"Yes," promised Patsy. "I don't know about princesses, but I do know that many girls must have loved you, Uncle Julian, for that is the reason you are so sweet to me now!"
* * * * *
Julian's chief ally in the county was Miss Aline Minto of Balmacminto, who lived at Ladykirk. She was wealthy, but had been so shy of men that she had escaped numberless wooers, sorely enamoured of the Balmacminto estates, and now at the age of forty-five showed the prettiest fringes of white curls in the world, a complexion of seventeen, and something so trustful and rare in the way of brown eyes that Raeburn, at the height of his fame, had painted her for the mere love of winsomeness in growing old.
She knew Julian's reputation and at first had kept out of his way. But when once she met him, the two had become comrades on the spot. Miss Aline saw that this man had no designs either upon her or upon the estates. A kindly aloofness from all such mean projects, an ease and grace that spoke of worlds quite unrealized by Miss Aline, somehow urged her to confide in him. In a month he had become indispensable. Miss Aline asked his advice and called upon Julian Wemyss for aid in all circumstances.
He found her a new factor, carrying on the duties till the new young man (from his own solicitor's office) was installed. He waited with Miss Aline the portentous visit of Sir Bunny Bunny, Bart., of Crawhall. He came to demand the honour of her hand for his clodhopping son, George Bunny Bunny, who hitherto had only distinguished himself by shooting a keeper in the leg, by frightening village children gathering violets and daisies, and by going to the wars with a troop of horse raised in the neighbourhood, only to be sent back again for incompetence. He had, since then, been the chief support of the press-gang in the neighbourhood, and, if he had not been so much despised, might have been hated. But he had enough sense to restrain from active interference with the Free Traders, for, owing to a personal dislike for violence in any form which might endanger his skin, he kept clear of press-gang scrimmages, confining himself to assisting Superintendent McClure with such information as the Easterhall coast-line afforded.
The baronet himself was a keen-eyed, long-nosed old gentleman, with many times the spirit of his son. He had been accustomed all his life to getting his own way, except with his wife. Even at Castle Raincy he had known how to cow the gentle mother of Louis Raincy, though something dangerous in the boy's eye had led him to let Louis alone.
"The spark of mad Raincy blood is in the whelp," he confided to his friends; "the same his grandfather has. They can look positively murderous sometimes."
Sir Bunny was taken aback to find Julian waiting for him in Miss Aline's white and gold drawing-room at Ladykirk.
"Am I, then, to congratulate you?" he said to Julian Wemyss, with false good nature.
"You are," said Julian calmly, "upon the friendship and trust of the best woman in the world. Anything else I should consider impertinence and know how to resent as such!"
"I desire to see Miss Aline," said Sir Bunny, to cut short a conversation which might easily become unpleasant.
"Certainly," said Julian carelessly, as if he were saying the lightest of nothings; "but I think you will find that I could have answered you quite as well."
"How so?" said the baronet, glowering at him, his fingers twitching to take this courtly, easy-spoken man by the throat.
"Because you come to propose your son, Mr. George, for the honour of the hand of Miss Aline Minto. Miss Aline can say 'No' for herself. But I think you had better not trouble her and content yourself with the indication I give you."
"And what is that?"
"That Miss Aline prefers to remain as she is!"
The baronet, however, insisted on a personal answer. Miss Aline came in and stood shyly while Sir Bunny pointed out the advantages of his proposal—the estates joined, the parish under control, and the family name changed by poll deed to Minto-Bunny-Bunny.
"I am obliged for your thinking of me," said Miss Aline sweetly, "but for the present I have no intention of marrying."
"I warn you," said Sir Bunny Bunny, "that by continuing to act as you are doing, you are exposing yourself to misconstruction—"
Julian Wemyss, who had been looking out of the window, turned suddenly and caught his eye.
Old Sir Bunny was no coward, but he shrank from the look of Julian Wemyss as if it had been a knife at his breast.
"I mean," he said, "that Miss Aline, gracious and youthful as she is, ought to remember that youth does not last for ever!"
He thought he had turned the matter off rather neatly, and was surprised when Julian merely shrugged his shoulders and turned again to the window. Presently Sir Bunny Bunny made his bow and departed, cursing the interference of Julian Wemyss in what had long been the desire of his heart, the union of the Bunny Bunny properties with those of Balmacminto. He had thought about it so long that it had become to his mind an accomplished fact. Indeed, he had only been waiting for his loutish son George to finish his wild-oat sowing before communicating the news of her good fortune to Miss Aline.
He was still more astonished on the way home from Ladykirk. An officer, riding, checked at his approach, and, with a sketched salute, reined his steed long enough to ask, "Do you know where Mr. Julian Wemyss is to be found? He is to go home immediately. His Royal Highness the Duke is at Abbey Burnfoot!"
"What duke?" the baronet fairly gasped.
"The Duke of Lyonesse, of course, on his way from Ireland," said the officer, "he was junior attache to Mr. Wemyss at Vienna!"
"Good God!" said the baronet, "I wonder if Wemyss will bring him to Bunny House."
And he offered to ride with the officer to where Julian might be found. The adjutant took one look at the plethoric proportions of the baronet's mount, and answered that he was in a hurry. A simple indication would be enough for him. Whereupon, with some reluctance, Sir Bunny pointed to the chimneys of Ladykirk quietly reeking through the trees, and with a hasty lift of his reins the officer rode on, leaving the baronet staring after him, wondering whether he ought to tell his wife, or if he should leave her to find out for herself.
His brain wheeled. For Julian Wemyss, whom none of them, except Miss Aline, had chosen to know, was receiving at his house, hitherto the eyesore and scandal of the neighbourhood, a Prince of the blood Royal. After all, there must have been something in that talk of great ladies heartbroken because of this Julian Wemyss, in whom the county saw nothing, and in whose ambassadorship they had refused to believe, even though his resignation of it so unexpectedly had been commented upon in the Edinburgh Magazine, which was taken in by Sir Bunny and passed round afterwards from house to house.
What could so great a man find to do there? In a distant and disdainful fashion Sir Bunny knew Abbey Burnfoot. It was not even a mansion—merely a new-fangled sort of cottage at the best—built in Italian fashion, they said, but after all, only two score yards of garden, with a narrow rim of links overgrown with sea pink and ground holly. It was stuck ridiculously in between the white sands and the pour of the Abbey Burn—no drives or pleasances, no cropped hedges and trim parterres—nothing, in short, which Royalty had a right to expect when visiting a real gentleman's country seat, such as he flattered himself could be found at Bunny House in the shire of Wigton.
It did not occur to Sir Bunny Bunny, with his poor little squireen's point of view, that His Royal Highness might possibly come to see, not long avenues and close cropped hedges, but his old kind chief of Constantinople and Vienna.
So he was forced to content himself with many shakings of his head, and muttering that the country was going to the dogs when princes consorted with beggars or little better, as he rode off home to Bunny House in desperate fear of what his wife Lady Bunny would say when he got there.
THE LADS IN THE HEATHER
Patsy came into her uncle Julian's drawing-room in her most tempestuous manner. She had been for a gallop along the sands on Stair Garland's pony and had beaten Louis de Raincy's Honeypot by a length. She was in high feather, and as she tramped along the cool parqueted hall she kept calling out, "Uncle Ju—where are you, Uncle Ju?"
When she opened the door and dashed in she disturbed the conference of three men by the window, one of whom was in uniform, and the other two dressed in the latest fashion, of which Patsy had as yet only seen prints at the end of her uncle's Town and Country Magazine—a review which, curiously enough, always lacked some of its pages by the time Patsy was allowed to see it.
"Oh," said Patsy, no ways abashed, "you have come to see my uncle—will you be seated?"
Patsy noticed that the tallest of the young men made a slight sign to his companions, and that they sat down as if in answer to that signal instead of accepting her invitation at once.
"We have indeed come a long distance in order to call on Mr. Julian Wemyss," said the young man of the signal. "I knew him at Vienna, and as I was passing through from Ireland, I took this opportunity of paying my respects to him. But it is better still to find such a charming young lady installed in his house to do the honours!"
"Oh," said Patsy, "I do not live here, but with my father at the other end of the glen. I only come every day to cheer him up—Uncle Ju is so apt to get the 'pokes'!"
"The 'pokes'—what are they?" exclaimed the tall and ruddy young man, who continued to stare at her in a manner which would have discountenanced any other than Patsy.
"The 'pokes' are what you get if you are left too long alone with all these shelves, especially if you stop indoors to read them. Then I come and take Uncle Julian out, and he feels better before I have gone a mile with him!"
"So you are a remedy for the 'pokes,'" said the young man, drawing his chair nearer to that of Patsy, as if to show his interest. "I often have the disease, though with me it does not come from reading too many books. But I should gladly take the malady that I might taste of the antidote!"
And Patsy felt her face flush with the intensity of his regard. She cast down her eyes, and the young man took advantage of the fact to signal slightly to his friends. One after the other they rose and, with an excuse, left the room.
The tall young man came gradually closer to Patsy till she started to her feet, merely to break the nervous tension. An instinctive repulsion sent her to the window, and, then, though he followed her, she somehow felt safe. There were the familiar sands, and in a moment she could be outside where none could touch her. After all, she thought, as she looked at the white line of the breakers and heard the familiar clatter of the servants in the kitchen below, she was a fool to be so idiotically nervous, like a fine smelling-salts lady. What could happen to her? What if she did not like this very forward young man? He was a guest of her Uncle Julian's—he might even be his friend. Very likely he meant no harm, and she would treat him just like anybody else. Yes, that would be best.
"Ah," said the young man, leaning over her as she stood looking out, "if only I had been at that cottage on the hills with the officers the other day! I would have given a thousand guineas for their luck. But now that I am fortunate enough to have you to myself for a moment, let me say how much I admire you, Miss Patsy—that is your name, I think?"
Patsy did not answer. She had one hand on the sill and was wondering if the young man were mad or only drunk—also how long it would take for her to be safe among the heather.
"You are far too fine and beautiful," he continued, "too bewitching and original to remain here. You must come to London and take your place among our reigning beauties. Ah, if only you would trust to one who adores you, one who would do anything in the world for you—"
"If you mean yourself, will you help me to wind wool?" said Patsy. "I have a pair of heather-mixture stockings to make for uncle. I promised to make them for him last Christmas and I only began them yesterday."
"Certainly," said the young man, visibly discountenanced, "but can your uncle not wait a little longer? I wish to talk to you. It was solely for that purpose I came here, believe me. I had heard of you from Captain Laurence, and young Everard, one of the officers of the Britomart, in which I came from Ireland. I was over there governing the island for my father!"
"Ah, were you?" said Patsy, "well, here is the wool. Can you wind it? No! Then you had better hold it. That, at least, you can do.—Well, there you are, remember I shall find you out if you are boasting."
"But I have got much to say to you!" the young man objected.
"I can listen better on my feet. I must be doing something. There—sit down on that three-legged 'creepie,' and, whatever you do, do not tangle the wool."
Patsy was resolved that, whatever she might do in the future, she would now take the matter lightly, and not insult her uncle's guest in the drawing-room of Abbey Burnfoot.
* * * * *
When Julian Wemyss returned in haste from Miss Aline's, he found no less a person than H.R.H. the Duke of Lyonesse seated on a stool holding wool for Patsy, who wound a ball with rapid, nimble fingers while she scolded a delighted Great Personage for his mismanagement. Two gentlemen, of whom one was Captain Laurence, stood outside and waited gravely, as indeed became them. But the Duke of Lyonesse was in the highest spirits and really gave himself to his task, knitting his brows and striving to follow Patsy's instructions to the letter.
"It is a long time since I heard so much truth about myself," said the Duke. "I own I am both stupid and awkward, but then, by gad, I am willing to learn!"
"People who are stupid and awkward ought not to offer," said Patsy. "I am sure that Captain Laurence, whom you sent away, could do it a great deal better."
"I can't give up the honour even to my friend Laurence," said the Prince. "In for a penny, in for a pound. I must conquer this art or be for ever disgraced in this lady's eyes, and, therefore, in my own!"
"You should practise before boasting of what you can do," said Patsy. "Make Captain Laurence wind for you an hour each morning, and in a little while you will be able to knit your own stockings."
"By gad," said his Highness, "that is a good idea. Will you teach me? Often when I was at Constantinople and also at sea I wished I had something to help the time to pass besides stupid books!"
He glanced about him at the crowded shelves. "Though I know your uncle does not think them stupid," he added, with some sense of an apology due; "but then we cannot all be so clever as he!"
"I should think not, indeed," said Patsy sharply, "nor half so handsome!"
The two gentlemen at the door glanced at one another, but the Duke of Lyonesse did not wince. He went on carefully slanting his hands time about to let the wool slip round, bending his thumbs to act as a drag and obeying his task-mistress to the best of his ability.
"That has always been the opinion of your sex all the world over," he said gravely, "if Julian Wemyss entered for a race, what was left for the others but the Consolation Stakes? But you, at least, are a stake for which he cannot enter!"
A quick, light footstep passed through the hall and the door opened.
"Ah, Wemyss," cried the Duke, "don't interrupt, like a good fellow. I am on my promotion. Your niece has been dressing me down. I hope to do better after a while. Besides, we have just been saying how perfectly irresistible you are, and how the ladies love you. You ought to be grateful for that at any rate."
The last threads ran swiftly over the opened fingers, and Patsy deftly slid the end into the ball, said "Thank you," and, with a curtsey, went out by the way of the French window leading to the garden, leaving the men to themselves.
"Jove," said the Duke, looking after her through the window, "where and how did you find such a treasure? No wonder you gave up Paris for this. Like Henry of Navarre, I should give up both Paris and France for such a mass—a real exile's consolation, good faith. Wemyss, you used to make me read about Ovid starving for years in the Danube swamps, but this would be consolation for an exile if he had to roof in the pole to make himself a house."
"I am sorry," said Julian, somewhat formally, "that I was not in time to introduce you to my only sister's only daughter, my niece and heiress, Miss Patricia Wemyss Ferris of Cairn Ferris."
"I beg your pardon," said his Highness. "Captain Laurence made us laugh so much at a tale he was telling, that I fear the introductions were a little slipshod. I shall make my apologies to the young lady when I have the opportunity of bettering the acquaintance."
Julian Wemyss knew very well what was the story which Laurence had been retailing—that of the disappointed man-hunters at the bothy in the Wild of Blairmore. But he said nothing, and proceeded to make his young friend at home in his house of Abbey Burnfoot. He made no apologies. There was need of none. At Varna and in the little towns along the Illyrian coast his pupil and he had often had to share far humbler accommodation.
For though Julian Wemyss lived apart from the world, he kept a small yacht to keep him in comfortable touch with the outside markets. The passage to Glasgow was an easy one. Dumfries and the Cumberland ports were open to him, and so, with the foreign articles which were found in his outer cellars after a trip of the Good Intent (master and owner, Captain Penman), no house in the county could produce at short notice so excellent and various a bill of fare.
A place had been set at dinner for Patsy, but it remained empty. Patsy had simply disappeared. No one had seen her about the shore, nor had she been met with along the dusky alders and dimpling birches of the path by the burnside. Neither had it pleased her to reappear at Cairn Ferris, whither Julian had been careful to send an inquiry.
Such conduct, however, did not seriously disquiet anybody, for Patsy's ways were too erratic and the country too safe (so long, at least, as she kept to the Ferris properties) for any one to harbour serious fears about her.
And, indeed, there was no cause. Patsy had no idea of going off her father's lands. She had simply taken a scamper over the Rig of Blairmore, keeping to the deeper cover of the hollows till she came to the nook that sheltered the bothy. Here she glanced within, but all was empty, swept and garnished. There was no sign about the place of any recent occupation.
All was trim and well-kept as she had left it—dust being unknown on the Wild of Blairmore. But in the little hiding-place which ordinarily held the key, a small rock-cupboard beneath a couple of great boulders, fallen thwart-wise across one another like drunken men embracing, she found a strip of twisted paper. Patsy thought that it contained a message from Jean, but in a moment she recognized the aggressive penmanship of Stair Garland.
"If you want me, stand five minutes on Peden's Stone!"
That was all, but Patsy knew that Stair had all the time been watching over her in some wild, sudden-swooping, peregrine falcon-fashion of his own. He had left the warning if she should happen to visit the Bothy while it was being watched for the return of the young men whom the "press" had missed on the day of Patsy's wild race in the yellow sandals.
Now, save that it might pleasure the boy, Patsy had no special reason for wishing to see Stair Garland. But it would certainly be well for her to talk with his sister Jean. She wished to do this without going to the farm itself. Her absence from her uncle would soon be noticed, and as she had not appeared at her father's house of Cairn Ferris, it was to Glenanmays that any searchers would go first. She was therefore wishful to speak to Jean and ask her opinion of the visitors who had taken possession of her uncle's house at the Burnfoot.
So with circumspection she crossed the pebbly bed of the Mays Water and climbed up into a crater-like amphitheatre from the edge of which a flat block of stone jutted out. It was told in the "persecuting" lore of the parish that the great "Peden the Prophet" had often used it as a pulpit, his congregation being seated round the semi-circle and the Mays Water birling and singing handily below in case of children to be baptized.
Patsy stood on the stone, all trodden smooth by the restless feet of the hill lambs which in spring came from the most distant parts of the moor to gambol there. She could look both up and down the water, but for a while she saw nothing of Stair.
But the five minutes were not up, when, from a thick tuft of broom, she heard the call of the whin-chat, like a tiny hammer ringing on hard stone. The sound came from up the water and Patsy moved towards it, stepping deftly from stone to stone in the bed of the stream.
"Stair," she said softly, "where are you, Stair?" A full swathe of broom moved itself aside, and she could see Stair Garland lying in a rocky niche which he had prepared long before, in case of such a very probable emergency as the officers of the excise coming after him.
The barrel of his long gun looked over his shoulder.
"Go on, Patsy," he said, "walk on up the burn as if you had seen nothing and I shall be with you in a moment."
She had reached a little knoll, crowned with alder bushes, when she found him entering from the opposite side. Sitting down, she told him of the Duke's coming to Abbey Burnfoot, and of the two gentlemen who were with him, Captain Laurence and Lord Wargrove.
"Ah," said Stair, "so it is for that we have a full squadron of dragoons camped in our barns at Glenanmays, the stable emptied of our own horses to make room for those of the dragoons, and the whole house turned upside down. I thought it was too big a force to be sent after the three of us."
"Fergus and Agnew are still away, then?" queried Patsy, sure that they were.
"They are in the heather, like myself," he chuckled, "but neither of them has such a choice of hidie-holes as I have. I can hide better and lie closer, besides keeping a watch on the farm and on you, Miss Patsy, with the soldiers all about within the shot of a gun."
"Can you bring Jean to me, Stair?" said Patsy, "it will be hard, I know, with all those men on the watch at Glenanmays."
Stair flushed a little with the joy of a difficult commission. He whistled shrilly three times, and then sat quite still listening. Then he whistled thrice more and the echoes had hardly died away before the wise, towsy head of a rough collie with the big, brown eyes of the genuine Galloway sheep-dog peered out of the bracken and long grass of the burnside. He came silently and expectantly to his master, as if he enjoyed the game as much as any one.
"Here, Whitefoot," said Stair, and the dog came obediently to his side. He wore on his neck a plain leather collar, which his master undid. In one place the inside leather was doubled but held tight when worn by Whitefoot, owing to the roughness of the dog's mane of hair. Stair pushed back the understrap, and taking a piece of paper from his waistcoat wrote upon it the figure "2" very large and clear. Then he shook a forefinger before Whitefoot's moist nose, and said with emphasis the single word "Jean."
The dog lifted his forepaws a little clear of the ground, and, as it were, barked without noise, making an eager, half-strangled noise in his throat to show he understood.
"Jean!" Stair repeated.
"A-owch!" whispered the dog, his tail wagging violently and his eyes fairly blazing.
"Go!" said Stair, and the next moment the tall bracken had closed on Whitefoot. Not the tremor of a leaf, not the swaying of a rag-weed told Patsy which way he had gone. In these days the very dogs had been trained to run invisibly and to bark under their breaths. The Traffic and the "press," but especially the latter, had silenced much of the immemorial mirth of the farm-towns. The shadow of the war cloud rested on the ancient Free Province. The lads might 'list, but they would not be "pressed." "A lad gaen to the wars" or "a lassie fa'en wrang" were the utmost shame that could fall upon any Galloway household, and of the two the lassie was more readily forgiven than the lad with the colours.
"I shall wait till Jean comes," said Stair, a little shame-facedly, because he understood that the girls would naturally wish to talk of their own affairs. "I must see how the spurred gentry are behaving themselves up at the farm."
But to assure Patsy of his complete disinterestedness, he went to the edge of alder-clump and stood there leaning on his gun. He watched keenly the twisting links of the Mays Water, a silver chain flung carelessly in the sun, cut with gun-metal coloured patches where it sulked a while in shadowy pools. Whitefoot would do his duty. Of that there was no doubt whatever. He would find Jean. He would attract her attention. Jean would go out to the dairy, whither Whitefoot would follow. There the collar would be opened, the paper taken out, and she would soon be on her way for that one of Stair's trysting-places which bore the number "2" on the list he had given her.
Presently out of the tall grass of the lower meadow the head and shoulders of Jean Garland appeared. He could see her wading breast-deep along the rag-weed and the meadow-sweet. The faint wind-furrow which preceded her showed where Whitefoot, still invisible, guided the girl to the exact clump of undergrowth where Patsy and Stair were waiting.
After a little they could see, emerging likewise, the cocked ears, the shaggy head and eager brown eyes of Whitefoot as he turned at every other yard to make sure that Jean was following, and appreciating all his cleverness. At the edge of the clump of dull green alders he drew back to let her pass, as much as to say, "There now—you can do the rest—go on and see for yourself if I have not guided you aright."
Jean came upon her brother first. He was still leaning with one hand on his gun and the opposite elbow crooked about the hole of a tree.
"All right up there?" he demanded in a low tone, indicating the farm with a jerk of his head.
Jean nodded without speaking. She was sure it was not merely to ask this that he had sent Whitefoot to bring her to him.
"No," said Jean, "they are all as little troublesome as they can help. There is some general or great person over at the Abbey Burn House—"
"A Royal Prince," said Stair bitterly, "go on, Jean. I think it is about him that Patsy wishes to speak to you! Keep Whitefoot by you, and if you want me he will know where to find me."
Jean disappeared, and in another moment had found her friend. In the snuggest nook of the shelter afforded by the alder undergrowth the two sat down.
Then Patsy revealed to Jean her invincible fear and dislike of the royal visitor whom she had seen at her uncle's. She had seen something glitter for a moment in his eyes which had frightened her, and though she had played her part out to the end, she had fled the moment after to consult with Jean, a wise maid for her years and the only soul in the world fully in Patsy's confidence.
"Uncle Julian cannot help me this time," she said, "he is the man's friend. He would believe no ill of him. And, indeed, I have nothing really to put before him. Men want evidence, not impressions. If I were to say to my Uncle Julian that I was afraid of the man's eyes, he would only call me a little fool and tell me to look the other way!"
Patsy found Jean exceedingly comforting. Jean understood without having to have things explained, without asking questions. She shelved the doubt as to whether Patsy was under a misapprehension. Patsy was afraid. Patsy had seen, therefore, the thing was so. That is the reason why girls reveal themselves one to the other and why their friendships are often durable. They may quarrel like two little spitfires, and mostly do, but—they respect each other's intuitions.
So that as soon as Jean was in possession of Patsy's fear of an unknown hovering danger, she called out to Stair, "Don't go far away—we may need you!"
To understand Patsy's feeling it must be remembered that she had been accustomed from her earliest infancy to hear of the wild deeds of the King's sons—how this one had carried off an actress, another made prize of a young lady of fashion—the Regent, the Dukes of York and Cumberland had set the fashion. The younger princes had out-princed their elders, and there was not a gossip in the countryside but could retail their latest enormities with loud outcries of horror, yet with an undercurrent of the curious popular feeling that, after all, it rather became young princes so to misconduct themselves.
If the Duke of Lyonesse had been less talked about than his brothers, it was only because his long residence abroad had blunted the edge of calumny. For in his case the women were French or Austrians, and it seemed quite natural that such things should befall "foreigners."
All this made a background to Patsy's fear of the Prince, but there remained something else as well. Patsy had never been afraid before—and she was not quite sure whether she liked it or not.
THE BLACK PEARL OF CAIRN FERRIS
"Never was such a pearl—a black pearl—yes, but worth a thousand of your drowsy blondes. I am damnably obliged to that recruiting fellow—what is his wretched Scotch name—oh, McClure—for signalling such a treasure to a man who can appreciate her. You, Laurence, would have been long enough without opening your mouth. You had, I dare say, some idea of paying court in that quarter on your own account. Well, I am your superior officer and you must stand aside. But if you back me up now, I swear that you shall be gazetted Colonel in a month."
It was thus that the Duke of Lyonesse, in the guest-chamber which Julian Wemyss had prepared for him, announced his intentions as to the niece of his host and sometime chief. The young men of the blood royal in those days considered such things as marks of honour paid by them, and, indeed, the old Arabella Churchill tradition was still so fresh, that they had some excuse for so thinking.
It was, indeed, to see the marvel of the Bothy of Blairmore that the Prince had come so far out of his road. He was on his way back from Ireland where, as usual, he had been sent, somewhat optimistically, to solve the Irish question. As the Prince who could easily most be spared, he had been ordered to show himself in the regions which had been convulsed by the rising of '98. He had escaped without hurt and was now on his way Londonwards. So he could afford to halt a while to behold a wonder of grace and beauty. The dangers of his Irish campaign deserved at least some recompense.
Besides Everard of the Britomart had talked at some length to him. The girl of the yellow sandals whom the "press" had found in the Bothy of Blairmore, was still the talk of the officers' mess when that ship had been sent to Belfast Lough to ferry successful Royalty over to a more peaceful country.
Captain Laurence felt at least something of shame at the position in which he found himself, but in the presence of the Duke and his evil counsellor, Lord Wargrove, he was compelled to be silent. He could not even send a message to the girl's father, for the Prince's suite and the senior officers of his regiment were the guests of Adam Ferris at Cairn Ferris.
"Your Highness will remember," he ventured to suggest, "that these Galloway squires are apt to carry the vendetta rather far. They are not so easily bought off with a title as others farther south."
"Nonsense," said the Duke, "if the girl's father does not see reason—why, Julian Wemyss at least knows what is good for his niece. She had better be a peeress in her own right and married with the left hand to my father's son, than stay here to spend her life with the first clodhopper who will make her his housekeeper, instead of, what she was born to be, the toast of London society."
"You are sure about the title," queried my Lord Wargrove cynically, "or are you only going to promise like the rest of them?"
"Oh," said the Duke, "I am sure George owes me more than that. I am the only one of our family who has never pestered him. Besides, I have got him out of one or two difficult ditches in his life, and he will give me the title right enough if I get the girl."
"There will be some difficulty," said my Lord, thoughtfully rubbing his chin with his forefinger; "we shall have to depend on our own devices. The only great land-owner about here is old De Raincy up at the castle yonder. He hates the Ferrises like poison, but I do not see myself going up there and asking for the loan of his best horses in order to carry off his enemy's daughter! A nice clean murder he might not object to as a fitting finish to the Ferris line, but not what your Royal Highness proposes to himself."
The Duke waved his hand carelessly.
"All that is for you to arrange—what else are you for? You are my Master of the Horse, and as I have none at present, it is your business to provide some for me! Now good-night to you—I must see that girl again to-morrow. Gad, when I once get her safe to Lyonesse House, she shall wear the cross-gartered sandals, the blue skirt with the red sash, and if London does not bow down and worship, I am no true son of my father."
* * * * *
But the next day Patsy was still absent, greatly to the annoyance of the Duke. He had counted on a difficult but not unwilling captive. He judged from her easy familiarity in the matter of the wool-winding that he would have little difficulty in persuading her to make a dash for the liberty which would also be glory.
But all the morning the Duke waited in vain, and the strange thing about it was that neither at Abbey Burnfoot nor at Cairn Ferris did any one appear to be concerning themselves about daughter, niece or heiress.
The Duke and his party did not know that as Adam Ferris was making his evening round of the sheep on the hill, a plaided shepherd leaped a drystone dyke ten yards in front of him, and was followed by a shaggy, brown-eyed dog. The men exchanged a few words and then each went his own way. Adam Ferris was reassured as to his daughter, and as for Uncle Julian, busy with his guests, he understood that Patsy was safe with the Garlands at Glenanmays.
But instead Stair had convoyed her, with the utmost pains of wood and heather craft, to Ladykirk, where she had been received by Miss Aline with such quiet rejoicings as the staid little gentlewoman permitted herself.
Having housed his charge, Stair set himself to establish a guard about the old house. His two brothers and half a dozen other members of the band were easy to put hands upon when wanted, but Stair needed some one above suspicion, who could come and go freely. He remembered, with a grimace, that the matter would certainly interest Louis Raincy, and accordingly he posted to Raincy Castle to find him, as soon as he had got Agnew and Fergus into position.
Louis Raincy needed no spur. In order to help he was willing to break all rules and dare all angers. He did not even pause to ask himself why Stair Garland was taking so deep a concern in the matter. Patsy was his Patsy, and he flattered himself that the young man from Glenanmays was only recognizing his rights by coming to ask for his assistance.
Louis Raincy was Galloway bred. He knew the farmers' sons of the whole district. He had always met them, played with them, and, on fit occasion, fought with them as equals. Only he did not trouble his grandfather with the closeness of his acquaintance with his neighbours. The old gentleman would neither have understood nor approved. He himself had always stood aloof, and he desired no better than that his heir should follow in his feudal footsteps.
More than this, Louis had made a trip or two with Stair Garland's Free Traders—of course, in the strictest privacy and in a disguise which was immediately penetrated by the whole convoy, though they pretended to accept Stair's statement that the young fellow with the false beard was an Isle of Man shipper who had come to see how his goods were disposed of.
The band thought no worse of Stair for trying to throw dust in their eyes, but an Isle of Man shipper in possession of two spirited Castle Raincy horses was too much for them. They laughed as they rode and wondered how the heir of Raincy would explain matters to the Earl if the business culminated in a tussle.
But Louis had come out all safe, and though he openly flouted the Free Trade with the young men of his own rank, there was no part of his past, except only his talks with Patsy in the hollow of the old beech bole, which returned to him with such a flavour of fresh, glad youth as the "run" in which he had taken part.
So now that he was again to do something which would lead him out on the hills of heather in the misty shining of the moon or under the plush-spangled glitter of the midnight stars, he went off in high spirits to take his groom into his confidence and have the horses ready.
Obscurely, however, he felt that he was about to take part in a struggle for Patsy. It was to be a fight, not so much against danger from unscrupulous dandies like the Duke of Lyonesse and his acolyte, my Lord of Wargrove, as between Stair and himself. Louis de Raincy himself was "of as good blood as the King, only not so rich," as say the Spaniards. But this restless, stern-visaged Stair Garland, with his curious Viking fixity of gaze, what was his position towards Patsy? Was it all only friendship for the confidante of his sister? Louis Raincy's own hopes and purposes were of the vaguest. He did not even know whether he himself loved Patsy, but he was quite clear on the chapter of nobody else having her if he could help it.
HIS LIFE IN HIS HAND
Louis Raincy rode right up to the door of Ladykirk and asked to see Miss Aline, with whom he had always been a great favourite. As a boy he had loved to play about her shrubberies. He remembered still the quaint smell of the damp pine-needles on the ground, the bitterness of laurel leaves which he broke across the centre and nibbled at, and above all, the long pleasant days of Miss Aline's jam-making, when he skirmished in and out and all about the kitchen and pantry, getting in everybody's way. Why, his very breath smelled sweet to himself after he had cleaned out brass pan after brass pan, with that worn spoon of horn warranted not to scratch, kept and supplied by Miss Aline for the purpose.
Now he was grown up. School and college had passed him by, and much to his own astonishment had left him in many ways as much a boy as ever. He had not been allowed to enter either of the fighting services, so he took what of adventure the country afforded—the rustic merry-making of the "Kirn" in the days of harvest home, the coastwise adventure of ships, and the midnight raid of the Free Traders with their clanking keg-irons and long defiles of pack horses crowning the fells and bending away towards the North star and safety.
Now Miss Aline greeted him cheerfully as he came in through the great doors of the courtyard which had been shut that morning for the first time since her father's funeral.
"Ah, Louis," she cried at sight of him, "it is easy to guess what brings you to my door so early in the morning. It is long since the days of the brass preserving-pan. Laddie, I'm feared that 'tis quite another berrying of sweets which brings you so fast and so far!"
"Miss Aline," said the lad, with a frankness which made the good chatelaine like him the better, "I rode over to see Patsy Ferris. I must hear what all this is about the Duke of Lyonesse."
"Nothing, so far as I can hear, Louis," said Miss Aline; "but our maid is afraid, and her father's house and her uncle's are both as full of soldiers and ribaldry as ever in the times of the Covenant. So where should she come if not to me? It was more wisely done than I could have expected from that 'fechtin' fule' of a Stair Garland."
Louis Raincy saw Patsy. She was sitting in Miss Aline's own room among the simple daintiness of many white linen "spreads" with raised broidery, the work of Miss Aline's own hands. Here she told him her determination to keep out of the way till the Prince and his train had left the country. The reasons for her instinctive dislike of her uncle's guest were not clear to any except herself, but on these Louis did not insist. It was enough that Patsy was so minded. In any case he wished her to know that he would follow the movements of the enemy with care, and warn her of their intentions. Captain Laurence, especially, was a free talker, and might let slip useful information. He, Louis, would ride over to headquarters that very afternoon, and, if Laurence was still absent, he would get an orderly to find him.
Thus was Patsy equipped with two cavaliers of courage and address, one of whom had his entries everywhere, while the other possessed the supreme skill of sea, shore, morass, hill, and heather, which comes only after generations of practice. But against them they had a man infinitely subtle and wholly without scruple. Eben McClure was of that breed of Galloway Scot, which, having been kicked and humiliated in youth for lack of strength and courage, pays back his own people by treachery with interest thereto.
The like of Eben McClure had tracked with Lag when he made his tours among his neighbours, with confiscation and fine for a main object, and the murder of this or that man of prayer, covenant-keeper or Bible-carrier, as only a wayside accident. Now Galloway is half Celtic, and the other half, at least till the Ayrshire invasion, was mostly Norse. So McClure was hated with all the Celtic vehemence which does not stop short of blood. He was the salaried betrayer of his own, and in time, unless he could make enough money and remove himself to some far hiding-place, would assuredly die the death which such men die.
Of this, of course, he was perfectly aware, and had arranged his life accordingly.
In the meantime he watched and pondered. He disguised himself and made night journeys that he might learn what would suit his purpose. He could be in turn an Irish drover, a Loch Fyne fisherman, a moor shepherd, a flourishing burgess of Lanark or Ruglen, even an enterprising spirit dealer from Edinburgh or Dundee, with facilities for storage of casks when the Solway undutied cargoes should reach these cities.
And the marvel was that in none of his personations had he yet been caught. In proof of which he was still alive, but McClure confessed to himself that it was only a matter of time. He must make a grand stroke for fortune—quick fortune, and then bolt for it. For his heart was sick with thinking on the gunshot from behind the hedge or the knife between his shoulders. He never now went to his own parish of Stonykirk where his father had been a well-doing packman—which is to say, a travelling merchant of silks and laces. McClure knew that he was in danger anywhere west of the Cree, but the danger increased as he went westwards, and in his own parish of Stonykirk there were at least a score of young blades who would have taken his life with as little thought as they would have blooded a pig—aye, and had sworn so to do, handfasted upon it, kissing alternately Bible and cold steel.
It was no difficult matter for McClure to possess himself of the unavowed reason of my Lord Wargrove's ardent search for a carriage and horses. Clearly it was for a secret purpose—one that could not be declared. Because in any other case Lord Wargrove had only to take the pair which belonged to his host, or more easily still, Adam Ferris's in the north end of the Glen. If these were not regal enough, Earl Raincy had in his stables the finest horses in the county, and would certainly, though of old Jacobite stock, not refuse them to the King's son, albeit only a Guelph. Then there was old Sir Bunny Bunny. His wife would gladly have harnessed the horses herself and put her husband on the box, if only she had suspected a desire which she could have treated as a royal command.
As for the purpose, Eben McClure was in no greater difficulty. What but a pretty woman to run away with, did any of the king's sons care for? There was but one such girl in the countryside. She had made the Duke hold wool for her—many hanks, it was said in the regiment—and he had fallen in love with her on the spot.
But that girl, whether taking alarm or to increase her value, had gone into hiding, and apparently no one knew where. It was certain that her kin at one time or another had dipped their fingers pretty deeply in the traffic. There were caves and hiding-places, which it would be death to search except with a company of sappers. And more than that, he would have to stay behind alone and face the back-stroke. He could not always ride out with the helmets of the dragoons making a hedge about him.
Now McClure was a clever man, and he had been with the soldiers that day when Whitefoot, questing for Jean, had entered the kitchen of the farm of Glenanmays. He had wondered at the persistency with which the dog had followed the girl. At first he had waited to see her give him something to eat from the debris of the meal which was being prepared for the soldiers.
But after Whitefoot had twice sniffed at the alms tossed him without touching the gift, still continuing to follow Jean, now tugging at her apron-string and now licking her hand, McClure, a man of the country, began to suspect that the dog was a messenger from one of the lost Garland boys whom they had missed so narrowly the other day in the heather of the Wild of Blairmore.
So upon Jean's departure he stepped quietly to the door and noted that she took the way down the valley towards the shore. He had not thought much about it at the time, for at the moment all chasings of smugglers and expeditions in aid of the manning of the fleet were absolutely at a standstill. The Duke's arrival on the Britomart by way of Stranryan had mobilized all the forces of order, as escorts of safety or guards of honour. So there would be no more raids till His Royal Highness was safe across the Water of Nith.
There remained to McClure the alternative of following Jean on his own responsibility, but the Stonykirker had far too great a respect for his skin to search a valley bristling like a thousand hedgehogs with all manner of thorn and gorse bushes, waved over with broom and darkened with undergrowth, any single clump of which might conceal half-a-dozen rifles, each with the eye of a sharpshooter behind it—a mere spark in the sheltering dusk, but quite enough to frighten most men in his position.
So, though strongly suspected, Jean sped on her way unopposed. McClure put the incident away in the pigeon-holes of his memory. It might be useful some day. He thought deeply upon the affair which now delayed Royalty and, incidentally, was stopping his business. If he could put the son of the King under a great obligation—he might at one stroke make his fortune and save his life. He had had enough of Galloway, and a permanent change of air was what he longed for—to a far land, under other skies, and among a people of a strange tongue, who had never heard of press-gangs and Solway smugglers.
THE WICKED LAYETH A SNARE
In the enforced leisure provided for him by the stoppage of compulsory recruitments, Eben McClure added to his knowledge. He left the men and women in the drama which was unrolling itself about Glenanmays to take care of themselves. He might not have had any the least interest in them. He gave his whole thought to Whitefoot, Stair's lean, shaggy collie.
By observation he obtained a good working knowledge of the whereabouts of Whitefoot's master—not sufficient, certainly, to act upon if it had been a case of capture. But all the same, near enough to enable him to keep well out of Stair Garland's way, which at the moment was what he most desired.
He rather despised the heather-craft of the other brothers, Fergus and Agnew Garland, and he gave never a thought to Godfrey McCulloch or the Free Trade band, which, he knew, was busy running in small cargoes as quickly as possible during the blessed time of relief from military and naval supervision.
But Stair Garland was another matter. Instinctively the spy knew his danger. This was not a man to hesitate about pulling a trigger, and his life, in the hollow of Stair Garland's hand, would weigh no heavier than a puff of dandelion smoke which a gust of wind carries along with it. So from his first acquaintance with him the spy had given Stair a wide berth.
As the result of many observations and much reflection, McClure decided that the lurking-place of this dangerous second son of the house of Glenanmays was on the hill called Knock Minto, a rocky, irregular mass, shaped like the knuckles of a clenched fist.
The summit overlooked the wide Bay of Luce, and the spy had remarked thin columns of smoke rising up into the twilight, and lights which glittered a moment and then were shut off in the short, pearl-grey nights of later June, when the heavens are filled with quite useless stars, and the darkness never altogether falls upon the earth.
Cargoes were being run on the east side—of that he was assured. But after all that was no business of his. Eben found it more in his way to watch Whitefoot. He had attempted, in the farm kitchen of Glenanmays, to make friends with the collie, but a swift upward curl of the lip and baring of the teeth, accompanied by a deep, snorting growl, warned him that Whitefoot would have none of him.
Nevertheless, the dog went and came freely, and as the spy made no further advances, Whitefoot soon ceased to regard him at all. And ever more curiously Eben McClure kept his eyes on the outgoings and incomings of Whitefoot.
And so it was that one still afternoon he found himself hidden under the dense greenish-black umbrella of a yew tree, lying prone on the ivied wall of the orchard of Ladykirk and listening to the talk of Patsy and Miss Aline, who were sitting beneath in a creeper-covered "tonelle," work-baskets by their sides, and as peaceful as if Ladykirk had been Eden on the eve of the coming of the serpent.
"Well," said Miss Aline, a little pleasantly tremulous with a sense of living among wild adventure, "have you had any news to-day? I saw your four-footed friend waiting for you at the corner of the shrubbery!"
"My Lord Wargrove has been to call upon Earl Raincy at the Castle," said Patsy with unusual demureness. "Louis could not tell what he wanted, but at any rate Earl Raincy promptly sent him and his insolence to—a place you have heard of in church. He said it so loud and plain that the whole house heard him, and he added remarks about royal dukes which would have brought him to the scaffold along with his grandfather, if only he had lived a century earlier."
"Perhaps the man only wanted to find out if you were there. Well, now—" Miss Aline pondered, "the thing is not so foolish as it looks. For little Lady Raincy, Louis's mother, might have secreted you somewhere and never told the earl. The Castle is big enough, I'm sure. But, my dear, you are better here. I am glad that you gave me the preference."
At this moment there was a stir up at the house of Ladykirk, whereupon the spy modestly retired. He did not mind listening to the talk of women, spread-eagled on the wall and hidden by the yew shade, but then, again, he might chance upon men who were looking for him and find himself very suddenly with a gunshot through him, or packed along with the cockroaches in the grimy hold of the Good Intent. Captain Penman was a singularly unsociable shipmate at the best of times for a man of Eben's profession, and might even go the length of throwing him overboard some dark night, merely, as it were, in order to lighten ship.
So the spy betook himself to a little fir-wood which commanded the entrance of Ladykirk, the avenue, the flowery borders of the parterres, the laurel copses, and the clumps of rhododendron through which the white statues peered.
McClure was not long in finding out that Whitefoot had one favourite mode of entering Ladykirk policies, a way contrived by himself. At the corner of the vegetable garden the wall ran to the edge of a ha-ha and there stopped short. A beech hedge met the masonry at right angles, and just at the point of juncture the hedge thinned off a little. Whitefoot had observed this, and was in the habit of racing like an arrow towards it, and taking a leap across the ha-ha. Then, with his nose close to the ground, he passed through the hole in the beech-hedge with undiminished speed, skirted a flourishing rhubarb plantation, and so emerged into the shaded path which led directly to the back door of the house.
As Eben McClure lay and watched, a plan flashed into his mind. By it he saw that he would put the son of the King, and with him my Lord of Wargrove, under everlasting obligations—such obligations as could not be denied or escaped. Scottish law did not treat the abduction of heiresses against their will in a gentle spirit, and before the northern courts the son of the King would be in no better case than the sons of Rob Roy, with whose exploits in this direction a taste for the reading of chap-books had made him familiar.
McClure had not the least doubt that, against his own judgment, Lord Wargrove had been compelled to call at Castle Raincy to ask for the loan of a carriage and horses, only to receive a rebuff from the haughty old Jacobite who held rule there.
Clearly, then, the princely party at Abbey Burnfoot must want assistance very badly, and would be willing to pay very highly for it. He, Eben McClure, was the man who would supply all that was necessary. He felt already that modest pride which comes to an intelligent, fore-thoughted man among a people of no initiative. He would take the whole matter into his own care. Single-handed he would carry it through, but at a price, a price to be arranged beforehand.
Now Eben McClure of Stonykirk, though held a traitor by the countryside, came of no mean parentage. The McClures are a strong clan, and the running of many cargoes has made them well-to-do. The day of their desperate deeds is over. They prefer the cattle-market and the tussle of wit with wit, matching knowledge with cunning in the arena of the "private bargain."
All these and an infinity of other characteristics were united in the burly person of Kennedy McClure of Supsorrow. A man of sixty, stout and hardy, he still added field to field. He laid out every shilling of his money wisely. He spent little, gave less, and swallowed up every neighbouring piece of property which came into the market. If a man were in difficulties, Kennedy McClure waited for the time when he would be ready to accept an offer for such and such a meadow or stretch of corn-land which he had long coveted. He would not cheat. He would pay the proper price in ringing guineas, but he must have the first chance. And then, overjoyed by the mere sight of the added acres, he would pace the newly acquired territory with a step to which a full figure lent importance, a certain pride of bearing which went well with the length of his purse, and the authority which could be felt in his least word.
Kennedy kept up a certain parade of humility, but his looks and walk belied him. A Royal Commission once approached him with a summons to give evidence as to a plague of voles which was desolating the fertile fields of the south-west, and his opinion was valuable because he had recently acquired by purchase the great, barren hill called Ben Marrick.
"What is your business?" said the chairman, a profound English agriculturist, with as profound an ignorance of the fine shades of Galloway speech.
"I work on the land," said Kennedy McClure with smileless deference.
"What, a farm labourer?" said the great man; "this is first-hand evidence indeed. Well, I suppose that you have studied the devastation caused by these animals on the—the—what is the name—ah, yes, Ben Marrick?"
"My lord," said the many-acred "farm labourer," "there is never a vole on the Ben o' Marrick. The vole is far ower good a judge of land to waste his time on the Marrick."
It needed the intervention of the local clerk of the commission to convince the chairman that he was talking to a man far richer than himself, besides being experienced and sage to the confines of rural wisdom.
It was to this kinsman that Eben McClure was thinking of making an appeal. He knew that along with the property, Kennedy had taken over the carriage and capitally matched horses of the late laird of Glen Marrick. Perhaps he would lend them to a kinsman in order to oblige a Royal Duke. He need not be too precise as to what the Royal Duke wanted them for if the pay were good and sure.
Accordingly Eben the Spy went to Supsorrow with an unquiet heart. He was not at all assured how he would be received. He guessed, however, that a promise made to the laird his cousin, that his herds and workmen, his plough-hands and cattlemen, should be respected by the superintendent of the "press," might do much to calm the first indignation which his proposal would infallibly arouse.
Then Kennedy of Supsorrow hated the Free Traders, because they drew away young men from his service and gave them false notions as to the amount of yearly wage with which they ought to be content.
When a man can make as much by a couple of successful "runs" as by a year's hard work at Supsorrow, he naturally began to reflect. And when the Laird approached him to know if he were "staying on" as term-time approached, the bargain became more difficult to strike. In many cases it was finally understood between contracting parties that the wages should continue the same, but that the occasional absence of a pair of horses from the stables was a matter to which the master should shut his eyes so long as he was satisfied in other ways.
Now Laird Supsorrow did not like this, but was compelled to like it or leave it. He had so added to his fields, multiplied his acres, extended the territories on which fed his flocks and herds, that service he must have, and that of the best. He must be able to trust his men—for, though he rode from dawn to dark, he could not overlook a tenth of his belongings.
Still, though compelled to submit, Kennedy McClure bore a secret grudge to the Traffic, all the more bitter that he did not venture to show it in any way.
Eben found him getting ready to ride forth to look at a new farm for the purchase of which he was negotiating.
The spy, in spite of his recent assumption of military port, made but a poor figure beside his wealthy kinsman. The Laird wore his light blue riding-coat with silver buttons, his long-flapped waistcoat, from which at every other minute he took the gold snuff-box that was his pride, white knee breeches, and rig-and-fur stockings of a tender grey-blue, finished by stout black shoes with silver buckles of the solidest. He clung to his old weather-beaten cocked hat, which, in the course of argument, he would often take from his head and tap upon the palm of his hand to emphasize his points.
"Kinsman," said Eben McClure, bowing humbly, without venturing to shake hands, "I have need of a word with you. I shall not in any way detain you, but it is a matter of His Majesty's Service, which I judge it will be for your good to know."
The Laird of Supsorrow regarded his cousin with no very friendly eye, and, pulling his gold snuff-box from his pocket, began to tap it in an irritated, impatient manner.
"Ye are not thinking of coming here to borrow money as ye did the time before?" he growled, "for if so, I tell you plainly that there is not the half of a copper doit for you here. Besides, I hear that you are doing very comfortably in the King's service, making yourself rich as well as universally beloved, and a credit to your name!"
Eben McClure took the flout as he would have taken a kick from that honoured double-soled shoe.
"Cousin Kennedy," he said, "I have no purpose but to do you service. As you are good enough to remark, I have nothing to complain of in the service of His Majesty, and it shall be my first duty and pleasure to repay to you the little advance you were good enough to make me—with interest."
Kennedy McClure looked his visitor over coolly.
"You have been robbing the stage?" he demanded.
The spy laughed, but it was a laugh from the teeth out-wards. As the French say, he laughed "yellow." Nevertheless, he drew a pocket-book from his breast, and suggested that if his kind cousin could spare the time, perhaps it would be as well for them to speak together in a more retired place.
"Come ben," said the Laird of Supsorrow, "there is no close time for the receiving of siller."
They passed through a vast kitchen where everything was in the pink of order. The tables were ranged in the middle. An array of pots brooded over the fire, so close that they jostled each other. To the right the eyes of the spy fell with respect upon the great oaken chair of the master. For in this also the Laird had kept up the patriarchal style. He still willingly, and with a certain gusto, took his seat in his own kitchen, where he smoked and talked at ease with the men and maids as they came or went. A little cupboard with a double door was fixed above the chair within reach of his hand. It contained his pipes and his library—a Bible, the poems of Burns, Boston's Fourfold State, The Cloud of Witnesses, a Grey's Tables, a book on mensuration, Fowler's Horse Doctor, and many almanacs tied in packets.
The master of all these strode through the kitchen, opened a door, passed down a long passage, and ushered his relative into a room full of stacked papers, driving whips, favourite bits and bridles. The grate was still full of burned papers. A tall five-branched silver candlestick stood in the middle of the table, and along the wall were ranged a few chairs of the rudest fashioning, but all polished with use.
He motioned to Eben of Stonykirk to take a seat in one of these and proceed with what he had to say.
"I can only give you a quarter of an hour," said the Laird. "I have an appointment with that wee wastrel of a man-of-law, McKinstrie, down at the Foulds. He is coming express-like from Cairnryan to meet me—and it's me that will have to pay for his time!"
Whereupon the spy opened out his case and the great man of horses and beeves listened intently. The Duke of Lyonesse wanted a carriage to drive into England, where his brother, the Duke of Cumberland, had an estate. The neighbouring great lords were all Jacobites at heart. Yes, even the Earl Raincy had point-blank refused his carriage—a service such as any gentleman might render to another, whatever might be his political opinions.
"And so you come to me to hire," said Kennedy, scornfully. "I do not keep post-chaises, man."
"No, cousin, no," said the spy earnestly, "your name need not appear at all. Only leave the door of your stable unlocked, or at least so barred that we can easily get through without doing damage, and we will answer for the rest. And I will pay you fifty pounds down on the spot."
"That is not anything near the value of the horses," said Laird Supsorrow, keeping his eyes fixed upon his cousin so that he might divine where the trap lay.
"No," said Eben, "it is not. But if one of your men rides after—that is, a few hours in the rear, the horses and carriage will be delivered to him at the boundary of the kingdom of Scotland just at the farther side of the Gretna bridge—"
"H-m-m," said Kennedy McClure, "if you deposit the money here, and obtain a written security from his Highness to indemnify me for any damage to the horses or vehicle, you are at liberty to do as you like with Ben Marrick's equipage. On my side I shall arrange with Saunders Grieve, my yardsman, that you shall not be disquieted in taking them."
"Would not a word from my Lord Wargrove suit you?"
"No," thundered the Laird, "let me have his Highness's fist and seal or I shall not let a hoof leave the yard! What is Lord Wargrove to me?"
"Very well, then, cousin. I will send you the document by a sure hand, and I leave the fifty pounds in your hands now, merely taking your receipt for the Duke's satisfaction."
The Spy well knew that there was not the least possibility of getting his Royal Highness to sign such a document, but as he himself was leaving the country for good at any rate, he did not mind adding a little forgery to his other necessary arrangements. Paper and seal were easily accessible in the parlour, where the Duke often kept Eben waiting for hours. He was an expert in other people's penmanship, and the princely scrawl would not present the least difficulty to him. Still, in case of accident, it would be as well to keep back the document till the last possible moment. For his cousin was not a man to be easily hoodwinked, and he might take it into his head to ride over, document in hand, to require the prince acknowledge his own signature.
As he rode away the spy said to himself, "Yes, forgery it is, of course. But sometimes it is worth while tossing a penny to see which it shall be—fortune, or the hangman's rope."
THE TRAMPLING OF HORSE IN THE NIGHT
Whitefoot the brown-eyed, intent on his business, was taking his usual route to Ladykirk. It was a dark night, but he could see more and farther than any man. He knew that Patsy would be waiting for him in the kitchen of Miss Aline's house, that she would have something extremely toothsome for him to eat while she was preparing the collar which in a few minutes would be slipped about his neck. Then he would be free to return to his master in the secret den which he had chosen to sleep in that night.
Whitefoot moved like a lank and ghostly wolf through the tall grass and crops, skirting the barer places and keeping close in to the dusky verges of the hedges. All went well with him till he took the ha-ha ditch at his usual racing pace, and was instantly wrapped up by a net into a kicking ball exactly like a rabbit at the mouth of a hole. A bag was somehow slipped over his head, and inside it he could neither bite nor bark. His nose was tightly held and his collar removed.
It seemed ages to Whitefoot before he found himself free again. Then he wasted no time, but made one bolt for the kitchen door of Ladykirk. It was open, and he entered all dazed and shaking. He had felt the hands of men about him, yet they had done him no harm. He shook himself joint by joint to make sure. All was right. Perhaps they were only out hunting and he had deranged them. Whitefoot knew quite well what it was to chase rabbits and hares into just such nets. At any rate he could not explain, but took the piece of beef which Patsy had waiting for him with satisfaction.
On his return Whitefoot tried the garden-hedge farther down, but here again he found himself in a bag. Evidently they were netting the whole of the garden. He lay still, certain now that they meant him no harm, and, indeed, in a far shorter time than before he was loose and scouring away into the shadows of the woods. This time the man into whose nets he had blundered, merely stood behind a tree, and at sight of his shadowy figure Whitefoot got himself out of the neighbourhood. Men with nets, guns that went off with a bang, and dead things that kicked and bled were connected in Whitefoot's mind with such night expeditions. So no wonder he betook himself away as quickly and as unobtrusively as possible.
But the message that Patsy received was this:
"Important see you to-morrow night, smaller avenue gate, ten o'clock.
To this Patsy had replied, moistening the stub of her "killevine" in her mouth as she had been wont to do at school:
"Dear Jean,—of course I shall be there!"
* * * * *
Never fell gloaming so slowly for Spy Eben of Stonykirk as that of Friday the 26th of June. The red in the west mounted ever higher, revealing and painting infinitely the remote strata of cloud-flecks which thinned out into the azure. At half-past nine it seemed that ten o'clock would find the old military road upon which debouched the little avenue of Ladykirk, still as bright as upon a mellow afternoon.
But arriving suddenly and surpassing all his hopes, a wind from the sea began to blow, bringing up the outside fog from the ocean. First it came in puffs and slow dragging wreaths, but afterwards with the march of steady army corps which sponged out the house, the trees and the road.
By ten all was slaty grey dusk, into which a man could stretch his hand well out of his own sight. The heart of the Spy exulted. It was a thing so unexpected, and (for he remembered his upbringing) so providential, that he almost returned thanks, as after an unexpected meal.
He did so quite when a little after the hour rapid feet pattered down the lesser avenue, a hand was thrust from a shawl, and Patsy's voice called "Jean—where are you, Jean?"
In an instant the girl was swept from her feet, enveloped in a great travelling coat, and carried to a carriage that was in waiting close against the hedge under the black shadow of the beech leaves. Patsy had no time to cry out. She was too astonished. Besides, the large hand of Eben the Spy was pressed against her mouth. She felt herself thrust without ceremony into a carriage on the front seat of which sat two men, dark shadows seen for a moment as the door opened, against the pour of the sea-mist past the windows.
"I think," said a voice, "you had better let me manage her—for the present, that is. She has just bitten me. Ah—quick with that Indian shawl. Thank you, my Lord. We must keep her from crying out. Now, my pretty, there you are with your ankles tied and your hands kept from mischief, so we shall soon reconcile ourselves!"
Patsy strove vehemently, but the arm about her was strong. Her feet and hands were fastened with soft swathes of silk, while about her mouth and chin the Indian shawl proved an efficient gag.
She could hear the clatter of the horses' feet, and was conscious of the rapid movement of the carriage. Once or twice the man on the front seat leaned over and spoke soothingly to her, or so at least it seemed. But he appeared to be sorely at a loss for words.
"You will be glad of all this to-morrow," she recognized the thick voice of the man whom she had made hold her wool; "you shall be my little black pearl!"
"Better let her come round of herself, your Highness," said the man who held her. "They take it a bit hard at first, but after the anger and the tears, then it will be time to argue with her."
The man addressed as "your Highness" dropped back into his seat, and for a long time nothing was heard but the changeful clatter of the shod feet of horses. Patsy sat muffled and helpless, conscious that she had been trapped, but determined that since somebody had dared, somebody also should die before a hand was laid upon her. She felt strangely at home. Her Pictish blood spoke—perhaps still older bloods, too, within her. It was somehow perfectly natural that a man should try to carry her off. She was obscurely but surely aware that men of her race had done things like that. But then, also, they did them at their peril. And Patsy the Pict felt herself strong enough for these things. It was the age of Miss Jane Austen's dainty heroines. Miss Fanny Burney was still at court, writing in her Diary that the King was very happy and innocent, imagining himself each day in intimate converse with the angels.
But Patsy had no idea of fainting. Tears were far indeed from her eyes. She was only calling herself a fool, and wishing that she had thought to bring her little dagger with her—the double-edged one that Julian Wemyss had given her on his return from the Canary Islands, black leather sheath scrolled in gold to be worn in the stocking. Still since she had not that, why, she would take the first weapon that came to her hand. And whenever they ran dear of the fog, which happened at the top of every considerable hill, her little white teeth gleamed in the darkness with something like anticipation.
* * * * *
"Up, Louis, out with you—they are away! The Prince has carried off Patsy. Here is your pony. Get in the saddle. I must manage without!"
Unceremoniously Stair Garland awaked Louis from his drowse in the cave's mouth. He had ridden down from Castle Raincy to see if he could help. The moment had come and Stair had not disappointed him.
"They are already on the road—in a carriage—Kennedy McClure's, I think," said Stair; "stand still there, Derry Down, or by the Holy—!" And he leaped into his saddle which was no more than the corn-sack doubled and fastened close with broad bands of tape, used to go under the heavy pack saddles when a run was forward.
"Where have they gone? Are they far ahead of us?" questioned Louis.
"They are on the military road—in a carriage and pair, going west. They cannot get off it. But if you can trust your pony, we can cut corners and ride as we like."
"Of course," said Louis; "show me the way—you know it better than I!"
So, each on his deft, sure-footed Galloway pony, like their ancestors of the English forays of which Froissart tells, the two lads plunged into the night.
They sped along the barren side of the Moors, taking any path or none, whisking through the tall broom and leaping the whins. The ponies took naturally to the sport. Sometimes the going was heavier, but not for so little did the animals slacken. They were to the manner born, and minded no more the deep black ruts of the peat, which in the more easterly country are called "hags," than the open military road along which the carriage was bowling.
The heather was mostly short and easy—"bull's fell" heather as it was named. Tall cotton grass flaunted up suddenly through the slaty haze of the night of pursuit. The plant called "Honesty" with its flat, white seed vessels, gaunt and startling, swished past them, the dry pods crackling among their horses' legs.
Mostly they rode easily, swaying to the movements of their beasts, letting the little horses do the work as the Lord of the moors gave them wisdom to do—using no whip or spur—these were not needed—and very little guidance of rein. The little Galloways, Louis's black "Honeypot" and Stair's "Derry Down," picked their way swiftly and cleanly. They might have been steering by the stars. But it was only their instinct sense of smell which told them when they were approaching a bog too soft to be negotiated. Then they would turn their faces to the hill, questing for the good odour of the "gall" or bog-myrtle, which is the characteristic smell of good going in the Galloway wilderness. Stretches of that delightful plant surround all bogs, morasses and other dangerously wet spots, but the little beasts knew that so far as they were concerned they were safe where the gall bushes grew. And, indeed, it was well to keep wide. On the moorland face the silver flowes glittered unwholesomely, deadly as quicksands in the Bay of Luce. It was marvellous to see how gingerly the little beasts footed it in such places. Never did they let a foot sink to the fetlock. With a quick flinging swerve, they cast themselves to the side of safety and the foot would come loose with the "cloop" of an opening bottle.
Sometimes the sand was firm, and then they would scour fearlessly along it with many tossings of their heads and playful attempts at biting one another. But so soon as they came upon the green froth of the "quaking bogs" or the snake-bell shine of the shivering sands, it was each for himself again—or rather for himself and herself, for Stair's mount was a small barren mare, which in such things is even better than a horse, better and more cunning, besides being more companionable for her journey-mate.
They rode through banks of midges so huge that they almost reached the dignity of mosquitoes. For where in the world except on the lonely road past Clatteringshaws and the Loch of the Lilies, can you meet with midges which for number and ferocity can compare with those of the Moors of Wigtonshire? Sometimes the two lads, riding easy, would come to water. This was a negotiation which was better left to Honeypot and Derry Down. If the water was black and peaty with a heavy smell of rotting vegetation, the ponies knew it, but if they scented the fresh rush of a hill burn, or the soft coolness of an arm of sandy-bottomed loch, then Louis and Stair would suddenly feel the cool sluicing of water about their legs, causing them to turn their pistol belts over their shoulders, where Stair already carried his long-barrelled gun with the stock upwards.
"We shall close upon them at the White Loch," said Stair, during one of these pauses. "They have a long detour to make. I would rather have waited till they had got to the crossing of the Tarf, but that is too far for our beasts on these short nights of June."
(He meant the Wigtonshire Tarf, which comes from far Laggangairn and the Bloody Moss, not the shorter, fiercer tributary of the Dee.)
"The White Loch be it," said Louis, for indeed it was all the same to him. He was out to fight for Patsy, and fight he would. He did not care what his grandfather might say, nor what penalties he might incur. What Stair Garland was ready to do for Patsy, surely he had the better right to be a partner in.
They drove through a herd of kyloes recently sent down from Highland hills to try their luck on Galloway heather. The horns clicked sharply together. There was a whisking scamper of hoofs as the beasts fled every way, only to bunch anew a little farther out of the path of these wild riders.
Now Stair and Louis found themselves on a kind of track, narrow and stony underfoot. The blackfaced sheep of the hills had made it so, with their little pattering trotters which dug out a stone at every step. Above was a waste of boulder, grey teeth grinning through the black heather. They began to see more clearly, for they were now far above the mist, into which they would not again need to descend till they should reach the White Loch and cut down to head off their prey, comfortably rolling Gretnawards—a duke royal, a peer of the realm, and a spy with a promise of fortune in his breastpocket, all looking after Patsy Ferris, the daughter of the Picts, and drawn by Kennedy McClure's excellent pair of horses along the best road in all the south country.
Sometimes a wilder track led Stair and Louis unbreathed across an open moor, the path being too narrow to ride abreast, when it was the mare's privilege to lead. She snuffed the air, and even while keeping to her pace, would reach forward her neck to smell the better. Derry Down knew that she was on one of the old "drove roads" by which horses had been driven to the eastern fairs and trysts for hundreds of years, before ever Lord Hillsborough came into the land, or the pick of a governmental sapper had been set in the heather.
Generally the pursuers kept wide of all human habitation. They could see the stars now, and so in a manner choose their direction. The details they left to the horses, and especially to Stair's wise "Derry Down." But the scent of a single "keeping" peat in a herd's house would send them all up the hill again. It had been carefully bent over the red ashes to hold them alight till the morrow, for the goodwife's greater ease on rising, and also because it was the immemorial custom of all Moor folk from Killantringan even to the Moss of Cree.
A fly-by-night bumblebee, honey-drunk, followed the cavalcade blunderingly a little way, perhaps in the hope that they who seemed to know their way so well, might lead him safely home, ring the door-bell for him, and tumble him into the lobby of his home under the bent tussock where he fain would be. Nevermore would he stay out so late again. So much he would gladly promise the reproachful wife who had sat up for his coming.
But the ponies drew away, and there was nothing for him but to snuggle down with a buzz and a grumble among the wet bluebells and wait for daybreak, for sobriety and with it a new sense of direction.
Occasionally Stair urged his mare forward, though only by a closer clip of the knees. She was a willing beast, and responded gallantly. It was easy going now, and the night was speeding quickly. Presently they would need to go down the side of the fell, and skirt the White Water to their ambush place at the head of the Loch. Of this last, Stair thought exclusively. But with more of the mystery of an older race about him, Louis Raincy listened to the firs whispering confidences overhead as they sped downhill. Then came the birches' clean rustle—for the burn they were following led them among copses where the legs of the horses risped with a pleasant sound through the lash of leaves.
The ponies were going easily now, their masters being sure that they were far in advance of their time. They had cut the circle cleanly, and those they were pursuing would have to make nearly three times the distance they had traversed.
Besides, Patsy's captors did not know they were being pursued. Never once did the "clash of the spurs" warn them that Care and his horsemen rode behind.
As the two came down from the high moors, tracking cautiously through the woods and stray belts of culture which hung about the thatched steadings and shy, deep-hidden farm-towns, a wildness awoke in Stair Garland. The little mare, Derry Down, responded to his mood. She held her head high, and capered like an unbitted yearling fresh off the first spring pastures.
Louis rode more quietly and also more steadily, and especially so when at last they got down to a made road in the valley of the White Water. Here Louis had several times to urge his companion to save the beasts a little, for if they rescued Patsy, they would need to bring her home on one or the other of them.
"We have to settle our accounts first," said Stair, "then we will think about taking her back to those who knew so ill how to protect her!"
He was silent a moment and then added as if in pity for Louis's ignorance, "See here, man, this is all my country. Think you there is a farm where I could not leave the ponies and get the loan of other? We are on the main caravan trail of the Free Traffickers, and there are few hereabouts who would venture to refuse Stair Garland."
Perhaps there was some boyish pride in this, but Louis had been long enough within the sound of the jingling anker chains and the creaking pack saddles to know that Stair spoke well within the truth. He felt with a sudden pang that in this rescue of Patsy he was playing a very secondary part. But the true nobility of soul shown by Stair Garland was not at the time revealed to him. He did not understand the reason why Stair had brought him at all. It was because he disdained to take an advantage. He would not magnify himself in Patsy's eyes while Louis, unwarned, slept in his bed at Castle Raincy.
Whatever the odds against him, Stair would give his adversary the floor, and at the end of the day accept the umpire's judgment as to which was the better man.
Like a greyhound coursing sped the little mare. After Derry Down stretched the more sturdily built Honeypot. He made no flourishes with head or tail but simply laid well into his work, going so fast that his rider Louis Raincy seemed to be bending to meet a strong wind. The hedges and tree clumps poured behind as water from the prow of a wind-driven boat in a difficult sea-way.
Three or four times Louis tried to stop his companion, but Stair had a spot in his mind where he could hold up the carriage. It was a sharp angle of road, designed in days when levels and gradients were unthought of, and still permitted to linger on to the danger of travellers' necks. In fact the White Loch elbow remains to the moment of writing, in spite of all modern improvements, a trap for the unwary, merely because a laird's lodge-gate lies a few hundred feet to the north, and any new road must cut a shaving off the entrance to his avenue.
But that night Stair made use of the gates manorial. Tying their ponies to trees, they lifted the heavy gates off their hinges and "angled" them skillfully across the road so as to form a barrier which must stop the horses and carriage. Stair would have set up the barricade between the double turn of the S-shaped curve, but Louis pointed out that if the carriage went over the bridge, Patsy might very well be injured. So the gates were ultimately placed where the horses would be halted while ascending the long after slope with slackened pace.
Where Stair and Louis placed themselves, though some considerable way from the burn which ran at the bottom of the defile, they were still in a very pit of darkness. The leaves were dense overhead, and only the white gates gleamed very faintly in the trough of gloom where ran the eastern military road.
Louis lay under a tremulous rustle of leaves, for the wind was coming in from the sea, and listened to the trill and chirrup of the burn which carried off the overflow of the White Loch, as it muttered over its sands or clattered across the loose round pebbles of its numerous shallows.
The lads waited long and anxiously, not that they had any fear of having missed their mark, for Stair had searched in vain in all the softest spots for any trace of carriage wheels. They must pass this way. They could not go off the road, because there was no other. But, what would have spoiled the matter more than a squadron of cavalry in attendance, was the fact that if they delayed much longer, the carriage would reach the Elbow of the White Water after daybreak.
From where they lay they could see the ragged fantastic line of the hills to the east behind which the sun would rise. Stair watched these anxiously. They had a clear hour before them, but unless the mist came up again with the tide, they could count on no more time.
Already out on the face of the moorland the curlews were crying tentatively one to the other. Louis would gladly have talked, but Stair sat grave and silent. At last, visibly unquiet, he betook himself up through the wood to the edge of an old turf-built fold where in summer the cows were wont to be milked. Here he occupied himself with the priming of his gun and looked to his pistols. An undefined glimmer from the sky and the absence of trees on the heathery slopes enabled him to dispense with other light.
In ten minutes he was back again by the side of Louis Raincy.
"They are coming," he whispered, "up yonder I heard the rumble of the carriage. Listen—we shall catch it in a minute."
Louis listened intently and at last could make out, from very far to the west, the rhythmic and yet changeful beating of the feet of horses. But it was not till the carriage had actually climbed to the summit and was rumbling down the slope that Stair Garland moved.
"I am going to meet them there at the gates," he said, "be you ready with the horses. There is a part of this business in which there is no need of your being mixed up, only see that Honeypot and Derry Down are ready for Patsy. If for any reason I cannot get away with you, take the upper side of the White Loch till you strike the old track by which we came, then give the little mare her head and she will carry you safe."
"But why will you not be with us? We can ride time about."
"There are certain risks," said Stair,—"I do not know what will come out of all this. But at any rate your business is to get Patsy home to her father's and then carry the word to my sister Jean that the house is to be strongly guarded. She will understand."
The carriage was very close now. They could hear the labouring of the horses, the wheezing of straining harness. Then the pole of the carriage became entangled with Stair's carefully angled lodge-gates. The coach stopped. The driver sprang from his seat and ran to keep his horses from plunging over into the ravine. An angry voice from the inside called out to know what was the matter.
A pistol shot rang out. Then several answered, followed by the roar of a fully charged gun, a turmoil of voices, the stamping of horses, and a voice that cried: "They have killed the Prince! The Duke is shot!"
The next moment through the green velvety dark Louis heard footsteps approaching. Stair, his gun flung over his shoulder, had Patsy with him.
"Quick, up with you! There!"
He placed her on Derry Down.
"Now, Louis—off with you, and remember what I said. Keep the upper side of the valley, and if in difficulty let the little mare lead. I shall follow, as soon as I can get a horse to ride. One of our lads lives not far from here!"
"You have not killed him?" said Louis, anxiously.
"I do not know. I certainly let the marauding Turks have the benefit of a few slugs," said Stair with carelessness. "If his princeship is a little worse splintered than the others, why, so much the better. But they will all have a souvenir to carry away. Now, ride, and never mind me!"
In ten minutes Louis and Patsy were fairly safe from pursuit—at least from any immediate pursuit. They followed the line of the White Loch—the shore sand gleaming like silver beneath them making the task a simple one. Then by easier gradients than the path by which they had so precipitately descended, Louis struck diagonally for the old drove road. As they mounted higher they became aware that the day was breaking behind the distant Minnegaff ridges—the hills of the great names, Bennanbrack, Benyellaray, Craignairny, The Spear of the Merrick, and the Dungeon of Buchan, coming up one by one in delicate aerial perspective.
In half an hour Louis Raincy could see Patsy's face suffused with eager joy, freedom and the red in the east together making it flush like a dusky peach.
"Oh, I am so glad," she broke out when at last they could ride together over a little stretch of bent, "I had not even my Canary Island knife, or anything, but somehow I thought that you or Stair would follow me."
"It was all Stair's doing," said Louis; "he called me, and gave me the chance to help him when he could quite as well have taken one of his brothers, Fergus or Agnew."
"Why did he stay behind just now?" Patsy asked. "If they capture him they will kill him."
"I think there is no great fear of that, for the present, at least," said Louis Raincy, loyally. "Stair Garland has many hiding-places. I don't believe any one can catch him in his own land. He is off to find a moor-pony and will ride after us as soon as it is safe. If not, he will come home on foot, lying up in the daytime. He knows every farm and cothouse and is welcome at all. Sea-cave and moss-hag, wood-shelter and whin-bush, he knows every hidie-hole for forty mile."
Louis and Patsy kept so far to the north among the flowes of the moors that they never once came in sight of the road, along which all that day frenzied messengers tore east and west with tidings that the King's son had been murdered near the White Loch, by a gang of ruffians who had laid a trap and overturned his carriage.
So the two young people travelled in a great loneliness of plovers and curlews and peewits, all singing and calling and whistling their hardest. They saw the glimmer of a herd's house or two, faint whitewashed dots on the brown, surface of the moor. But of living souls they met not one.
Nor had they seen anything of Stair when, at dusk, they breasted the last bosky eyebrow of Raincy territory which overhung the rich Ferris valleys, and saw beneath them, as it had been deserted, the House of Cairn Ferris. Windows had been knocked out. Household gear lay scattered in the yard and even littered the avenue. A great blackened oblong showed the position of a burned hay-mow.
Louis halted a moment, in doubt what he should do, and then seeing that there was no safety in such a place for Patsy, he turned the tired horses about and rode straight for the great towers of Castle Raincy which frowned above them out of the purple gloom of the woods.
* * * * *
"Grandfather," said Louis, still holding Patsy by the hand as he penetrated unannounced into the Earl's study, "this is Miss Patricia Ferris. The Duke of Lyonesse laid a trap for her. He carried her off, bound and gagged, in Kennedy McClure's carriage, but Stair Garland and I rescued her. There was a fight and I believe the Duke is hurt, but it served him right. I took her home, but the house has been sacked. So I brought her to you!"
The old man, who had nightly cursed the Ferrises, root and branch, all his life, rose to his full height, for a moment irresolute. Then he bowed, and took Patsy's hand in his.
"You are welcome," he said, "I am—hem—satisfied that my boy had the pluck to put a bullet into the Hanoverian swine. He came and asked for my carriage, curse his impudence—my carriage and horses to play his Guelphish pranks on honest men's daughters. Royal prince or no royal prince, I will stand by you, hang me if I don't! And when it comes to the House of Lords, I shall have a few truths to tell the whole royal gang which will make their ears tingle from the Regent himself to poor Silly Billy."
In the meanwhile no news of Stair. He had, as it seemed, been entirely blotted out. Had he fallen into the hands of the cavalry which after a fruitless search had sacked Cairn Ferris at their pleasure upon the first news of the killing of the king's son? They had departed to scour the easterly roads and had been seen no more in the valleys or on the heights of Raincy.
There was no news except that Kennedy McClure had been seen galloping eastward in frantic search of his carriage and horses. The former had been reported blown to flinders, and his two carefully matched horses killed by the bandits. So he was now riding in his shirt-sleeves, the cowrie shells at his watch fob clanging against the little bundle of keys he wore there. In his mind he was doing sums of which the main issues were, "What is the difference between the fifty pounds I have in hand and the value of the carriage and horses, and will my loss give me a claim on the royal family and the Government?" Kennedy McClure saw before him endless Court of Session pleas, with expenses mounting steadily up, and the verdict given in his favour upon appeal to the House of Lords.
The Laird of Supsorrow, who loved a good-going plea, felt vaguely consoled, but he spurred his beast all the same to find out what he had to go upon. That the whole countryside spoke of the young prince as dead was nothing to him. His horses and the precious chariot with the yellow wheels, the pale blue body and linings, were more to him than the whole royal house. There were a plenty of princes—and no great gain to the country either by all accounts! But he, Kennedy of Supsorrow, had only one chariot and one well-matched pair of carriage horses, for which he had paid out good golden guineas.