THREATS

“TO thank me?” she repeated, round-eyed. “You mean that is what brings
you here—to thank me for such a little thing?”

“Not such a little thing, either,” he replied with a smile, as he rose;
“the saving, perhaps, of my life and my comrade’s.”

“Oh, indeed, yes—a very great thing!—but a little thing to do—so easily
done. And to come all the way hither to thank—” She stopped short and
looked at him steadily, then blushed deeper. “Oh!—you will think me a
fool, sir:—for a moment I believed exactly what you said; I made no
allowance for compliment; I am inexperienced, as you can see.”

“Nay, but upon my honour I spoke the truth,” he protested in surprise.

“Then you indeed came here only to thank me?”

“To thank you, but not only that. I came to see and hear you.”

“You mean—nothing else—brought you to this neighbourhood?”

“Nothing but you. Had I not met you at the inn yesterday, I should now
be with my friend, far on the road Southward.”

The look of apprehension returned to her face.

“Oh, heaven, yes!—the danger you are in! How do you intend to save
yourself? Are you not risking your life by remaining in England?”

“Pray don’t be alarmed on that score: I have the means of leaving
England when the time comes.”

“When the time comes? When will that be? What is it that delays you?”

He was not prepared with an answer. “Why,—ah—you must know my friend has
some matters to settle before he leaves;—we are to sail together, when
he is ready.”

“Then you should have remained together. Why did you leave him? If what
you said is true, you have interrupted your flight—to see me.”

“You are worthy of a far greater compliment than that,” said he, as
gallantly as the confusion he felt in her presence allowed him to speak.

“But if danger came to you through this, how I should have to reproach
myself! Oh, I beg you, follow your friend: overtake him. Lose no time:
now that you have thanked me, go—go quickly!”

“And have you the heart to send me away when I have but just found you?”

“Nay, if your life were not at stake—no, I mean not that. I ought not to
talk with you—I ought not to stay here.”

Trembling, she made to retreat, but he gently interposed.

“Nay,” he said, very tenderly, “the ‘oughts’ and ‘ought nots’ of custom
do not apply to us, situated as we are. Are you not among people who
make you unhappy? Am I not a man whose life you have saved, and who
would do anything in the world for you? Can you not trust me as I trust
you? Why then shouldn’t you talk with me? Tell me, what if my life were
not at stake?”

“I have forgot what I was saying.”

“If my life were not at stake, you would not bid me go?”

“How can I tell?—Why shouldn’t I?”

“You were startled to see me here. Did you not think I might come?”

She could have truly answered that she had been without the slightest
expectation of ever seeing him again. Yet she had permitted her
imagination the indulgence of a vague scene of future meeting, not far
unlike that which was now taking place. The consciousness of this added
to the sweet embarrassment she felt, and she could only reply,
foolishly, “Why should I have thought so?”

Everell sighed, realizing that, as far as speeches went, he was not
making rapid progress. “At all events,” said he, rallying his powers of
gaiety, “here I am, and in this neighbourhood I mean to stay for a time,
so ’tis of no use bidding me go—”

“But are you safe in this neighbourhood?” she broke in, her eyes
forgetting their shyness in searching his face to see if his confidence
was real. “That man at the inn may have described you to many people.”

“I will take care none of them see me. I have a secure hiding-place in
the wilderness, and a friend to supply my wants. I shall be visible to
none but him—and you.”

“To me? How to me?”

“Even as I am at this moment: here, in this garden. ’Tis evidently a
deserted place; the shrubbery and walls conceal us, and escape is easy
to the glen yonder if we should hear anybody approach. No one, finding
you here alone, would suspect you had had a visitor.”

“I must not risk that discovery,—for your sake, I must not. I shall be
missed in the house, I’m afraid,—my uncle and his friends have
returned.”

“Nay, don’t go yet. Pray, not yet! I have said nothing yet, accomplished
nothing.”

“What would you say, then? Speak quickly.”

“A thousand things. I can’t unload my heart of a sudden at the cry,
‘Stand and deliver!’—you send my thoughts into confusion. Do not go
yet!—’tis not so much saying what I would, as being with you.”

“But they will be inquiring for me—my maid will be seeking. My uncle—”

“Is your uncle so heedful of you that he must always know where you
are?”

“Far from it. I am nothing to him and his friends. But if the whim
_should_ seize him—if by any chance they should find me talking with a
stranger—Oh, really, sir, I must go.”

“Again you call me stranger!”

“Why, in their eyes you would be a stranger.”

“But not in yours? Ah, thank you for that much, at least. You
acknowledge me as a friend?”

“Why, I suppose—since you declare yourself so, I must needs believe you.
Heaven knows, I have felt some want of a friend, having none in this
house. Were it otherwise, were this place my aunt’s, perhaps I should
not have stayed a moment to hear you.”

“I must bless my fortune, then, that this house is not your aunt’s. I
can even be glad you are not among friends here, since that leaves room
in your heart for me. And yet I could slay any who were lacking in the
friendship you had a right to expect of them. How can they be so, to
_you_?”

His gaze had so much ardour that her own eyes softened in it, and the
consequence of that melting was that he swiftly folded her in his arms
and pressed a kiss obliquely upon her lips.

“Now I _must_ go,” she whispered, after a moment, gently pushing him
away.

“Now less than ever, sweet,” he replied, still clasping her.

“Oh, but I must—sure I beg—Prudence will be looking for me.”

Her insistence of manner was such that he dared not hold her longer
without feeling guilty of violence. But he still retained her hand, to
say:

“And when will you be here again?”

“I know not,” she answered, hurriedly. “How can I say?”

“Well, then, whenever you do come, you will find me waiting for you.”

“No, no; that will not be safe. I had forgotten the danger you are in.
Do not come here at all—by daylight.—If you must, why, come after
sunset. They will be at their cards and wine then.”

“And you?—you are sure to be here then?”

“’Tis the safest time. They will think me in my room—well, I may be
here—to-morrow evening—if nothing prevents.”

“But why not this evening?”

“No. I will really go to my room this evening, as I did yesterday: they
will take it as a matter of course afterwards. To-morrow evening,
perhaps.”

“But ’tis so far away: so many hours must pass till then!” He still
detained her hand, though she was at arm’s length to be gone.

“You will have the more time to reconsider—to resolve upon joining your
friend, and not tarrying here longer at the risk of your life.”

“What, do you still wish me to go at once?”

“If you should be taken!—if you should have to meet the fate—oh, I dare
not think of it! How can I wish you to stay, when I think of the
danger?”

“’Tis for me to think of the danger; ’tis for you only to let me love
you—and to meet me here as often as you will.”

“Well, I shall no doubt be here to-morrow after sunset. I must take my
maid into confidence: she can keep watch at the terrace steps. Farewell,
then!—and be careful—till to-morrow sunset!”

He stepped forward in hope of repeating the kiss, but she recovered her
hand from his grasp and fled rapidly up the lane of shrubbery. Everell
followed, and saw her ascend the steps, hasten along the terrace, and
disappear without looking back. He stood and sighed, thinking how short
had been the long-awaited meeting, how tedious would be the time till
the next. But he had the kiss to comfort his reflections, at least,—the
kiss and the compliant though startled manner in which she had submitted
to it. His heart glowing at this recollection, he turned his steps to
the seclusion of the glen.

Since she would not meet him before the end of the next day—what an
interminable stretch of empty time the interval appeared!—he knew his
best course was to return at once to John Tarby’s cottage. But he found
it so hard to drag his legs farther from the Foxwell mansion, that he
decided to remain concealed among the bracken, on the possibility that
she might change her mind and revisit the garden that evening. In this
hope he tarried till an hour after nightfall, without reward. He then
betook himself reluctantly, with the pangs of hunger and the sighs of
disappointment for company, to where his road left the park. At that
place Tarby was waiting, and with little speech the two made their way
homeward. Everell took the lead, that he might test his knowledge of the
path; twice or thrice he had to fall back upon the poacher’s guidance,
but on these occasions he made such note of landmarks as should assure
him of going right in future.

When they arrived at the cot, Everell gave a different reception to his
host’s mention of supper from that which he had given on the previous
night. Though love had enabled him to go all the day without food, it
did not weaken his appetite now that supper was to be had. John Tarby
proved to be no mean cook, and the Jacobite officer, the rustic poacher,
and the poacher’s dog partook together of a hearty though simple meal
with manifest enjoyment. But love, not to be denied its proverbial
effects in all things, asserted its presence by robbing Everell of some
hours of sleep, and by directing his dreams when at last his eyes did
close.

The next day was but a repetition of that which had gone before, save
that the love-sick young gentleman, by taking the forethought to provide
himself with bread and cheese, was able, as he reclined among the
bracken, to pay some observance to dinner-time when it arrived. At last
the slow sun descended upon the Westward hills. A bit of its rim still
showed over the sky-line, when Everell glided into the garden, his heart
beating faster than ever it had beat when he was going into battle.

Georgiana did not keep him waiting long. She came down the steps, with
her finger on her lip, and with the maid Prudence, all excitement, at
her heels. “Oh, lor!” whispered Prudence at first sight of Everell; “Oh,
lor!” again, when, having taken her station near the steps, she saw
Everell lead her mistress up the lane of shrubbery; and “Oh, lor!” a
third time when the young man, not yet trusting himself to speech,
raised Georgiana’s hand in his trembling fingers to his lips.

And now Everell had to learn that the second interview in a love-affair
does not begin where the first left off. Whether it is that the ardour
of expectation produces by reaction a chill that mutually benumbs; or
whether each participant, still uncertain of the other’s heart, awaits
some assurance before again committing his or her own; or whether it be
due to any one or all of a dozen conceivable causes, the truth is that
the second meeting usually begins with an embarrassment, or shyness, or
other feeling, that seems to put the lovers farther apart than they were
at the outset; and yet under this the craving for the tokens of love is
as strong as ever. This was now Everell’s experience; he wondered why
Georgiana was perversely cool, and then why he himself was tongue-tied,
powerless to express what was in his heart.

When they had paced the more secluded walks of the garden some fifteen
minutes, speaking of anything but that which was most in Everell’s mind,
Georgiana suddenly reverted to the question of his safety. The anxious
concern with which she regarded him served to break the spell he had
suffered under. Making light of his danger, he showed himself so
grateful for her solicitude that a still more encouraging tenderness
appeared in her eyes. With love in his looks, and in the touch of his
hand upon hers, he burst out with declarations of his happiness in her
company, and of his misery in her absence. She made no verbal return for
these tributes, but the sweet agitation visible in her face was enough.
He was about to venture a similar embrace to that of the day before,
when they heard Prudence call, in a low but excited voice, “Oh,
mistress, mistress, we shall be discovered!” Georgiana, in alarm,
whispered to Everell, “Conceal yourself!—good night!” and fled swiftly
to where the maid was watching. Standing perfectly still, Everell heard
the two women go up the steps, and soon the sound of their footfalls on
the terrace died out. They had returned to the house, then; what had
caused the maid to give the alarm, he knew not, for there was no sound
to indicate any human presence.

Vexed at this abrupt termination of the interview at the very moment
when it seemed about to reward him, he waited in the hope of Georgiana’s
return. But the hope was vain, and after two or three hours of
diminishing expectancy, he sadly—nay, with heart-burning, grievous
sighing, and clenching of teeth—resigned himself to the prospect of
another long night and another endless day ere the next meeting. And
indeed there was no certainty of the meeting even after that vast
interval, for no appointment had been made. But he trusted to her
humanity, if he dared not count upon feelings fully reciprocal to his
own, to bring her to the garden at the next sunset. If she did not come,
he knew not what rash thing he might do.

His reliance upon her compassion was not in vain. She was prompt in
appearance when at last the long night and the slow day had passed.
Taking pity, perhaps, on his haggard countenance, she was kind from the
outset of their interview. Prudence attended, as before, but with
instructions to be more certain before crying danger than she had been
on the previous evening, when, as Georgiana now told Everell, the maid,
in the novelty of her duty, had given the alarm at the mere sound of
laughter in the house—the laughter of Foxwell and his visitors over
their wine and cards.

But though this, the third clandestine meeting of these two young
people, was not marred by any preliminary chill or by any waste of time,
it was soon over. Georgiana herself had set the limit of half an hour,
and, whatever it may have cost her of inner reluctance, she showed her
resolution by breaking away at the end of that time, silencing her
lover’s protests with a voluntary kiss so swiftly bestowed that, in his
delighted surprise, he let her slip from his grasp. Again he stood alone
in the garden while the dusk came on. Again that weary blank of lagging
hours faced him, with the promise of such brief joy to compensate him at
the end. He lingered late in the garden, now reviewing in his memory the
delectable scene of the evening—delectable but too fleeting!—and now
repining at the conditions under which his love had to subsist. “Oh, to
be with her one whole day—one day as long as those I pass in waiting for
the sunset!” was the burden of his thought.

He stood near the terrace steps, taking his last look at the house for
the night. The lateness of the hour, the comparative darkness, and
perhaps the petulance of his feelings, made him less than usually
cautious against observation. Suddenly he heard a patter of feet on the
terrace, and the voice of a maid servant calling, “Puss! puss! come,
puss!—Devil take the cat!” Everell remained motionless, lest any sound
might attract the girl’s attention. In a moment, a cat appeared at the
head of the steps, glided along the top of the bank, and plunged amidst
the shrubbery of the garden. It had no sooner disappeared than the girl
in chase arrived at the edge of the terrace, where she stopped and
peered down into the garden, launching imprecations at the animal that
had eluded her. Her eyes fell upon Everell, and her wrath died upon her
lips.

She stood gaping as if rendered powerless by fright, and Everell could
think of nothing better than to continue perfectly still. Wrapped in his
cloak, and with his face turned toward the maid, he did not move even
his eyes, but appeared not to be aware of her presence. His thought was
that this unlifelike behaviour might cause the rustic wench to take him
for an apparition, or a trick of her fancy, the more so as the darkness
would give vagueness to his figure. After a few seconds of this silent
confrontation, the maid, uttering a faint wail of terror, apparently at
the back of her mouth, turned and took to her heels. Everell profited by
her flight to leave the garden instantly, and made his best speed for
John Tarby’s castle. If the girl told of what she had seen, and brought
investigators to the spot, who could find nothing to verify her account,
they would doubtless believe she had suffered from a delusion. As she
herself, whether she came to their conclusion or not, was likely to
avoid the place after dark in future, Everell considered that the garden
was not the less safe as a meeting-place for this occurrence.

When he met Georgiana the next evening, he expected some allusion by her
to the incident, as he supposed the maid servant must have spread the
tale through the household. But Georgiana said nothing of the matter.
She had indeed heard nothing of it, for the isolation in which she dwelt
in the house was copied by her maid, partly in imitation and partly
because, with her Southern ideas of propriety, Prudence found herself as
much antagonized by the rude Northern servants of the house as by the
affected London attendants of the visitors. Thus she spent as much of
her time as possible in her mistress’s apartments, big with the secret
entrusted to her of the clandestine meetings. Being thus on sniffing
terms with her equals in the servants’ hall, and out of their gossip,
she remained in ignorance of the kitchen-maid’s adventure. From
Georgiana’s silence on the subject, Everell inferred that the occurrence
had created no talk in the house; and he did not mention it himself,
lest Georgiana, in her scruples as to his safety and her own conduct,
might lessen the frequency of their meetings. His periods of longing
were sufficiently endless, his tastes of joy sufficiently brief, as they
were.

But the kitchen-maid’s adventure had not really gone without
circulation. “You never told us your house was haunted, Foxwell,” said
Lady Strange, meeting her host at the breakfast-table, from which
Georgiana had already gone. Mrs. Winter and Rashleigh were yet to
appear.

“I never knew it—till this moment, at least,” replied Foxwell, stifling
a yawn which owed itself, perhaps, to the punch or primero of the
previous night. “Though every crumbling old brick-heap like this has its
ghost or so, no doubt. But what do you mean?”

“My waiting-woman has been telling me of a strange figure that appeared
to your scullery-maid the other night. In the sunken garden, I believe
it was: a man in a cloak, wearing a sword.”

“It must have been a ghost, indeed,” said Foxwell, smiling. “There is
certainly no such living man whose appearance in that garden is
probable—unless Rashleigh has taken to mooning outdoors after bedtime.”

“Not I,” said Rashleigh, who had just entered. “What are you talking
of?”

“My lady has discovered, through the servants, that a ghost walks in the
sunken garden—a man in a cloak, with a sword at his side. I say it must
be a ghost indeed, and yet there is this difficulty: suppose there _are_
ghosts of human beings, what of the clothes they appear in? What of this
ghost’s cloak and sword?—are they real cloak and sword, or are they the
ghosts of cloak and sword?—and do inanimate things have ghosts?”

“Why, certainly, ghosts always appear in clothes,” said Lady Strange,
quite ignoring the dilemma, and not entering into Foxwell’s skeptical
mirth.

“And pray what did the ghost do or say while the scullery-maid was
present?”

“Merely gazed at her in a strange, supernatural manner till she ran
away. But hadn’t you best question the maid?”

“By all means. One ought to be well informed about the ghosts that haunt
one’s house—though I don’t consider my ancestors did so much for me that
I need care a button if one of them does find his grave uneasy. I’ll
have the girl up for interrogation after breakfast.”

But this promise was driven from Foxwell’s mind just as the time came to
perform it. A visitor was announced, whose name caused him surprise: it
was that of Mr. Thornby.

“What should bring him to see me?” said Foxwell, showing his
astonishment to his guests. “’Tis my lubberly neighbour, of whom I have
told you. He abominates me because I sometimes pit my powers of speech
against his boorish arrogance, and show him what a bumpkin he is. I
thought he was sworn never to cross my threshold.”

Ruled by courtesy and curiosity, Foxwell went immediately to the
adjoining drawing-room, where he found his enemy standing on the hearth,
his legs wide apart, and his burly figure clad in a riding costume
neither well-fitting nor new.

SOMETHING confident and overbearing in Thornby’s look went to Foxwell’s
intelligence at once, and checked for an instant the speech on his lips.
But he quickly recovered his nonchalance, and began as if he noticed
nothing unusual:

“Good morning, Mr. Thornby. I am much honoured. Pray be seated, sir.”

“I’d as lief stand, sir,” was the blunt answer. “Much honoured you feel,
I dare say!”

“And why not?” said Foxwell, pleasantly. “You do yourself a great
injustice, surely, if you don’t consider your visit an honour to the
fortunate recipient. You must not undervalue yourself.”

“Well, sir, you’ll see how much honour I mean by coming here, when
you’ve learnt what brings me.”

“That, I confess, I am impatient to know. But really, will you not sit?”

“No, sir! I sha’n’t stay long enough to tire my legs with standing. My
visit will be short, I promise you.”

“I perceive you are in a mood of shortness.”

“I can choose my own moods, sir,” said the Squire, rendered more savage
by every successive speech of his enemy. “And I choose short moods for
my visits to you. Not that I meant to pay you a visit when I left home
this morning. My business took me past your gate, and, as I have
something for your ears, I thought I’d as well say it soon as late.”

“A very wise thought; for accidents will happen, and ’twould be a pity
if anything so interesting should be left unsaid—for I know it must be
interesting.”

“Maybe you’ll find it so, ecod! As for leaving things unsaid, lemme tell
you, sir, that’s a policy I recommend to you in future, whenever you
feel inclined to try your wit upon me. If a witty thing, as you consider
it, comes into your head to say against me, leave it unsaid. That’s my
commands, sir, and I look to see ’em obeyed.”

“Commands? Upon my soul, Mr. Thornby,—pardon my smiling,—but you are
exceedingly amusing.”

“Smile your bellyfull; you may laugh, too: we’ll see which on us laughs
last. Ecod, we’ll see that! Try some of your town wit upon me the next
time we meet in company! Try it, and see what happens.”

“Can’t you spare my curiosity the suspense by telling me now?”

“Yes, I can. This is what’ll happen:—I’ll answer you back by asking what
you think of a man who robs the dead.”

“Robs the dead?” quietly repeated Foxwell, puzzled.

“Ay, a dead body, in some such place as Covent Garden, for example.—Eh,
that touches you, does it?”

Foxwell’s face had indeed undergone a change: for an instant he was
quite pale and staring. But he recovered his outward equanimity.

“Please explain yourself,” he said, with composure.

“A word to the wise is enough, sir. If ever again you try to put me down
afore company, or dare to take first place o’ me anywheres, I’ll tell
the world who got Lord Hilby’s money that night in Covent Garden.”

Foxwell drew a deep breath, and then replied as calmly as before, “Are
you walking in a dream, Mr. Thornby? Really, I don’t understand you.
What is Lord Hilby’s money to me?”

“No use trying that game upon me, Foxwell. You know all, and I know all,
and there’s an end. You’ve heard my commands: act as you think best.”

“Sir, I know nothing. Your words are gibberish to me, and I say but
this: if you attempt to raise any slander against me, be sure I will
make you answer—”

“And I’ll answer, ecod, by producing this here letter,” blurted Thornby,
bringing from his pocket the document we have already seen in the hands
of Jeremiah Filson, and holding it high, with the signed part in
Foxwell’s view, “which you wrote in the sponging-house to Sir John
Thisleford, and which anybody who knows your hand can swear to—as your
face owns to it now. ‘If you don’t help me out of this, I will confess
all, and let the world know who got Lord Hilby’s money that night,’ says
you, in black and white. ‘_Confess_ all,’ d’ye see? Signed ‘R. Foxwell.’
Your wit failed you that time, I’m a-thinking. What ’ud the county say
if I exhibited this here bit o’ writing? Even your town friends, as I
hear be a-visiting you, would find this more nor they could swallow, I
dare say.”

“Let me see the letter—closer,” said Foxwell, in a hushed and quaking
voice.

“I value it too much as a bit o’ your beloved handwritin’.” The Squire
repocketed it carefully, with a grim chuckle at his own humour. “As to
how I shall use it, that depends partly on how you use me. But I don’t
promise anything. I hold it over your head, neighbour Foxwell,—like the
sword of Dionassius in the story-book—over your head, ecod! Ha! Good
day, Foxwell. Go back to your pleasures—I’ll show myself out.”

Foxwell made an effort to regain his self-possession. “’Tis a forgery—I
defy you—this is a trumped-up tale—”

“We shall see. You’d go near killing to get the letter from me, I’ll
warrant.” With this parting shot, his heavy features stretched in a leer
of triumph, the Squire stalked from the room, leaving Foxwell—silent and
shaken—to his thoughts.

The victorious Squire had to pass through the wide entrance-hall to
reach the forecourt, where his man Bartholomew awaited with the horses.
He stopped in the hall, which was for the moment deserted, in order to
refold the precious letter and place it more securely. As he pocketed it
once more, he turned his glance toward the closed door of the
drawing-room, soliloquizing after this fashion, “I’ll make him play the
whipped cur afore I’ve done with him. He shall come when I call, so he
shall,—and go when I bid, and speak when I allow, and hold his tongue
when I command. You fine beau of the town, you’ll make a jest of us
country gentlemen, will you?—you’ll teach us manners, will you?—Eh,
who’s this?”

The hall was panelled in oak, decorated with heads of stags and foxes,
provided with a large fireplace, and furnished with chairs and settles.
At one side, the stairway began which led to the upper floors, and the
Squire’s ejaculation was caused by the appearance of somebody on those
stairs—a young lady, rather slight, but well-shaped, with a very pretty
face distinguished by a somewhat rebellious expression; and with a pair
of eyes that set the Squire agape with the wonder of a new sensation, as
they rested for an instant full upon him.

“Sure I suppose you be the niece that came home t’other day,” said the
Squire, as she stepped from the lowest stair. He had not relaxed his
gaze from his first sight of her, nor did he now.

Georgiana replied by making a curtsey, and was about to pass on. But Mr.
Thornby, with as great politeness as he could put into his tone,
detained her as much by an unconscious gesture as by speech.

“Sure I heard tell as Foxwell’s niece had come home, but I ne’er
expected to see _such_ a young lady! Why, miss, or mistress, begging
your pardon if I make too free, but there bean’t your match in the
county; that there bean’t—I’ll take my oath of it! I’m your neighbour,
Thomas Thornby, at your service. Mayhap you’ve heard o’ me.”

“I have heard your name, Mr. Thornby,” said Georgiana, looking quite
tolerantly upon him.

“But not heard much good o’ me, if you heard it from your uncle, I’ll
warrant. You mustn’t believe all he has said against me, Miss Foxwell.
’Tis like he’ll give a different account o’ me after this: I’ve just had
a talk with him, and he knows me a little better. Ecod, miss, I hope you
and me can be good neighbours, at all events. Such a face!—excuse the
freedom, mistress, but we don’t run across such faces every day
hereabouts. There’ll be some, that think themselves beauties, will turn
green when they see you at the assembly ball. Ecod, we shall have
somebody worth a toast now; for between you and me, the beauties of this
neighbourhood don’t muster enough good looks among ’em all to do credit
to the punch we drink their healths in. At any rate, that’s my opinion,
and explains why I’m still a bachelor. I’m not easy pleased, ma’am; no
doubt I look a plain fellow in these here old clothes, but anybody’ll
tell you how fastidious Tom Thornby is when it comes to dogs, horses,
and women. ’Tis well known, ma’am.”

“I am the more obliged for your compliments, sir; and I wish you good
morning,” said Georgiana, amiably, and, after another curtsey, performed
with unexpected swiftness, she got away by the nearest door before her
new admirer could summon an idea for another speech.

Thornby stared wistfully at the door by which she had left. Indeed he
made a step or two toward it; but, thinking better, stopped and drew a
ponderous sigh. A servant came into the hall from the forecourt,
whereupon the Squire abruptly took his departure. As he rode mutely out
of the courtyard, followed by Bartholomew, his countenance betokened
thoughts quite other than those with which he had left Foxwell’s
presence a minute or two earlier. When he had passed through the
village, Thornby motioned his man to ride beside him, and began to
converse upon Mr. Foxwell and his present habits. In the course of the
talk, it came out, as Bartholomew had been informed by Caleb while
waiting in the courtyard, that Foxwell and his guests were accustomed to
make some excursion on horseback every day, leaving the niece at home.
The consequence of this knowledge was that next day, soon after the
party had sallied forth as usual, a servant came to Miss Foxwell in her
own small parlour to say that Mr. Thornby waited upon her in the
drawing-room.

Mystified, but desiring not to offend, she went to him immediately. He
was sprucely dressed, beaming, and all deference. For two hours he sat
and sustained the chief burden of a general conversation upon everything
in the neighbourhood. While he was more moderate and indirect in his
frequent compliments than he had been on the previous day, he maintained
a steady gaze of admiration, no less overpowering. Georgiana, wearied to
death, had finally to plead household duties in order to dislodge him.

The following day was Sunday, and Miss Foxwell, making her first
appearance at the village church, found herself again the object of the
Squire’s constant attention, as indeed of the whole congregation’s,
although she divided the latter with the London ladies. That evening she
was discussed at Thornby Hall by the cronies who happened to be sharing
the Squire’s bachelor table; and such was the praise uttered by several
gay dogs who considered themselves devilish good judges that Mr. Thornby
was kept secretly alternating between elation and jealousy. It needed
only this approval and covetousness on the part of others, to complete
the Squire’s sense of the young lady’s surpassing excellence.

In the morning, to Bartholomew’s considerable wonder, Mr. Thornby again
discovered business that took him past Foxwell Court. He had not the
courage against appearing ridiculous, to repeat his visit so soon, but
he rode very slowly in passing the place, both going and coming; and,
welcoming a pretext for remaining as long as possible in the near
vicinity, he no sooner saw, through the doorway of the village
ale-house, a man who was now a guest there, than he drew up his horse
with alacrity, saying to his attendant, “The very fellow I desired to
see: we’ll tarry here awhile, Bartholomew.”

The man in the ale-house came forth as Mr. Thornby dismounted, and
offered that respectful greeting which the Squire was so conscious of
deserving and Jeremiah Filson so capable of bestowing.

“Good day, Filson; good day t’ye. I don’t wish to come indoors: we’ll
walk to and fro here on the green.—I’ve been anxious to see you, Filson,
to know how you’re faring in respect of your Jacobite.”

“Poorly, sir, poorly as yet; though I take it most kind of your Worship
to be concerned upon the matter.”

“Concerned? In course—why the devil not? Ain’t I a magistrate? Didn’t I
give you the warrant? D’ye think I dropped the matter there? I’m as keen
upon punishing the rebels as any man in England. Once you discover where
the fellow is, you’ll see how ready my officers are to help you take
him.”

Filson was rather surprised at this sudden zeal, for the Squire, after
purchasing the Foxwell letter and granting the Everell warrant, had not
shown a desire for more of Filson’s society, so that Jeremiah had been
forced to curry favour with the justice’s clerk, that he might rely upon
the ready coöperation of the legal officers in apprehending the rebel.
But he kept his surprise to himself.

“I’m quite sure of that, sir. I hope I shall track the man to his cover,
with the aid of Providence. I hate to give a thing up, sir, once I’ve
set myself to do it. When I start upon a chase, no matter what’s the
game, I can’t leave it unfinished, and that’s why I still linger here,
though at some little expense to myself. But we act as we’re made; and
I’m made like that, your Worship.”

“It does you credit, Filson: I like a staying hound. But are you sure,
now, the man is still in this neighbourhood?”

“I don’t presume to be sure of anything, sir; but I trace him to this
neighbourhood and no farther. ’Twas on or about this very spot, your
honour, that he was seen by the postilion whom I met that same night at
the inn where I had the honour of first making your acquaintance. The
next day, you’ll remember, I had the privilege of transacting some
business with your Worship. I came directly from your house to this, but
my gentleman had fled the night before. He told the landlord a
cock-and-bull story of having found a wagon to take him on to Burndale.
But the landlord spied on him, and saw no wagon at the place he said it
was waiting. Furthermore, the landlord declares the gentleman
disappeared from sight at that very place. It was night-time, and the
truth must be, that the gentleman turned aside from the road. Howsoever,
that’s the last account I can get of him—his disappearance at the bridge
yonder. I’ve been to Burndale, but no such person has been seen there,
or between here and there. Neither is there any trace of his doubling
back over his course. And, besides, if he was bound for Burndale, or
that side of the kingdom, why should he have come so far by the road I
found him in?—there are shorter ways to Burndale from Scotland. No, sir,
if I may express an opinion to your Honour, his business must have been
in this neighbourhood, not beyond it; he has found snug hiding
hereabouts, but I’ll have him out yet.”

“Trust you for a true terrier, eh, Filson.”

“Yes, sir, with your Worship’s approval and the forces of the law to
support me. I failed in vigilance that day at the inn—allowed the
corporeal desire of sleep to get the better of me, and was punished by
the man slipping through my fingers. But Providence, after teaching me
the lesson, sent the postilion to hear my belated inquiries, which I
ought never to have postponed to the needs of the body. The question is,
where could my gentleman have gone when he vanished under the nose of
this old fool—begging your Worship’s pardon—that night?”

“There’s the Foxwell estate begins just beyond that bridge.”

“Yes, on one side of the road. And the Dornley on the other. I’ve
quietly seen Mr. Dornley, after making sure of his loyalty in politics,
and furnished him with a written description of my gentleman. I’ve
hesitated to approach Mr. Foxwell, lest perhaps you might have told him
how you came by that letter.”

“No fear o’ that; but, if he saw you, he’d soon enough guess, take my
word on’t.”

“Why, scarcely, sir, if I may venture to say so. If you told him that
Sir John Thisleford’s former valet was in the neighbourhood, and if you
gave some notion of my present appearance, then he might indeed guess.
But otherwise I’ll warrant he wouldn’t know me. You see, sir, we look
different out of livery, and my name wasn’t Filson when I served Sir
John; and in various ways my manners have altered—for the better, I
trust. So if your Honour has given him no hint of the matter, I think I
may safely go and solicit his interest in my quest.”

“Oh, do as you see fit, man. If he discovers you, ’tis your back must
abide the cudgel, nobody else’s. Ecod, the letter will serve my purpose
just as well, whether or not he knows how I came by it.”

Jeremiah Filson was not long in availing himself of the security with
which he now felt he might interview Foxwell. He thanked Providence he
had not been too late to stipulate against the Squire’s mentioning him
in connection with the letter, which he had neglected to do at the time
of their transaction. The afternoon of that same day saw him make his
very civil and yet not obsequious approach, the manner of which rather
recommended him to Foxwell, as being unmistakably of London. Learning
that his business was of a private nature, Foxwell heard him in the
drawing-room, where Filson introduced himself with a careful ambiguity
as upon a business “in the interest of Government.” Foxwell listened
with polite attention to the glib description of the “fugitive rebel,
one Charles Everell, who was of the Pretender’s body-guard of gentlemen
at Culloden,” and who was suspected of being now in hiding in the
neighbourhood, possibly upon the Foxwell estate.

Filson, being satisfied by his hearer’s unconcerned manner that Foxwell
neither knew nor cared anything about the Jacobite, explained that,
while a justice’s warrant had been made out, upon his affidavit, to
“take and apprehend” this Charles Everell, he was prosecuting the search
quietly rather than by such public means as might give the refugee the
alarm. He was, therefore, in this private manner soliciting the
coöperation of the loyal gentlemen in the neighbourhood, and begging
that, in the event of their discovering such a person, either by chance
or as a result of investigations their loyalty might prompt, they would
cause the man to be detained, and would send word to him, Jeremiah
Filson, at the ale-house in the village. “For, d’ye see, sir, I’ve
arranged matters that I can put my hand on the justice officers at short
notice. I shall be the chief witness against the rebel, and I know where
to find another, as two are required. The other, in fact, is at
Carlisle, where the trials are now on.”

Foxwell, not at all interested, went as far as loyalty ordered, in
saying that, if occasion arose for his services in the matter, he would
act as duty required; and offering the spy the freedom of the estate in
the prosecution of inquiries. Filson, after a profound bow of
acknowledgment, handed Foxwell a written description of the rebel,
calling attention to his own name and address at the bottom of the
sheet; declared himself the other’s very humble servant, bowed as low as
before, and took his leave.

Foxwell glanced carelessly over the written description, and then thrust
it unfolded into his pocket. It had not power to drive from his mind the
vexatious subject already lodged there. He frowned and sighed, and took
an impatient turn up and down the room. Then, forcing his brow to
smoothness and the corners of his mouth to pleasantness, he returned to
his friends on the terrace.

“You laughed at me the other day, Foxwell,” said Lady Strange, as he
approached, “for telling you the place was haunted. But what do you say
now? The ghost has been seen again, in the old garden yonder; and not
only that same ghost—a man in a cloak—but a female figure as well.”

“Two female figures, the girl said,” corrected Mrs. Winter.

“Wonderful, most wonderful!” exclaimed Foxwell, smiling. “And whence
comes this news?”

“The keeper’s daughter has just told us,” said Rashleigh. “Her
sweetheart, it appears, was coming last night from the village to see
her, and took a short way through the fields into the park. ’Twas he saw
the three figures in the garden; and one of them, it seems, was like
that seen by the scullery-maid the other evening.”

“The scullery-maid?” said Foxwell. “I remember: I promised to question
her, but something put it out of my mind. Well, ’tis not too late: we’ll
catechize her now—and the keeper’s daughter, too.”

But the keeper’s daughter had gone home to the lodge, and the
examination was confined to the kitchen girl, who came to the summons as
much frightened as if she were brought, not to tell of a ghost, but to
face one. Foxwell and his visitors seated themselves in the hall to hear
her story, the other servants being excluded. By patient interrogation,
Foxwell contrived to elicit an account hardly more circumstantial than
Lady Strange had previously given him. The girl had pursued the cat with
the intention of employing it against the mice in the dormitory of the
maids. Drawn thus toward the garden, she had perceived the motionless
cloaked figure, which had stared at her in a strange, death-like manner.
It wore a sword, and she thought that in life “the gentleman might have
been a king’s officer,” though she could not say what made her think so.

The word “officer” seemed to touch some association in Foxwell’s mind.
His hand went to the pocket containing the paper Filson had given him,
and he showed a faint increase of interest in the few answers the girl
had yet to make. When he had dismissed her, he turned smilingly to his
guests:

“Well, we must avail ourselves of this ghost while it is in the humour
of haunting us. Kind fortune seems to have sent it for your
entertainment. What say you to a ghost-hunt?”

“How are ghosts usually hunted?” asked Rashleigh; “with hounds? beagles?
terriers?”

“No, that would not do,” said Foxwell, thoughtfully. “As we know where
it appears—for it has been seen twice in the sunken garden, according to
the evidence—we had best set a trap for it. What do you think, ladies?
It may help enliven the night for us.”

“I should dearly love to see a ghost,” said Lady Strange; “but what
manner of trap would you use? Sure such an insubstantial thing can’t be
held by any machine of wood and iron.”

“A trap composed of three or four stout fellows armed with cudgels,”
suggested Foxwell, “would doubtless serve to hold the creature till
Rashleigh and I could arrive with our swords.”

“But a ghost is like air, is it not?” said Lady Strange. “It can’t be
caught, or stopped, or even felt.”

“I have always suspected that a ghost that can be seen can be felt,
especially if it wears clothes,” replied Foxwell. “However it be, here
is an opportunity to settle the question,—if the ghost continues to
haunt the same place. We will set our trap this evening; if we catch
nothing, we’ll try again to-morrow; and so on, till something occurs, or
we grow tired. We had best tell nobody of our purpose: the ghost may
have accomplices. Pray let none of the servants know, but the men I
employ in the affair.”

He bestirred himself at once in preparations, glad of having found fresh
means, not only of distracting his own thoughts somewhat from the letter
in Squire Thornby’s possession, but also of blinding his guests to the
disturbance of mind which that matter still caused him.

His plans were simple. Choosing three men rather for stoutness of heart
than for stoutness of body, though they were not deficient in the latter
respect either, he instructed them to post themselves, while it was
still day, in well-concealed places at different sides of the garden.
Two, the gardener and the groom, were provided with cudgels, while the
keeper took a fowling-piece, which he was not to fire except in extreme
circumstances. At the appearance of the ghost in the garden, the keeper
was to utter a signal, whereupon Foxwell and his guests—who were to pass
the evening as usual at the card-table—would come forth as quietly as
possible, the gentlemen with their swords ready to enforce the
intruder’s surrender. Should the ghost attempt flight before the
gentlemen could arrive, the three servants were to close round him,
using their weapons only as a last resource, and after due warning—for
the ghost was probably a gentleman, and Foxwell would have it treated as
such. The three watchers were to go singly to their places of
concealment, entering the garden directly from a postern in the ruinous
eastern wing of the house, so that nobody outside of the garden itself
could see them.

“And is not the pretty pouting niece to be admitted to this sport?”
asked Rashleigh.

“By no means,” replied Foxwell, with a frown. “She has elected to keep
out of all our amusements, we can spare her company in this. If the
young prude finds satisfaction in holding aloof, for God’s sake let her
do so. She disapproves of so many things we do and say, ’tis very like
she would disapprove of this. Threatening a ghost with a cudgel,
egad!—she might take it into her head to play the spoil-sport—you know
the malice of excessive virtue.”

So nothing was spoken of the matter at dinner. This meal—which occurred
at the London hour, in the late afternoon—was now the only regular
occasion upon which Georgiana joined the company. For the passing of her
days, she had her books, the care of her wardrobe and apartments, her
music, drawing, embroidery, and walks—for she took these, though never
on the side of the house toward the park, lest Everell might risk his
safety by approaching her. She still met that gentleman each evening, at
a later hour now than at first; and he it was that occupied her thoughts
all the day, whatever the employment of her hands and feet. She
acknowledged to herself her love for him, and wondered, sometimes with
hope but oftener with deep misgiving, what the end would be. At times
she had a poignant sense of the danger he was in by remaining near her,
but she shrank even then from sending him away, for their separation
must be long and might be eternal. As deeply as he, though less
vehemently, did she lament the circumstances that compelled them to be
secret and brief in their meetings. She was by no means of that romantic
turn of mind which would have made the affair the more attractive for
being clandestine. People who do romantic things are not necessarily
people of romantic notions: it is a resolute fidelity to some cause or
purpose, that leads many a generous but matter-of-fact hero or heroine
into romantic situations. Indeed, is it ever otherwise with your true
hero and your true heroine? Are not the others but shams, or at best
poseurs? Georgiana followed courageously where love led; but because she
really loved, and not because the conditions were romantic: she was no
Lydia Languish—she would joyfully have dispensed with the romance.

On this particular evening, the conversation at dinner took a turn which
gave it a disquieting significance to her, though she bore no part in it
herself. Lady Strange had mentioned a certain young lord as having died
because he preferred his love to his life. Foxwell had politely laughed.
Lady Strange had somewhat offendedly stood by her assertion, whereupon
Foxwell had declared the thing unknown in nature. Mrs. Winter supported
him; but Rashleigh took his cousin’s side, saying, “What! no man ever
died for love, then? Surely there have been cases, Bob.”

“Men have been brought to death by their love-affairs, I grant you,”
said Foxwell, “but that is because circumstances arose which they had
not foreseen, and from which they could not escape. They have even
risked their lives to prosecute their amours, but _risking_ one’s life
upon fair odds is a vastly different thing from _deliberately offering_
it in exchange for the indulgence of one’s love. That is what my lady’s
words really mean: ‘preferring one’s love to one’s life.’ Such bargains
are mentioned in ancient history—as of the youth who, being deeply in
love with a queen, agreed to be slain at the end of a certain time if he
might pass that time as her accepted lover. Only such an act can really
be described as giving one’s life for love; and not the getting killed
unintentionally in some matter incident to a love-affair.”

“But men have killed themselves at the loss of the women they loved,”
urged Lady Strange. “There was Romeo, that Garrick plays so
beautifully.”

“’Tis the work of a poet who says in another place, ‘Men have died from
time to time, but not for love.’ When men kill themselves at the loss of
a woman, you will find they have lost other things as well—fortune and
reputation; or their wits, in drink.”

But Lady Strange held that a true lover would not hesitate to mortgage
his life for a season of love, if the latter could not be obtained by
any means at a lower price. “If he is young, and in love for the first
time,” added Rashleigh. But Foxwell and Mrs. Winter remained cynical,
and the latter became even derisive, so that the dispute grew warm on
the part of the two ladies, who did not disdain to colour their remarks
with sly personalities.

The discussion promised to be endless, and was still going on when
Georgiana left the table. Not unaffected by the allusions to fatal
consequences arising from dangerous love-affairs, she waited in her own
rooms till dusk, and then, attended by the faithful Prudence, stole
softly down the stairs, and along the terrace to the sunken garden.

AS she passed below the room in which her uncle and his friends were,
she heard their voices, and observed that one of the windows was open.
But to this she attached no importance, unusual as the fact was at that
hour, for she had other matters to think of. And indeed the night was
not chill, though a slight breeze was stirring the leaves in the garden
as she entered it. Leaving Prudence at the foot of the steps, Georgiana
swiftly threaded the different alleys of shrubbery to make sure that no
person chanced to be in the garden, a precaution she had adopted since
the first meetings; but she did not peer under any of the bushes, or
behind those that grew close to the wall, for she had not conceived that
anybody might come into the garden to hide, or for other purpose than
his own pleasure. She went and stood in the gateway near the glen-side.
A moment later she saw the dark form of her lover approaching in the
gloom of the park, and presently his arms were around her.

“How you tried my patience, sweet!” said he, leading her slowly toward
the midst of the garden. “You are later than usual. I was beginning to
think you must have appeared already, and that my eyes were so blurred
watching the gateway they had failed to see you. Two minutes more, and I
should have left my thicket and come to assure myself.”

“Never do that, I beg! Never come into the garden till you see me in the
gateway—not even though you hear my voice. Promise me you will
not—promise, Everell.”

“I would promise you anything in the world when you ask with that voice
and those eyes—anything but to cease loving you or to leave you. But I
do believe the goddess of love has this garden in her keeping, and
reserves it wholly for us, we have been so safe from intrusion in it.”

“We have been very rash. I tremble to think how careless we were at
first, when you were wont to come in before I saw that the coast was
clear. But we are never perfectly safe here—as we found last night, when
that country fellow stared in at the gateway.”

“I doubt if the yokel really saw us. But, if so, he would find nothing
strange in your being here with your maid. If he saw me, he would
suppose I was your uncle or some visitor. But I will take all
precautions, dear, if only to make your mind easy. I wouldn’t have you
suffer the least fear, not even for the sake of that look of solicitude
in your eyes, which is certainly the tenderest, most heavenly look that
a woman or an angel can bestow. It goes to my inmost heart, and binds me
to you for ever. And yet I’d have you smile, for all that, if you’d be
happier smiling.”

“I might be happier smiling, but I think I should not be as concerned
for you then,” replied Georgiana, simply, and with a smile that had a
little sadness in it.

“Ah, my dearest!” said Everell, softly, with a sudden tremor in his
voice.

The silence that followed might have been longer but that the young man
could not forget, for more than a few seconds at a time, how brief their
interview was to be. He imagined, perhaps mistakenly, that the value of
such meetings was to be measured in speeches rather than in silences,
although he attached full worth to eloquent glances.

“When I feel how dull the hours are between these short glimpses of
heaven,” said he, “I marvel to think how tedious the years must have
been before I saw you, though I knew it not.—I never chafed at danger
till now. Sometimes when I lie in the bracken yonder, or pace the dark
bottom of the glen, I am tempted to ignore all risks, come boldly to
your house, seek the acquaintance of your uncle, and measure my
happiness by hours instead of minutes.”

“Oh, Everell!—do not think of it!”

“Nay, have no fear, sweet. Your commands are sacred with me—till you
command me to leave you, or not to love you.”

“But if I commanded you earnestly to leave?—resolutely, so that you knew
I meant it?”

“Could you have the heart to do that?”

“Would that I had! I ought to have. But would it be useless?”

“As useless as it would be cruel, sweet, I vow to you.”

“But ’tis cruel to let you stay. ’Tis a wonder your presence in the
neighbourhood isn’t known already—a wonder the poacher hasn’t betrayed
you.”

“Nay, he is true as steel. We are in the same galley—both rebels, he
against the game laws and the world’s injustice, I against the present
dynasty. You must know, we outlaws stand together.—You are again in the
mood of fearing for my safety. But see how baseless your fears have been
so far. Trust our stars, dearest: mine, at least, has ever been
fortunate.”

“My fears are always returning. Sometimes I have the most poignant
feeling of danger surrounding us, of reproach to myself that I was the
cause of interrupting your flight. I have that feeling now. Oh, Everell,
loth as I am to send you away, I feel in my soul that I ought! My heart,
which would keep you here, at the same time urges you to fly: with one
beat it calls to you, ‘Stay,’ and with the next cries, ‘Go!’ Oh, why did
you not go on with your friend?”

“Indeed, ’tis better he and I are apart, since that fellow at the inn
knew we travelled together,” replied Everell, trying to reassure her.
“If the man really meant to continue dogging us, our separation was the
best means of confusing him. Dismiss your fears, sweet. If your regard
for me were love rather than compassion,—love such as I have for
you,—the only impulse of your heart would be to keep me with you: beyond
that, you would not think, either with hope or fear. And yet your
compassion, so angelic,—nay, so womanly,—I would rather have than the
love of any other woman.”

He said this honestly; for she had never in plain terms owned to him
that she loved him, and he, in the humility of a man’s first love, saw
himself unworthy of her by as much as he adored her, and therefore did
not imagine himself capable of eliciting from her what he felt for her.
Her indulgence he ascribed to the pity of a gentle heart for one whose
situation, both as a refugee and as a lover, pleaded for him while his
courtesy and honour gave assurance that her tenderness was safe from
betrayal. If her heart desired him to stay near her, he supposed, ’twas
because it hesitated to put him to the unhappiness of leaving her. That
she might suffer on her own account in his absence, did not occur to
him: she herself was all loveliness, and where she was, there would all
loveliness be; what was he that she should find him necessary to make
the world complete? Were his presence needful to her content, she would
not limit their meetings to so few moments in a long day. Thus he
thought, or, rather, thus he felt without analyzing the feeling.

“’Tis the duty of my compassion, then,” she answered, “to drive you
away. I am more convinced of it now than ever. Such foreboding, such
misgiving!—why do I feel so? I pray Heaven ’tis not yet too late.—Hark!
what was that?”

“’Tis only the master and his guests a-laughing over their
dissipations,” said Prudence, near whom the lovers happened at the
moment to be standing. “They’ve left the window open, ma’am.”

“See how easily you are frightened without cause,” said Everell. “Come,
has not the mood run its course?”

“Blame me not that I bid you go, Everell!” she replied, as if not to be
reassured. “You may come to blame me that I ever stayed to hear you!”

“For that dear fault my heart will thank you while it moves.”

“It _was_ a fault!—I see now that it was. I was so solitary, so
rebellious against my uncle and his company, that when you came my heart
seemed to know you as a friend; and I listened to you.”

“Ay, sweet listener that you were! What effect your listening had upon
me! I had wished to return to France, which in exile I had grown up to
love. This England, though I was born in it, was to me a strange
country, but you have made it home!”

He raised both her hands to his lips, while she stood irresolute, her
eyes searching his face for the secret of his confidence, which she
would have rejoiced to think better warranted than her fears. The
silence was suddenly broken by a slight, brief noise in the greenery
near the steps.

“What’s that?” she said, quickly.

“The wind,” replied Everell; but the sudden straightening of his body,
and fixity of his attention upon the place of the sound, betrayed his
doubt.

“No,” whispered Georgiana, “’twas quite different.”

“Some animal moving among the shrubs,” said Everell. “I’ll go and see.”

With his hand upon his sword-hilt, he walked to the shrubbery growing
along the foot of the bank which rose to the terrace. “’Twas
hereabouts,” he said, and, drawing his weapon, thrust it downward into
the thick leafy mass. From the further side of the mass came the loud
hoot of an owl, followed by the noise of a man scrambling to his feet.

“Ah! come out, spy!” cried Everell, as the human character of the
intruder was certified by a sound of husky breathing.

He darted his weapon swiftly here and there through the shrubbery, and
then ran seeking the nearest opening by which he might get to the enemy.
But the enemy spared him that trouble by appearing on the hither side of
the barrier, from the very opening that Everell had sought. The strange
man had a gun raised, to wield it as a club.

Everell, recalling his experience of John Tarby’s fowling-piece,
nevertheless ran toward the fellow, hoping to dodge the blow, and
disable the man by pinking him in the arm or shoulder, after which it
might be possible to learn his purpose and come to terms. But just as
the young gentleman went to meet his approaching foe, a sharp scream
from Georgiana distracted him, so that, though he saved his head, he
caught the gun-stroke on his right shoulder, and his sword-thrust passed
wide of his adversary. He now heard other feet hastening toward him
through the garden: it was, indeed, the appearance of the two other men,
coming to the keeper’s aid upon his signal of the owl’s hoot, that had
caused Georgiana to cry out. Everell, seeing his first opponent draw
back to recover himself, turned swiftly to consider the newcomers,
placing his back to the high shrubbery. One was approaching on his
front, the other at his left. They both brandished cudgels; but, as they
saw him dart his glance upon them in turn and hold his sword ready for a
lunge in either direction, they stopped at safe distance.

“Oh, Everell, fly!” cried Georgiana, hastening to his side.

“What! and leave you to these rascals, sweet?” he answered.

“They’ll not harm me: they are servants here. Save yourself!—for _my_
sake!”

He looked at her for an instant, read in her eyes the pleading of her
heart, and said, softly, “For yours, yes!—we shall meet again.”

He then started toward the gateway leading to the park and glen. But the
gardener and the groom swallowed their fear of steel, and made bravely
to intercept him. He had confidence in his ability with the sword to
deal with two men armed with cudgels. But he knew that his ultimate
situation would be so much the worse if he killed either of these
fellows. His thought, therefore, was to elude them by mere fleetness, or
slightly to disable them. He soon abandoned the former hope, for at the
first turn he tried they were swift to head him off. So he charged
straight at the nearer, thrusting so fortunately as to prick the
fellow’s shoulder, making him lower his cudgel with a howl. Everell now
tried a similar lunge at the other cudgel-man, but the latter divined
his purpose, and saved himself by tumbling over backward. The wounded
man had instantly transferred his cudgel to his left hand, and now stood
again in Everell’s way, while the fellow with the gun had come up to
threaten him in the rear. Informed of this last danger by his hearing,
the Jacobite sprang aside to the right in time to avoid a second blow.
He turned swiftly upon the gun-wielder, whose fear of the sword made him
thereupon flee toward the gateway. Everell’s three adversaries were now
all in that part of the garden through which he had intended to escape.

“This way!” cried Georgiana, from behind him; “and by the terrace!”

Everell wheeled around and made a dash for the steps. His enemies were
prompt to recover from their surprise and rush after him, the fallen man
having speedily got on his feet again. But the clean-limbed Jacobite won
to the steps by more than striking-distance. He thought to clear them in
two bounds, then cross the terrace and gain the park.

“Eh! the deuce!” exclaimed a voice at the head of the steps, as a dark
form, backed by several others, appeared there. Everell, who had just
set his foot on the middle step, checked himself at the risk of his
balance, and leaped back. The newcomer, who had a sword in his hand,
thrust downward at Everell, at the same time calling out, “The light,
Caleb!”

A lantern, which had been concealed under the coat of its bearer, now
cast its rays over the scene from one side of the stair-top. Its help
was more to those who arrived with it than to Everell, whose eyes had
become used to the light shed by the stars alone. But he was now enabled
to make sure that his new intercepter was Mr. Foxwell himself; that
Rashleigh was at that gentleman’s side, with drawn sword; that the two
London ladies stood close behind, peering forward and yet shrinking
back, as curiosity disputed with fright; and that the man servant with
the lantern carried also a coil of rope. All this was the observation of
an instant. Even as he made it, Everell put his sword at guard, and
looked a questioning defiance.

“A sturdy ghost, as I live!” cried Foxwell, motioning the three fellows
at Everell’s back, who had come to a halt at the first intimation of
their master’s arrival, to stay their hands. “My niece, too!—the
guileless Georgiana!”

“Uncle!” she began, scarce able to speak, though her pale face and
terrified eyes were eloquent enough; “this gentleman—”

“Is my prisoner, till he gives an account of himself. Do you surrender,
sir?”

“No, sir,” replied Everell.

“Then I must reluctantly order these men to take you,” said Foxwell,
politely.

“Then their deaths be on your head,” said Everell, and turned to make
another dash for the gateway, determined this time to spare none who
barred the way. To this direction of escape he was limited by his
unwillingness to try fatal conclusions with Georgiana’s kinsman. But he
was robbed of choice in the matter; for no sooner had he taken two
strides than Foxwell, afraid of losing him, leaped down the steps, and
shouted, “Turn and defend yourself!”

[Illustration: “THE TWO GENTLEMEN MADE THEIR SWORDS RING.”]

Fearing that non-compliance might result in the indignity of being
struck on the back with the sword while in flight, Everell obeyed. Ere
he could think, his blade had crossed that of Foxwell, who a second time
bade the three underlings hold off. The two gentlemen made their swords
ring swiftly, in that part of the garden near the steps, Caleb moving
the lantern so as to keep its light upon them. Georgiana watched in
fearful silence, Prudence clinging to her and recurrently moaning, “Oh,
lor!” Rashleigh stood on the steps, ready to interfere at call. The
combatants seemed admirably matched, and each had reason to admire the
other’s fencing. But, to Everell’s relief, it presently became apparent
that the elder man’s arm was weakening. The Jacobite now indulged the
hope of disarming him. But Foxwell, too, saw that possibility. He
beckoned Rashleigh, who thereupon ran forward and struck up Everell’s
sword, while the groom and the gardener, obeying a swift command of
their master, seized the Jacobite’s elbows from behind. Everell made a
violent effort to throw them off, but in sheer strength he was no match
for them. Relinquishing the attempt, he said, quietly, to Foxwell,
“’Twas scarcely fair.”

“For that I beg your pardon,” replied Foxwell, still panting for breath.
“In a matter between us two alone as gentlemen, ’twould be dastardly.
But I had to take you at all cost. You would not surrender; though you
certainly owe me an explanation on one score, and are an object of
suspicion on another.”

“Oh, Everell!” murmured Georgiana, who had fallen to weeping, and was
heedful only of her lover’s plight and not at all of her uncle’s words.

“Everell, say you? Bring the lantern here, Caleb.” In the better light,
Foxwell scrutinized his prisoner’s face. “The scar on the cheek, too.
’Tis as I thought. But how Miss Foxwell happens to participate—well,
there will be time for explanations. Sir, if you will give me your
_parole d’honneur_, I need not inflict upon you the restraint of—” He
indicated the cords in Caleb’s possession.

“I thank you, but I prefer to retain my right of escape.”

“In that case, you will admit the necessity of the precautions I
reluctantly take.” And Foxwell set about directing the servants in
fastening the captive’s wrists behind him, and in tying his ankles so as
to limit the length of his steps. With a courteous “Allow me, sir,”
Foxwell disengaged the sword from Everell’s fingers and returned it to
its own scabbard, which Everell had retained at his side. This act of
grace the Jacobite acknowledged with a bow.

“Uncle, you will not detain this gentleman?” entreated Georgiana,
conquering her tears. “He has done you no offence. As to our meeting
here, I will tell you all; the fault is mine.”

“Not so!” said Everell, quickly. “If there be any fault in that, ’tis
mine. Sir, it was not by Miss Foxwell’s desire that I came here; it was
against her will that I spoke to her. My presence was forced upon her.”

“Well, well, you shall be heard presently. You have a more serious
charge to face than making love clandestinely to young ladies.—As for
you, Georgiana, I thought you were in your chamber, wrapped in the sleep
of innocence. I’ll never trust prudery again. I beg you will go in
immediately, miss.”

“Uncle, I will not go till you have set this gentleman free. You shall
have all my gratitude and obedience: I’ll give you no cause of
complaint. Be kind—generous—I pray—” Her voice failing her, she fell
upon her knees, and essayed to take Foxwell’s hand.

“Nay, sweet, you go too far,” said Everell, tenderly.

“Too far, indeed,” said Foxwell. “No scenes of supplication, I beg,—they
are sure to make me more severe. I advise you to go to your chamber,
miss. You had best oblige me in this, else stubbornness on your part may
awaken stubbornness on mine.”

“Go, dear, and trust all to me,” counseled Everell, who had been
regarding her with eyes in which there was no attempt to belie his love.
“Go—this is not the end.”

She looked at him a moment; then turned sorrowfully away, and went
slowly up the steps and to the house, followed by her maid, to whose
proffers of assistance she gave no more heed than if she had been
walking in a dream.

“Sir,” said Everell, with a slight huskiness of voice, “let me assure
you that I am a gentleman and a man of honour; and that I respect your
niece, and have every reason to respect her, as I would a saint.”

“No assurance is needful to convince me you are a gentleman,” replied
Foxwell. “I will lodge you in a manner as nearly befitting your quality
as security and my poor means will allow. I must be your jailer for
to-night, at least.—Caleb, go before with the lantern. To the hall
first. And slowly.—I trust you can make shift to walk, sir.”

Placing the gardener and the groom at either side of the prisoner, and
the keeper at his rear, Foxwell set the party in motion. The two
gentlemen, following close, gave their arms to the ladies upon reaching
the head of the steps, and the procession went on at the slow pace which
Everell’s ankle-cords made imperative.

“A mighty pretty fellow, whatever he may be,” said Lady Strange, _sotto
voce_.

“Georgiana is to be envied,” said Mrs. Winter. “Such are the rewards of
virtue.”

“He is vastly in love with her,” declared Lady Strange. “Did you ever
see such tender glances?”

“’Tis the kind of ghost you could find it in your heart to be haunted
by, is it not, Di?” queried Mrs. Winter.

“The keeper must have been in some doubt whether the ghost _was_ the
ghost,” put in Rashleigh, “before he decided to give the alarm.”

There had indeed been indecision on the part of the keeper, but upon
other ground than Rashleigh mentioned. As he sat with the gardener over
their extra beer later that night, the keeper explained to his comrade:

“I were in a powerful state o’ uncertainty, and that’s the truth of it.
For, in course, I knowed the young mistress and her maid as soon as ever
they come into the garden. And when this here young captain,—for I take
it, he can’t be no less, what with the air he have, and the way he
handle his sword,—so when the young captain appeared, I soon see how the
land lay. Though I couldn’t make out what they was a-sayin’, I could
tell it were a matter o’ clandestine love. Now I were to give a owl’s
hoot when the ghost appeared. Thinks I, ‘Devil a ghost this is, but yet
’tis the only ghost we’re like to behold. If I wait for a real ghost,’
thinks I, ‘we sha’n’t get to our beds this night; and yet I haven’t the
heart to spoil the young lady’s love-affair.’”

“And small blame to you, David,” said Andrew the gardener. “Your
thoughts was my thoughts, and I kep’ a-wondering to myself, ‘What will
David do? If he doesn’t hoot, we shall have to stay out here all night,
and then only get credit for going asleep and seeing nothing. And yet,
if he does hoot, there’ll be a pretty kettle o’ fish for the young
lady.’”

“Yes, Andrew, it were a great responsibility. I wished it had been left
to you to do the hootin’, for, thinks I, ‘Andrew’s a wiser man than me,
and he’d know the right thing.’”

“Maybe so, David, but not such a good hooter,” said Andrew, modestly.
“I’ll admit I did a’most make up my mind that such kind of love-affairs
comes to no good, and the master ought to know, so the best thing for
all of us would be for you to consider the stranger a ghost, and hoot.”

“No doubt, no doubt, Andrew, now that I hear you say so. But I couldn’t
muster up the heart, because I done my own love-makin’ in a clandestine
manner, in my lovin’ days, and I had a sort o’ fellow-feelin’ with these
young people, as you might say. So I couldn’t make up my mind. But I
happened to move my leg, which were powerful cramped with sittin’ long
in one position, an’ I made more noise nor I bargained for. And the
first thing I knew, the young gentleman were a-proddin’ at me through
the shrub’ry. So before I ever thought, the hoot come out, more as if
there was a owl inside o’ me which hooted of its own accord, than if it
was of my own free will.”

“It wasn’t of your own free will, man. Take my word for it, the matter
was took out o’ your hands altogether. The moving of your leg was
ordered from above, to bring about the end that was predestinated.”

“I believe it were, Andrew. At all events, once the hoot was out, the
fat was in the fire. It weren’t a bad hoot, though, were it?”

“Better nor a real owl could do, David,” said Andrew, raising his beer
to his mouth.

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