But somehow when Patsy did the same thing in London, and in the face of other men, Louis did not enjoy the process so much.
"Hech, my daisy," said Miss Aline, as she and Patsy went back to her parlour after the Prince of Altschloss had taken his leave, "that laddie, Louis, has ower muckle o' his mither in him. She's a McBride, and guid blood, but Dame Lucy is juist like some preserves. Ye put in good berries. Ye strain to perfection. The sugar and the spice and the correct time for boiling—skimming and stirring done with your own hand—yet after all the stuff will not jell. It will harden in no mould because it is unstable as water. That is the boy's mother, the Lady Lucy. As for the lad, God send him something that will harden him, so that when his grandfather dies, another De Raincy of the right breed may rule in his stead. At present he is overly much after the pattern of his mother!"
"Well," said Patsy, with her hands rolled in the fluffy ends of her muslin scarf, "don't blame me, Miss Aline. I do my best to toughen him, and then he goes and cries to you!"
"I wonder, dear," said the old lady, after a silence which lasted quite five minutes, "if you could not try giving him a good conceit of himself. My father used to say that if ye tell a dog all the time that he is a worthless puppy and will never be good for anything, he will herd the sheep but poorly on the hill."
THE CAVE OF ADULLAM
Night by night the mists came up from the sea. Morning by morning the gusts from the hills blew them back again. Winter began to settle on the rugged confines of the moors, and still Julian Wemyss stayed on with Stair Garland at the Bothy on the Wild of Blairmore. First, because it agreed with the mystery-loving side of his nature, and also because, so long as the weight of Napoleon's rule pressed upon Europe, he did not know where he could be safer. At Vienna, perhaps, but so long as the Princess Elsa remained at Hanover Lodge, he could not bring himself to make the long and circuitous journey by Gibraltar and Trieste.
And, indeed, he was in no great hurry to move. He had been outlawed for failing to appear, even as he had expected, to answer for the killing of Lord Wargrove. Also he knew that the wounding of the Duke of Lyonesse had been laid to his charge. The word which had gone forth that his capture would be grateful to the Regency and its camarilla of Dukes, would naturally sharpen the pursuit.
Fresh bodies of cavalry were still occasionally drafted from Glasgow and Carlisle to override the moors. But the lack of any local intelligencer of the calibre of Eben McClure, the natural secretiveness of the people as to "lads among the heather" and all folk in trouble, caused the search to be spun out so long, that the general opinion was that Julian Wemyss had escaped in an emigrant ship to America.
Stair occasionally showed himself at Glenanmays, and even made bold to walk in the High Street of Cairnryan on a fair-day, none daring to meddle with him, and the very officers of local justice turning aside for a dram at the first sight of him. He was believed never to move without such a body-guard as could cut its way through a squadron.
He was thus enabled to go about apparently alone, disquieted by none, for the people were on his side, and it would have proved a dear bargain to any man who had "sold" him. Stair made these appearances as often as he knew that the soldiers were off on an expedition in a safe direction. His object was to draw away attention from the Wild of Blairmore, and to give the people of Cairnryan the idea that he was lying up in the immediate neighbourhood of their town.
Meanwhile he and Julian Wemyss had added greatly to the comfort of the Bothy. A solid rampart of turf, doubled on the western side, protected it against the fierce winds of the moors. The whole of one end was filled with an abundant stock of firewood and peat which his brothers had cut, cast and prepared, and the troop had brought in one night of full moon. The peat-cutting had increased the difficulty of reaching the central fastness of the Wild, for the ink-black tarns had been cunningly united, and the wide morass in front, where from black pools great bubbles for ever rose and lazily burst, had been dammed till it overflowed the meadows and lapped the sand-dunes behind the house of Abbey Burnfoot. Of course a pathway was left, indeed more than one, to provide a way of escape if the Bothy should happen to be blockaded. For all which reasons Julian Wemyss was exceedingly content to abide on this little platform of hard turf mixed with sea-shells, with the misty water-logged bog all about.
He had many books, for his own house was not so far off, and his good Joseph remained in charge of everything at Abbey Burnfoot. On dark nights, at the edge of the Wild, Joseph met Stair always with a large parcel of provender and a small parcel of books.
Joseph was in great trouble because he had not been allowed to accompany his master to his hiding-place, but he retained his self-respect and kept himself so fine that his black court-dress and immaculate white cravat made a blur before Stair's eyes in the upward phosphorescent shining of the sea.
"The master sent no message by you, sir?" he would inquire, always with a wistful hope that "His Excellency" might relent.
"You will find all that he wishes you to do set down in that letter," Stair would say, handing the document over.
"But—he said nothing about my coming to him?"
"Not a word, Joseph!" Stair would answer, as carelessly as might be.
"Then who looks after Mr. Julian? Who lays out his shirts and sees to his studs? Oh, Mr. Stair, that it should come to this! Sometimes I cannot sleep for thinking of it!"
"Mr. Julian looks after himself," said Stair, brusquely; "at present he is wearing one of my grey woollen shirts, and I have not heard him complain. Go home, Joseph, and look after the house. Keep the doors locked, the guns loaded, and the dogs loose. Mr. Julian was never better in his life!"
After this Joseph complained less, and probably slept better. It had always been in his mind that perhaps this unknown Stair Garland might supplant him in the personal service of his master. But when once he understood that Stair was of a breed so extraordinary that he recognized no difference in rank between himself and his guest, that instead of proffering service, he exacted that Mr. Julian should do his fair share of the work, and finally, that many of the books he carried were designed for the enlightenment of Stair Garland, whom his master had taken as a pupil, he ceased to be jealous and became again merely serviceable.
Stair had his full share of the local thirst for knowledge, and the determination to get it in one way or another. So with the self-assertion without which a Scot ceases to be a Scot, he had fastened upon those winter months with Julian Wemyss to fill in the lacunes of Dominie McAll's instruction. A good good deal of classics, daily readings in the French and German tongues, conversation after the Socratic method—these were the pillars of Stair's temple of learning at the Bothy. And because the root of the matter had always been in him—which is the determination to excel—he progressed with a rapidity that astounded his teacher.
Every morning Julian Wemyss said to himself, "It is impossible that he can have remembered and assimilated all that we went over yesterday!" But once the breakfast-things cleared away, he found Stair as sharp-set as a terrier at a rat-hole, as it were, nosing after knowledge. Nothing seemed to come wrong to him, and if he did not understand anything, an apt question set him right, and when Stair flung up his head, his eye misty and his intelligence withdrawn, Julian Wemyss stopped also, because he understood.
"He is filing that away where he can find it," he thought to himself. And far into the night he could see reflected on the roof a faint glimmer from Stair's dark-lantern. His curiosity was aroused, and he looked into the gloomy kitchen with the heaped peats filling all the space even to the roof. There, with his feet to the smouldering fire of red ashes, lay Stair Garland, his notebooks in front of him and a volume propped against an upturned pot, threshing his way pioneer-wise through the work of the next day. Julian Wemyss went softly back to bed, but did not sleep for a long while.
"If that fellow fights for the Emperor," he said to himself, "he will do it with his head. Yet they call him the 'fechtin' fool' in these parts. The boy has never had a chance, that is all. His ambition and facility have given him the leading-place among these smugglers and defiers of the press-gang, because no other career opened itself to him. We shall see when the Good Intent comes in the spring. In the meanwhile, never tutor had such a pupil!"
Yet more marvellous were the weeks as they went past for Stair Garland. Every morning he woke fresh to the romantic adventure of books. His eyes flashed down marvellous pages, taking in their gist, and then he settled himself with a happy sigh to analyze line upon line, to warehouse precept upon precept.
Yet he did not leave any of his outside duties unattended to. He knew of every change made in the garrison at Stranryan. Fergus and Agnew came nightly to the verge of the Wild. He met with Jean at the alder copse. His father talked with him standing upon Peden's Stone, and (as he said) "tairged him tightly" for his occasional neglect in reading the Bible, which was the root of all things of good report in this world as well as in the next.
To which Julian Wemyss added that it was also the foundation of good manners and good style. For all which reasons and also because of the reverence natural to his people, Stair Garland read a good deal in the Bible, and it was the only book concerning which he asked no enlightenment from his master, Julian Wemyss.
Stair heard extracts from the letters from London which Patsy sent to her father and uncle under the frank of the Earl Raincy, but he had one or two altogether his own, and these he judged more precious than gold. They came to him by way of his sister Jean, and the trysting-place in the alder copse by the side of the Mays Water.
On such occasions, Stair, being in furious haste, took the bundle of clean clothes Jean had brought him, and strode away over the rough fells in the direction of the Wild. Half-way, however, he changed his course. And many a night wanderer on land and many a benighted fisherman bearing up Loch Ryan-ward on the northward set of the tide, was awed by a strange light in the Corpse Yard above the Elrich Strand, where the Blackshore folk bury the drowned who come to them from the sea. Here among the wooden head-boards (bearing dates only) of the unknown dead, Stair Garland read his first letter from Patsy in London.
"Stair" (it began without qualitative either formal or affectionate), "I did not promise to write to you, so I am doing it. London is very full of gay things which are not so gay as they look. I would rather see you and Whitefoot (give him a kiss from me!) than the procession of the Regent to open Parliament.
"The Princess would spoil me were I spoilable. But you know I am made of the guinea gold that does not need gilding. However, she does her best. I have a maid to wait on me, but I think I do very much more for her. Still, she mends the holes that I dance in the heels of my stockings—all of silk, Stair, and smuggled from France! For they 'run' things here, just as they do in Galloway—in Sussex and Cornwall mainly. They have only luggers, however—at least so one of my partners told me last night. He had seen John Carter himself down at Prussia Cove! Think of that, Stair! And the old man had preached him a sermon!
"I have dresses in Valenceens lace over pale-blue silk, and all sorts of lovely things; don't you wish you could see me? I see Louis often, but not so often as I used to. They say he is in love with Mrs. Arlington, a great beauty at the Regent's court. You know that Louis is now aide-de-camp to the Duke of York, who is Commander-in-Chief, so his chief duty is to draw up ball programmes and write dinner invitations, which I have no doubt he does in a very warlike manner.
"When he remembers he comes round to tell me that he loves me still. But, alas! he mostly forgets. Whitefoot is more faithful than that, eh, Stair? I could wager that at the moment you are reading this nonsense, he is sitting with his head on your knees, looking up in your face."
(Stair put down his hand from the edge of the paper and touched the rough head, and at the caress Whitefoot whined joyously, as he did in church when the congregation sang "Coleshill.")
"Stair" (the letter went on), "I hold the Princess and you responsible for Uncle Julian. I hear from him sometimes and he tells me that you are getting to be a wonderful scholar. Well, playing with your books will pass the time for both of you, and keep you from thinking too much about me. As to my welfare, do not pine away with worrying about that. I, Patricia Wemyss Ferris, swear on the old oath, that I am fat and fair to see. I find that I can answer the fool according to his folly, and leave wherewithal to talk on terms of some quality with the few poor lost and forwandered wise men whom one meets in these parts. The dear old king with his David-and-Solomon beard, is really the most sensible person I have yet talked with. So they shut him up, take his crown from him, and say that he is mad.
"The Wise Young People who bear rule drink each other under the table, race to Brighthelmstone, killing half-a-dozen children by the way, and ruin themselves at play during the night. Altogether it is a fine place, this London, and if you were here you might very well say, with the witty Frenchman, 'The more I see of human beings, the more I love my dog!'
"But you must not tell all this to Uncle Julian. I am learning fast—though perhaps not quite what he expected me to learn. His Princess is most kind to me, and, indeed, so is everybody. There is a Prince, a rosy young man who walks delicately like a cat on wet grass, and they say that he would like to lay his Princedom at my feet. Which do you think I would rather be, Stair, a Princess with her chin in the air (Ho! Menial, fetch me my crown. No, the one in the left-hand drawer, most ignorant of varlets! Now I pose it on my princessly locks! So!), or just Patsy Ferris, in blue gown and yellow sandals, very much out of breath, washing the dishes in the Bothy of the Wild of Blairmore?
"Tell me which you think I should like best. I deliver this subject to your meditations. You are not to show my letter to Jean nor allow her to read a single word of hers to you. If you do, I shall hold you for ever faithless and mansworn!
"Your obedient, faithful scullery-maid or princess,
The winter was lying heavy and sore on the Wild of Blairmore. The storms from the North-west brought down the scouring snow, and even to go to the edge of the sand-dunes to meet Joseph was an undertaking. Only by continual endeavours with the great iron 'gellick' was the well kept from freezing. The frost had long ago laid hands upon the inky ponds and morasses and bound them as it had been with solid iron.
* * * * *
But at Hanover Lodge the fires glowed warm in open grates. The rich, solid, early Georgian furniture gave back reflections ripe and fruity, and the brass fenders shone in the flicker of the firelight. The Princess used sea-coal fires, to which, as a daughter of the land of pines, she added split and well-dried logs of resinous wood. These she would arrange with her own hands after the Bohemian fashion, pausing often to tell her guest tales of the times when, at the convent, she and Marie Louise had stolen from the Mother Superior's woodpile to keep from freezing.
Patsy knitted diligently and before her a book lay open, but she read little. For the Princess, recalling old things and speaking copiously, looked often at her for sympathy and understanding. Miss Aline had gone to lie down with a book, so the two younger ladies were alone, and, as it seemed little likely that any visitors would venture so far from home that day they had settled themselves in the comfort of the Princess's boudoir, content with each other and content with the weather. Patsy had been teaching her companion such phrases as "a blatter o' sleet," an "on-ding o' snaw," and a "thresh o' rain."
The Princess had a peculiar pleasure in learning such things and would often subtly misapply them in order to be corrected. She would tempt Patsy into further descriptions of the Twin Valleys, the Bay of the Abbey Burn, the bold deeds of the smugglers, and the fights of the Free Bands against the press-gangs. But always, by all roads and bypaths, she would bring her back to the Bothy of the Wild of Blairmore. Was she sure that there was the possibility of any decent comfort in such a place at such a season?
Patsy shut her eyes, visualized the Wild as she had often seen it when she made a short cut from her Uncle Julian's to the sheltered valley of the Mays Water. More than once when the lads were in hiding after some offence against the revenue laws, which had brought troops into the district, Jean and she had been guided by Stair to the fastness, where they had been royally entertained, before being convoyed each to her home by the genial outlaws.
She spoke of the wild white moor, cut with deep hags, the arms of the "scroggie" thorns blown away from the sea and clawing at the ground like spectral hands, black beneath, but every gnarled knuckle and digit outlined in purest white above. Sometimes the clean tablecloth of white which covered a little loch, was cut by a round black "well-eye" through which a spring oozed oilily, refusing to freeze.
These must be known and avoided, for the ice was always thin thereabouts and a heedless night-wanderer might very easily vanish, never to be heard of more.
Then there was the Bothy. Little could be seen of that. Gone the summer creepers which had made it a bower. It crouched low, almost level with the snowladen tops of the heather bushes, which grew high about, hidden and banked behind immense masses of sods, all now covered with the uniform mantle of the snow. Great wreaths formed in the first swirl of the storms had piled themselves up so as to overhang the low chimney. You might pass it a score of times, and if you missed the faint blue reek stealing up along the side of the precipitous Knock Hill, you would see nothing of it, nor so much as suspect that there was a habitation of living men within miles.
As Patsy talked, the Princess had gradually been leaning further and further forward, her lips parted, and shuddering a little as the wind lashed the snow against the great windows of Hanover Lodge.
"Oh," she said at length, as if to herself, "to think of him there in that terrible place and of us here. It makes me hate all this comfort. Are you not ashamed, Patsy?"
Patsy the frank had some difficulty in repressing the ungrateful speech which came to her lips but did not pass them. "I would rather be with them than with you!" But she refrained and entered into new explanations. The Princess had heard the most part before, but she never wearied of being reassured.
"Now, listen! Uncle Ju is with Stair Garland. No one will hurt him for that reason. In our country Stair Garland has more real power than the Lord Lieutenant, or even my father. No, he is no ignorant peasant. I do not think he could dance so well, but he could talk better than any of the partners who fall to my lot at the court balls. The Bothy on the Wild? Well, I will try and tell you. It is certainly dark inside, but on the side opposite to the wind a little window is always kept open, and on the table where they read, write, and take their meals a lamp will certainly be lit. Uncle Ju will be stretched on the long couch among the pillows, reading. That is where Stair sleeps at night. His feet are towards the fire and the light shines down on his book from the four little panes of glass. These are open to the sky but carefully masked from the sight of any passer-by (if such a thing could be thought of on the Wild of Blairmore) by a firmly packed wall of snow.
"Stair moves about getting ready the next meal, and as like as not he calls on Uncle Ju to take his turn at scouring the pans or peeling the potatoes."
At this flight of imagination the Princess suppressed a cry of indignation.
"Oh, that is nothing," Patsy went on, unsympathetically, "of course he is glad to do it. It is good wholesome exercise and helps to pass the time, though digging themselves out in the morning when the drift is over the chimney top is better, besides the making of little paths to the outside peatstack and—"
"But your uncle—an ambassador—a favourite at courts—not a court like our dear Sleepy Hollow there at Windsor or the Rout of Circe at Carlton House, but the Court of the Hapsburgs, the Court of Austria—to think of Julian Wemyss there for your sake!—Why, Patsy, though I love you dearly, I declare that you are hardly worth it!"
"Well, Stair Garland is there also," Patsy retorted, instantly, "and just as much for my sake as Uncle Ju. And now the Duke has got his debts paid, in far greater danger, for Uncle Ju would get off with a year in prison, but Stair they would hang for those slugs in the Prince's thigh, which, thank Heaven, they can't dig out!"
"But your Stair Garland is accustomed to such a life, while my poor Julian—"
"Princess," said Patsy seriously, "take my word for it, Uncle Julian has not had the manhood all taken out of him by his life at courts. Even now who can cross swords with him? Besides, I have heard him say that if he were a year or two younger he would be out on the bleak Pyrenees with the other gallant gentlemen, his friends, driving Soult and his Frenchmen back out of Spain. And compared to what our army has to suffer lying out on these frozen rocks—why, the Bothy of Blairmore is a palace!"
The Princess was silent but not convinced. She knew that of course Julian Wemyss was brave, but she felt that it was one thing to stand up to your enemy and kill him like a gentleman, and another to hide among frozen hags and sleep under a roof of snow.
Nevertheless she brought away a certain sense of physical warmth and well-being from the description which Patsy had given her, which comforted her. It was pleasant in the Bothy of Blairmore. Men had a strain in their blood, something primitive and savage, which made them like such things, at least for a time and as a change. She remembered her father saying that he was never happier than in the corner of a forest clearing waiting for the wild boar to charge, a flask of white brandy in his pocket and a forest-guard with a couple of spare rifles at his back.
At that moment the door opened softly and, with her smelling bottle in her hand, Miss Aline came in. She went to the window where a furious rush of snow driven by the Channel wind saluted her. She sniffed appreciatively as the hasps rattled, for even through the well-fitting windows the snell bite of the winter storm entered.
"Eh, but that's hamelike," she said, going closer, "it will be brave weather on Solwayside the noo. I mind when it would hae driven me out to play amang the wreaths like a daft year-auld collie—. Aye, and I am no sure that I wad not like a turn the noo—not o' that saft stuff that will melt and be gane the morn's mornin', but the fine kind that sifts up your sleeve and down your neck!—But for the puir herds on the hill, wae's me, it will be a wakerife time for them. Little sleep will they get if the snaw begins to drift in the hollows!"
Patsy looked at the Princess mischievously.
"You see, dear lady," she said, "our Miss Aline knows of worse places than the Bothy of Blairmore, even in such weather."
"But I do not understand," said the Princess. "Julian never told me anything of this. Do the sheep in your country stay out in all weathers—even in the winter storms, and are men to be hired who will look after them?"
"'Deed there are," said Miss Aline, "and what for no'? A finer, buirdlier set o' lads than the herds of the Hills neither you nor me are likely to see. And as for storms and biding oot at nicht—there's Willie McKerlie that herded the Lagganmore for forty year, and in the Saxteen Drifty days he wasna hame for a week. And when he got all his sheep oot, they asked him how it came that he wasna dead. 'Deid! Deid!' says he, 'what for should I be deid? I juist hadna time, man. But I grant ye, I was mair nor a wee thocht hungry, and I never kenned afore what a heap o' crumbs a man carried in his pooches when they are a' turned oot!'"
PATSY HAS GREATNESS THRUST UPON HER
At Hanover Lodge, in spite of the good will of the Princess, all did not go smoothly. Every day the ladies drove out in one of the royal carriages drawn by four beautiful bays, but with the servants and outriders in the black liveries of Saxe-Brunswick.
On such occasions the Princess dressed plainly, as befitting her position of exile, but it pleased her to array Patsy with a taste seldom seen in England. On days when they went to Windsor, where the Princesses made a pet of her, Patsy wore a dress of white muslin, simple enough, but trimmed with point lace, Vandyked at the edges, and on her head a most charming Leghorn gipsy hat, with wreaths of small roses round the edge of the brim and a second row wreathed about the crown. The effect was all Patsy's heart could desire.
It chanced that, just as the carriage drove into Staines, the party in it became aware of a brilliant cavalcade riding towards them. The Princess whispered to Patsy, "The Dukes—look through them, my dear, and do not let yourself be overcome!"
Patsy had no idea of being overcome. She held her head well up, and sat beside the Princess with a pale face but steadfast eyes. The six royal brothers were riding three and three, the Regent being in the middle of the first rank on a splendid iron-grey charger. He had come from a review in Windsor Park with which he had been able to combine the monthly perfunctory visit to his mother and sisters. He was in a hussar uniform, extremely fantastic, the same in which he afterwards asserted that he had commanded one of the cavalry divisions at Waterloo. He wore a diamond belt, which is not quite according to the regulations of the service. A diamond crown shone on his breast and the feather in his headgear was fixed with a diamond loop.
Behind came Cambridge and York and, on the side nearest to the carriage, the Duke of Lyonesse.
The Regent saluted the Princess and his brothers followed suit, but it was evident that their eyes were all upon Patsy, who fearlessly perused them as if they had been so many statues. As they rode past more than one of the suite turned his head, but of all the salutations the embarrassed and most formal was that of Louis Raincy, who rode with my Lord Headford.
But Patsy was not to be passed over. She waved her hand to him and called out briskly, "Good-day to you, Louis!"
Upon which he could do no less than turn in his saddle and salute her again, an action which evidently brought upon him a flood of questions from his companions. Presently, in answer to an urgent summons, Miss Aline, sitting with her back to the horses, could see Louis ride forward and place himself beside the Duke of York. The royal party were evidently full of curiosity and the Princess Elsa, smiling a little, said, "I should not wonder if some of these gentlemen find their way to Hanover Lodge before many days! You are not afraid, Patsy?"
"I am not afraid of any one," cried Patsy, instantly fierce. And she added with something of gratitude in her voice, "Uncle Julian sent me to you, and I am sure that he knows what is best for me. I am quite safe with you!"
"Certainly, dear," said the Princess, "still it would be a great thing if we could tell these vultures that you are soon to be a Princess yourself!"
At which Patsy looked startled but did not reply. The Princess Elsa had never spoken so openly before. She had evidently determined to strike the hot iron.
"The Prince of Altschloss is a good man, a brave soldier, and would, I believe, make an excellent husband. He is devotedly in love with you and would make you the wife of a reigning prince. It would please me greatly—indeed, I may add that it would please your uncle and your father still more, if one day when these Dukes called to spy out the land, they should find Eitel before them, and affianced to you. I do not press you—think well over it, Patsy. It would be the safest and best solution for you, and when I leave England (as I must some day) we should be quite near neighbours."
Patsy was terribly perturbed. She did not care deeply for any man. She had liked to talk to Louis Raincy—at one time perhaps more than to any man. But in the background of her mind there had always lurked a warning of his instability.
Compared to Stair Garland, for instance, he was not to be depended upon. She had seen him often riding with Mrs. Arlington in the park. He never left her side in a ball-room, and rumour was busy with their names.
Even the gentle old queen, who in her leisure moments liked (none better) to ease the tension of her mind with a spice of gossip, had said to her, "Miss Patsy, what is this I hear of your beau—old De Raincy's heir—that he is sticking like a burr to the skirts of the Arlington? I thought there was a marriage forward. From what I am told, little one, I should advise you to look after your property—that is, if you hold it of any value."
"Your Majesty," said Patsy, with very proper submission, yet with a twinkle in her eye, "we have a Scots proverb, 'He that will to Coupar, maun to Coupar'—which, being interpreted, means that if Louis wants to go to the Arlington, to the Arlington let him go—and for all I care, stop there!"
"It is a pity," sighed the Queen, "but these young men—ah, there is no advising them. I am sorry too, for the grief to his grandfather must be great. The Raincys have never been warm friends of our dynasty, but that is all over now—and forgotten on both sides. It would be well if you could do something for him."
She sat still, evidently expecting some confidence. For there was nothing in which Queen Charlotte took more interest than in the love affairs of the young people about her court. Princess Elsa signalled to Patsy to answer, and so finally she managed to say: "Your Majesty is very kind, but I have never been engaged to Louis de Raincy. He and I have been playmates all our lives, and I owe him some kindnesses which I shall not forget. But there is not and never has been more than that between us."
The Princess Elsa sat back with a sigh of relief, for she knew that some one of the circle who heard Patsy, would certainly repeat her words to the Prince of Altschloss.
So without exactly knowing how or why, it is certain that from this time forth, the people in the entourage of the Princess Elsa began to consider Miss Patricia Ferris as virtually betrothed to the hereditary ruler of Altschloss. He had even made his demand in form from the Princess, who, according to the Austrian etiquette, represented the young lady's absent father, and Princess Elsa had given him her entire permission to press his suit. Still more and better, she frequently took Miss Aline off and left him free to do it, though in any case Miss Aline was the last woman in the world to be a spoil-sport, even though her kind heart might ache for Louis Raincy.
On their next visit to Windsor Queen Charlotte took the Princess aside and pressed her, in her usual motherly fashion, on the subject.
"Of course," she said, "Prince Eitel is only the younger son of a cadet, and his way was cleared to the dukedom on the bloody day of Wagram, when his grand-uncle and three cousins were killed in the same charge. He came to the throne from round the corner. Still he is prince. He cannot help that, and I am in favour of people of our class marrying in their own class—"
"Well, Aunt Charlotte," said the Princess, "I have, as you know, somewhat grave and personal reasons for not agreeing with you."
The Queen turned her face towards her niece. It was a kindly face, but infinitely sad and lined with more cares than fall to the lot of most women of her age. The ingratitude of sons, the death of daughters, the poor troubled husband, old and witless in the King Charles ground-floor suite, weeping for his lost eyesight or sitting smiling mirthlessly over his violin, had marked her. But in spite of all she had kept the cult of royalty.
Bloods should not mix. The sacred should not seek the profane.
"I know," she said, gently putting her hand out and patting the arm of the Princess, "Brunschweig was no light trial. But are you sure you would have been happier with your ambassador?"
"Yes," said the Princess Elsa quickly, "I am certain—if he stamped upon me, if he killed me, I should be happier."
"You think so," said the Queen, "and I shall not try to make you think otherwise—"
"Because, Aunt Charlotte, neither you nor any one could do that. Julian is as faithful to-day as he was twenty years ago—as loyal, as ready to sacrifice himself. He is the one man to be depended upon."
"Ah, because he has remained your lover. But there is my husband. He is a good man. We have been happy these forty years—without a word, without a quarrel, and yet, when his wits are touched, whose name comes to his lips, whose hand does he feel when I stroke his brow?—not mine—not his old wife's, but that of a woman dead these many years, whom he knew before ever he saw me!"
"Ah," said the Princess, "but you were not wedded to a hulk of corruption, and when the dear King's words are wild, he is not responsible. You know that as well as I. At any rate there is Julian, and he and I have done our duty. But I am fond of Eitel. He at least can marry whom he likes. Patsy is a gentlewoman of unblemished lineage—older than his own—and if he can win her, at least it will keep my little Eitel from making the mistake which I made."
The Queen slowly nodded her head, thinking deeply.
"After all," she meditated, "Altschloss, though a respectable house, is neither Hapsburg nor Hanover, and a new man like Eitel, come in by a turn of the dice, may please himself—but—well (here she smiled) if you have said 'Whom Elsa hath blessed let no man put asunder'—I suppose there is no more to be done!"
"I wish it were as certain as all that," sighed the Princess, "but, in fact, I am not at all sure about Patsy!"
"What," cried the Queen, surprised out of the pensiveness of her matronly gravity, "surely you do not mean to say that the girl would refuse a prince—a reigning prince?"
Elsa shook her head sadly.
"I do not know," she acknowledged, "she watches everything with those big black eyes of hers, and she smiles. She says that one man or another is much the same to her, and I can only hope for the best. But as a matter of fact I have never dared to put the offer of the Prince clearly before her. It seems better to accustom her gradually to the idea!"
"And the young man himself—your Eitel of Altschloss does not come of a very patient race—I remember an uncle of his, but no matter—what does he say? How does he take it? Has he spoken to your little Scot?"
"Frankly, I do not know," said the Princess. "I should judge not, by the excellence of their comradeship."
"Is it wounded pride because of the young man of her country—that foolish boy of old De Raincy's? He is always, as I hear, at the flounces of the Arlington."
"I don't think Patsy cares," said the Princess. "If she showed a preference, it would make it easier for me. I should begin to understand her. Little Miss Aline Minto, the chatelaine of Ladykirk, who is with us, may understand her better, but for me I own myself beaten. I cannot get a serious answer out of the girl. If Julian were here—"
"And why is not Julian here?" said the Queen. "I understand that in your position—but, after all, with Brunschweig living as he is doing, I do not see that you need deprive yourself of his occasional advice."
"Thank you, Aunt Charlotte," said the Princess, stooping and kissing her aunt's cheek, "I shall remember. But you see, Julian killed the Regent's friend Lord Wargrove in a duel for helping one of his companions to carry off Patsy. They charge him also with wounding the Duke of Lyonesse, but that he did not do. Still, he gets the credit for it with the Carlton House set, and they have a warrant out against him. Erskine has seen to that. He cannot come to London, at least not in the meantime."
"Ah," said the Queen, "so your friend delivered us from that rascal Wargrove. That was one service to good order, though of course it is wrong to duel. It is a pity that he could not be here now. If you do not take care, that little gipsy of yours will slip through your fingers. I know what happens to young ladies who flout at princes. There is always another man in the background!"
"Aunt Charlotte, I am quite sure you are wrong about Patsy," said the Princess.
THE LOST FOLK'S ACRE
It was a high day and a holiday at the Bothy of the Wild of Blairmore—a high day though a short one—one of the shortest of all the year, though by this time it was well into January. But that made little difference on our misty moors. There the frozen sea-fog bound us and the wind, when there was one, stung extraordinarily bitter.
Sea-fog breezes yellowish (let this be marked), but the mist of the fresh water moors is white with iridescent circles where the low winter sun is trying to peep through. Little sounds carry far. You can hear wild fowl calling far up in the brumous smother which hides the lift. They are voyaging from lands of summer, and are already sorry they came. For here the winter still holds grim, black and yet somehow raw, which was the fault of the yellow sea-fog.
Stair had been up that morning long before the tardy January dawn, Whitefoot had been sent from the farm the night before with the news that Jean would meet him in the bed of the Mays Water opposite Peden's Stone. There was now more freedom of moving about, for the freezing of the snow enabled both man and beast to pass over it without leaving a footmark.
He found Jean standing there in the dim orange-coloured dawn. She was shivering dislike of the morning, which was at once clammy and freezing hard, so that every stone and even the banks were covered with the frozen fog. Jean had a great red shawl that had come from Holland about her head and neck, and so kept herself as comfortable as might be while she waited for her brother.
Stair had had to watch the signs of the countryside before he dared risk letting himself down into the dark of the Glen. For the sea was always open, and a landing party from the Britomart might have lain unseen in any of the fir copses or hidden behind the knolls.
Black and narrow ran the Mays, that at other times flowed so wide and brown and free. The frost had bound it tightly, all save a trickle in the centre, black as ink, and everywhere about clung the icicles, some thick as a man's arm.
"Oh, Stair, here are letters—one for Mr. Julian and one for you," Jean gasped, the sea-fog in her throat, "thankful I am to see you! I thought you would never come. Here, too, are the provisions—be canny with the eggs. They are on the top in a box by themselves, packed in sawdust, but do not be throwing them down wi' a brainge to get at your letters. And there in a big bag are the linen and clothes—cleaner and sweeter could not be, though I say it that washed and laundried them."
"Is Patsy well?" queried Stair, for he knew that Jean must have a letter of her own which she had read already.
"Famous," said Jean—"of course she is well. Are they not going to marry her to a prince—?"
"Not Lyonesse?" The voice of Stair grew suddenly hoarse and threatening. He looked capable of setting off to London with his musket over his shoulder, to finish the job he had begun.
"Goose," quoth his sister, "no—of course not. Somebody she likes—a young and handsome prince from Germany, or maybe Austria, and a great friend and near neighbour of the Princess, when she is at home."
"You are mocking me," said Stair, regaining some of his composure. "It is sheer nonsense that you are talking."
"Well," said Jean, adjusting the red Amersfort shawl about her head and neck, "go back and read your letter. You will no doubt find it all written there!"
Stair stood and watched her till she disappeared along the edge of the Water of Mays. He could not ask her any further questions, having Patsy's prohibition before him. Besides, there was his own letter, along with one for her Uncle Julian. The last was by far the thickest, and he wondered greatly as he turned it over in his hand, what it might contain.
He could not read his letter down under the overhanging brow of the copse. It was too dark down there at the water's edge, and so by a great detour he made for the Lost Folk's Acre—that port of final harbourage to which the drowned were brought. It lay high on the cliffs, so lonely that if the Lost Ones were to sit evident on their crumbling head-boards and watch for ships all day long, not even a passing gull would be frighted.
"Dear Stair" (the letter read), "it is no use telling you about all the grand doings I have been at. For you never take the least notice. But I can tell you one bit of news that will interest you. My Lord Duke of Lyonesse is better of his wound, for I have seen him twice. He looks nearly quite right when he is riding on a horse, but when he came with his brother York the other day to see us at Hanover Lodge, he carried a Malacca cane all banded with gold and he limped badly. I don't think he will ever get over it altogether. Of which I was glad, and also proud that you could take so good an aim in the dark. For of course you had no practice in shooting Dukes.
"The Princess was particularly haughty that day, and would hardly ask them to sit down. I said nothing, but bent over my needlework like the good child keeping quiet in the corner. Oh, but they are stupid, these royal people, all except my own Princess and the dear old Queen at Windsor. Neither York nor Lyonesse knew in the least what to say, and the Princess let them stammer on without helping them. I could have laughed.
"What made her more angry still was the way they spoke about Uncle Ju. They said they were sure of getting him, and that the Regent was furious about his killing Wargrove. He could not expect any mercy. And the Princess said, 'Ah, I thought it was only women whom the Regent abused without mercy—I think your brother Cumberland told me so!'
"And this made York burst into a roar of laughter, but Lyonesse grew very red and angry, for he fancies himself the favourite of his lordly eldest brother. Then the Princess said to me, 'Go and see that the maids have closed the windows of my room. I am going up there as soon as these gentlemen have gone!'
"Upon which I escaped, and after a little while the Princess followed me, smiling, and apparently quite pleased with herself.
"'Now I wonder,' said she, 'what good they suppose they have done themselves by that. I am convinced it was the fault of that gipsy hat with the second ring of roses climbing over the crown. Ah, there is Eitel—I shall be down presently. Go and entertain him! I hope they met him coming through the park. He would be sure to scowl at them!'
"Shall I tell you who Eitel is? Well, if you are nervous and unaccustomed to shocks, sit down in the biggest and strongest chair in the Bothy and take hold of both arms. There—one, two, three. Shut your eyes and grip.
"Well, Eitel is a Prince, Prince Eitel of Altschloss, who wants to marry me! There. Of course you will not believe it, and indeed, to tell the truth, I hardly do either. But they all want me to—even the dear Queen would be pleased. She said as much only yesterday. I think she was sorry about having helped to stop Elsa marrying Uncle Julian a long time ago.
"And the young man—well, he is a good soldier—has fought a lot against Napoleon, and will fight again. To look at?—Oh, he is big and round and rosy, with yellow moustaches and cheeks like apples, nice plump red apples. He goes 'Hum-hem-hum' in his throat when he speaks to me, and he always kisses my hand. Generally he calls me 'Most Noble Lady,' and then I wonder how many hundred yards I could give him and beat him in a mile race along the sands. I daresay he would be quite nice if I cared about princes—because he does not swear all the time, nor gamble away his money with Hangers and Beaujolais and suchlike cattle. Nor does he habitually get so drunk that he has to be carried to bed. In his way he is quite a pattern prince, and if I marry him I shall be the Perfect Princess! But shall I? What do you advise? The Principality of Altschloss is not large, but it is rich and the people are very well off and contented, that is when 'Bony' lets them alone. So the Princess says, and she knows all about it, for she lives, as it were, just up the next street—I mean in the next Principality or Duchy or whatever it is.
"They have got me into a corner, Stair, and here in London among great folk I do not see how to get out. If it were only dodging them among the pine of the Glenanmays woods or losing them among the sand-dunes at the Abbey Burnfoot, my feet would trip as lightly as ever they did in the yellow sandals—I think the Prince has written to my father, and I know that the Princess has enclosed a letter to Uncle Julian." (Stair could feel it at that moment between his finger and thumb.)
"So, Stair, they have arranged with everybody, or are in the way of arranging with everybody—except one, Stair—except one.
"They have not yet heard Patsy Ferris speak her mind. They are, poor people, taking a great deal for granted. And there are things in this little girl's mind that she has not told to any one.
"If I married the Prince, I know I should make him desperately unhappy. Yet how to cheat all these wise plan-making people who love me and wish me, according to their lights, the very best sorts of Well—I do not yet see. It will come to me, however. Do you remember how we used to play hide-and-seek so that you could not find me, not even with your dog—I could cheat you so cunningly. Well, Stair, I am not caught yet. If I am hard pressed on land, there is still wind among the tree tops.
"Say nothing of all this screed to Uncle Julian. He will most likely spend the day in writing. Do you go out somewhere (unless the day is too wet) and write also. I needed to tell you, for though every one here is kind, I cannot be sure of this one or that. And I fear me there is no help for this trouble in the gun you carry over your shoulder, Stair. It is not the same sort of carrying off as that of the White Loch, and the Prince with all his apple face and his body like a comfortable bolster means everything that is most honourable and princely. I cannot have him shot.
"And oh, I forgot—the second time that the Royal Dukes—the same pair as before—came hither to Hanover Lodge, Prince Eitel was there and he stood over me all the time they stayed like a soldier on guard, asking me funny questions about my embroidery, in which, I am certain, he was not interested a little bit! But they knew well enough that he was the Prince Eitel who had been at Austerlitz and Wagram, and that he could demand of them as a right the satisfaction which they might deny to a commoner. So I was grateful to him for cowing them, though I really believe that your way is the best, Stair. There is nothing like a charge of slugs in the back for teaching a royal duke manners!
"If the worst comes to the worst, do not be surprised if—but I cannot write it down. At any rate do not be surprised at anything I may do—only be ready to help me when I do it. And remain always, as I shall, faithful to the memory of the White Loch.
THE HIGH STILE
Having finished, Stair seemed to wake as from a dream. He had read and re-read the letter. The words buzzed in his ears, mingled with the sharp pain at his heart. Patsy a princess—a real prince making love to her, a man who could be her husband, who might even now have rights upon her, yet whom it would be impossible to deal with as he had dealt with the Duke of Lyonesse! He felt desperately lonely up there.
The escarpments of the cliffs sank away beneath him into the chill turmoil of the winter sea. He had been sitting on a flat tomb, one of the few cut in stone. The yellow fog had vanished. The moors spread away vague and simple, the fine wreath-curves of the snow only interrupted here and there by the brutal rigidity of the tall stone dykes with the easterly snow-blast still clinging in the chinks and stuffing the crevices.
Everything was colourless, the ground of a bluish lilac, fading imperceptibly into a livid sky. Still half-dazed, Stair looked about him, Patsy's letter in his hand, surprised to find himself out there and alone. The written characters danced before his eyes, and it was only the strongest sense of duty which turned his face towards the Bothy and Julian Wemyss. He was carrying, he knew it well, a letter from the Princess, enclosing and doubtless supporting a demand for the hand of Patsy Ferris.
Whitefoot slunk along at his master's side, his tail and ears eloquently drooped, and his doleful aspect reflecting admirably the mood of his master. But Stair set his teeth and went forward. He found his breakfast waiting for him, and Julian Wemyss took the letter with his usual grateful urbanity. He was not slow in noticing the depressed state of his companion, though, naturally, he put it down to his having been kept waiting so long in the raw fog.
"I suppose Jean could not come exactly to the moment?" he said, his letter still unopened in his hand.
"No," said Stair, "she was waiting for me, but I came back by the cliffs and the Sailors' Graveyard."
Julian, who knew that Stair never did anything without a reason, asked him if he had found everything clear from the lookout.
"Oh, all clear," said Stair, and sat down to make a pretence of breakfasting. But he could not keep his eyes from wandering in the direction of Julian Wemyss, who, seated in the great chair between the window and the fire, was presently bending his brows over the packet he had received. Eight sheets of a fine and light handwriting like that of the address—from the Princess Elsa, of that there could be no question. Julian read on and on, wrapped up in the daintily written words, unconscious of the thick enclosure on paper like parchment, which had slipped down on the floor of the Bothy. Stair could see the huge black downstrokes of the superscription. He stopped eating and began to clear away.
Julian looked up from his reading at the sudden clattering of pottery.
"Hold there," he said, "it is my day—you must not forget. I claim my rights."
But Stair continued with a smile to prepare for that part of the work which is the curse of every bachelor menage—the washing-up after.
"I think," he said quietly, "that you will have enough to do with your correspondence—I take everything upon me for to-day. Your pardon, Mr. Wemyss, but I am afraid you have dropped something!"
"Ah, so I have—it is nothing—I am much obliged to you."
He spoke the truth. It was nothing to him—what, indeed, could be anything in comparison with those eight closely written sheets of large letter paper from his Princess—only the half of which he had yet mastered. Elsa of Saxe-Brunschweig had never written him so long a letter since the day when they agreed, long ago in Vienna, that for the good of her house and country she must marry the old duke-elector.
So it came to pass that Julian Wemyss was grateful to Patsy for bringing him such good fortune. Nor was he surprised out of measure when he heard that his niece had the offer of the hand of a Prince reigning in his own right.
But better than any one else, Julian could measure the greatness of the Prince's affection, because he knew what these royal and grand ducal persons think of their order. He saw that it was in some sort a defiance flung at the court of Austria, which Eitel of Altschloss had served so bravely, and which had done nothing for the young captain of horse till he found himself suddenly pistoned into a princedom.
Before going further he read the Prince's letter. It was in German, and most courteously expressed. Julian Wemyss thought well of the man, and saw no reason why he should not assist, so far as he could, in settling Patsy in so enviable a position. It would be new, of course, but Patsy had been carefully taught. The best of blood ran in her veins, and by nature she was quick, sympathetic and receptive.
The people of Altschloss were simple and would appreciate frankness and simplicity in others. It was, in fact, almost an ideal arrangement, and besides, at Altschloss she would find herself in the immediate vicinity of the Princess Elsa. Nay, she would enter her castle and begin her duties with the Princess by her side. Nothing could possibly turn out better. It was wonderful what Elsa could do. There was no doubt she had caused Patsy to go to London and brought the Prince across half Europe simply that she might make a love-match—one that would be the very opposite in every respect of her own unfortunate experience.
Julian Wemyss could contain himself no longer. He must share his delight with some one. So he turned to his companion, who was busy with the "drying" of the dishes and utensils.
"Stair," he cried, "what do you think? Our little Patsy is going to be a Princess!"
"Ah!" said Stair, calmly, without raising his eyes, and finished with peculiar care the drying of the tall wine-glass which had been brought over from Abbey Burnfoot by Joseph's special intervention, and reserved for "the master, who is partial to it."
"Patsy is going to marry the Prince of Altschloss, a man of much courage and reputation. He was already at the wars when I left Vienna, but I knew and appreciated his uncle, by whose death at Wagram, Prince Eitel, then a captain of cavalry in the Bohemian contingent, came to the title."
"You have heard all this from Patsy?" said Stair suddenly, shooting out his words as from a catapult. Julian Wemyss, with the trained judgment of the moods of men and women quick within him, looked once at the young fellow who pursued his business so methodically.
Could Stair also—? (he thought). No, surely, that was impossible. Yet who could number the victims of Patsy? He himself—if it had not been for the Princess and the tables of consanguinity—he knew that he might very well have committed any folly for Patsy's sake. And why not Stair?
"No," he answered aloud while these thoughts were passing through his mind, "I have not heard from Patsy. She might have written a note and forgotten to enclose it. Of that she is quite capable."
But to himself he acknowledged that the boy was right. It was certainly strange that along with the detailed history of all the phases of the attachment which was enshrined for him in the clear-cut French of the Princess, with the formal but manly demand of his good offices written by the Prince Eitel, there should not also be a single word from Patsy herself. However, he must not let this young man put him down.
"I have no doubt," he said, "that she has written to her father. Would it be possible, think you, to arrange a meeting with him to-day?"
* * * * *
Stair stood in the doorway looking tall and strong, though in figure rather spare, his Viking head in striking contrast with the dark hair threaded with grey, and the fine, delicate features of the ex-ambassador.
"Difficult, but not impossible," he said, "but I must consider. We cannot afford to show ourselves in daylight anywhere off the Wild, and least of all near the military road which passes Cairn Ferris House at the valley head."
He looked out at the sky. It was a dull slate grey, and grew darker down towards the edge of the cliffs. He noted that the sea-fog was already lipping over, and he knew that certainly long before sunset the yellow fog would again be marching triumphant across the Wild of Blairmore, blotting out everything.
"I think," he said, "that it would be safe to send to Cairn Ferris about three. It will be almost dark then, and if you write a note asking Mr. Ferris to meet you at the High Stile—that will be safest, for it is on Raincy ground and less likely to be watched than the Ferris valleys—I shall see that it reaches Mr. Ferris if he is at home in his own house."
Julian Wemyss thanked Stair and turned away to get ready the note for Patsy's father. And as he wrote his mind was busy with a new conjecture. He wondered how he could have been so blind. He prided himself on divining the reasons of things and the hearts of men. But now he seemed to see Stair Garland for the first time. How different he was from all those who had been his companions. He himself could associate with the young man without any feeling of awkwardness or inequality. He did not even speak like his brothers. He studied deeply and read much. His opinions were singularly original and his criticisms often valuable. Yet he strained after no effect, and was ever more ready in action than word.
Three months ago Stair had never seen a rapier, and now Julian Wemyss needed all his skill to stand up to a dazzling swiftness of attack, which together with length of arm and three extra inches of height might well make his pupil no mean adversary when the buttons were off the foils.
* * * * *
The letter was dispatched by Whitefoot to Jean, to be given to either of her brothers. Stair knew that the meeting would be arranged if Mr. Ferris could be found. There was nothing left for him to do but to get his writing-materials and, between the leaves of a copy-book, begin his reply to Patsy. He had not informed her uncle of her letter—neither would he tell her father, if he should meet him. Patsy had forbidden him.
Besides, it was certain that whatever these people might arrange among themselves, Patsy would end by doing just as she liked. Indeed, her father, Adam, had never in all his life questioned his daughter's comings or goings, nor interfered with her wishes. He had done his best for her education, so long as Patsy desired to be educated. He had provided governesses, but these generally stayed but a short time at Cairn Ferris, not being accustomed to be left alone during lesson-time because their pupil had gone bird-nesting with Stair Garland, or to the moss with the farm lads to fetch peats, from mere thoughtlessness of heart and delight in the open air.
Later, Adam Ferris had acquiesced in his daughter's wish for complete emancipation, and had delivered her education up to his brother-in-law. He had taken even such serious escapades as that of the race to save the lads from the press-gang, and that of the White Loch, as due to the strange nature of his daughter, and had been content to believe that all would turn out well because these things happened to Patsy, and Patsy was certainly different from any one else.
No doubt he would have revenged the insult perhaps even more sternly than his brother-in-law had done, if Julian had not begged that the matter should be left entirely in his hands. But he had so long been accustomed to give Patsy her head, that no really definite action could be expected from him now, at least not on his own responsibility.
It was all the more needful, then, that Julian should put his duty before him. He was a father and the Prince would expect to see him in the matter of his daughter's hand. He must set off at once for London.
The grey noon darkened rapidly as the long-pent sea-mist overflowed the cliff, wallowing and billowing like an oceanic invasion, over the face of the moor. Whitefoot brought back hidden in his collar the simple message, "I shall be there," signed with the well-known crabbed fist of "Adam Ferris," traditional in his family for some hundreds of years, which seemed completely identical with signatures in the family chartularies.
By this time Stair had finished his letter to Patsy, but with unusual care he corrected it, and had it recopied before it was time to set out. He would send it on to Jean that night, and it would be in Patsy's hands before these wise people, to whom she had not written, had done taking counsel together. Meanwhile he stood at the door of the Bothy, looking across the dim wastes of white, hardly a single heather-bush showing up under the solid cover of snow. Only here and there he could see a deep black gash which was the side of a moss-hag at the bottom of which a pool of ink-black water lay frozen solid.
Nevertheless, in spite of the stern grip of winter, there was a tingle in his blood and a difference, subtle but quite unmistakable, which told of a change.
Spring was in the air. Far-off as yet, and only, as it were, a conditional promise, there came a softness on the light airs that came breathing up over the sea, which told that the frost-sting was gone. The snow had stopped creaking underfoot, and the march would be easier—which would be just as well, for they had a long road and a dark before them, and Julian Wemyss was neither by age nor training an expert hill-man.
But something else oppressed Stair's mind. The soft breathing off the sea would melt the snow, clear away the ice and lay the Bothy of the Wild open to attack. At Cairnryan the press-gang would be re-formed. They might find their way to a spot to which they had once been led, and—most important of all, some night towards the dark of the moon, the Good Intent would be seen, between the star-shine and the luminous sea, making her way up the firth with the first "run" of the year.
And with her Julian Wemyss would depart for Lisbon on his way to Vienna, where he would prepare the way for the future Princess of Altschloss.
Stair's lips tightened. He watched the treacly pour of the yellow fog thickening about him. His eyes noted mechanically the precise shade of darkness when it would be wise for them to set out for the High Stile, but his heart was sick with a sense of his own loneliness. He would be left to fight out a useless battle—with Patsy far off and eternally inaccessible. What after all would it matter if he took the king's shilling and went to the wars?
But his own observant eyes automatically reporting on the darkening landscape checked him.
"It is time for us to start!" he said quietly enough to Julian Wemyss, who rose to his feet and put away the letter of the Princess which he had been going over for the twentieth time.
THE GIBBET RING
Ghastly behind the High Stile, just as you cross over into Raincy property, rose the three tall trees of the Gibbet Ring. Once the Raincys had jurisdiction to hang men and drown women, and it was on this "moot-hill" that they dispensed their feudal laws as seemed to them good. There was something grim about the place even now, and as Julian approached, the High Stile stood up against the last flare of red in the evening sky not yet blotted out by the mist, gaunt and sinister as a guillotine.
And the dark silhouette of Adam Ferris, waiting for them, might well have been that of the executioner himself. Stair saluted Adam Ferris, who held out his hand frankly enough to his tenant's son.
"So, Stair," he said, "you have been missing for a long time from your father's table. I had the honour of dining with Diarmid Garland yesterday, and heard nothing of you. Ah, Julian! So this Captain of the Coast has been taking care of you."
He turned to his brother-in-law, who had come more slowly up out of the darkness of the glen, following Stair as closely as might be in the uncertain dusk, for the eyes of the ex-ambassador were not habituated to night duty like those of his guide.
Stair Garland drew back a little after he had seen that the two men were safe in the shelter of the great Raincy ash trees. He would let them talk the matter out. But his mind followed their argument, such as it would doubtless be. He knew the end—that Julian would persuade Adam Ferris to go to London to arrange the future of his daughter. Adam would not be so easy to persuade. Not only would he dislike returning all the way to London, but he would be far more doubtful than his kinsman as to the power he could exercise over Patsy's choice.
Julian Wemyss naturally thought that no position could be better or more fortunate for any girl than that which the Prince Eitel was offering his niece. But Adam was constitutionally unable to imagine that any dignity could add to the position she already held as heiress of four hundred years of Ferrises of Cairn Ferris.
Stair wandered away up the slope towards the Gibbet Knoll, Whitefoot stealing along at his heels, walking almost in his tracks, but with his ears cocked to catch the slightest unexplained noise. As he arrived under the scant foliage of the few remaining gaunt trees, tall branchless trunks with a mere plume at the top of each, bent permanently away from the south-west by the sea-winds, he walked to the small stone platform on which the Baron had issued his decree. From that point of outlook it was possible to see the towers of Castle Raincy looming over the grey sea of vapour, which filled all the lower ground and now and then flung out an arm that momentarily snatched at and submerged the Gibbet Knoll.
Stair had not gone far when something large and dark darted across the path between the trees where the snow had been blown a little bare. Stair was instantly in pursuit. It was not a time when he could afford to overlook anything. A man it was, certainly, for the moment the thicker underbrush was reached he rose half erect and went plunging head foremost into it.
But Whitefoot was before him, and had him by the throat before he could run ten yards. Stair, immediately behind, saw the man's hand go to his belt, and comprehended that Whitefoot's life was in danger.
With a spring he was upon him. One hand gripped the fugitive's wrist. With a pull backward he had him on the ground. His foot pushed aside the eager jaws of Whitefoot and saved the man's life. Then he knelt stolidly on one arm, holding the other extended while he searched the man for arms in a swift professional manner. A knife and a pair of pistols were his booty. These he tossed aside and bade the dog keep guard over them.
"Now who are you and what are you doing here?" he demanded in a hoarse whisper in the fellow's ear. "Speak, man, if you have any wish to live."
The man kept silence, though he had given up struggling. But it was evident that he was not anxious to be recognized.
"This way, then," growled Stair, "and the worse for you if you have been out after any mischief."
He dragged the man roughly enough out upon the open surface of the snow, and knelt upon him, bringing his face close to that of his captive.
"Good God," he cried, forgetting his danger in his astonishment, "Eben the Spy!"
* * * * *
But the man lay limp in Stair's grasp. He appeared to have fainted. However, Stair knew a cure for that. He took a handful of the harsh half-melted sugar-loaf snow and rubbed the spy's face hard. Then he pulled him up into a sitting position.
"Come, Eben," he growled, "no malingering! I have no time to waste on you. If you do not get ready very quickly to do as I tell you, there is a chance that you will be found out here in the morning with an extra hole in your head which none of his Majesty's regimental surgeons will be able to plug—at least not in time to do you any good!"
"I ... am ... not what you think—indeed I am not," the man gasped, as he began to get his breath back after Stair's rough handling.
"That's as may be," said his captor, "you are too open-minded a man to expect me to believe a syllable of what you say, merely on your word."
"No, sir," said Eben, "but I am the more to be pitied—I am outlawed by the Government, and your people shot at me as I was escaping—"
"Ah," said Stair, "you mean when you fled with the Duke's money and jewels the night of the little trouble at the White Loch."
"Indeed," said Eben the Spy, "I am altogether on your side, though I cannot expect you to believe it. But I can bring you a good witness. Even before what occurred there, I had given up all my work for the Government. I intended to make a bolt for it anyway. I knew it was only a question of time when I should be shot. I had been missed already more than once, and indeed, sir, I carry lead in my body at this moment."
Stair grinned so that the man caught the flash of his teeth in the uncertain glimmer, and got his first ray of hope that his life might be spared. He knew very well that nothing he could say would convince Stair of his good faith, but it might be possible to soften him by taking the situation with a certain humour.
"Ah, you laugh, sir," he continued, "but it is no light thing to be a superintendent of recruitment and to belong to the parish of Stonykirk!"
"Say a press-gang spy!" flashed Stair. "That will be the truth."
"A press-gang spy, then," said Eben meekly. "I am not boggling about words—"
"And your business to betray your own folk!"
"I always endeavoured to temper justice with mercy," said the man, feeling at his throat with one of his now disengaged hands.
"Come—none of that," said Stair, "at least, have the courage of your rascality. I shall like you none the worse. Where have you been all this time?"
"Well," said the man, "that's telling. But I know you, Stair Garland, and I have confidence in the man I am talking to—"
"If you abuse that confidence you are good enough to profess in me," said Stair with biting irony, "I beg you to remember that it will be at a price!"
"I know—I know, sir," the man from Stonykirk moaned, "I should not dream of deceiving you."
"Better not," said Stair, "you are on our side, you say. Take care and do not forget again, or the next time you will not be missed. I shall go spy-hunting myself."
"I swear to you—" he began, gasping at the thought.
"Do not swear—I would not believe you if you swore on a pile of Bibles as high as Criffel!"
"But you would believe my uncle Kennedy on his bare word—"
"What uncle?" queried Stair, sharply. "D'ye mean Kennedy McClure of Supsorrow?"
"The same, sir—you would believe him if he spoke a good word for me?"
Stair paused a moment before answering. The Laird of Supsorrow had lent his horses for the carrying off of Patsy, but it was quite certain that had he known the risks, or the purpose for which they were to be used, he would have done nothing of the kind. He was too deep in the traffic, and had used his money to finance too many cargoes.
"Yes," he answered at last, "I would take your uncle's word, if he says that he will go bail that you mean to be faithful to us. But how can I get that word—Kennedy McClure is in London."
"I know that," said the spy, "but I have been abiding all the winter at Supsorrow with my uncle. He gave me shelter and aid when my life was in danger on every side, when I was hunted like a partridge on the mountains—"
"You would make an excellent preacher, Eben, and I dare say you are telling the truth for once. If you have been with us—"
"Will this convince you, sir?" the spy broke in eagerly, seeing his chance. "I have known all the winter that you and Mr. Wemyss were at the Bothy. I knew that you met with Joseph from the Burnfoot, and that your washing was done at Glenanmays. Now there is a reward out for Mr. Julian, sir, and yet I have never breathed a word!"
"Lucky for you, or you would never have breathed another," growled Stair, "but there does seem to be something in what you say. That reward—your uncle must have had something to say against that. It must have gone hard against the grain with you."
"I beg that you will think of my own position, Mr. Stair—I might have made my peace!"
"Ah, you mean about the Duke's money and the jewels—no, I do not forget that part of it, Eben. I shall further confer with you as to what shall be done with these. In the meantime—do not budge. Here, watch him, Whitefoot!"
And very calmly Stair picked up the pistols and reprimed them. Then, having stuck the sheath-dagger into his belt under his coat, he faced his captive.
"In the meanwhile you are coming back with us to the Bothy. I don't know what I shall do with you yet. But at any rate I cannot afford to run any chances. You must stay with us till we get the first ship off. Perhaps if you behave well, you shall have a passage on her. But in the meantime—right-about-face ... march!"
The spy obeyed, though there were several things for which he would have wished to stipulate. But Stair had a newly primed pistol pointed midway between his ears as viewed from behind, and the spy felt keenly the one-sidedness of any discussion in such a situation. He marched down the hill, guided now to right and anon to left by a growled order from Stair. Whitefoot was in front, looking over his shoulder and occasionally showing his teeth. In this order the three arrived at the hollow where they had left Adam and Julian. The pair were still in earnest debate, so the little procession swerved away to the right to leave them to themselves.
"Evidently," thought Stair, "Patsy's father has been harder to convince than I had supposed. I'll wager it is the journey to London which sticks in his gizzard."
In this somewhat inelegant form, Stair expressed what was the truth.
"I do not see," said Adam Ferris, obstinately, "what particle of good I could do if I were to take up my residence in London for the rest of my life. I let Patsy go there because you thought it necessary, but I shall be still more glad to have her home again. She can marry a Prince if she likes or she can marry the Prince's gentleman. She will neither marry nor refrain from marrying because of anything you or I can say. I know Patsy better than you do, Julian. She comes from your side of the house, and the fact is she is far too like yourself ever to ask or take advice."
"But think how necessary your presence will be," Julian insisted, "it is not fair to leave a girl alone at what may prove to be the crisis of her fate."
"Well, it was none of my doing, Julian," said the Laird of Cairn Ferris, "I should not have sent her to a princess for the perfecting of her education. But you insisted upon it. Well, I trust my daughter. I have trusted her in greater dangers than any which can arrive through this Austrian young man. Never fear, Patsy will clear her own feet. The Princess shall have an answer to her letter, and the wooer as well, but I would not go to London to push the matter, no, not if she were to be an empress!"
And from this position Adam Ferris, with characteristic doggedness, was in no wise to be moved.
"You put me in a very awkward position," said Julian, discontentedly, "I cannot go myself, and even if I did, it would not be the same thing as the protection and approval of her father—"
A light broke upon Adam, and he smiled grimly.
"I think I remember your telling me, Julian, that in asking for a maid's hand in these countries, it was the correct etiquette for the nearest relatives of the bridegroom to come in state to the home of the parents of the bride, to ask for their daughter's hand. Now at Cairn Ferris I shall be glad to receive and to entertain to the best of my ability any of this Prince Eitel's family, or the Prince himself if he likes to make the journey. But you yourself have made me a strict believer in etiquette in such matters, and from Cairn Ferris I shall not stir!"
At which Julian Wemyss snorted aloud and broke off the interview.
THE DUKES ... AND SUPSORROW
Every good action has its fruit, though the doer of it but seldom plucks it in this world. Contrariwise the fruits of ill-done deeds are early ripeners, and it is seldom the teeth of the children that are set on edge.
Patsy, faring leisurely westward to meet the Princess in the park and be driven home, at the corner of Lyonesse House, just where you turn towards the green of the tree-tops discerned at the street's end, came within the sound of a mighty voice.
A tall, heavily built man of fierce aspect and red choleric face was picking himself up off the ground, opposite a house from which he had been forcibly ejected, and a crowd of ordinary street loafers was gathering about. Patsy would have turned away, but there was something curiously familiar about the tones of the voice and the imaginative dialect which drew her in spite of herself.
"Fower against yin!" shouted the voice; "and three o' them I hae markit. Whaur's your Dukes noo? I hae gi'en yin o' them a fine black eye. If Dukes will not pay their debts, faith, I'll pay their skins. I had a punch at the fat yin too, and doon he went like a bag o' wat sand!"
Patsy hurried forward, elbowing her way vigorously, and the beauty of her dress even more than the dark intensity of her face, caused the throng to make way. She saw the man clearly now, and already the crowd was beginning to seek for missiles.
"Kennedy McClure," she said, taking hold of the man's arm, "come your ways out o' this and as fast as may be—"
"Lea' me alane, I tell ye," he cried, "I will go back and take another punch at them—all six at a time—Dukes that will not pay their debts!"
"Quiet now! I am Patsy Ferris of Cairn Ferris—Adam's daughter, and a friend. Here, laird, get into this coach" (she had beckoned one from a stand and given a direction), "there, Supsorrow, into this coach and bide you still as I bid ye. You are going to see the inside of a gaol if you stay where you are. The rascals want no better. Now be quiet, Supsorrow, I am my father's daughter, and I know what is good for you."
By this time the carriage was in motion. She had taken out a pair of spare handkerchiefs such as women carry, and was dusting his knee-breeches when Kennedy came to himself.
"Patsy—Patsy Ferris grown a great leddy! No—what is that ye are after—then ye shall not!—Let my shoe-buckles alane—I'm tellin' ye!"
"You are going to meet a princess," said Patsy, polishing away; "and I intend that you shall do no discredit to Galloway."
"A princess—hech, let me get oot o' this," cried the angry gentleman-farmer, making attempts to reach the door; "I could not touch her, but I'd be feared that I could not keep my tongue off ony o' that breed."
"Oh, she is none of 'that breed,' as you say." Here Patsy resumed her seat, and after a general inspection set Laird Supsorrow's cocked hat straight on his head, and pronounced that he would do.
The Princess was waiting for her friend at the park entrance, and she seemed somewhat surprised when she saw her advancing in company with a big solidly built countryman, with his seals dangling and silver buckles shining at knee and shoe-latchet.
But Princess Elsa instantly understood. Patsy had discovered a countryman lost in London, and with the friendliness which characterized her she had brought him on to taste of the hospitality of Hanover Lodge. Accordingly she smiled her most friendly smile as Patsy made the presentation.
"Did I not tell you, Patsy," she said; "there was a 'visitor' in the tea this morning?"
And she held out her hand which Kennedy of Supsorrow instantly grasped and shook heartily.
"I'm sair obleeged to ye, ma leddy," he said, "this is mair honour than ever I thought wad come my road in this world. And I hae kenned Miss Patsy ever since I catched her up my sugar-ploom tree and she pelted me wi' the ploom-stanes. Ech, she was a besom, and I'm thinkin' she is no muckle better yet!"
The Princess invited Kennedy to take the seat opposite to them and be driven home. She was really very glad to see any one who came to her from Patsy's country.
"Faith," said honest Kennedy, "her and me does not aye agree. She's ower fond o' stravagin' through my fields after a trashery o' wild flooers, and leavin' gates open ahint her! But she's aye a bonny thing to see, and she plays the mischief wi' the lads yonder. I used to like a lass like that when I was young—and noo I'm auld, I hae still a saft side for Miss Patsy—though I do wish, ma leddy, that ye would speak to her aboot shutting the yetts after her!"
The Princess, after the speech had been interpreted to her, promised to do her best in the matter of the gates, and during their drive to Hanover Lodge, he kept the Princess immensely amused with the story of his encounter with the two Dukes.
The matter needed to be interpreted, and in places expurgated, but in substance it ran as followeth:—
"I cam' to London to get the price o' a pair o' horse and a fine new carriage—as good as new onyway—oh, ye have seen the turn-out, Miss Patsy. Aye, aye—it had served the Laird o' the Marrick a while, I will not deny—that is, not to you—but it was a fine faceable carriage whatever, before the lad that fired on the Duke dang it a' to flinders. I reckoned the total value at twa hundred pounds, and it was the odd hundred-and-fifty I caa'ed roond to collect at the Duke's hoose.
"The flunkey in the fine gowd-braided reid coatie wasna sure aboot lettin' me in, but I soon had my double-soled shoe in the kink o' the door and afore my lad kenned, I was inside the graund hall. I took a look aboot me, very careful, and, guid faith, the lackeys were standing round as thick as thistles o' the field in their red plush breeks. Only they didna look as if they were the stuff to put me oot.
"So I explained to him that appeared to be the heid yin, the naitur' o' my errand. Very ceevil I was, but when I had dune he just laughed and the rest they laughed after him.
"'You have come to the wrong shop, my man,' says he, 'pay a debt in a Royal Duke's house—who ever heard of the like? Ye must go to Parliament about that!'
"'Then,' said I, 'ye are gaun to hear the like noo!'
"And down I sat on a fine soffy to wait for the Duke. They cried to one another to come and 'put me oot,' that the Duke and his brother would be doon afore lang, and that it would never do for him to find me there—it was as much as their places were worth!
"Then when they cam' to lay hands on me, and I aye keepit on saying ower and ower to mysel' as if it were a lesson, 'The big yin's nose, and your e'e, and the ither chap's jaw!' They could see my knuckles clenched middlin' firm—and so they stoppit to think about it. There was nae crowdin' to be first! Na, fegs!
"Juist then there was a sound o' laughin' and talkin', and four gentlemen cam' doon the stairs. The first two were braw, and the others ahint were officers—just plain sodger officers, but they were a' lauchin' throughither as pack as thieves.
"There was ane o' the first twa with the blue sashes that limpit. Says I to mysel', 'That's Stair Garland's chairge o' buckshot, and him I took to be my man. So I askit him civilly to pay me the hundred-and-fifty pund that was due me on the horses, and no sooner were the words oot o' my mouth, than he swore he would have me hung, drawn and quartered, for a murdering rogue, a thief and a liar.
"I heard him till he was clean oot o' breath, and then I explained again. But he was deaf as ony adder, and only cried, him and his brither baith, for the officers to throw me oot at the window. Then one of the officers blew a whistle, and I kenned what that was for.
"'Nae guards wi' biggonets for Kennedy McClure,' says I. 'Here's for ye! Come on, ye spangled rogues—the whole thieving dollop of ye!'
"And with that I let drive amang them, and there's twa o' the dukes and at least yin o' the officers that will not show their faces for a day or two. The leddies would not think them bonny. They are signed 'Kennedy of Supsorrow—his mark!' Oh—no! But they were ower mony for me at the last. They got me aff my feet and flang me into the street wi' a clash that near split the paving-stanes. Then, when the low ribaldry o' the toon was gettin' my birses up, and they had sent to fetch the guard, up comes this bonny young leddy, and speerited me awa' in a coach, me swearin' ootragious and maist unwillin'—just like a fool tyke that hasna had eneuch o' a fecht. Syne she brushes me and cossets me, and so here I am, madam, at your service, and no fit for the company of my betters, being but a landward man with little education and by nature a man of wrath far beyond ithers."
THE "GREEN DRAGON"
Kennedy McClure did not inhabit Hanover Lodge, though the Princess pressed her hospitality upon him. He knew his place, he said. He might be Laird of Supsorrow and all that. His cattle were upon a thousand hills, but for all that he was just a rough-spun Galloway farmer body and he would not disgrace the company of no great ladies by his ignorances.
The truth was that he had a horror of the whole genus "lackey," and he could not even pass the soberly clad "gentlemen" of the Princess without a quivering of the muscles and a clenching of the fists. He found himself much more comfortable at the adjoining Green Dragon Inn, which stands near the river just on the London side of the toll-bar.
All the same he went often to see Patsy, and upon occasion would stay for luncheon, where the originality of his language and the quaintness of his dress pleased the Princess and her guests. The Laird of Supsorrow in his coat of blue and silver, his buff waistcoat and corded moleskin small clothes, his silver buckles and broad silver thumb-ring, his gold snuff-mull and the cowries clashing at his fob, was considered the type of the real Scottish countryman. He was really infinitely like the later caricatures of John Bull than anything counted distinctively Scottish—that is, till you heard him speak.
To Patsy he grew increasingly necessary. His sonorous Doric brought her back to the land of wet west winds, of blue inrushing seas, of far-stretching heather and sudden-dipping valleys where the birch-leaves and pine-needles play tremulous games at hide-and-seek with speckled trout in light-sprinkled pools.
For during these days Patsy went about with a load on her heart. It was only partly her fault, but the fact was that she had let herself drift a little. She had in no way recognized or accepted the proposals of the Prince of Altschloss. But neither had she definitely refused them. The last course grew increasingly difficult, and, except Miss Aline, who was sympathetic but without marked initiative outside the matter of jam-making and house-wifery, there was no one in whom Patsy could confide.
In her heart she was firmly resolved not to marry the Prince. But the Princess had been so kind, even so affectionate after her manner, and Uncle Julian would be so disappointed—that against her better judgment Patsy let matters drift. Her father was so non-committal and far-off that no help could be got out of him. Even had he been in the next room, he would not have helped her to decide, though he might have been useful in other ways. But as it was she had to think and act for herself. The old Earl continued his visits, generally appearing on the Friday afternoon and frequently staying over to supper. At first he was not wholly pleased to find Kennedy McClure, his enemy and victor in many a hard-contested land-bargain, established as a friend of the Princess Elsa. But when he had seen how well the man carried himself, how simple and unobtrusive were his manners, he called to mind that the Supsorrow McClures were of good blood, and that, though they had taken the Orange and Hanoverian side, they had never grasped at Raincy property during the black days of the attainder, as the Bunny Bunnys and Dalrymples had done—on whom be the blackest of Raincy anathemas!
Now the Laird of Supsorrow was a severely regular man, and always took a daily walk through the park or along the river-bank to watch the craft, the bustle of the towpath, the wrangling of the sea-coal porters—all the sights and sounds of the waterside so strange to him. Patsy fell easily into the habit of accompanying him. There was a freshness and yet a friendliness in the sound of that deep voice, unmistakable and weighty, yet with curiously tender inflections in it when he addressed Patsy.
Patsy does not know herself how she first began to confide in this man. Perhaps she had a severe dose of home-sickness one day, and the Galloway voice, speaking broadly as they talked at Glenanmays, as Jean and Diarmid and Fergus and Agnew spoke, made her do it. For Miss Aline spoke dainty old lady Scots, but without the broad accent of the moors, which was not at all the same thing to Patsy.
The shrewd old man divined a good deal too. Patsy did not care to talk about anything but the Valleys. She rejected topic after topic and returned to the Free Trade, the "running" of cargoes, the lads who had beaten the press-gang, and their chief, Stair Garland.
Kennedy tried her once or twice on the subject of her marriage, and even slily addressed her once or twice as "Princess." This last "try-on" was successful, for Patsy burst forth.
"I forbid you to say that. I will not be so misnamed. There is nothing in it, I tell you. My consent has never even been asked. They are trying to drive me into it, but I shall show them! Oh, if only I knew any way of getting away. It will come to that in the end. I have thought of coaches and so on, but that would cost money, more than I have got, and besides, they might get faster horses and catch me. I have written to my father and he only tells me that no one can possibly marry me against my will. I have only to say 'no'—as if I have ever got the chance. They all take it for granted!"
"Then you dinna want to marry this grand Prince?" said Kennedy, feigning astonishment; "how can a lass not want to have such a great title? There are thousands that would jump at it."
"Well, I won't. I am not going to be a Princess, but just Patsy Ferris of Cairn Ferris. Oh, Mr. Kennedy, I wish you could help me."
"Weel," said the Laird of Supsorrow, tapping his snuff-box meditatively, "maybe I might—if so be I could see our way oot at the farther end."
"Oh, there is a way," cried Patsy, clasping both hands about the Laird's arm, and looking up into his face, to the wonder and admiration of the passers-by, who envied the proud father of so charming a daughter—especially when the old man walked fast to get clear of a string of trace-horses, and Patsy took to skipping on one foot to keep up with him.
"Oh, will you—how good of you!" she exclaimed, clutching his sleeve tight. "I thought of dressing up and running away to sea as a cabin-boy. I was so desperate. But, really, all I want is to win safe back to Galloway and—to be let do as I like."
"That last," said the Laird drily, "is, so far as I have observed, what the hale race o' weemen-kind exclusively desire and seek after in this life—juist leave to do as they like."
Then he added cautiously, "Would you go decently to your father's house if I landed ye on the Back Shore? Now tell me honestly, Miss Patsy!"