation that sorted better with
what Mr. Caryll knew of his father, than the supposition that
so dull and practical and self-centered a nature could have
been irradiated by a gleam of such tenderness as the hoarding
of those letters might have argued.
He continued to turn them over, half-mechanically, forgetful
of the urgent need to burn the treasonable documents he had
secured, forgetful of everything, even Hortensia's presence.
And meantime she watched him in silence, marvelling at this
delay, and still more at the gray look that had crept into his
"What have you found?" she asked at last.
"A ghost," he answered, and his voice had a strained, metallic
ring. He even vented an odd laugh. "A bundle of old
"From her ladyship?"
"Her ladyship?" He looked up, an expression on his face which
seemed to show that he could not at the moment think who her
ladyship might be. Then as the picture of that bedaubed,
bedizened and harsh-featured Jezebel arose in his mind to
stand beside the sweet girl - image of his mother - as he knew
her from the portrait that hung at Maligny - he laughed again.
"No, not from her ladyship," said he. "From a woman who loved
him years ago." And he turned to the seventh and last of
those poor ghosts-the seventh, a fateful number.
He spread it before him; frowned down on it a moment with a
sharp hiss of indrawn breath. Then he twisted oddly on his
chair, and sat bolt upright, staring straight before him with
unseeing eyes. Presently he passed a hand across his brow,
and made a queer sound in his throat.
"What is it?" she asked.
But he did not answer; he was staring at the paper again. A
while he sat thus; then with swift fevered fingers he took up
once more the other letters. He unfolded one, and began to
read. A few lines he read, and then - "O God!" he cried, and
flung out his arms under stress of 'his emotions. One of them
caught the taper that stood upon the desk; and swept it,
extinguished, to the floor. He never heeded it, never gave a
thought to the purpose for which it had been fetched, a
purpose not yet served. He rose. He was white as the dead
are white, and she observed that he was trembling. He took up
the bundle of old letters, and thrust them into an inside
pocket of his coat.
"What are you doing?" she cried, seeking at last to arouse him
from the spell under which he appeared to have fallen. "Those
letters - "
"I must see Lord Ostermore," he answered wildly, and made for
the door, reeling like a drunkard in his walk.
THE END OF LORD OSTERMORE
In the ante-room communicating with Lord Ostermore's bedroom
the countess was in consultation with Rotherby, who had been
summoned by his mother when my lord was stricken.
Her ladyship occupied the window-seat; Rotherby stood beside
her, leaning slightly against the frame of the open window.
Their conversation was earnest and conducted in a low key, and
one would naturally have conjectured that it had for subject
the dangerous condition of the earl. And so it had - the
dangerous condition of the earl's political, if not physical,
affairs. To her ladyship and her son, the matter of their own
future was of greater gravity than the matter of whether his
lordship lived or died - which, whatever it may be, is not
unreasonable. Since the impeachment of my lord and the coming
of the messengers to arrest him, the danger of ruin and
beggary were become more imminent - indeed, they impended, and
measures must be concerted to avert these evils. By
comparison with that, the earl's succumbing or surviving was a
trivial matter; and the concern they had manifested in Sir
James' news - when the important, well-nourished physician who
had bled his lordship came to inform them that there was hope
- was outward only, and assumed for pure decorum's sake.
"Whether he lives or dies," said the viscount pertinently,
after the doctor had departed to return to his patient, "the
measures to be taken are the same." And he repeated the
substance of their earlier discussions upon this same topic.
"If we can but secure the evidence of his treason with
Caryll," he wound up, "I shall be able to make terms with Lord
Carteret to arrest the proceedings the government may intend,
and thus avert the restitution it would otherwise enforce."
"But if he were to die," said her ladyship, as coldly,
horribly calculating as though he were none of hers, "there
would be an end to this danger. They could not demand
restitution of the dead, nor impose fines upon him."
Rotherby shook his head. "Believe not that, madam," said he.
"They can demand restitution of his heirs and impose their
fines upon the estate. 'Twas done in the case of Chancellor
Craggs, though he shot himself."
She raised a haggard face to his. "And do you dream that Lord
Carteret would make terms with you?"
"If I can show him - by actual proof - that a conspiracy does
exist, that the Stuart supporters are plotting a rising.
Proof of that should be of value to Lord Carteret, of
sufficient value to the government to warrant the payment of
the paltry price I ask - that the impeachment against my
father for his dealings with the South Sea Company shall not
"But it might involve the worse betrayal of your father,
Charles, and if he were to live - "
"'Sdeath, mother, why must you harp on that? I a'n't the fool
you think me," he cried. "I shall make it a further condition
that my father have immunity. There will be no lack of
victims once the plot is disclosed; and they may begin upon
that coxcomb Caryll - the damned meddler who is at the bottom
of all this garboil."
She sat bemused, her eyes upon the sunlit gardens below, where
a faint breeze was stirring the shrub tops.
"There is," she said presently, "a secret drawer somewhere in
his desk. If he has papers they will, no doubt, be there.
Had you not best be making search for them?"
He smiled darkly. "I have seen to that already," he replied.
"How?" excitedly. "You have got the papers?"
"No; but I have set an experienced hand to find them, and one,
moreover, who has the right by virtue of his warrant - the
messenger of the secretary of state."
She sat up, rigid. "'Sdeath! What is't ye mean?"
"No need for alarm," he reassured her. "This fellow Green is
in my pay, as well as in the secretary's, and it will profit
him most to keep faith with me. He's a self-seeking dog,
content to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds, so that
there be profit in it, and he'd sacrifice his ears to bring
Mr. Caryll to the gallows. I have promised him that and a
thousand pounds if we save the estates from confiscation."
She looked at him, between wonder and fear. "Can ye trust
him?" she asked breathlessly.
He laughed softly and confidently. "I can trust him to earn a
thousand pounds," he answered. "When he heard of the
impeachment, he used such influence as he has to be entrusted
with the arrest of his lordship; and having obtained his
warrant, he came first to me to tell me of it. A thousand
pounds is the price of him, body and soul. I bade him seek
not only evidence of my lord's having received that plaguey
stock, but also papers relating to this Jacobite plot into
which his lordship has been drawn by our friend Caryll. He is
at his work at present. And I shall hear from him when it is
She nodded slowly, thoughtfully. "You have very well
disposed, Charles," she approved him. "If your father lives,
it should not be a difficult matter - "
She checked suddenly and turned, while Rotherby, too, looked
up and stepped quickly from the window-embrasure where he had
The door of the bedroom had been suddenly pulled open, and Sir
James came out, very pale and discomposed.
"Madam - your ladyship - my lord!" he gasped, his mouth
working, his hands waving foolishly.
The countess rose to confront him, tall, severe and harsh.
The viscount scowled a question. Sir James quailed before
them, evidently in affliction.
"Madam - his lordship," he said, and by his eloquent gesture
of dejection announced what he had some difficulty in putting
She stepped forward, and took him by the wrist. "Is he
dying?" she inquired.
"Have courage, madam," the doctor besought her.
The apparent irrelevancy of the request at such a moment,
angered her. Her mood was dangerously testy. And had the
doctor but known it, sympathy was a thing she had not borne
well these many years.
"I asked you was he dying," she reminded him, with a cold
sternness that beat aside all his attempts at subterfuge.
"Your ladyship - he is dead," he faltered, with lowered eyes.
"Dead?" she echoed dully, and her hand went to the region of
her heart, her face turned livid under its rouge. "Dead?" she
said again, and behind her, Rotherby echoed the dread word in
a stupor almost equal to her own. Her lips moved to speak,
but no words came. She staggered where she stood, and put her
hand to her brow. Her son's arms were quickly about her. He
supported her to a chair, where she sank as if all her joints
Sir James flew for restoratives; bathed her brow with a
dampened handkerchief; held strong salts to her nostrils, and
murmured words of foolish, banal consolation, whilst Rotherby,
in a half-dreaming condition, stunned by the suddenness of the
blow, stood beside her, mechanically lending his assistance
and supporting her.
Gradually she mastered her agitation. It was odd that she
should feel so much at losing what she valued so little.
Leastways, it would have been odd, had it been that. It was
not - it was something more. In the awful, august presence of
death, stepped so suddenly into their midst, she felt herself
For nigh upon thirty years she had been bound by legal and
churchly ties in a loveless union with Lord Ostermore -
married for the handsome portion that had been hers, a portion
which he had gamed away and squandered until, for their
station, their circumstances were now absolutely straitened.
They had led a harsh, discordant life, and the coming of a
son, which should have bridged the loveless gulf between them,
seemed but to have served to dig it wider. And the son had
been just the harsh, unfeeling offspring that might be looked
for from such a union. Thirty years of slavery had been her
ladyship's, and in those thirty years her nature had been
soured and warped, and what inherent sweetness it may once
have known had long since been smothered and destroyed. She
had no cause to love that man who had never loved her, never
loved aught of hers beyond her jointure. And yet, there was
the habit of thirty years. For thirty years they had been
yoke-fellows, however detestable the yoke. But yesterday he
had been alive and strong, a stupid, querulous thing maybe,
but a living. And now he was so much carrion that should be
given to the earth. In some such channel ran her ladyship's
reflections during those few seconds in which she was
recovering. For an instant she was softened. The long-since
dried-up springs of tenderness seemed like to push anew under
the shock of this event. She put out a hand to take her
"Charles!" she said, and surprised him by the tender note.
A moment thus; then she was herself again. "How did he die?"
she asked the doctor; and the abruptness of the resumption of
her usual manner startled Sir James more than aught in his
experience of such scenes.
"It was most sudden, madam," answered he. "I had the best
grounds for hope. I was being persuaded we should save him.
And then, quite suddenly, without an instant's warning, he
succumbed. He just heaved a sigh, and was gone. I could
scarcely believe my senses, madam."
He would have added more particulars of his feelings and
emotions - for he was of those who believe that their own
impressions of a phenomenon are that phenomenon's most
interesting manifestations - but her ladyship waved him
peremptorily into silence.
He drew back, washing his hands in the air, an expression of
polite concern upon his face. "Is there aught else I can do
to be of service to your ladyship?" he inquired, solicitous.
"What else?" she asked, with a fuller return to her old self.
"Ye've killed him. What more is there you can do?"
"Oh, madam - nay, madam! I am most deeply grieved that my - my
"His lordship will wait upon you to the door," said she,
designating her son.
The eminent physician effaced himself from her ladyship's
attention. It was his boast that he could take a hint when
one was given him; and so he could, provided it were broad
enough, as in the present instance.
He gathered up his hat and gold-headed cane - the unfailing
insignia of his order - and was gone, swiftly and silently.
Rotherby closed the door after him, and returned slowly, head
bowed, to the window where his mother was still seated. They
looked at each other gravely for a long moment.
"This makes matters easier for you," she said at length.
"Much easier. It does not matter now how far his complicity
may be betrayed by his papers. I am glad, madam, to see you
so far recovered from your weakness."
She shivered, as much perhaps at his tone as at the
recollections he evoked. "You are very indifferent, Charles,"
He looked at her steadily, then slightly shrugged. "What need
to wear a mask? Bah! Did he ever give me cause to feel for
him?" he asked. "Mother, if one day I have a son of my own, I
shall see to it that he loves me."
"You will be hard put to it, with your nature, Charles," she
told him critically. Then she rose. "Will you go to him with
me?" she asked.
He made as if to acquiesce, then halted. "No," he said, and
there was repugnance in his tone and face. "Not - not now."
There came a knocking at the door, rapid, insistent. Grateful
for the interruption, Rotherby went to open.
Mr. Green staggered forward with swollen eyes, his face
inflamed with rage, and with something else that was not quite
apparent to Rotherby.
"My lord!" he cried in a loud, angry voice.
Rotherby caught his wrist and checked him. "Sh! sir," he said
gravely. "Not here." And he pushed him out again, her
ladyship following them.
It was in the gallery - above the hall, in which the servants
still stood idly about - that Mr. Green spattered out his
wrathful tale of what had befallen in the library.
Rotherby shook him as if he had been a rat. "You cursed
fool!" he cried. "You left him there - at the desk?"
"What help had I?' demanded Green with spirit. "My eyes were
on fire. I couldn't see, and the pain of them made me
"Then why did ye not send word to me at once, you fool?"
"Because I was concerned only to stop my eyes from burning,"
answered Mr. Green, in a towering rage at finding reproof
where he had come in quest of sympathy. "I have come to you
at the first moment, damn you!" he burst out, in full
rebellion. "And you'll use me civilly now that I am come, or
- ecod! - it'll be the worse for your lordship."
Rotherby considered him through a faint mist that rage had set
before his eyes. To be so spoken to - damned indeed! - by a
dirty spy! Had he been alone with the man, there can be
little doubt but that he would have jeopardized his very
precarious future by kicking Mr. Green downstairs. But his
mother saved him from that rashness. It may be that she saw
something of his anger in his kindling eye, and thought it
well to intervene.
She set a hand on his sleeve. "Charles!" she said to him in a
voice that was dead cold with warning.
He responded to it, and chose discretion. He looked Green
over, nevertheless. "I vow I'm very patient with you," said
he, and Green had the discretion on his side to hold his
tongue. "Come, man, while we stand talking here that knave
may be destroying precious evidence."
And his lordship went quickly down the stairs, Mr. Green
following hard upon his heels, and her ladyship bringing up
At the door of the library Rotherby came to a halt, and turned
the handle. The door was locked. He beckoned a couple of
footmen across the hall, and bade them break it open.
Mr. CARYLL'S IDENTITY
I must see Lord Ostermore!" had been Mr. Caryll's wild cry, as
he strode to the door.
>From the other side of it there came a sound of steps and
voices. Some one was turning the handle.
Hortensia caught Mr. Caryll by the sleeve. "But the letters!"
she cried frantically, and pointed to the incriminating papers
which he had left, forgotten, upon the desk.
He stared at her a moment, and memory swept upon him in a
flood. He mastered the wild agitation that had been swaying
him, thrust the paper that he was carrying into his pocket,
and turned to go back for the treasonable letters.
"The taper!" he exclaimed, and pointed to the extinguished
candle on the floor. "What can we do?"
A sharp blow fell upon the lock of the door. He stood still,
looking over his shoulder.
"Quick! Make haste!" Hortensia admonished him in her
excitement. "Get them! Conceal them, at least! Do the best
you can since we have not the means to burn them."
A second blow was struck, succeeded instantly by a third, and
something was heard to snap. The door swung open, and Green
and Rotherby sprang into the room, a brace of footmen at their
heels. They were followed more leisurely by the countess;
whilst a little flock of servants brought up the rear, but
checked upon the threshold, and hung there to witness events
that held out such promise of being unusual.
Mr. Caryll swore through set teeth, and made a dash for the
desk. But he was too late to accomplish his object. His hand
had scarcely closed upon the letters, when he was, himself,
seized. Rotherby and Green, on either side of him, held him
in their grasp, each with one hand upon his shoulder and the
other at his wrist. Thus stood he, powerless between them,
and, after the first shock of it, cool and making no effort to
disengage himself. His right hand was tightly clenched upon
Rotherby called a servant forward. "Take those papers from
the thief's hand," he commanded.
"Stop!" cried Mr. Caryll. "Lord Rotherby, may I speak with
you alone before you go further in a matter you will bitterly
"Take those papers from him," Rotherby repeated, swearing; and
the servant bent to the task. But Mr. Caryll suddenly
wrenched the hand away from the fellow and the wrist out of
Lord Rotherby's grip.
"A moment, my lord, as you value your honor and your
possessions!" he insisted. "Let me speak with Lord Ostermore
first. Take me before him."
"You are before him now," said Rotherby. "Say on!"
"I demand to see Lord Ostermore."
"I am Lord Ostermore," said Rotherby.
"You? Since when?" said Mr. Caryll, not even beginning to
"Since ten minutes ago," was the callous answer that first
gave that household the news of my lord's passing.
There was a movement, a muttering among the servants. Old
Humphries broke through the group by the door, his heavy chops
white and trembling, and in that moment Hortensia turned,
awe-stricken, to ask her ladyship was this true. Her ladyship
nodded in silence. Hortensia cried out, and sank to a chair
as if beaten down by the news, whilst the old servant,
answered, too, withdrew, wringing his hands and making foolish
laments; and the tears of those were the only tears that
watered the grave of John Caryll, fifth Earl of Ostermore.
As for Mr. Caryll, the shock of that announcement seemed to
cast a spell upon him. He stood still, limp and almost
numbed. Oh, the never-ceasing irony of things! That his
father should have died at such a moment.
"Dead?" quoth he. "Dead? Is my lord dead? They told me he
"They told you false," answered Rotherby. "So now - those
Mr. Caryll relinquished them. "Take them," he said. "Since
that is so - take them."
Rotherby received them himself. "Remove his sword," he bade a
Mr. Caryll looked sharply round at him. "My sword?" quoth he.
"What do you mean by that? What right "
"We mean to keep you by us, sir," said Mr. Green on his other
side, "until you have explained what you were doing with those
papers - what is your interest in them."
Meanwhile a servant had done his lordship's bidding, and Mr.
Caryll stood weaponless amid his enemies. He mastered himself
at once. Here it was plain that he must walk with caution,
for the ground, he perceived, was of a sudden grown most
insecure and treacherous. Rotherby and Green in league! It
gave him matter for much thought.
"There's not the need to hold me," said he quietly. "I am not
likely to tire myself by violence. There's scarcely necessity
for so much."
Rotherby looked up sharply. The cool, self-possessed tone had
an intimidating note. But Mr. Green laughed maliciously, as
he continued to mop his still watering eyes. He was
acquainted with Mr. Caryll's methods, and knew that, probably,
the more at ease he seemed, the less at ease he was.
Rotherby spread the letters on the desk, and scanned them with
a glowing eye, Mr. Green at his elbow reading with him. The
countess swept forward that she, too, might inspect this find.
"They'll serve their turn," said her son, and added to Caryll:
"And they'll help to hang you."
"No doubt you find me mentioned in them," said Mr. Caryll.
"Ay, sir," snapped Green, "if not by name, at least as the
messenger who is to explain that which the writers - the royal
writer and the other - have out of prudence seen fit to
Hortensia looked up and across the room at that, a wild fear
clutching at her heart. But Mr. Caryll laughed pleasantly,
eyebrows raised as if in mild surprise. "The most excellent
relations appear to prevail between you," said he, looking
from Rotherby to Green. "Are you, too, my lord, in the
His lordship flushed darkly. "You'll clown it to the end," he
"And that's none so far off," snarled Mr. Green, who since the
peppering of his eyes, had flung aside his usual cherubic air.
"Oh, you may sneer, sir," he mocked the prisoner. "But we
have you fast. This letter was brought hither by you, and
this one was to have been carried hence by you."
"The latter, sir, was a matter for the future, and you can
hardly prove what a man will do; so we'll let that pass. As
for the former - the letter which you say I brought - you'll
remember that you searched me at Maidstone - "
"And I have your admission that the letter was upon you at the
time," roared the spy, interrupting him - "your admission in
the presence of that lady, as she can be made to witness."
Mistress Winthrop rose. "'Tis a lie," she said firmly. "I
can not be made to witness."
Mr. Caryll smiled, and nodded across to her. "'Tis vastly
kind in you, Mistress Winthrop. But the gentleman is
mistook." He turned to Green. "Harkee, sirrah did I admit
that I had carried that letter?"
Mr. Green shrugged. "You admitted that you carried a letter.
What other letter should it have been but that?"
"Nay," smiled Mr. Caryll. "'Tis not for you to ask me.
Rather is it for you to prove that the letter I admitted
having carried and that letter are one and the same. 'Twill
take a deal of proving, I dare swear."
"Ye'll be forsworn, then," put in her ladyship sourly. "For I
can witness to the letter that you bore. Not only did I see
it - a letter on that same fine paper - in my husband's hands
on the day you came here and during your visit, but I have his
lordship's own word for it that he was in the plot and that
you were the go-between."
"Ah!" chuckled Mr. Green. "What now, sir? What now? By what
fresh piece of acrobatics will you get out of that?"
"Ye're a fool," said Mr. Caryll with calm contempt, and
fetched out his snuff-box. "D'ye dream that one witness will
suffice to establish so grave a charge? Pah!" He opened his
snuff-box to find it empty, and viciously snapped down the lid
again. "Pah!" he said again, "ye've cost me a whole boxfull
"Why did ye throw it in my face?" demanded Mr. Green. "What
purpose did ye look to serve but one of treason? Answer me
"I didn't like the way ye looked at me. 'Twas wanting
respect, and I bethought me I would lessen the impudence of
your expression. Have ye any other foolish questions for me?"
And he looked again from Green to Rotherby, including both in
his inquiry. "No?" He rose. "In that case, if you'll give me
leave, and - "
"You do not leave this house," Rotherby informed him.
"I think you push hospitality too far. Will you desire your
lackey to return me my sword? I have affairs elsewhere."
"Mr. Caryll, I beg that you will understand," said his
lordship, with a calm that he was at some pains to maintain,
"that you do not leave this house save in the care of the
messengers from the secretary of state."
Mr. Caryll looked at him, and yawned in his face. "Ye're
prodigiously tiresome," said he, "did ye but know how I detest
disturbances. What shall the secretary of state require of
"He'll require you on a charge of high treason," said Mr.
"Have you a warrant to take me?"
"I have not, but - "
"Then how do you dare detain me, sir?" demanded Mr. Caryll
sharply. "D'ye think I don't know the law?"
"I think you'll know a deal more of it shortly," countered Mr.
"Meanwhile, sirs, I depart. Offer me violence at your peril."
He moved a step, and then, at a sign from Rotherby, the
lackey's hands fell on him again, and forced him back and down
into his chair.
"Away with you for the warrant," said Rotherby to Green.
"We'll keep him here till you return."
Mr. Green grinned at the prisoner, and was gone in great
Mr. Caryll lounged back in his chair, and threw one leg over
the other. "I have always endeavored," said he, "to suffer
fools as gladly as a Christian should. So since you insist,
I'll be patient until I have the ear of my Lord Carteret -
who, I take it, is a man of sense. But if I were you, my
lord, and you, my lady, I should not insist. Believe me,
you'll cut poor figures. As for you, my lord, ye're in none
such good odor, as it is."
"Let that be," snarled his lordship.
"If I mention it at all, I but do so in your lordship's own
interests. It will be remembered that ye attempted to murder
me once, and that will not be of any great help to such
accusations as you may bring against me. Besides which, there
is the unfortunate circumstance that it's widely known ye're
not a man to be believed."
"Will you be silent?" roared his lordship, in a towering
"If I trouble myself to speak at all, it is out of concern for
your lordship," Mr. Caryll insisted sweetly. "And in your own
interest, and your ladyship's, too, I'd counsel you to hear me
a moment without witnesses."
His tone was calculatedly grave. Lord Rotherby looked at him,
sneering; not so her ladyship. Less acquainted with his ways,
the absolute confidence and unconcern of his demeanor was
causing her uneasiness. A man who was perilously entrammelled
would not bear himself so easily, she opined. She rose, and
crossed to her son's side.
"What have you to say?" she asked Mr. Caryll.
"Nay, madam," he replied, "not before these." And he
indicated the servants.
"'Tis but a pretext to have them out of the room," said
Mr. Caryll laughed the notion to scorn. "If you think that -
I give you my word of honor to attempt no violence, nor to
depart until you shall give me leave," said he.
Rotherby, judging Mr. Caryll by his knowledge of himself,
still hesitated. But her ladyship realized, in spite of her
detestation of the man, that he was not of the temper of those
whose word is to be doubted. She signed to the footmen.
"Go," she bade them. "Wait within call."
They departed, and Mr. Caryll remained seated for all that her
ladyship was standing; it was as if by that he wished to show
how little he was minded to move.
Her ladyship's eye fell upon Hortensia. "Do you go, too,
child," she bade her.
Instead, Hortensia came forward. "I wish to remain, madam,"
"Did I ask you what you wished?" demanded the countess.
"My place is here," Hortensia explained. "Unless Mr. Caryll
should, himself, desire me to depart."
"Nay, nay," he cried, and smiled upon her fondly - so fondly
that the countess's eyes grew wider. "With all my heart, I
desire you to remain. It is most fitting you should hear that
which I have to say."
"What does it mean?" demanded Rotherby, thrusting himself
forward, and scowling from one to the other of them. "What
d'ye mean, Hortensia?"
"I am Mr. Caryll's betrothed wife," she answered quietly.
Rotherby's mouth fell open, but he made no sound. Not so her
ladyship. A peal of shrill laughter broke from her. "La!
What did I tell you, Charles?" Then to Hortensia: "I'm sorry
for you, ma'am," said she. "I think ye've been a thought too
long in making up your mind." And she laughed again.
"Lord Ostermore lies above stairs," Hortensia reminded her,
and her ladyship went white at the reminder, the indecency of
her laughter borne in upon her.
"Would ye lesson me, girl?" she cried, as much to cover her
confusion as to vent her anger at the cause of it. "Ye've an
odd daring, by God! Ye'll be well matched with his impudence,
Rotherby, singularly self-contained, recalled her to the
"Mr. Caryll is waiting," said he, a sneer in his voice.
"Ah, yes," she said, and flashing a last malignant glance upon
Hortensia, she sank to a chair beside her, but not too near
Mr. Caryll sat back, his legs crossed, his elbows on his
chair-arms, his finger-tips together. "The thing I have to
tell you is of some gravity," he announced by way of preface.
Rotherby took a seat by the desk, his hand upon the
treasonable letters. "Proceed, sir," he said, importantly.
Mr. Caryll nodded, as in acknowledgment of the invitation.
"I will admit, before going further, that in spite of the
cheerful countenance I maintained before your lordship's
friend, the bumbailiff, and your lackeys, I recognize that you
have me in a very dangerous position."
"Ah!" from his lordship in a breath of satisfaction, and
"Ah!" from Hortensia in a gasp of apprehension.
Her ladyship retained a stony countenance, and a silence that
sorted excellently with it.
"There is," Mr. Caryll proceeded, marking off the points on
his fingers, "the incident at Maidstone; there is your
ladyship's evidence that I was the bearer of just such a
letter on the day that first I came here; there is the
dangerous circumstance - of which Mr. Green, I am sure, will
not fail to make a deal - of my intimacy with Sir Richard
Everard, and my constant visits to his lodging, where I was,
in fact, on the occasion when he met his death; there is the
fact that I committed upon Mr. Green an assault with my snuff
box for motives that, after all, admit of but one acceptable
explanation; and, lastly, there is the circumstance that,
apparently, if interrogated, I can show no good reason why I
should be in England at all, where no apparent interest has
called me or keeps me.
"Now, these matters are so trivial that taken separately they
have no value whatever; taken conjointly, their value is not
great; they do not contain evidence enough to justify the
hanging of a dog. And yet, I realize that disturbed as the
times are, fearful of sedition as the government finds itself
in consequence of the mischief done to public credit by the
South Sea disaster, and ready as the ministry is to see plots
everywhere and to make examples, pour discourager les autres,
if the accusation you intend is laid against me, backed by
such evidence as this, it is not impossible - indeed, it is
not improbable - that it may - ah - tend to shorten my life."
"Sir," sneered Rotherby, "I declare you should have been a
lawyer. We haven't a pleader of such parts and such lucidity
at the whole bar."
Mr. Caryll nodded his thanks. "Your praise is very
flattering, my lord," said he, with a wry smile, and then
proceeded: "It is because I see my case to be so very nearly
desperate, that I venture to hope you will not persevere in
the course you are proposing to adopt."
Lord Rotherby laughed noiselessly. "Can you urge me any
reasons why we should not?"
"If you could urge me any reasons why you should," said Mr.
Caryll, "no doubt I should be able to show you under what
misapprehensions you are laboring." He shot a keen glance at
his lordship, whose face had suddenly gone blank. Mr. Caryll
smiled quietly. "There is in this something that I do not
understand," he resumed. "It does not satisfy me to suppose,
as at first might seem, that you are acting out of sheer
malice against me. You have scarcely cause to do that, my
lord; and you, my lady, have none. That fool Green - patience
- he conceives that he has suffered at my hands. But without
your assistance Mr. Green would be powerless to hurt me.
What, then, is it that is moving you?"
He paused, looking from one to the other of his declared
enemies. They exchanged glances - Hortensia watching them,
breathless, her own mind working, too, upon this question that
Mr. Caryll had set, yet nowhere finding an answer.
"I had thought," said her ladyship at last, "that you promised
to tell us something that it was in our interest to hear.
Instead, you appear to be asking questions."
Mr. Caryll shifted in his chair. One glance he gave the
countess, then smiled. "I have sought at your hands the
reasons why you should desire my death," said he slowly. "You
withhold them. Be it so. I take it that you are ashamed of
them; and so, their nature is not difficult to conjecture."
"Sir - " began Rotherby, hotly, half-starting from his seat.
"Nay, let him trundle on, Charles," said his mother. "He'll
be the sooner done."
"Instead," proceeded Mr. Caryll, as if there had been no
interruption, "I will now urge you my reasons why you should
not so proceed."
"Ha!" snapped Rotherby. "They will need to be valid."
Mr. Caryll twisted farther round, to face his lordship more
fully. "They are as valid," said he very impressively - so
impressively and sternly that his hearers felt themselves
turning cold under his words, filled with some mysterious
apprehension. "They are as valid as were my reasons for
holding my hand in the field out yonder, when I had you at the
mercy of my sword, my lord. Neither more nor less. From
that, you may judge them to be very valid."
"But ye don't name them," said her ladyship, attempting to
conquer her uneasiness.
"I shall do so," said he, and turned again to his lordship.
"I had no cause to love you that morning, nor at any time, my
lord; I had no cause to think - as even you in your heart must
realize, if so be that you have a heart, and the intelligence
to examine it - I had no cause to think, my lord, that I
should be doing other than a good deed by letting drive my
blade. That such an opinion was well founded was proven by
the thing you did when I turned my back upon you after sparing
your useless life."
Rotherby broke in tempestuously, smiting the desk before him.
"If you think to move us to mercy by such - "
"Oh, not to mercy would I move you," said Mr. Caryll, his hand
raised to stay the other, "not to mercy, but to horror of the
thing you contemplate." And then, in an oddly impressive
manner, he launched his thunderbolt. "Know, then, that if
that morning I would not spill your blood, it was because I
should have been spilling the same blood that flows in my own
veins; it was because you are my brother; because your father
was my father. No less than that was the reason that withheld
He had announced his aim of moving them to horror; and it was
plain that he had not missed it, for in frozen horror sat they
all, their eyes upon him, their cheeks ashen, their mouths
agape - even Hortensia, who from what already Mr. Caryll had
told her, understood now more than any of them.
After a spell Rotherby spoke. "You are my brother?" he said,
his voice colorless. "My brother? What are you saying?"
And then her ladyship found her voice. "Who was your mother?"
she inquired, and her very tone was an insult, not to the man
who sat there so much as to the memory of poor Antoinette de
Maligny. He flushed to the temples, then paled again.
"I'll not name her to your ladyship," said he at, last, in a
cold, imperious voice.
"I'm glad ye've so much decency," she countered.
"You mistake, I think," said he. "'Tis respect for my mother
that inspires me." And his green eyes flashed upon the
painted hag. She rose up a very fury.
"What are you saying?" she shrilled. "D'ye hear the filthy
fellow, Rotherby? He'll not name the wanton in my presence
out of respect for her."
"For shame, madam! You are speaking of his mother," cried
Hortensia, hot with indignation.
"Pshaw! 'Tis all an impudent lie - a pack of lies!" cried
Rotherby. "He's crafty as all the imps of hell."
Mr. Caryll rose. "Here in the sight of God and by all that I
hold most sacred, I swear that what I have said is true. I
swear that Lord Ostermore - your father - was my father. I
was born in France, in the year 1690, as I have papers upon me
that will prove, which you may see, Rotherby."
His lordship rose. "Produce them," said he shortly.
Mr. Caryll drew from an inner pocket of his coat the small
leather case that Sir Richard Everard had given him. From
this he took a paper which he unfolded. It was a certificate
of baptism, copied from the register of the Church of St.
Antoine in Paris.
Rotherby held out his hand for it. But Mr. Caryll shook his
head. "Stand here beside me, and read it," said he.
Obeying him, Rotherby went and read that authenticated copy,
wherein it was declared that Sir Richard Everard had brought
to the Church of St. Antoine for baptism a male child, which
he had declared to be the son of John Caryll, Viscount
Rotherby, and Antoinette de Maligny, and which had received in
baptism the name of Justin.
Rotherby drew away again, his head sunk on his breast. Her
ladyship was seated, her eyes upon her son, her fingers
drumming absently at the arms of her chair. Then Rotherby
swung round again.
"How do I know that you are the person designated there - this
"You do not; but you may. Cast your mind back to that night
at White's when you picked your quarrel with me, my lord. Do
you remember how Stapleton and Collis spoke up for me,
declared that they had known me from boyhood at Oxford, and
had visited me at my chateau in France? What was the name of
that chateau, my lord - do you remember?"
Rotherby looked at him, searching his memory. But he did not
need to search far. At first glance the name of Maligny had
seemed familiar to him. "It was Maligny," he replied, "and
yet - "
"If more is needed to convince you, I can bring a hundred
witnesses from France, who have known me from infancy. You
may take it that I can establish my identity beyond all
"And what if you do?" demanded her ladyship suddenly. "What
if you do establish your identity as my lord's bastard? What
claim shall that be upon us?"
"That, ma'am," answered Mr. Caryll very gravely, "I wait to
learn from my brother here."
THE LION'S SKIN
For a spell there was utter silence in that spacious, pillared
chamber. Mr. Caryll and her ladyship had both resumed their
chairs: the former spuriously calm; the latter making no
attempt to conceal her agitation. Hortensia leant forward, an
eager spectator, watching the three actors in this
As for Rotherby, he stood with bent head and furrowed brow.
It was for him to speak, and yet he was utterly at a loss for
words. He was not moved at the news he had received, so much
as dismayed. It dictated a course that would interfere with
all his plans, and therefore a course unthinkable. So he
remained puzzled how to act, how to deal with this unexpected
It was her ladyship who was the first to break the silence.
She had been considering Mr. Caryll through narrowing eyes,
the corners of her mouth drawn down. She had caught the name
of Maligny when it was uttered, and out of the knowledge which
happened to be hers - though Mr. Caryll was ignorant of this -
it set her thinking.
"I do not believe that you are the son of Mademoiselle de
Maligny," she said at last. "I never heard that my lord had a
son; I cannot believe there was so much between them."
Mr. Caryll stared, startled out of his habitual calm.
Rotherby turned to her with an exclamation of surprise.
"How?" he cried. "You knew, then? My father was - "
She laughed mirthlessly. "Your father would have married her
had he dared," she informed them. "'Twas to beg his father's
consent that he braved his banishment and came to England.
But his father was as headstrong as himself; held just such
views as he, himself, held later where you were concerned. He
would not hear of the match. I was to be had for the asking.
My father was a man who traded in his children, and he had
offered me, with a jointure that was a fortune, to the Earl of
Ostermore as a wife for his son."
Mr. Caryll was listening, all ears. Some light was being shed
upon much that had lain in darkness.
"And so," she proceeded, "your grandfather constrained your
father to forget the woman he had left in France, and to marry
me. I know not what sins I had committed that I should have
been visited with such a punishment. But so it befell. Your
father resisted, dallying with the matter for a whole year.
Then there was a duel fought. A cousin of Mademoiselle de
Maligny's crossed to England, and forced a quarrel upon your
father. They met, and M. de Maligny was killed. Then a
change set in in my lord's bearing, and one day, a month or so
later, he gave way to his father's insistence, and we were
wed. But I do not believe that my lord had left a son in
France - I do not believe that had he done so, I should not
have known it; I do not believe that under such circumstances,
unfeeling as he was, he would have abandoned Mademoiselle de
"You think, then," said Rotherby, "that this man has raked up
this story to - "
"Consider what you are saying," cut in Mr. Caryll, with a
flash of scorn. "Should I have come prepared with documents
against such a happening as this?"
"Nay, but the documents might have been intended for some
other purpose had my lord lived - some purpose of extortion,"
suggested her ladyship.
"But consider again, madam, that I am wealthy - far wealthier
than was ever my Lord Ostermore, as my friends Collis,
Stapleton and many another can be called to prove. What need,
then, had I to extort?"
"How came you by your means, being what you say you are?" she
Briefly he told her how Sir Richard Everard had cared for him,
for his mother's sake; endowed him richly upon adopting him,
and since made him heir to all his wealth, which was
considerable. "And for the rest, madam, and you, Rotherby,
set doubts on one side. Your ladyship says that had my lord
had a son you must have heard of it. But my lord, madam,
never knew he had a son. Tell me - can you recall the date,
the month at least, in which my lord returned to England?"
"I can, sir. It was at the end of April of '89. What then?"
Mr. Caryll produced the certificate again. He beckoned
Rotherby, and held the paper under his eyes. "What date is
there - the date of birth?"
Rotherby read: "The third of January of 1690."
Mr. Caryll folded the paper again. "That will help your
ladyship to understand how it might happen that my lord
remained in ignorance of my birth." He sighed as he replaced
the case in his pocket. "I would he had known before he
died," said he, almost as if speaking to himself.
And now her ladyship lost her temper. She saw Rotherby
wavering, and it angered her; and angered, she committed a
grave error. Wisdom lay in maintaining the attitude of
repudiation; it would at least have afforded some excuse for
her and Rotherby. Instead, she now recklessly flung off that
armor, and went naked down into the fray.
"A fig for't all!" she cried, and snapped her fingers. She
had risen, and she towered there, a lean and malevolent
figure, her head-dress nodding foolishly. "What does it
matter that you be what you claim to be? Is it to weigh with
Rotherby turned grave eyes upon her. He was, it seemed, not
quite rotten through and through; there was still in him - in
the depths of him - a core that was in a measure sound; and
that core was reached. Most of all had the story weighed with
him because it afforded the only explanation of why Mr. Caryll
had spared his life that morning of the duel. It was a matter
that had puzzled him, as it had puzzled all who had witnessed
the affront that led to the encounter.
Between that and the rest - to say nothing of the certificate
he had seen, which he could not suppose a forgery - he was
convinced that Mr. Caryll was the brother that he claimed to
be. He gathered from his mother's sudden anger that she, too,
was convinced, in spite of herself, by the answers Mr. Caryll
had returned to all her arguments against the identity he
He hated Mr. Caryll no whit less for what he had learnt; if
anything, he hated him more. And yet a sense of decency
forbade him from persecuting him now, as he had intended, and
delivering to the hangman. From ordinary murder, once in the
heat of passion - as we have seen - he had not shrunk. But
fratricide appeared - such is the effect of education - a far,
far graver thing, even though it should be indirect fratricide
of the sort that he had contemplated before learning that this
man was his brother.
There seemed to be one of two only courses left him: to
provide Mr. Caryll with the means of escape, or else to
withhold such evidence as he intended to supply against him,
and to persuade - to compel, if necessary - his mother to do
the same. When all was said, his interests need not suffer
very greatly. His position would not be quite so strong,
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