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The Path of the King
by John Buchan
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The jurist in him pulled up with a start. He was arguing against all his training.... But was the plea false? He had urged on Cromwell that the matter was one of policy. Agreed. But which was the politic road? If the King lost his head, there would beyond doubt be a sullen struggle ahead. Sooner or later the regicides would fall—of that he had no doubt. But what of the ultimate fate of England? They would have struck a blow against privilege which would never be forgotten. In future all kings would walk warily. In time the plain man might come to his own. In the long run was not this politic?

"'Tis a good thing my mouth is shut for some weeks," he told himself. "I am coming round to Ireton. I am no fit company for Oliver."

He mused a little on his inconstancy. It had not been a frequent occurrence in his life. But now he seemed to have got a sudden illumination, such as visited Cromwell in his prayers. He realised how it had come about. Hitherto he had ridden his thoughts unconsciously on the curb of caution, for a conclusion reached meant deeds to follow. But, with the possibility of deeds removed, his mind had been freed. What had been cloudy before now showed very bright, and the little lamp of reason he had once used was put out by an intolerable sunlight. He felt himself quickened to an unwonted poetry.... His whole outlook had changed, but the change brought no impulse to action. He submitted to be idle, since it was so fated. He was rather glad of it, for he felt weary and giddy in mind.

But the new thoughts once awakened ranged on their courses. To destroy the false kingship would open the way for the true. He was no leveller; he believed in kings who were kings in deed. The world could not do without its leaders. Oliver was such a one, and others would rise up. Why reverence a brocaded puppet larded by a priest with oil, when there were men who needed no robes or sacring to make them kingly? Teach the Lord's Anointed his mortality, and there would be hope in the years to come of a true anointing.

He turned to his daughter.

"I believe your night's work, Cis, has been a fortunate thing for our family."

She smiled and patted his hand, and at the moment with a great jolting the coach pulled up. Presently lanterns showed at the window, the door was opened, and Sir Anthony Colledge stood revealed in the driving snow. In the Chilterns it must have been falling for hours, for the road was a foot deep, and the wind had made great drifts among the beech boles. The lover looked somewhat sheepish as he swept a bow to his prisoner.

"You are a noted horse-doctor, sir," he said. "The off leader has gotten a colic. Will you treat him? Then I purpose to leave him with a servant in some near-by farm, and put a ridden horse in his place."

Mr. Lovel leaped from the coach as nimbly as his old wound permitted. It was true that the doctoring of horses was his hobby. He loved them and had a way with them.

The medicine box was got out of the locker and the party grouped round the grey Flemish horses, which stood smoking in the yellow slush. The one with the colic had its legs stretched wide; its flanks heaved and spasms shook its hindquarters. Mr. Lovel set to work and mixed which a dose of spiced oil and spirits which he coaxed down its throat. Then he very gently massaged certain corded sinews in its belly. "Get him under cover now, Tony," he said "and tell your man to bed him warm and give him a bucket of hot water strained from oatmeal and laced with this phial. In an hour he will be easy."

The beast was led off, another put in its place, and the postilions were cracking their whips, when out of the darkness a knot of mounted men rode into the lamplight. There were at least a dozen of them, and at their head rode a man who at the sight of Lovel pulled up sharp.

"Mr. Lovel!" he cried. "What brings you into these wilds in such weather? Can I be of service? My house is not a mile off."

"I thank you, Colonel Flowerdue, but I think the mischief is now righted. I go on a journey into Oxfordshire with my daughter, and the snow has delayed us."

He presented the young Parliament soldier, a cousin of Fairfax, to Cecily and Tony, the latter of whom eyed with disfavour the posse of grave Ironside troopers.

"You will never get to Wendover this night," said Flowerdue. "The road higher up is smothered four feet deep. See, I will show you a woodland road which the wind has kept clear, and I protest that your company sleep the night with me at Downing."

He would take no denial, and indeed in the face of his news to proceed would have been folly. Even Sir Anthony Colledge confessed it wryly. One of Flowerdue's men mounted to the postilion's place, and the coach was guided through a belt of beeches, and over a strip of heath to the gates of a park.

Cecily seized her father's hand. "You have promised, remember."

"I have promised," he replied. "To-morrow, if the weather clears, I will go with you to Chastlecote."

He spoke no more till they were at the house door, for the sense of fate hung over him like a cloud. His cool equable soul was stirred to its depths. There was surely a grim fore-ordering in this chain of incidents. But for the horse's colic there would have been no halt. But for his skill in horse doctoring the sick beast would have been cut loose, and Colonel Flowerdue's party would have met only a coach laboring through the snow and would not have halted to discover its occupants.... He was a prisoner bound by a promise, but this meeting with Flowerdue had opened up a channel to communicate with London and that was not forbidden. It flashed on him suddenly that the change of mind which he had suffered was no longer a private matter. He had now the power to act upon it.

He was extraordinarily averse to the prospect. Was it mere petulance that had swung round his opinions so violently during the journey? He examined himself and found his new convictions unshaken. It was what the hot-gospellers would call a "Holy Ghost conversion." Well, let it rest there. Why spread the news beyond his own home? There were doctors enough inspecting the health of the State. Let his part be to stand aside.

With something like fear he recognised that that part was no longer possible. He had been too directly guided by destiny to refuse the last stage. Cromwell was waiting on a providence, and of that providence it was clear that fate had made him the channel. In the coach he had surrendered himself willingly to an unseen direction, and now he dared not refuse the same docility. He, who for usual was ripe, balanced, mellow in judgment, felt at the moment the gloomy impulsion of the fanatic. He was only a pipe for the Almighty to sound through.

In the hall at Downing the logs were stirred to a blaze, and food and drink brought in a hospitable stir.

"I have a letter to write before I sleep," Mr. Lovel told his daughter. "I will pray from Colonel Flowerdue the use of his cabinet."

Cecily looked at him inquiringly, and he laughed.

"The posts at Chastlecote are infrequent, Cis, and I may well take the chance when it offers. I assure you I look forward happily to a month of idleness stalking Tony's mallards and following Tony's hounds."

In the cabinet he wrote half a dozen lines setting out simply the change in his views. "If I know Oliver," he told himself, "I have given him the sign he seeks. I am clear it is God's will, but Heaven help the land—Heaven help us all." Having written, he lay back in his chair and mused.

When Colonel Flowerdue entered he found a brisk and smiling gentleman, sealing a letter.

"Can you spare a man to ride express with this missive to town? It is for General Cromwell's private hand."

"Assuredly. He will start at once lest the storm worsens. It is business of State?"

"High business of State, and I think the last I am likely to meddle with."

Mr. Lovel had taken from his finger a thick gold ring carved with a much-worn cognisance. He held it up in the light of the candle.

"This thing was once a king's," he said. "As the letter touches the affairs of his Majesty, I think it fitting to seal it with a king's signet."



CHAPTER 10. THE MARPLOT

At a little after six o'clock on the evening of Saturday, 12th October, in the year 1678, the man known commonly as Edward Copshaw came to a halt opposite the narrow entry of the Savoy, just west of the Queen's palace of Somerset House. He was a personage of many names. In the register of the Benedictine lay-brothers he had been entered as James Singleton. Sundry Paris tradesmen had known him as Captain Edwards, and at the moment were longing to know more of him. In a certain secret and tortuous correspondence he figured as Octavius, and you may still read his sprawling script in the Record Office. His true name, which was Nicholas Lovel, was known at Weld House, at the White Horse Tavern, and the town lodgings of my lords Powis and Bellasis, but had you asked for him by that name at these quarters you would have been met by a denial of all knowledge. For it was a name which for good reasons he and his patrons desired to have forgotten.

He was a man of not yet forty, furtive, ill-looking and lean to emaciation. In complexion he was as swarthy as the King, and his feverish black eyes were set deep under his bushy brows. A badly dressed peruke concealed his hair. His clothes were the remnants of old finery, well cut and of good stuff, but patched and threadbare. He wore a sword, and carried a stout rustic staff. The weather was warm for October, and the man had been walking fast, for, as he peered through the autumn brume into the dark entry, he mopped his face with a dirty handkerchief.

The exercise had brought back his ailment and he shivered violently. Punctually as autumn came round he had these fevers, the legacy of a year once spent in the Pisan marshes. He had doped himself with Jesuits' powder got from a woman of Madame Carwell's, so that he was half deaf and blind. Yet in spite of the drug the fever went on burning.

But to anyone looking close it would have seemed that he had more to trouble him than a malarial bout. The man was patently in an extreme terror. His lantern-jaw hung as loose as if it had been broken. His lips moved incessantly. He gripped savagely at his staff, and next moment dropped it. He fussed with the hilt of his sword.... He was a coward, and yet had come out to do murder.

It had taken real panic to bring him to the point. Throughout his tattered life he had run many risks, but never a peril so instant as this. As he had followed his quarry that afternoon his mind had been full of broken memories. Bitter thoughts they were, for luck had not been kind to him. A childhood in cheap lodgings in London and a dozen French towns, wherever there was a gaming-table and pigeons for his father to pluck. Then drunken father and draggletailed mother had faded from the scene, and the boy had been left to a life of odd jobs and fleeting patrons. His name was against him, for long before he reached manhood the King had come back to his own, and his grandfather's bones had jangled on a Tyburn gibbet. There was no hope for one of his family, though Heaven knew his father had been a stout enough Royalist. At eighteen the boy had joined the Roman Church, and at twenty relapsed to the fold of Canterbury. But his bread-and-butter lay with Rome, and in his trade few questions were asked about creed provided the work were done. He had had streaks of fortune, for there had been times when he lay soft and ate delicately and scattered money. But nothing lasted. He had no sooner made purchase with a great man and climbed a little than the scaffolding fell from his feet. He thought meanly of human nature for in his profess he must cringe or snarl, always the undermost dog. Yet he had some liking for the priests, who had been kind to him, and there was always a glow in his heart for the pale wife who dwelt with his child in the attic in Billingsgate. Under happier circumstances Mr. Nicholas Lovel might have shone with the domestic virtues.

Business had been good of late, if that could ever be called good which was undertaken under perpetual fear. He had been given orders which took him into Whig circles, and had made progress among the group of the King's Head Tavern. He had even won an entrance into my Lord Shaftesbury's great house in Aldersgate Street. He was there under false colours, being a spy of the other camp, but something in him found itself at home among the patriots. A resolve had been growing to cut loose from his old employers and settle down among the Whigs in comparative honesty. It was the winning cause, he thought, and he longed to get his head out of the kennels.... But that had happened yesterday which scattered his fine dreams and brought him face to face with terror. God's curse on that ferrety Justice, Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey.

He had for some time had his eye on the man. The year before he had run across him in Montpelier, being then engaged in a very crooked business, and had fancied that the magistrate had also his eye on him. Taught by long experience to watch potential enemies, he had taken some trouble over the lean high-beaked dignitary. Presently he had found out curious things. The austere Protestant was a friend of the Duke's man, Ned Coleman, and used to meet him at Colonel Weldon's house. This hinted at blackmailable stuff in the magistrate, so Lovel took to haunting his premises in Hartshorn Lane by Charing Cross, but found no evidence which pointed to anything but a prosperous trade in wood and sea-coal. Faggots, but not the treasonable kind! Try as he might, he could-get no farther with that pillar of the magistracy, my Lord Danly's friend, the beloved of Aldermen. He hated his solemn face, his prim mouth, his condescending stoop. Such a man was encased in proof armour of public esteem, and he heeded Mr. Lovel no more than the rats in the gutter.

But the day before had come a rude awakening. All this talk of a Popish plot, discovered by the Salamanca Doctor, promised a good harvest to Mr. Lovel. He himself had much to tell and more to invent. Could he but manage it discreetly, he might assure his fortune with the Whigs and get to his feet at last. God knew it was time, for the household in the Billingsgate attic was pretty threadbare. His busy brain had worked happily on the plan. He would be the innocent, cursed from childhood with undesired companions, who would suddenly awaken in horror to the guilt of things he had not understood. There would be a welcome for a well-informed penitent.... But he must move slowly and at his own time.... And now he was being himself hustled into the dock, perhaps soon to the gallows.

For the afternoon before he had been sent for by Godfrey and most searchingly examined. He had thought himself the spy, when all the while he had been the spied upon. The accursed Justice knew everything. He knew a dozen episodes each enough to hang a poor man. He knew of Mr. Lovel's dealings with the Jesuits Walsh and Phayre, and of a certain little hovel in Battersea whose annals were not for the public ear. Above all, he knew of the great Jesuit consult in April at the Duke of York's house. That would have mattered little—indeed the revelation of it was part of Mr. Lovel's plans—but he knew Mr. Lovel s precise connection with it, and had damning evidence to boot. The spy shivered when he remembered the scene in Hartshorn Lane. He had blundered and stuttered and confessed his alarm by his confusion, while the Justice recited what he had fondly believed was known only to the Almighty and some few whose mortal interest it was to be silent.... He had been amazed that he had not been there and then committed to Newgate. He had not gone home that night, but wandered the streets and slept cold under a Mairylebone hedge. At first he had thought of flight, but the recollection of his household detained him. He would not go under. One pompous fool alone stood between him and safety—perhaps fortune. Long before morning he had resolved that Godfrey should die.

He had expected a difficult task, but lo! it was unbelievably easy. About ten o'clock that day he had found Sir Edmund in the Strand. He walked hurriedly as if on urgent business, and Lovel had followed him up through Covent Garden, across the Oxford road, and into the Marylebone fields. There the magistrate's pace had slackened, and he had loitered like a truant schoolboy among the furze and briars. His stoop had deepened, his head was sunk on his breast, his hands twined behind him.

Now was the chance for the murderer lurking in the brambles. It would be easy to slip behind and give him the sword-point. But Mr. Lovel tarried. It may have been compunction, but more likely it was fear. It was also curiosity, for the magistrate's face, as he passed Lovel's hiding-place, was distraught and melancholy. Here was another man with bitter thoughts—perhaps with a deadly secret. For a moment the spy felt a certain kinship.

Whatever the reason he let the morning go by. About two in the afternoon Godfrey left the fields and struck westward by a bridle-path that led through the Paddington Woods to the marshes north of Kensington. He walked slowly, but with an apparent purpose. Lovel stopped for a moment at the White House, a dirty little hedge tavern, to swallow a mouthful of ale, and tell a convincing lie to John Rawson, the innkeeper, in case it should come in handy some day. Then occurred a diversion. Young Mr. Forset's harriers swept past, a dozen riders attended by a ragged foot following. They checked by the path, and in the confusion of the halt Godfrey seemed to vanish. It was not till close on Paddington village that Mr. Lovel picked him up again. He was waiting for the darkness, for he knew that he could never do what he purposed in cold daylight. He hoped that the magistrate would make for Kensington, for that was a lonely path.

But Sir Edmund seemed to be possessed of a freakish devil. No sooner was he in Paddington than, after buying a glass of milk from a milk-woman, he set off citywards again by the Oxford road. Here there were many people, foot travellers and coaches, and Mr. Lovel began to fear for his chance. But at Tyburn Godfrey struck into the fields and presently was in the narrow lane called St. Martin's Hedges, which led to Charing Cross. Now was the occasion. The dusk was falling, and a light mist was creeping up from Westminster. Lovel quickened his steps, for the magistrate was striding at a round pace. Then came mischance. First one, then another of the Marylebone cow-keepers blocked the lane with their driven beasts. The place became as public as Bartholomew's Fair. Before he knew it he was at Charing Cross.

He was now in a foul temper. He cursed his weakness in the morning, when fate had given him every opportunity. He was in despair too. His case was hopeless unless he struck soon. If Godfrey returned to Hartshorn Lane he himself would be in Newgate on the morrow.... Fortunately the strange man did not seem to want to go home. He moved east along the Strand, Lovel a dozen yards behind him.

Out from the dark Savoy entry ran a woman, screaming, and with her hair flying. She seized on Godfrey and clutched his knees. There was a bloody fray inside, in which her husband fought against odds. The watch was not to be found. Would he, the great magistrate, intervene? The very sight of his famous face would quell riot.

Sir Edmund looked up and down the street, pinched his chin and peered down the precipitous Savoy causeway. Whatever the burden on his soul he did not forget his duty.

"Show me," he said, and followed her into the gloom.

Lovel outside stood for a second hesitating. His chance had come. His foe had gone of his own will into the place in all England where murder could be most safely done. But now that the moment had come at last, he was all of a tremble and his breath choked. Only the picture, always horribly clear in his mind, of a gallows dark against a pale sky and the little fire beneath where the entrails of traitors were burned—a nightmare which had long ridden him—nerved him to the next step. "His life or mine," he told himself, as he groped his way into a lane as steep, dank, and black as the sides of a well.

For some twenty yards he stumbled in an air thick with offal and garlic. He heard steps ahead, the boots of the doomed magistrate and the slipshod pattens of the woman. Then they stopped; his quarry seemed to be ascending a stair on the right. It was a wretched tenement of wood, two hundred years old, once a garden house attached to the Savoy palace. Lovel scrambled up some rickety steps and found himself on the rotten planks of a long passage, which was lit by a small window giving to the west. He heard the sound of a man slipping at the other end, and something like an oath. Then a door slammed violently, and the place shook. After that it was quiet. Where was the bloody fight that Godfrey had been brought to settle?

It was very dark there; the window in the passage was only a square of misty grey. Lovel felt eerie, a strange mood for an assassin. Magistrate and woman seemed to have been spirited away.... He plucked up courage and continued, one hand on the wall on his left. Then a sound broke the silence—a scuffle, and the long grate of something heavy dragged on a rough floor. Presently his fingers felt a door. The noise was inside that door. There were big cracks in the panelling through which an eye could look, but all was dark within. There were human beings moving there, and speaking softly. Very gingerly he tried the hasp, but it was fastened firm inside.

Suddenly someone in the room struck a flint and lit a lantern. Lovel set his eyes to a crack and stood very still. The woman had gone, and the room held three men. One lay on the floor with a coarse kerchief, such as grooms wear, knotted round his throat. Over him bent a man in a long coat with a cape, a man in a dark peruke, whose face was clear in the lantern's light. Lovel knew him for one Bedloe, a led-captain and cardsharper, whom he had himself employed on occasion. The third man stood apart and appeared from his gesticulations to be speaking rapidly. He wore his own sandy hair, and every line of his mean freckled face told of excitement and fear. Him also Lovel recognised—Carstairs, a Scotch informer who had once made a handsome living through spying on conventicles, but had now fallen into poverty owing to conducting an affair of Buckingham's with a brutality which that fastidious nobleman had not bargained for.... Lovel rubbed his eyes and looked again. He knew likewise the man on the floor. It was Sir Edmund Godfrey, and Sir Edmund Godfrey was dead.

The men were talking. "No blood-letting," said Bedloe "This must be a dry job. Though, by God, I wish I could stick my knife into him—once for Trelawney, once for Frewen, and a dozen times for myself. Through this swine I have festered a twelvemonth in Little Ease."

Lovel's first thought, as he stared, was an immense relief. His business had been done for him, and he had escaped the guilt of it. His second, that here lay a chance of fair profit. Godfrey was a great man, and Bedloe and Carstairs were the seediest of rogues. He might make favor for himself with the Government if he had them caught red-handed. It would help his status in Aldersgate Street.... But he must act at once or the murderers would be gone. He tiptoed back along the passage, tumbled down the crazy steps, and ran up the steep entry to where he saw a glimmer of light from the Strand.

At the gate he all but fell into the arms of a man—a powerful fellow, for it was like running against a brick wall. Two strong arms gripped Lovel by the shoulder, and a face looked into his. There was little light in the street, but the glow from the window of a Court perruquier was sufficient to reveal the features. Lovel saw a gigantic face, with a chin so long that the mouth seemed to be only half-way down it. Small eyes, red and fiery, were set deep under a beetling forehead. The skin was a dark purple, and the wig framing it was so white and fleecy that the man had the appearance of a malevolent black-faced sheep.

Lovel gasped, as he recognised the celebrated Salamanca Doctor. He was the man above all others whom he most wished to see.

"Dr. Oates!" he cried. "There's bloody work in the Savoy. I was passing through a minute agone and I saw that noble Justice, Sir Edmund Berry Godfrey, lie dead, and his murderers beside the body. Quick, let us get the watch and take them red-handed."

The big paws, like a gorilla's, were withdrawn from his shoulders. The purple complexion seemed to go nearly black, and the wide mouth opened as if to bellow. But the sound which emerged was only a whisper.

"By the maircy of Gaad we will have 'em!... A maist haarrid and unnaitural craime. I will take 'em with my own haands. Here is one who will help." And he turned to a man who had come up and who looked like a city tradesman. "Lead on, honest fellow, and we will see justice done. 'Tis pairt of the bloody Plaat.... I foresaw it. I warned Sir Edmund, but he flouted me. Ah, poor soul, he has paid for his unbelief."

Lovel, followed by Oates and the other whom he called Prance, dived again into the darkness. Now he had no fears. He saw himself acclaimed with the Doctor as the saviour of the nation, and the door of Aldersgate Street open at his knocking. The man Prance produced a lantern, and lighted them up the steps and into the tumbledown passage. Fired with a sudden valour, Lovel drew his sword and led the way to the sinister room. The door was open, and the place lay empty, save for the dead body.

Oates stood beside it, looking, with his bandy legs great shoulders, and bull neck, like some forest baboon.

"Oh, maist haunourable and noble victim!" he cried. "England will maarn you, and the spawn of Raam will maarn you, for by this deed they have rigged for thaimselves the gallows. Maark ye, Sir Edmund is the proto-martyr of this new fight for the Praatestant faith. He has died that the people may live, and by his death Gaad has given England the sign she required.... Ah, Prance, how little Tony Shaston will exult in our news! 'Twill be to him like a bone to a cur-dog to take his ainemies thus red-haanded."

"By your leave, sir," said Lovel, "those same enemies have escaped us. I saw them here five minutes since, but they have gone to earth. What say you to a hue-and-cry—though this Savoy is a snug warrin to hide vermin."

Oates seemed to be in no hurry. He took the lantern from Prance and scrutinised Lovel's face with savage intensity.

"Ye saw them, ye say.... I think, friend, I have seen ye before, and I doubt in no good quaarter. There's a Paapist air about you."

"If you have seen me, 'twas in the house of my Lord Shaftesbury, whom I have the honour to serve," said Lovel stoutly.

"Whoy, that is an haanest house enough. Whaat like were the villains, then? Jaisuits, I'll warrant? Foxes from St. Omer's airth?"

"They were two common cutthroats whose names I know."

"Tools, belike. Fingers of the Paape's hand.... Ye seem to have a good acquaintance among rogues, Mr. Whaat's-you-name."

The man Prance had disappeared, and Lovel suddenly saw his prospects less bright. The murderers were being given a chance to escape, and to his surprise he found himself in a fret to get after them. Oates had clearly no desire for their capture, and the reason flashed on his mind. The murder had come most opportunely for him, and he sought to lay it at Jesuit doors. It would ill suit his plans if only two common rascals were to swing for it. Far better let it remain a mystery open to awful guesses. Omne ignotum pro horrifico.... Lovel's temper was getting the better of his prudence, and the sight of this monstrous baboon with his mincing speech stirred in him a strange abhorrence.

"I can bear witness that the men who did the deed were no more Jesuits than you. One is just out of Newgate, and the other is a blackguard Scot late dismissed the Duke of Buckingham's service."

"Ye lie," and Oates' rasping voice was close to his ear. "'Tis an incraidible tale. Will ye outface me, who alone discovered the Plaat, and dispute with me on high poalicy?... Now I come to look at it, ye have a true Jaisuit face. I maind of ye at St. Omer. I judge ye an accoamplice..."

At that moment Prance returned and with him another, a man in a dark peruke, wearing a long coat with a cape. Lovel's breath went from him as he recognised Bedloe.

"There is the murderer," he cried in a sudden fury "I saw him handle the body. I charge you to hold him."

Bedloe halted and looked at Oates, who nodded. Then he strode up to Lovel and took him by the throat.

"Withdraw your words, you dog," he said, "or I will cut your throat. I have but this moment landed at the river stairs and heard of this horrid business. If you say you have ever seen me before you lie most foully. Quick, you ferret. Will Bedloe suffers no man to charge his honour."

The strong hands on his neck, the fierce eyes of the bravo, brought back Lovel's fear and with it his prudence. He saw very plainly the game, and he realised that he must assent to it. His contrition was deep and voluble.

"I withdraw," he stammered, "and humbly crave pardon. I have never seen this honest gentleman before."

"But ye saw this foul murder, and though the laight was dim ye saw the murderers, and they had the Jaisuitical air?"

Oates' menacing voice had more terror for Lovel than Bedloe's truculence. "Beyond doubt," he replied.

"Whoy, that is so far good," and the Doctor laughed. "Ye will be helped later to remember the names for the benefit of his Maajesty's Court.... 'Tis time we set to work. Is the place quiet?"

"As the grave, doctor," said Prance.

"Then I will unfold to you my pairpose. This noble magistrate is foully murdered by pairsons unknown as yet, but whom this haanest man will swear to have been disguised Jaisuits. Now in the sairvice of Goad and the King 'tis raight to pretermit no aiffort to bring the guilty to justice. The paiple of England are already roused to a holy fairvour, and this haarrid craime will be as the paistol flash to the powder caask. But that the craime may have its full effaict on the paapulace 'tis raight to take some trouble with the staging. 'Tis raight so to dispose of the boady that the complaicity of the Paapists will be clear to every doubting fool. I, Taitus Oates, take upon myself this responsibility, seeing that under Goad I am the chosen ainstrument for the paiple's salvation. To Soamersait Haase with it, say I, which is known for a haaunt of the paapistically-minded.... The postern ye know of is open, Mr. Prance?"

"I have seen to it," said the man, who seemed to conduct himself in this wild business with the decorum of a merchant in his shop.

"Up with him, then," said Oates.

Prance and Bedloe swung the corpse on their shoulders and moved out, while the doctor, gripping Lovel's arm like a vice, followed at a little distance.

The Savoy was very quiet that night, and very dark. The few loiterers who observed the procession must have shrugged their shoulders and turned aside, zealous only to keep out of trouble. Such sights were not uncommon in the Savoy. They entered a high ruinous house on the east side, and after threading various passages reached a door which opened on a flight of broken steps where it was hard for more than one to pass at a time. Lovel heard the carriers of the dead grunting as they squeezed up with their burden. At the top another door gave on an outhouse in the yard of Somerset House between the stables and the west water-gate.... Lovel, as he stumbled after them with Oates' bulk dragging at his arm, was in a confusion of mind such as his mean time-serving life had never known.

He was in mortal fear, and yet his quaking heart would suddenly be braced by a gust of anger. He knew he was a rogue, but there were limits to roguery, and something in him—conscience, maybe, or forgotten gentility—sickened at this outrage. He had an impulse to defy them, to gain the street and give the alarm to honest men. These fellows were going to construct a crime in their own way which would bring death to the innocent.... Mr. Lovel trembled at himself, and had to think hard on his family in the Billingsgate attic to get back to his common-sense. He would not be believed if he spoke out. Oates would only swear that he was the culprit, and Oates had the ear of the courts and the mob. Besides, he had too many dark patches in his past. It was not for such as he to be finicking.

The body was pushed under an old truckle-bed which stood in the corner, and a mass of frails, such as gardeners use, flung over it for concealment. Oates rubbed his hands.

"The good work goes merrily," he said. "Sir Edmund dead, and for a week the good fawk of London are a-fevered. Then the haarrid discovery, and such a Praatestant uprising as will shake the maightiest from his pairch. Wonderful are Goad's ways and surprising His jaidgements! Every step must be weighed, since it is the Laard's business. Five days we must give this city to grow uneasy, and then ... The boady will be safe here?"

"I alone have the keys," said Prance.

The doctor counted on his thick fingers. "Monday—Tuesday—Waidnesday—aye, Waidneday's the day. Captain Bedloe, ye have chairge of the removal. Before dawn by the water-gate, and then a chair and a trusty man to cairry it to the plaace of discovery. Ye have appainted the spoat?"

"Any ditch in the Marylebone fields," said Bedloe.

"And before ye remove it—on the Tuesday naight haply—ye will run the boady through with his swaard—Sir Edmund's swaard."

"So you tell me," said Bedloe gruffly, "but I see no reason in it. The foolishest apothecary will be able tell how the man met his death."

Oates grinned and laid his finger to his nose. "Ye laack subtelty, fraiend. The priests of Baal must be met with their own waipons. Look ye. This poor man is found with his swaard in his braist. He has killed himself, says the fool. Not so, say the apothecaries. Then why the swaard, asks the coroner. Because of the daivilish cunning of his murderers, says Doctor Taitus Oates. A clear proof that the Jaisuits are in it, says every honest Praatistant. D'ye take me?"

Bedloe declared with oaths his admiration of the Doctor's wit, and good humour filled the hovel; All but Lovel, who once again was wrestling with something elemental in him that threatened to ruin every thing. He remembered the bowed stumbling figure that had gone before him in the Marylebone meadows. Then he had been its enemy; now by a queer contortion of the mind he thought of himself as the only protector of that cold clay under the bed—honoured in life, but in death a poor pawn in a rogue's cause. He stood a little apart from the others near the door, and his eyes sought it furtively. He was not in the plot, and yet the plotters did not trouble about him. They assumed his complaisance. Doubtless they knew his shabby past.

He was roused by Oates' voice. The Doctor was arranging his plan of campaign with gusto. Bedloe was to disappear to the West Country till the time came for him to offer his evidence. Prance was to go about his peaceful trade till Bedloe gave him the cue. It was a masterly stratagem—Bedloe to start the ball, Prance to be accused as accomplice and then on his own account to give the other scoundrel corroboration.

"Attend, you sir," the doctor shouted to Lovel. "Ye will be called to swear to the murderers whom this haanest man will name. If ye be a true Praatestant ye will repeat the laisson I taich you. If not, ye will be set down as one of the villains and the good fawk of this city will tear the limbs from ye at my nod. Be well advaised, my friend, for I hold ye in my haand." And Oates raised a great paw and opened and shut it.

Lovel mumbled assent. Fear had again descended on him. He heard dimly the Doctor going over the names of those to be accused.

"Ye must bring in one of the sairvants of this place," he said. "Some common paarter, who has no friends."

"Trust me," said Prance. "I will find a likely fellow among the Queen's household. I have several in my mind for the honour."

"Truly the plaace is a nest of Paapists," said Oates. "And not such as you, Mr. Prance, who putt England before the Paape. Ye are worth a score of Praatestants to the good caause, and it will be remaimbered. Be assured it will be remaimbered.... Ye are clear about the main villains? Walsh, you say, and Pritchard and the man called Le Fevre?"

"The last most of all. But they are sharp-nosed as hounds, and unless we go wiarily they will give us the slip, and we must fall back on lesser game."

"Le Fevre." Oates mouthed the name. "The Queen's confessor. I was spit upon by him at St. Omer, and would waipe out the affront. A dog of a Frainch priest! A man I have long abhaarred."

"So also have I." Prance had venom in his level voice. "But he is no Frenchman. He is English as you—a Phayre out of Huntingdon."

The name penetrated Lovel's dulled wits. Phayre! It was the one man who in his father's life had shown him unselfish kindness. Long ago in Paris this Phayre had been his teacher, had saved him from starvation, had treated him with a gentleman's courtesy. Even his crimes had not estranged this friend. Phayre had baptized his child, and tended his wife when he was in hiding. But a week ago he had spoken a kindly word in the Mall to one who had rarely a kind word from an honest man.

That day had been to the spy a revelation of odd corners in his soul. He had mustered in the morning the resolution to kill one man. Now he discovered a scruple which bade him at all risks avert the killing of another. He perceived very clearly what the decision meant—desperate peril, perhaps ruin and death. He dare not delay, for in a little he would be too deep in the toils. He must escape and be first with the news of Godfrey's death in some potent quarter. Buckingham, who was a great prince. Or Danby. Or the King himself....

The cunning of a lifetime failed him in that moment. He slipped through the door, but his coat caught in a splinter of wood, and the rending of it gave the alarm. As with quaking heart he ran up the silent stable-yard towards the Strand gate he felt close on him the wind of the pursuit. In the dark he slipped on a patch of horse-dung and was down. Something heavy fell atop of him, and the next second a gross agony tore the breath from him.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Five minutes later Bedloe was unknotting a coarse kerchief and stuffing it into his pocket. It was the same that had strangled Godfrey.

"A good riddance," said Oates. "The fool had seen too much and would have proved but a saarry witness. Now by the mairciful dispensation of Goad he has ceased to trouble us. Ye know him, Captain Bedloe?"

"A Papistical cur, and white-livered at that," the bravo answered.

"And his boady? It must be praamptly disposed of."

"An easy task. There is the Savoy water-gate and in an hour the tide will run. He has no friends to inquire after him."

Oates rubbed his hands and cast his eyes upward. "Great are the doings of the Laard," he said, "and wonderful in our saight!"



CHAPTER 11. THE LIT CHAMBER

He was hoisted on his horse by an ostler and two local sots from the tap-room, his valise was strapped none too securely before him, and with a farewell, which was meant to be gracious but was only foolish, he tittuped into the rain. He was as drunk as an owl, though he did not know it. All afternoon he had been mixing strong Cumberland ale with the brandy he had got from the Solway free-traders, and by five o'clock had reached that state when he saw the world all gilt and rosy and himself as an applauded actor on a splendid stage. He had talked grandly to his fellow topers, and opened to their rustic wits a glimpse of the great world. They had bowed to a master, even those slow Cumbrians who admired little but fat cattle and blood horses. He had made a sensation, had seen wonder and respect in dull eyes, and tasted for a moment that esteem which he had singularly failed to find elsewhere.

But he had been prudent. The Mr. Gilbert Craster who had been travelling on secret business in Nithsdale and the Ayrshire moorlands had not been revealed in the change-house of Newbigging. There he had passed by the name, long since disused, of Gabriel Lovel, which happened to be his true one. It was a needful precaution, for the times were crooked. Even in a Border hamlet the name of Craster might be known and since for the present it had a Whig complexion it was well to go warily in a place where feeling ran high and at an hour when the Jacobites were on the march. But that other name of Lovel was buried deep in the forgotten scandal of London by-streets.

The gentleman late re-christened Lovel had for the moment no grudge against life. He was in the pay of a great man, no less than the lord Duke of Marlborough, and he considered that he was earning his wages. A soldier of fortune, he accepted the hire of the best paymaster; only he sold not a sword, but wits. A pedant might have called it honour, but Mr. Lovel was no pedant. He had served a dozen chiefs on different sides. For Blingbroke he had scoured France and twice imperilled his life in Highland bogs. For Somers he had travelled to Spain, and for Wharton had passed unquiet months on the Welsh marches. After his fashion he was an honest servant and reported the truth so far as his ingenuity could discern it. But, once quit of a great man's service, he sold his knowledge readily to an opponent, and had been like to be out of employment, since unless his masters gave him an engagement for life he was certain some day to carry the goods they had paid for to their rivals. But Marlborough had seen his uses, for the great Duke sat loose to parties and earnestly desired to know the facts. So for Marlborough he went into the conclaves of both Whig and Jacobite, making his complexion suit his company.

He was new come from the Scottish south-west, for the Duke was eager to know if the malcontent moorland Whigs were about to fling their blue bonnets for King James. A mission of such discomfort Mr. Lovel had never known, not even when he was a go-between for Ormonde in the Irish bogs. He had posed as an emissary from the Dutch brethren, son of an exiled Brownist, and for the first time in his life had found his regicide great-grandfather useful. The jargon of the godly fell smoothly from his tongue, and with its aid and that of certain secret letters he had found his way to the heart of the sectaries. He had sat through weary sermons in Cameronian sheilings, and been present at the childish parades of the Hebronite remnant. There was nothing to be feared in that quarter, for to them all in authority were idolaters and George no worse than James. In those moorland sojournings, too, he had got light on other matters, for he had the numbers of Kenmure's levies in his head, had visited my lord Stair at his grim Galloway castle, and had had a long midnight colloquy with Roxburghe on Tweedside. He had a pretty tale for his master, once he could get to him. But with Northumberland up and the Highlanders at Jedburgh and Kenmure coming from the west, it had been a ticklish business to cross the Border. Yet by cunning and a good horse it had been accomplished, and he found himself in Cumberland with the road open southward to the safe Lowther country. Wherefore Mr. Lovel had relaxed, and taken his ease in an inn.

He would not have admitted that he was drunk, but he presently confessed that he was not clear about his road. He had meant to lie at Brampton, and had been advised at the tavern of a short cut, a moorland bridle-path. Who had told him of it? The landlord, he thought, or the merry fellow in brown who had stood brandy to the company? Anyhow, it was to save him five miles, and that was something in this accursed weather. The path was clear—he could see it squelching below him, pale in the last wet daylight—but where the devil did it lead? Into the heart of a moss, it seemed, and yet Brampton lay out of the moors in the tilled valley.

At first the fumes in his head raised him above the uncertainty of his road and the eternal downpour. His mind was far away in a select world of his own imagining. He saw himself in a privy chamber, to which he had been conducted by reverent lackeys, the door closed, the lamp lit, and the Duke's masterful eyes bright with expectation. He saw the fine thin lips, like a woman's, primmed in satisfaction. He heard words of compliment—"none so swift and certain as you"—"in truth, a master-hand"—"I know not where to look for your like." Delicious speeches seemed to soothe his ear. And gold, too, bags of it, the tale of which would never appear in any accompt-book. Nay, his fancy soared higher. He saw himself presented to Ministers as one of the country's saviours, and kissing the hand of Majesty. What Majesty and what Ministers he knew not, and did not greatly care—that was not his business. The rotundity of the Hanoverian and the lean darkness of the Stuart were one to him. Both could reward an adroit servant.... His vanity, terribly starved and cribbed in his normal existence, now blossomed like a flower. His muddled head was fairly ravished with delectable pictures. He seemed to be set at a great height above mundane troubles, and to look down on men like a benignant God. His soul glowed with a happy warmth.

But somewhere he was devilish cold. His wretched body was beginning to cry out with discomfort. A loop of his hat was broken and the loose flap was a conduit for the rain down his back. His old ridingcoat was like a dish-clout, and he felt icy about the middle. Separate streams of water entered the tops of his ridingboots—they were a borrowed pair and too big for him—and his feet were in puddles. It was only by degrees that he realised this misery. Then in the boggy track his horse began to stumble. The fourth or fifth peck woke irritation, and he jerked savagely at the bridle, and struck the beast's dripping flanks with his whip. The result was a jib and a flounder, and the shock squeezed out the water from his garments as from a sponge. Mr. Lovel descended from the heights of fancy to prosaic fact, and cursed.

The dregs of strong drink were still in him, and so soon as exhilaration ebbed they gave edge to his natural fears. He perceived that it had grown very dark and lonely. The rain, falling sheer, seemed to shut him into a queer wintry world. All around the land echoed with the steady drum of it, and the rumour of swollen runnels. A wild bird wailed out of the mist and startled Mr. Lovel like a ghost. He heard the sound of men talking and drew rein; it was only a larger burn foaming by the wayside. The sky was black above him, yet a faint grey light seemed to linger, for water glimmered and he passed what seemed to be the edge of a loch.... At another time the London-bred citizen would have been only peevish, for Heaven knew he had faced ill weather before in ill places. But the fiery stuff he had swallowed had woke a feverish fancy. Exaltation suddenly changed to foreboding.

He halted and listened. Nothing but the noise of the weather, and the night dark around him like a shell. For a moment he fancied he caught the sound of horses, but it was not repeated. Where did this accursed track mean to lead him? Long ago he should have been in the valley and nearing Brampton. He was as wet as if he had wallowed in a pool, cold, and very weary. A sudden disgust at his condition drove away his fears and he swore lustily at fortune. He longed for the warmth and the smells of his favourite haunts—Gilpin's with oysters frizzling in a dozen pans, and noble odours stealing from the tap-room, the Green Man with its tripe-suppers, Wanless's Coffee House, noted for its cuts of beef and its white puddings. He would give much to be in a chair by one of those hearths and in the thick of that blowsy fragrance. Now his nostrils were filled with rain and bog water and a sodden world. It smelt sour, like stale beer in a mouldy cellar. And cold! He crushed down his hat on his head and precipitated a new deluge.

A bird skirled again in his ear, and his fright returned. He felt small and alone in a vast inhospitable universe. And mingled with it all was self-pity, for drink had made him maudlin. He wanted so little—only a modest comfort, a little ease. He had forgotten that half an hour before he had been figuring in princes' cabinets. He would give up this business and be quit of danger and the high road. The Duke must give him a reasonable reward, and with it he and his child might dwell happily in some country place. He remembered a cottage at Guildford all hung with roses.... But the Duke was reputed a miserly patron, and at the thought Mr. Lovel's eyes overflowed. There was that damned bird again, wailing like a lost soul. The eeriness of it struck a chill to his heart, so that if he had been able to think of any refuge he would have set spurs to his horse and galloped for it in blind terror. He was in the mood in which men compose poetry, for he felt himself a midget in the grip of immensities. He knew no poetry, save a few tavern songs; but in his youth he had had the Scriptures drubbed into him. He remembered ill-omened texts—one especially about wandering through dry places seeking rest. Would to Heaven he were in a dry place now!...

The horse sprang aside and nearly threw him. It had blundered against the stone pillar of a gateway. It was now clear even to Mr. Lovel's confused wits that he was lost. This might be the road to Tophet, but it was no road to Brampton. He felt with numbed hands the face of the gateposts. Here was an entrance to some dwelling, and it stood open. The path led through it, and if he left the path he would without doubt perish in a bog-hole. In his desolation he longed for a human face. He might find a good fellow who would house him; at the worst he would get direction about the road. So he passed the gateway and entered an avenue.

It ran between trees which took the force of the downpour, so that it seemed a very sanctuary after the open moor. His spirits lightened. The infernal birds had stopped crying, but again he heard the thud of hooves. That was right, and proved the place was tenanted. Presently he turned a corner and faced a light which shone through the wet, rayed like a heraldic star.

The sight gave him confidence, for it brought him back to a familiar world. He rode straight to it, crossing a patch of rough turf, where a fallen log all but brought him down. As he neared it the light grew till he saw its cause. He stood before the main door of a house and it was wide open. A great lantern, hung from a beam just inside, showed a doorway of some size and magnificence. And below it stood a servant, an old man, who at the sight of the stranger advanced to hold his stirrup.

"Welcome, my lord," said the man. "All is ready for you."

The last hour had partially sobered the traveller, but, having now come safe to port, his drunkenness revived. He saw nothing odd in the open door or the servant's greeting. As he scrambled to the ground he was back in his first exhilaration. "My lord!" Well, why not? This was an honest man who knew quality when he met it.

Humming a tune and making a chain of little pools on the stone flags of the hall, Mr. Lovel followed his guide, who bore his shabby valise, another servant having led away the horse. The hall was dim with flickering shadows cast by the lamp in the doorway, and smelt raw and cold as if the house had been little dwelt in. Beyond it was a stone passage where a second lamp burned and lit up a forest of monstrous deer horns on the wall. The butler flung open a door.

"I trust your lordship will approve the preparations," he said. "Supper awaits you, and when you have done I will show you your chamber. There are dry shoes by the hearth." He took from the traveller his sopping overcoat and drew from his legs the pulpy riding-boots. With a bow which might have graced a court he closed the door, leaving Mr. Lovel alone to his entertainment.

It was a small square room panelled to the ceiling in dark oak, and lit by a curious magnificence of candles. They burned in sconces on the walls and in tall candlesticks on the table, while a log fire on the great stone hearth so added to the glow that the place was as bright as day. The windows were heavily shuttered and curtained, and in the far corner was a second door. On the polished table food had been laid—a noble ham, two virgin pies, a dish of fruits, and a group of shining decanters. To one coming out of the wild night it was a transformation like a dream, but Mr. Lovel, half drunk, accepted it as no more than his due. His feather brain had been fired by the butler's "my lord," and he did not puzzle his head with questions. From a slim bottle he filled himself a glass of brandy, but on second thoughts set it down untasted. He would sample the wine first and top off with the spirit. Meantime he would get warm.

He stripped off his coat, which was dampish, and revealed a dirty shirt and the dilapidated tops of his small clothes. His stockings were torn and soaking, so he took them off, and stuck his naked feet into the furred slippers which stood waiting by the hearth. Then he sat himself in a great brocaded arm-chair and luxuriously stretched his legs to the blaze.

But his head was too much afire to sit still. The comfort soaked into his being through every nerve and excited rather than soothed him. He did not want to sleep now, though little before he had been crushed by weariness.. .. There was a mirror beside the fireplace, the glass painted at the edge with slender flowers and cupids in the Caroline fashion. He saw his reflection and it pleased him. The long face with the pointed chin, the deep-set dark eyes, the skin brown with weather—he seemed to detect a resemblance to Wharton. Or was it Beaufort? Anyhow, now that the shabby coat was off, he might well be a great man in undress. "My lord!" Why not? His father had always told him he came of an old high family. Kings, he had said—of France, or somewhere... A gold ring he wore on his left hand slipped from his finger and jingled on the hearthstone. It was too big for him, and when his fingers grew small with cold or wet it was apt to fall off. He picked it up and laid it beside the decanters on the table. That had been his father's ring, and he congratulated himself that in all his necessities he had never parted from it. It was said to have come down from ancient kings.

He turned to the table and cut himself a slice of ham. But he found he had no appetite. He filled himself a bumper of claret. It was a ripe velvety liquor and cooled his hot mouth. That was the drink for gentlemen. Brandy in good time, but for the present this soft wine which was in keeping with the warmth and light and sheen of silver.... His excitement was dying now into complacence. He felt himself in the environment for which Providence had fitted him. His whole being expanded in the glow of it. He understood how able he was, how truly virtuous—a master of intrigue, but one whose eye was always fixed on the star of honour. And then his thoughts wandered to his son in the mean London lodgings. The boy should have his chance and walk some day in silks and laces. Curse his aliases! He should be Lovel, and carry his head as high as any Villiers or Talbot.

The reflection sent his hand to an inner pocket of the coat now drying by the hearth. He took from it a thin packet of papers wrapped in oil-cloth. These were the fruits of his journey, together with certain news too secret to commit to writing which he carried in his head. He ran his eye over them, approved them, and laid them before him on the table. They started a train of thought which brought him to the question of his present quarters. ... A shadow of doubt flickered over his mind. Whose house was this and why this entertainment? He had been expected, or someone like him. An old campaigner took what gifts the gods sent, but there might be questions to follow. There was a coat of arms on the plate, but so dim that he could not read it. The one picture in the room showed an old man in a conventional suit of armour. He did not recognise the face or remember any like it... He filled himself another bumper of claret, and followed it with a little brandy. This latter was noble stuff, by which he would abide. His sense of ease and security returned. He pushed the papers farther over, sweeping the ring with them, and set his elbows on the table, a gentleman warm, dry, and content, but much befogged in the brain.

He raised his eyes to see the far door open and three men enter. The sight brought him to his feet with a start, and his chair clattered on the oak boards. He made an attempt at a bow, backing steadily towards the fireplace and his old coat.

The faces of the new-comers exhibited the most lively surprise. All three were young, and bore marks of travel, for though they had doffed their riding coats, they were splashed to the knees with mud and their unpowdered hair lay damp on their shoulders. One was a very dark man who might have been a Spaniard but for his blue eyes. The second was a mere boy with a ruddy face and eyes full of dancing merriment. The third was tall and red-haired, tanned of countenance and lean as a greyhound. He wore trews of a tartan which Mr. Lovel, trained in such matters, recognised as that of the house of Atholl.

Of the three he only recognised the leader, and the recognition sobered him. This was that Talbot, commonly known from his swarthiness as the Crow, who was Ormonde's most trusted lieutenant. He had once worked with him; he knew his fierce temper, his intractable honesty. His bemused wits turned desperately to concocting a conciliatory tale.

But he seemed to be unrecognised. The three stared at him in wild-eyed amazement.

"Who the devil are you, sir?" the Highlander stammered.

Mr. Lovel this time brought off his bow. "A stormstayed traveller," he said, his eyes fawning, "who has stumbled on this princely hospitality. My name at your honour's service is Gabriel Lovel."

There was a second of dead silence and then the boy laughed. It was merry laughter and broke in strangely on the tense air of the room.

"Lovel," he cried, and there was an Irish burr in his speech. "Lovel! And that fool Jobson mistook it for Lovat! I mistrusted the tale, for Simon is too discreet even in his cups to confess his name in a changehouse. It seems we have been stalking the cailzie-cock and found a common thrush."

The dark man Talbot did not smile. "We had good reason to look for Lovat. Widrington had word from London that he was on his way to the north by the west marches. Had we found him we had found a prize, for he will play hell with Mar if he crosses the Highland line. What say you, Lord Charles?"

The Highlander nodded. "I would give my sporran filled ten times with gold to have my hand on Simon. What devil's luck to be marching south with that old fox in our rear!"

The boy pulled up a chair to the table. "Since we have missed the big game, let us follow the less. I'm for supper, if this gentleman will permit us to share a feast destined for another. Sit down, sir, and fill your glass. You are not to be blamed for not being a certain Scots lord. Lovel, I dare say, is an honester name than Lovat!"

But Talbot was regarding the traveller with hard eyes. "You called him a thrush, Nick, but I have a notion he is more of a knavish jackdaw. I have seen this gentleman before. You were with Ormonde?"

"I had once the honour to serve his Grace," said Lovel, still feverishly trying to devise a watertight tail. "Ah, I remember now. You thought his star descending and carried your wares to the other side. And who is your new employer, Mr. Lovel? His present Majesty?"

His glance caught the papers on the table and he swept them towards him.

"What have we here?" and his quick eye scanned the too legible handwriting. Much was in cipher and contractions, but some names stood out damningly. In that month of October in that year 1715 "Ke" could only stand for "Kenmure" and "Ni" for "Nithsdale."

Mr. Lovel made an attempt at dignity.

"These are my papers, sir," he blustered. "I know not by what authority you examine them." But his protest failed because of the instability of his legs, on which his potations early and recent had suddenly a fatal effect. He was compelled to collapse heavily in the arm-chair by the hearth.

"I observe that the gentleman has lately been powdering his hair," said the boy whom they called Nick.

Mr. Lovel was wroth. He started upon the usual drunkard's protestations, but was harshly cut short by Talbot.

"You ask me my warrant 'Tis the commission of his Majesty King James in whose army I have the honour to hold a command."

He read on, nodding now and then, pursing his mouth at a word, once copying something on to his own tablets. Suddenly he raised his head.

"When did his Grace dismiss you?" he asked.

Now Ormonde had been the Duke last spoken of, but Mr. Lovel's precarious wits fell into the trap. He denied indignantly that he had fallen from his master's favour.

A grim smile played round Talbot's mouth.

"You have confessed," he said. Then to the others: "This fellow is one of Malbrouck's pack. He has been nosing in the Scotch westlands. Here are the numbers of Kenmure and Nithsdale to enable the great Duke to make up his halting mind. See, he has been with Roxburghe too.... We have a spy before us, gentlemen, delivered to our hands by a happy incident. Whig among the sectaries and with Stair and Roxburghe, and Jacobite among our poor honest folk, and wheedling the secrets out of both sides to sell to one who disposes of them at a profit in higher quarters. Faug! I know the vermin. An honest Whig like John Argyll I can respect and fight, but for such rats as this—What shall we do with it now that we have trapped it?"

"Let it go," said the boy, Nick Wogan. "The land crawls with them and we cannot go rat-hunting when we are aiming at a throne." He picked up Lovel's ring and spun it on a finger tip. "The gentleman has found more than news in the north. He has acquired a solid lump of gold."

The implication roused Mr. Lovel out of his embarrassment. "I wear the ring by right. I had it from my father." His voice was tearful with offended pride

"The creature claims gentility," said Talbot, as he examined the trinket. "Lovel you call yourself. But Lovel bears barry nebuly or chevronels. This coat has three plain charges. Can you read them, Nick, for my eyes are weak! I am curious to know from whom he stole it."

The boy scanned it closely. "Three of something I think they are fleur-de-lys, which would spell Montgomery. Or lions' heads, maybe, for Buchan?"

He passed it to Lord Charles, who held it to a candle's light. "Nay, I think they are Cummin garbs. Some poor fellow dirked and spoiled."

Mr. Lovel was outraged and forgot his fears. He forgot, indeed, most things which he should have remembered. He longed only to establish his gentility in the eyes of those three proud gentlemen. The liquor was ebbing in him and with it had flown all his complacence. He felt small and mean and despised, and the talents he had been pluming himself on an hour before had now shrunk to windlestraws.

"I do assure you, sirs," he faltered, "the ring is mine own. I had it from my father, who had it from his. I am of an ancient house, though somewhat decayed."

His eyes sought those of his inquisitors with the pathos of a dog. But he saw only hostile faces—Talbot's grave and grim, Lord Charles' contemptuous, the boy's smiling ironically.

"Decayed, indeed," said the dark man, "pitifully decayed. If you be gentle the more shame on you."

Mr. Lovel was almost whining. "I swear I am honest. I do my master's commissions and report what I learn."

"Aye, sir, but how do you learn it? By playing the imposter and winning your way into an unsuspecting confidence. To you friendship is a tool and honour a convenience. You cheat in every breath you draw. And what a man gives you in his innocence may bring him to the gallows. By God! I'd rather slit throats on a highway for a purse or two than cozen men to their death by such arts as yours."

In other circumstances Mr. Lovel might have put up a brazen defence, but now he seemed to have lost assurance. "I do no ill," was all he could stammer, "for I have no bias. I am for no side in politics."

"So much the worse. A man who spies for a cause in which he believes may redeem by that faith a dirty trade. But in cold blood you practise infamy."

The night was growing wilder, and even in that sheltered room its echoes were felt. Wind shook the curtains and blew gusts of ashes from the fire. The place had become bleak and tragic and Mr. Lovel felt the forlornness in his bones. Something had woke in him which shivered the fabric of a lifetime. The three faces, worn, anxious, yet of a noble hardihood, stirred in him a strange emotion. Hopes and dreams, long forgotten, flitted like spectres across his memory. He had something to say, something which demanded utterance, and his voice grew bold.

"What do you know of my straits?" he cried. "Men of fortune like you! My race is old, but I never had the benefit of it. I was bred in a garret and have all my days been on nodding terms with starvation.... What should I know about your parties? What should I care for Whig and Tory or what king has his hinderend on the throne? Tell me in God's name how should such as I learn loyalty except to the man who gives me gold to buy food and shelter? Heaven knows I have never betrayed a master while I served him."

The shabby man with the lean face had secured an advantage. For a moment the passion in his voice dominated the room.

"Cursed if this does not sound like truth," said the boy, and his eyes were almost friendly.

But Talbot did not relax.

"By your own confession you are outside the pale of gentility. I do not trouble to blame you, but I take leave to despise you. By your grace, sir, we will dispense with your company."

The ice of his scorn did not chill the strange emotion which seemed to have entered the air. The scarecrow by the fire had won a kind of dignity.

"I am going," he said. "Will you have the goodness to send for my horse?. .. If you care to know, gentleman, you have cut short a promising career. .. To much of what you say I submit. You have spoken truth—not all the truth, but sufficient to unman me. I am a rogue by your reckoning, for I think only of my wages. Pray tell me what moves you to ride out on what at the best is a desperate venture?"

There was nothing but sincerity in the voice, and Talbot answered.

"I fight for the King ordained by God and for a land which cannot flourish under the usurper. My loyalty to throne, Church, and fatherland constrains me."

Lovel's eye passed to Lord Charles. The Highlander whistled very softly a bar or two of a wild melody with longing and a poignant sorrow in it.

"That," he said. "I fight for the old ways and the old days that are passing."

Nick Wogan smiled. "And I for neither—wholly. I have a little of Talbot in me and more of Charles. But I strike my blow for romance—the little against the big, the noble few against the base many. I am for youth against all dull huckstering things."

Mr. Lovel bowed. "I am answered. I congratulate you, gentlemen, on your good fortune. It is my grief that I do not share it. I have not Mr. Talbot's politics, nor am I a great Scotch lord, nor have I the felicity to be young.... I would beg you not to judge me harshly."

By this time he had struggled into his coat and boots He stepped to the table and picked up the papers.

"By your leave," he said, and flung them into the fire.

"You were welcome to them," said Talbot. "Long ere they got to Marlborough they would be useless."

"That is scarcely the point," said Lovel "I am somewhat dissatisfied with my calling and contemplate a change."

"You may sleep here if you wish," said Lord Charles.

"I thank you, but I am no fit company for you. I am better on the road."

Talbot took a guinea from his purse "Here's to help your journey," he was saying, when Nick Wogan flushing darkly, intervened. "Damn you, James don't be a boor," he said.

The boy picked up the ring and offered it to Mr. Lovel as he passed through the door. He also gave him his hand.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The traveller spurred his horse into the driving rain, but he was oblivious of the weather. When he came to Brampton he discovered to his surprise that he had been sobbing. Except in liquor, he had not wept since he was a child.



CHAPTER 12. IN THE DARK LAND

The fire was so cunningly laid that only on one side did it cast a glow, and there the light was absorbed by a dark thicket of laurels. It was built under an overhang of limestone so that the smoke in the moonlight would be lost against the grey face of the rock. But, though the moon was only two days past the full, there was no sign of it, for the rain had come and the world was muffled in it. That morning the Kentucky vales, as seen from the ridge where the camp lay, had been like a furnace with the gold and scarlet of autumn, and the air had been heavy with sweet October smells. Then the wind had suddenly shifted, the sky had grown leaden, and in a queer dank chill the advance-guard of winter had appeared—that winter which to men with hundreds of pathless miles between them and their homes was like a venture into an uncharted continent.

One of the three hunters slipped from his buffalo robe and dived into the laurel thicket to replenish the fire from the stock of dry fuel. His figure revealed itself fitfully in the firelight, a tall slim man with a curious lightness of movement like a cat's. When he had done his work he snuggled down in his skins in the glow, and his two companions shifted their positions to be near him. The fire-tender was the leader of the little party The light showed a face very dark with weather. He had the appearance of wearing an untidy perruque, which was a tight-fitting skin-cap with the pelt hanging behind. Below its fringe straggled a selvedge of coarse black hair. But his eyes were blue and very bright, and his eyebrows and lashes were flaxen, and the contrast of light and dark had the effect of something peculiarly bold and masterful. Of the others one was clearly his brother, heavier in build, but with the same eyes and the same hard pointed chin and lean jaws. The third man was shorter and broader, and wore a newer hunting shirt than his fellows and a broad belt of wool and leather.

This last stretched his moccasins to the blaze and sent thin rings of smoke from his lips into the steam made by the falling rain.

He bitterly and compendiously cursed the weather. The little party had some reason for ill-temper. There had been an accident in the creek with the powder supply, and for the moment there were only two charges left in the whole outfit. Hitherto they had been living on ample supplies of meat, though they were on short rations of journey-cake, for their stock of meal was low. But that night they had supped poorly, for one of them had gone out to perch a turkey, since powder could not be wasted, and had not come back.

"I reckon we're the first as ever concluded to winter in Kaintuckee," he said between his puffs. "Howard and Salling went in in June, I've heerd. And Finley? What about Finley, Dan'l?"

"He never stopped beyond the fall, though he was once near gripped by the snow. But there ain't no reason why winter should be worse on the O-hio than on the Yadkin. It's a good hunting time, and snow'll keep the redskins quiet. What's bad for us is wuss for them, says I.... I won't worry about winter nor redskins, if old Jim Lovelle 'ud fetch up. It beats me whar the man has got to."

"Wandered, maybe?" suggested the first speaker, whose name was Neely.

"I reckon not. Ye'd as soon wander a painter. There ain't no sech hunter as Jim ever came out of Virginny, no, nor out of Caroliny, neither. It was him that fust telled me of Kaintuck'. 'The dark and bloody land, the Shawnees calls it,' he says, speakin' in his eddicated way, and dark and bloody it is, but that's man's doing and not the Almighty's. The land flows with milk and honey, he says, clear water and miles of clover and sweet grass, enough to feed all the herds of Basham, and mighty forests with trees that thick ye could cut a hole in their trunks and drive a waggon through, and sugar-maples and plums and cherries like you won't see in no set orchard, and black soil fair crying for crops. And the game, Jim says, wasn't to be told about without ye wanted to be called a liar—big black-nosed buffaloes that packed together so the whole placed seemed moving, and elk and deer and bar past counting.... Wal, neighbours, ye've seen it with your own eyes and can jedge if Jim was a true prophet. I'm Moses, he used to say, chosen to lead the Children of Israel into a promised land, but I reckon I'll leave my old bones on some Pisgah-top on the borders. He was a sad man, Jim, and didn't look for much comfort this side Jordan.... I wish I know'd whar he'd gotten to."

Squire Boone, the speaker's brother, sniffed the air dolefully. "It's weather that 'ud wander a good hunter."

"I tell ye, ye couldn't wander Jim," said his brother fiercely. "He come into Kaintuckee alone in '52, and that was two years before Finley. He was on the Ewslip all the winter of '58. He was allus springing out of a bush when ye didn't expect him. When we was fighting the Cherokees with Montgomery in '61 he turned up as guide to the Scotsmen, and I reckon if they'd attended to him there'ud be more of them alive this day. He was like a lone wolf, old Jim, and preferred to hunt by hisself, but you never knowed that he wouldn't come walking in and say 'Howdy' while you was reckoning you was the fust white man to make that trace. Wander Jim? Ye might as well speak of wandering a hakk."

"Maybe the Indians have got his sculp," said Neely.

"I reckon not," said Boone. "Leastways if they have, he must ha' struck a new breed of redskin. Jim was better nor any redskin in Kaintuck', and they knowed it. I told ye, neighbours, of our doings before you come west through the Gap. The Shawnees cotched me and Jim in a cane-brake, and hit our trace back to camp, so that they cotched Finley too, and his three Yadkiners with him. Likewise they took our hosses, and guns and traps and the furs we had gotten from three months' hunting. Their chief made a speech saying we had no right in Kaintuckee and if they cotched us again our lives'ud pay for it. They'd ha' sculped us if it hadn't been for Jim, but you could see they knew him, and was feared of him. Wal, Finley reckoned the game was up, and started back with the Yadkiners. Cooley and Joe Holden and Mooneyiye mind them, Squire! But I was feeling kinder cross and wanted my property back, and old Jim—why, he wasn't going to be worsted by no redskins. So we trailed the Shawnees, us two, and come up with them one night encamped beside a salt-lick. Jim got into their camp while I was lying shivering in the cane, and blessed if he didn't snake back four of our hosses and our three best Deckards. Tha's craft for ye. By sunrise we was riding south on the Warriors' Path but the hosses was plumb tired, and afore midday them pizonous Shawnees had cotched up with us. I can tell ye, neighbours, the hair riz on my head, for I expected nothing better than a bloody sculp and six feet of earth.... But them redskins didn't hurt us. And why, says ye? 'Cos they was scared of Jim. It seemed they had a name for him in Shawnee which meant the 'old wolf that hunts by night. They started out to take us way north of the Ohio to their Scioto villages, whar they said we would be punished. Jim telled me to keep up my heart, for he reckoned we wasn't going north of no river. Then he started to make friends with them redskins, and in two days he was the most popilar fellow in that company. He was a quiet man and for general melancholious, but I guess he could be amusing when he wanted to. You know the way an Indian laughs grunts in his stomach and looks at the ground. Wal, Jim had them grunting all day, and, seeing he could speak all their tongues, he would talk serious too. Ye could see them savages listening, like he was their own sachem."

Boone reached for another faggot and tossed it on the fire. The downpour was slacking, but the wind had risen high and was wailing in the sycamores.

"Consekince was," he went on, "for prisoners we wasn't proper guarded. By the fourth day we was sleeping round the fire among the Shawnees and marching with them as we pleased, though we wasn't allowed to go near the hosses. On the seventh night we saw the Ohio rolling in the hollow, and Jim says to me it was about time to get quit of the redskins. It was a wet night with a wind, which suited his plan, and about one in the morning, when Indians sleep soundest, I was woke by Jim's hand pressing my wrist. Wal, I've trailed a bit in my day, but I never did such mighty careful hunting as that night. An inch at a time we crawled out of the circle—we was lying well back on purpose—and got into the canes. I lay there while Jim went back and fetched guns and powder. The Lord knows how he done it without startling the hosses. Then we quit like ghosts, and legged it for the hills. We was aiming for the Gap, but it took us thirteen days to make it, travelling mostly by night, and living on berries, for we durstn't risk a shot. Then we made up with you. I reckon we didn't look too pretty when ye see'd us first."

"Ye looked," said his brother soberly, "Like two scare-crows that had took to walkin'. There was more naked skin than shirt about you Dan'l. But Lovelle wasn't complaining, except about his empty belly."

"He was harder nor me, though twenty years older. He did the leading, too, for he had forgotten more about woodcraft than I ever know'd...."

The man Neely, who was from Virginia, consumed tobacco as steadily as a dry soil takes in water.

"I've heerd of this Lovelle," he said. "I've seed him too, I guess. A long man with black eyebrows and hollow eyes like as he was hungry. He used ter live near my folks in Palmer Country. What was he looking for in those travels of his?"

"Hunting maybe," said Boone. "He was the skilfullest hunter, I reckon, between the Potomac and the Cherokee. He brought in mighty fine pelts, but he didn't seem to want money. Just so much as would buy him powder and shot and food for the next venture, ye understand.... He wasn't looking for land to settle on, neighber, for one time he telled me he had had all the settling he wanted in this world.... But he was looking for something else. He never talked about it, but he'd sit often with his knees hunched up and his eyes staring out at nothing like a bird's. I never know'd who he was or whar he come from. You say it was Virginny?"

"Aye, Palmer County. I mind his old dad, who farmed a bit of land by Nelson's Cross Roads, when he wasn't drunk in Nelson's tavern. The boys used to follow him to laugh at his queer clothes, and hear his fine London speech when he cursed us. By thunder, he was the one to swear. Jim Lovelle used to clear us off with a whip, and give the old man his arm into the shack. Jim too was a queer one, but it didn't do to make free with him, unless ye was lookin' for a broken head. They was come of high family, I've heerd."

"Aye, Jim was a gentleman and no mistake," said Boone. "The way he held his head and looked straight through the man that angered him. I reckon it was that air of his and them glowering eyes that made him powerful with the redskins. But he was mighty quiet always. I've seen Cap'n Evan Shelby roaring at him like a bull and Jim just staring back at him, as gentle as a girl, till the Cap'n began to stutter and dried up. But, Lordy, he had a pluck in a fight, for I've seen him with Montgomery.... He was eddicated too, and could tell you things out of books. I've knowed him sit up all night talking law with Mr. Robertson.... He was always thinking. Queer thoughts they was sometimes."

"Whatten kind of thoughts, Dan'l?" his brother asked.

Boone rubbed his chin as if he found it hard to explain. "About this country of Ameriky," he replied. "He reckoned it would soon have to cut loose from England, and him knowing so much about England I used ter believe him. He allowed there 'ud be bloody battles before it happened, but he held that the country had grown up and couldn't be kept much longer in short clothes. He had a power of larning about things that happened to folks long ago called Creeks and Rewmans that pinted that way, he said. But he held that when we had fought our way quit of England, we was in for a bigger and bloodier fight among ourselves. I mind his very words. 'Dan'l,' he says, 'this is the biggest and best slice of the world which we Americans has struck, and for fifty years or more, maybe, we'll be that busy finding out what we've got that we'll have no time to quarrel. But there's going to come a day, if Ameriky s to be a great nation, when she'll have to sit down and think and make up her mind about one or two things. It won't be easy, for she won't have the eddication or patience to think deep, and there'll be plenty selfish and short-sighted folk that won't think at all. I reckon she'll have to set her house in order with a hickory stick. But if she wins through that all right, she'll be a country for our children to be proud of and happy in.'"

"Children? Has he any belongings?" Squire Boone

Daniel looked puzzled. "I've heerd it said he had a wife, though he never telled nie of her."

"I've seed her," Neely put in. "She was one of Jake Early's daughters up to Walsing Springs. She didn't live no more than a couple of years after they was wed. She left a gal behind her, a mighty finelooking gal. They tell me she's married on young Abe Hanks, I did hear that Abe was thinking of coming west, but them as told me allowed that Abe hadn't got the right kinder wife for the Border. Polly Hanker they called her, along of her being Polly Hanks, and likewise wantin' more than other folks had to get along with. See?"

This piece of news woke Daniel Boone to attention. "Tell me about Jim's gal," he demanded.

"Pretty as a peach," said Neely "Small, not higher nor Abe's shoulder, and as light on her feet as a deer. She had a softish laughing look in her eyes that made the lads wild for her. But she wasn't for them and I reckon she wasn't for Abe neither. She was nicely eddicated, though she had jest had field-schooling like the rest, for her dad used to read books and tell her about 'em. One time he took her to Richmond for the better part of a winter, where she larned dancing and music. The neighbours allowed that turned her head. Ye couldn't please her with clothes, for she wouldn't look at the sun-bonnets and nettle-linen that other gals wore. She must have a neat little bonnet and send to town for pretty dresses.... The women couldn't abide her, for she had a high way of looking at 'em and talking at 'em as if they was jest black trash. But the men 'ud walk miles to see her on a Sunday.... I never could jest understand why she took Abe Hanks. 'Twasn't for lack of better offers."

"I reckon that's women's ways," said Boone meditatively. "She must ha' favoured Jim, though he wasn't partickler about his clothes. Discontented, ye say she was?"

"Aye. Discontented. She was meant for a fine lady, I reckon. I dunno what she wanted, but anyhow it was something that Abe Hanks ain't likely to give her. I can't jest picture her in Kaintuck'!"

Squire Boone was asleep, and Daniel drew the flap of his buffalo robe over his head and prepared to follow suit. His last act was to sniff the air. "Please God the weather mends," he muttered. "I've got to find old Jim."

Very early next morning there was a consultation. Lovelle had not appeared and hunting was impossible on two shoots of powder. It was arranged that two of them should keep camp that day by the limestone cliff while Daniel Boone went in search of the missing man, for it was possible that Jim Lovelle had gone to seek ammunition from friendly Indians. If he did not turn up or if he returned without powder, there would be nothing for it but to send a messenger back through the Gap for supplies.

The dawn was blue and cloudless and the air had the freshness of a second spring. The autumn colour glowed once more, only a little tarnished; the gold was now copper, the scarlet and vermilion were dulling to crimson. Boone took the road at the earliest light and made for the place where the day before he had parted from Lovelle. When alone he had the habit of talking to himself in an undertone. "Jim was hunting down the west bank of that there crick, and I heard a shot about noon beyond them big oaks, so I reckon he'd left the water and gotten on the ridge." He picked up the trail and followed it with difficulty, for the rain had flattened out the prints. At one point he halted and considered. "That's queer," he muttered. "Jim was running here. It wasn't game, neither, for there's no sign of their tracks." He pointed to the zig-zag of moccasin prints in a patch of gravel. "That's the way a man sets his feet when he's in a hurry."

A little later he stood and sniffed, with his brows wrinkled. He made an epic figure as he leaned forward, every sense strained, every muscle alert, slim and shapely as a Greek—the eternal pathfinder. Very gently he smelled the branches of a mulberry thicket.

"There's been an Indian here," he meditated. "I kinder smell the grease on them twigs. In a hurry, too, or he wouldn't have left his stink behind... . In war trim, I reckon." And he took a tiny wisp of scarlet feather from a fork.

Like a hound he nosed about the ground till he found something. "Here's his print;" he said "He was a-followin' Jim, for see! he has his foot in Jim's track. I don't like it. I'm fear'd of what's comin'."

Slowly and painfully he traced the footing, which led through the thicket towards a long ridge running northward. In an open grassy place he almost cried out. "The redskin and Jim was friends. See, here's their prints side by side, going slow. What in thunder was old Jim up to?"

The trail was plainer now, and led along the scarp of the ridge to a little promontory which gave a great prospect over the flaming forests and yellow glades. Boone found a crinkle of rock where he flung himself down. "It's plain enough," he said. "They come up here to spy. They were fear'd of something, and whatever it was it was coming from the west. See, they kep' under the east side of this ridge so as not to be seen, and they settled down to spy whar they couldn't be obsarved from below. I reckon Jim and the redskin had a pretty good eye for cover."

He examined every inch of the eyrie, sniffing like a pointer dog. "I'm plumb puzzled about this redskin," he confessed. "Shawnee, Cherokee, Chickasaw—it ain't likely Jim would have dealings with 'em. It might be one of them Far Indians."

It appeared as if Lovelle had spent most of the previous afternoon on the ridge, for he found the remains of his night's fire half way down the north side in a hollow thatched with vines. It was now about three o'clock. Boone, stepping delicately, examined the ashes, and then sat himself on the ground and brooded.

When at last he lifted his eyes his face was perplexed.

"I can't make it out nohow. Jim and this Indian was good friends. They were feelin' pretty safe, for they made a mighty careless fire and didn't stop to tidy it up. But likewise they was restless, for they started out long before morning.... I read it this way. Jim met a redskin that he knowed before and thought he could trust anyhow, and he's gone off with him seeking powder. It'd be like Jim to dash off alone and play his hand like that. He figured he'd come back to us with what we needed and that we'd have the sense to wait for him. I guess that's right. But I'm uneasy about the redskin. If he's from north of the river, there's a Mingo camp somewhere about and they've gone there.... I never had much notion of Seneca Indians, and I reckon Jim's took a big risk."

All evening he followed the trail, which crossed the low hills into the corn-brakes and woodlands of a broader valley. Presently he saw that he had been right, and that Lovelle and the Indian had begun their journey in the night, for the prints showed like those of travellers in darkness. Before sunset Boone grew very anxious. He found traces converging, till a clear path was worn in the grass like a regulation war trail. It was not one of the known trails, so it had been made for a purpose; he found on tree trunks the tiny blazons of the scouts who had been sent ahead to survey it. It was a war party of Mingos, or whoever they might be, and he did not like it. He was puzzled to know what purchase Jim could have with those outland folk.... And yet he had been on friendly terms with the scout he had picked up.... Another fact disturbed him. Lovelle's print had been clear enough till the other Indians joined him. The light was bad, but now that print seemed to have disappeared. It might be due to the general thronging of marks in the trail, but it might be that Jim was a prisoner, trussed and helpless.

He supped off cold jerked bear's meat and slept two hours in the canes, waiting on the moonrise. He had bad dreams, for he seemed to hear drums beating the eerie tattoo which he remembered long ago in Border raids. He woke in a sweat, and took the road again in the moonlight. It was not hard to follow, and it seemed to be making north for the Ohio. Dawn came on him in a grassy bottom, beyond which lay low hills that he knew alone separated him from the great river. Once in the Indian Moon of Blossom he had been thus far, and had gloried in the riches of the place, where a man walked knee deep in honeyed clover. "The dark and bloody land!" He remembered how he had repeated the name to himself, and had concluded that Lovelle had been right and that it was none of the Almighty's giving. Now in the sharp autumn morning he felt its justice. A cloud had come over his cheerful soul. "If only I knowed about Jim," he muttered "I wonder if I'll ever clap eyes or his old face again." Never before had he known such acute anxiety. Pioneers are wont to trust each other and in their wild risks assume that the odd chance is on their side. But now black forebodings possessed him, born not of reasoning but of instinct. His comrade somewhere just ahead of him was in deadly peril.

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