HotFreeBooks.com
Mistress Penwick
by Dutton Payne
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6
Home - Random Browse

One very dark and stormy day she left the palace dressed as a servant, and drove in a public conveyance to an old chemist's, who resided in a remote portion of the city. Here she procured materials that if properly handled and successively served would bring the youthful Duchess to her death. She resolved in this case to work slowly and cautiously, allowing of no mischance. It so happened the chemist did not have the articles she required, but promised for a liberal sum to procure them from a certain celebrated physician. This of course would take some time. But the physician was in France and would not return for at least a fortnight. So a fortnight went by and another and another, until Constance' patience was exhausted, and as she went to the shop for the last time, vowing to wait no longer, if the chemist had not the things, lo! they were there; and after learning how simple it was to use them, she hastened to the palace, there to be met by the news that the Duchess had brought forth a son of rousing weight and strength. Constance fell into a fever, and was obliged to keep her bed for some weeks; then she arose and after being seen again among the ladies of the Court and appearing as unconcerned as possible, when speaking of the Ellswold heir, she found her way below stair and made siege upon the King's cellar and looted a good dozen cocoanuts.

She had procured from the chemist a protrusile instrument for letting fluid through the hard outer covering, and in this manner intended to inoculate the milk of the nut with a slow poison. These, of course, after such treatment, would be returned to their fellows, and the death of Katherine with that of the young lord would be assured.

After a few trials she succeeded in obtaining a result that was entirely satisfactory, if the hole thus made could be effectually plugged. She filled the aperture with a viscous matter that would in a few moments harden if placed in the sun, and to this end she opened the window and laid the cocoanut in the sun's rays upon the sill.

She was quite alone, yet she feared; indeed, so deadly was her intent, she jumped at every noise, and upon hearing some sound without, slipped on tip-toe from the window to the door and listened, then cautiously drew the bolt and looked without. The corridor seemed even more quiet than usual. Her fears were subdued and as she turned about to close the door, a suction of air caught the curtain and swelled it through the open window, thereupon sweeping the cocoanut to the ground, where it fell at the very feet of his Majesty. When Constance saw what the vile wantonness of the wind had done, she fell upon her knees in wild despair and tremblingly remained thus for an instant only, for a bit of hope sprang up. She arose and quickly ran to the window,—she hesitated, then, ever so slowly she peeped over the sill, and there stood the King with the nut in his hand. "Ah!" she said, drawing back quickly, for they were not looking up, and she felt relief that they did not see her, but unfortunately for her, a lackey was standing some little distance from his Majesty and saw everything.

Of course treason was suspected. It was thought the nut had been dropped to crush the King's head; but upon examination 'twas found there oozed from a small opening curdled milk. The Royal chemist was summoned, and in a moment all knew that the fruit was poisoned. The lackey had already told the King from what window it fell. Constance was cold with fright. She forgot her love, ambition, revenge, her whole paraphernalia of desires, in this disaster.

Out she went into the corridor to ascertain, if possible, what was a-foot below stairs. "Would they be able," she thought, "to find from whence the nut came?" At the very idea she fled back to her chamber and gazed about in agony, for there lay every condemning thing in the floor, and where was she to hide them, for a search would certainly be made in a few moments. A hiding-place must first be found for the nuts. She looked at the bed; surely that would be searched. She thought to sew them in the sleeves of her gowns, but that would look bulky and there was not time. She flew about in wild anxiety. She listened at the door to the sounds below, and, seeing a lackey, asked what the noise meant. He said a cocoanut had been dropped and they were going to search for the one who did it. Again her ladyship fled to her chamber and began to look behind chairs and screens and portable cabinets; but to no avail; she found no safe hiding. At last, the great, high, nodding tester caught the glance of her anxious eye. She hastily placed first a small table—the only one she was able to carry—then a chair upon the bed, and with the one upon the other was able to see the top of the tester. But alas! it was cone-shape. Invention, however, was not out of Constance' line, and quickly she placed a box upon the pinnacle and in it five cocoanuts. There were yet at least a half-dozen more to hide, beside the poison and instrument. She thought to place these in one of her great hats and raise them to the tester also. As she was about to mount the improvised lift, she heard approaching footsteps. Hardly had she withdrawn the table and chair and placed the hat—well bent—beneath the low stool whereon she had been sitting, and arranged the folds of her heavy brocade like a valance about her, when the door was thrown open.

"My God!" said she, under her breath; "'tis the King himself!"

His Majesty accompanied by a number of gentlemen in waiting, entered the room. He appeared in high, good humour, and inclined to be facetious. He advanced straight to her. She, hardly rising from the stool, made a deep curtesy. It was well done, without disarranging the full folds of her stiff brocade, that inclined to stand whether she so honoured the King or not. He laid his hand familiarly upon her shoulder, bearing somewhat upon it, until she turned quite red, either from his intent or her own guilt.

"We are looking for secrets. Hast thou any, my little beauty?"

"Your Majesty doth honour me greatly; first by thy presence and secondly by thy thought that I might have a secret—as if woman could keep even the shade of one from her King!"

"But sometimes there is more happiness in the shade than in the substance." His keen eyes did not leave her face. But hers were turned with an apprehensive stare upon the King's gentlemen, who were looking and prying impudently here and there about the rooms and closets. Her gowns were even pressed here and there among their paddings. Tables and cabinets were opened; the bed was examined. They lifted the heavy valance and one got upon his knees and prodded beneath with his sword. As he withdrew with a very red face, some one shook the curtains with such vigour the tester miscarried and down rolled, one by one, the cocoanuts. The King fairly yelled with laughter, holding on to his sides, his gentlemen joining him with mirth restrained somewhat by the seriousness of the case.

"Indeed, the young Duchess hath turned all heads by her gorgeous beauty, and all would be like her, whether or no!" said the King between great bursts of laughter. Lady Constance' mind was ready and caught quickly at his words, and she turned to him with a gay laugh that somewhat veiled her terrible fear and nervousness.

"Indeed, 'tis the fashion to use the cocoanut milk for drinking and ointment, and the silly wenches of maids doth steal it dreadfully and I was compelled to hide them."

"But 'twill do thee no good, 'tis not thy nature to be round. Hast thou seen the young heir? He is a lusty fellow; and 'tis well worth a journey to the nursery to see him," and he took her hand and raised her to her feet. "Come, we will go and call upon his lordship."

There was an agonized expression on Constance' face as she was compelled to move at the King's bidding. Slowly she moved. It seemed every motion was full of painful effort. All eyes, for some unaccountable reason, appeared to turn to the train of her dress that rustled subtlely; even Constance turned to look back and down with bulging eyes on that silken train, and though she moved ever so cautiously the bristling folds caught upon the edge of the stool and turned it over, the cocoanuts, poison bottle and all falling a-sprawl. The King bent down and picked up the vial, then dropped it quickly, saying,—

"Odd's fish, the female that did don man's attire and flirt about with foppish airs is trying to play the hen and has made a nest and gone to setting on spoiled eggs that will hatch nothing but shades, and wraiths, and mandrakes!" And he lifted a cocoanut, from which the milk was oozing out slowly and in a curdled state.

"And who, mistress of the chemist's shop, hath taught thee his art?"

"'Tis a great and awful thing that hath happened; indeed, oh! King, I knew not the things were under the stool—"

"Then 'twas unfortunate thou shouldst remain seated before thy King; in this case 'twas condemning." And he turned and cried,—

"Hi! hi! call the guard! Thou shalt go into durance until I have sifted this dairy business." Before the unfortunate woman could open her mouth to plead further, the King was gone and two stalwart guards stood at either side of her, ready to conduct her behind bolts and bars.

Now the King was inclined to be easy with all his subjects, but when treason lay so open before him, he was quick to punish. Constance, being a cousin of the Duke of Ellswold, he put the case before him. On the instant, the Duke gave a solution to Constance' aims, explaining everything to the King. He also—for he dreaded what the King might do—said 'twas possible she was not of sound mind. His Majesty saw the Duke's drift and declared that death should not come upon her, but she should be imprisoned. This satisfied the Duke, for he was seriously afraid for the young heir and his wife.

Now Constance was utterly without hope. She was degraded at Court, nevermore to rise again, and of course this state of things would be known at every street corner. Even though she could make her escape, where could she go? Who would accept her as the noble Lady Constance again? She would wander up and down the world, friendless; while Katherine would have love, wealth and honour, all one could wish for, all there was in life to have.

"Nay, nay, nay!" she cried in her agony. "I shall have one more chance." She threw out her arms to the air and ground her teeth and dragged herself from end to end of her bare and lonely cell. "One more chance," she cried, "and 'twill be death to her; aye, death!"



CHAPTER XXIV

WHAT HAPPENED IN THE TOWER

Sir Julian had been striving for months to make peace with the young Duchess; but all effort appeared futile, until Providence suddenly stepped in and aided him. Cantemir had turned religious, owing to the taking hold upon him of a mortal disease; and though he had not been about to undo any of his schemes in Cedric's case, yet he intended to do so as soon as he was able. He was not idle, however, as he wrote many letters and received visits from the ones who were foremost in the fight. Nor was he long in discovering that their feelings were already changed toward Ellswold, for they saw 'twas unpopular to be striving against the King's desires, and against a nobleman who would be very powerful when he should regain his fortunes. The Count wrote to Pomphrey, saying he wished to speak face to face with him.

At this interview the Russian unburdened his heart of all malice and hatred, and gave vent to ill-gotten secrets, of which Buckingham's schemes were foremost. So open and frank was the Count in his assertions there was no doubt in Sir Julian's mind but what he had created an wholesome feeling with his conscience; and for himself, recognized the interview as nothing more nor less than the comely intervention of Providence.

Sir Julian determined upon an immediate rendezvous with Sir John Penwick, to the end that a concerted movement might effectually bring the Duke to his senses. He loved Buckingham, but he loved the Duchess of Ellswold more, and for this cause of peace, intended to hedge the Duke about with an impenetrable wall.

Buckingham soon saw that the strings were closing about him, and that 'twas Sir Julian who held the taut ends. But the great Duke had still one more move, a move so venturesome, so involved with hazard, that when 'twas made, the King himself admired and paid homage to its projector.

The Duke knew that Sir Julian, with a whisper in the King's ear, could send him to the Tower. So at the point of Sir Julian's sword—metaphorically—he was forced to go to the King and straighten matters as best he could. This the great Duke did, with the most exquisite urbanity. He knew well the King's humour, and the most propitious moment in it, and propinquity played him fair, and there vibrated in his Majesty's ear the dulcet tones of George Villiers magnetic voice, saying,—

"Oh, King! may I tell thee of what foul issue fulsome Nature hath brought forth, and what travail I suffer for—"

"Odd's fish! what hast thou been doing, George, what hast thou—"

"Oh, King!" and the Duke bowed upon his knee and touched with his lips the great ring upon his Majesty's hand; "I did engender with a brain unwebbed by wine, a body ample of strength and health, my soul absolved, my heart palpitant with pure love and rich intention; but corruptible Nature hath adulterated and brought forth an oaf, to which I lay no claim—"

"Egad! Duke; we'll wager a kilderkin of chaney oranges at four pence each and a dozen cordial juleps with pearls that thy conscience is about to bewray thee."

"Your Royal Highness doth honour me by the assumption that such a kingly component is mine. I cannot gainsay thy assertion, but who but my King could touch to life the almost undefined limning of moral faculty that has been my poor possession heretofore—"

"And who but thy King would give to thy swart issue a, no doubt, condign interest; come, curtail loquacity!"

"Then, your Majesty, to be brief, I have raised for thee the subsidies thou were too modest to ask the House for—"

"Odd's fish, and this is thine oaf; oaf, callest thou it, when it has brought unspeakable joy to thy King? Not so, 'tis an issue that outshines in weight, point of beauty and actual worth that bouncing youngster of Ellswold's."

"But, oh! King, I counted not upon the exigencies of thy love. I thought only of the pleasure 'twould give thee to have subsidies without plea, and I have made two of thy favourites my victims. How should I know that the Duke and Duchess of Ellswold were to become nestlings in thy cradle of love?" The King's face darkened, but for a moment only, as the sunshine of full coffers had penetrated the vista of his needs, and a cloud even though it bore the after-rain was not to darken his expectations. "I beg thine indulgence to allow me to presume upon fancy. Supposing Sir John Penwick was alive and had committed a crime that made it impossible for him to seek the aid of his beloved King; that the said Sir John has vast possessions in the New World that rightfully belonged to the English crown as hostage for his own life, that had been in the hands of the French; that these matters had been brought to the King's ear, but his Royal Highness had been troubled with weightier affairs at home, and that one of his very lowly but loyal subjects had undertaken, without aid of Government, to secure these possessions for his King, calling to his aid the generosity of Ellswold, who was willing to give all without knowing why, save 'twas for his King and—"

"And Penwick has proven guiltless and comes to his King to claim his rightful possession;—and the subsidies—"

"Are still thine, and thou shalt have them within a fortnight, if thou wilt grant me one small request, oh! King."

"Thou hast it. Be brief."

"Of my appointment, a new keeper of the Tower." The King started and half turned from the Duke, while through his mind ran hurriedly the names of "Chasel, Howard, Baumais" and "who hath he in mind." Then like a flash came the thought of Lady Constance, and he turned about quickly and said with severity,—

"Thou hast our word," and with a gesture gave the Duke his conge.

That very night just as the early moon began to whiten the Towers of old London, the key turned in the door of Lady Constance' cell; but turned so lazily—either from indolence or an unaccustomed hand—that her ladyship looked up and saw to her surprise a new gaoler. He smiled, thereby giving to the heart of its object a great thrill of joy, for it meant kindliness and kindliness is often predicated of selfishness or a desire for things one has not.

"What is thy name, fool?"

"Just plain Fool," and he gave her due obeisance.

"And why so?"

"Is it not enough to be so christened by so great a lady?"

"Then thou art not a subsidiary but chief factotum?"

"Aye, the other is ill and I have spent the afternoon in learning the—names."

"Thou shouldst be well paid for so short a season.—Is he serious?"

"I hope so, good lady."

"Oh! if thou wouldst make profit of thy time, begin by bringing hither for my supper good ale and wine, with sugar and spices; and I will brew thee such a horn as thou hast ne'er thought on before. And thou for each good turn shalt drink a wassail to thy buxom wench and shalt have money for the basset-table."

It is needless to say that Buckingham knew his man, and Constance' desires for one whom she could bribe. The latter's first and only desire was for means of escape, and to this end tried to bribe the keeper for man's attire. This was not the Duke's aim, and Constance, being thwarted, struck quickly upon another means.

She succeeded in getting the promise of a visit from Cantemir, who was little able to be about, but he intended to see her of his own accord, that he might move her to a lively interest in the salvation of her soul.

In anticipation of his visit, Constance had obtained through the gaoler certain drugs of nondescript virtues. These she carefully hid and made her final preparations for a speedy flight.

Cantemir stopped for a moment, as he stepped from the chair, and looked up at the prison walls, that were made grey and indistinct by the clouded moon and falling rain. Religion had changed him even more than the ravages of disease. His true self had awakened, and the beauty of it had devoured the Satanic expression that was wont to lie upon his countenance. His face fairly beamed with a light that came from within, where his soul stirred now free from sin's fetters.

He was conducted by the keeper through the windings of the sombre corridors to the cell of Constance, who greeted him with the words:

"Now, Adrian, we can excuse wantonness in the devil, but never slothfulness in religion. We have no shrines here as abroad; what has kept thee from thy captive cousin?"

"I am not late, Constance; thou art impatient, and as for shrines, I carry one in my heart all the time, and thou must have one, too—"

"Damn! We have no time to prate. I must get out of this vile hole.—Hast thou seen the devil Duchess lately?"

"Aye, yesterday I saw her riding out. She is very beautiful, but she has changed—"

"Changed—how?"

"She has grown fleshy—"

"Ah! say not 'fleshy' but fat! fat! Now what good fortune is this? The Duke will be getting a divorce, for he doth abominate a fat woman. Good, good! I must see her. I shall pay her a visit before I leave for France."

"Thou wilt have far to journey, for they leave at once for Ellswold. The case will be settled within a few days at most."

"A few days at most? Legal folderol, a mere shade of a trial. Aye; I must see her Grace. I have a message for her."

"I will serve thee; Constance, I will take thy message—" Adrian was interrupted by the entrance of the gaoler, who brought in cordial juleps. Her ladyship made the fellow drink, before she would allow him to go. Then, as he left them again, she said,—

"Thou canst not; it is a message no one can deliver but me," and as if to seal her words she poured down a good, round bumper.

"What dost mean, Constance? Thou art too subtle for me!"

"Too subtle? Hast thou lost the art of penetration? Then I'll tell thee, thou—the 'Ranter,' as they call thee. Thou who hast become Bunyan's squire. I am going to poison my lady or give her a dagger thrust. She must die."

"Thou art the devil, Constance; but there is one who can outwit the devil, and he will do it, too."

"What hast thou to say about it?"

"Thou shalt not do it."

"What wilt thou do to prevent it?"

"I will put the house of Ellswold on their guard."

"Thou wilt not help me to escape, and thou wilt run with tales to Ellswold. Thou wouldst keep me here, that I might soon die, so thou couldst have my estates. Poor, puny thing, that art upon death's threshold now. Thou wouldst have me die, so thou couldst live luxuriously and use as much of my wealth as thou couldst, leaving behind a paltry residue for the Crown. Thou wouldst indeed!" said Constance, scornfully, as she fumbled in the folds of her dress for the small bottle hidden there.

"Constance," said Cantemir, under his breath, as he lifted one of the mixtures before him, "thou must not kill. Let me awaken thy better nature—"

"Nay; she must die!"

"I will not remain longer with thee, if thou dost hold such foul intent. Take back thy words. I will give thee no rest until thou dost. There is a God who will sweeten thy ill feeling for Katherine—"

"Shut thy mouth, fool!" and she spoke with such fury Adrian's heart sank within him, and his head fell upon his arms upon the table. "Thou wilt have a season of prayer, then; so be it. Maybe, if thou prayest with thy whole heart for sixty seconds, mine will change," and as she said the words, she dropped some deadly thing into his glass.

The wine was not moved nor discoloured, and as Cantemir raised his head, took hold upon it, and lifted and drank it nearly half.

"I love thee, cousin, with a Christian spirit, and I cannot see thee lose thy—soul." A shiver passed through his thin frame, and when he again began to speak, he drooled sick'ningly. "I say thou shalt not—kill her—and some one—else says it—I will watch thee in spirit—"

Constance wished him to die quickly, that she might not be obliged to look upon prolonged horrors. She could easily arrange his position, with his head upon the table, to look quite natural, as if in drunken sleep, and when the keeper came, she would give him a like portion, before he could make any discovery, and when they were both despatched, she would don Cantemir's attire and take the keeper's keys and be gone. She quickly poisoned another glass, then looked at Cantemir. So horrible was the glassy glare in his eye, she made as if to arise from the table, but he leant over and grasped her hand. Constance' face was livid with fear, and beside, she heard the gaoler. As the keys were turned in the door, Cantemir's head dropped back against the chair, and he sat upright, but dead; his hand fastened tight upon his cousin's. She screamed and fell, half-fainting, across the table. The keeper sprung to her aid, and took hold of the full goblet of wine and pressed it to her lips. She tried to recover herself, seeming to know 'twas not the time to indulge in a fainting fit; but the strain was too much, her body was stronger than her mind, and she mechanically took the goblet and poured the contents down her throat. A thought must have come to her with the rapidity of lightning, for she jerked the goblet from her mouth, spilling the dark fluid over her. She glared at the empty cup with distended eyeballs, and screaming once wildly, fell heavily across the table.

It had turned out differently and better than Buckingham had thought; and after making a hasty trip into France, whence he was immediately recalled by his King—who was luxuriating in the easement of pecuniary difficulties—he journeyed to Ellswold to present to the young Duchess certain rare laces, gems and porcelains he had found—so he intimated—among the Russian Count's possessions.



CHAPTER XXV

THE GARDEN OF YOUTH

The meeting of Katherine and her father was a joyous one. As Sir John pressed her to his heart, Janet knelt at his feet, kissing the hand he held out to her. And there stood by the Duke of Ellswold and Sir Julian, the latter having received at last the most gracious welcome from the Duchess.

But yet Pomphrey was not happy; his conscience troubled him beyond measure. So he set about to make himself right with the world. He argued that adoration should be given to God only, and when one was so selfish and thoughtless to give it to another being, it was time he looked to his soul. And for the correction of this serious fault, he left Ellswold and went into France, and in a short time became a devout religieux.

Lady Bettie Payne was so wrought upon by this great change in Sir Julian's life, for a fortnight she remained within her chamber, trying to feel what 'twould be like to live the life of a nun. But this season of devotion was suddenly interrupted by a visit from St. Mar, of whom she was very fond. He asked her hand in marriage and was accepted.

In course of time a family of three boys and two girls were born to the Duke and Duchess. A great christening party was in preparation. The Duchess was worried about the christening robe, that had not yet arrived, and she said to Janet,—

"Indeed, Janet, this delay reminds me of my anxiety over the chests that were to bring me my first finery—dost remember, at Crandlemar?"

"Aye. It does not take much of a memory to think back seven years!"

"Seven years! Why, Janet, thou art growing old!"

"Nay, sweet Mistress; but the two generations I now nurse are very young."

"'Tis true.—But what thinkest thou could detain the chest? Father Pomphrey cannot be kept waiting for a christening robe. And to think of Lady Ann being baptized in a common frock! 'Twould make Bettie St. Mar laugh; she already feels quite jealous because we are the first to have Father Pomphrey. And methinks, Janet, now that she is in expectancy—she will so vibrate 'twixt France and England,—fearing she will not be near Father Pomphrey for the christening—that little Julian and Francois will forget which is home."

"She need not do that; he could go to France."

"Nay, not so; for he leaves at once for Rome and will not return to England ere summer, meaning not to stop at all in France."

"Ah! that makes me think of what I heard him say to Monsieur St. Mar in the nursery. 'Twas something about a christening. Monsieur said: 'Thou art expected at Crandlemar Castle?' and Father Pomphrey answered: 'Aye, sometime before next Michaelmas.'"

"Then Lady Bettie will remain in England mayhap."

"'Tis possible."

"What did he say of the children, Janet?"

"Of my lord Duke's and thine?"

"Aye."

"He said not a word of them in particular, but fondled all alike, calling each by name, and now I think on't, I wonder he could remember a dozen or so, when he has not yet been three days in the castle. 'Twas 'Lady Mary' and 'Sir Jasper' and 'Lady Jane' and 'Lady Kate' and 'Lord Ivor'; and for each he had a story. And Monsieur grew tired, and my lord Duke asked Sir Julian if the children did not tire him also, and he answered: 'Duke, there is a peculiarly wholesome knowledge that we cannot obtain save through a child's mind; and while in the companionship of children, we are surrounded by a field of flowers, whose glory fructifies the good germ within us, and Wisdom—that tallest flower, that knows no harvest—springs up at prime, blossoms forth at compline and grows a fragrant staff, upon which man leans in the night of life.' Then they walked away, and I heard no more."

"Dear Father Pomphrey—" Then for a moment the Duchess looked with a far-away expression out upon the snow-covered landscape, then, on a sudden, she said, almost pettishly,—"But, Janet, what keeps the chest?"

"Perhaps 'tis Providence."

"What dost mean; how Providence?"

"Thou hast ordered the robe to be so perfect, so in accordance with the Royal mode, the child will be in torment. Indeed, I am afraid 'twill make the little lady ill to be so encased. Ah! but thou art great folk, and, as Dent hath said, such people 'spend their time in tricking and trimming, pricking and pinning, pranking and pouncing, girding and lacing and braving up themselves in most exquisite manner;—these doubled and redoubled ruffles, these strouting fardingales, long locks and fore tufts;—it was never a good world since starching and steeling, buskes and whalebones, supporters and rebatoes, full moons and hobbyhorses came into use.' I doubt not that Father Pomphrey himself will demur at such cruelty."

But the chest came in time, and Katherine was satisfied.

The castle was filled with guests, and the nurseries full of bright young children waiting impatiently to be taken to the great picture-gallery, where, under the limned faces of many generations, the christening was to take place.

An altar had been raised; and upon it was the golden service, a little apart the font, and upon either side of the long gallery were flowers banked 'neath specially honoured portraits.

At the appointed hour the children defiled down the long room, then came the other guests, and finally Sir Julian Pomphrey in his robe of office—Father Pomphrey, so elegant, loving, good; a princely priest. Then came Janet with little Lady Ann in her arms; the child appearing like an Egyptian mummy in white bands. The Duke and Duchess looked handsome and proud, And when the celebration was concluded, all form was dissipated, the children gathering about the youngster for a "peep," then scampered to the flowers. And as the elder folk looked on, some one opined that the human nosegay was more gorgeous of apparel and glow of cheek than the Ayrshire rose or the twisted eglantine. Then suddenly the children gathered about a single portrait of remarkable rich colouring, and little Lady Margaret came running and saying with a lisp,—

"Come, see, Father; 'tis the prettiest picture here, and there are no flowers 'neath it."

"What, no flowers?" and Father Pomphrey looked down in feigned surprise.

"Why, here is a flower!" and the child lifted a crushed immortelle from the parquetry and gave it to the priest, who quickly made the sign of the cross and said something almost inaudible about the flower being prophetic; and then he leant close to the child's ear, saying,—

"Will Lady Margaret do something for Father Pomphrey?"

"Aye, anything—"

"Remember always to pray for the soul of Lady Constance Clarmot." Then raising the flower, he said abstractedly,—"What gems of thought we find in the Garden of Youth!"

THE END

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6
Home - Random Browse