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St. George and St. Michael
by George MacDonald
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The acme of her bewilderment was reached when the phantom came under the marquis's study-window, and she heard it call aloud, in a voice which undoubtedly came from corporeal throat, and that throat Richard's, ringing of the morning and the sunrise and the wind that shakes the wheat—anything rather than of the tomb:

'Ho, master Eccles!' it cried; 'when? when? Must my lord's business cool while thou rubbest thy sleepy eyes awake? What, I say! When? —Yes, my lord, I will punctually attend to your lordship's orders. Expect me back within the hour.'

The last words were uttered in a much lower tone, with the respect due to him he seemed addressing, but quite loud enough to be distinctly heard by Eccles or any one else in the court.

Dorothy leaned from her window, and looked sideways to the gate, expecting to see the marquis bending over his window-sill, and talking to Richard. But his window was close shut, nor was there any light behind it.

A minute or two passed, during which she heard the combined discords of the rising portcullis. Then out came Eccles, slow and sleepy.

'By St. George and St. Patrick!' cried Richard, 'why keep'st thou six legs here standing idle? Is thy master's business nothing to thee?'

Eccles looked up at him. He was coming to his senses.

'Thou rides in strange graith on my lord's business,' he said, as he put the key in the lock.

'What is that to thee? Open the gate. And make haste. If it please my lord that I ride thus to escape eyes that else might see further than thine, keen as they are, master Eccles, it is nothing to thee.'

The lock clanged, the gate swung open, and Richard rode through.

By this time a process of doubt and reasoning, rapid as only thought can be, had produced in the mind of Dorothy the conviction that there was something wrong. By what authority was Richard riding from Raglan with muffled hoofs between midnight and morning? His speech to the marquis was plainly a pretence, and doubtless that to Eccles was equally false. To allow him to pass unchallenged would be treason against both her host and her king.

'Eccles! Eccles!' she cried, her voice ringing clear through the court, 'let not that man pass.'

'He gave the word, mistress,' said Eccles, in dull response.

'Stop him, I say,' cried Dorothy again, with energy almost frantic, as she heard the gate swing to heavily. 'Thou shalt be held to account.'

'He gave the word.'

'He's a true man, mistress,' returned Eccles, in tone of self-justification. 'Heard you not my lord marquis give him his last orders from his window?'

'There was no marquis at the window. Stop him, I say.'

'He's gone,' said Eccles quietly, but with waking uneasiness.

'Run after him,' Dorothy almost screamed.

'Stop him at the gate. It is young Heywood of Redware, one of the busiest of the round-heads.'

Eccles was already running and shouting and whistling. She heard his feet resounding from the bridge. With trembling hands she flung a cloak about her, and sped bare-footed down the grand staircase and along the north side of the court to the bell-tower, where she seized the rope of the alarm-bell, and pulled with all her strength. A horrid clangour tore the stillness of the night, re-echoed with yelping response from the multitudinous buildings around. Window after window flew open, head after head was popped out—amongst the first that of the marquis, shouting to know what was amiss. But the question found no answer. The courts began to fill. Some said the castle was on fire; others, that the wild beasts were all out; others, that Waller and Cromwell had scaled the rampart, and were now storming the gates; others, that Eccles had turned traitor and admitted the enemy. In a few moments all was outcry and confusion. Both courts and the great hall were swarming with men and women and children, in every possible stage of attire. The main entrance was crowded with a tumult of soldiery, and scouts were rushing to different stations of outlook, when the cry reached them that the western gate was open, the portcullis up, and the guard gone.

The moment Richard was clear of the portcullis, he set off at a sharp trot for the brick gate, and had almost reached it when he became aware that he was pursued. He had heard the voice of Dorothy as he rode out, and knew to whom he owed it. But yet there was a chance. Rousing the porter with such a noisy reveillee as drowned in his sleepy ears the cries of the warder and those that followed him, he gave the watch-word, and the huge key was just turning in the wards when the clang of the alarm-bell suddenly racked the air. The porter stayed his hand, and stood listening.

'Open the gate,' said Richard in authoritative tone.

'I will know first, master,—' began the man.

'Dost not hear the bell?' cried Richard. 'How long wilt thou endanger the castle by thy dulness?'

'I shall know first,' repeated the man deliberately, 'what that bell—'

Ere he could finish the sentence, the butt of Richard's whip had laid him along the threshold of the gate. Richard flung himself from his horse, and turned the key. But his enemies were now close at hand—Eccles and the men of his guard. If the porter had but fallen the other way! Ere he could drag aside his senseless body and open the gate, they were upon him with blows and curses. But the puritan's blood was up, and with the heavy handle of his whip he had felled one and wounded another ere he was himself stretched on the ground with a sword-cut in the head.



CHAPTER XXX.

RICHARD AND THE MARQUIS.



A very few strokes of the brazen-tongued clamourer had been enough to wake the whole castle. Dorothy flew back to her chamber, and hurrying on her clothes, descended again to the court. It was already in full commotion. The western gate stood open, with the portcullis beyond it high in the wall, and there she took her stand, waiting the return of Eccles and his men.

Presently lord Charles came through the hall from the stone court, and seeing the gate open, called aloud in anger to know what it meant. Receiving no reply, he ran with an oath to drop the portcullis.

'Is there a mutiny amongst the rascals?' he cried.

'There is no cause for dread, my lord,' said Dorothy from the shadow of the gateway.

'How know you that, fair mistress?' returned lord Charles, who knew her voice. 'You must not inspire us with too much of your spare courage. That would be to make us fool-hardy.'

'Indeed, there is nothing to fear, my lord,' persisted Dorothy. 'The warder and his men have but this moment rushed out after one on horseback, whom they had let pass with too little question. They are ten to one,' added Dorothy with a shudder, as the sounds of the fray came up from below.

'If there is then no cause of fear, cousin, why look you so pale?' asked lord Charles, for the gleam of a torch had fallen on Dorothy's face.

'I think I hear them returning, doubtless with a prisoner,' said Dorothy, and stood with her face turned aside, looking anxiously through the gateway and along the bridge. She had obeyed her conscience, and had now to fight her heart, which unreasonable member of the community would insist on hoping that her efforts had been foiled. But in a minute more came the gathering noise of returning footsteps, and presently Lady's head appeared over the crown of the bridge; then rose Eccles, leading her in grim silence; and next came Richard, pale and bleeding, betwixt two men, each holding him by an arm; the rest of the guard crowded behind. As they entered the court, Richard caught sight of Dorothy, and his face shone into a wan smile, to which her rebellious heart responded with a terrible pang.

The voice of lord Charles reached them from the other side of the court.

'Bring the prisoner to the hall,' it cried.

Eccles led the mare away, and the rest took Richard to the hall, which now began to be lighted up, and was soon in a blaze of candles all about the dais. When Dorothy entered, it was crowded with household and garrison, but the marquis, who was tardy at dressing, had not yet appeared. Presently, however, he walked slowly in from the door at the back of the dais, breathing hard, and seated himself heavily in the great chair. Dorothy placed herself near the door, where she could see the prisoner.

Lady Mary entered and seated herself beside her father.

'What meaneth all this tumult?' the marquis began. 'Who rang the alarum-bell?'

'I did, my lord,' answered Dorothy in a trembling voice.

'Thou, mistress Dorothy!' exclaimed the marquis. 'Then I doubt not thou hadst good reason for so doing. Prithee what was the reason? Verily it seems thou wast sent hither to be the guardian of my house!'

'It was not I, my lord, gave the first alarm, but—' She hesitated, then added, 'my poor Marquis.'

'Not so poor for a marquis, cousin Dorothy, as to be called the poor Marquis. Why dost thou call me poor?'

'My lord, I mean my dog.'

'The truth will still lie—between me and thy dog,' said the marquis. 'But come now, instruct me. Who is this prisoner, and how comes he here?'

'He be young Mr. Heywood of Redware, my lord, and a pestilent roundhead,' answered one of his captors.

'Who knows him?'

A moment's silence followed. Then came Dorothy's voice again.

'I do, my lord.'

'Tell me, then, all thou knowest from the beginning, cousin,' said the marquis.

'I was roused by the barking of my dog,' Dorothy began.

'How came HE hither again?'

'My lord, I know not.'

''Tis passing strange. See to it, lord Charles. Go on, mistress Dorothy.'

'I heard my dog bark in the court, my lord, and looking from my window saw Mr. Heywood riding through on horseback. Ere I could recover from my astonishment, he had passed the gate, and then I rang the alarm-bell,' said Dorothy briefly.

'Who opened the gate for him?'

'I did, my lord,' said Eccles. 'He made me believe he was talking to your lordship at the study window.'

'Ha! a cunning fox!' said the marquis. 'And then?'

'And then mistress Dorothy fell out upon me—'

'Let thy tongue wag civilly, Eccles.'

'He speaks true, my lord,' said Dorothy. 'I did fall out upon him, for he was but half awake, and I knew not what mischief might be at hand.'

'Eccles is obliged to you, cousin. And so the lady brought you to your senses in time to catch him?'

'Yes, my lord.'

'How comes he wounded? He was but one to a score.'

'My lord, he would else have killed us all.'

'He was armed then?'

Eccles was silent.

'Was he armed?' repeated the marquis.

'He had a heavy whip, my lord.'

'H'm!' said the marquis, and turned to the prisoner.

'Is thy name Heywood, sirrah?' he asked.

'My lord, if you treat me as a clown, you shall have but clown's manners of me; I will not answer.'

''Fore heaven!' exclaimed the marquis, 'our squires would rule the roast.'

'He that doth right, marquis or squire, will one day rule, my lord,' said Richard.

''Tis well said,' returned the marquis. 'I ask your pardon, Mr. Heywood. In times like these a man must be excused for occasionally dropping his manners.'

'Assuredly, my lord, when he stoops to recover them so gracefully as doth the marquis of Worcester.'

'What, then, would'st thou in my house at midnight, Mr. Heywood?' asked the marquis courteously.

'Nothing save mine own, my lord. I came but to look for a stolen mare.'

'What! thou takest Raglan for a den of thieves?'

'I found the mare in your lordship's stable.'

'How then came the mare in my stable?'

'That is not a question for me to answer, my lord.'

'Doubtless thou didst lose her in battle against thy sovereign.'

'She was in Redware stable last night, my lord.'

'Which of you, knaves, stole the gentleman's mare?' cried the marquis.—'But, Mr. Heywood, there can be no theft upon a rebel. He is by nature an outlaw, and his life and goods forfeit to the king.'

'He will hardly yield the point, my lord. So long as Might, the sword, is in the hand of Right, the—'

'Of Right, the roundhead, I suppose you mean,' interrupted the marquis. 'Who carried off Mr. Heywood's mare?' he repeated, rising, and looking abroad on the crowd.

'Tom Fool,' answered a voice from the obscure distance.

A buzz of suppressed laughter followed, which as instantly ceased, for the marquis looked angrily around.

'Stand forth, Tom Fool,' he said.

Through the crowd came Tom, and stood before the dais, looking frightened and sheepish.

'Sure I am, Tom, thou didst never go to steal a mare of thine own notion: who went with thee?' said the marquis.

'Mr. Scudamore, my lord,' answered Tom.

'Ha, Rowland! Art thou there?' cried his lordship.

'I gave him fair warning two years ago, my lord, and the king wants horses,' said Scudamore cunningly.

'Rowland, I like not such warfare. Yet can the roundheads say nought against it, who would filch kingdom from king and church from bishops,' said the marquis, turning again to Heywood.

'As they from the pope, my lord,' rejoined Richard.

'True,' answered the marquis; 'but the bishops are the fairer thieves, and may one day be brought to reason and restitution.'

'As I trust your lordship will in respect of my mare.'

'Nay, that can hardly be. She shall to Gloucester to the king. I would not have sent to Redware to fetch her, but finding thee and her in my house at midnight, it would be plain treason to set such enemies at liberty. What! hast thou fought against his majesty? Thou art scored like an old buckler!'

Richard had started on his adventure very thinly clad, for he had expected to find all possible freedom of muscle necessary, and indeed could not in his buff coat have entered the castle. In the scuffle at the gate, his garment had been torn open, and the eye of the marquis had fallen on the scar of a great wound on his chest, barely healed.

'What age art thou?' he went on, finding Richard made no answer.

'One and twenty, my lord—almost.'

'And what wilt thou be by the time thou art one and thirty, an' I'll let thee go,' said the marquis thoughtfully.

'Dust and ashes, my lord, most likely. Faith, I care not.'

As he spoke he glanced at Dorothy, but she was looking on the ground.

'Nay, nay!' said the marquis feelingly. 'These are, but wild and hurling words for a fine young fellow like thee. Long ere thou be a man, the king will have his own again, and all will be well. Come, promise me thou wilt never more bear arms against his majesty, and I will set thee and thy mare at liberty the moment thou shalt have eaten thy breakfast.'

'Not to save ten lives, my lord, would I give such a promise.'

'Roundhead hypocrite!' cried the marquis, frowning to hide the gleam of satisfaction he felt breaking from his eyes. 'What will thy father say when he hears thou liest deep in Raglan dungeon?'

'He will thank heaven that I lie there a free man instead of walking abroad a slave,' answered Richard.

''Fore heaven!' said the marquis, and was silent for a moment. 'Owest thou then thy king NOTHING, boy?' he resumed.

'I owe the truth everything,' answered Richard.

'The truth!' echoed the marquis.

'Now speaks my lord Worcester like my lord Pilate,' said Richard.

'Hold thy peace, boy,' returned the marquis sternly. 'Thy godly parents have ill taught thee thy manners. How knowest thou what was in my thought when I did but repeat after thee the sacred word thou didst misuse?'

'My lord, I was wrong, and I beg your lordship's pardon. But an' your lordship were standing here with your head half beaten in, and your clothes—'

Here Richard bethought himself, and was silent.

'Tell me then how gat'st thou in, lunatic,' said the marquis, not unkindly, 'and thou shalt straight to bed.'

'My lord,' returned Richard, 'you have taken my mare, and taken my liberty, but the devil is in it if you take my secret.'

'I would thy mare had been poisoned ere she drew thee hither on such a fool's errand! I want neither thee nor thy mare, and yet I may not let you go!'

'A moment more, and it had been an exploit, and no fool's errand, my lord.'

'Then the fool's cap would have been thine, Eccles. How earnest thou to let him out? Thou a warder, and ope gate and up portcullis 'twixt waking and sleeping!'

'Had he wanted in, my lord, it would have been different,' said Eccles. 'But he only wanted out, and gave the watchword.'

'Where got'st thou the watchword, Mr. Heywood?'

'I will tell thee what I gave for it, my lord. More I will not.'

'What gavest thou then?'

'My word that I would work neither thee nor thine any hurt withal, my lord.'

'Then there are traitors within my gates!' cried the marquis.

'Truly, that I know not, my lord,' answered Richard.

'Prithee tell me how them gat thee into my house, Mr. Heywood? It were but neighbourly.'

'It were but neighbourly, my lord, to hang young Scudamore and Tom Fool for thieves.'

'Tell me how thou gat hold of the watchword, good boy, and I will set thee free, and give thee thy mare again.'

'I will not, my lord.'

'Then the devil take thee!' said the marquis, rising.

The same moment Richard reeled, and but for the men about him, would have fallen heavily.

Dorothy darted forward, but could not come near him for the crowd.

'My lord Charles,' cried the marquis, 'see the poor fellow taken care of. Let him sleep, and perchance on the morrow he will listen to reason. Mistress Watson will see to his hurts. I would to God he were on our side! I like him well.'

The men took him up and followed lord Charles to the housekeeper's apartment, where they laid him on a bed in a little turret, and left him, still insensible, to her care, with injunctions to turn the key in the lock if she went from the chamber but for a moment. 'For who can tell,' thought lord Charles, greatly perplexed, 'but as he came he may go?'

Some of the household had followed them, and several of the women would gladly have stayed, but Mrs. Watson sent all away. Gradually the crowd dispersed. The tumult ceased; the household retired. The castle grew still, and most of its inhabitants fell asleep again.

'A damned hot-livered roundhead coxcomb!' said lord Worcester to himself, pacing his room. 'These pelting cockerel squires and yeomen nowadays go strutting and crowing as if all the yard were theirs! We shall see how far this heat will carry the rogue! I doubt not the boy would tell everything than see his mare whipped. He's a fine fellow, and it were a thousand pities he turned coward and gave in. But the affair is not mine; it is the king's majesty's. Would to God the rascal were of our side! He's the right old English breed. A few such were very welcome, if only to show some of our dainty young lordlings of yesterday what breed can do. But an ass-foal it is! To run his neck into a halter, and set honest people in mortal doubt whether to pull the end or no!

How on earth did he ever dream of carrying off a horse out of the very courts of Raglan castle! And yet, by saint George! he would have done it too, but for that brave wench of a Vaughan! What a couple the two would make! They'd give us a race of Arthurs and Orlandos between them. God be praised there are such left in England! And yet the rogue is but a pestilent roundhead—the more's the pity! Those coward rascals need never have mauled him like that. Yet had the blow gone a little deeper it had been a mighty gain to our side. Out he shall not go till the war be over! It would be downright treason.'

So ran the thoughts of the marquis as he paced his chamber. But at length he lay down once more, and sought refuge in sleep.



CHAPTER XXXI.

THE SLEEPLESS.



There were more than the marquis left awake and thinking; amongst the rest one who ought to have been asleep, for the thoughts that kept her awake were evil thoughts.

Amanda Serafina Fuller was a twig or leaf upon one of many decaying branches, which yet drew what life they had from an ancient genealogical tree. Property gone, but the sense of high birth swollen to a vice, the one thought in her mother's mind, ever since she grew capable of looking upon the social world in its relation to herself, had been how, with stinted resources, to make the false impression of plentiful ease. For one of the most disappointing things in high descent is, that the descent is occasionally into depths of meanness. Some who are proudest of their lineage, instead of finding therein a spur to nobility of thought and action, find in it only a necessity for prostrating themselves with the more abject humiliation at the footstool of Mammon, to be admitted into the penetralia of which foul god's favours, they will hasten to mingle the blood of their pure descent with that of the very kennels, yellow with the gold to which a noble man, if poor as Jesus himself, would loathe to be indebted for a meal. In 'the high countries' there will be a finding of levels more appalling than strange.

Hence Amanda had been born and brought up in falsehood, had been all her life witness to a straining after the untrue so energetic, as to assume the appearance of conscience; while such was the tenor and spirit of the remarks she was constantly hearing, that she grew up with the ingrained undisputed idea that she and her mother, whom she had only known as a widow, had been wronged, spoiled indeed of their lawful rights, by a combination of their rich relatives; whereas in truth they had been the objects of very considerable generosity, which they resented the more that it had been chiefly exercised by such of the family as could least easily afford it, yet accepted in their hearts, if not in their words, as their natural right. The intercession through which Amanda had been received into lady Margaret's household, was the contribution towards their maintenance of one of their richer connections: the marquis himself, although distantly related, not having previously been aware of their existence.

But Amanda felt degraded by her position, and was unaware that to herself alone she owed the degradation: she had not yet learned that the only service which can degrade is that which is unwillingly rendered. To be paid for such, is degradation in its very essence. Every one who grumbles at his position as degrading, yet accepts the wages thereof, brands himself a slave.

The evil tendencies which she had inherited, had then been nourished in her from her very birth—chief of these envy, and a strong tendency to dislike. Mean herself, she was full of suspicions with regard to others, and found much pleasure in penetrating what she took to be disguise, and laying bare the despicable motives which her own character enabled her either to discover or imagine, and which, in other people, she hated. Moderately good people have no idea of the vileness of which their own nature is capable, or which has been developed in not a few who pass as respectable persons, and have not yet been accused either of theft or poisoning. Such as St. Paul alone can fully understand the abyss of moral misery from which the in-dwelling spirit of God has raised them.

The one redeeming element in Amanda was her love to her mother, but inasmuch as it was isolated and self-reflected, their mutual attachment partook of the nature of a cultivated selfishness, and had lost much of its primal grace. The remaining chance for such a woman, so to speak, seems—that she should either fall in love with a worthy man, if that be still possible to her, or, by her own conduct, be brought into dismal and incontrovertible disgrace.

She had stood in the hall within a few yards of Dorothy, and had intently watched her face all the time Richard was before the marquis. But not because she watched the field of their play was Amanda able to read the heart whence ascended those strangely alternating lights and shadows. She had, by her own confession, conceived a strong dislike to Dorothy the moment she saw her, and without love there can be no understanding. Hate will sharpen observation to the point of microscopic vision, affording opportunity for many a shrewd guess, and revealing facts for the construction of the cleverest and falsest theories, but will leave the observer as blind as any bat to the scope of the whole, or the meaning of the parts which can be understood only from the whole; for love alone can interpret.

As she gazed on the signs of conflicting emotion in Dorothy's changes of colour and expression, Amanda came quickly enough to the conclusion that nothing would account for them but the assumption that the sly puritanical minx was in love with the handsome young roundhead. How else could the deathly pallor of her countenance while she fixed her eyes wide and unmoving upon his face, and the flush that ever and anon swept its red shadow over the pallor as she cast them on the ground at some brave word from the lips of the canting psalm-singer, be in the least intelligible? Then came the difficulty: how in that case was her share in his capture to be explained? But here Amanda felt herself in her own province, and before the marquis rose, had constructed a very clever theory, in which exercise of ingenuity, however, unluckily for its truth, she had taken for granted that Dorothy's nature corresponded to her own, and reasoned freely from the character of the one to the conduct of the other. This was her theory: Dorothy had expected Richard, and contrived his admission. His presence betrayed by the mastiff, and his departure challenged by the warder, she had flown instantly to the alarm-bell, to screen herself in any case, and to secure the chance, if he should be taken, of liberating him without suspicion under cover of the credit of his capture. The theory was a bold one, but then it accounted for all the points—amongst the rest, how he had got the password and why he would not tell—and was indeed in the fineness of its invention equally worthy of both the heart and the intellect of the theorist.

Nor were mistress Fuller's resolves behind her conclusions in merit: of all times since first she had learned to mistrust her, this night must Dorothy be watched; and it was with a gush of exultation over her own acuteness that she saw her follow the men who bore Richard from the hall.

If Dorothy knew more of her own feelings than she who watched her, she was far less confident that she understood them. Indeed she found them strangely complicated, and as difficult to control as to understand, while she stood gazing on the youth who through her found himself helpless and wounded in the hands of his enemies. He was all in the wrong, no doubt—a rebel against his king, and an apostate from the church of his country; but he was the same Richard with whom she had played all her childhood, whom her mother had loved, and between whom and herself had never fallen shadow before that cast by the sudden outblaze of the star of childish preference into the sun of youthful love. And was it not when the very mother of shadows, the blackness of darkness itself, swept between them and separated them for ever, that first she knew how much she had loved him? What if not with the love that could listen entranced to its own echo!—love of child or love of maiden, Dorothy never asked herself which it had been, or which it was now. She was not given to self-dissection. The cruel fingers of analysis had never pulled her flower to pieces, had never rubbed the bloom from the sun-dyed glow of her feelings. But now she could not help the vaporous rise of a question: all was over, for Richard had taken the path of presumption, rebellion, and violence—how then came it that her heart beat with such a strange delight at every answer he made to the expostulations or enticements of the marquis? How was it that his approval of the intruder, not the less evident that it was unspoken, made her heart swell with pride and satisfaction, causing her to forget the rude rebellion housed within the form whose youth alone prevented it from looking grand in her eyes?

For the moment her heart had the better of—her conscience, shall I say? Yes, of that part of her conscience, I will allow, which had grown weak by the wandering of its roots into the poor soil of opinion. In the delight which the manliness of the young fanatic awoke in her, she even forgot the dull pain which had been gnawing at her heart ever since first she saw the blood streaming down his face as he passed her in the gateway. But when at length he fell fainting in the arms of his captors, and the fear that she had slain him writhed sickening through her heart, it was with a grim struggle indeed that she kept silent and conscious. The voice of the marquis, committing him to the care of mistress Watson instead of the rough ministrations of the guard, came with the power of a welcome restorative, and she hastened after his bearers to satisfy herself that the housekeeper was made understand that he was carried to her at the marquis's behest. She then retired to her own chamber, passing in, the corridor Amanda, whose room was in the, same quarter, with a salute careless from weariness and preoccupation.

The moment her head was on her pillow the great fight began—on that only battle-field of which all others are but outer types and pictures, upon which the thoughts of the same spirit are the combatants, accusing and excusing one another.

She had done her duty, but what a remorseless thing that duty was! She did not, she could not, repent that she had done it, but her heart WOULD complain that she had had it to do. To her, as to Hamlet, it was a cursed spite. She had not yet learned the mystery of her relation to the Eternal, whose nature in his children it is that first shows itself in the feeling of duty. Her religion had not as yet been shaken, to test whether it was of the things that remain or of those that pass. It is easy for a simple nature to hold by what it has been taught, so long as out of that faith springs no demand of bitter obedience; but when the very hiding place of life begins to be laid bare under the scalpel of the law, when the heart must forego its love, when conscience seems at war with kindness, and duty at strife with reason, then most good people, let their devotion to what they call their religion be what it may, prove themselves, although generally without recognising the fact, very much of pagans after all. And good reason why! For are they not devoted to their church or their religion tenfold more than to the living Love, the father of their spirits? and what else is that, be the church or religion what it will, but paganism? Gentle and strong at once as Dorothy was, she was not yet capable of knowing that, however like it may look to a hardship, no duty can be other than a privilege. Nor was it any wonder if she did not perceive that she was already rewarded for the doing of the painful task, at the memory of which her heart ached and rebelled, by the fresh outburst in that same troubled heart of the half-choked spring of her love to the playmate of her childhood. Had it fallen, as she would have judged so much fairer, to some one else of the many in the populous place to defeat Richard's intent and secure his person, she would have both suffered and loved less. The love, I repeat, was the reward of the duty done.

For a long time she tossed sleepless, for what she had just passed through had so thorougly possessed her imagination that, ever as her wearied brain was sinking under the waves of sleep, up rose the face of Richard from its depths, deathlike, with matted curls and bloodstained brow, and drove her again ashore on the rocks of wakefulness. By and by the form of her suffering changed, and then instead of the face of Richard it was his voice, ever as she reached the point of oblivion, calling aloud for help in a tone of mingled entreaty and reproach, until at last she could no longer resist the impression that she was warned to go and save him from some impending evil. This once admitted, not for a moment would she delay response. She rose, threw on a dressing-gown, and set out in the dim light of the breaking day to find again the room into which she had seen him carried.

There was yet another in the house who could not sleep, and that was Tom Fool. He had a strong suspicion that Richard had learned the watchword from his mother, who, like most people desirous of a reputation for superior knowledge, was always looking out for scraps and orts of peculiar information. In such persons an imagination after its kind has considerable play, and when mother Rees had succeeded, without much difficulty on her own, or sense of risk on her son's part, in drawing from him the watchword of the week, she was aware in herself of a huge accession of importance; she felt as if she had been intrusted with the keys of the main entrance, and trod her clay floor as if the fate of Raglan was hid in her bosom, and the great pile rested in safety under the shadow of her wings. But her imagined gain was likely to prove her son's loss; for, as he reasoned with himself, would Mr. Heywood, now that he knew him for the thief of his mare, persist, upon reflection, in refusing to betray his mother? If not, then the fault would at once be traced to him, with the result at the very least, of disgraceful expulsion from the marquis's service. Almost any other risk would be preferable.

But he had yet another ground for uneasiness. He knew well his mother's attachment to young Mr. Heywood, and had taken care she should have no suspicion of the way he was going after leaving her the night he told her the watchword; for such was his belief in her possession of supernatural powers, that he feared the punishment she would certainly inflict for the wrong done to Richard, should it come to her knowledge, even more than the wrath of the marquis. For both of these weighty reasons therefore he must try what could be done to strengthen Richard in his silence, and was prepared with an offer, or promise at least, of assistance in making his escape.

As soon as the house was once more quiet, he got up, and, thoroughly acquainted with the "crenkles" of it, took his way through dusk and dark, through narrow passage and wide chamber, without encountering the slightest risk of being heard or seen, until at last he stood, breathless with anxiety and terror, at the door of the turret-chamber, and laid his ear against it.



CHAPTER XXXII.

THE TURRET CHAMBER.



When mistress Watson had, as gently as if she had been his mother, bound up Richard's wounded head, she gave him a composing draught, and sat down by his bedside. But as soon as she saw it begin to take effect, she withdrew, in the certainty that he would not move for some hours at least. Although he did fall asleep, however, Richard's mind was too restless and anxious to yield itself to the natural influence of the potion. He had given his word to his father that he would ride on the morrow; the morrow had come, and here he was! Hence the condition which the drug superinduced was rather that of dreaming than sleep, the more valuable element, repose, having little place in the result.

The key was in the lock, and Tom Fool as he listened softly turned it, then lifted the latch, peeped in, and entered. Richard started to his elbow, and stared wildly about him. Tom made him an anxious sign, and, fevered as he was and but half awake, Richard, whether he understood it or not, anyhow kept silence, while Tom Fool approached the bed, and began to talk rapidly in a low voice, trembling with apprehension. It was some time, however, before Richard began to comprehend even a fragment here and there of what he was saying. When at length he had gathered this much, that his visitor was running no small risk in coming to him, and was in mortal dread of discovery, he needed but the disclosure of who he was, which presently followed, to spring upon him and seize him by the throat with a gripe that rendered it impossible for him to cry out, had he been so minded.

'Master, master!' he gurgled, 'let me go. I will swear any oath you please—'

'And break it any moment YOU please,' returned Richard through his set teeth, and caught with his other hand the coverlid, dragged it from the bed, and, twisting it first round his face, flung the remainder about his body; then, threatening to knock his brains out if he made the least noise, proceeded to tie him up in it with his garters and its own corners. No sound escaped poor Tom beyond a continuous mumbled entreaty through its folds. Richard laid him on the floor, pulled all the bedding upon the top of him, and gliding out, closed the door, but, to Tom's unspeakable relief, as his ears, agonizedly listening, assured him, did not lock it behind him.

Tom's sole anxiety was now to get back to his garret unseen, and nothing was farther from his thoughts than giving the alarm. The moment Richard was out of hearing—out of sight he had been for some stifling minutes—he devoted his energies to getting clear of his entanglement, which he did not find very difficult; then stepping softly from the chamber, he crept with a heavy heart back as he had come through a labyrinth of by-ways.

About half an hour after, Dorothy came gliding through the house, making a long circuit of corridors. Gladly would she have avoided passing Amanda's door, and involuntarily held her breath as she approached it, stepping as lightly as a thief. But alas! nothing save incorporeity could have availed her. The moment she had passed, out peeped Amanda and crept after her barefooted, saw her to her joy enter the chamber and close the door behind her, then 'like a tiger of the wood,' made one noiseless bound, turned the key, and sped back to her own chamber—with the feeling of Mark Antony when he said, 'Now let it work!'

Dorothy was startled by a slight click, but concluded at once that it was nothing but a further fall of the latch, and was glad it was no louder. The same moment she saw, by the dim rushlight, the signs of struggle which the room presented, and discovered that Richard was gone. Her first emotion was an undefined agony: they had murdered him, or carried him off to a dungeon! There were the bedclothes in a tumbled heap upon the floor! And—yes—it was blood with which they were marked! Sickening at the thought, and forgetting all about her own situation, she sank on the chair by the bedside.

Knowing the castle as she did, a very little reflection convinced her that if he had met with violence it must have been in attempting to escape; and if he had made the attempt, might he not have succeeded? There had certainly been no fresh alarm given. But upon this consoling supposition followed instantly the pang of the question: what was now required of her? The same hard thing as before? Ought she not again to give the alarm, that the poor wounded boy might be recaptured? Alas! had not evil enough already befallen him at her hand? And if she did—horrible thought!—what account could she give this time of her discovery? What indeed but the truth? And to what vile comments would not the confession of her secret visit in the first grey of the dawn to the chamber of the prisoner expose her? Would it not naturally rouse such suspicion as any modest woman must shudder to face, if but for the one moment between utterance and refutation. And what refutation could there be for her, so long as the fact remained? If he had escaped, the alarm would serve no good end, and her shame could be spared; but he might be hiding somewhere about the castle, and she must choose between treachery to the marquis—was it?—on the one hand, and renewed hurt, wrong, perhaps, to Richard, coupled with the bitterest disgrace to herself, on the other. To weigh such a question impartially was impossible; for in the one alternative no hurt would befall the marquis, while from the other her very soul recoiled sickening. Thus tortured, she sat motionless in the very den of the dragon, the one moment vainly endeavouring to rouse up her courage and look her duty in the face that she might know with certainty what it was; the next, feeling her whole nature rise rebellious against the fate that demanded such a sacrifice. Ought she to be thus punished for an intent of the purest humanity?

There came a lull, and with the lull a sense of her position: she sat in the very, jaws of slander! Any moment mistress Watson or another might enter and find her there, and what then more natural or irrefutable than the accusation of having liberated him? She sprang to her feet, and darted to the door. It was locked!

Her first thought was relief: she had no longer to decide; her second, that she was a prisoner—till, horror of horrors! the soldiers of the guard came to seek Richard and found her, or stern mistress Watson appeared, grim as one of the Fates; or, perhaps, if Richard had been carried away, until she was compelled by hunger and misery to call aloud for release. But no! she would rather die. Now in this case, now in that, her thoughts pursued the horrible possibilities, one or other of which was inevitable, through all the windings of the torture of anticipation, until for a time she must have lost consciousness, for she had no recollection of falling where she found herself—on the heap in the middle of the floor. The gray heartless dawn had begun to peer in through the dull green glass that closed the one loophole. It grew and grew, and its growth was the approach of the grinning demon of shame. The nearer a man can arrive to the knowledge of such feelings as hers is the conviction that he never can comprehend them. The cruel light seemed gathering its strength to publish her shame to the universe. Blameless as she was, she would have gladly accepted death in escape from the misery that every moment grew nearer. Now and then a faint glimmer of comfort reached her in the thought that at least the escape of Richard, if he had escaped, was thus ensured, and that without any blame to her. And perhaps mistress Watson would be merciful—only she too had her obligations, and as housekeeper was severely responsible. And even if she should prove pitiful, there was the locking of the door! It followed so quickly, that some one must have seen her enter, and wittingly snared her, believing most likely that she was not alone in the chamber.

The terrible bolt at length slid back in the lock, gently, yet with tearing sound; mistress Watson entered, stood, stared. Before her sat Dorothy by the side of the bedstead, in her dressing-gown, her hair about her neck, her face like the moon at sunrise, and her eyelids red and swollen with weeping. She stood speechless, staring first at the disconsolate maiden, and then at the disorder of the room. The prisoner was nowhere. What her thoughts were, I must only imagine. That she should stare and be bewildered, finding Dorothy where she had left Richard, was at least natural.

The moment Dorothy found herself face to face with her doom, her presence of mind returned. The blood rushed from her heart to her brain. She rose, and ere the astonished matron, who stood before her erect, high-nosed, and open-mouthed like Michael Angelo's Clotho, could find utterance, said,

'Mistress Watson, I swear to you by the soul of my mother, that although all seeming is against me, W—'

'Where is the young rebel?' interrupted mistress Watson sternly.

'I know not,' answered Dorothy. 'When first I entered the chamber, he had already gone.'

'And what then hadst thou to do entering it?' asked the housekeeper, in a tone that did Dorothy good by angering her.

Mistress Watson was a kind soul in reality, but few natures can resist the debasing influence of a sudden sense of superiority. Besides, was not the young gentlewoman in great wrong, and therefore before her must she not personify an awful Purity?

'That I will tell to none but my lord marquis,' answered Dorothy, with sudden resolve.

'Oh, by all means, mistress! but an' thou think to lead him by the nose while I be in Raglan,—'

'Shall I inform his lordship in what high opinion his housekeeper holds him?' said Dorothy. 'It seems to me he will hardly savour it.'

'It would be an ill turn to do me, but my lord marquis did never heed a tale-bearer.'

'Then will he not heed the tale thou wouldst yield him concerning me.'

'What tale should I yield him but that I find—thee here and the prisoner gone?'

'The tale I read in thy face and thy voice. Thou lookest and talkest as if I were a false woman.'

'Verily to my eyes the thing looketh ill.'

'It would look ill to any eyes, and therefore I need kind eyes to read, and just ears to hear my tale. I tell thee this is a matter for my lord, and if thou spread any report in the castle ere his lordship hear it, whatever evil springs therefrom it will lie at thy door.'

'My life! what dost take me for, mistress Dorothy? My age and holding deserves some consideration at thy hands! Am I one to go tattling about the courts forsooth?'

'Pardon me, madam, but a maiden's good name may be as precious to Dorothy Vaughan as a matron's respectability to mistress Watson. An' you had left me with that look on your face, and had but spoken my name to it, some one would have guessed ten times more than you know—or I either for that gear.'

'I must tell the truth,' said mistress Watson, relenting a little.

'Thou must, or I will tell it for thee—but to the marquis. Thou shalt be there to hear, and if, after that, thou tell it to another, then hast thou no mother's heart in thee.'

Dorothy gave way at last and burst into tears. Mistress Watson was touched.

'Nay, child, I would do thee no wrong,' she rejoined. 'Get thee to bed. I must rouse the guard to go look for the prisoner, but I will say nothing of thee to any but my lord marquis. When he is dressed and in his study, I will come for thee myself.'

Dorothy thanked her warmly, and betook herself to her chamber, considerably relieved.



CHAPTER XXXIII.

JUDGE GOUT.



Dorothy had hardly reached her room when the castle was once more astir. The rush of the guard across the stone court, the clang of opening lattices, and the voices that called from out-shot heads, again filled her ears, but she never once peeped from her window. A moment, and the news was all over the castle that the prisoner had escaped.

Lord Charles went at once to his father's room. The old man woke instantly. He had but just laid his hand on his mane, not mounted the shadowy steed, and was ill pleased to be already, and the second time, startled back to conscious weariness. When he heard the bad tidings he was silent for a few moments.

'I would Herbert were at home, Charles, to stop this rat-hole for me,' he said at length. 'Let the roundhead go—I care not. I had but half a right to hold him, and he deserves his freedom. But what a governor art thou, my lord? Prithee, dost know the rents in thine own hose, who knowest not when thy gingerbread bulwarks gape? Find me out this rat-hole, I say, or I will depose thee and send for thy brother John, whom the king can ill spare.'

'Have patience with me, father,' said lord Charles gently. 'I am more ashamed than thou art angry.'

'Thou know'st I did but jest, my son. But in truth an'thou find it not I will send for lord Herbert. If he find what thou canst not, that will be no disgrace to thee. But find it we must.'

'Think you not, my lord, it were best set mistress Dorothy on the search? She hath a wondrous gift of discovery.'

'A good thought, Charles! I will even do as thou sayest. But search the castle first, from vane to dungeon, that we may be assured the roundhead hath indeed vanished.'

As he spoke the marquis turned him round, to search the wide gray fields again for the shadowy horse that roamed them tetherless. But the steed would not come to his call; he grew chilly and asthmatic, tossed to and fro, and began to dread an attack of the gout.

The sun rose higher; the hive of men and women was astir once more; the clatter of the day's work and the buzz of the day's talk began, and nothing was in anybody's mouth but the escape of the prisoner. His capture and trial were already of the past, forgotten for the time in the nearer astonishment. Lord Charles went searching, questioning, peering about everywhere, but could find neither prisoner nor the traitorous hole.

Meantime mistress Watson was not a little anxious until she should have revealed what she knew to the marquis, for the prisoner was in her charge when he disappeared. In the course of the morning lord Charles came to her apartment to question her, but she begged to be excused, because of a certain disclosure she was not at liberty to make to any but his father. Lord Charles, whom she had known from his boyhood, readily yielded, and mistress Watson, five minutes after he had left his room, followed the marquis to his study, whither it was his custom always to repair before breakfast. He was looking pale from the trouble of the night, which had resulted in unmistakeable symptoms of the gout, listened to all she had to tell him without comment, looked grave, and told her to fetch mistress Dorothy. As soon as she was gone, he called Scudamore from the antechamber, and sent him to request lord Charles's presence. He came at once, and was there when Dorothy entered.

She was very white and worn, and her eyes were heavily downcast. Her face wore that expression so much resembling guilt, which indicates the misery the most innocent feel the most under the consciousness of suspicion. At the sight of lord Charles, she crimsoned: it was one thing to confess to the marquis, and quite another to do so in the presence of his son.

The marquis sat with one leg on a stool, already in the gradually contracting gripe of his ghoulish enemy. Before Dorothy could recover from the annoyance of finding lord Charles present, or open her mouth to beg for a more private interview, he addressed her abruptly.

'Our young rebel friend hath escaped, it seems, mistress Dorothy!' he said, gently but coldly, looking her full in the eyes, with searching gaze and hard expression.

'I am glad to hear it, my lord,' returned Dorothy, with a sudden influx of courage, coming, as the wind blows, she knew not whence.

'Ha!' said the marquis, quickly; 'then is it news to thee, mistress Dorothy?'

His lip, as it seemed to Dorothy, curled into a mocking smile; but the gout might have been in it.

'Indeed it is news, my lord. I hoped it might be so, I confess, but I knew not that so it was.'

'What, mistress Dorothy! knewest thou not that the young thief was gone?'

'I knew that Richard Heywood was gone from his chamber—whether from the castle I knew not. He was no thief, my lord. Your lordship's page and fool were the thieves.'

'Cousin, I hardly know myself in the change I find in thee! Truly, a marvellous change! In the dark night thou takest a roundhead prisoner; in the gray of the morning thou settest him free again! Hath one visit to his chamber so wrought upon thee? To an old man it seemeth less than maidenly.'

Again a burning blush overspread poor Dorothy's countenance. But she governed herself, and spoke bravely, although she could not keep her voice from trembling.

'My lord,' she said, 'Richard Heywood was my playmate. We were as brother and sister, for our fathers'lands bordered each other.'

'Thou didst say nothing of these things last night?'

'My lord! Before the whole hall? Besides, what mattered it? All was over long ago, and I had done my part against him.'

'Fell you out together then?'

'What need is there for your lordship to ask? Thou seest him of the one part, and me of the other.'

'And from loving thou didst fall to hating?'

'God forbid, my lord! I but do my part against him.'

'For the which thou hadst a noble opportunity unsought, raising the hue and cry upon him within his enemy's walls!'

'I would to God, my lord, it had not fallen to me.'

'Thinking better of it, therefore, and repenting of thy harshness, thou didst seek his chamber in the night to tell him so? I would fain know how a maiden reasoneth with herself when she doth such things.'

'Not so, my lord. I will tell you all. I could not sleep for thinking of my wounded playmate. And as to what he had done, after it became clear that he sought but his own, and meant no hair's-breadth of harm to your lordship, I confess the matter looked not the same.'

'Therefore you would make him amends and undo what you had done? You had caught the bird, and had therefore a right to free the bird when you would? All well, mistress Dorothy, had he been indeed a bird! But being a man, and in thy friend's house, I doubt thy logic. The thing had passed from thy hands into mine, young mistress,' said the marquis, into the ball of whose foot the gout that moment ran its unicorn-horn.

'I did not set him free, my lord. When I entered the prison-chamber, he was already gone.'

'Thou hadst the will and didst it not! Is there yet another in my house who had the will and did it?' cried the marquis, who, although more than annoyed that she should have so committed herself, yet was willing to give such scope to a lover, that if she had but confessed she had liberated him, he would have pardoned her heartily. He did not yet know how incapable Dorothy was of a lie.

'But, my lord, I had not the will to set him free,' she said.

'Wherefore then didst go to him?'

'My lord, he was sorely wounded, and I had seen him fall fainting,' said Dorothy, repressing her tears with much ado.

'And thou didst go to comfort him?'

Dorothy was silent.

'How camest thou locked into his room? Tell me that, mistress.'

'Your lordship knows as much of that as I do. Indeed, I have been sorely punished for a little fault.'

'Thou dost confess the fault then?'

'If it WAS a fault to visit him who was sick and in prison, my lord.'

The marquis was silent for a whole minute.

'And thou canst not tell how he gat him forth of the walls? Must I believe him to be forth of them, my lord?' he said, turning to his son.

'I cannot imagine him within them, my lord, after such search as we have made.'

'Still,' returned the marquis, the acuteness of whose wits had not been swallowed up by that of the gout, 'so long as thou canst not tell how he gat forth, I may doubt whether he be forth. If the manner of his exit be acknowledged hidden, wherefore not the place of his refuge? Mistress Dorothy,' he continued, altogether averse to the supposition of treachery amongst his people, 'thou art bound by all obligations of loyalty and shelter and truth, to tell what thou knowest. An' thou do not, thou art a traitor to the house, yea to thy king, for when the worst comes, and this his castle is besieged, much harm may be wrought by that secret passage, yea, it may be taken thereby.'

'You say true, my lord: I should indeed be so bound, an' I knew what my lord would have me disclose.'

'One may be bound and remain bound,' said the marquis, spying prevarication. 'Now the thing is over, and the youth safe, all I ask of thee, and surely it is not much, is but to bar the door against his return—except indeed thou didst from the first contrive so to meet thy roundhead lover in my loyal house. Then indeed it were too much to require of thee! Ah ha! mistress Dorothy, the little blind god is a rascally deceiver. He is but blind nor' nor' west. He playeth hoodman, and peepeth over his bandage.'

'My lord, you wrong me much,' said Dorothy, and burst into tears, while once more the red lava of the human centre rushed over her neck and brow. 'I did think that I had done enough both for my lord of Worcester and against Richard Heywood, and I did hope that he had escaped: there lies the worst I can lay to my charge even in thought, my lord, and I trust it is no more than may be found pardonable.'

'It sets an ill example to my quiet house if the ladies therein go anights to the gentlemen's chambers.'

'My lord, you are cruel,' said Dorothy.

'Not a soul in the house knows it but myself, my lord,' said mistress Watson.

'Hold there, my good woman! Whose hand was it turned the key upon her? More than thou must know thereof. Hear me, mistress Dorothy: I would be heart-loath to quarrel with thee, and in all honesty I am glad thy lover—'

'He is no lover of mine, my lord! At least—'

'Be he what he may, he is a fine fellow, and I am glad he hath escaped. Do thou but find out for my lord Charles here the cursed rat-hole by which he goes and comes, and I will gladly forgive thee all the trouble thou hast brought into my sober house. For truly never hath been in my day such confusion and uproar therein as since thou earnest hither, and thy dog and thy lover and thy lover's mare followed thee.'

'Alas, my lord! if I were fortunate enough to find it, what would you but say I found it where I knew well to look for it?'

'Find it, and I promise thee I will never say word on the matter again. Thou art a good girl, and thou do venture a hair too far for a lover. The still ones are always the worst, mistress Watson.'

'My lord! my lord!' cried Dorothy, but ended not, for his lordship gave a louder cry. His face was contorted with anguish, and he writhed under the tiger fangs of the gout.

'Go away,' he shouted, 'or I shall disgrace my manhood before women, God help me!'

'I trust thee will bear me no malice,' said the housekeeper, as they walked in the direction of Dorothy's chamber.

'You did but your duty,' said Dorothy quietly.

'I will do all I can for thee,' continued mistress Watson, mounted again, if not on her high horse then on her palfrey, by her master's behaviour to the poor girl—'if thou but confess to me how thou didst contrive the young gentleman's escape, and wherefore he locked the door upon thee.'

At the moment they were close to Dorothy's room; her answer to the impertinence was to walk in and shut the door; and mistress Watson was thenceforward entirely satisfied of her guilt.



CHAPTER XXXIV.

AN EVIL TIME.



And now was an evil time for Dorothy. She retired to her chamber more than disheartened by lord Worcester's behaviour to her, vexed with herself for doing what she would have been more vexed with herself for having left undone, feeling wronged, lonely, and disgraced, conscious of honesty, yet ashamed to show herself—and all for the sake of a presumptuous boy, whose opinions were a disgust to her and his actions a horror! Yet not only did she not repent of what she had done, but, fact as strange as natural, began, with mingled pleasure and annoyance, to feel her heart drawn towards the fanatic as the only one left her in the world capable of doing her justice, that was, of understanding her. She thus unknowingly made a step towards the discovery that it is infinitely better to think wrong and to act right upon that wrong thinking, than it is to think right and not to do as that thinking requires of us. In the former case the man's house, if not built upon the rock, at least has the rock beneath it; in the latter, it is founded on nothing but sand. The former man may be a Saul of Tarsus, the latter a Judas Iscariot. He who acts right will soon think right; he who acts wrong will soon think wrong. Any two persons acting faithfully upon opposite convictions, are divided but by a bowing wall; any two, in belief most harmonious, who do not act upon it, are divided by, infinite gulfs of the blackness of darkness, across which neither ever beholds the real self of the other.

Dorothy ought to have gone at once to lady Margaret and told her all; but she naturally and rightly shrank from what might seem an appeal to the daughter against the judgment of her father; neither could she dare hope that, if she did, her judgment would not be against her also. Her feelings were now in danger of being turned back upon herself, and growing bitter; for a lasting sense of injury is, of the human moods, one of the least favourable to sweetness and growth. There was no one to whom she could turn. Had good Dr. Bayly been at home—but he was away on some important mission from his lordship to the king: and indeed she could scarcely have looked for refuge from such misery as hers in the judgment of the rather priggish old-bachelor ecclesiastic. Gladly would she have forsaken the castle, and returned to all the dangers and fears of her lonely home; but that would be to yield to a lie, to flee from the devil instead of facing him, and with her own hand to fix the imputed smirch upon her forehead, exposing herself besides to the suspicion of having fled to join her lover, and cast in her lot with his amongst the traitors. Besides, she had been left by lord Herbert in charge of his fire-engine and the water of the castle, which trust she could not abandon. Whatever might be yet to come of it, she must stay and encounter it, and would in the meantime set herself to discover, if she might, the secret pathway by which dog and man came and went at their pleasure. This she owed her friends, even at the risk, in case of success, of confirming the marquis's worst suspicions.

She was not altogether wrong in her unconscious judgment of lady Margaret. Her nature was such as, its nobility tinctured with romance, rendered her perfectly capable of understanding either of the two halves of Dorothy's behaviour, but was not sufficient to the reception and understanding of the two parts together. That is, she could have understood the heroic capture of her former lover, or she could have understood her going to visit him in his trouble, and even, what Dorothy was incapable of, his release; but she was not yet equal to understanding how she should set herself so against a man, even to his wounding and capture, whom she loved so much as, immediately thereupon, to dare the loss of her good name by going to his chamber, so placing herself in the power of a man she had injured, as well as running a great risk of discovery on the part of her friends. Hence she was quite prepared to accept the solution of her strange conduct, which by and by, it was hard to say how, came to be offered and received all over the castle—that Dorothy first admitted, then captured, and finally released the handsome young roundhead.

Her first impressions of the affair, lady Margaret received from lord Charles, who was certainly prejudiced against Dorothy, and no doubt jealous of the relation of the fine young rebel to a loyal maiden of Raglan; while the suspicion, almost belief, that she knew and would not reveal the flaw in his castle, the idea of which had begun to haunt him like some spot in his own body of which pain made him unnaturally conscious, annoyed him more and more. To do him justice, I must not omit to mention that he never made a communication on the matter to any but his sister-in-law, who would however have certainly had a more kindly as well as exculpatory feeling towards Dorothy, had she first heard the truth from her own lips.

For some little time, not perceiving the difficulties in her way, and perhaps from unlikeness not understanding the disinclination of such a girl to self-defence, lady Margaret continued to expect a visit from her, with excuse at least, if not confession and apology upon her lips, and was hurt by her silence as much as offended by her behaviour. She was yet more annoyed, when they first met, that, notwithstanding her evident suffering, she wore such an air of reticence, and thence she both regarded and addressed her coldly; so that Dorothy was confirmed in her disinclination to confide in her. Besides, as she said to herself, she had nothing to tell but what she had already told; everything depended on the interpretation accorded to the facts, and the right interpretation was just the one thing she had found herself unable to convey. If her friends did not, she could not justify herself.

She tried hard to behave as she ought, for, conscious how much appearances were against her, she felt it would be unjust to allow her affection towards her mistress to be in the least shaken by her treatment of her, and was if possible more submissive and eager in her service than before. But in this she was every now and then rudely checked by the fear that lady Margaret would take it as the endeavour of guilt to win favour; and, do what she would, instead of getting closer to her, she felt every time they met, that the hedge of separation which had sprung up between them had in the interval grown thicker. By degrees the mistress had assumed towards the poor girl that impervious manner of self-contained dignity, which, according to her who wears it, is the carriage either of a wing-bound angel, the gait of a stork, or the hobble of a crab.

Of a different kind was the change which now began to take place towards her on the part of another member of the household.

While she had been intent upon Richard as he stood before the marquis, not Amanda only but another as well had been intent upon her. Poor creature as Scudamore yet was, he possessed, besides no small generosity of nature, a good deal of surface sympathy, and a ready interest in the shows of humanity. Hence as he stood regarding now the face of the prisoner and now that of Dorothy, whom he knew for old friends, he could not help noticing that every phase of the prisoner, so to speak, might be read on Dorothy. He was too shallow to attribute this to anything more than the interest she must feel in the results of the exploit she had performed. The mere suggestion of what had afforded such wide ground for speculation on the part of Amanda, was to Scudamore rendered impossible by the meeting of two things—the fact that the only time he had seen them together, Richard was very plainly out of favour, and now the all-important share Dorothy had had in his capture. But the longer he looked, the more he found himself attracted by the rich changefulness of expression on a countenance usually very still. He surmised little of the conflict of emotions that sent it to the surface, had to construct no theory to calm the restlessness of intellectual curiosity, discovered no secret feeding of the flame from behind. Yet the flame itself drew him as the candle draws the moth. Emotion in the face of a woman was enough to attract Scudamore; the prettier the face, the stronger the attraction, but the source or character of the emotion mattered nothing to him: he asked no questions any more than the moth, but circled the flame. In a word, Dorothy had now all at once become to him interesting.

As soon as she found a safe opportunity, Amanda told him of Dorothy's being found in the turret chamber, a fact she pretended to have heard in confidence from mistress Watson, concealing her own part in it, But as Amanda spoke, Dorothy became to Rowland twice as interesting as ever Amanda had been. There was a real romance about the girl, he thought. And then she LOOKED so quiet! He never thought of defending her or playing the true part of a cousin. Amanda might think of her as she pleased: Rowland was content. Had he cared ever so much more for her judgment than he did, it would have been all the same. How far Dorothy had been right or wrong in visiting Heywood, he did not even conjecture, not to say consider. It was enough that she who had been to him like the blank in the centre of the African map, was now a region of marvels and possibilities, vague but not the less interesting, or the less worthy of beholding the interest she had awaked. As to her loving the roundhead fellow, that would not stand long in the way.

In this period then of gloom and wretchedness, Dorothy became aware of a certain increase of attention on the part of her cousin. This she attributed to kindness generated of pity. But to accept it, and so confess that she needed it, would have been to place herself too much on a level with one whom she did not respect, while at the same time it would confirm him in whatever probably mistaken grounds he had for offering it. She therefore met his advances kindly but coldly, a treatment under which his feelings towards her began to ripen into something a little deeper and more genuine.

During the next ten days or so, Dorothy could not help feeling that she was regarded by almost every one in the castle as in disgrace, and that deservedly. The most unpleasant proof she had of this was the behaviour of the female servants, some of them assuming airs of injured innocence, others of offensive familiarity in her presence, while only one, a kitchen-maid she seldom saw, Tom Fool's bride in the marriage-jest, showed her the same respect as formerly. This girl came to her one night in her room, and with tears in her eyes besought permission to carry her meals thither, that she might be spared eating with the rude ladies, as in her indignation she called them. But Dorothy saw that to forsake mistress Watson's table would be to fly the field, and therefore, hateful as it was to meet the looks of those around it, she did so with unvailed lids and an enforced dignity which made itself felt. But the effort was as exhausting as painful, and the reflex of shame, felt as shame in spite of innocence, was eating into her heart. In vain she said to herself that she was guiltless; in vain she folded herself round in the cloak of her former composure; the consciousness that, to say the least of it, she was regarded as a young woman of questionable refinement, weighed down her very eyelids as she crossed the court.

But she was not left utterly forsaken; she had still one refuge—the workshop, where Caspar Kaltoff wrought like an 'artificial god;' for the worthy German altered his manner to her not a whit, but continued to behave with the mingled kindness of a father and devotion of a servant. His respect and trustful sympathy showed, without word said, that he, if no other, believed nothing to her disadvantage, but was as much her humble friend as ever; and to the hitherto self-reliant damsel, the blessedness of human sympathy, embodied in the looks and tones of the hard-handed mechanic, brought such healing and such schooling together, that for a long time she never said her prayers by her bedside without thanking God for Caspar Kaltoff.

Ere long her worn look, thin cheek, and weary eye began to work on the heart of lady Margaret, and she relented in spirit towards the favourite of her husband, whose anticipated disappointment in her had sharpened the arrows of her resentment. But to the watery dawn of favour which followed, the poor girl could not throw wide her windows, knowing it arose from no change in lady Margaret's judgment concerning her: she could not as a culprit accept what had been as a culprit withdrawn from her. The conviction burned in her heart like cold fire, that, but for compassion upon the desolate state of an orphan, she would have been at once dismissed from the castle. Sometimes she ventured to think that if lord Herbert had been at home, all this would not have happened; but now what could she expect other than that on his return he would regard her and treat her in the same way as his wife and father and brother?



CHAPTER XXXV.

THE DELIVERER.



But she found some relief in applying her mind to the task which lord Worcester had set her; and many a night as she tossed sleepless on her bed, would she turn from the thoughts that tortured her, to brood upon the castle, and invent if she might some new possible way, however difficult, of getting out of it unseen: and many a morning after the night thus spent, would she hasten, ere the household was astir, to examine some spot which had occurred to her as perhaps containing the secret she sought. One time it was a chimney that might have door and stair concealed within it; another, the stables, where she examined every stall in the hope of finding a trap to an underground way. Had any one else been in question but Richard, the traitor, the roundhead, she might have imagined an associate within the walls, in which case farther solution would not have been for her; but somehow, she did not make it clear to herself how, she could not entertain the idea in connection with Richard. Besides, in brooding over everything, it had grown plain to her that both Richard and Marquis had that night been through the moat.

Some who caught sight of her in the early dawn, wandering about and peering here and there, thought that she was losing her senses; others more ingenious in the thinking of evil, imagined she sought to impress the household with a notion of her innocence by pretending a search for the concealed flaw in the defences.

Ever since she had been put in charge of the water-works, she had been in the habit of lingering a little on the roof of the keep as often as occasion took her thither, for she delighted in the far outlook on the open country which it afforded; and perhaps it was a proof of the general healthiness of her nature that now in her misery, instead of shutting herself up in her own chamber, she oftener sought the walk around the reservoir, looking abroad in shadowy hope of some lurking deliverance, like captive lady in the stronghold of evil knight. On one of these occasions, in the first of the twilight, she was leaning over one of the battlements looking down upon the moat and its white and yellow blossoms and great green leaves, and feeling very desolate. Her young life seemed to have crumbled down upon her and crushed her heart, and all for one gentle imprudence.

'Oh my mother!' she murmured,—'an' thou couldst hear me, thou wouldst help me an' thou couldst. Thy poor Dorothy is sorely sad and forsaken, and she knows no way of escape. Oh my mother, hear me!'

As she spoke, she looked away from the moat to the sky, and spread out her arms in the pain of her petition.

There was a step behind her.

'What! what! My little protestant praying to the naughty saints! That will never do.'

Dorothy had turned with a great start, and stood speechless and trembling before lord Herbert.

'My poor child!' he said, holding out both his hands, and taking those which Dorothy did not offer—'did I startle thee then so much? I am truly sorry. I heard but thy last words; be not afraid of thy secret. But what hath come to thee? Thou art white and thin, there are tears on thy face, and it seems as thou wert not so glad to see me as I thought thou wouldst have been. What is amiss? I hope thou art not sick—but plainly thou art ill at ease! Go not yet after my Molly, cousin, for truly we need thee here yet a while.'

'Would I might go to Molly, my lord!' said Dorothy. 'Molly would believe me.'

'Thou need'st not go to Molly for that, cousin. I will believe thee. Only tell me what thou wouldst have me believe, and I will believe it. What! think'st thou I am not magician enough to know whom to believe and whom not? Fye, fye, mistress! Thou, on thy part, wilt not put faith in thy cousin Herbert!'

His kind words were to her as the voice of him that calleth for the waters of the sea that he may pour them out on the face of the earth. The poor girl burst into a passion of weeping, fell on her knees before him, and holding up her clasped hands, cried out in a voice of sob-choked agony—for she was not used to tears, and it was to her a rending of the heart to weep—

'Save me, save me, my lord! I have no friend in the world who can help me but thee.'

'No friend! What meanest thou, Dorothy?' said lord Herbert, taking her two clasped hands between his. 'There is my Margaret and my father!'

'Alas, my lord! they mean well by me, but they do not believe me; and if your lordship believe me no more than they, I must go from Raglan. Yet believing me, I know not how you could any more help me.'

'Dorothy, my child, I can do nothing till thou take me with thee. I cannot even comfort thee.'

'Your lordship is weary,' said Dorothy, rising and wiping her eyes. 'You cannot yet have eaten since you came. Go, my lord, and hear my tale first from them that believe me not. They will assure you of nothing that is not true, only they understand it not, and wrong me in their conjectures. Let my lady Margaret tell it you, my lord, and then if you have yet faith enough in me to send for me, I will come and answer all you ask. If you send not for me, I will ride from Raglan to-morrow.'

'It shall be as thou sayest, Dorothy. An' it be not fit for the judge to hear both sides of the tale, or an' it boots the innocent which side he first heareth, then were he no better judge than good king James, of blessed memory, when he was so sore astonished to find both sides in the right.'

'A king, my lord, and judge foolishly!'

'A king, my damsel, and judged merrily. But fear me not; I trust in God to judge fairly even betwixt friend and foe, and I doubt not it will be now to the lightening of thy trouble, my poor storm-beaten dove.'

It startled Dorothy with a gladness that stung like pain, to hear the word he never used but to his wife thus flit from his lips in the tenderness of his pity, and alight like the dove itself upon her head. She thanked him with her whole soul, and was silent.

'I will send hither to thee, my child, when I require thy presence; and when I send come straight to my lady's parlour.'

Dorothy bowed her head, but could not speak, and lord Herbert walked quickly from her. She heard him run down the stair almost with the headlong speed of his boy Henry.

Half an hour passed slowly—then lady Margaret's page came lightly up the steps, bearing the request that she would favour his mistress with her presence. She rose from the battlement where she had seated herself to watch the moon, already far up in the heavens, as she brightened through the gathering dusk, and followed him with beating heart.

When she entered the parlour, where as yet no candles had been lighted, she saw and knew nothing till she found herself clasped to a bosom heaving with emotion.

'Forgive me, Dorothy,' sobbed lady Margaret. 'I have done thee wrong. But thou wilt love me yet again—wilt thou not, Dorothy?'

'Madam! madam !' was all Dorothy could answer, kissing her hands.

Lady Margaret led her to her husband, who kissed her on the forehead, and seated her betwixt himself and his wife; and for a space there was silence. Then at last said Dorothy:

'Tell me, madam, how is it that I find myself once more in the garden of your favour? How know you that I am not all unworthy thereof?'

'My lord tells me so,' returned lady Margaret simply.

'And whence doth my lord know it?' asked Dorothy, turning to lord Herbert.

''An' thou be not satisfied of thine own innocence, Dorothy, I will ask thee a few questions. Listen to thine answers, and judge. How came the young puritan into the castle that night? But stay: we must have candles, for how can I, the judge, or my lady, the jury, see into the heart of the prisoner save through the window of her face?'

Dorothy laughed—her first laugh since the evil fog had ascended and swathed her. Lady Margaret rang the bell on her table. Candles were brought from where they stood ready in the ante-chamber, and as soon as they began to burn clear, lord Herbert repeated his question.

'My lord,' answered Dorothy, 'I look to you to tell me so much, for before God I know not.'

'Nay, child! thou need'st not buttress thy words with an oath,' said his lordship. 'Thy fair eyes are worth a thousand oaths. But to the question: tell me wherefore didst thou not let the young man go when first thou spied him? Wherefore didst ring the alarm-bell? Thou sawest he was upon his own mare, for thou knewest her—didst thou not?'

'I did, my lord; but he had no business there, and I was of my lord Worcester's household. Here I am not Dorothy Vaughan, but my lady's gentlewoman.'

'Then why didst thou go to his room thereafter? Didst thou not know it for the most perilous adventure maiden could undergo?'

'Perilous it hath indeed proved, my lord.'

'And might have proved worse than perilous.'

'No, my lord. Other danger was none where Richard was,' returned Dorothy with vehemence.

'It beareth a look as if mayhap thou dost or mightst one day love the young man!' said lord Herbert in slow pondering tone.

'My spirit hath of late been driven to hold him company, my lord. It seemed that, save Caspar, I had no friend left but him. God help me! it were a fearful thing to love a fanatic! But I will resist the devil.'

'Truly we are in lack of a few such devils on what we count the honest side, Dorothy!' said lord Herbert, laughing. 'Not every man that thinks the other way is a rogue or a fool. But thou hast not told me why thou didst run the heavy risk of seeking him in the night.'

'I could not rest for thinking of him, my lord, with that terrible wound in the head I had as good as given him, and from whose effects I had last seen him lie as one dead. He was my playmate, and my mother loved him.'

Here poor Dorothy broke down and wept, but recovered herself with an effort, and proceeded.

'I kept starting awake, seeing him thus at one time, and at another hearing him utter my name as if entreating me to go to him, until at last I believed that I was called.'

'Called by whom, Dorothy?'

'I thought—I thought, my lord, it might be the same that called Samuel, who had opened my ears to hear Richard's voice.'

'And it was indeed therefore thou didst go?'

'I think so, my lord. I am sure, at least, but for that I would not have gone. Yet surely I mistook, for see what hath come of it,' she added, turning to lady Margaret.

'We must not judge from one consequence where there are a thousand yet to follow,' said his lordship. '—And thou sayest, when thou didst enter the room thou didst find no one there?'

'I say so, my lord, and it is true.'

'That I know as well as thou. What then didst thou think of the matter?'

'I was filled with fear, my lord, when I saw the bedclothes all in a heap on the floor, but upon reflection I hoped that he had had the better in the struggle, and had escaped; for now at least he could do no harm in Raglan, I thought. But when I found the door was locked,—I dare hardly think of that, my lord; it makes me tremble yet.'

'Now, who thinkest thou in thy heart did lock the door upon thee?'

'Might it not have been Satan himself, my lord?'

'Nay, I cannot tell what might or might not be where such a one is so plainly concerned. But I believe he was only acting in his usual fashion, which, as a matter of course, must be his worst—I mean through the heart and hands of some one in the house who would bring thee into trouble.'

'I would it were the other way, my lord.'

'So would I heartily. In his own person I fear him not a whit. But hast thou no suspicion of any one owing thee a grudge, who might be glad on such opportunity to pay it thee with interest?'

'I must confess I have, my lord; but I beg of your lordship not to question me on the matter further, for it reaches only to suspicion. I know nothing, and might, if I uttered a word, be guilty of grievous wrong. Pardon me, my lord.'

Lord Herbert looked hard at his wife. Lady Margaret dropped her head.

'Thou art right, indeed, my good cousin!' he said, turning again to Dorothy; 'for that would be to do by another as thou sufferest so sorely from others doing by thee. I must send my brains about and make a discovery or two for myself. It is well I have a few days to spend at home. And now to the first part of the business in hand. Hast thou any special way of calling thy dog? It is a moonlit night, I believe.'

He rose and went to the window, over which hung a heavy curtain of Flemish tapestry.

'It is a three-quarter old moon, my lord,' said Dorothy, 'and very bright. I did use to call my dog with a whistle my mother gave me when I was a child.'

'Canst thou lay thy hand upon it? Hast thou it with thee in Raglan?'

'I have it in my hand now, my lord.'

'What then with the moon and thy whistle, I think we shall not fail.'

'Hast lost thy wits, Ned?' said his wife. 'Or what fiend wouldst thou raise to-night?'

'I would lay one rather,' returned lord Herbert. 'But first I would discover this same perilous fault in the armour of my house. Is thy genet still in thy control, Dorothy?'

'I have no reason to think otherwise, my lord. The frolicker he, the merrier ever was I.'

'Darest thou ride him alone in the moonlight—outside the walls.'

'I dare anything on Dick's back—that Dick can do, my lord.'

'Doth thy dog know Caspar—in friendly fashion, I mean?'

'Caspar is the only one in the castle he is quite friendly with, my lord.'

'Then is all as I would have it. And now I will tell thee what I would not have: I would not have a soul in the place but my lady here know that I am searching with thee after this dog-and-man hole. Therefore I will saddle thy little horse for thee myself, and—'

'No, no, my lord!' interrupted Dorothy. 'That I can do.'

'So much the better for thee. But I am no boor, fair damsel. Then shalt thou mount and ride him forth, and Marquis thy mastiff shall see thee go from the yard. Then will I mount the keep, and from that point of vantage look down upon the two courts, while Caspar goes to stand by thy dog. Thou shalt ride slowly along for a minute or two, until these preparations shall have been made; then shalt thou blow thy whistle, and set off at a gallop to round the castle, still ever and anon blowing thy whistle; by which means, if I should fail to see thy Marquis leave the castle, thou mayest perchance discover at least from which side of the castle he comes to thee.'

Dorothy sprang to her feet.

'I am ready, my lord,' she said.

'And so am I, my maiden,' returned lord Herbert, rising. 'Wilt go to the top of the keep, wife, and grant me the light of eyes in aid of the moonshine? I will come thither presently.'

'Thou shalt find me there, Ned, I promise thee. Mother Mary speed thy quest?'



CHAPTER XXXVI.

THE DISCOVERY.



All was done as had been arranged. Lord Herbert saddled Dick, not unaided of Dorothy, lifted her to his back, and led her to the gate, in full vision of Marquis, who went wild at the sight, and threatened to pull down kennel and all in his endeavours to follow them. Lord Herbert himself opened the yard gate, for the horses had already been suppered, and the men were in bed. He then walked by her side down to the brick gate. A moment there, and she was free and alone, with the wide green fields and the yellow moonlight all about her.

She had some difficulty in making Dick go slowly—quietly she could not—for the first minute or two, as lord Herbert had directed. He had had but little exercise of late, and moved as if his four legs felt like wings. Dorothy had ridden him very little since she came to the castle, but being very handy, lord Charles had used him, and one of the grooms had always taken him to ride messages. He had notwithstanding had but little of the pleasure of speed for a long time, and when Dorothy at length gave him the rein, he flew as if every member of his body from tail to ears and eyelids had been an engine of propulsion. But Dorothy had more wings than Dick. Her whole being was full of wings. It was a small thing that she had not had a right gallop since she left Wyfern; the strength she had been putting forth to bear the Atlas burden that night lifted from her soul, was now left free to upbear her, and she seemed in spirit to soar aloft into the regions of aether. With her horse under her, the moon over her, "the wind of their own speed" around them, and her heart beating with a joy such as she had never known, she could hardly help doubting sometimes for a moment whether she was not out in one of those delightful dreams of liberty and motion which had so frequently visited her sleep since she came to Raglan. Three shrill whistles she had blown, about a hundred yards from the gate, had heard the eager crowded bark of her dog in answer, and then Dick went flying over the fields like a water-bird over the lake, that scratches its smooth surface with its feet as it flies. Around the rampart they went. The still night was jubilant around them as they flew. The stars shone as if they knew all about her joy, that the shadow of guilt had been lifted from her, and that to her the world again was fair. She felt as the freed Psyche must feel when she drops the clay, and lo! the whole chrysalid world, which had hitherto hung as a clog at her foot, fast by the inexorable chain our blindness calls gravitation, has dropped from her with the clay, and the universe is her own.

At intervals she blew her whistle, and ever kept her keen eyes and ears awake, looking and listening before and behind, in the hope of hearing her dog, or seeing him come bounding through the moonlight.

Meantime lord Herbert and his wife had taken their stand on the top of the great tower, and were looking down—the lady into the stone court, and her husband into the grass one. Dorothy's shrill whistle came once, twice—and just as it began to sound a third time,

'Here he comes!' cried lady Margaret.

A black shadow went from the foot of the library tower, tearing across the moonlight to the hall door, where it vanished. But in vain lord Herbert kept his eyes on the fountain court, in the hope of its reappearance there. Presently they heard a heavy plunge in the water on the other side of the keep, and running round, saw plainly, the moat there lying broad in the moonlight, a little black object making its way across it. Through the obstructing floats of water-lily-leaves, it held steadily over to the other side. There for a moment they saw the whole body of the animal, as he scrambled out of the water up against the steep side of the moat—when suddenly, and most unaccountably to lady Margaret, he disappeared.

'I have it!' cried lord Herbert. 'What an ass I was not to think of it before! Come down with me, my dove, and I will show thee. Dorothy's Marquis hath got into the drain of the moat! He is a large dog, and beyond a doubt that is where the young roundhead entered. Who could have dreamed of such a thing! I had no thought it was such a size.'

Dorothy, having made the circuit, and arrived again at the brick gate, found lord Herbert waiting there, and pulled up.

'I have seen nothing of him, my lord,' she said, as he came to her side. 'Shall I ride round once more?'

'Do, prithee, for I see thou dost enjoy it. But we have already learned all we want to know, so far as goeth to the security of the castle. There is but one marquis in Raglan, and he is, I believe, in the oak parlour.'

'You saw my Marquis make his exit then, my lord?'

'My lady and I both saw him.'

'What then can have become of him?—We went very fast, and I suppose he gave up the chase in despair.'

'Thou wilt find him the second round. But stay—I will get a horse and go with thee.'

Dorothy went within the gate, and lord Herbert ran back to the stables. In a few minutes he was by her side again, and together they rode around the huge nest. The moon was glorious, with a few large white clouds around her, like great mirrors hung up to catch and reflect her light. The stars were few, and doubtful near the moon, but shone like diamonds in the dark spaces between the clouds. The rugged fortress lay swathed in the softness of the creamy light. No noise broke the stillness, save the dull drum-beat of their horses' hoofs on the turf, or their cymbal-clatter where they crossed a road, and the occasional shrill call from Dorothy's whistle.

On all sides the green fields, cow-cropped, divided by hedge-rows, and spotted with trees, single and in clumps, came close to the castle walls, except in one or two places where the corner of a red ploughed field came wedging in. All was so quiet and so soft that the gaunt old walls looked as if, having at first with harsh intrusion forced their way up into the sweet realm of air from the stony regions of the earth beneath, by slow degrees, yet long since, they had suffered an air change, and been charmed and gentled into harmony with soft winds and odours and moonlight. To Dorothy it seemed as if peace itself had taken form in the feathery weight that filled the flaky air; and as her horse galloped along, flying like a bird over ditch and mound, her own heart so light that her body seemed to float above the saddle rather than rest upon it, she felt like a soul which, having been dragged to hell by a lurking fiend, a good and strong angel was bearing aloft into bliss. Few delights can equal the mere presence of one whom we trust utterly.

No mastiff came to Dorothy's whistle, and having finished their round, they rode back to the stables, put up their horses, and rejoined lady Margaret, where she was still pacing the sunk walk around the moat. There lord Herbert showed Dorothy where her dog vanished, comforting her with the assurance that nothing should be altered before the faithful animal returned, as doubtless he would the moment he despaired of finding her in the open country.

Lord Herbert said nothing to his father that night lest he should spoil his rest, for he was yet far from well, but finding him a good deal better the next morning, he laid open the whole matter to him according to his convictions concerning Dorothy and her behaviour, ending with the words: 'That maiden, my lord, hath truth enough in her heart to serve the whole castle, an' if it might be but shared. To doubt her is to wrong the very light. I fear there are not many maidens in England who would have the courage and honesty, necessary both, to act as she hath done.'

The marquis listened attentively, and when lord Herbert had ended, sat a few moments in silence; then, for all answer, said,

'Go and fetch her, my lad.'

When Dorothy entered,—

'Come hither, maiden,' he said from his chair. 'Wilt thou kiss an old man who hath wronged thee—for so my son hath taught me?'

Dorothy stooped, and he kissed her on both cheeks, with the tears in his eyes.

'Thou shalt dine at my table,' he said, 'an' thy mistress will permit thee, as I doubt not she will when I ask her, until—thou, art weary of our dull company. Hear me, cousin Dorothy: an' thou wilt go with us to mass next Sunday, thou shalt sit on one side of me and thy mistress on the other, and all the castle shall see thee there, and shall know that thou art our dear cousin, mistress Dorothy Vaughan, and shall do thee honour.'

'I thank you, my lord, with all my heart,' said Dorothy, with troubled look, 'but—may I then speak without offence to your lordship, where my heart knoweth nought but honour, love, and obedience?'

'Speak what thou wilt, so it be what thou would'st,' answered the marquis.

'Then pardon me, my lord, that which would have made my mother sad, and would make my good master Herbert sorry that he brought me hither. He would fear I had forsaken the church of my fathers.'

'And returned to the church of thy grandfathers—eh, mistress Dorothy? And wherefore, then, should that weigh so much with thee, so long as thou wert no traitor to our blessed Lord?'

'But should I be no traitor, sir, an' I served him not with my best?'

'Thou hast nothing better than thy heart to give him, and nothing worse will serve his turn; and that we two have offered where I would have thee offer thine—and I trust, Herbert, the offering hath not lain unaccepted.'

'I trust not, my lord,' responded Herbert.

'But, my lord,' said Dorothy, with hot cheek and trembling voice, 'if I brought it him upon a dish which I believed to be of brass, when I had one of silver in the house, would it avail with him that your lordship knew the dish to be no brass, but the finest of gold? I should be unworthy of your lordship's favour, if, to be replaced in the honour of men, I did that which needed the pardon of God.'

'I told thee so, sir!' cried lord Herbert, who had been listening with radiant countenance.

'Thou art a good girl, Dorothy,' said the marquis. 'Verily I spoke but to try thee, and I thank God thou hast stood the trial, and answered aright. Now am I sure of thee; and I will no more doubt thee—not if I wake in the night and find thee standing over me with a drawn dagger like Judith. An' my worthy Bayly had been at home, perchance this had not happened; but forgive me, Dorothy, for the gout is the sting of the devil's own tail, and driveth men mad. Verily, it seemeth now as if I could never have behaved to thee as I have done. Why, one might say the foolish fat old man was jealous of the handsome young puritan! The wheel will come round, Dorothy. One day thou wilt marry him.'

'Never, my lord,' exclaimed Dorothy with vehemence.

'And when thou dost,' the marquis went on, 'all I beg of thee is, that on thy wedding day thou whisper thy bridegroom: "My lord of Worcester told me so;" and therewith thou shalt have my blessing, whether I be down here in Raglan, or up the great stair with little Molly.'

Dorothy was silent. The marquis held out his hand. She kissed it, left the room, and flew to the top of the keep.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

THE HOROSCOPE.



Ere the next day was over, it was understood throughout the castle that lord Herbert was constructing a horoscope—not that there were many in the place who understood what a horoscope really was, or had any knowledge of the modes of that astrology in whose results they firmly believed; yet Kaltoff having been seen carrying several mysterious-looking instruments to the top of the library tower, the word was presently in everybody's mouth. Nor were the lovers of marvel likely to be disappointed, for no sooner was the sun down than there was lord Herbert, his head in an outlandish Persian hat, visible over the parapet from the stone-court, while from some of the higher windows in the grass-court might be seen through a battlement his long flowing gown of a golden tint, wrought with hieroglyphics in blue. Now he would stand for a while gazing up into the heavens, now would be shifting and adjusting this or that instrument, then peering along or through it, and then re-arranging it, or kneeling and drawing lines, now circular, now straight, upon a sheet of paper spread flat on the roof of the tower. There he still was when the household retired to rest, and there, in the grey dawn, his wife, waking up and peeping from her window, saw him still, against the cold sky, pacing the roof with bent head and thoughtful demeanour. In the morning he was gone, and no one but lady Margaret saw him during the whole of the following day. Nor indeed could any but herself or Caspar have found him, for the tale Tom Fool told the rustics of a magically concealed armoury had been suggested by a rumour current in the house, believed by all without any proof, and yet not the less a fact, that lord Herbert had a chamber of which none of the domestics knew door or window, or even the locality. That recourse should have been had to spells and incantations for its concealment, however, as was also commonly accepted, would have seemed trouble unnecessary to any one who knew the mechanical means his lordship had employed for the purpose. The touch of a pin on a certain spot in one of the bookcases in the library, admitted him to a wooden stair which, with the aid of Caspar, he had constructed in an ancient disused chimney, and which led down to a small chamber in the roof of a sort of porch built over the stair from the stone-court to the stables. There was no other access to it, and the place had never been used, nor had any window but one which they had constructed in the roof so cunningly as to attract no notice. All the household supposed the hidden chamber, whose existence was unquestioned, to be in the great tower, somewhere near the workshop.

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