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St. George and St. Michael
by George MacDonald
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CHAPTER XXII.

THE CATARACT.



In the midst of a great psalm, on the geyser column of which his spirit was borne heavenward, young Delaware all of a sudden found the keys dumb beneath his helpless fingers: the bellows was empty, the singing thing dead. He called aloud, and his voice echoed through the empty chapel, but no living response came back. Tom Fool had grown weary and forsaken him. Disappointed and baffled, he rose and left the chapel, not immediately from the organ loft, by a door and a few upward steps through the wall to the minstrels' gallery, as he had entered, but by the south door into the court, his readiest way to reach the rooms he occupied with his father, near the marquis's study. Hardly another door in either court was ever made fast except this one, which, merely in self-administered flattery of his own consequence, the conceited sacristan who assumed charge of the key, always locked at night. But there was no reason why Delaware should pay any respect to this, or hesitate to remove the bar securing one-half of the door, without which the lock retained no hold.

Although Tom had indeed deserted his post, the organist was mistaken as to the cause and mode of his desertion: oppressed like every one else with the sultriness of the night, he had fallen fast asleep, leaning against the organ. The thunder only waked him sufficiently to render him capable of slipping from the stool on which he had lazily seated himself as he worked the lever of the bellows, and stretching himself at full length upon the floor; while the coolness that by degrees filled the air as the rain kept pouring, made his sleep sweeter and deeper. He lay and snored till midnight.

A bell rang in the marquis's chamber.

It was one of his lordship's smaller economic maxims that in every house, and the larger the house the more necessary its observance, the master thereof should have his private rooms as far apart from each other as might, with due respect to general fitness, be arranged for, in order that, to use his own figure, he might spread his skirts the wider over the place, and chiefly the part occupied by his own family and immediate attendants—thereby to give himself, without paying more attention to such matters than he could afford, a better chance of coming upon the trace of anything that happened to be going amiss. 'For,' he said, 'let a man have ever so many responsible persons about him, the final responsibility of his affairs yet returns upon himself.' Hence, while his bedroom was close to the main entrance, that is the gate to the stone court, the room he chose for retirement and study was over the western gate, that of the fountain-court, nearly a whole side of the double quadrangle away from his bedroom, and still farther from the library, which was on the other side of the main entrance—whence, notwithstanding, he would himself, gout permitting, always fetch any book he wanted. It was, therefore, no wonder that, being now in his study, the marquis, although it rang loud, never heard the bell which Caspar had hung in his bedchamber. He was, however, at the moment, looking from a window which commanded the very spot—namely, the mouth of the archway—towards which the bell would have drawn his attention.

The night was still, the rain was over, and although the moon was clouded, there was light enough to recognise a known figure in any part of the court, except the shadowed recess where the door of the chapel and the archway faced each other, and the door of the hall stood at right angles to both.

Came a great clang that echoed loud through the court, followed by the roar of water. It sounded as if a captive river had broken loose, and grown suddenly frantic with freedom. The marquis could not help starting violently, for his nerves were a good deal shaken. The same instant, ere there was time for a single conjecture, a torrent, visible by the light of its foam, shot from the archway, hurled itself against the chapel door, and vanished. Sad and startled as he was, lord Worcester, requiring no explanation of the phenomenon now that it was completed, laughed aloud and hurried from the room.

When he had screwed his unwieldy form to the bottom of the stair, and came out into the court, there was Tom Fool flying across the turf in mortal terror, his face white as another moon, and his hair standing on end—visibly in the dull moonshine.

His terror had either deafened him, or paralysed the nerves of his obedience, for the first call of his master was insufficient to stop him. At the second, however, he halted, turned mechanically, went to him trembling, and stood before him speechless. But when the marquis, to satisfy himself that he was really as dry as he seemed, laid his hand on his arm, the touch brought him to himself, and, assisted by his master's questions, he was able to tell how he had fallen asleep in the chapel, had waked but a minute ago, had left it by the minstrels' gallery, had reached the floor of the hall, and was approaching the western door, which was open, in order to cross the court to his lodging near the watch-tower, when a hellish explosion, followed by the most frightful roaring, mingled with shrieks and demoniacal laughter, arrested him; and the same instant, through the open door, he saw, as plainly as he now saw his noble master, a torrent rush from the archway, full of dim figures, wallowing and shouting. The same moment they all vanished, and the flood poured into the hall, wetting him to the knees, and almost carrying him off his legs.

Here the marquis professed profound astonishment, remarking that the water must indeed have been thickened with devils to be able to lay hold of Tom's legs.

'Then,' pursued Tom, reviving a little, 'I summoned up all my courage—'

'No great feat,' said the marquis.

But Tom went on unabashed.

'I summoned up the whole of my courage,' he repeated, 'stepped out of the hall, carefully examined the ground, looked through the arch-way, saw nothing, and was walking slowly across the court to my lodging, pondering with myself whether to call my lord governor or sir Toby Mathews, when I heard your lordship call me.'

'Tom! Tom! thou liest,' said the marquis. 'Thou wast running as if all the devils in hell had been at thy heels.'

Tom turned deadly pale, a fresh access of terror overcoming his new-born hardihood.

'Who were they, thinkest thou, whom thou sawest in the water, Tom?' resumed his master. 'For what didst thou take them?'

Tom shook his head with an awful significance, looked behind him, and said nothing.

Perceiving there was no more to be got out of him, the marquis sent him to bed. He went off shivering and shaking. Three times ere he reached the watch-tower his face gleamed white over his shoulder as he went. The next day he did not appear. He thought himself he was doomed, but his illness was only the prostration following upon terror.

In the version of the story which he gave his fellow-servants, he doubtless mingled the after visions of his bed with what he had when half-awake seen and heard through the mists of his startled imagination. His tale was this—that he saw the moat swell and rise, boil over in a mass, and tumble into the court as full of devils as it could hold, swimming in it, floating on it, riding it aloft as if it had been a horse; that in a moment they had all vanished again, and that he had not a doubt the castle was now swarming with them—in fact, he had heard them all the night long.

The marquis walked up to the archway, saw nothing save the grim wall of the keep, impassive as granite crag, and the ground wet a long way towards the white horse; and never doubting he had lost his chance by taking Tom for the culprit, contented himself with the reflection that, whoever the night-walkers were, they had received both a fright and a ducking, and betook himself to bed, where, falling asleep at length, he saw little Molly in the arms of mother Mary, who, presently changing to his own lady Anne that left him about a year before little Molly came, held out a hand to him to help him up beside them, whereupon the bubble sleep, unable to hold the swelling of his gladness, burst, and he woke just as the first rays of the sun smote the gilded cock on the bell-tower.

The noise of the falling drawbridge and the out-rushing water had roused Dorothy also, with most of the lighter sleepers in the castle; but when she and all the rest whose windows were to the fountain court, ran to them and looked out, they saw nothing but the flight of Tom Fool across the turf, its arrest by his master, and their following conference. The moon had broken through the clouds, and there was no mistaking either of their persons.

Meantime, inside the chapel door stood Amanda and Rowland, both dripping, and one of them crying as well. Thither, as into a safe harbour, the sudden flood had cast them; and it indicated no small amount of ready faculty in Scudamore that, half-stunned as he was, he yet had the sense, almost ere he knew where he was, to put up the long bar that secured the door.

All the time that the marquis was drawing his story from Tom, they stood trembling, in great bewilderment yet very sensible misery, bruised, drenched, and horribly frightened, more even at what might be than by what had been. There was only one question, but that was hard to answer: what were they to do next? Amanda could contribute nothing towards its solution, for tears and reproaches resolve no enigmas. There were many ways of issue, whereof Rowland knew several; but their watery trail, if soon enough followed, would be their ruin as certainly as Hop-o'-my-Thumb's pebbles were safety to himself and his brothers. He stood therefore the very bond slave of perplexity, 'and, like a neutral to his will and matter, did nothing.'

Presently they heard the approaching step of the marquis, which every one in the castle knew. It stopped within a few feet of them, and through the thick door they could hear his short asthmatic breathing.

They kept as still as their trembling, and the mad beating of their hearts, would permit. Amanda was nearly out of her senses, and thought her heart was beating against the door, and not against her own ribs. But the marquis never thought of the chapel, having at once concluded that they had fled through the open hall. Had he not, however, been so weary and sad and listless, he would probably have found them, for he would at least have crossed the hall to look into the next court, and, the moon now shining brightly, the absence of all track on the floor where the traces of the brief inundation ceased, would have surely indicated the direction in which they had sought refuge.

The acme of terror happily endured but a moment. The sound of his departing footsteps took the ghoul from their hearts; they began to breathe, and to hope that the danger was gone. But they waited long ere at last they ventured, like wild animals overtaken by the daylight, to creep out of their shelter and steal back like shadows—but separately, Amanda first, and Scudamore some slow minutes after—to their different quarters. The tracks they could not help leaving in-doors were dried up before the morning.

Rowland had greater reason to fear discovery than any one else in the castle, save one, would in like circumstances have had, and that one was his bedfellow in the ante-chamber to his master's bedroom. Through this room his lordship had to pass to reach his own; but so far was he from suspecting Rowland, or indeed any gentleman of his retinue, that he never glanced in the direction of his bed, and so could not discover that he was absent from it. Had Rowland but caught a glimpse of his own figure as he sneaked into that room five minutes after the marquis had passed through it, believing his master was still in his study, where he had left his candles burning, he could hardly for some time have had his usual success in regarding himself as a fine gentleman.

Amanda Serafina did not show herself for several days. A bad cold in her head luckily afforded sufficient pretext for the concealment of a bad bruise upon her cheek. Other bruises she had also, but they, although more severe, were of less consequence.

For a whole fortnight the lovers never dared exchange a word.

In the morning the marquis was in no mood to set any inquiry on foot. His little lamb had vanished from his fold, and he was sad and lonely. Had it been otherwise, possibly the shabby doublet in which Scudamore stood behind his chair the next morning, might have set him thinking; but as it was, it fell in so well with the gloom in which his own spirit shrouded everything, that he never even marked the change, and ere long Rowland began to feel himself safe.



CHAPTER XXIII.

AMANDA—DOROTHY—LORD HERBERT.



So also did Amanda; but not the less did she cherish feelings of revenge against her whom she more than suspected of having been the contriver of her harmful discomfiture. She felt certain that Dorothy had laid the snare into which they had fallen, with the hope if not the certainty of catching just themselves two in it, and she read in her, therefore, jealousy and cruelty as well as coldness and treachery. Rowland on the other hand was inclined to attribute the mishap to the displeasure of lord Herbert, whose supernatural acquirements, he thought, had enabled him both to discover and punish their intrusion. Amanda, nevertheless, kept her own opinion, and made herself henceforth all eyes and ears for Dorothy, hoping ever to find a chance of retaliating, if not in kind yet in plentiful measure of vengeance. Dorothy's odd ways, lawless movements, and what the rest of the ladies counted her vulgar tastes, had for some time been the subject of remark to the gossiping portion of the castle community; and it seemed to Amanda that in watching and discovering what she was about when she supposed herself safe from the eyes of her equals and superiors, lay her best chance of finding a mode of requital. Nor was she satisfied with observation, but kept her mind busy on the trail, now of one, now of another vague-bodied revenge.

The charge of low tastes was founded upon the fact that there was not an artisan about the castle, from Caspar downwards, whom Dorothy did not know and address by his name; but her detractors, in drawing their conclusions from it, never thought of finding any related significance in another fact, namely, that there was not a single animal either, of consequence enough to have a name, which did not know by it. There were very few of the animals indeed which did not know her in return, if not by her name, yet by her voice or her presence—some of them even by her foot or her hand. She would wander about the farmyard and stables for an hour at a time, visiting all that were there, and specially her little horse, which she had long, oh, so long ago! named Dick, nor had taken his name from him any more than from Marquis.

The charge of lawlessness in her movements was founded on another fact as well, namely, that she was often seen in the court after dusk, and that not merely in running across to the keep, as she would be doing at all hours, but loitering about, in full view of the windows. It was not denied that this took place only when the organ was playing—but then who played the organ? Was not the poor afflicted boy, barring the blank of his eyes, beautiful as an angel? And was not mistress Dorothy too deep to be fathomed? And so the tattling streams flowed on, and the ears of mistress Amanda willingly listened to their music, nor did she disdain herself to contribute to the reservoir in which those of the castle whose souls thirsted after the minutiae of live biography, accumulated their stores of fact and fiction, conjecture and falsehood.

Lord Herbert came home to bury his little one, and all that was left behind of her was borne to the church of St. Cadocus, the parish church of Raglan, and there laid beside the marquis's father and mother. He remained with them a fortnight, and his presence was much needed to lighten the heavy gloom that had settled over both his wife and his father.

As if it were not enough to bury the bodies of the departed, there are many, and the marquis and his daughter-in-law were of the number, who in a sense seek to bury their souls as well, making a graveyard of their own spirits, and laying the stone of silence over the memory of the dead. Such never speak of them but when compelled, and then almost as if to utter their names were an act of impiety. Not In Memoriam but In Oblivionem should be the inscription upon the tombs they raise. The memory that forsakes the sunlight, like the fishes in the underground river, loses its eyes; the cloud of its grief carries no rainbow; behind the veil of its twin-future burns no lamp fringing its edges with the light of hope. I can better, however, understand the hopelessness of the hopeless than their calmness along with it. Surely they must be upheld by the presence within them of that very immortality, against whose aurora they shut to their doors, then mourn as if there were no such thing.

Radiant as she was by nature, lady Margaret, when sorrow came, could do little towards her own support. The marquis said to himself, 'I am growing old, and cannot smile at grief so well as once on a day. Sorrow is a hawk more fell than I had thought.' The name of little Molly was never mentioned between them. But sudden floods of tears were the signs of the mother's remembrance; and the outbreak of ambushed sighs, which he would make haste to attribute to the gout, the signs of the grandfather's.

Dorothy, too, belonged in tendency to the class of the unspeaking. Her nature was not a bright one. Her spirit's day was evenly, softly lucent, like one of those clouded calm grey mornings of summer, which seem more likely to end in rain than sunshine.

Lord Herbert was of a very different temperament. He had hope enough in his one single nature to serve the whole castle, if only it could have been shared. The veil between him and the future glowed as if on fire with mere radiance, and about to vanish in flame. It was not that he more than one of the rest imagined he could see through it. For him it was enough that beyond it lay the luminous. His eyes, to those that looked on him, were lighted with its reflex.

Such as he, are, by those who love them not, misjudged as shallow. Depth to some is indicated by gloom, and affection by a persistent brooding—as if there were no homage to the past of love save sighs and tears. When they meet a man whose eyes shine, whose step is light, on whose lips hovers a smile, they shake their heads and say, 'There goes one who has never loved, and who therefore knows not sorrow.' And the man is one of those over whom death has no power; whom time nor space can part from those he loves; who lives in the future more than in the past! Has not his being ever been for the sake of that which was yet to come? Is not his being now for the sake of that which it shall be? Has he not infinitely more to do with the great future than the little past? The Past has descended into hell, is even now ascending glorified, and will, in returning cycle, ever and again greet our faith as the more and yet more radiant Future.

But even lord Herbert had his moments of sad longing after his dainty Molly. Such moments, however, came to him, not when he was at home with his wife, but when he rode alone by his troops on a night march, or when, upon the eve of an expected battle, he sought sleep that he might fight the better on the morrow.



CHAPTER XXIV.

THE GREAT MOGUL.



One evening, Tom Fool, and a groom, his particular friend, were taking their pastime after a somewhat selfish fashion, by no means newly discovered in the castle—that of teasing the wild beasts. There was one in particular, a panther, which, in a special dislike to grimaces, had discovered a special capacity for being teased. Betwixt two of the bars of his cage, therefore, Tom was busy presenting him with one hideous puritanical face after another, in full expectation of a satisfactory outburst of feline rancour. But to their disappointment, the panther on this occasion seemed to have resolved upon a dignified resistance to temptation, and had withdrawn in sultry displeasure to the back of his cage, where he lay sideways, deigning to turn neither his back nor his face towards the inferior animal, at whom to cast but one glance, he knew, would be to ruin his grand Oriental sulks, and fly at the hideous ape-visage insulting him in his prison. It was tiresome of the brute. Tom Fool grew more daring and threw little stones at him, but the panther seemed only to grow the more imperturbable, and to heed his missiles as little as his grimaces.

At length, proceeding from bad to worse, as is always the way with fools, born or made, Tom betook himself to stronger measures.

The cages of the wild beasts were in the basement of the kitchen tower, with a little semicircular yard of their own before them. They were solid stone vaults, with open fronts grated with huge iron bars—our ancestors, whatever were their faults, did not err in the direction of flimsiness. Between two of these bars, then, Tom, having procured a long pole, proceeded to poke at the beast; but he soon found that the pole thickened too rapidly towards the end he held, to pass through the bars far enough to reach him. Thereupon, in utter fool-hardiness, backed by the groom, he undid the door a little way, and, his companion undertaking to prevent it from opening too far, pushed in the pole till it went right in the creature's face. One hideous yell—and neither of them knew what was occurring till they saw the tail of the panther disappearing over the six-foot wall that separated the cages from the stableyard. Tom fled at once for the stair leading up to the stone-court, while the groom, whose training had given him a better courage, now supplemented by the horror of possible consequences, ran to warn the stablemen and get help to recapture the animal.

The uproariest tumult of maddest barking which immediately arose from the chained dogs, entered the ears of all in the castle, at least every one possessed of dog-sympathies, and penetrated even those of the rather deaf host of the White Horse in Raglan village. Dorothy, sitting in her room, of course, heard it, and hearing it, equally of course, hurried to see what was the matter. The marquis heard it where he sat in his study, but was in no such young haste as Dorothy: it was only after a little, when he found the noise increase, and certain other sounds mingle with it, that he rose in some anxiety and went to discover the cause.

Halfway across the stone court, Dorothy met Tom running, and the moment she saw his face, knew that something serious had happened.

'Get indoors, mistress,' he said, almost rudely, 'the devil is to pay down in the yard.' and ran on. 'Shut your door, master cook,' she heard him cry as he ran. 'The Great Mogul is out.'

And as she ran too, she heard the door of the kitchen close with a great bang.

But Dorothy was not running after the fool, or making for any door but that at the bottom of the library tower; for the first terror that crossed her mind was the possible fate of Dick, and the first comfort that followed, the thought of Marquis; so she was running straight for the stable-yard, where the dogs, to judge by the way they tore their throats with barking, seemed frantic with rage.

No doubt the panther, when he cleared the wall, hoped exultant to find himself in the savage forest, instead of which he came down on the top of a pump, fell on the stones, and the same instant was caught in a hurricane of canine hate. A little hurt and a good deal frightened, for he had not endured such long captivity without debasement, he glared around him with sneaking enquiry. But the walls were lofty and he saw no gate, and feeling unequal at the moment to the necessary spring, he crept almost like a snake under what covert seemed readiest, and disappeared—just as the groom entering by a door in one of the walls began to look about for him in a style wherein caution predominated. Seeing no trace of him, and concluding that, as he had expected, the clamour of the dogs had driven him further, he went on, crossing the yard to find the men, whose voices he heard on the green at the back of the rick-yard, when suddenly he found that his arm was both broken and torn. The sight of the blood completed the mischief, and he fell down in a swoon.

Meantime Dorothy had reached the same door in the wall of the stableyard, and peeping in saw nothing but the dogs raging and RUGGING at their chains as if they would drag the earth itself after them to reach the enemy. She was one of those on whose wits, usually sedate in their motions, all sorts of excitement, danger amongst the rest, operate favourably. When she specially noticed the fury of Marquis, the same moment she perceived the danger in which he, that was, all the dogs, would be, if the panther should attack them one by one on the chain; not one of them had a chance. With the thought, she sped across the space between her and Marquis, who—I really cannot say WHICH concerning such a dog—was fortunately not very far from the door. Feeling him a little safer now that she stood by his side, she resumed her ocular search for the panther, or any further sign of his proximity, but with one hand on the dog's collar, ready in an instant to seize it with both, and unclasp it.

Nor had she to look long, for all the dogs were straining their chains in one direction, and all their lines converged upon a little dark shed, where stood a cart: under the cart, between its lower shafts, she caught a doubtful luminousness, as if the dark while yet dark had begun to throb with coming light. This presently seemed to resolve itself, and she saw, vaguely but with conviction, two huge lamping cat-eyes. I will not say she felt no fear, but she was not terrified, for she had great confidence in Marquis. One moment she stood bethinking herself, and one glance she threw at the spot where her mastiff's chain was attached to his collar: she would fain have had him keep the latter to defend his neck and throat: but alas! it was as she knew well enough before—the one was riveted to the other, and the two must go together.

And now first, as she raised her head from the momentary inspection, she saw the groom lying on the ground within a few yards of the shed. Her first thought was that the panther had killed him, but ere a second had time to rise in her mind, she saw the terrible animal creeping out from under the cart, with his chin on the ground, like the great cat he was, and making for the man.

The brute had got the better of his fall, and finding he was not pursued, the barking of the dogs, to which in moderation he was sufficiently accustomed, had ceased to confuse him, he had recovered his awful self, and was now scenting prey. Had the man made a single movement he would have been upon him like lightning; but the few moments he took in creeping towards him, gave Dorothy all the time she needed. With resolute, though trembling hands, she undid Marquis's collar.

The instant he was free, the fine animal went at the panther straight and fast like a bolt from a cross-bow. But Dorothy loved him too well to lose a moment in sending even a glance after him. Leaving him to his work, she flew to hers, which lay at the next kennel, that of an Irish wolf-hound, whose curling lip showed his long teeth to the very root, and whose fury had redoubled at the sight of his rival shooting past him free for the fight. So wildly did he strain upon his collar, that she found it took all her strength to unclasp it. In a much shorter time, however, than she fancied, O'Brien too was on the panther, and the sounds of cano-feline battle seemed to fill every cranny of her brain.

But now she heard the welcome cries of men and clatter of weapons. Some, alarmed by Tom Fool, came rushing from the guard-rooms down the stair, and others, chiefly farm-servants and grooms, who had heard the frightful news from two that were in the yard when the panther bounded over the wall, were approaching from the opposite side, armed with scythes and pitchforks, the former more dangerous to their bearers than to the beast.

Dorothy, into whom, girl as she was, either Bellona or Diana, or both, had entered, was now thoroughly excited by the conflict she ruled, although she had not wasted a moment in watching it. Having just undone the collar of the fourth dog, she was hounding him on with a cry, little needed, as she flew to let go the fifth, a small bull-terrier, mad with rage and jealousy, when the crowd swept between her and her game. The beast was captured, and the dogs taken off him, ere the terrier had had a taste or Dorothy a glimpse of the battle.

As the men with cart-ropes dragged the panther away, terribly torn by the teeth of the dogs, and Tom Fool was following them, with his hands in his pockets, looking sheepish because of the share he had had in letting him loose, and the share he had not had in securing him again, Dorothy was looking about for her friend Marquis. All at once he came bounding up to her, and, exultant in the sense of accomplished duty, leaped up against her, at once turning her into a sanguineous object frightful to behold; for his wounds were bad, although none of them were serious except one in his throat. This upon examination she found so severe that to replace his collar was out of the question. Telling him therefore to follow her, in the confidence that she might now ask for him what she would, she left the yard, went up the stair, and was crossing the stone court with the trusty fellow behind her, making a red track all the way, when out of the hall came the marquis, looking a little frightened. He started when he saw her, and turned pale, but perceiving instantly from her look that, notwithstanding the condition of her garments, she was unhurt, he cast a glance at her now rather disreputable-looking attendant, and said,

'I told you so, mistress Dorothy! Now I understand! It is that precious mastiff of yours, and no panther of mine, that has been making this uproar in my quiet house! Nay, but he looks evil enough for any devil's work! Prithee keep him off me.'

He drew back, for the dog, not liking the tone in which he addressed his mistress, had taken a step nearer to him.

'My lord,' said Dorothy, as she laid hold of the animal, for the first and only time in her life a little inclined to be angry with her benefactor, 'you do my poor Marquis wrong. At the risk of his own life he has just saved your lordship's groom, Shafto, from being torn in pieces by the Great Mogul.'

While she spoke, some of those of the garrison who had been engaged in securing the animal came up into the court, and attracted the marquis's attraction by their approach, which, in the relaxation of discipline consequent on excitement, was rather tumultuous. At their head was lord Charles, who had led them to the capture, and without whose ruling presence the enemy would not have been re-caged in twice the time. As they drew near, and saw Dorothy stand in battle-plight, with her dog beside her, even in their lord's presence they could not resist the impulse to cheer her. Annoyed at their breach of manners, the marquis had not however committed himself to displeasure ere he spied a joke:

'I told you so, mistress Dorothy!' he said again. 'That rival of mine has, as I feared, already made a party against me. You see how my own knaves, before my very face, cheer my enemy! I presume, my lord,' he went on, turning to the mastiff, and removing his hat, 'it will be my wisdom to resign castle and title at once, and so forestall deposition.'

Marquis replied with a growl, and amidst subdued yet merry laughter, lord Charles hastened to enlighten his father.

'My lord,' he said, 'the dog has done nobly as ever dog, and deserves reward, not mockery, which it is plain he understands, and likes not. But it was not the mastiff, it was his fair mistress I and my men presumed on saluting in your lordship's presence. No dog ever yet shook off collar of Cranford's forging; nor is Marquis the only dog that merits your lordship's acknowledgment: O'Brien and Tom Fool—the lurcher, I mean—seconded him bravely, and perhaps Strafford did best of all.'

'Prithee, now, take me with thee,' said the marquis. 'Was, or was not the Great Mogul forth of his cage?'

'Indeed he was, my lord, and might be now in the fields but for cousin Vaughan there by your side.'

The marquis turned and looked at her, but in his astonishment said nothing, and lord Charles went on.

'When we got into the yard, there was the Great Mogul with three dogs upon him, and mistress Dorothy uncollaring Tom Fool and hounding him at the devilish brute; while poor Shafto, just waking up, lay on the stones, about three yards off the combat. It was the finest thing I ever saw, my lord.'

The marquis turned again to Dorothy, and stared without speech or motion.

'Mean you—?' he said at length, addressing lord Charles, but still staring at Dorothy; 'Mean you—?' he said again, half stammering, and still staring.

'I mean, my lord,' answered his son, 'that mistress Dorothy, with self-shown courage, and equal judgment as to time and order of attack, when Tom Fool had fled, and poor Shafto, already evil torn, had swooned from loss of blood, came to the rescue, stood her ground, and loosed dog after dog, her own first, upon the animal. And, by heaven! it is all owing to her that he is already secured and carried back to his cage, nor any great harm done save to the groom and the dogs, of which poor Strafford hath a hind leg crushed by the jaws of the beast, and must be killed.'

'He shall live,' cried the marquis, 'as long as he hath legs enough to eat and sleep with. Mistress Dorothy,' he went on, turning to her once more, 'what is thy request? It shall be performed even to the half of—of my marquisate.'

'My lord,' returned Dorothy, 'it is a small deed I have strewn to gather such weighty thanks.'

'Be honest as well as brave, mistress. Mock me no modesty.' said the marquis a little roughly.

'Indeed, my lord, I but spoke as I deemed. The thing HAD to be done, and I did but do it. Had there been room to doubt, and I had yet done well, then truly I might have earned your lordship's thanks. But good my lord, do not therefore recall the word spoken,' she added hurriedly, 'but grant me my boon. Your lordship sees my poor dog can endure no collar: let him therefore be my chamber-fellow until his throat be healed, when I shall again submit him to your lordship's mandate.'

'What you will, cousin. He is a noble fellow, and hath a right noble mistress.'

'Will you then, my lord Charles, order a bucket of water to be drawn for me, that I may wash his wounds ere I take him to my chamber?'

Ten men at the word flew to the draw-well, but lord Charles ordered them all back to the guard-room, except two whom he sent to fetch a tub. With his own hands he then drew three bucketfuls of water, which he poured into the tub, and by the side of the well, in the open paved court, Dorothy washed her four-legged hero, and then retired with him, to do a like office for herself.

The marquis stood for some time in the gathering dusk, looking on, and smiling to see how the sullen animal allowed his mistress to handle even his wounds without a whine, not to say a growl, at the pain she must have caused him.

'I see, I see!' he said at length, 'I have no chance with a rival like that!' and turning away he walked slowly into the oak parlour, threw himself down in his great chair, and sat there, gazing at the eyeless face of the keep, but thinking all the time of the courage and patience of his rival, the mastiff.

'God made us both,' he said at length, 'and he can grant me patience as well as him.' and so saying he went to bed.

His washing over, the dog showed himself much exhausted, and it was with hanging head he followed his mistress up the grand staircase and the second spiral one that led yet higher to her chamber. Thither presently came lady Elizabeth, carrying a cushion and a deerskin for him to lie upon, and it was with much apparent satisfaction that the wounded and wearied animal, having followed his tail but one turn, dropped like a log on his well-earned couch.

The night was hot, and Dorothy fell asleep with her door wide open.

In the morning Marquis was nowhere to be found. Dorothy searched for him everywhere, but in vain.

'It is because you mocked him, my lord,' said the governor to his father at breakfast. 'I doubt not he said to himself, "If I AM a dog, my lord need not have mocked me, for I could not help it, and I did my duty."'

'I would make him an apology,' returned the marquis, 'an' I had but the opportunity. Truly it were evil minded knowingly to offer insult to any being capable of so regarding it. But, Charles, I bethink me: didst ever learn how our friend got into the castle? It was assuredly thy part to discover that secret.'

'No, my lord. It hath never been found out in so far as I know.'

'That is an unworthy answer, lord Charles. As governor of the castle, you ought to have had the matter thoroughly searched into.'

'I will see to it now, my lord,' said the governor, rising.

'Do, my lad,' returned his father.

And lord Charles did inquire; but not a ray of light did he succeed in letting in upon the mystery. The inquiry might, however, have lasted longer and been more successful, had not lord Herbert just then come home, with the welcome news of the death of Hampden, from a wound received in attacking prince Rupert at Chalgrove. He brought news also of prince Maurice's brave fight at Bath, and lord Wilmot's victory over sir William Waller at Devizes—which latter, lord Herbert confessed, yielded him some personal satisfaction, seeing he owed Waller more grudges than as a Christian he had well known how to manage: now he was able to bear him a less bitter animosity. The queen, too, had reached Oxford, bringing large reinforcement to her husband, and prince Rupert had taken Bristol, castle and all. Things were looking mighty hopeful, lord Herbert was radiant, and lady Margaret, for the first time since Molly's death, was merry. The castle was illuminated, and Marquis forgotten by all but Dorothy.



CHAPTER XXV.

RICHARD HEYWOOD.



So things looked ill for the puritans in general, and Richard Heywood had his full portion in the distribution of the evils allotted them. Following lord Fairfax, he had shared his defeat by the marquis of Newcastle on Atherton moor, where of his score of men he lost five, and was, along with his mare, pretty severely wounded. Hence it had become absolutely necessary for both of them, if they were to render good service at any near future, that they should have rest and tending. Towards the middle of July, therefore, Richard, followed by Stopchase, and several others of his men who had also been wounded and were in need of nursing, rode up to his father's door. Lady was taken off to her own stall, and Richard was led into the house by his father—without a word of tenderness, but with eyes and hands that waited and tended like those of a mother.

Roger Heywood was troubled in heart at the aspect of affairs. There was now a strong peace-party in the parliament, and to him peace and ruin seemed the same thing. If the parliament should now listen to overtures of accommodation, all for which he and those with whom he chiefly sympathised had striven, was in the greatest peril, and might be, if not irrecoverably lost, at least lost sight of, perhaps for a century. The thing that mainly comforted him in his anxiety was that his son had showed himself worthy, not merely in the matter of personal courage, which he took as a thing of course in a Heywood, but in his understanding of and spiritual relation to the questions really at issue,—not those only which filled the mouths of men. For the best men and the weightiest questions are never seen in the forefront of the battle of their time, save by "larger other eyes than ours."

But now, from his wounds, as he thought, and the depression belonging to the haunting sense of defeat, a doubt had come to life in Richard's mind, which, because it was born IN weakness, he very pardonably looked upon as born OF weakness, and therefore regarded as itself weak and cowardly, whereas his mood had been but the condition that favoured its development. It came and came again, maugre all his self-recrimination because of it: what was all this fighting for? It was well indeed that nor king nor bishop should interfere with a man's rights, either in matters of taxation or worship, but the war could set nothing right either betwixt him and his neighbour, or betwixt him and his God.

There was in the mind of Richard, innate, but more rapidly developed since his breach with Dorothy, a strong tendency towards the supernatural—I mean by the word that which neither any one of the senses nor all of them together, can reveal. He was one of those young men, few, yet to be found in all ages of the world's history, who, in health and good earthly hope, and without any marked poetic or metaphysical tendency, yet know in their nature the need of conscious communion with the source of that nature—truly the veriest absurdity if there be no God, but as certainly the most absolute necessity of conscious existence if there be a first life from whom our life is born.

'Am I not free now?' he said to himself, as he lay on his bed in his own gable of the many-nooked house; 'Am I not free to worship God as I please? Who will interfere with me? Who can prevent me? As to form and ceremony, what are they, or what is the absence of them, to the worship in which my soul seeks to go forth? What the better shall I be when all this is over, even if the best of our party carry the day? Will Cromwell rend for me the heavy curtain, which, ever as I lift up my heart, seems to come rolling down between me and him whom I call my God? If I could pass within that curtain, what would Charles, or Laud, or Newcastle, or the mighty Cromwell himself and all his Ironsides be to me? Am I not on the wrong road for the high peak?'

But then he thought of others—of the oppressed and the superstitious, of injustice done and not endured—not wrapt in the pearly antidote of patience, but rankling in the soul; of priests who, knowing not God, substituted ceremonies for prayer, and led the seeking heart afar from its goal—and said that his arm could at least fight for the truth in others, if only his heart could fight for the truth in himself. No; he would go on as he had begun; for, might it not be the part of him who could take the form of an angel of light when he would deceive, to make use of inward truths, which might well be the strength of his own soul, to withdraw him from the duties he owed to others, and cause the heart of devotion to paralyze the arm of battle? Besides, was he not now in a low physical condition, and therefore the less likely to judge truly with regard to affairs of active outer life? His business plainly was to gain strength of body, that the fumes of weakness might no longer cloud his brain, and that, if he had to die for the truth, whether in others or in himself, he might die in power, like the blast of an exploding mine, and not like the flame of an expiring lamp. And certainly, as his body grew stronger, and the impulses to action, so powerful in all healthy youth, returned, his doubts grew weaker, and he became more and more satisfied that he had been in the right path.

Lady outstripped her master in the race for health, and after a few days had oats and barley in a profusion which, although far from careless, might well have seemed to her unlimited. Twice every day, sometimes oftener, Richard went to see her, and envied the rapidity of her recovery from the weakness which scanty rations, loss of blood, and the inflammation of her wounds had caused. Had there been any immediate call for his services, however, that would have brought his strength with it. Had the struggle been still going on upon the fields of battle instead of in the houses of words, he would have been well in half the time. But Waller and Essex were almost without an army between them, and were at bitter strife with each other, while the peace-party seemed likely to carry everything before them, women themselves presenting a petition for peace, and some of them using threats to support it.

At length, chiefly through the exertions of the presbyterian preachers and the common council of the city of London, the peace-party was defeated, and a vigorous levying and pressing of troops began anew. So the hour had come for Richard to mount. His men were all in health and spirits, and their vacancies had been filled up. Lady was frolicsome, and Richard was perfectly well.

The day before they were to start he took the mare out for a gallop across the fields. Never had he known her so full of life. She rushed at hedge and ditch as if they had been squares of royalist infantry. Her madness woke the fervour of battle in Richard's own veins, and as they swept along together, it grew until he felt like one of the Arabs of old, flashing to the harvest field of God, where the corn to be reaped was the lives of infidels, and the ears to be gleaned were the heads of the fallen. That night he scarcely slept for eagerness to be gone.

Waking early from what little sleep he had had, he dressed and armed himself hurriedly, and ran to the stables, where already his men were bustling about getting their horses ready for departure.

Lady had a loose box for herself, and thither straight her master went, wondering as he opened the door of it that he did not hear usual morning welcome. The place was empty. He called Stopchase.

'Where is my mare?' he said. 'Surely no one has been fool enough to take her to the water just as we are going to start.'

Stopchase stood and stared without reply, then turned and left the stable, but came back almost immediately, looking horribly scared. Lady was nowhere to be seen or heard. Richard rushed hither and thither, storming. Not a man about the place could give him a word of enlightenment. All knew she was in that box the night before; none knew when she left it or where she was now.

He ran to his father, but all his father could see or say was no more than was plain to every one: the mare had been carried off in the night, and that with a skill worthy of a professional horse-thief.

What now was the poor fellow to do? If I were to tell the truth—namely, that he wept—so courageous are the very cowards of this century that they would sneer at him; but I do tell it notwithstanding, for I have little regard to the opinion of any man who sneers. Whatever he may or may not have been as a man, Richard felt but half a soldier without his mare, and, his country calling him, oppressed humanity crying aloud for his sword and arm, his men waiting for him, and Lady gone, what was he to do?

'Never heed, Dick, my boy,' said his father.—It was the first time since he had put on man's attire that he had called him Dick,— 'Thou shalt have my Oliver. He is a horse of good courage, as thou knowest, and twice the weight of thy little mare.'

'Ah, father! you do not know Lady so well as I. Not Cromwell's best horse could comfort me for her. I MUST find her. Give me leave, sir; I must go and think. I cannot mount and ride, and leave her I know not where. Go I will, if it be on a broomstick, but this morning I ride not. Let the men put up their horses, Stopchase, and break their fast.'

'It is a wile of the enemy,' said Stopchase. 'Truly, it were no marvel to me were the good mare at this moment eating her oats in the very stall where we have even but now in vain sought her. I will go and search for her with my hands.'

'Verily,' said Mr. Heywood with a smile, 'to fear the devil is not to run from him!—How much of her hay hath she eaten, Stopchase?' he added, as the man returned with disconsolate look.

'About a bottle, sir,' answered Stopchase, rather indefinitely; but the conclusion drawn was, that she had been taken very soon after the house was quiet.

The fact was, that since the return of their soldiers, poor watch had been kept by the people of Redware. Increase of confidence had led to carelessness. Mr. Heywood afterwards made inquiry, and had small reason to be satisfied with what he discovered.

'The thief must have been one who knew the place,' said Faithful.

'Why dost thou think so?' asked his master.

'How swooped he else so quietly upon the best animal, sir?' returned the man.

'She was in the place of honour,' answered Mr. Heywood.

'Scudamore!' said Richard to himself. It might be no light—only a flash in his brain. But that even was precious in the utter darkness.

'Sir,' he said, turning to his father, 'I would I had a plan of Raglan stables.'

'What wouldst thou an' thou hadst, my son?' asked Mr. Heywood.

'Nay, sir, that wants thinking. But I believe my poor mare is at this moment in one of those vaults they tell us of.'

'It may be, my son. It is reported that the earl hath of late been generous in giving of horses. Poor soldiers the king will find them that fight for horses, or titles either. Such will never stand before them that fight for the truth—in the love thereof! Eh, Richard?'

'Truly, sir, I know not,' answered his son, disconsolately. 'I hope I love the truth, and I think so doth Stopchase, after his kind; and yet were we of those that fled from Atherton moor.'

'Thou didst not flee until thou couldst no more, my son. It asketh greater courage of some men to flee when the hour of flight hath come, for they would rather fight on to the death than allow, if but to their own souls, that they are foiled. But a man may flee in faith as well as fight in faith, my son, and each is good in its season. There is a time for all things under the sun. In the end, when the end cometh, we shall see how it hath all gone. When, then, wilt thou ride?'

'To-morrow, an' it please you, sir. I should fight but evil with the knowledge that I had left my best battle-friend in the hands of the Philistines, nor sent even a cry after her.'

'What boots it, Richard? If she be within Raglan walls, they yield her not again. Bide thy time; and when thou meetest thy foe on thy friend's back, woe betide him!'

'Amen, sir!' said Richard. 'But with your leave I will not go to-day. I give you my promise I will go to-morrow.'

'Be it so, then. Stopchase, let the men be ready at this hour on the morrow. The rest of the day is their own.'

So saying, Roger Heywood turned away, in no small distress, although he concealed it, both at the loss of the mare and his son's grief over it. Betaking himself to his study, he plunged himself straightway deep in the comfort of the last born and longest named of Milton's tracts.

The moment he was gone, Richard, who had now made up his mind as to his first procedure, sent Stopchase away, saddled Oliver, rode slowly out of the yard, and struck across the fields. After a half-hour's ride he stopped at a lonely cottage at the foot of a rock on the banks of the Usk. There he dismounted, and having fastened his horse to the little gate in front, entered a small garden full of sweet-smelling herbs mingled with a few flowers, and going up to the door, knocked, and then lifted the latch.



CHAPTER XXVI.

THE WITCH'S COTTAGE.



Richard was met on the threshold by mistress Rees, in the same old- fashioned dress, all but the hat, which I have already described. On her head she wore a widow's cap, with large crown, thick frill, and black ribbon encircling it between them. She welcomed him with the kindness almost of an old nurse, and led the way to the one chair in the room—beside the hearth, where a fire of peat was smouldering rather than burning beneath the griddle, on which she was cooking oat-cake. The cottage was clean and tidy. From the smoky rafters hung many bunches of dried herbs, which she used partly for medicines, partly for charms.

To herself, the line dividing these uses was not very clearly discernible.

'I am in trouble, mistress Rees,' said Richard, as he seated himself.

'Most men do be in trouble most times, master Heywood,' returned the old woman. 'Dost find thou hast taken the wrong part, eh?—There be no need to tell what aileth thee. 'Tis a bit easier to cast off a maiden than to forget her—eh?'

'No, mistress Rees. I came not to trouble thee concerning what is past and gone,' said Richard with a sigh. 'It is a taste of thy knowledge I want rather than of thy skill.'

'What skill I have is honest,' said the old woman.

'Far be it from thee to say otherwise, mother Rees. But I need it not now. Tell me, hast thou not been once and again within the great gates of Raglan castle?'

'Yes, my son—oftener than I can tell thee,' answered the old woman. 'It is but a se'night agone that I sat a talking with my son Thomas Rees in the chimney corner of Raglan kitchen, after the supper was served and the cook at rest. It was there my lad was turnspit once upon a time, for as great a man as he is now with my lord and all the household. Those were hard times after my good man left me, master Heywood. But the cream will to the top, and there is my son now—who but he in kitchen and hall? Well, of all places in the mortal world, that Raglan passes!'

'They tell strange things of the stables there, mistress Rees: know you aught of them?'

'Strange things, master? They tell nought but good of the stables that tell the truth. As to the armoury, now—well it is not for such as mother Rees to tell tales out of school.'

'What I heard, and wanted to ask thee about, mother, was that they are under ground. Thinkest thou horses can fare well under ground? Thou knowest a horse as well as a dog, mother.'

Ere she replied, the old woman took her cake from the griddle, and laid it on a wooden platter, then caught up a three-legged stool, set it down by Richard, seated herself at his knee, and assumed the look of mystery wherewith she was in the habit of garnishing every bit of knowledge, real or fancied, which it pleased her to communicate.

'Hear me, and hold thy peace, master Richard Heywood,' she said. 'As good horses as ever stamped in Redware stables go down into Raglan vaults; but yet they eat their oats and their barley, and when they lift their heads they look out to the ends of the world. Whether it be by the skill of the mason or of such as the hidden art of my lord Herbert knows best how to compel, let them say that list to make foes where it were safer to have friends. But this I am free to tell thee—that in the pitched court, betwixt the antechamber to my lord's parlour that hath its windows to the moat, and the great bay window of the hall that looks into that court, there goeth a descent, as it seemeth of stairs only; but to him that knoweth how to pull a certain tricker, as of an harquebus or musquetoon, the whole thing turneth around, and straightway from a stair passeth into an easy matter of a sloping way by the which horses go up and down. And Thomas he telleth me also that at the further end of the vaults to which it leads, the which vaults pass under the marquis's oak parlour, and under all the breadth of the fountain court, as they do call the other court of the castle, thou wilt come to a great iron door in the foundations of one of the towers, in which my lord hath contrived stabling for a hundred and more horses, and that, mark my words, my son, not in any vault or underground dungeon, but in the uppermost chamber of all.'

'And how do they get up there, mother?' asked Richard, who listened with all his ears.

'Why, they go round and round, and ever the rounder the higher, as a fly might crawl up a corkscrew. And there is a stair also in the same screw, as it were, my Thomas do tell me, by which the people of the house do go up and down, and know nothing of the way for the horses within, neither of the stalls at the top of the tower, where they stand and see the country. Yet do they often marvel at the sounds of their hoofs, and their harness, and their cries, and their chumping of their corn. And that is how Raglan can send forth so many horseman for the use of the king. But alack, master Heywood! is it for a wise woman like myself to forget that thou art of the other part, and that these are secrets of state which scarce another in the castle but my son Thomas knoweth aught concerning! What will become of me that I have told them to a Heywood, being, as is well known, myself no more of a royalist than another?'

And she regarded him a little anxiously.

'What should it signify, mother,'' said Richard, 'so long as neither you nor I believe a word of it? Horses go up a tower to bed forsooth! Yet for the matter of that, I will engage to ride my mare up any corkscrew wide enough to turn her forelock and tail in—ay, and down again too, which is another business with most horses. But come now, mother Rees, confess this all a fable of thine own contriving to make a mock of a farm-bred lad like me.'

'In good sooth, master Heywood,' answered the old woman, 'I tell the tale as 'twas told to me. I avouch it not for certain, knowing that my son Thomas hath a seething brain and loveth a joke passing well, nor heedeth greatly upon whom he putteth it, whether his master or his mother; but for the stair by the great hall window, that stair have I seen with mine own eyes, though for the horses to come and go thereby, that truly have I not seen. And for the rest I only say it may well be, for there is nothing of it all which the wise man, my lord Herbert, could not with a word—and that a light one for him to speak, though truly another might be torn to pieces in saying it.'

'I would I might see the place!' murmured Richard.

'An' it were not thou art such a—! But it boots not talking, master Heywood. Thou art too well known for a puritan—roundhead they call thee; and thou hast given them and theirs too many hard knocks, my son, to look they should be willing to let thee gaze on the wonders of their great house. Else, being that I am a friend to thee and thine, I would gladly—. But, as I say, it boots nothing—although I have a son, who being more of the king's part than I am—.'

'Hast thou not then art enough, mother, to set me within Raglan walls for an hour or two after midnight? I ask no more,' said Richard, who, although he was but leading the way to quite another proposal, nor desired aid of art black or white, yet could not help a little tremor at making the bare suggestion of the unhallowed idea.

'An' I had, I dared not use it,' answered the old woman; 'for is not my lord Herbert there? Were it not for him—well—. But I dare not, as I say, for his art is stronger than mine, and from his knowledge I could hide nothing. And I dare not for thy sake either, my young master. Once inside those walls of stone, those gates of oak, and those portcullises of iron, and thou comes not out alive again, I warrant thee.'

'I should like to try once, though,' said Richard. 'Couldst thou not disguise me, mother Rees, and send me with a message to thy son?'

'I tell thee, young master, I dare not,' answered the old woman, with utmost solemnity. 'And if I did, thy speech would presently bewray thee.'

'I would then I knew that part of the wall a man might scramble over in the dark,' said Richard.

'Thinks thou my lord marquis hath been fortifying his castle for two years that a young Heywood, even if he be one of the godly, and have long legs to boot, should make a vaulting horse of it? I know but one knows the way over Raglan walls, and thou wilt hardly persuade him to tell thee,' said mother Rees, with a grim chuckle.

As she spoke she rose, and went towards her sleeping chamber. Then first Richard became aware that for some time he had been hearing a scratching and whining. She opened the door, and out ran a wretched-looking dog, huge and gaunt, with the red marks of recent wounds all over his body, and his neck swathed in a discoloured bandage. He went straight to Richard, and began fawning upon him and licking his hands. Miserable and most disreputable as he looked, he recognised in him Dorothy's mastiff.

'My poor Marquis!' he said, 'what evil hath then befallen thee? What would thy mistress say to see thee thus?'

Marquis whined and wagged his tail as if he understood every word he said, and Richard was stung to the heart at the sight of his apparently forlorn condition.

'Hath thy mistress then forsaken thee too, Marquis?' he said, and from fellow-feeling could have taken the dog in his arms.

'I think not so,' said mistress Rees. 'He hath been with her in the castle ever since she went there.'

'Poor fellow, how thou art torn!' said Richard. 'What animal of thine own size could have brought thee into such a plight? Or can it be that thou hast found a bigger? But that thou hast beaten him I am well assured.'

Marquis wagged an affirmative.

'Fangs of biggest dog in Gwent never tore him like that, master Heywood. Heark'ee now. He cannot tell his tale, so I must tell thee all I know of the matter. I was over to Raglan village three nights agone, to get me a bottle of strong waters from mine host of the White Horse, for the distilling of certain of my herbs good for inward disorders, when he told me that about an hour before there had come from the way of the castle all of a sudden the most terrible noise that ever human ears were pierced withal, as if every devil in hell of dog or cat kind had broken loose, and fierce battle was waging between them in the Yellow Tower. I said little, but had my own fears for my lord Herbert, and came home sad and slow and went to bed. Now what should wake me the next morning, just as daylight broke the neck of the darkness, but a pitiful whining and obstinate scratching at my door! And who should it be but that same lovely little lapdog of my young mistress now standing by thy knee! But had thou seen him then, master Richard! It was the devil's hackles he had been through! Such a torn dishclout of a dog thou never did see! I understood it all in a moment. He had made one in the fight, and whether he had had the better or the worse of it, like a wise dog as he always was, he knew where to find what would serve his turn, and so when the house was quiet, off he came to old mother Rees to be plaistered and physicked. But what perplexes my old brain is, how, at that hour of the night, for to reach my door when he did, and him hardly able to stand when I let him in, it must have been dead night when he left—it do perplex me, I say, to think how at that time of the night he got out of that prison, watched as it is both night and day by them that sleep not.'

'He couldn't have come over the wall?' suggested Richard.

'Had thou seen him—thou would not make that the question.'

'Then he must have come through or under it; there are but three ways,' said Richard to himself. 'He's a big dog,' he added aloud, regarding him thoughtfully as he patted his sullen affectionate head. 'He's a big dog,' he repeated.

'I think a'most he be the biggest dog I ever saw,' assented mistress Rees.

'I would I were less about the shoulders,' said Richard.

'Who ever heard a man worth his mess of pottage wish him such a wish as that, master Heywood! What would mistress Dorothy say to hear thee? I warrant me she findeth no fault with the breadth of thy shoulders.'

'I am less in the compass than I was before the last fight,' he went on, without heeding his hostess, and as if he talked to the dog, who stood with his chin on his knee, looking up in his face. 'Where thou, Marquis, canst walk, I doubt not to creep; but if thou must creep, what then is left for me? Yet how couldst thou creep with such wounds in thy throat and belly, my poor Marquis?'

The dog whined, and moved all his feet, one after the other, but without taking his chin off Richard's knee.

'Hast seen thy mistress, little Dick, Marquis?' asked Richard.

Again the dog whined, moved his feet, and turned his head towards the door. But whether it was that he understood the question, or only that he recognised the name of his friend, who could tell?

'Will thou take me to Dick, Marquis?'

The dog turned and walked to the door, then stood and looked back, as if waiting for Richard to open it and follow him.

'No, Marquis, we must not go before night,' said Richard.

The dog returned slowly to his knee, and again laid his chin upon it.

'What will the dog do next, thinkest thou, mother—when he finds himself well again, I mean? Will he run from thee?' said Richard.

'He would be like neither dog nor man I ever knew, did he not.' returned the old woman. 'He will for sure go back where he got his hurts—to revenge them if he may, for that is the custom also with both dogs and men.'

'Couldst thou make sure of him that he run not away till I come again at night, mother?'

'Certain I can, my son. I will shut him up whence he will not break so long as he hears me nigh him.'

'Do so then an' thou lovest me, mother Rees, and I will be here with the first of the darkness.'

'An' I love thee, master Richard? Nay, but I do love thy good face and thy true words, be thou puritan or roundhead, or fanatic, or what evil name soever the wicked fashion of the times granteth to men to call thee.'

'Hark in thine ear then, mother: I will call no names; but they of Raglan have, as I truly believe, stolen from me my Lady.'

'Nay, nay, master Richard,' interrupted mistress Rees; 'did I not tell thee with my own mouth that she went of her own free will, and in the company of the reverend sir Matthew Herbert?'

'Alas! thou goest not with me, mother Rees. I meant not mistress Dorothy. She is lost to me indeed; but so also is my poor mare, which was stolen last night from Redware stables as the watchers slept.'

'Alack-a-day!' cried goody Rees, holding up her hands in sore trouble for her friend. 'But what then dreams thou of doing? Not surely, before all the saints in heaven, will thou adventure thy body within Raglan walls? But I speak like a fool. Thou canst not.'

'This good dog,' said Richard, stroking Marquis, 'must, as thou thyself plainly seest, have found some way of leaving Raglan without the knowledge or will of its warders. Where he gat him forth, will he not get him in again? And where dog can go, man may at least endeavour to follow.—Mayhap he hath for himself scratched a way, as many dogs will.'

'But, for the love of God, master Heywood, what would thou do inside that stone cage? Thy mare, be she, as thou hast often vaunted her to me, the first for courage and wisdom and strength and fleetness of all mares created—be her fore feet like a man's hands and her heart like a woman's heart, as thou sayest, yet cannot she overleap Raglan walls; and thinks thou they will raise portcullis and open gate and drop drawbridge to let thee and her ride forth in peace? It were a fool's errand, my young master, and nowise befitting thy young wisdom.'

'What I shall do, when I am length within the walls, I cannot tell thee, mother. Nor have I ever yet known much good in forecasting. To have to think, when the hour is come, of what thou didst before resolve, instead of setting thyself to understand what is around thee, and perchance the whole matter different from what thou had imagined, is to stand like Lazarus bound hand and foot in thine own graveclothes. It will be given me to meet what comes; or if not, who will bar me from meeting what follows ?'

'Master Heywood,' cried goody Rees, drawing herself with rebuke, 'for a man that is born of a woman to talk so wisely and so foolishly both in a breath!—But,' she added, with a change of tone, 'I know better than bar the path to a Heywood. An' he will, he will. And thou hast been vilely used, my young master. I will do what I can to help thee to thine own—and no more—no more than thine own. Hark in thine ear now. But first swear to me by the holy cross, puritan as thou art, that thou wilt make no other use of what I tell thee but to free thy stolen mare. I know thou may be trusted even with the secret that would slay thine enemy. But I must have thy oath notwithstanding thereto.'

'I will not swear by the cross, which was never holy, for thereby was the Holy slain. I will not swear at all, mother Rees. I will pledge thee the word of a man who fears God, that I will in no way dishonourable make use of that which thou tellest me. An' that suffice not, I will go without thy help, trusting in God, who never made that mare to carry the enemy of the truth into the battle.'

'But what an' thou should take the staff of strife to measure thy doings withal? That may then seem honourable, done to an enemy, which thou would scorn to do to one of thine own part, even if he wronged thee.'

'Nay, mother; but I will do nothing THOU wouldst think dishonourable—that I promise thee. I will use what thou tellest me for no manner of hurt to my lord of Worcester or aught that is his. But Lady is not his, and her will I carry, if I may, from Raglan stables back to Redware.'

'I am content. Hearken then, my son. Raglan watchword for the rest of the month is—ST. GEORGE AND ST. PATRICK! May it stand thee in good stead.'

'I thank thee, mother, with all my heart,' said Richard, rising jubilant. 'Now shut up the dog, and let me go. One day it may lie in my power to requite thee.'

'Thou hast requited me beforehand, master Heywood. Old mother Rees never forgets. I would have done well by thee with the maiden, an' thou would but have hearkened to my words. But the day may yet come. Go now, and return with the last of the twilight. Come hither, Marquis.'

The dog obeyed, and she shut him again in her chamber.



CHAPTER XXVII

THE MOAT OF THE KEEP.



Richard left the cottage, and mounted Oliver. To pass the time and indulge a mournful memory, he rode round by Wyfern. When he reached home, he found that his father had gone to pay a visit some miles off. He went to his own room, cast himself on his bed, and tried to think. But his birds would not come at his call, or coming would but perch for a moment, and again fly. As he lay thus, his eyes fell on his cousin, old Thomas Heywood's little folio, lying on the window seat where he had left it two years ago, and straightway his fluttering birds alighting there, he thought how the book had been lying unopened all the months, while he had been passing through so many changes and commotions. How still had the room been around it, how silent the sunshine and the snow, while he had inhabited tumult—tumult in his heart, tumult in his ears, tumult of sorrows, of vain longings, of tongues and of swords! Where was the gain to him? Was he nearer to that centre of peace, which the book, as it lay there so still, seemed to his eyes to typify? The maiden loved from childhood had left him for a foolish king and a phantom-church: had he been himself pursuing anything better? He had been fighting for the truth: had he then gained her? where was she? what was she if not a living thing in the heart? Would the wielding of the sword in its name ever embody an abstraction, call it from the vasty deep of metaphysics up into self-conscious existence in the essence of a man's own vitality? Was not the question still, how, of all loves, to grasp the thing his soul thirsted after?

To many a sermon, cleric and lay, had he listened since he left that volume there—in church, in barn, in the open field—but the religion which seemed to fill all the horizon of these preachers' vision, was to him little better than another tumult of words; while, far beyond all the tumults, hung still, in the vast of thought unarrived, unembodied, that something without a shape, yet bearing a name around which hovered a vague light as of something dimly understood, after which, in every moment of inbreaking silence, his soul straightway began to thirst. And if the Truth was not to be found in his own heart, could he think that the blows by which he had not gained her had yet given her?—that through means of the tumult he had helped to arouse in her name and for her sake, but in which he had never caught a sight of her beauteous form, she now sat radiantly smiling in any one human soul where she sat not before?

Or should he say it was Freedom for which he had fought? Was he then one whit more free in the reality of his being than he had been before? Or had ever a battle wherein he had perilled his own life, striking for liberty, conveyed that liberty into a single human heart? Was there one soul the freer within, from the nearer presence of that freedom which would have a man endure the heaviest wrong, rather than inflict the lightest? He could not tell, but he greatly doubted.

His thought went wandering away, and vision after vision, now of war and now of love, now of earthly victory and now of what seemed unattainable felicity, arose and passed before him, filling its place. At length it came back: he would glance again into his cousin Thomas's book. He had but to stretch out his hand to take it, for his bed was close by the window. Opening it at random, he came upon this passage:

And as the Mill, that circumgyreth fast, Refuseth nothing that therein is cast, But whatsoever is to it assign'd Gladly receives and willing is to grynd, But if the violence be with nothing fed, It wasts itselfe: e'en so the heart mis-led, Still turning round, unstable as the Ocean, Never at rest, but in continuall Motion, Sleepe or awake, is still in agitation Of some presentment in th' imagination.

If to the Mill-stone you shall cast in Sand, It troubles them, and makes them at a stand; If Pitch, it chokes them; or if Chaffe let fall, They are employ'd, but to no use at all. So, bitter thoughts molest, uncleane thoughts staine And spot the Heart; while those idle and vaine Weare it, and to no purpose. For when 'tis Drowsie and carelesse of the future blisse, And to implore Heav'n's aid, it doth imply How far is it remote from the most High. For whilst our Hearts on Terrhen things we place, There cannot be least hope of Divine grace.

'Just such a mill is my mind,' he said to himself. 'But can I suppose that to sit down and read all day like a monk, would bring me nearer to the thing I want?'

He turned over the volume half thinking, half brooding.

'I will look again,' he thought, 'at the verses which that day my father gave me to read. Truly I did not well understand them.'

Once more he read the poem through. It closed with these lines:

So far this Light the Raies extends, As that no place It comprehends. So deepe this Sound, that though it speake, It cannot by a Sence so weake Be entertain'd. A Redolent Grace The Aire blowes not from place to place. A pleasant Taste, of that delight It doth confound all appetite. A strict Embrace, not felt, yet leaves That vertue, where it takes it cleaves. This Light, this Sound, this Savouring Grace, This Tastefull Sweet, this Strict Embrace, No Place containes, no Eye can see, My God is; and there's none but Hee.

'I HAVE gained something,' he cried aloud. 'I understand it now—at least I think I do. What if, in fighting for the truth as men say, the doors of a man's own heart should at length fly open for her entrance! What if the understanding of that which is uttered concerning her, be a sign that she herself draweth nigh! Then I will go on.—And that I may go on, I must recover my mare.'

Honestly, however, he could not quite justify the scheme. All the efforts of his imagination, as he rode home, to bring his judgment to the same side with itself, had failed, and he had been driven to confess the project a foolhardy one. But, on the other hand, had he not had a leading thitherward? Whence else the sudden conviction that Scudamore had taken her, and the burning desire to seek her in Raglan stables? And had he not heard mighty arguments from the lips of the most favoured preachers in the army for an unquestioning compliance with leadings? Nay, had he not had more than a leading? Was it not a sign to encourage him, even a pledge of happy result, that, within an hour of it, and in consequence of his first step in partial compliance with it, he had come upon the only creature capable of conducting him into the robber's hold? And had he not at the same time learned the Raglan password?—He WOULD go.

He rose, and descending the little creaking stair of black oak that led from his room to the next storey, sought his father's study, where he wrote a letter informing him of his intended attempt, and the means to its accomplishment that had been already vouchsafed him. The rest of his time, after eating his dinner, he spent in making overshoes for his mare out of an old buff jerkin. As soon as the twilight began to fall, he set out on foot for the witch's cottage.

When he arrived, he found her expecting him, but prepared with no hearty welcome.

'I had liefer by much thee had not come so pat upon thy promise, master Heywood. Then I might have looked to move thee from thy purpose, for truly I like it not. But thou will never bring an old woman into trouble, master Richard?'

'Or a young one either, if I can help it Mother Rees,' answered Richard. 'But come now, thou must trust me, and tell me all I want to know.'

He drew from his pocket paper and pencil, and began to put to her question after question as to the courts and the various buildings forming them, with their chief doors and windows, and ever as she gave him an answer, he added its purport to the rough plan he was drawing of the place.

'Listen to me, Master Heywood,' said the old woman at length after a long, silence, during which he had been pondering over his paper. 'An' thou get once into the fountain court thou will know where thee is by the marble horse that stands in the middle of it. Turn then thy back to the horse, with the yellow tower above thee upon thy right hand, and thee will be facing the great hall. On the other side of the hall is the pitched court with its great gate and double portcullis and drawbridge. Nearly at thy back, but to thy right hand, will lie the gate to the bowling-green. At which of these gates does thee think to lead out thy mare?'

'An' I pass at all, mother, it will be on her back, not at her head.'

'Thou wilt not pass, my son. Be counselled. To thy mare, thou wilt but lose thyself.'

Richard heard her as though he heard her not.

'At what hour doth the moon rise, mistress Rees?' he asked.

'What would thou with the moon?" she returned. "Is not she the enemy of him who roves for plunder? Shines she not that the thief may be shaken out of the earth?'

'I am not thief enough to steal in the dark, mother. How shall I tell without her help where I am or whither I go?'

'She will be half way to the top of her hill by midnight.'

'An' thou speak by the card, then is it time that Marquis and I were going.'

'Here, take thee some fern-seed in thy pouch, that thou may walk invisible,' said the old woman. 'If thee chance to be an hungred, then eat thereof,' she added, as she transferred something from her pocket to his.

She called the dog and opened the chamber door. Out came Marquis, walked to Richard, and stood looking up in his face as if he knew perfectly that his business was to accompany him. Richard bade the old woman good night, and stepped from the cottage.

No sooner was he in the darkness with the dog, than, fearing he might lose sight of him, he tied his handkerchief round the dog's neck, and fastened to it the thong of his riding whip—the sole weapon he had brought with him—and so they walked together, Marquis pulling Richard on. Ere long the moon rose, and the country dawned into the dim creation of the light.

On and on they trudged, Marquis pulling at his leash as if he had been a blind man's dog, and on and on beside them crept their shadows, flattened out into strange distortion upon the road. But when they had come within about two miles of Raglan, whether it was that the sense of proximity to his mistress grew strong in him, or that he scented the Great Mogul, as the horse the battle from afar, Marquis began to grow restless, and to sniff about on one side of the way. When at length they had by a narrow bridge crossed a brook, the dog insisted on leaving the road and going down into the meadow to the left. Richard made small resistance, and that only for experiment upon the animal's determination. Across field after field his guide led him, until, but for the great keep towering dimly up into the moonlit sky, he could hardly have even conjectured where he was. But he was well satisfied, for, ever as they came out of copse or hollow, there was the huge thing in the sky, nearer than before.

At last he was able to descry a short stretch of the castle rampart, past which, away to the westward, the dog was pulling, along a rough cart-track through a field. This he presently found to be a quarry road, and straight into the quarry the dog went, pulling eagerly; but Richard was compelled to follow with caution, for the ground was rough and broken, and the moon cast black misleading shadows. Towards the blackest of these the dog led, and entered a hollow way. Richard went straight after him, guarding his head with his arm, lest he might meet a sudden descent of the roof, and lengthening his leash to the utmost, that he might have timely warning of any descent of the floor.

It was a very rough tunnel, the intent of which will afterwards appear, forming part of one of lord Herbert's later contrivances for the safety of the castle; but so well had Mr. Salisbury, the surveyor, managed, that not one of the men employed upon it had an idea that they were doing more than working the quarry for the repair of the fortifications.

From the darkness, and the cautious rate at which he had to proceed, holding back the dog who tugged hard at the whip, Richard could not even hazard a conjecture as to the distance they had advanced, when he heard the noise of a small runnel of water, which seemed from the sound to make abrupt descent from some little height. He had gone but a few paces further when the handle of the whip received a great upward pull and was left loose in his grasp: the dog was away, leaving his handkerchief at the end of the thong. So now he had to guide himself, and began to feel about him. He seemed at first to have come to the end of the passage, for he could touch both sides of it by stretching out his arms, and in front a tiny stream of water came down the face of the rough rock; but what then had become of Marquis? The answer seemed plain: the water must come from somewhere, and doubtless its channel had spare room enough for the dog to pass thither. He felt up the rock, and found that, at about the height of his head, the water came over an obtuse angle. Climbing a foot or two, he discovered that the opening whence it issued was large enough for him to enter.

Only one who has at some time passed where lengthened creeping was necessary, will know how Richard felt, with water under him, pitch-darkness about him, and the rock within an inch or two of his body all round. By and by the slope became steeper and the ascent more difficult. The air grew very close, and he began to fear he should be stifled. Then came a hot breath, and a pair of eyes gleamed a foot or two from his face. Had he then followed into the den of the animal by which poor Marquis had been so frightfully torn? But no: it was Marquis himself waiting for him!

'Go on, Marquis,' he said, with a sigh of relief.

The dog obeyed, and in another moment a waft of cool air came in. Presently a glimmer of light appeared. The opening through which it entered was a little higher than his horizontally posed head, and looked alarmingly narrow.

But as he crept nearer it grew wider, and when he came under it he found it large enough to let him through. When cautiously he poked up his head, there was the huge mass of the keep towering blank above him! On a level with his eyes, the broad, lilied waters of the moat lay betwixt him and the citadel.

Marquis had brought him to the one neglected, therefore forgotten, and thence undefended spot of the whole building. Before the well was sunk in the keep, the supply of water to the moat had been far more bountiful, and provision for a free overflow was necessary. For some reason, probably for the mere sake of facility in the construction, the passage for the superfluous water had been made larger than needful at the end next the moat. About midway to its outlet, however—a mere drain-mouth in a swampy hollow in the middle of a field—it had narrowed to a third of the compass. But the quarriers had cut across it above the point of contraction; and no danger of access occurring to lord Herbert or Mr. Salisbury, while they found a certain service in the tiny waterfall, they had left it as it was.



CHAPTER XXVIII.

RAGLAN STABLES.



The passage for the overflow of the water of the moat was under the sunk walk which, reaching from the gate of the stone court round to the gate of the fountain court, enclosed the keep and its moat, looping them on as it were to the side of the double quadrangle of the castle. The only way out of this passage, at whose entrance Richard now found himself, was into the moat. As quietly therefore as he could, he got through the opening and into the water, amongst the lilies, where, much impeded by their tangling roots, which caused him many a submergence, but with a moon in her second quarter over his head to light him, he swam gently along. As he looked up from the water, however, to the huge crag-like tower over his head, the soft moonlight smoothing the rigour but bringing out all the wasteness of the grim blank, it seemed a hopeless attempt he had undertaken. Not the less did he keep his eye on the tower-side of the moat, and had not swum far before he caught sight of the little stair, which, enclosed in one of the six small round bastions encircling it, led up from the moat to the walk immediately around the citadel. The foot of this stair was, strangely enough, one of the only two points in the defence of the moat not absolutely commanded from either one or the other of the two gates of the castle. The top of the stair, however, was visible from one extreme point over the western gate, and the moment Richard, finding the small thick iron-studded door open, put his head out of the bastion, he caught sight of a warder far away, against the moonlit sky. All of the castle except the spot where that man stood, was hidden by the near bulk of the keep. He drew back, and sat down on the top of the stair—to think and let the water run from his clothes. When he issued, it was again on all-fours. He had, however, only to creep an inch or two to the right to be covered by one of the angles of the tower.

But this shelter was merely momentary, for he must go round the tower in search of some way to reach the courts beyond; and no sooner had he passed the next angle than he found himself within sight of one of the towers of the main entrance. Dropping once more on his hands and knees he crept slowly along, as close as he could squeeze to the root of the wall, and when he rounded the next angle, was in the shadow of the keep, while he had but to cross the walk to be covered by the parapet on the edge of the moat. This he did, and having crept round the curve of the next bastion, was just beginning to fear lest he should find only a lifted drawbridge, and have to take to the water again, when he came to the stone bridge.

It was well for him that Dorothy and Caspar had now omitted the setting of their water-trap, otherwise he would have entered the fountain court in a manner unfavourable to his project. As it was, he got over in safety, never ceasing his slow crawl until he found himself in the archway. Here he stood up, straightened his limbs, went through a few gymnastics, as silent as energetic, to send the blood through his chilled veins, and the next moment was again on the move.

Peering from the mouth of the archway, he saw to his left the fountain court, with the gleaming head of the great horse rising out of the sea of shadow into the moonlight, and knew where he was. Next he discovered close to him on his right an open door into a dim space, and knew that he was looking into the great hall. Opposite the door glimmered the large bay window of which Mrs. Rees had spoken.

There was now a point to be ascertained ere he could determine at which of the two gates he should attempt his exit—a question which, up to the said point, he had thoroughly considered on his way.

The stables opened upon the pitched court, and in that court was the main entrance: naturally that was the one to be used. But in front of it was a great flight of steps, the whole depth of the ditch, with the marble gate at the foot of them; and not knowing the carriageway, he feared both suspicion and loss of time, where a single moment might be all that divided failure from success. Also at this gate were a double portcullis and drawbridge, the working of whose machinery took time, and of all things a quick execution was essential, seeing that at any moment sleeping suspicion might awake, and find enough to keep her so. At the other gate there was but one portcullis and no drawbridge, while from it he perfectly knew the way to the brick gate. Clearly this was the preferable for his attempt. There was but one point to cast in the other scale—namely, that, if old Eccles were still the warder of it, there would be danger of his recognition in respect both of himself and his mare. But, on the other hand, he thought he could turn to account his knowledge of the fact that the marquis's room was over it. So here the scale had settled to rebound no more—except indeed he should now discover any difficulty in passing from the stone court in which lay the MOUTH of the stables, to the fountain court in which stood the preferable gate. This question he must now settle, for once on horseback there must be no deliberation.

One way at least there must be—through the hall: the hall must be accessible from both courts. He pulled off his shoes, and stepped softly in. Through the high window immediately over the huge fireplace, a little moonlight fell on the northern gable-wall, turning the minstrels' gallery into an aerial bridge to some strange region of loveliness, and in the shadow under it he found at once the door he sought, standing open but dark under a deep porch.

Issuing and gliding along by the side of the hall and round the great bay window, he came to the stair indicated by Mrs. Rees, and descending a little way, stood and listened: plainly enough to his practised ear, what the old woman had represented as the underground passage to the airiest of stables, was itself full of horses. To go down amongst these in the dark, and in ignorance of the construction of the stable, was somewhat perilous; but he had not come there to avoid risk. Step by step he stole softly down, and, arrived at the bottom, seated himself on the last—to wait until his eyes should get so far accustomed to the darkness as to distinguish the poor difference between the faint dusk sinking down the stair and the absolute murk. A little further on, he could descry two or three grated openings into the fountain court, but by them nothing could enter beyond the faintest reflection of moonlight from the windows between the grand staircase and the bell tower.

As soon as his eyes had grown capable of using what light there was, which however was scarcely sufficient to render him the smallest service, Richard began to whistle, very softly, a certain tune well known to Lady, one he always whistled when he fed or curried her himself. He had not got more than half through it, when a low drowsy whinny made reply from the depths of the darkness before him, and the heart of Richard leaped in his bosom for joy. He ceased a moment, then whistled again. Again came the response, but this time, although still soft and low, free from all the woolliness of sleep. Once more he whistled, and once more came the answer. Certain at length of the direction, he dropped on his hands and knees, and crawled carefully along for a few yards, then stopped, whistled again, and listened. After a few more calls and responses, he found himself at Lady's heels, which had begun to move restlessly. He crept into the stall beside her, spoke to her in a whisper, got upon his feet, caressed her, told her to be quiet, and, pulling her buff shoes from his pockets, drew them over her hoofs, and tied them securely about her pasterns. Then with one stroke of his knife he cut her halter, hitched the end round her neck, and telling her to follow him, walked softly through the stable and up the stair. She followed like a cat, though not without some noise, to whose echoes Richard's bosom seemed the beaten drum. The moment her back was level, he flung himself upon it, and rode straight through the porch and into the hall.

But here at length he was overtaken by the consequences of having an ally unequal to the emergency. Marquis, who had doubtless been occupied with his friends in the stable yard, came bounding up into the court just as Richard threw himself on the back of his mare. At the sight of Lady, whom he knew so well, with her master on her back, a vision of older and happier times, the poor animal forgot himself utterly, rushed through the hall like a whirlwind, and burst into a tempest of barking in the middle of the fountain court—whether to rouse his mistress, or but to relieve his own heart, matters little to my tale. There was not a moment to lose, and Richard rode out of the hall and made for the gate.



CHAPTER XXIX.

THE APPARITION.



The voice of her lost Marquis, which even in her dreams she could attribute to none but him, roused Dorothy at once. She sprang from her bed, flew to the window, and flung it wide. That same moment, from the shadows about the hall-door, came forth a man on horseback, and rode along the tiled path to the fountain, where never had hoof of horse before trod. Stranger still, the tramp sounded far away, and woke no echo in the echo-haunted place. A phantom surely—horse and man! As they drew nearer where she stared with wide eyes, the head of the rider rose out of the shadow into the moonlight, and she recognised the face of Richard—very white and still, though not, as she supposed, with the whiteness and stillness of a spectre, but with the concentration of eagerness and watchful resolution. The same moment she recognised Lady. She trembled from head to foot. What could it mean but that beyond a doubt they were both dead, slain in battle, and that Richard had come to pay her a last visit ere he left the world. On they came. Her heart swelled up into her throat, and the effort to queen it over herself, and neither shriek nor drop on the floor, was like struggling to support a falling wall. When the spectre reached the marble fountain, he gave a little start, drew bridle, and seemed to become aware that he had taken a wrong path, looked keenly around him, and instead of continuing his advance towards her window, turned in the direction of the gate. One thing was clear, that whether ghostly or mortal, whether already dead or only on the way to death, the apparition was regardless of her presence. A pang of disappointment shot through her bosom, and for the moment quenched her sense of relief from terror. With it sank the typhoon of her emotion, and she became able to note how draggled and soiled his garments were, how his hair clung about his temples, and that for all accoutrement his mare had but a halter. Yet Richard sat erect and proud, and Lady stepped like a mare full of life and vigour. And there was Marquis, not cowering or howling as dogs do in spectral presence, but madly bounding and barking as if in uncontrollable jubilation!

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