RISKS

THE slender young gentleman, after his swift survey of the surroundings,
opened the door to the public dining-room.

“Come along, the place is empty,” he said, and, picking up one of the
cloak-bags, stepped briskly into the room so recently vacated by Mr.
Jeremiah Filson. “Thank God for a decent-looking inn!” he added,
heartily, tossing his cloak-bag into a corner and dropping into a chair,
where he began to hum:

“‘Charlie is my darling,
My darling, my darling;
Char—’”

“Hush!” exclaimed his companion, who had followed with the other bag and
closed the door. “Heaven’s sake, Charles, none of those songs!”

But Charles finished:

“‘—lie is my darling,—
The young Cheva_leer_,’”

and then answered, gaily: “Why not? We’re alone here?”

The face of the young man—the slender one, addressed by his comrade as
Charles—was not only handsome, but pleasant and animated, being lighted
by soft blue eyes. The nose was slightly aquiline, the other features
regular. He wore his own hair; his old suit of blue velvet carried an
appearance of faded elegance; his three-cornered hat still boasted some
remnants of silver lace; he was in riding-boots, and a sword hung at his
side.

His comrade, more broadly and squarely made in face as in body, a man
serious and resolute in aspect, was similarly dressed, in clothes now in
their decline but of a darker shade.

“Ay, alone here,” said he, putting his bag with the other’s, “but ’tis
as well to leave off habits that may be dangerous. You might as easily
break out into one of the old ditties in company as alone. I dare say
nobody finds any harm in the mere singing of them; but ’tis apt to set
people’s minds on certain matters, and we’d best not have them think of
those matters in relation to us. We excite curiosity enough, I make no
doubt.”

“Only your fancy, Will. Why should we excite more curiosity than any
other two travellers?” said Charles. “What is so extraordinary in our
appearance? Come, I’ve asked you a hundred times, and you can’t answer.
Your constitutional prudence, your natural cautiousness, which you know
I vastly admire and try to emulate—”

Will smiled at this.

“Those excellent traits of thine, dear lad,” Charles went on, “cause you
to magnify things, or rather to transfigure them altogether, so that, if
anybody looks at us, you see suspicion where there is really nothing but
the careless curiosity of a moment. Where he says in his mind,
‘Strangers,’ you can almost hear him saying with his lips, ‘Jacobites.’”

“Hush! You may laugh as you please, Charles: prudence and caution, even
carried to excess, are likelier to serve our turn than carelessness and
boldness, till we are safe out of England.”

“Why, there again! You are more apprehensive a thousand times since we
have crossed the border than you were during all the time in Scotland,
all the hiding time, and the time of dodging enemies on the alert for us
in every direction.”

“I confess it. As one nears the end of a difficult or dangerous
business, one should be the more fearful of disaster. Think how it may
turn to naught all the toils that have brought one so far. Never relax
because the goal is in sight: if you trip at the last, and through your
own folly, too, ’tis the more to be regretted.”

“All true, my dear Roughwood; and yet, for our peace of mind, ’tis
comforting to think how much safer we really are in England than we were
across the border. Nobody expects to find Jacobites on the highroads of
England.”

“There have been far too many seen on the highroads of England lately,”
said Roughwood, with a gloomy smile.

“Ah, yes, the poor fellows now at Carlisle and York,” replied Charles;
“but Jacobites uncaught are a different matter. They are all thought to
be skulking in the Highlands, the Duke of Cumberland’s soldiers closing
nearer and nearer round them. Heaven send that the Prince may escape!
Would that his chances were as good as ours! ’Tis probable every mile of
the Scottish coast is patrolled by government vessels, as every foot of
the Highlands is hunted over by regulars and militia—or will be hunted
over, ere all is done. ’Twas high time we left our quarters among the
rocks and heather, and a miracle of good luck that we slipped through
the enemy’s lines and across the border. England is the safer land for
us, and vastly easier to escape from by sea.”

Their talk was interrupted by the entrance of the landlady, who took
their orders for dinner, after which meal they intended to resume their
journey. When they were again alone, Charles continued:

“So, my dear lad, as I was about to say, let us be easy in our minds,
put away apprehensions, and avoid suspicion by showing no expectation of
it. Your mad resolve to come to England and see the beloved lady before
you flee the kingdom, turns out to be the wisest course we could have
taken.”

“Wise or mad, my dear Everell,” said Will Roughwood, “I’d have taken it
at any risk.”

“And wise or mad,” said Everell, gaily, “I’d have followed you at any
risk—for company’s sake, to say no more. But indeed there’s less risk
for me than you. Very few people in England know my face: ever since
boyhood, my life has been spent abroad, until I joined the Prince. ’Tis
different with you, who were brought up almost entirely within the two
kingdoms. Egad, there’s the advantage I derive from my father having
been the complete Jacobite—one of those who, for all their love of
country, preferred exile in order to be at the centre of the plotting.”
The young man smiled to think how all that plotting for a second Stuart
restoration had come to naught.

“There’s chance of recognition for you, too,” said Roughwood. “Consider
how many people saw you when we invaded these Northern counties last
year. And consider those of our own party who have turned traitor,
buying their lives by informing against their comrades. And we are in
constant danger of encountering men who fought against us, like that
fellow we dodged so narrowly yesterday.”

“Oh, he and I had our particular reasons for remembering each other,”
said Everell, touching the scar on his cheek. “’Tis not in chance that
we should run across him again. One such coincidence is remarkable
enough.”

“Who can tell? In any case, he is not the only soldier of the enemy who
would remember us. We are like to fall in with more; and ’tis of such,
as all accounts agree, that most of the witnesses are, who have
testified at Carlisle and York.”

“Well, then, such are to be looked for in Carlisle and York at present,
except those who are in London for the like purpose. We have given
Carlisle a wide berth, we will steer clear of York, and we’ll not go to
London. And it may be that those of the enemy who remember us are still
with the army in Scotland, hunting down our comrades.”

Roughwood smiled at his friend’s habitual power of seeing the favourable
possibilities and ignoring the adverse; and could not help wondering
that fortune had brought him unscathed through so many hazards in all
the months of flight and concealment since that fatal day of defeat in
the wind and snowfall on Culloden Moor.

“You’ll run into trouble yet, I’m fearing,” said Roughwood, with
solicitude and affection in his smile.

“As for mere busybodies here in England,” Charles Everell continued,
apparently bent upon disposing of every class from which discovery might
be possible; “people to whom the idea of fugitive Jacobites might occur
at this time, they will not look to find officers travelling openly as
gentlemen. They will suppose that fugitives of our quality, if any fled
into England at all, would come disguised. Going boldly in the dress and
manner of gentlemen, wearing swords and showing no secrecy, how can we
excite suspicion? We have nothing to fear but some unlucky chance
meeting, like that we galloped away from yesterday; and the same
accident is not like to befall us again.”

“But if that fellow who recognized you should have taken it into his
head to hound us?”

“Is he likely to have put himself to the trouble? Doubtless he has his
own affairs to pursue. Be that as it may, we got rid of him easily
enough by spurring our horses and turning out of the road at the next
byway; and, if forced to it, we can do so again.”

“We may not have the same advantage again. If there had been anybody at
hand yesterday, I am sure he would have called out and denounced us. I
don’t forget his look when he first saw us, as he stood in front of that
wayside ale-house. He was about touching his hat to us as we rode up,
when he beheld your face. His hand remained fixed in the air, and he
stared as if you had been the devil. Then he glanced wildly around, and
in at the ale-house door; he was certainly looking to see if help was in
call.”

“’Twas a question for an instant whether I should run my sword through
him,” said Everell, “but thank God such impulses never prevail with me.
So I merely decided not to stop at that house of refreshment, and gave
my horse the spur. And you were good enough to follow without question,
which speaks well for your wisdom and my own, my dear Will. Always do
so, and we shall always have similar good fortune in escaping the perils
that beset us.”

“I would I knew what our guide thought of the incident, and of our
bribing him to let his horses come so far out of the way.”

“He thought merely as I told him, no doubt:—in the first case, that my
horse bolted, and that I took it as an omen against stopping there; in
the second, that we really had a friend whose house we thought to find
by turning out of the way. But whatever he may have thought, he was a
mum fellow, and doubtless went to bed as soon as we arrived at last
night’s inn; therefore he probably had no speech with the lad who took
his place this morning.”

“Well, well,” said Roughwood, smilingly resigning himself to the other’s
sense of security, “I hope your confidence will be justified to the end
of the journey. But when we come to my own county, where I am well
known, there indeed we must needs go warily.”

“Why, then, of course, we shall stir only by night,” said Everell. “And
we shall not tarry long, if all goes well.”

“Only till I can see her,” replied his friend, in a voice low with
sadness and tenderness. A brief silence fell between the two young men,
till Roughwood added, “One last meeting! And then to part,—for how long,
God knows!”

“Oh, you may come back to England safely in two or three years. When the
government has made examples enough, there will be a general pardon; or
at worst a Jacobite may slink back and his presence be winked at. So
much if our cause be never revived; if it _be_ revived, we may be able
to come back openly enough.”

Roughwood shook his head. “’Twill never be revived to any purpose. We
can never rally a larger force than we had this time; yet one can see
plainly now how vain our hopes were from the first. No, ’twas a dream, a
dream. The house of Hanover is firmly established in these kingdoms: the
star of the Stuarts is set. If a general pardon is ever granted us, it
will be for that reason,—because we can do no harm. But, meanwhile, ’tis
the day of punishment, and we must look to our necks. After I have seen
her, we have only to find Budge, and lie hid till he happens to be
sailing.”

The arrival of a maid with their dinner put a stop for the time to this
kind of conversation, in which they but reviewed their situation as they
had done a score of times within the past few days. They had ordered
frugally, out of respect to the state of their common purse, which they
counted upon to carry them to the place near which lived both
Roughwood’s affianced wife—with whom it was his hope to exchange
assurances of faith and devotion ere he fled his native country—and the
master of a certain vessel, upon whom he relied for their conveyance
across the channel. Roughwood had relations at this place, but, as they
sympathized not with his Jacobitism, which he had acquired through his
Scottish kin, he considered it imprudent to seek a further supply of
money from them. Once in France, however, he could communicate in safety
with his sources of maintenance. As for Everell, the modest but
sufficient fortune he inherited from his Jacobite father had long been
placed in France, and would be at his command as soon as he reached
Paris. The young men were now travelling upon the remainder of the gold
with which both had fortunately been supplied a few days before the
battle of Culloden. They had not had occasion to spend money during the
months of concealment immediately following upon the total defeat of
their cause at that contest, their hiding-place—first a “bothy” and
afterwards a cave—having been on the estate of a Highland gentleman who
shared in their seclusion, and by whose adherents he and they were fed.

To this comrade in defeat they owed also the clothes they now wore, as
they had considered it better advised to appear as ordinary gentlemen in
their journey through England, than to use a disguise which it would
require some acting to carry off. Having lived a part of his time in the
great world, this Highland laird was possessed of a considerable
wardrobe besides that limited to the national dress, and in order to
furnish out his two friends he had risked with them a secret visit by
night to his own mansion, which was under the intermittent watch of
government troops. The gentleman was of a build rather lighter than
Roughwood and stouter than Everell, so that his loosest set of garments
was not impossible of wear to the former, and his tightest did not hang
too limply on the body of the latter. Discarding entirely their
battle-worn and earth-soiled clothes for these, and otherwise altering
and augmenting their equipment at their friend’s expense, the two
fugitives had, by travelling at night and making a carefully planned
dash at the most critical point, put themselves outside of the region
surrounded by the Duke of Cumberland’s forces. Thereafter they had dared
to move by day, hiring horses; and either Everell’s boldness or
Roughwood’s caution, or both, had carried them so far without other
adverse chance than the meeting with the man who remembered Everell from
their encounter at Culloden. Being without passports, they had avoided
every place where troops were said to be stationed, and in crossing the
border they had kept to the moors instead of the roads: for their
eccentric manner of travelling, their invention was equal to such
pretexts as the curiosity of horse-boys and others might require.

When the servant left them to their dinner, they reverted to their
former subject, talking as they ate.

“’Tis all plain sailing, to my sight,” said Everell, cheerfully, “until
we entrust our precious bodies to the care of your friend the smuggler.”

“I’ll warrant Budge to be true stuff,” replied Roughwood, confidently.
“He would risk his cutter to save my neck. We used to play with his
children on the cliffs, he and I.—And now I shall be looking on those
cliffs for the last time, perhaps,—and on England! Well, ’tis the fate
of losers in the game of rebellion.” He made no attempt to restrain the
sigh this melancholy reflection evoked.

“Tut, tut, lad!” protested Everell, with unfeigned lightness of heart;
“take my word for it, a man can live out of England. What is it
Shakespeare says, that my father used to quote when our
fellow-countrymen visiting us would commiserate our exile? ‘There’s
livers out of Britain.’ And that speech of Coriolanus, too: ‘I turned my
back upon my native city and found a world elsewhere.’ ’Twould surprise
some Englishmen to be convinced of it, I know, but indeed there is a
world elsewhere. ’Tis a lovely country, Britain, I grant you, and would
be my choice for living in, when all’s said and done, but—there’s livers
out of it.”

“You talk as if ’twere only the leaving England,” said the other, with a
sorrowful smile.

Everell was silent a moment, gazing at his friend as if to make out some
sort of puzzle which had repeatedly baffled him. “Sure, ’tis more than I
can understand,” he said, at last. “For that lady I have the profound
respect and admiration which your own regard for her declares her due;
for every lady who merits them I have respect and admiration: but this
power of love, as I see it manifested in you! Give me leave, on the
score of our friendship, to confide that it astonishes me. How a man can
fret his soul over a woman, be miserable at the idea of parting from
her, risk his life for a meeting with her—for though we find it the
safer course now, it _was_ risking our lives to make that dash through
the enemy’s lines and across the lowlands—”

“Yet you risked yours readily enough for mere friendship’s sake,” said
Roughwood, breaking in upon the parenthesis, and so wrecking the
sentence for ever.

“For friendship’s sake, yes!—brave comradeship, good company!—indeed,
yes, and who would not? But for love of a girl!—why, ’tis worthy of Don
Quixote! Forgive me: I speak only my mind.”

“Lad, lad, what is friendship in comparison with love of a girl—real
love of a girl? You’ll sing another tune some day.”

“Never! I can assure you, never. I know not what the disease is, of
which you speak. Certainly I’m now old enough to have had it if I ever
was to be attacked.—Not that I don’t admire the beauty of women, and
commend them for their gentleness,—when they _are_ gentle,—and
compassionate their weakness as I do that of children, and find pleasure
in their smiling faces, and soft eyes, and tender blushes. I can take
joy enough in the society of a pretty creature when it falls my lot, and
count it among the other amenities of life. I value the grace and
goodness that high-minded women diffuse in this rough world. I can be
happy with sensible women, and amuse myself with light ones. But as to
being what you call _in love_, I have not fallen into that strange
condition, and I can promise you I never shall. ’Tis not in my
constitution.”

“The day will come, and the disease be all the worse for being late, as
is the case with other ailments delayed beyond the usual time.”

“No, sir: and as for hazarding life for love of a woman, I must tell you
I put a higher value upon life than that implies. You understand me—for
_love_ of a woman. To save a woman in danger, to serve a woman in any
way, is a different matter. But merely to participate in the absurdities
of love, to exchange assurances and go through the rest of the
comedy,—will you have me believe ’tis worth staking such a gift as life
for? Pretty odds, egad!—life against love! Love, which is at most an
incident, against life, which is everything and includes all incidents!
Love, against the possibilities of who knows how many years! My dear
Will!—and yet you say I am rash.”

“I am glad to find you a convert to a sense of the value of life,”
laughed Will.

“Why, you don’t think I have held life cheap because I have sometimes
ventured it perhaps without much hesitation? Be sure I have always known
what I was doing. There has always been, as there is now, a good chance
of winning through. I have not lagged behind the boldest in a fight,
’tis true—”

“Except in a retreat.”

“Ah, well, it broke my heart to fly from the field at Culloden. When I
thought of the Prince and his hopes—when I perceived that all was ended
in the whirling snow of that bleak day—I forgot myself. For a moment
life did seem of little worth; not that I ever had the cause so much at
heart, but ’twas a sad end of a brave adventure, and I felt what was
passing in the Prince’s mind. I tarried for a last stroke of protest,
and a pity it is it fell on no better object than a dog whose only
business on the field was plunder,—for I don’t think that fellow was a
true soldier; ’twas by fool’s luck he pinked me with his bayonet.—But,
deuce take it, where was I? Ah, yes. If I’ve been venturesome now and
again, I have never felt that the danger was more than my arm and eye
were equal to,—and that’s not rashness, Will. A man is a fool who
doesn’t hold life precious. If it isn’t precious, what’s the merit in
risking it for a good cause? There are so many fine things to see and do
when one is alive, ’tis sheer lunacy to place them all in the balance
against a trifle. As for the satisfaction of looking on a pretty face
for a greater or less space of time,—no, ’tis not enough.”

“Wait till you see the right face, dear lad,” said Roughwood, quietly.

“When I do, dear lad, you shall hear of it.”

Upon this speech, blithely uttered, Everell filled their two glasses
with wine from the single bottle they had ordered. The young men were
about to pledge each other, when the sudden opening of the door caused
them to look sharply in that direction, holding their glasses midway
between table and lips. A young lady came in with quick steps. At sight
of the gentlemen, she stopped at once, and looked sweetly embarrassed.
Everell and Roughwood rose to their feet, and bowed.

“Your pardon, sirs,” said the intruder. “I was—I wanted to see
Prudence.” Her confusion, to which was due the strangeness of this
remark, became all the greater on her perceiving that strangeness, and
she blushed deeply.

“Prudence?” echoed Everell, politely. “If you mean a lady of that name,
we have not seen her here.”

“She is my waiting-woman,” explained Georgiana. “I didn’t expect to find
her in this room. She is in the kitchen, no doubt, so I thought of
coming to this room and ringing the bell. I thought there might be
nobody here, but I see I intrude.”

“Not in the least,” said Everell, earnestly. “You arrive just in time to
provide us with a toast. To those sweet eyes!”

He was about to drink, when the new wave of crimson that swept over her
face at this tenderly spoken praise of her visual organs engendered a
sudden abashment in Everell. “I have been too bold, perhaps,” he said,
in a kind of vague alarm. “If so, I entreat your pardon, madam.”

She looked at him with undisguised interest, and said, slowly, “I know
not. If you are bold, there seems a respect in your boldness,—a
gentleness and a consideration—” She stopped short, as having gone too
far. A slight quiver of the lip, and a certain note of resentment in her
last words, combined with the words themselves, conveyed a message to
his quick wit.

“Madam, some one has offended you,” he said, instantly setting down his
wine, and walking toward her and the door. “Where is the person?”

She raised her hand to check him, frightened at having created the
possibility of a scene. “Nay, ’tis nothing! Stay, I beg you, sir!”

“Who could be ungentle to one who is all gentleness?” cried Everell. “It
must have occurred but now—they must be near—in this inn. In what room?
Pray tell me.”

“’Twas nothing, sir, I assure you. I spoke in a moment of foolish
vexation. I was merely annoyed at their talk. I had no right to be—no
offence was meant.”

“People should be careful that offence is not given, as well as not
meant. They should be chastised for their carelessness, if for nothing
more.”

“Nay, it is not to be heard of. Two of them are of my own sex, and
another is my relation. I had no real cause to be angry. The fault is
all mine, indeed. I have been much in the wrong to leave them so
rudely,—and more in the wrong to speak of the matter to a stranger. Pray
forget all I have said, sir,—pray do, as you are a gentleman.”

He had been on the point of answering at the end of each sentence, but
her rapidity of speech prevented. She stopped now, with a look that
continued her appeal and besought an assurance.

“As I am a gentleman,” said Everell, “I will obey your least command—or
your greatest. But as I am a gentleman, I would not have you consider me
as a stranger. I grant we have never met before; but such true and
gentle eyes as yours make friends of all who are privileged to see them.
As for my own deserts, I can plead only the respect and tenderness your
looks compel. Believe me, nothing in the suddenness of this meeting can
make me act lightly toward you, or think lightly of you, if you will do
me the honour to count me among your friends. My name is—”

A loud “hem” from Roughwood, who had been looking on with astonishment
at his friend’s earnest and precipitate demonstration of regard, made
Everell stop short. Georgiana, who had listened and gazed with a
bewilderment that had something exceedingly novel and pleasant in it,
was at a loss how to fill the pause with speech or act. She stood
feeling quite incapable and delighted; but her face betrayed nothing
unusual except wonder, which very well became it. Everell, however, did
not leave her long suspended. With a smile at his own predicament, he
resumed:

“Egad, I have a choice of names to tell, madam. For certain reasons, I
don’t parade my true name at present.—And yet why not in this case? I
wouldn’t deal in falsehood even so slight, with one whose looks
declare—”

But Georgiana had suddenly recalled her wits to their duty, and they had
promptly informed her how the world would expect a young lady to comport
herself in such a situation. She quietly interrupted:

“Nay, sir, I haven’t asked your name, and there is no need you should
tell it, as we are not likely to meet again. I thank you for your
willingness to befriend me, and your offer of service.—There is one
thing you may do for me, if you will.”

The dejected look that had come over Everell’s face flashed into
eagerness, and he started forward. “Name it, madam!”

Georgiana smiled, but said as sweetly as possible, to compensate in some
measure for the disappointment she foresaw too late, “If you will pull
the bell-rope yonder, I shall be very grateful—_most_ grateful.”

Everell’s looks groaned for him, and he was too far taken down to move.
Roughwood laughed gently, and after a moment, as he was nearer the
bell-rope, went toward it. This restored Everell to animation.

“Nay, Will, ’tis _my_ affair!” he cried, and, stepping between his
friend and the rope, gave it so earnest a pull, with such a flourish,
that anybody must have marvelled to see how serious and magnificent a
performance the pulling of a bell-rope could be made.

Georgiana thanked him, and stood smiling, with nothing more to say.
Everell found himself afflicted with a similar lack, or confusion, of
ideas, as well as from inability to take his eyes off the young lady.
She sought relief from his gaze by walking to the window. Presently the
maid appeared, in response to the bell.

“Tell my waiting-woman to come to me,” said Georgiana. The maid having
gone, another space of embarrassment ensued, until Georgiana was fain to
break the silence by an ill-simulated cough. This was followed by a
profound sigh on the part of Everell, who had indeed never been so
tongue-tied in his life. Roughwood meanwhile stood witnessing with
amusement. He was not the sort of man to come to the rescue at such
junctures in any case, being of a reserved disposition, and he was
certainly not inclined to pity the discomposure of his gay and confident
friend.

At last Prudence made her appearance, with officious haste and
solicitude. “What is it, your la’ship?” Seeing the gentlemen, she turned
her glance upon them before her mistress could answer. “Oh, lor!” she
cried, and stood stock-still, staring open-mouthed at Everell.

“Prudence! what do you mean?” said Georgiana.

“Oh, lor!” repeated the girl. “The gentleman with the heart! Under his
right eye, too! The very place!”

“Prudence, what impertinence! Have you lost your senses?—Sir, I beg
pardon for the poor girl. I don’t know what she means, but no harm, I’m
certain.”

“Oh, mistress, your la’ship, come away!” begged Prudence, and, taking
hold of Georgiana’s sleeve, essayed to draw her from the room. In
astonishment, and hope of learning the cause of this extraordinary
conduct, Georgiana made a brief curtsey to the gentlemen, and followed
the maid out to the passage, where she bade her explain herself. But
Prudence was not content till she had led her mistress into the opposite
entry and partly up the stairs, whither it was impossible for the gaze
of the two gentlemen to reach them.

Everell, quite heedless of the maid’s behaviour, had started forward
with a stifled exclamation of protest when Georgiana had moved to leave
them. He had stopped before arriving at the door, of course; and now
that she had disappeared from view across the passage, he turned to
Roughwood with a forlorn countenance. Roughwood, however, was in no mood
for either sympathy or rallying. Prudence’s demonstration had worked its
full effect upon him, and his brow was now grave with concern.

“Did you ever see such angelic sweetness, such divine gentleness?” asked
Everell.

“Did you attend to what her waiting-woman said?” replied Roughwood,
rather sharply.

“Something about my heart, or my eye, was it not? Sure, my heart may
well have been in my eyes, when they looked on that lovely creature.”

“She was noticing the scar on your face. She has heard you described, no
doubt. News of us has travelled along the road. ’Tis the work of the
fellow we saw yesterday, I dare say. How often did I beg you to cover
that scar with a patch?”

“Pshaw, you always see the worst possibility. The boy with the horses
has been talking of us in the kitchen, that’s all. He has invented some
wild tale of us, as those people do of their masters and employers.”

“We had best order fresh horses, and pay the reckoning; and meanwhile
finish our wine—it may be some time before we think it safe to stop long
at another inn.”

He stepped toward the bell-rope, but Everell again intervened, with the
words:

“Nay, if any report of us has gone about, a hasty departure is the very
thing to confirm suspicion. Nothing in haste:—my dear Will, how often
have I heard you give that good counsel.”

“There will be no apparent haste. We have dined without hurry.”

Everell sighed, and looked toward the door. His face brightened.

“But if we wait here awhile, we may—don’t you know—perhaps we can—we may
learn why that waiting-woman cried out at the sight of my scar,—for,
look you, if we should meet the mistress again, no doubt, if it is
something harmless—”

“At least,” said Roughwood, firmly, “I will ring and give orders and
pay. Even if you still feel inclined to tarry, there’s no harm in being
ready to go.”

Everell could not reasonably dispute this, but he was so little inclined
to take a hand in anything implying an immediate departure, that he left
all to his friend, and sat looking through the open door while Roughwood
gave orders and paid the landlady. Nothing occurred to reward his watch
during the first few minutes that passed while horses were being made
ready. He took up the glass that Roughwood gently pushed to his hand,
and drank down the wine half-consciously. He dreaded to see the horses
appear, knowing that his comrade must have his way, and that he should
probably never again behold the vision that had suddenly gladdened his
sight and warmed his heart.

But meanwhile there had been activity in the yard, and now there was a
great stamping of hoofs and rattling of harness, accompanied by the
ejaculations peculiar to men who have to do with horses. Roughwood went
to the door and looked toward the yard.

“’Tis a coach-and-six making ready to depart,” he said. “And there’s a
post-chaise, too. We are not the only people who are about to leave this
inn.”

Everell was by his side in an instant. No doubt, then, the young lady
would be leaving. A fat coachman was on the box of the private vehicle,
and the postilion was in readiness to mount before the chaise, but the
passengers of neither were yet visible. There came, however, from across
the passage the sound of well-bred voices, in easy, half-jesting tones,
and then appeared a sumptuously charming lady on the arm of a handsome,
discontented-looking gentleman; a second couple, not as distinguished in
appearance; and the young lady who had so fired Everell’s fancy. The
party moved toward the conveyances, Georgiana having no share in their
mirthful talk. She had cast a quick glance at the two young gentlemen
while her face was toward them, but had given no sign of acquaintance. A
second procession, consisting of the waiting-women and men servants with
the smaller impedimenta, followed in the footsteps of the gentlefolk,
and Georgiana’s figure was almost lost to view in the crowd about the
carriages, which was now swelled by the people of the inn.

“Which way can they be going? Who is she? If I could but learn where she
lives!” said Everell.

“The knowledge would serve you little at present, I fear,” replied
Roughwood.

“Those are the people whose talk offended her. One is her relation, she
said. By Jupiter, I must find out!”

Ere his friend could stop him Everell had started for the yard, as if
upon his own business, with some general idea of questioning the inn
folk. Going near the travellers, he heard the two strange ladies and one
of the gentlemen discussing how the party should be divided between the
coach and the chaise. The taller gentleman was speaking to the landlady.
The word “baggage” caught Everell’s ear, and he stood still.

“There are three trunks following by the wagon,” the gentleman was
saying, “to be left here. You will have Timmins the carter fetch them to
Foxwell Court immediately.”

Everell needed to hear no more. The party was evidently bound for
Foxwell Court, which must be near if the baggage following thus far by
regular wagon was to be conveyed the rest of the way by a local carter.
And of course the place must be off the route of the stage-wagons—that
is to say, off the great highway. Three trunks would have been small
luggage for so numerous a party of such quality; but Everell saw baggage
on the coach, as well. This, in fact, belonged to Lady Strange and her
party. That about which he had heard directions given was of Georgiana
and her uncle.

Everell was on the edge of the little crowd, and he turned about to look
toward the midst of it, where he had last caught a glimpse of the young
lady. To his wonder, he now beheld her close in front of him, her eyes
meeting his.

[Illustration: “‘SAVE YOURSELF,’ SHE WHISPERED, RAPIDLY. ‘YOU ARE IN
DANGER HERE.’”]

“Save yourself,” she whispered, rapidly. “You are in danger here. A man
is up-stairs who is hunting you—one Jeremiah Filson. For heaven’s sake,
fly while you may!”

Before he could answer, she had slipped back through the crowd, and was
in her former place, near the two older ladies. The attention of the
lesser folk was upon the London people, who were concerned only with one
another, and the tall gentleman was still engaged with the woman of the
inn. No one had observed Georgiana.

AT last the tall gentleman turned to his friends. Everell saw Georgiana
disappear into the coach with the older ladies; saw the two gentlemen
spring into the chaise, after casting doles to the yard servants; saw
the two maids established upon outside seats, the valets mounted, the
postilion up before the chaise, the coachman gather his reins and whip;
saw the procession move off, with Caleb at the head to show the way, the
coach next, the chaise following, and the trim London lackey riding
behind all the rest. Everell followed as far as to the door, where still
stood Roughwood. The coach had already turned down the High Street.

“She’s gone,” said he. “But not far—only to Foxwell Court.”

“Pray, where and what is Foxwell Court?” asked Roughwood, leading him by
the arm into the parlour.

“I know not, but ’tis easily learned.”

“No doubt, but we shall do better to restrain our curiosity. I trust we
shall have nothing more to excite it—or to tempt you to mingle
unnecessarily in miscellaneous crowds from inn kitchens.”

“My dear Will,” cried Everell, “my going among that crowd was a stroke
of heaven-sent luck. I received a most valuable warning—and from her,
too! Think of it, those sweet lips, those heavenly eyes, that—”

“Warning? What do you mean?”

Everell told him.

“H’m!” said Roughwood. “That explains her maid’s conduct. Somebody had
described you to the maid—somebody now up-stairs.”

“Yes, and the maid no sooner tells her of it than she takes the first
opportunity to put us on our guard, at the risk even of her good name.
What divine compassion! What—”

“And the somebody up-stairs? No doubt your acquaintance of yesterday.
Why, he may chance upon us at any moment, and give the alarm. And, if he
has mentioned you to the maid, why not to a whole kitchenful of people?
’Tis high time indeed we were out of this place. How slow they are with
the horses! We should be in another county by sunset.”

“Ay, dear Will, _you_ should—and must.”

“_I_ should? _We_ should. Here are the horses at last. Come.” Roughwood
seized the cloak-bags.

“Nay, Will, I—I will follow a little later,” said Everell, taking his
own piece of luggage.

“Later? Are you mad?—Come, come, no nonsense, Charles. You will go with
me, of course.”

“From this inn, certainly. But from this neighbourhood not for a—day or
two. I mention it now, so that the boy need hear no discussion between
us. I will ride with you a mile or so, then take my own way afoot. The
boy, of course, must keep his horses together.—I will follow you, I say:
I can find your man Budge. Let his house be our rendezvous,—I can find
it from your description,—and of course I will appear thereabouts only
at night. Instruct him to be on the watch for me. If he can sail before
I arrive, make good your own escape, and bid him expect me on his
return. That is all, I think; and now to horse.”

“But, my dear lad,—my dear, dear lad,—what folly is this? Hear reason;
you must be guided by me. You know not what you would risk—”

“No more than I’ve risked before now, and for no such cause, either.
’Tis settled, Will, I intend to stay hereabouts till I’ve seen that
young lady again. Come, the boy is waiting with the horses. ’Tis you now
that delays our going.”

“Charles, listen to me!—Rash! foolish! mad!”

“No.—I said you should hear when I saw the right face, Will. I declare
I’ve seen it—and must see it again, whatever be the cost or the
consequence.”

In another minute they were on horseback, moving down the High Street.
The coach and chaise had started in the same direction, but were now out
of sight. Everell hoped to come nearly up to them, that he might see
where they left the highroad. But even after he had cleared the town and
beheld a straight stretch of road far ahead, he found no sign of the
vehicles in which he was interested. He inferred that they must have
turned off through one of the streets of the town, which was indeed the
case.

Meanwhile, Roughwood, full of sadness and misgiving, had kept up his
usual vigilance so far as to watch their guide for possible signs of
having heard any such talk at the inn as had enabled the maid Prudence
to identify Everell. But the boy did not regard either of the gentlemen
at all suspiciously; he showed no curiosity or interest, and Roughwood
was assured that, if Everell’s enemy had spoken of them at the inn, this
lad had not been a listener. Such, as the reader knows, was the case,
for Mr. Filson had thus far confided his story to nobody in the house
but Prudence, and she had excluded herself from the conversation of the
kitchen under a sense of affront, until summoned by her mistress.
Georgiana, upon hearing the cause of her alarm at the sight of the young
stranger, had put the girl under the strictest commands of secrecy, and
had kept her in attendance afterward, quietly returning to Foxwell and
his friends as they were making ready to depart.

While he still rode with his friend, Everell allowed no mention of his
resolve or of Foxwell Court to escape him, for he knew that the guide,
whom Roughwood would dismiss at the end of that stage, would be
returning with the horses, and might be interrogated by their enemy, who
by that time would probably have learned of their short stay at the inn.
On the other hand, Everell devoted some conversation to the purpose of
deceiving the boy as to his reasons and intentions in leaving his friend
and his saddle as he was about to do. Observing a house among some trees
upon a hill, he pointed it out to Roughwood as the residence of a friend
whom he meant to surprise with a brief visit. Having spoken to this
effect, as if the matter had been previously understood between them, he
added that, in order to make the surprise complete, he would approach
the house on foot among the trees, and would therefore take leave of
Roughwood, for the time, in the road. He could depend upon the gentleman
he was about to visit to furnish him with conveyance to the next town,
whence he would follow Roughwood by post-horse. This much having been
said in the guide’s hearing, Everell pulled up his horse, and, Roughwood
doing likewise, the two fugitives held a whispered conference upon the
details of their next reunion.

To the last, Roughwood tried, by voice and look, to dissuade his comrade
from this rash and sudden deviation from their original plans, but
vainly. They made a redivision of their money, for each in his heart
felt that some time must elapse ere they should—if ever—be fellow
travellers again. Then Everell slid from his horse, slung his cloak-bag
over his shoulder, gave a quick pressure of his friend’s hand, and a
whispered “God speed you, dear lad!” in exchange for a silent and
protesting farewell in the other’s clouding eyes; and stood alone in the
highway. He waited till the horses disappeared with a last wave of
Roughwood’s hand, around a turning: he then faced directly about, and
set off with long and rapid strides.

His pace very soon brought him back to the town he had so recently left.
Instead of going as far as to their former inn, he sought out one of
humbler appearance, near the beginning of the street. Here he left his
cloak-bag, for already in his brief walk he had experienced the stares
of wonder naturally drawn by a gentleman who carried at the same time a
sword at his side and a cloak-bag at his shoulder. He went into a
barber’s shop, where, as he had used his razor that morning, and very
little sign of beard had become visible in the meantime, his order for
shaving created in the barber’s mind an impression that he must be an
extremely luxurious gentleman in spite of his threadbare
clothes,—probably a lord in misfortune. Everell easily set the barber
talking about all the estates in the neighbourhood, and thus, without
seeming to have more design in regard to Foxwell Court than to a dozen
other places, elicited the information that that house was eight miles
away on the road to Burndale.

Returning to the inn where he had left his bag, he told the landlord he
was bound for Burndale, and had made up his mind to accomplish part of
the journey that afternoon, in order to arrive there betimes the next
day. He bargained for a horse and guide to take him seven or eight miles
on the way, and leave him at some place where he could pass the night
and obtain conveyance on to Burndale in the morning. In this way,
without mentioning Foxwell Court, he contrived that he should be set
down in its vicinity and yet have it supposed that his destination was
far beyond.

He had so far trusted to luck and his quickness of sight to avoid
confrontation with the enemy who, as he could not doubt, was close
enough at hand. But he breathed a sigh of relief when he at last rode
out of the town in the direction of Burndale: he believed that, whatever
inquiries might be made upon the discovery that he had passed through
the town, his traces were sufficiently confused, one set leading
southward after his friend, and the other leading to Burndale, a good
distance beyond Foxwell Court. So he rode forward with his new guide, in
as great security of mind as he had enjoyed in months.

The road lay at first between fields, and here and there great trees
stretched their boughs shelteringly over it. Sometimes green banks rose
on one hand or both, and at a certain place a stream joined the road and
went singing along in its company for half a mile. Then the way emerged
upon an open common, which undulated on one side in rounded waves of
heather till the purple mass met the gray sky, and on the other side to
the border of a wood. But presently Everell was again in cultivated
country, with stone farm-buildings set now and then upon lawny slopes
among the fields.

One great house, of which the chimneys rose in the midst of trees, and
which was to be approached by a driveway of some hundreds of yards from
a gate and lodge at the roadside, held Everell’s attention for a moment.
The guide volunteered the information that this was Thornby Hall.
Everell repeated the name carelessly, looked a second time, and thought
no more of it. Had he been able to foresee the future, he would have
given the place a longer inspection.

Two or three miles more brought them to a village. The guide said that
here was the only public-house of entertainment in the near
neighbourhood, and that if he went farther he was in danger of getting
benighted on his return. Nothing could have suited Everell’s own plan
better than this clear hint. He dissembled his content, however, and put
on a frown of disappointment as he gazed at the mere ale-house—a low and
longish building whose unevenness of line betokened its antiquity—before
which the boy had drawn up. Everell feigned a reluctant yielding to
necessity; dismounted peevishly, and showed a petulant resignation in
asking the rustic-looking landlord who appeared at the door if a decent
room was to be had for the night.

The landlord, a drowsy little old man, who was too dull, too
humble-minded, or too philosophical to resent any doubt of the
excellence of his house, replied that the best room was at his honour’s
service. Whereupon Everell, for the hearing of his guide, inquired
urgently about the possibility of getting a horse in the morning to
carry him to Burndale. Being assured on this point, also, Everell
dismissed the guide, and had his single piece of baggage taken into his
room, which proved to be not merely the best room, but the only room,
properly so-called, in addition to the long apartment which served as
kitchen, bar, living-room of the family, and general clubroom of the
village; the chambers up-stairs being mere lofts under the roof.

Everell ordered a supper of bacon and eggs, which were cooked by the
landlord’s fat, middle-aged daughter, and served by the old man himself.
Turning quite reconciled to his accommodations as soon as his guide had
left the scene, Everell drew the host into conversation, and, as the old
fellow proved to be an amiable and honest soul, even in the matter of
his charges, the traveller was shortly in possession of as many facts,
legends, and reports concerning the gentry of this and adjacent parishes
as his host had accumulated in years. All this information went through
Everell’s mind as through a sieve, with the exception of the
circumstance that the old red-brick place, with the ivy and the gables,
crowning the slope at the right, with a park behind it, which old
red-brick place his honour would have seen had he ridden a little
farther on, and would see when he rode that way in the morning, was
Foxwell Court. This piece of news did not come out till Everell had
finished his meal, and he might have learned a vast deal about the
Foxwells, for the old man’s face brightened as if at the opening of a
fresh and copious subject; but the young gentleman, with his usual
precipitancy, rose and declared his intention of stretching his legs.
Though he had cautiously refrained from being the first to mention
Foxwell Court, he no sooner knew where it was, and how near, than he
felt himself drawn as by enchantment in its direction.

As he stepped out upon the green space before the inn, a post-chaise
came rattling by at a round speed. It was empty, and Everell recognized
it as the one which had accompanied the coach from the inn yard that
day: it was now returning from Foxwell Court, as it ought to have been
doing sooner. The postilion, no doubt, had wasted time in the
sociability of the servants’ hall, and was now making his horses fly to
avoid belatement. He stared a moment at Everell, and was gone. Thinking
nothing of this meeting, so brief and casual, Everell walked rapidly off
toward Foxwell Court.

The sun had come out toward evening, and now shone bright on the
weathercock and spire of the parish church that stood embowered some
distance from the road, on Everett’s left, as he proceeded. A short walk
brought him to the end of the village street of low gray cottages in
their small gardens. Thence a little bridge bore him across a stream
that came murmuring down through a large field from the wooded land
Northward. Looking ahead on that side of the road, he perceived the
curved gables of an old house of time-dulled brick partly clad in ivy.
It stood rather proudly at the top of a broad slope and against a
background of woods or park, its upper windows ablaze with the sunlight.
The lower part of the building was hidden by the walls of a forecourt
and by a dilapidated-looking gate-house which dominated them. At the
near end of the mansion appeared a shapeless remnant of broken tower and
wing, ruinous and abandoned: from these ruins a wall extended to the
verge of a slight precipice and, there turning at a right angle, ran
back to the wood. Over the top of this wall were visible the signs of a
neglected garden or orchard.

The further, or Western, end of the house was flanked by trees and
greenery, but the slope of rich green turf which descended in one long
and gentle swell from the forecourt to the road was clear lawn. This
great convex space of green was separated from the adjacent fields, and
from the road, by a rude hedge of briar. Everell, having gazed a few
moments from the bridge, walked on along the road, intending, if
possible, to describe the circuit of the house at a respectful distance
before attempting any near approach. He came to the barred opening in
the hedge through which the private road led from the highway to the
gate-house of the forecourt, but he let only his eyes travel up the
curving way. As the hedge grew on lower ground beyond the roadside
ditch, Everell had the house in full sight while he was passing. He came
at length to where the hedge turned for its ascent, and here he found
that a narrow lane ran between it and the field adjoining.

He was speedily over the barred gate that shut this lane from the road.
Ascending toward the park behind the house, he frequently lost sight of
the latter by reason of the height of the hedge, which was, moreover,
accompanied on that side by a line of oaks. As it came to the level of
the forecourt, the hedge was interrupted by a gate. Looking across the
bars of this, Everell could see not only the house but, nearer to him,
stables and other outbuildings skilfully concealed by shrubbery and
trees. His observation from the gateway being rewarded by nothing to the
purpose, and that he might make the most use of the remaining light,
Everell went on through the lane toward the park, to which he now saw it
gave access. Passing the trees which prevented his view of the Western
end of the house, he came abreast of a terrace which lay between the
North front and the park, and which he could see across the hedge when
he stood on tiptoe. A few more steps, and a vault over a five-barred
gate, took him into the park itself, from the shades of which—for it was
not kept clear of small growth, and offered plentiful covert of bush and
bracken and other brush—he gazed upon the house as he turned and
strolled Eastward.

The balustrade of the terrace was broken here and there; and the mansion
itself, where the ivy allowed its surface to be seen, was weather-worn
and unrepaired. Yet, by virtue of its design and situation, the house
had a magnificence. This, however, did not much affect Everell at the
time, sensitive though he was to such impressions. What concerned him
was, that he saw no face at any window, nor heard any voice from any
part of the mansion except below stairs.

To complete the circuit of the place, in quest of any discovery to aid
his purpose, he walked on till he came to a deep, thick-wooded glen that
cut into the park from the grounds about the ruined Eastern end of the
house. Through this ran the stream which, subsequently traversing the
great field between the house and the village, crossed under the bridge.
Everell turned along the crest of the glen-side, and thus in a few steps
emerged, through a gate in the stone wall, upon the wild garden or
orchard, of which he had seen signs from the road. It was a neglected
place, evidently not now resorted to. Steps descended to it from the
terrace, yet it was not so much lower but that Everell could glance
along the terrace and the North front of the house. He leaned against a
vacant stone pedestal to rest and consider.

The sun had set, and, far beyond the length of the terrace, the
undulating fields and moorland, and the distant darkening mountains, was
a sky of red and gold. But Everell had eyes for nothing but the old
mansion, which was to him a case holding the loveliest jewel he had ever
beheld. As the dusk came on, light appeared at some of the lower
windows; a few notes of laughter and other vocal sounds gave evidence of
life. But nobody came forth. Everell dared not hope to catch a glimpse
of the admired one that evening. He was at last sensible that night had
fallen. All the colour had gone out of the West, and stars had appeared.

He would have moved, to warm himself by walking, but that two of the
upper windows began to glow. Were they _her_ windows? He watched with a
beating heart, stilling even the sound of his breath. But several
minutes passed without any manifestation even of a shadow momentarily
darkening the panes. The light vanished. No doubt she had gone to bed,
fatigued with the journey of the day. Certainly they must be her
windows, for the others of the party were less likely to retire so
early. Everell heaved a sigh, and threw a kiss at the windows. Of a
sudden he was uncomfortably chilly: he bestirred himself, wished he had
thought of bringing his cloak, and started off, as much upon a feeling
that he could better meditate a course of procedure while walking as
upon the impulse to set his blood in motion. But so far was he from any
desire of going back to his inn that, without much conscious choice in
the matter, he took a quite different direction, and followed the top of
the glen-side into the park.

He had been moving at a rapid pace for several minutes before he gave
any heed to his whereabouts. He had been guided safely among bush,
bracken, and the great trunks of the trees by that unconscious
observation for which in those days there was no better name than
instinct. He now saw—for in many places the trees were not too close
together for the admission of some light from stars and sky—that he had
penetrated a good distance into the park, and had left the course of the
glen. As he stood gazing into the gloom, wondering how accurately he
could retrace his steps, he heard the loud crack of a gun, fired
seemingly about two furlongs away.

“Poachers,” said he, after a moment’s thought.

He stepped forward to the edge of an open place, which sloped down
gradually to a stream—doubtless the same that threaded the glen, or a
tributary. Beyond this water the corresponding ascent was clear of trees
for perhaps a hundred yards. Down that side of the glade a dark figure
was approaching so swiftly, and in such manner else, that Everell knew
it as that of a man running for his life. There is a difference so
pronounced as to be plain even in twilight and afar between the attitude
of a man who runs in pursuit, and that of a man who runs from pursuit;
and again, in either case, between that of one who runs in accordance
with, and that of one who runs in opposition to, the law.

Having no desire to interfere with a rogue who had just fired at, or
been fired at by, somebody’s gamekeeper, or at best had taken a
forbidden shot at somebody’s game, Everell concealed himself among some
bracken of a man’s height. He waited a few minutes, hoping to be
informed by his ears when the man should have passed. But he heard
neither footfall nor panting, nor any noise of pursuit.

Supposing that the fellow had changed his course at the stream, Everell
stepped out from the bracken. He was just in time to confront a broad
figure striding toward him. Ere Everell thought of self-defence, the
newcomer uttered an ejaculation, and sprang aside with something
upraised in the air. The next thing that Everell knew—for one rarely
feels a knock-down blow on the head from such an instrument as the
butt-end of a gun—he was lying among the bracken from which he had
recently come forth.

AT his side knelt the man who had felled him, and who was endeavouring
to ascertain if he still breathed. Everell essayed to grasp his
sword-hilt, but the other caught his wrist with a powerful hand.

“Softly, master,” said a gruff but apparently pacific voice. “’Tis all a
mistake, belike, and, if so be it is, I ask your pardon humbly. I make
you out to be a gentleman, sir, and in that case not what I supposed.
But you appeared so sudden, I took it you’d been lying in wait for me. I
struck out first, and thought afterwards, which was maybe the wrong way
about. So I stayed to see what hurt was done, and lend a hand if need
be.—Nay, you’ll find I haven’t touched your pockets, sir.”

Forgetting the injury in the chivalrous after-conduct—for nine men out
of ten would have run away, whether the blow had been mistaken or
not—Everell replied as heartily as he could:

“Why, friend, you seem a very brave fellow, and I forgive you the
mistake. As for harm, I do begin to feel something like a cracked crown;
but my wits are whole enough, so the damage can’t be very great. I can
tell better if you will allow me to rise—which you can safely do, as I
assure you I’m not your enemy, nor was I lying in wait.”

Everell then explained his concealment among the bracken, relating
exactly what he had seen. “I thought you must have got far away, to
judge from your speed down yonder slope.”

“Nay, sir,” said the man, stepping back so that Everell might rise, “I
had no need to run further. I was already off the land of them that were
chasing me—the boundary is just beyond the glade: you could see the
fence among the trees if ’twere daylight—but I kept running lest they
might send a shot after me. As soon as I found covert on this side the
glade, I stopped to get my breath. Now, sir, I’ve been as frank with you
as you’ve been with me; and I’m glad to see, by the way you stand and
step, that no lasting injury is done, after all.”

Everell, whose hat had saved his skull, and who could feel only a little
blood, and that already coagulating, was able to stand without other
unpleasant symptoms than a thumping ache of the head. His new
acquaintance seemed ready to go about his own business, but Everell was
loth to part with him so soon. He was a short, thick-set, long-armed
fellow, with a broad face, whose bold, rugged features would by ignorant
people be termed ugly, and whose scowling, defiant look would by the
same people be called wicked. But something in his speech or manner, or
even in his appearance as far as could be made out in the comparative
darkness, stamped him in Everell’s mind as an honest rascal, worthy of
confidence.

“No injury, I assure you,” replied Everell. “Indeed I must thank you for
a lesson. Henceforth I shall look before I leap, in any similar case;
with my hand on my sword, too.”

“’Tis a wise resolve, master. Though I for one am glad your hand was not
on your sword to-night: for then I should have felt sure you were in
league with them yonder, and worse might have happened.”

“By ‘them yonder,’ I take it you mean gamekeepers.”

“Ay, sir, Squire Thornby’s men. ’Tis his wood, yon enclosure. Here on
the Foxwell land a fellow is safe enough, so long as it be only a rabbit
or pheasant now and then. Sure the more fool I for not thinking of that
when you appeared—I might ’a’ known the Foxwell people would never stop
a man them Thornby keepers was down upon.”

“Then the shot I heard awhile ago was fired at you by the Thornby
keepers?”

“No need to speak of that, sir. If so be you heard a shot, why, you
heard it, and there’s an end.” While he spoke, the man fingered with the
flap of a well-stuffed pocket in his coat. “How I knew it was the
Thornby people was by their voices, sir, whereby I saw fit to run. Not
that I’m afeard of e’er a body of them all, but I hold it ’ud be fool’s
work to shorten my own life or another man’s. And right glad I be to
know I didn’t shorten your honour’s, especially now I see what sort of
gentleman your honour is.”

“’Twould have been an odd twist of luck indeed,” returned Everell,
good-humouredly. “I am much in your own case, friend: far from desiring
to trip up another man, I must look to it that I’m not tripped up
myself. My fellow-feeling at present is with the fox rather than the
hounds.”

“Then belike you are seeking cover hereabouts?” inquired the poacher, in
a tone of friendly interest.

“At all events, I wish to remain in this neighbourhood a few days,
without encountering a great degree of publicity. I say as much to an
honest rogue like yourself—I mightn’t be as free with a more respectable
man.”

“You’re not far wrong there, sir,” replied the fellow, not at all
displeased, but, on the contrary, gratified at the justice done him. “I
don’t ask to know anything; I have secrets enough of my own. But if I
can be of any small service, in the way of information about the lay o’
the land or such a matter—for I see you’re a stranger hereabouts, and I
know these parts well—better than they know me, by a great deal—why,
then, I’m your servant to command. But, if not, I’ll bid ye good night
and safe lying wherever you may lodge.”

“Oh, as for that, I lodge at the ale-house in the village, for to-night,
at least. I told the landlord I would ride on to-morrow; I shall have to
find some pretext for staying.”

“Well, sir, you know your own wishes—but ’tis not the most private
place, that there ale-house, and they be inquisitive folk, them in the
village.”

“What other lodging would you recommend?” asked Everell, for the first
time seriously awake to the curiosity that his presence must arouse in
so remote a place. “I certainly desire to go and come unobserved: I have
no mind that my motions should be watched and discussed.”

“Why, that’s a question,” said the other, frankly nonplussed.

“You ought to know the answer,” said Everell. “Surely you are able to go
and come without witnesses, when upon such amusements as brought you out
this evening.”

“Be sure I don’t live at the village ale-house, master. Nor at any
village, neither; nor in sight of one.”

“Where, then, do you live?”

“I have my cottage, and my patch o’ ground that I contrive to coax a
livin’ out of—with a little assistance from outside.” He scarce
consciously laid his palm against the fat pocket. “’Tis a poor place,
sir, but has the recommendation of privacy. ’Tis so lost in the woods,
so to speak, and closed round by hillocks and thickets, I doubt you
could ever find it if I told you the way.”

“Who lives with you?”

“Nobody at present, since my last son was took by the press-gang—he was
in Newcastle to visit his brother, who’s a porter there. They would go
out to see the world, them lads!”

“Then you have room for a lodger,” said Everell, tentatively.

“Fine lodgings for a gentleman like you, sir!”

“Never mind; I’ve had worse,” Everell replied, thinking of Scotland;
“and not so long since, either.”

“And the food, sir,—with your tender stomach?”

“Man, I’ve lived two days on a wet oatcake.”

The poacher was not the sort of fellow to offer the same objections over
again, nor to be upset by the novelty of the suggestion. The two being
circumstanced as they were, and intuitively trusting each other, no
proposal could have been more natural. So far from hemming and hawing,
therefore, the man merely enumerated such further disadvantages as a
gentleman must encounter in sharing his abode and larder, and, these
being made light of, gave his assent. The question immediately arose as
to how Everell should transfer his residence from the ale-house to the
poacher’s cottage without leaving a trace. It was important that he
should depart from the ale-house in regular fashion, lest it be supposed
that he had met with foul play, and a search be made. Moreover, he must
have his belongings—for the cloak-bag contained his clean linen,
stockings, razor, and other necessaries of decent living: though he
desired to be visible to but one person while in the neighbourhood, he
desired that to her he should appear at no disadvantage. After some
discussion, a course was planned, which Everell and his intended
host—who gave his name as John Tarby—immediately set out upon.

John Tarby led the way through that part of the wood which Everell had
lately traversed. They came, at length, to the verge of the glen; but,
instead of keeping to the edge, the guide descended the bracken-covered
side into the deeper gloom of the thickly timbered bottom. Here, indeed,
Everell found what was to him complete darkness, and he had to clutch
his companion’s coat-skirt for guidance. John Tarby, however, proceeded
without hesitation or doubt, deviating this way or that to avoid tree or
thicket, the music of the stream rising or falling as the two men moved
more or less close to its border. At last they emerged from the glen’s
mouth, at the foot of the steep incline that rose to the old sunken
garden of Foxwell Court. Here John Tarby concealed his gun by laying it
across the boughs of a young oak. Where the glen and the timber ceased,
the walkers were encountered by the high palings which served to enclose
the park on that side except where wooden bars spanned the stream. By
using the bars as a bridge, Everell and his guide crossed the stream.
Tarby led the way a few rods farther, stopped, and carefully removed a
loose paling or two. They squeezed themselves through the opening, and
stood in the field. Tarby replaced the palings in their former
apparently secure position, and then the two rapidly skirted the field,
keeping close to the fence so as to profit by the dark background it
afforded their bodies. Turning at the angle of the field, and skulking
along a rough stone wall, they finally reached the village end, meeting
their former companion, the stream, just in time for a momentary
greeting ere it passed under the bridge. Leaving the poacher to lie
unseen in the shadowed corner of the field, Everell clambered over a
wooden barrier and up a low bank, and, having thus gained the road, went
on alone to the ale-house.

The village street was deserted, but the ale-house windows showed light;
and the sound of slow, broad voices, mingled in chaffing disputation,
indicated that ale was flowing in the general room. Everell went by way
of the passage to his own chamber, where a lighted candle awaited him.
He rang for the landlord.

“I’ve found a conveyance to Burndale to-night,” said Everell, when the
old man appeared. “A belated carrier, I believe, whom I met at the
bridge yonder, where he’s waiting for me. But as I took this room for
the night, you must allow me to pay for it, and the price of breakfast,
too.”

The landlord, whose face had lengthened at the first words, now resumed
his serenity, and he amiably gathered in the silver that Everell had
laid on the table. This seemed to warm him into solicitude for the
departing guest’s convenience, and he expressed the hope that the
wagoner was at the door to carry the bag.

“Nay, he wouldn’t turn back,” said Everell; “nor could he leave his
horses. But ’tis not far to the bridge.” And he took up the bag to bear
it himself.

“Nay, then, your pardon, sir, I’ll carry it,” interposed the landlord.

“My good man, I wouldn’t think of taking you from your house and
customers.”

“’Tis not far, as you say, sir, and my daughter—”

But Everell had gone, and the obliging old fellow was left to scratch
his head and wonder. The more he wondered, the more reason there seemed
for doing so. He had not heard anything like a carrier’s wagon pass, as
it must have done if it was now at the bridge and bound for Burndale. It
was strange enough that a carrier’s wagon should travel that road at
such an hour, and stranger still that it should do so without its
custodian stopping for a cup of good cheer. And the gentleman’s
unwillingness to have his baggage carried!

The ale-house keeper was not so old as to have outlived curiosity. He
slipped out, crossed the green, and stood in the middle of the road,
peering through the starlit night. Yes, there was the figure of the
gentleman, truly enough, swiftly retreating down the village street that
led to the bridge. The landlord slunk after him, keeping close to the
walls and hedges, and stepping silently. He was soon sufficiently near
the bridge to perceive that no conveyance waited there. The assurance of
this acted so upon his mind as to make him stop and consider whether it
was safe to go further. As he stood gaping, the form of the strange
gentleman suddenly vanished. The old man stared for another moment:
then, assailed with a feeling that here was mystery nothing short of
devil’s work, he turned and fled in a panic to his ale-house.

Everell, who had not once looked back, had passed from the old man’s
view by turning from the road to rejoin the waiting poacher. Without a
word, Tarby arose, relieved Everell of the cloak-bag, and led the way
over the route by which they had come from the park. The palings were
again removed and replaced, the stream was again crossed by means of the
bars. The two entered the blackness of the glen, Tarby repossessing
himself of his fowling-piece. By the time they had ascended to the
general level of the park, the moon had risen, and, as they proceeded in
a Northwesterly direction, the more open spaces, whether clothed in
green sward or in bracken of autumnal brown, wore a beauty which Everell
associated in his mind with the young lady not far away, and thus the
silent woods and glades seemed to him a forest of enchantment.

Tarby spoke only to call Everell’s attention to landmarks by which he
might know the course again. He indicated the whereabouts of the
keeper’s lodge without passing near it. They left the park by means of
another such weak place in the barrier as had served them before, the
poacher remarking that he preferred that kind of egress even when barred
gates were near at hand. They now traversed a deserted bit of heath,
covered with gorse, and plunged into a rough wood, much thicker and
gloomier than the park behind them. Following a ditch, or bed of a
dried-up stream, they emerged at last upon some partly clear, rugged
land which rose gradually before them. This they ascended, and so came
to a region of bare, rocky hills and deep wooded hollows. Tarby kept
mainly to the hollows, until at last, having crossed a little ridge, he
descended to a vale lying in the shape of a crescent, and seeming in the
moonlight to be covered with timber; but a narrow patch of clearing ran
diagonally across, watered by a little stream. Everell and his guide
came into this clearing at the end by which the brook left it. Near the
stream—so near, indeed, that they had barely room to walk between—was a
thick mass of tall gorse bushes, threatening scratches to any intruder.
Tarby turned in among these at a narrow opening, followed close by his
wondering guest. In a moment Everell discovered that the bushes, instead
of constituting a solid thicket, formed but a hollow circle, within
which was a low cottage of timber and rough plaster.

“Here us be,” said John Tarby, dropping bag and gun to respond to the
leaping caresses of a mongrel hound that had sprung up from the
door-stone. “He won’t hurt you, sir; ’tis a ’bedient animal. When I
tells him to stop here, ’tis here he stops, and won’t come out even to
meet me, unless I call or whistle.”

The dog transferred his attentions to Everell on perceiving him to be an
approved visitor, while the poacher opened the door and lighted a candle
within. Entering, Everell found a combination of kitchen,
sleeping-chamber, and living-room, the whole giving an impression of
comfort far exceeding that of the bothy he had for a time inhabited in
Scotland.

“So this is your castle,” said Everell, looking around with approbation.

“Ay, sir, with the gorse for wall and the brook for moat. And I don’t
lack a postern to escape by, if so be I was ever hard pressed in front.”
He opened a small square shutter in the back of the room. “’Tis all
gorse out there, sir, and only me and the dog knows the path through to
the rocks.”

There was at one end of the room a pallet bed, which Tarby assigned to
his guest, saying he would shake down some heather for his own use at
the opposite end. He went out, and returned with a sackful of this,
having borrowed from the reserve supply of his cow, which he housed in a
shed on the other side of the stream. He informed Everell that he kept a
few fowls also, though the great part of his clearing was made to serve
as a vegetable-garden. He asked what Everell would like for supper, and
named three or four possibilities besides the rabbit he drew from his
large pocket. But Everell had supped at the ale-house, and, as he was
now quite fatigued, he went to bed, leaving his host to partake of bread
and cheese, while the dog munched a cold bone in the corner.

When Everell awoke, bright day was shining in through the single window
and the open doorway, and John Tarby was preparing a breakfast of eggs
and bacon. Everell, despite his now eager appetite and his impatience to
be about his purpose, dressed himself with care, performing his toilet
with the aid of the stream, and putting on fresh linen and stockings. He
then ate heartily, and, having given his host a sufficient idea of where
he wished to spend his day, set forth in Tarby’s company, that the
poacher might show him the way by daylight. Taking care to note every
landmark, Everell arrived finally in that portion of the Foxwell park
which lay near the mansion. Tarby here took his leave, to attend to his
own affairs, making a rendezvous with his guest in case the latter
should not have returned to the cottage by nightfall—for it was not
certain that he could find his way after dark at the first attempt.

Everell strolled on till the gables of Foxwell Court appeared through
the trees. He found a convenient spot where he could sit and observe the
terrace that stretched between the house and the park. His highest hope
was that the young lady would, sooner or later, come to take the air
upon the terrace and extend her walk into the park.

He sat amidst bracken, peering out through countless small openings
among the browning leaves and stems. A hundred times he changed his
position, and a hundred sighs of impatience escaped him, before anything
occurred to break the monotony of his watch. And when, toward noon, the
great door of the house opened, and figures in feminine garb appeared,
they proved to be only the two ladies in whom he was not interested.
They sauntered along the terrace, arm in arm, talking and laughing,
making a graceful picture against the broken balustrade, or on the wide
steps between the moss-covered, crumbling flower-pots. They were joined
presently by the stouter gentleman, and at last by the taller. Finally,
after a half-hour of mirthful chatter, the four went indoors again, and
left the terrace empty for another long time of waiting.

In the afternoon the same four appeared on horseback in the lane which
served as the bridle-path from the courtyard side of the house to the
park. Entering the park at some distance from Everett’s hiding-place,
they were soon lost to his view among the trees. If she should appear
now, while they were absent! As time lengthened, he meditated going
boldly to the house and asking for her. But he forced himself to
patience, only moving to another watching-place a few yards away. He had
scarcely done so, and resumed his gaze, when he beheld her standing upon
the steps of the house.

He sat perfectly still, as if the least alarm might frighten her away.
She advanced slowly down the terrace, looked West, then East, then into
the park. Would that those inviting shades might lure her!—would that
she might feel and obey the beckoning of his heart! But she turned and
walked to the Western end of the terrace, and stood for awhile in
admiration of the soft landscape and distant mountains. Presently he saw
her look sharply toward the park, as if her attention had been suddenly,
and not pleasantly, drawn that way. He heard the riders, who were
doubtless coming back, and would pass near her in going through the
lane. She turned and moved toward the opposite end of the
terrace—evidently to avoid them. She did not stop till she was looking
on the neglected garden from the top of the steps descending to it.
There she stood for a few moments, contemplating the scene; then passed
down the steps, disappearing from view.

Everell took his resolution: sprang from his place, and, bending his
body forward, dashed through bracken and behind trees to the glen-side.
He darted along the crest, reached the gate in the wall, and saw the
young lady sauntering amidst the trees and shrubbery. He glided swiftly
forth, and was on his knee, pressing her hand to his lips, ere she could
do more than utter a low cry of astonishment.

The surprise in her face was quickly followed by pleasure; but
consciousness came a moment later, with a rush of scarlet to her cheeks
and a look of faint reproof and vague apprehension to her eyes.

“Good heaven, sir,” she said, in a low voice, “I never dreamed of seeing
you again!”

“Fear nothing,” he replied, in a tone as guarded as hers; “we cannot be
observed here—the shrubbery is all around us.—I have come to thank you
for the warning you gave me at the inn yesterday.”

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