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The Nest of the Sparrowhawk
by Baroness Orczy
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The next moment the door itself was thrown open from within; a flood of light burst forth upon the gloomy landing from the room beyond, the babel of many voices became loud and clear, and as the two men stood for a moment beneath the lintel a veritable chorus of many exclamations greeted them from every side.

"Walterton! begad!"

"And Overbury, too!"

"How late ye come!"

"We thought ye'd fallen a victim to Noll's myrmidons!"

It was of a truth a gay and merry company that stood, and moved, chatted and laughed, within the narrow confines of that small second-floor room in the gloomy house in Bath Street.

The walls themselves were dingy and bare, washed down with some grayish color, which had long since been defaced by the grime and dust of London. Thick curtains of a nondescript hue fell in straight folds before each window, and facing these there was another door—double paneled—which apparently led to an inner room.

But the place itself was brilliantly illuminated with many wax candles set in chandeliers. These stood on the several small tables which were dotted about the room.

These tables—covered with green baize, and a number of chairs of various shapes and doubtful solidity were the only furniture of the room, but in an arched recess in the wall a plaster figure holding a cornucopia, from whence fell in thick profusion the plaster presentments of the fruits of this earth, stood on an elevated pedestal, which had been draped with crimson velvet.

The goddess of Fortune, with a broken nose and a paucity of fingers, dominated the brilliant assembly, from the height of her crimson throne. Her head had been crowned with a tall peaked modish beaver hat, from which a purple feather rakishly swept over the goddess's left ear. An ardent devotee had deposited a copper coin in her extended, thumbless hand, whilst another had fixed a row of candle stumps at her feet.

There was nothing visible in this brilliantly lighted room of the sober modes to which the eye of late had become so accustomed. Silken doublets of bright and even garish colors stood out in bold contrast against the gray monotone of the walls and hangings. Fantastic buttons, tags and laces, gorgeously embroidered cuffs and collars edged with priceless Mechlin or d'Alencon, bunches of ribands at knee and wrists, full periwigs and over-wide boot-hose tops were everywhere to be seen, whilst the clink of swords against the wooden boards and frequent volleys of loudly spoken French oaths, testified to the absence of those Puritanic fashions and customs which had become the general rule even in London.

Some of the company sat in groups round the green-topped tables whereon cards or dice and heaps of gold and smaller coins lay in profusion. Others stood about watching the games or chatting to one another. Mostly men they were, some old, some young—but there were women too, women in showy kirtles, with bare shoulders showing well above the colverteen kerchief and faces wherein every line had been obliterated by plentiful daubs of cosmetics. They moved about the room from table to table, laughing, talking, making comments on the games as these proceeded.

The men apparently were all intent—either as actual participants or merely as spectators—upon a form of amusement which His Highness the Lord Protector had condemned as wanton and contrary to law.

The newcomers soon divested themselves of their immense dark cloaks, and they, too, appeared in showy apparel of silk and satin, with tiny bows of ribands at the ends of the long curls which fell both sides of their faces, and with enormous frills of lace inside the turned-over tops of their boots.

Lord Walterton quite straddled in his gait, so wide were his boot tops, and there was an extraordinary maze of tags and ribands round the edge of Sir James Overbury's breeches.

"Make your game, gentlemen, make your game," said the latter as he advanced further into the room. And his tired, sleepy eyes brightened at sight of the several tables covered with cards and dice, the guttering candles, the mountains of gold and small coin scattered on the green baize tops.

"Par Dieu! but 'tis a sight worth seeing after the ugly sour faces one meets in town these days!" he added, gleefully rubbing his beringed hands one against the other.

"But where is our gracious hostess?" added Lord Walterton, a melancholy-looking young man with pale-colored eyes and lashes, and a narrow chest.

"You are thrice welcome, my lord!" said Editha de Chavasse, whose elegant figure now detached itself from amongst her guests.

She looked very handsome in her silken kirtle of a brilliant greenish hue, lace primer, and high-heeled shoes—relics of her theatrical days; her head was adorned with the bunches of false curls which the modish hairdressers were trying to introduce. The plentiful use of cosmetics had obliterated the ravages of time and imparted a youthful appearance to her face, whilst excitement not unmixed with apprehension lent a bright glitter to her dark eyes.

Lord Walterton and Sir James Overbury lightly touched with their lips the hand which she extended to them. Their bow, too, was slight, though they tossed their curls as they bent their heads in the most approved French fashion. But there was a distinct note of insolence, not altogether unmixed with irony, in the freedom with which they had greeted her.

"I met de Chavasse in town to-day," said Lord Walterton, over his shoulder before he mixed with the crowd.

"Yes! he will be here to-night," she rejoined. Sir James Overbury also made a casual remark, but it was evident that the intention and purpose of these gay gentlemen was not the courteous entertainment of their hostess. Like so many men of all times and all nations in this world, they were ready enough to enjoy what she provided for them—the illicit pastime which they could not get elsewhere—but they despised her for giving it them, and cared naught for the heavy risks she ran in keeping up this house for their pleasure.



CHAPTER XV

A GAME OF PRIMERO

At a table in the immediate center of the room a rotund gentleman in doublet and breeches of cinnamon brown taffeta and voluminous lace cuffs at the wrists was presiding over a game of Spanish primero.

A simple game enough, not difficult of comprehension, yet vastly exciting, if one may form a judgment of its qualities through watching the faces of the players.

The rotund gentleman dealt a card face downwards to each of his opponents, who then looked at their cards and staked on them, by pushing little piles of gold or silver forward.

Then the dealer turned up his own card, and gave the amount of the respective stakes to those players whose cards were of higher value than his own, whilst sweeping all other moneys to swell his own pile.

A simple means, forsooth, of getting rid of any superfluity of cash.

"Art winning, Endicott?" queried Lord Walterton as, he stood over the other man, looking down on the game.

Endicott shrugged his fat shoulders, and gave an enigmatic chuckle.

"I pay King and Ace only," he called out imperturbably, as he turned up a Queen.

Most of the stakes came to swell his own pile, but he passed a handful of gold to a hollow-eyed youth who sat immediately opposite to him, and who clutched at the money with an eager, trembling grasp.

"You have all the luck to-night, Segrave," he said with an oily smile directed at the winner.

"Make your game, gentlemen," he added almost directly, as he once more began to deal.

"I pay knave upwards!" he declared, turning up the ten of clubs.

"Mine is the ten of hearts," quoth one of the players.

"Ties pay the bank," quoth Endicott imperturbably.

"Mine is a queen," said Segrave in a hollow tone of voice.

Endicott with a comprehensive oath threw the entire pack of cards into a distant corner of the room.

"A fresh pack, mistress!" he shouted peremptorily.

Then as an overdressed, florid woman, with high bullhead fringe and old-fashioned Spanish farthingale, quickly obeyed his behests, he said with a coarse laugh:

"Fresh cards may break Master Segrave's luck and improve yours, Sir Michael."

"Before this round begins," said Sir James Overbury who was standing close behind Lord Walterton, also watching the game, "I will bet you, Walterton, that Segrave wins again."

"Done with you," replied the other, "and I'll back mine own opinion by taking a hand."

The florid woman brought him a chair, and he sat down at the table, as Endicott once more began to deal.

"Five pounds that Segrave wins," said Overbury.

"A queen," said Endicott, turning up his card. "I pay king and ace only."

Everyone had to pay the bank, for all turned up low cards; Segrave alone had not yet turned up his.

"Well! what is your card, Master Segrave?" queried Lord Walterton lightly.

"An ace!" said Segrave simply, displaying the ace of hearts.

"No good betting against the luck," said young Walterton lightly, as he handed five sovereigns over to his friend, "moreover it spoils my system."

"Ye play primero on a system!" quoth Sir Michael Isherwood in deep amazement.

"Yes!" replied the young man. "I have played on it for years ... and it is infallible, 'pon my honor."

In the meanwhile the doors leading to the second room had been thrown open; serving men and women advanced carrying trays on which were displayed glasses and bottles filled with Rhenish wine and Spanish canary and muscadel, also buttered ale and mead and hypocras for the ladies.

Editha did not occupy herself with serving but the florid woman was most attentive to the guests. She darted in and out between the tables, managing her unwieldy farthingale with amazing skill. She poured out the wines, and offered tarts and dishes of anchovies and of cheese, also strange steaming beverages lately imported into England called coffee and chocolate.

The women liked the latter, and supped it out of mugs, with many little cries of astonishment and appreciation of its sugariness.

The men drank heavily, chiefly of the heady Spanish wines; they ate the anchovies and cheese with their fingers, and continually called for more refreshments.

Play was of necessity interrupted. Groups of people eating and drinking congregated round the tables. The men mostly discussed various phases of the game; there was so little else for idlers to talk about these days. No comedies or other diversions, neither cock-fighting nor bear-baiting, and abuse of my Lord Protector and his rigorous disciplinarian laws had already become stale.

The women talked dress and coiffure, the new puffs, the fanciful pinners.

But at the center table Segrave still sat, refusing all refreshment, waiting with obvious impatience for the ending of this unwelcome interval. When first he found himself isolated in the crowd, he had counted over with febrile eagerness the money which lay in a substantial heap before him.

"Saved!" he muttered between his teeth, speaking to himself like one who is dreaming, "saved! Thank God! ... Two hundred and fifty pounds ... only another fifty and I'll never touch these cursed cards again ... only another fifty...."

He buried his face in his hands; the moisture stood out in heavy drops on his forehead. He looked all round him with ever-growing impatience.

"My God! why don't they come back! ... Another fifty pounds ... and I can put the money back ... before it has been missed.... Oh! why don't they come back!"

Quite a tragedy expressed in those few muttered words, in the trembling hands, the damp forehead. Money taken from an unsuspecting parent, guardian or master, which? What matter? A tragedy of ordinary occurrence even in those days when social inequalities were being abolished by act of Parliament.

In the meanwhile Lord Walterton, halting of speech, insecure of foothold, after his third bumper of heady sack, was explaining to Sir Michael Isherwood the mysteries of his system for playing the noble game of primero.

"It is sure to break the bank in time," he said confidently, "I am for going to Paris where play runs high, and need not be carried on in this hole and corner fashion to suit cursed Puritanical ideas."

"Tell me your secret, Walterton," urged worthy Sir Michael, whose broad Shropshire acres were heavily mortgaged, after the rapine and pillage of civil war.

"Well! I can but tell you part, my friend," rejoined the other, "yet 'tis passing simple. You begin with one golden guinea ... and lose it ... then you put up two and lose again...."

"Passing simple," assented Sir Michael ironically.

"But after that you put up four guineas."

"And lose it."

"Yea! yea! mayhap you lose it ... but then you put up eight guineas ... and win. Whereupon you are just as you were before."

And with a somewhat unsteady hand the young man raised a bumper to his lips, whilst eying Sir Michael with the shifty and inquiring eye peculiar to the intoxicated.

"Meseems that if you but abstain from playing altogether," quoth Sir Michael impatiently, "the result would still be the same.... And suppose you lose the eight guineas, what then?"

"Oh! 'tis vastly simple—you put up sixteen."

"But if you lose that?"

"Put up thirty-two...."

"But if you have not thirty-two guineas to put up?" urged Sir Michael, who was obstinate.

"Nay! then, my friend," said Lord Walterton with a laugh which soon broke into an ominous hiccough, "ye must not in that case play upon my system."

"Well said, my lord," here interposed Endicott, who had most moderately partaken of a cup of hypocras, and whose eye and hand were as steady as heretofore. "Well said, pardi! ... My old friend the Marquis of Swarthmore used oft to say in the good old days of Goring's Club, that 'twas better to lose on a system, than to play on no system at all."

"A smart cavalier, old Swarthmore," assented Sir Michael gruffly, "and nathless, a true friend to you, Endicott," he added significantly.

"Another deal, Master Endicott," said Segrave, who for the last quarter of an hour had vainly tried to engage the bank-holder's attention.

Nor was Lord Walterton averse to this. The more the wine got into his head, the more unsteady his hand became, the more strong was his desire to woo the goddess whose broken-nosed image seemed to be luring him to fortune.

"You are right, Master Segrave," he said thickly, "we are wasting valuable time. Who knows but what old Noll's police-patrol is lurking in this cutthroat alley? ... Endicott, take the bank again.... I'll swear I'll ruin ye ere the moon—which I do not see—disappears down the horizon. Sir Michael, try my system.... Overbury, art a laggard? ... Let us laugh and be merry—to-morrow is the Jewish Sabbath—and after that Puritanic Sunday ... after which mayhap, we'll all go to hell, driven thither by my Lord Protector. Wench, another bumper ... canary, sack or muscadel ... no thin Rhenish wine shall e'er defile this throat! Gentlemen, take your places.... Mistress Endicott, can none of these wenches discourse sweet music whilst we do homage to the goddess of Fortune? ... To the tables ... to the tables, gentlemen ... here's to King Charles, whom may God protect ... and all in defiance of my Lord Protector!"



CHAPTER XVI

A CONFLICT

In the hubbub which immediately followed Lord Walterton's tirade, Editha de Chavasse beckoned to the florid woman—who seemed to be her henchwoman—and drew her aside to a distant corner of the room, where there were no tables nigh and where the now subdued hum of the voices, mingling with the sound of music on virginal and stringed instruments, made a murmuring noise which effectually drowned the talk between the two women.

"Have you arranged everything, Mistress Endicott?" asked Editha, speaking in a whisper.

"Everything, mistress," replied the other.

"Endicott understands?"

"Perfectly," said the woman, with perceptible hesitation, "but ..."

"What ails you, mistress?" asked Editha haughtily, noting the hesitation, and frowning with impatience thereat.

"My husband thinks the game too dangerous."

"I was not aware," retorted Mistress de Chavasse dryly, "that I had desired Master Endicott's opinion on the subject."

"Mayhap not," rejoined the other, equally dryly, "but you did desire his help in the matter ... and he seems unmindful to give it."

"Why?"

"I have explained ... the game is too dangerous."

"Or the payment insufficient?" sneered Editha. "Which is it?"

"Both, mayhap," assented Mistress Endicott with a careless shrug of her fat shoulders, "the risks are very great. To-night especially...."

"Why especially to-night?"

"Because ever since you have been away from it, this house—though we did our best to make it seem deserted—hath been watched—of that I feel very sure.... My Lord Protector's watchmen have a suspicion of our ... our evening entertainments ... and I doubt not but that they desire to see for themselves how our guests enjoy themselves these nights."

"Well?" rejoined Editha lightly. "What of that?"

"As you know, we did not play for nigh on twelve months now.... Endicott thought it too dangerous ... and to-night ..."

She checked herself abruptly, for Editha had turned an angry face and flashing eyes upon her.

"To-night?" said Mistress de Chavasse curtly, but peremptorily, "what of to-night? ... I sent you orders from Thanet that I wished the house opened to-night ... Lord Walterton, Sir James Overbury and as many of our usual friends as were in the town, apprised that play would be in full progress.... Meseems," she added, casting a searching look all round the room, "that we have singularly few players."

"It was difficult," retorted the other with somewhat more diffidence in her tone than had characterized her speech before now. "Young Squire Delamere committed suicide ... you remember him? ... and Lord Cooke killed Sir Humphrey Clinton in a duel after that fracas we had here, when the police-patrol well-nigh seized upon your person.... Squire Delamere's suicide and Sir Humphrey's death caused much unpleasant talk. And old Mistress Delamere, the mother, hath I fear me, still a watchful eye on us. She means to do us lasting mischief.... It had been wiser to tarry yet awhile.... Twelve months is not sufficient for throwing the dust of ages over us and our doings.... That is my husband's opinion and also mine.... A scandal such as you propose to have to-night, will bring the Protector's spies about our ears ... his police too, mayhap ... and then Heaven help us all, mistress ... for you, in the country, cannot conceive how rigorously are the laws enforced now against gambling, betting, swearing or any other form of innocent amusement.... Why! two wenches were whipped at the post by the public hangman only last week, because forsooth they were betting on the winner amongst themselves, whilst watching a bout of pell-mell.... And you know that John Howthill stood in the pillory for two hours and had both his hands bored through with a hot iron for allowing gambling inside his coffeehouse. ... And so, mistress, you will perceive that I am speaking but in your own interests...."

Editha, who had listened to the long tirade with marked impatience, here interrupted the voluble lady, with harsh command.

"I crave your pardon, mistress," she said peremptorily. "My interests pre-eminently consist in being obeyed by those whom I pay for doing my behests. Now you and your worthy husband live here rent free and derive a benefit of ten pounds every time our guests assemble.... Well! in return for that, I make use of you and your names, in case of any unpleasantness with the vigilance patrol ... or in case of a scandal which might reach my Lord Protector's ears.... Up to this time your positions here have been a sinecure.... I even bore the brunt of the last fracas whilst you remained practically scathless.... But to-night, I own it, there may be some risks ... but of a truth you have been well paid to take them."

"But if we refuse to take the risks," retorted the other.

"If you refuse, mistress," said Editha with a careless shrug of the shoulders, "you and your worthy lord go back to the gutter where I picked you up ... and within three months of that time, I should doubtless have the satisfaction of seeing you both at the whipping-post, for of a truth you would be driven to stealing or some other equally unavowable means of livelihood."

"We could send you there," said Mistress Endicott, striving to suppress her own rising fury, "if we but said the word."

"Nay! you would not be believed, mistress ... but even so, I do not perceive how my social ruin would benefit you."

"Since we are doomed anyhow ... after this night's work," said the woman sullenly.

"Nay! but why should you take so gloomy a view of the situation? ... My Lord Protector hath forgot our existence by now, believe me ... and of a surety his patrol hath not yet knocked at our door.... And methinks, mistress," added Editha significantly, "'tis not in your interest to quarrel with me."

"I have no wish to quarrel with you," quoth Mistress Endicott, who apparently had come to the end of her resistance, and no doubt had known all along that her fortunes were too much bound up with those of Mistress de Chavasse to allow of a rupture between them.

"Then everything is vastly satisfactory," said Editha with forced gayety. "I rely on you, mistress, and on Endicott's undoubted talents to bring this last matter to a successful issue to-night. ... Remember, mistress ... I rely on you."

Perhaps Mistress Endicott would have liked to prolong the argument. As a matter of fact, neither she nor her husband counted the risks of a midnight fracas of great moment to themselves: they had so very little to lose. A precarious existence based on illicit deeds of all sorts had rendered them hard and reckless.

All they wished was to be well paid for the risks they ran; neither of them was wholly unacquainted with the pillory, and it held no great terrors for them. There were so many unavowable pleasures these days, which required a human cloak to cover the identity of the real transgressor, that people like Master and Mistress Endicott prospered vastly.

The case of Mistress de Chavasse's London house wherein the ex-actress had some few years ago established a gaming club, together with its various emoluments attached thereunto, suited the Endicotts' requirements to perfection: but the woman desired an increase of payment for the special risk she would run to-night, and was sorely vexed that she could not succeed in intimidating Editha with threats of vigilance-patrol and whipping-posts.

Mistress de Chavasse knew full well that the Endicotts did not intend to quarrel with her, and having threatened rupture unless her commands were obeyed, she had no wish to argue the matter further with her henchwoman.

At that moment, too, there came the sound of significant and methodical rappings at the door. Editha, who had persistently throughout her discussion with Mistress Endicott, kept one ear open for that sound, heard it even through the buzz of talk. She made a scarcely visible gesture of the hand, bidding the other woman to follow her: that gesture was quickly followed by a look of command.

Mistress Endicott presumably had finally made up her mind to obey. She shrugged her fat shoulders and followed Mistress de Chavasse as far as the center of the room.

"Remember that you are the hostess now," murmured Editha to her, as she herself went to the door and opened it.

With an affected cry of surprise and pleasure she welcomed Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse, who was standing on the threshold, prepared to enter and escorted by his young secretary, Master Richard Lambert.



CHAPTER XVII

RUS IN URBE

One or two of the men looked up as de Chavasse entered, but no one took much notice of him.

Most of those present remembered him from the past few years when still with pockets well filled through having forestalled Lady Sue's maintenance money, he was an habitual frequenter of some of the smart secret clubs in town; but here, just the same as elsewhere, Sir Marmaduke was not a popular man, and many there were who had unpleasant recollections of his surly temper and uncouth ways, whenever fickle Fortune happened not to favor him.

Even now, he looked sullen and disagreeable as, having exchanged a significant glance with his sister-in-law, he gave a comprehensive nod to the assembled guests, which had nothing in it either of cordiality or of good-will. He touched Editha's finger tips with his lips, and then advanced into the room.

Here he was met by Mistress Endicott, who had effectually thrown off the last vestige of annoyance and of rebellion, for she greeted the newcomer with marked good-humor and an encouraging smile.

"It is indeed a pleasure to see that Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse hath not forgot old friends," she said pleasantly.

"It was passing kind, gracious mistress," he responded, forcing himself to speak naturally and in agreeable tones, "to remember an insignificant country bumpkin like myself ... and you see I have presumed on your lavish hospitality and brought my young friend, Master Richard Lambert, to whom you extended so gracious an invitation."

He turned to Lambert, who a little dazed to find himself in such brilliant company, had somewhat timidly kept close to the heels of his employer. He thought Mistress Endicott vulgar and overdressed the moment he felt bold enough to raise his eyes to hers. But he chided himself immediately for thus daring to criticize his betters.

His horizon so far had been very limited; only quite vaguely had he heard of town and Court life. The little cottage where dwelt the old Quakeress who had brought him and his brother up, and the tumble-down, dilapidated house of Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse were the only habitations in which he was intimate. The neighboring Kentish Squires, Sir Timothy Harrison, Squire Pyncheon and Sir John Boatfield, were the only presentations of "gentlemen" he had ever seen.

Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse had somewhat curtly given him orders the day before, that he was to accompany him to London, whither he himself had to go to consult his lawyer. Lambert had naturally obeyed, without murmur, but with vague trepidations at thought of this, his first journey into the great town.

Sir Marmaduke had been very kind, had given him a new suit of grogram, lined with flowered silk, which Lambert thought the richest garment he had ever seen. He was very loyal in his thoughts to his employer, bearing with the latter's violence and pandering to his fits of ill-humor for the sake of the home which Sir Marmaduke had provided for him.

To Lambert's mind, Sir Marmaduke's kindness to him was wholly gratuitous. His own position as secretary being but a sinecure, the young man readily attributed de Chavasse's interest in himself to innate goodness of heart, and desire to help the poor orphan lad.

This estimate of his employer's character Richard Lambert had not felt any cause to modify. He continued to serve him faithfully, to look after his interests in and around Acol Court to the best of his ability; above all he continued to be whole-heartedly grateful. He was so absolutely conscious of the impassable social barrier which existed between himself and the rich daughter of the great Earl of Dover, that he never for a moment resented Sir Marmaduke's sneers when they were directed against his obvious, growing love for Sue.

Remember that he had no cause to suspect Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse of any nefarious projects or of any evil intentions with regard to himself, when he told him that together they would go this night to the house of an old friend, Mrs. Endicott, where they would derive much pleasure and entertainment.

They had spent the previous night at the Swan Inn in Fleet Street and the day in visiting the beautiful sights of London, which caused the young lad from the country to open wide eyes in astonishment and pleasure.

Sir Marmaduke had been peculiarly gracious, even taking Richard with him to the Frenchman's house in Queen's Head Alley, where that curious beverage called coffee was dispensed and where several clever people met and discussed politics in a manner which was vastly interesting to the young man.

Then when the evening began to draw in, and Lambert thought it high time to go to bed, for 'twas a pity to burn expensive candles longer than was necessary, Sir Marmaduke had astonished his secretary by telling him that he must now clean and tidy himself for they would proceed to the house of a great lady named Mistress Endicott—a friend of the ex-Queen Henrietta Maria and a lady of peculiar virtues and saintliness, who would give them vast and pleasing entertainment.

Lambert was only too ready to obey. Enjoyment came naturally to him beneath his Quaker bringing-up: his youth, good-health and pure, naturally noble intellect, all craved companionship, with its attendant pleasures and joys. He himself could not afterwards have said exactly how he had pictured in his mind the saintly lady—friend of the unhappy Queen—whom he was to meet this night.

Certainly Mistress Endicott, with her red face surmounted by masses of curls that were obviously false, since they did not match the rest of her hair, was not the ideal paragon of all the virtues, and when he was first made to greet her, a strange, unreasoning instinct seemed to draw him away from her, to warn him to fly from this noisy company, from the sight of those many faces, all unnaturally flushed, and from the sounds of those strange oaths which greeted his ears from every side.

A great wave of thankfulness came over him that, his gracious lady—innocent, tender, beautiful Lady Sue, had not come to London with her guardian. Whilst he gazed on the marvels of Westminster Hall and of old Saint Paul's he had longed that she should be near him, so that he might watch the brilliance of her eyes, and the glow of pleasure which, of a surety would have mantled in her cheeks when she was shown the beauties of the great city.

But now he was glad—very glad, that Sir Marmaduke had so sternly ordained that she should remain these few days alone at Acol in charge of Mistress Charity and of Master Busy. At the time he had chafed bitterly at his own enforced silence: he would have given all he possessed in the world for the right to warn Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse that a wolf was prowling in the fold under cover of the night. He had seen Lady Sue's eyes brighten at the dictum that she was to remain behind—they told him in eloquent language the joy she felt to be free for two days that she might meet her prince undisturbed.

But all these thoughts and fears had fled the moment Lambert found himself in the midst of these people, whom he innocently believed to be great ladies and noble gentlemen, friends of his employer Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse. It seemed to him at once as if there was something here—in this room—which he would not wish Lady Sue to see.

He was clumsy and gauche in his movements as he took the hand which Mistress Endicott extended to him, but he tried to imitate the salute which he had seen his employer give on the flat—not very clean—finger-tips of the lady.

She was exceedingly gracious to him, saying with great kindliness and a melancholy sigh:

"Ah! you come from the country, master? ... So delightful, of a truth.... Milk for breakfast, eh? ... You get up at dawn and go to bed at sunset? ... I know country life well—though alas! duty now keeps me in town.... But 'tis small wonder that you look so young!"

He tried to talk to her of the country, for here she had touched on a topic which was dear to him. He knew all about the birds and beasts, the forests and the meadows, and being unused to the art of hypocritical interest, he took for real sympathy the lady's vapid exclamations of enthusiasm, with which she broke in now and again upon his flow of eloquence.

Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse, who was watching the young man with febrile keenness, had the satisfaction to note that very soon Richard began to throw off his bucolic timidity, his latent yet distinctly perceptible disapproval of the company into which he had been brought. He sought out his sister-in-law and drew her attention to Lambert in close conversation with Mrs. Endicott.

"Is everything arranged?" he asked under his breath.

"Everything," she replied.

"No trouble with our henchmen?"

"A little ... but they are submissive now."

"What is the arrangement?"

"Persuade young Lambert to take a hand at primero ... Endicott will do the rest."

"Who is in the know?" he queried, after a slight pause, during which he watched his unsuspecting victim with a deep frown of impatience and of hate.

"Only the Endicotts," she explained. "But do you think that he will play?" she added, casting an anxious look on her brother-in-law's face.

He nodded affirmatively.

"Yes!" he said curtly. "I can arrange that, as soon as you are ready."

She turned from him and walked to the center table. She watched the game for a while, noting that young Segrave was still the winner, and that Lord Walterton was very flushed and excited.

Then she caught Endicott's eye, and immediately lowered her lashes twice in succession.

"Ventre-saint-gris!" swore Endicott with an unmistakable British accent in the French expletive, "but I'll play no more.... The bank is broken ... and I have lost too much money. Mr. Segrave there has nearly cleaned me out and still I cannot break his luck."

He rose abruptly from his chair, even as Mistress de Chavasse quietly walked away from the table.

But Lord Walterton placed a detaining, though very trembling hand, on the cinnamon-colored sleeve.

"Nay! parbleu! ye cannot go like this ... good Master Endicott ..." he said, speaking very thickly, "I want another round or two ... 'pon my honor I do ... I haven't lost nearly all I meant to lose."

"Ye cannot stop play so abruptly, master," said Segrave, whose eyes shone with an unnatural glitter, and whose cheeks were covered with a hectic flush, "ye cannot leave us all in the lurch."

"Nay, I doubt not, my young friend," quoth Endicott gruffly, "that you would wish to play all night.... You have won all my money and Lord Walterton's, too."

"And most of mine," added Sir Michael Isherwood ruefully.

"Why should not Master Segrave take the bank," here came in shrill accents from Mistress Endicott, who throughout her conversation with Lambert had kept a constant eye on what went on around her husband's table. "He seems the only moneyed man amongst you all," she added with a laugh, which grated most unpleasantly on Richard's ear.

"I will gladly take the bank," said Segrave eagerly.

"Pardi! I care not who hath the bank," quoth Lord Walterton, with the slow emphasis of the inebriated. "My system takes time to work.... And I stand to lose a good deal unless ... hic ... unless I win!"

"You are not where you were, when you began," commented Sir Michael grimly.

"By Gad, no! ... hic ... but 'tis no matter.... Give me time!"

"Methought I saw Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse just now," said Endicott, looking about him. "Ah! and here comes our worthy baronet," he added cheerily as Sir Marmaduke's closely cropped head—very noticeable in the crowd of periwigs—emerged from amidst the group that clustered round Mistress Endicott. "A hand at primero, sir?"

"I thank you, no!" replied Sir Marmaduke, striving to master his habitual ill-humor and to speak pleasantly. "My luck hath long since deserted me, if it e'er visited me at all. A fact of which I grow daily more doubtful."

"But ventre-saint-gris!" ejaculated Lord Walterton, who showed an inclination to become quarrelsome in his cups, "we must have someone to take Endicott's place, I cannot work my system hic ... if so few play...."

"Perhaps your young friend, Sir Marmaduke ..." suggested Mistress Endicott, waving an embroidered handkerchief in the direction of Richard Lambert.

"No doubt! no doubt!" rejoined Sir Marmaduke, turning with kindly graciousness to his secretary. "Master Lambert, these gentlemen are requiring another hand for their game ... I pray you join in with them...."

"I would do so with pleasure, sir," replied Lambert, still unsuspecting, "but I fear me I am a complete novice at cards.... What is the game?"

He was vaguely distrustful of cards, for he had oft heard this pastime condemned as ungodly by those with whom he had held converse in his early youth, nevertheless it did not occur to him that there might be anything wrong in a game which was countenanced by Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse, whom he knew to be an avowed Puritan, and by the saintly lady who had been the friend of ex-Queen Henrietta Maria.

"'Tis a simple round game," said Sir Marmaduke lightly, "you would soon learn."

"And ..." said Lambert diffidently questioning, and eying the gold and silver which lay in profusion on the table, "there is no money at stake ... of course? ..."

"Oh! only a little," rejoined Mistress Endicott, "a paltry trifle ... to add zest to the enjoyment of the game."

"However little it may be, Sir Marmaduke," said Lambert firmly, speaking directly to his employer, "I humbly pray you to excuse me before these gentlemen ..."

The three players at the table, as well as the two Endicotts, had listened to this colloquy with varying feelings. Segrave was burning with impatience, Lord Walterton was getting more and more fractious, whilst Sir Michael Isherwood viewed the young secretary with marked hauteur. At the last words spoken by Lambert there came from all these gentlemen sundry ejaculations, expressive of contempt or annoyance, which caused an ugly frown to appear between de Chavasse's eyes, and a deep blush to rise in the young man's pale cheek.

"What do you mean?" queried Sir Marmaduke harshly.

"There are other gentlemen here," said Lambert, speaking with more firmness and decision now that he encountered inimical glances and felt as if somehow he was on his trial before all these people, "and I am not rich enough to afford the luxury of gambling."

"Nay! if that is your difficulty," rejoined Sir Marmaduke, "I pray you, good master, to command my purse ... you are under my wing to-night ... and I will gladly bear the burden of your losses."

"I thank you, Sir Marmaduke," said the young man, with quiet dignity," and I entreat you once again to excuse me.... I have never staked at cards, either mine own money or that of others. I would prefer not to begin."

"Meseems ... hic ... de Chavasse, that this ... this young friend of yours is a hic ... damned Puritan ..." came in ever thickening accents from Lord Walterton.

"I hope, Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse," here interposed Endicott with much pompous dignity, "that your ... hem ... your young friend doth not desire to bring insinuations doubts, mayhap, against the honor of my house ... or of my friends!"

"Nay! nay! good Endicott," said Sir Marmaduke, speaking in tones that were so conciliatory, so unlike his own quarrelsome temper, quick at taking offense, that Richard Lambert could not help wondering what was causing this change, "Master Lambert hath no such intention—'pon my honor ... He is young ... and ... and he misunderstands.... You see, my good Lambert," he added, once more turning to the young man, and still speaking with unwonted kindness and patience, "you are covering yourself with ridicule and placing me—who am your protector to-night—in a very awkward position. Had I known you were such a gaby I should have left you to go to bed alone."

"Nay! Sir Marmaduke," here came in decisive accents from portly Mistress Endicott, "methinks 'tis you who misunderstand Master Lambert. He is of a surety an honorable gentleman, and hath no desire to insult me, who have ne'er done him wrong, nor yet my friends by refusing a friendly game of cards in my house!"

She spoke very pointedly, causing her speech to seem like a menace, even though the words betokened gentleness and friendship.

Lambert's scruples and his desire to please struggled hopelessly in his mind. Mistress Endicott's eye held him silent even while it urged him to speak. What could he say? Sir Marmaduke, toward whom he felt gratitude and respect, surely would not urge what he thought would be wrong for Lambert.

And if a chaste and pure woman did not disapprove of a game of primero among friends, what right had he to set up his own standard of right or wrong against hers? What right had he to condemn what she approved? To offend his generous employer, and to bring opprobrium and ridicule on himself which would of necessity redound against Sir Marmaduke also?

Vague instinct still entered a feeble protest, but reason and common sense and a certain undetermined feeling of what was due to himself socially—poor country bumpkin!—fought a hard battle too.

"I am right, am I not, good Master Lambert?" came in dulcet tones from the virtuous hostess, "that you would not really refuse a quiet game of cards with my friends, at my entreaty ... in my house?"

And Lambert, with a self-deprecatory sigh, and a shrug of the shoulders, said quietly:

"I have no option, gracious mistress!"



CHAPTER XVIII

THE TRAP

Richard Lambert fortunately for his own peace of mind and the retention of his dignity, was able to wave aside the hand full of gold and silver coins which Sir Marmaduke extended towards him.

"I thank you, sir," he said calmly; "I am able to bear the cost of mine own unavoidable weakness. I have money of mine own."

From out his doublet he took a tiny leather wallet containing a few gold coins, his worldly all bequeathed to him the same as to his brother—so the old friend who had brought the lads up had oft explained—by his grandmother. The little satchel never left his person from the moment that the old Quakeress had placed it in his hands. There were but five guineas in all, to which he had added from time to time the few shillings which Sir Marmaduke paid him as salary.

He chided his own weakness inwardly, when he felt the hot tears surging to his eyes at thought of the unworthy use to which his little hoard was about to be put.

But he walked to the table with a bold step; there was nothing now of the country lout about him; on the contrary, he moved with remarkable dignity, and bore himself so well that many a pair of feminine eyes watched him kindly, as he took his seat at the baize-covered table.

"Will one of you gentlemen teach me the game?" he asked simply.

It was remarkable that no one sneered at him again, and in these days of arrogance peculiar to the upper classes this was all the more noticeable, as these secret clubs were thought to be very exclusive, the resort pre-eminently of gentlemen and noblemen who were anti-Puritan, anti-Republican, and very jealous of their ranks and privileges.

Yet when after those few unpleasant moments of hesitation Lambert boldly accepted the situation and with much simple dignity took his seat at the table, everyone immediately accepted him as an equal, nor did anyone question his right to sit there on terms of equality with Lord Walterton or Sir Michael Isherwood.

His own state of mind was very remarkable at the moment.

Of course he disapproved of what he did: he would not have been the Puritanically trained, country-bred lad that he was, if he had accepted with an easy conscience the idea of tossing about money from hand to hand, money that he could in no sense afford to lose, or money that no one was making any honest effort to win.

He knew—somewhat vaguely perhaps, yet with some degree of certainty—that gambling was an illicit pastime, and that therefore he—by sitting at this table with these gentlemen, was deliberately contravening the laws of his country.

Against all that, it is necessary to note that Richard Lambert took two matters very much in earnest: first, his position as a paid dependent; second, his gratitude to Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse.

And both these all-pervading facts combined to force him against his will into this anomalous position of gentlemanly gambler, which suited neither his temperament nor his principles.

With it all Lambert's was one of those dispositions, often peculiar to those who have led an isolated and introspective life, which never do anything half-heartedly; and just as he took his somewhat empty secretarial duties seriously, so did he look on this self-imposed task, against which his better judgment rebelled, with earnestness and determination.

He listened attentively to the preliminary explanations given him sotto voce by Endicott. Segrave in the meanwhile had taken the latter's place at the head of the table. He had put all his money in front of him, some two hundred and sixty pounds all told, for his winnings during the last half hour had not been as steady as heretofore, and he had not yet succeeded altogether in making up that sum of money for which he yearned with all the intensity of a disturbed conscience, eager to redeem one miserable fault by another hardly more avowable.

He shuffled the cards and dealt just as Endicott had done.

"Now will you look at your card, young sir," said Endicott, who stood behind Lambert's chair, whispering directions in his ear. "A splendid card, begad! and one on which you must stake freely.... Nay! nay! that is not enough," he added, hurriedly restraining the young man's hand, who had timidly pushed a few silver coins forward. "'Tis thus you must do!"

And before Lambert had time to protest the rotund man in the cinnamon doublet and the wide lace cuffs, had emptied the contents of the little leather wallet upon the table.

Five golden guineas rested on Lambert's card. Segrave turned up his own and declared:

"I pay queen and upwards!"

"A two, by gad!" said Lord Walterton, too confused in his feeble head now to display any real fury. "Did anyone ever see such accursed luck?"

"And look at this nine," quoth Sir Michael, who had become very sullen; "not a card to-night!"

"I have a king," said Lambert quietly.

"And as I had the pleasure to remark before, my dear young friend," said Endicott blandly, "'tis a mighty good card to hold.... And see," he continued, as Segrave without comment added five more golden guineas to Lambert's little hoard, "see how wise it was to stake a goodly sum ... That is the whole art of the game of primero ... to know just what to stake on each card in accordance with its value and the law of averages.... But you will learn in time, young man you will learn...."

"The game doth not appear to be vastly complicated," assented Lambert lightly.

"I have played primero on a system for years ..." quoth Lord Walterton sententiously, "but to-night ... hic ... by Gad! ... I cannot make the system work right ... hic!"

But already Segrave was dealing again. Lambert staked more coolly now. In his mind he had already set aside the original five guineas which came from his grandmother. With strange ease and through no merit of his own, yet perfectly straightforwardly and honestly, he had become the owner of another five; these he felt more justified in risking on the hazard of the game.

But the goddess of Fortune smiling benignly on this country-bred lad, had in a wayward mood apparently taken him under her special protection. He staked and won again, and then again pleased at his success ... in spite of himself feeling the subtle poison of excitement creeping into his veins ... yet remaining perfectly calm outwardly the while.

Segrave, on the other hand, was losing in exact proportion to the newcomer's winnings: already his pile of gold had perceptibly diminished, whilst the hectic flush on his cheeks became more and more accentuated, the glitter in his eyes more unnatural and feverish, his hands as they shuffled and dealt the cards more trembling and febrile.

"'Pon my honor," quoth Sir Marmaduke, throwing a careless glance at the table, "meseems you are in luck, my good Lambert. Doubtless, you are not sorry now that you allowed yourself to be persuaded."

"'Tis not unpleasant to win," rejoined Lambert lightly, "but believe me, sir, the game itself gives me no pleasure."

"I pay knave and upwards," declared Segrave in a dry and hollow voice, and with burning eyes fixed upon his new and formidable opponent.

"My last sovereign, par Dieu!" swore Lord Walterton, throwing the money across to Segrave with an unsteady hand.

"And one of my last," said Sir Michael, as he followed suit.

"And what is your stake, Master Lambert?" queried Segrave.

"Twenty pounds I see," replied the young man, as with a careless hand he counted over the gold which lay pell-mell on his card; "I staked on the king without counting."

Segrave in his turn pushed some gold towards him. The pile in front of him was not half the size it had been before this stranger from the country had sat down to play. He tried to remain master of himself, not to show before these egotistical, careless cavaliers all the agony of mind which he now endured and which had turned to positive physical torture.

The ghost of stolen money, of exposure, of pillory and punishment which had so perceptibly paled as he saw the chance of replacing by his unexpected winnings that which he had purloined, once more rose to confront him. Again he saw before him the irascible employer, pointing with relentless finger at the deficiency in the accounts, again he saw his weeping mother, his stern father,—the disgrace, the irretrievable past.

"You are not leaving off playing, Sir Michael?" he asked anxiously, as the latter having handed him over a golden guinea, rose from the table and without glancing at his late partners in the game, turned his back on them all.

"Par Dieu!" he retorted, speaking roughly, and none too civilly over his shoulder, "my pockets are empty.... Like Master Lambert here," he added with an unmistakable sneer, "I find no pleasure in this sort of game!"

"What do you mean?" queried Segrave hotly.

"Oh, nothing," rejoined the other dryly, "you need not heed my remark. Are you not losing, too?"

"What does he mean?" said Lambert with a puzzled frown, instinctively turning to his employer.

"Naught! naught! my good Lambert," replied Sir Marmaduke, dropping his voice to a whisper. "Sir Michael Isherwood hath lost more than he can afford and is somewhat choleric of temper, that is all."

"And in a little quiet game, my good young friend," added Endicott, also in a whisper, "'tis wisest to take no heed of a loser's vapors."

"I pay ace only!" quoth Segrave triumphantly, who in the meanwhile had continued the game.

Lord Walterton swore a loud and prolonged oath. He had staked five guineas on a king and had lost.

"Ventre-saint-gris, and likewise par le sang-bleu!" he said, "the first time I have had a king! Segrave, ye must leave me these few little yellow toys, else I cannot pay for my lodgings to-night.... I'll give you a bill ... but I've had enough of this, by Gad!"

And somewhat sobered, though still unsteady, he rose from the table.

"Surely, my lord, you are not leaving off, too?" asked Segrave.

"Nay! ... how can I continue?" He turned his breeches pockets ostentatiously inside out. "Behold, friend, these two beautiful and innocent little dears!"

"You can give me more bills ..." urged Segrave, "and you lose ... you may not lose after this ... 'tis lucky to play on credit ... and ... and your bills are always met, my lord ..."

He spoke with feverish volubility, though his throat was parched and every word he uttered caused him pain. But he was determined that the game should proceed.

He had won a little of his own back again the last few rounds. Certainly his luck would turn once more. His luck must turn once more, or else ...

"Nay! nay! I've had enough," said Lord Walterton, nodding a heavy head up and down, "there are too many of my bills about as it is.... I've had enough."

"Methinks, of a truth," said Lambert decisively, "that the game has indeed lasted long enough.... And if some other gentleman would but take my place ..."

He made a movement as if to rise from the table, but was checked by a harsh laugh and a peremptory word from Segrave.

"Impossible," said the latter, "you, Master Lambert, cannot leave off in any case.... My lord ... another hand ..." he urged again.

"Nay! nay! my dear Segrave," replied Lord Walterton, shaking himself like a sleepy dog, "the game hath ceased to have any pleasure for me, as our young friend here hath remarked.... I wish you good luck ... and good-night."

Whereupon he turned on his heel and straddled away to another corner of the room, away from the temptation of that green-covered table.

"We two then, Master Lambert," said Segrave with ever-growing excitement, "what say you? Double or quits?"

And he pointed, with that same febrile movement of his, to the heap of gold standing on the table beside Lambert.

"As you please," replied the latter quietly, as he pushed the entire pile forward.

Segrave dealt, then turned up his card.

"Ten!" he said curtly.

"Mine is a knave," rejoined Lambert.

"How do we stand?" queried the other, as with a rapid gesture he passed a trembling hand over his burning forehead.

"Methinks you owe me a hundred pounds," replied Richard, who seemed strangely calm in the very midst of this inexplicable and volcanic turmoil which he felt was seething all round him. He had won a hundred pounds—a fortune in those days for a country lad like himself; but for the moment the thought of what that hundred pounds would mean to him and to his brother Adam, was lost in the whirl of excitement which had risen to his head like wine.

He had steadily refused the glasses of muscadel or sack which Mistress Endicott had insinuatingly and persistently been offering him, ever since he began to play; yet he felt intoxicated, with strange currents of fire which seemed to run through his veins.

The subtle poison had done its work. Any remorse which he may have felt at first, for thus acting against his own will and better judgment, and for yielding like a weakling to persuasion, which had no moral rectitude for basis, was momentarily smothered by the almost childish delight of winning, of seeing the pile of gold growing in front of him. He had never handled money before; it was like a fascinating yet insidious toy which he could not help but finger.

"Are you not playing rather high, gentlemen?" came in dulcet tones from Mistress Endicott; "I do not allow high play in my house. Master Lambert, I would fain ask you to cease."

"I am more than ready, madam," said Richard with alacrity.

"Nay! but I am not ready," interposed Segrave vehemently. "Nay! nay!" he repeated with feverish insistence, "Master Lambert cannot cease playing now. He is bound in honor to give me a chance for revenge.... Double or quits, Master Lambert! ... Double or quits?"

"As you please," quoth Lambert imperturbably.

"Ye cannot cut to each other," here interposed Endicott didactically. "The rules of primero moreover demand that if there are but two players, a third and disinterested party shall deal the cards."

"Then will you cut and deal, Master Endicott," said Segrave impatiently; "I care not so long as I can break Master Lambert's luck and redeem mine own.... Double or quits, Master Lambert.... Double or quits.... I shall either owe you two hundred pounds or not one penny.... In which case we can make a fresh start...."

Lambert eyed him with curiosity, sympathetically too, for the young man was in a state of terrible mental agitation, whilst he himself felt cooler than before.

Endicott dealt each of the two opponents a card face downwards, but even as he did so, the one which he had dealt to Lambert fluttered to the ground.

He stooped and picked it up.

Segrave's eyes at the moment were fixed on his own card, Lambert's on the face of his opponent. No one else in the room was paying any attention to the play of the two young men, for everyone was busy with his own affairs. Play was general, the hour late. The wines had been heady, and all tempers were at fever pitch.

No one, therefore, was watching Endicott's movements at the moment when he ostensibly stooped to pick up the fallen card.

"It is not faced," he said, "what shall we do?"

"Give it to Master Lambert forsooth," quoth Mistress Endicott, "'tis unlucky to re-deal ... providing," she added artfully, "that Master Segrave hath no objection."

"Nay! nay!" said the latter. "Begad! why should we stop the game for a trifle?"

Then as Lambert took the card from Endicott and casually glanced at it, Segrave declared:

"Queen!"

"King!" retorted Lambert, with the same perfect calm. "King of diamonds ... that card has been persistently faithful to me to-night."

"The devil himself hath been faithful to you, Master Lambert ..." said Segrave tonelessly, "you have the hell's own luck.... What do I pay you now?"

"It was double or quits, Master Segrave," rejoined Lambert, "which brings it up to two hundred pounds.... You will do me the justice to own that I did not seek this game."

In his heart he had already resolved not to make use of his own winnings. Somehow as in a flash of intuition he perceived the whole tragedy of dishonor and of ruin which seemed to be writ on his opponent's face. He understood that what he had regarded as a toy—welcome no doubt, but treacherous for all that—was a matter of life or death—nay! more mayhap to that pallid youth, with the hectic flush, the unnaturally bright eyes and trembling hands.

There was silence for a while round the green-topped table, whilst thoughts, feelings, presentiments of very varied kinds congregated there. With Endicott and his wife, and also with Sir Marmaduke, it was acute tension, the awful nerve strain of anticipation. The seconds for them seemed an eternity, the obsession of waiting was like lead on their brains.

During that moment of acute suspense Richard Lambert was quietly co-ordinating his thoughts.

With that one mental flash-light which had shown up to him the hitherto unsuspected tragedy, the latent excitement in him had vanished. He saw his own weakness in its true light, despised himself for having yielded, and looked upon the heap of gold before him as so much ill-gotten wealth, which it would be a delight to restore to the hand from whence it came.

He heartily pitied the young man before him, and was forming vague projects of how best to make him understand in private and without humiliation that the money which he had lost would be returned to him in full. Strangely enough he was still holding in his hand that king of diamonds which Endicott had dealt to him.



CHAPTER XIX

DISGRACE

Segrave, too, had been silent, of course. In his mind there was neither suspense nor calm. It was utter, dull and blank despair which assailed him, the ruin of his fondest hopes, an awful abyss of disgrace, of punishment, of death at best, which seemed to yawn before him from the other side of the baize-covered table.

Instinct—that ever-present instinct of self-control peculiar to the gently-bred race of mankind—caused him to make frantic efforts to keep himself and his nerves in check. He would—even at this moment of complete ruin—have given the last shreds of his worldly possessions to be able to steady the febrile movements of his hand.

The pack of cards was on the table, just as Endicott had put it down, after dealing, with the exception of the queen of hearts in front of Segrave and the lucky king of diamonds on which Lambert was still mechanically gazing.

He was undoubtedly moved by the desire to hide the trembling of his hands and the gathering tears in his eyes when he began idly to scatter the pack upon the table, spreading out the cards, fingering them one by one, setting his teeth the while lest that latent cry of misery should force its way across his lips.

Suddenly he paused in this idle fingering of the cards. His eyes which already were burning with hot tears, seemed to take on an almost savage glitter. A hoarse cry escaped his parched lips.

"In the name of Heaven, Master Segrave, what ails you?" cried Endicott with well-feigned concern.

Segrave's hand wandered mechanically to his own neck; he tugged at the fastening of his lace collar, as if, in truth, he were choking.

"The king.... The king of diamonds," he murmured in a hollow voice. "Two ... two kings of diamonds...."

He laughed, a long, harsh laugh, the laugh of a maniac, or of a man possessed, whilst one long thin finger pointed tremblingly to the card still held by Richard Lambert, and then to its counterpart in the midst of the scattered pack.

That laugh seemed to echo all round the room. Dames and cavaliers, players and idlers, looked up to see whence that weird sound had come. Instinctively the crowd drew nigh, dice and cards were pushed aside. Some strange drama was being enacted between two young men, more interesting even than the caprices of Fortune.

But already Endicott and also Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse had followed the beckonings of Segrave's feverish hand.

There could be no mistake in what they saw nor yet in the ominous consequences which it foretold. There was a king of diamonds in the scattered pack of cards upon the table, and yet the card which Lambert held, in consequence of which he had just won two hundred pounds, was also the king of diamonds.

"Two kings of diamonds ... by all that's damnable!" quoth Lord Walterton, who had been the first to draw nigh.

"But in Heaven's name, what does it all mean?" exclaimed Lambert, gazing at the two cards, hearing the comments round him, yet utterly unable to understand.

Segrave jumped to his feet.

"It means, young man," he ejaculated in a wild state of frenzy, maddened by his losses, his former crime, his present ruin, "it means that you are a damned thief."

And with frantic, excited gesture he gathered up the cards and threw them violently into Richard Lambert's face.

A curious sound went round the room—a gasp, hardly a cry—and all those present held their breath, silent, appalled at the terrible tragedy expressed by these two young men standing face to face on the brink of a deathly and almost blasphemous conflict.

Mistress Endicott was the first to utter a cry.

"Silence! silence!" she shouted shrilly. "Master Segrave, I adjure you to be silent.... I'll not permit you to insult my guest."

Already Lambert had made a quick movement to throw himself on Segrave. The elemental instinct of self-defense, of avenging a terrible insult by physical violence, rose within him, whispering of strength and power, of the freedom, muscle-giving life of the country as against the enervating, weakening influence of the town.

He knew that in a hand-to-hand struggle with the feverish, emaciated townsman, he, the country-bred lad, the haunter of woods and cliffs, the dweller of the Thanet smithy, would be more than a match for his opponent. But even as his whole body stiffened for a spring, his muscles tightened and his fists clenched, a dozen restraining hands held him back from his purpose, whilst Mistress Endicott's shrill tones seemed to bring him back to the realities of his own peril.

"Mistress Endicott," he said, turning a proud, yet imploring look to the lady whose virtues had been so loudly proclaimed in his ears, "Madam, I appeal to you ... I implore you to listen ... a frightful insult which you have witnessed ... an awful accusation on which I scarce can trust myself to dwell has been hurled at me.... I entreat you to allow me to challenge these two gentlemen to explain."

And he pointed both to Segrave and to Endicott, The former, after his mad outburst of ungovernable rage, had regained a certain measure of calm. He stood, facing Lambert, with arms folded across his chest, whilst a smile of insulting irony curled his thin lips.

Endicott's eyes seemed to be riveted on Lambert's breast.

At mention of his own name, he suddenly darted forward, and seemed to be plunging his hand—the hand which almost disappeared within the ample folds of the voluminous lace cuff—into the breast pocket of the young man's doublet.

His movements were so quick, so sure and so unexpected that no one—least of all Lambert—could possibly guess what was his purpose.

The next moment—less than a second later—he had again withdrawn his hand, but now everyone could see that he held a few cards in it. These he dropped with an exclamation of loathing and contempt upon the table, whilst those around, instinctively drew back a step or two as if fearful of coming in contact with something impure and terrible.

Endicott's movements, his quick gestures, well aided by the wide lace cuffs which fell over his hand, his exclamation of contempt, had all contributed to make it seem before the spectators as if he had found a few winning cards secreted inside the lining of Richard Lambert's doublet.

"Nay! young sir," he said with an evil sneer, "meseems that explanations had best come from you. Here," he added, pointing significantly at the cards which he had just dropped out of his own hand, "here is a vastly pleasing collection ... aces and kings ... passing serviceable in a quiet game of primero among friends."

Lambert had been momentarily dumfounded, for undoubtedly he had not perceived Endicott's treacherous movements, and had absolutely no idea whence had come those awful cards which somehow or other seemed to be convicting him of lying and cheating: so conscious was he of his own innocence, that never for a moment did the slightest fear cross his mind that he could not immediately make clear his own position, and proclaim his own integrity.

"This is an infamous plot," he said calmly, but very firmly. "Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse," he added, turning to face his employer, who still stood motionless and silent in the background, "in the name of Heaven I beg of you to explain to these gentlemen that you have known me from boyhood. Will you speak?" he added insistently, conscious of a strange tightening of his heartstrings as the man on whom he relied, remained impassive and made no movement to come to his help. "Will you tell them, I pray you, sir, that you know me to be a man of honor, incapable of such villainy as they suggest? ... You know that I did not even wish to play ..."

"That reluctance of yours, my good Lambert, seems to have been a pretty comedy forsooth," replied Sir Marmaduke lightly, "and you played to some purpose, meseems, when you once began.... Nay! I pray you," he added with unmitigated harshness, "do not drag me into your quarrels.... I cannot of a truth champion your virtue."

Lambert's cheeks became deathly pale. The first inkling of the deadly peril of his own situation had suddenly come to him with Sir Marmaduke's callous words. It seemed to him as if the very universe must stand still in the face of such treachery. The man whom he loved with all the fervor of a grateful nature, the man who knew him and whom he had wholly trusted, was proving his most bitter, most damning enemy.

After Sir Marmaduke's speech, his own employer's repudiation, he felt that all his chances of clearing his character before these sneering gentlemen had suddenly vanished.

"This is cruel, and infamous," he protested, conscious innocence within him still striving to fight a hard battle against overwhelming odds. "Gentlemen! ... as I am a man of honor, I swear that I do not know what all this means!"

"It means, young man, that you are an accursed cheat ... a thief ... a liar!" shouted Segrave, whose last vestige of self-control suddenly vanished, whilst mad frenzy once more held him in its grip. "I swear by God that you shall pay me for this!"

He threw himself with all the strength of a raving maniac upon Lambert, who for the moment was taken unawares, and yielded to the suddenness of the onslaught. But it was indeed a conflict 'twixt town and country, the simple life against nightly dissipations, the forests and cliffs of Thanet against the enervating atmosphere of the city.

After that first onrush, Lambert, with marvelous agility and quick knowledge of a hand-to-hand fight, had shaken himself free of his opponent's trembling grasp. It was his turn now to have the upper hand, and in a trice he had, with a vigorous clutch, gripped his opponent by the throat.

In a sense, his calmness had not forsaken him, his mind was as quiet, as clear as heretofore; it was only his muscle—his bodily energy in the face of a violent and undeserved attack—which had ceased to be under his control.

"Man! man!" he murmured, gazing steadily into the eyes of his antagonist, "ye shall swallow those words—or by Heaven I will kill you!"

The tumult which ensued drowned everything save itself ... everything, even the sound of that slow and measured tramp, tramp, tramp, which was wafted up from the street.

The women shouted, the men swore. Some ran like frightened sheep to the distant corners of the room, fearful lest they be embroiled in this unpleasant fracas ... others crowded round Segrave and Lambert, trying to pacify them, to drag the strong youth away from his weaker opponent—almost his victim now.

Some were for forcibly separating them, others for allowing them to fight their own battles and loud-voiced arguments, subsidiary quarrels, mingled with the shrill cries of terror and caused a din which grew in deafening intensity, degenerating into a wild orgy as glasses were knocked off the tables, cards strewn about, candles sent flying and spluttering upon the ground.

And still that measured tramp down the street, growing louder, more distinct, a muffled "Halt!" the sound of arms, of men moving about beneath that yawning archway and along the dark and dismal passage with its hermetically closed front door.



CHAPTER XX

MY LORD PROTECTOR'S PATROL

Alone, Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse had taken no part in the confused turmoil which raged around the personalities of Segrave and Richard Lambert. From the moment that he had—with studied callousness—turned his back on his erstwhile protege he had held aloof from the crowd which had congregated around the two young men.

He saw before him the complete success of his nefarious plan, which had originated in the active brain of Editha, but had been perfected in his own—of heaping dire and lasting disgrace on the man who had become troublesome and interfering of late, who was a serious danger to his more important schemes.

After the fracas of this night Richard Lambert forsooth could never show his face within two hundred miles of London, the ugly story of his having cheated at cards and been publicly branded as a liar and a thief by a party of gentlemen would of a surety penetrate even within the fastnesses of Thanet.

So far everything was for the best, nay, it might be better still, for Segrave enraged and maddened at his losses, might succeed in getting Lambert imprisoned for stealing, and cheating, even at the cost of his own condemnation to a fine for gambling.

The Endicotts had done their part well. The man especially, with his wide cuffs and his quick movements. No one there present could have the slightest doubt but that Lambert was guilty. Satisfied, therefore, that all had gone according to his own wishes, Sir Marmaduke withdrew from further conflict or argument with the unfortunate young man, whom he had so deliberately and so hopelessly ruined.

And because he thus kept aloof, his ears were not so completely filled with the din, nor his mind so wholly engrossed by the hand-to-hand struggle between the two young men, that he did not perceive that other sound, which, in spite of barred windows and drawn curtains, came up from the street below.

At first he had only listened carelessly to the measured tramp. But the cry of "Halt!" issuing from immediately beneath the windows caused his cheeks to blanch and his muscles to stiffen with a sudden sense of fear.

He cast a rapid glance all around. Segrave and Lambert—both flushed and panting—were forcibly held apart. Sir Marmaduke noted with a grim smile that the latter was obviously the center of a hostile group, whilst Segrave was surrounded by a knot of sympathizers who were striving outwardly to pacify him, whilst in reality urging him on through their unbridled vituperations directed against the other man.

The noise of arguments, of shrill voices, of admonitions and violent abuse had in no sense abated.

Over the sea of excited faces Sir Marmaduke caught the wide-open, terrified eyes of Editha de Chavasse.

She too, had heard.

He beckoned to her across the room with a slight gesture of the hand, and she obeyed the silent call as quickly as she dared, working her way round to him, without arousing the attention of the crowd.

"Do not lose your head," he whispered as soon as she was near him and seeing the wild terror expressed in every line of her face. "Slip into the next room ... and leave the door ajar.... Do this as quietly as may be ... now ... at once ... then wait there until I come."

Again she obeyed him silently and swiftly, for she knew what that cry of "Halt!" meant, uttered at the door of her house. She had heard it, even as Sir Marmaduke had done, and after it the peremptory knocks, the loud call, the word of command, followed by the sound of an awed and supplicating voice, entering a feeble protest.

She knew what all that meant, and she was afraid.

As soon as Sir Marmaduke saw that she had done just as he had ordered, he deliberately joined the noisy groups which were congregated around Segrave and Lambert.

He pushed his way forward and anon stood face to face with the young man on whom he had just wreaked such an irreparable wrong. Not a thought of compunction or remorse rose in his mind as he looked down at the handsome flushed face—quite calm and set outwardly in spite of the terrible agony raging within heart and mind.

"Lambert!" he said gruffly, "listen to me.... Your conduct hath been most unseemly.... Mistress Endicott has for my sake, already shown you much kindness and forbearance ... Had she acted as she had the right to do, she would have had you kicked out of the house by her servants.... In your own interests now I should advise you to follow me quietly out of the house...."

But this suggestion raised a hot protest on the part of all the spectators.

"He shall not go!" declared Segrave violently.

"Not without leaving behind him what he has deliberately stolen," commented Endicott, raising his oily voice above the din.

Lambert had waited patiently, whilst his employer spoke. The last remnant of that original sense of deference and of gratitude caused him to hold himself in check lest he should strike that treacherous coward in the face. Sir Marmaduke's callousness in the face of his peril and unmerited disgrace, had struck Lambert with an overwhelming feeling of disappointment and loneliness. But his cruel insults now quashed despair and roused dormant indignation to fever pitch. One look at Sir Marmaduke's sneering face had told him not only that he could expect no help from the man who—by all the laws of honor—should have stood by him in his helplessness, but that he was the fount and source, the instigator of the terrible wrong and injustice which was about to land an innocent man in the veriest abyss of humiliation and irretrievable disgrace.

"And so this was your doing, Sir Marmaduke de Chavasse," he said, looking his triumphant enemy boldly in the face, even whilst compelling silent attention from those who were heaping opprobrious epithets upon him. "You enticed me here.... You persuaded me to play, ... Then you tried to rob me of mine honor, of my good name, the only valuable assets which I possess.... Hell and all its devils alone know why you did this thing, but I swear before God that your hideous crime shall not remain unpunished...."

"Silence!" commanded Sir Marmaduke, who was the first to perceive the strange, almost supernatural, effect produced on all those present, by the young man's earnestness, his impressive calm. Segrave himself stood silent and abashed, whilst everyone listened, unconsciously awed by that unmistakable note of righteousness which somehow rang through Lambert's voice.

"Nay! but I'll not be silent," quoth Richard unperturbed. "I have been condemned ... and I have the right to speak.... You have disgraced me ... and I have the right to defend mine honor ... by protesting mine innocence.... And now I will leave this house," he added loudly and firmly, "for it is accursed and infamous ... but God is my witness that I leave it without a stain upon my soul...."

He pointed to the fateful table whereon a pile of gold lay scattered in an untidy heap, with the tiny leather wallet containing his five guineas conspicuously in its midst.

"There lies the money," he said, speaking directly to Segrave, "take it, sir, for I had never the intention to touch a penny of it.... This I swear by all that I hold most sacred.... Take it without fear or remorse—even though you thought such evil things of me ... and let him who still thinks me a thief, repeat it now to my face—an he dare!"

Even as the last of his loudly uttered words resounded through the room, there was a loud knock at the door, and a peremptory voice commanded:

"Open! in the name of His Highness, the Lord Protector of England!"

In the dead silence that followed, the buzz of a fly, the spluttering of wax candles, could be distinctly heard.

In a moment with the sound of that peremptory call outside, tumultuous passions seemed to sink to rest, every cheek paled, and masculine hands instinctively sought the handles of swords whilst lace handkerchiefs were hastily pressed to trembling lips, in order to smother the cry of terror which had risen to feminine throats.

"Open! in the name of His Highness, the Lord Protector of England."

Mistress Endicott was the color of wax, her husband was gripping her wrist with a clutch of steel, trying, through the administration of physical pain, to keep alive her presence of mind.

And for the third time came the loud summons:

"Open! in the name of His Highness the Lord, Protector of England!"

Still that deathly silence in the room, broken only now by the firm step of Endicott, who went to open the door.

Resistance had been worse than useless. The door would have yielded at the first blow. There was a wailing, smothered cry from a dozen terrified throats, and a general rush for the inner room. But this door now was bolted and barred, Sir Marmaduke—unperceived—had slipped quickly within, even whilst everyone held his breath in the first moment of paralyzed terror.

Had there been time, there would doubtless have ensued a violent attack against that locked door, but already a man in leather doublet and wearing a steel cap and collar had peremptorily pushed Endicott aside, who was making a futile effort to bar the way, after he had opened the door.

This man now advanced into the center of the room, whilst a couple of soldierly-looking, stalwart fellows remained at attention on the threshold.

"Let no one attempt to leave this room," he commanded. "Here, Bradden," he added, turning back to his men, "take Pyott with you and search that second room there ... then seize all those cards and dice and also that money."

It was not likely that these hot-headed cavaliers would submit thus quietly to an arbitrary act of confiscation and of arrest. Hardly were the last words out of the man's mouth than a dozen blades flashed out of their scabbards.

The women screamed, and like so many frightened hens, ran into the corner of the room furthest out of reach of my Lord Protector's police-patrol, the men immediately forming a bulwark in front of them.

The whole thing was not very heroic perhaps. A few idlers caught in an illicit act and under threat of arrest. The consequences—of a truth—would not be vastly severe for the frequenters of this secret club; fines mayhap, which most of those present could ill afford to pay, and at worst a night's detention in one of those horrible wooden constructions which had lately been erected on the river bank for the express purpose of causing sundry lordly offenders to pass an uncomfortable night.

These were days of forcible levelings: and my lord who had contravened old Noll's laws against swearing and gambling, fared not one whit better than the tramp who had purloined a leg of mutton from an eating-house.

Nay! in a measure my lord fared a good deal worse, for he looked upon his own detention through the regicide usurper's orders, as an indignity to himself; hence the reason why in this same house wherein a few idle scions of noble houses indulged in their favorite pastime, when orders rang out in the name of His Highness, swords jumped out of their sheaths, and resistance was offered out of all proportion to the threat.

The man who seemed to be the captain of the patrol smiled somewhat grimly when he saw himself confronted by this phalanx of gentlemanly weapons. He was a tall, burly fellow, broad of shoulder and well-looking in his uniform of red with yellow facings; his round bullet-shaped head, covered by the round steel cap, was suggestive of obstinacy, even of determination.

He eyed the flushed and excited throng with some amusement not wholly unmixed with contempt. Oh! he knew some of the faces well enough by sight—for he had originally served in the train-bands of London, and had oft seen my Lord Walterton, for instance, conspicuous at every entertainment—now pronounced illicit by His Highness, and Sir Anthony Bridport, a constant frequenter at Exeter House, and young Lord Naythmire the son of the Judge. He also had certainly seen young Segrave before this, whose father had been a member of the Long Parliament; the only face that was totally strange to him was that of the youngster in the dark suit of grogram, who stood somewhat aloof from the irate crowd, and seemed to be viewing the scene with astonishment rather than with alarm.

Lord Walterton, flushed with wine, more than with anger, constituted himself the spokesman of the party:

"Who are you?" he asked somewhat unsteadily, "and what do you want?"

"My name is Gunning," replied the man curtly, "captain commanding His Highness' police. What I want is that you gentlemen offer no resistance, but come with me quietly to answer on the morrow before Judge Parry, a charge of contravening the laws against betting and gambling."

A ribald and prolonged laugh greeted this brief announcement, and some twenty pairs of gentlemanly shoulders were shrugged in token of derision.

"Hark at the man!" quoth Sir James Overbury lightly, "methinks, gentlemen, that our wisest course would be to put up our swords and to throw the fellows downstairs, what say you?"

"Aye! aye!" came in cheerful accents from the defiant little group.

"Out with you fellow, we've no time to waste in bandying words with ye ..." said Walterton, with the tone of one accustomed to see the churl ever cringe before the lord, "and let one of thy myrmidons touch a thing in this room if he dare!"

The young cavalier was standing somewhat in advance of his friends, having stepped forward in order to emphasize the peremptoriness of his words. The women were still in the background well protected by a phalanx of resolute defenders who, encouraged by the captain's silence and Walterton's haughty attitude, were prepared to force the patrol of police to beat a hasty retreat.

Endicott and his wife had seemed to think it prudent to keep well out of sight: the former having yielded to Gunning's advance had discreetly retired amongst the petticoats.

No one, least of all Walterton, who remained the acknowledged leader of the little party of gamesters, had any idea of the numerical strength of the patrol whose interference with gentlemanly pastimes was unwarrantable and passing insolent. In the gloom on the landing beyond, a knot of men could only be vaguely discerned. Captain Gunning and his lieutenant, Bradden, had alone advanced into the room.

But now apparently Gunning gave some sign, which Bradden then interpreted to the men outside. The sign itself must have been very slight for none of the cavaliers perceived it—certainly no actual word of command had been spoken, but the next moment—within thirty seconds of Walterton's defiant speech, the room itself, the doorway and apparently the landing and staircase too, were filled with men, each one attired in scarlet and yellow, all wearing leather doublets and steel caps, and all armed with musketoons which they were even now pointing straight at the serried ranks of the surprised and wholly unprepared gamesters.

"I would fain not give an order to fire," said Captain Gunning curtly, "and if you, gentlemen, will follow me quietly, there need be no bloodshed."

It may be somewhat unromantic but it is certainly prudent, to listen at times to the dictates of common sense, and one of wisdom's most cogent axioms is undoubtedly that it is useless to stand up before a volley of musketry at a range of less than twelve feet, unless a heroic death is in contemplation.

It was certainly very humiliating to be ordered about by a close-cropped Puritan, who spoke in nasal tones, and whose father probably had mended boots or killed pigs in his day, but the persuasion of twenty-four musketoons, whose muzzles pointed collectively in one direction, was bound—in the name of common sense—to prevail ultimately.

Of a truth, none of these gentlemen—who were now content to oppose a comprehensive vocabulary of English and French oaths to the brand-new weapons of my Lord Protector's police—were cowards in any sense of the word. Less than a decade ago they had proved their mettle not only sword in hand, but in the face of the many privations, sorrows and humiliations consequent on the failure of their cause and the defeat, and martyrdom of their king. There was, therefore, nothing mean or pusillanimous in their attitude when having exhausted their vocabulary of oaths and still seeing before them the muzzles of four-and-twenty musketoons pointed straight at them, they one after another dropped their sword points and turned to read in each other's faces uniform desire to surrender to force majeure.

The Captain watched them—impassive and silent—until the moment when he too, could discern in the sullen looks cast at him by some twenty pairs of eyes, that these elegant gentlemen had conquered their impulse to hot-headed resistance.

But the four-and-twenty musketoons were still leveled, nor did the round-headed Captain give the order to lower the firearms.

"I can release most of you, gentlemen, on parole," he said, "an you'll surrender your swords to me, you may go home this night, under promise to attend the Court to-morrow morning."

Bradden in the meanwhile had gone to the inner door and finding it locked had ordered his companion to break it open. It yielded to the first blow dealt with a vigorous shoulder. The lieutenant went into the room, but finding it empty, he returned and soon was busy in collecting the various "pieces de convictions," which would go to substantiate the charges of gambling and betting against these noble gentlemen. No resistance now was offered, and after a slight moment of hesitation and a brief consultation 'twixt the more prominent cavaliers there present, Lord Walterton stepped forward and having unbuckled his sword, threw it with no small measure of arrogance and disdain at the feet of Captain Gunning.

His example was followed by all his friends, Gunning with arms folded across his chest, watching the proceeding in silence. When Endicott stood before him, however, he said curtly:

"Not you, I think. Meseems I know you too well, fine sir, to release you on parole. Bradden," he added, turning to his lieutenant, "have this man duly guarded and conveyed to Queen's Head Alley to-night."

Then as Endicott tried to protest, and Gunning gave a sharp order for his immediate removal, Segrave pushed his way forward; he wore no sword, and like Lambert, had stood aloof throughout this brief scene of turbulent yet futile resistance, sullen, silent, and burning with a desire for revenge against the man who had turned the current of his luck, and brought him back to that abyss of despair, whence he now knew there could be no release.

"Captain," he said firmly, "though I wear no sword I am at one with all these gentlemen, and I accept my release on parole. To-morrow I will answer for my offense of playing cards, which apparently, is an illicit pastime. I am one of the pigeons who have been plucked in this house."

"By that gentleman?" queried Gunning with a grim smile and nodding over his shoulder in the direction where Endicott was being led away by a couple of armed men.

"No! not by him!" replied Segrave boldly.

With a somewhat theatrical gesture he pointed to Lambert, who, more of a spectator than a participant in the scene, had been standing mutely by outside the defiant group, absorbed in his own misery, wondering what effect the present unforeseen juncture would have on his future chances of rehabilitating himself.

He was also vaguely wondering what had become of Sir Marmaduke and Mistress de Chavasse.

But now Segrave's voice was raised, and once more Lambert found himself the cynosure of a number of hostile glances.

"There stands the man who has robbed us all," said Segrave wildly, "and now he has heaped disgrace upon us, upon me and mine.... Curse him! ... curse him, I say!" he continued, whilst all the pent-up fury, forcibly kept in check all this while by the advent of the police, now once more found vent in loud vituperation and almost maniacal expressions of rage. "Liar ... cheat! ... Look at him, Captain! there stands the man who must bear the full brunt of the punishment, for he is the decoy, he is the thief! ... The pillory for him ... the pillory ... the lash ... the brand! ... Curse him! ... Curse him! ... the thief! ..."

He was surrounded and forcibly silenced. The foam had risen to his lips, impotent fury and agonized despair had momentarily clouded his brain. Lambert tried to speak, but the Captain, unwilling to prolong a conflict over which he was powerless to arbitrate, gave a sign to Bradden and anon the two young men were led away in the wake of Endicott.

The others on giving their word that they would appear before the Court on the morrow, and answer to the charge preferred against them, were presently allowed to walk out of the room in single file between a double row of soldiers whose musketoons were still unpleasantly conspicuous.

Thus they passed out one by one, across the passage and down the dark staircase. The door below they found was also guarded; as well as the passage and the archway giving on the street.

Here they were permitted to collect or disperse at will. The ladies, however, had not been allowed to participate in the order for release. Gunning knew most of them by sight,—they were worthy neither of consideration nor respect,—paid satellites of Mistress Endicott's, employed to keep up the good spirits of that lady's clientele.

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