HIS MAJESTY’S WELL-BELOVED
A Romantic Story of the Reign of Charles II
"BUT this is monstrous—infamous—!” “And will be well-deserved,” here broke in Lord Douglas decisively. “Fie on you, friend, to worry over that baggage, whilst we are still in doubt if my sister is safe.”
“Yes!” murmured Lord Stour with a sudden note of deep solicitude in his voice. “My God! I was forgetting!” i
He ran to the window—the one next to the recess where I still remained ensconced—threw up the sash ind gazed out even more anxiously than I had been ioing all along. Mr. Baggs in the meanwhile enleavoured to reassure Lord Douglas.
“If,” he said, “her Ladyship knows that your Lord¡hip hath come here to visit me, she may seek shelter inder my humble roof.”
“God grant that she may!” rejoined the young man ervently.
We all were on tenterhooks, I as much as the others; md we all gazed out agitatedly in the direction of i'leet Street. Then, all at once, my Lord Stour gave a ry of relief.
“There’s the chaise!” he exclaimed. “It has just urned the comer of this sti’eet . . . No! not that, way, >ouglas ... on your right. . . That is Lady Barbara’s haise, is it not?”
“Yes, it is!” ejaculated the other. “Thank Heaven, er man Pyncheon has had the good sense to bring er here. Quick, Mr. Notary!” he added. “The door!” The next moment a Sedan chair, borne by two men i handsome liveries of blue and silver, came to a halt ist below. Already Mr. Baggs had hurried down the airs. He would, I knew, yield to no one in the prilege of being the first to make the Lady Barbara elcome in his house. The excitement and anxiety ere momentarily over,* and I could view quite com-
posedly from above the beautiful Lady Barbara as she stepped out of her Chair, a little flurried obviously, for she clasped and unclasped her cloak with a nervy, trembling hand.
A second or two later, I heard her high-heeled shoes pattering up the stairs, whilst her Men with the Chair sought refuge in a quiet tavern higher up inChancery Lane.
CHAPTER FOUR More Than a Passing Fancy I
T WOULD that You, fair Mistress, had seen the Lady
Barbara Wychwoode as I beheld her on that neverto-be-forgotten afternoon; her cheeks of a delicate pallor, her golden hair slightly disarranged, her lips trembling with excitement. You, who are so inexpressibly beautiful, would have been generous enough t:> give ungrudging admiration to what was so passing fair.
She was panting a little, for obviously she had been scared, and clung to her Brother as if for protection. But I noticed that directly she entered the room her eyes encountered those of my Lord Stour, and that at sight of him a happy smile at once overspread and illumined her face.
“I am so thankful, Douglas, dear,” she said, “that Pyncheon happened to know you were here. He also knew the way to Mr. Bagers’ house, and as soon as he realized that the crowd in Fleet Street was no ordinary one, he literally took to his heels and brought me along here in amazingly quick time. But, oh!” she added lightly, “I can tell you that 1 was scared. My heart went thumping and I have not yet recovered my breath.”
Hercheeks now had become suffused with a blush and her blue eyes sparkled, more with excitement than fear, I imagined. Certain it is that her beauty was enhanced thereby. But Lord Douglas, with a brother’s privilege, shrugged his shoulders and said with a show of banter:
“Methinks, Babs, dear, that your heart hath chiefly gone a-thumping because you are surprised at finding Stour here.”
She gave a gay little laugh—the laugh of one who is sure of love and of happiness; the same laugh, dear Mistress, for which I have hearkened of late in vain from You.
“I only arrived in London this morning,” my Lord Stour explained.
“And hastened to pay your respects to the law rather than to me,” Lady Barbara taunted him lightly.
“I would not have ventured to present myself at this hour,” he rejoined. “And apparently would have found the Lady Barbara from home.”
“So a beneficent fairy whispered to you to go and see Mr. Notary, and thus arranged everything for the best.”
“The beneficent fairy had her work cut out, then,” Lord Douglas remarked, somewhat impatiently, I thought.
“How do you mean?” she retorted.
“Why,” said he, “in order to secure this tryst, the beneficent Fairy had first to bring me hither as well as Stour, and Lady Castlemaine to the India House. Then she had to inflame the temper of a whole crowd of roisterers sufficiently to cause the worthy Pyncheon to take to his heels, with you in the chair. In fact, the good Fairy must have been to endless trouble to arrange this meeting ’t-wixt Lady Barbara and her Lover, when but a few' hours later that same meeting would have come about quite naturally.”
“Nay, then!” she riposted with perfect good humour,
“let us call it a happy coincidence, and say no more about it.” . _ .
EVEN then her Brother uttered an angry exc’.amation. He appeared irritated by the placidity and good humour of the others. His nerves were evidently on edge, and while my Lord Stour, with the egoism peculiar to lovers, became absorbed in whispering sweet nothings in Lady Barbara’s ears. Lord Douglas took to pacing up and down the Room like some impatient Animal.
I watched the three of them with ever-growing interest. Being very sensitive to outward influences, I was suddenly obsessed with the feeling that through some means or other these three Persons, so far above me in station, would somehow become intermixed with my life, and that it had suddenly become my Duty to watch them and to listen to what they were saying.
I had no desire to pry upon them, of course ; so I pray You do not misunderstand me nor condemn me for thus remaining hidden behind the screen and for not betraying my Presence to them all. Certainly my Lord Stour and Lord Douglas Wychwoode had known at one time that I was in the room. They had seen me installed in the window recess, with the treasonable Manifestos which I had been set to copy. But since then the twro Gentlemen had obviously become wholly oblivious of my Presence, and the Lady Barbara d'd not of course even know of my Existence, whilst I did not feel disposed to reveal myself to any of them just yet.
T ORD DOUGLAS, thereafter, was for braving the ^ rioters and for returning home. But Lady Barbara and Lord Stour, feeling happy in one another’s Company, were quite content to bide for a time under Mr. Baggs’ sheltering roof.
“You must Trtve patience, Douglas,” she said to her brother. “I assure you that the Streets are not safe. Some rowdy Folk have set themselves to attacking every chair they see and tearing the gold and silver lace from the Chairmen’s liveries. Even the sidestreets are thronged. Pyncheon will tell you of the difficulty he had in bringing me here.”
“But we cannot wait until night!” Lord Douglas urgéd impatiently.
“No!” said she. “Only one hour or two. As soon as the people have seen Lady Castlemaine and have vented their wrath on her, they will begin to disperse, chiefly into the neighbour ng Taverns, and then we can slip quietly away.”
“Or else,” broke in Lord Stour hotly, ‘ surely the Watchmen will come anon and disperse that rabble ere it vents its spite upon a defenceless woman!”
“A defenceless woman, you call her, my Lord?” Lady Barbara retorted reproachfully. “She is the most dangerous enemy England has at this moment!”
“You are severe, Lady Barbara -”
“Severe!” she exclaimed, with a vehement tone of reproach. “Ah ! you have been aosent, my Lord. You do not know—you do not understand! Over abroad you did not realize tne Misery, tne Famine, that is stalking our land. Money that should be spent on reclaiming our industries, which have suffered through twenty years of civil strife, or in help.ng the poor to tide over these years of lean harvests, is being lavished by an irresponsible Monarca upon a greedy
She paused, recalled to herself by the stern voice of her brother. She had allowed her Indignation to master her maidenly reserve. Her cheeks were aflame now, her lips quivering with Passion. Of a truth, she was a Woman to be admired, for, unlike most of her sex, she had profound feelings of Patriotism and of Charity; she had valour, enthusiasm, temperament, and was not ashamed to speak what was in her mind. I watched my Lord Stour while she spoke, and saw how deeply he worshipped her. Now she encountered his gaze, and heavy tears came into her eyes.
“Ah, my Lord,” she said gently, “you w.ll see sadder sights in the Streets of London to-day than ever you did in the Wars after the fiercest Battles.”
“ ’Tis no use appealing to him, Babs,” Lord Douglas interposed with obvious exacerbation. “A moment ago I told him of our Plans. I begged him to lend us his sword and his hand to strike a blow at the Profligacy and Wantonness which is sending England to
perdition worse than ever before -”
Lady Barbara turned great, reproachful eye3 on my Lord.
“And you refused—?” she whispered.
Synopsis of First Instalment
7'his is the story of Thomas Betterton and Joyce Saundersun as told by John Honeywood. Betterton is a famous actor and a favorite of Charles II. The favor that he wins with other women, particularly Lady Barbara Wychwoode, causes Joyce to break off her engagement with him. Honeywood is engaged by Theophilus Baggs as a clerk and scrivener and is ordered to copy a treasonable manifesto brought by Lord Douglas Wychwoode, brother of Barbara. It calls upon the gentry of the country to unite in a plot to seize and dethrone Charles. Lord Douglas meets Lord Stour, Barbara’s lover, at Baggs’ house and endeavors to draw him into the plot.
TV/fY Lord looked confused. All at once, I knew that he was already wavering. A weak Man, perhaps; he was deeply, desperately enamoured. I gathered that he had not seen the Lady Barbara for some months. No doubt his soul hungered for her smiles. He was the sort of Man, methinks, who would barter everything—even Honour—for the Woman he loved. And I do not think that he cared for much beyond that. His father, an you remember, fought on t e Parliament side. I do not say that he w*as ore of the Regicides, but he did not raise a finger to help or to serve his King. And he had been a rigid Protestant. All the Stourcliffes of Stour were that; and the présent Earl’s allegiance to King Charles could only have been very perfunctory. Besides which, this is the age of Conspiracies and of political Facti ns. I dcubt not but it will be another twenty years before the Country is really satisfied with its form of Govermxent I myself—though God knows I am but a humble Clerk— could wish that this Popish marriage for the Kh g had not been decided on. We do not want religious factions warring with one another again!
Eut all this is b?side the mark, nor would I dwell on it save for my desire to be, above all, just to thesj three People who were destined to do the man I ove best in the world an irreparable injury.
As I said before, I could see that my Loid Stour wai hesitating. Now Lady Barbara invited him to sit b -side her upon the Sofa, and she began talking to him quietly and earnestly, Lord Douglas only putting in a word or so now and again. What they sa d hath 11 le to do wdth the portent of my Narrative, nor will I plague You with the telling of it. Those people are ■ nothing to You; they have nothing to do with humble plebeians like ourselves; they* are a class apart and we should never mix ourselves up with them or their affairs, as Mr. Betterton hath since learned to his hurt.
IXfHILE they were talking together, the three of ’’ them, I tried once more to concentrate my mind upon my work, and finished off another two or three copies of the treasonable Manifesto.
All this while, you must remember that the noise and rowdiness in the streets had in no way diminished. Rather had it grown in intensity. The perple whom I watched from time to time and saw darting down Chancery Lane or across the corner of Fleet Street, looked more excited, more bent on m:schief, than before. I had seen a few stones flying about, and once or twice heard the ominous crash of broken glass.
Then suddenly there came an immense cry, which was not unlike the snarling of hundreds of angry Beasts. I knew what that meant. My Lady Castlemaine was either on the point of quitt ng the India House or had been otherwise spied by the Populace. I could no longer restrain my curiosity. Once more I cast my papers aside and leaned out of the w'nd w. The shouting and booing had become more and more ominous. Apparently, too, a company of the City Watchmen had arrived. They were trying to force their way through the throng, and their calls of, “Make way there!” sounded more and more peremptory. But what was a handful of Watchmen beside an excited crowd of rioters determined to wreak their temper upon an unpopular bit of baggage? I doubt not but that His Majesty’s Body-guard could alone restore order now and compass the safety of the lady.
As I leaned out of the window I could see stones and miscellaneous missiles flying in every direction; and then suddenly I had a clear vision of a gorgeous sedan chair escorted by a dozen or more City Watchmen, who were trying to forge a way for it through the crowd. They were trying to reach the corner of our Street, hoping no doubt to turn up this way and thus effect an escape by way of the Lower Lincoln’s Inn Fields and Drury Lane, while the crowd would of necessity be kept back through the narrowness of the
Streets and the intricacies of the Alleys.
The whole point now was whether the Chairmen, could reach our corner before the roisterers had succeeded in beating back the Watchmen, when of course they meant to tear Lady Castlemaine out of her chair. Poor, wretched woman ! She must have been terribly frightened. I know that I myself felt woefully agitated. Leaning out toward the street, L could fee Lady Barbara’s pretty head at the next window and my Lord Stour and Lord Douglas close beside her. They too had forgotten all about their talk and their plans and Conspiracies, and were gazing out on the exciting spectacle with mixed feelings, I make no doubt. As for me, I feel quite sure that but for my sense of utter helplessness, I should have rushed out even then and tried to lend a hand in helping an unfortunate woman out of so terrible a predicam?nt, and I marvelled how deep must have been the hatred for her felt by gentlemen like my Lord Stour and Lord Douglas Wychwoode that their sense of chivalry frrsock them so completely at this hour so that neither of them attempted to run to her aid or even suggest d that she should find shelter in this house.
As for Mr. Baggs, he was not merely idly curious; he was delighted at the idea that my Lady Castlemaine should be maltreated by the mob; whilst Mistres', Euphrosine’s one idea was the hope that if the rioters meant to murder the baggage, they would not do so outside the door. She and Mr. Baggs had come running into the Parlour the moment the rioting reached its height; and of a truth, dear Mistress, You would have been amused to see us all at the three front windows of the house—three groups watching the distant and wildly exciting happenings in Fleet Street. There was I at one window; Mr. and Mrs. Baggs at the other; Lady Barbara and the two Gallants at the third. And the ejaculations which came from one set of Watchers or the other, would fill several pages of my narrative.
Mistress Euphrosine was in abject fear. “Oh! I hope,” cried she now and again, “that they won’t come this way. There’ll be murder upon our doorstep!”
My Lord Stour had just one revulsion of feeling in favour of the unfortunate Castlemaine. “Come, Douglas!” he called at one time. “Let’s to her aid. Remember she is a woman, after all!”
But Lady Barbara placed a restraining hand upon his arm, and Lord Douglas said with a rough laugh: “I would not lift a finger to defend her. Let the Devil befriend her, an he list.”
And all the while the mob hissed and hooted, and stones flew like hail all around the chaise.
“Oh! They’ll murder her! They’ll murder her!” called Mistress Euphrosine piously.
“And save honest men a vast deal of trouble there^ by,” Mr. Baggs concluded sententiously.
The Watchmen were now forging ahead. With their sticks and staves they fought their way through bravely, heading the chair towards our street. But even so, methought that they stood but little chance of saving my Lady Castlemaine in the end. The crowd had guessed their purpose already, and were quite ready to give chase. Tne Chairmen with their heavy burden could be no match against them in a race, and the final capture of the unfortunate woman was only now a question of time.
'TYHEN suddenly I gave a gasp. Of a truth I could scarce believe in what I saw*. Let me try and put the picture clearly before you, dear Mistress; for in truth You would have lcved to see it as I did then. About half a dozen Watchmen had by great exertion succeeded in turning the corner of our stre t. They were heading towards us with only a comparatively small knot of ro'sterers to contend against, and the panting, struggling Chairmen with the sedan chair were immediately behind them.
As far as I cou'd see, the crowd had not expected this Manœuvre, and the sudden turning eff of their prey at right angles disconcerted the foremost among them, for the space of a second cr two. This gave the Chairmen a brief start up the street. But the very next moment the crowd realized the situation, and with a wild war-cry, turned to give chase, when a Man suddenly stepped cut from nowhere in particular that I could see, unless it was from the “Cock” tavern, and stood at the bottom of the street between two posts, all alone, facing the mob.
His appearance, I imagine, had been so unexpected as well as so sudden, that the young R-isterers in the front of the crowd paused—like a crowd always will when something totally unexpected doth occu ". The Man, of course, had his back towards us, but I had already recognized him, nor was I surprised that his appearance did have the effect of the checking for an instant that, spirit of mischief which was animating
the throng. Lady Barbara and the young Gentlemen at the other window were even more astonished than I at this wholly unforeseen occurrence. They could not understand the sudden checking of the rioters and the comparative silence which fell upon the forefront of their ranks.
“What does it all mean?” my Lord Stour exclaimed.
“A man between the chair and Its pursuers,” Lord Douglas said in amazement.
“Who is it?” queried Lady Barbara.
“Not a Gentleman,” rejoined Lord Douglas; “for he would not thus stop to parley with so foul a mob.
Meseems I know the figure," be added, and lEaned st H further out of the window, the better to take in the whole of the amazing Ecene. "Yes-by gad ?
It is......” handed.”
Here Mistress Euphrosine’s cry of horror brok 3 in . upon us all.
“Alas!” she ejaculated piously. “’Tis that repróbete Brother of mine!”
“So it is!” added Mr. Baggs drily. “’Tis m:et he should raise his voice in defence of that baggage.”
“But, who is it?” insisted my Lord Stour impatiently.
“Why, Betterton the Actor,” replied Lord Douglas with a laugh. “Do you not know him?”
“Only from seeing him on the stage,” said the other. Then he added: “An Actor confronting a
mob! By gad! the fellow hath pluxk!”
“He knows,” protested Mr. Baggs acidly, “that the mob will not hurt him. He hath so oft made them laugh that they look upon him as one of themselves.”
“Listen!” said Lady Barbara. “You can hear him speak quite plainly.”
Whereupon they all became silent.
ALL this, of course, had occurred in far less time than it takes to cfeseriBe. Not more than a few seconds had gone by since first I saw Mr. Betterton step out from Nowhere in particular into the Street. But his interposition had given my Lady Castlemr.ine’s chairmen, and also the Watchmen who were guarding her, a distinct advance. They were making the most of the respite by hurrying up our street as fast as they were able, even while the crowd—that portion of it that stood nearest to Mr. Betterton and could hear his voice—brake, into a loud laugh at some sally of his which had apparently caught their fancy.
From the distance the cry was raised: “To the
pillory, the Castlem.a ne !”
It was at this point that my Lady Barbara bade everyone to listen, so that we all could hear Mr. Betterton’s rich and powerful voice quite plainly.
“Come, come, friends!” he was saying; “the Lady will get there without your help some day, I’ll warrant. Aye! and further too, an the Devil gives her her due! Now, now,’ he continued, when cries and murmurs, boos and hisses, strove to interrupt him. “You are not going to hiss a hard-working Actor off the st. ge like this. Do, in the name of sport, which every sound-minded Englishman loves, after all, await a fitter opportunity for molesting a defenceless woman. What say you to adjourning to the ‘Cook’ tavern? where mine Host hath just opened a new cask of the most delicious beer you have ever tasted. There’s a large room at the back of the bar—you know it.
Well! every one who goes there ■ now—and there’s room for three or four hundred of you— can drink a pint of that beer at my expense. What say you, friends? Is it not better than to give chase to a pack of Watchmen and a pair of liveried Chairmen who are already as scared as rabbits? See! they are fast disappearing up the street. Come! who will take a pint of beer at the invitation of Tom Betterton? You know him ! Is he not a jolly, good fellow? . .. .
Of course he did not deliver this speech uninterruptedly. It was only snatches of it that came to our ear. But we Listeners soon caught the drift of it, and watched its reception by the chowd. Well ! the fire-eaters gradually cooled down. The prospect of the ale at the “Cock” caused many a smack of the lips, which in its turn " smothered the cries of rage and ' vituperation’: Anon One "could
perceive one forearm ‘ after
another drawn with anticipatory pleasure across lips that had ceased to boo.
Just then, too, Heaven interposed in a conciliatory spirit in the form of a few drops of heavy rain, presaging a storm. The next moment the stampede in the direction of the “Cock” tavern had begun, wh 1st my Lady Castelmaine’s Chairmen trudged unmolested past our door.
My Lord Stour gave a loud laugh.
“’Twas well thought on,” he exclaimed. “The Mountebank hath found a way to stop the rabble’s howls, whilst my Lady Baggage finds safety in flight.”
But Lady Barbara added thoughtfully: “Methinks
to try and defend a Woman singlc-
T WATCHED the turbulent throng, filing now in orderly procession through the hospitably open doors of the “Cock” tavern. Mr. Betterton remained for awhile standing at the dcor, marshalling the more obstreperous of his invited gue ts and parleying with Mr. Barraclcugh, the host of the “Cock”—no dcubt making arrangements for the quenching of three or four hundred thirsts at his expense. Then he suddenly turned on his heel and came up the Street. Lord Douglas gave one of his rough, grating laughs, and said:
“So now I-see that, like a wise man, Mr. Betterton mistrusts his popularity and proposes to seek refuge from his ebullient friends.”
“I believe,” said Mistress Euphrosine to her Lord in an awed whisper; “I believe that Thomas is coming here.”
Which possibility greatly disconcerted Mr. Bagg~. He became quite agitated, and exclaimed fussily:
“I’ll not have him here.....I’ll not. .... Not
while her Ladyship is here.....I’ll net allow iti”
“And pray why not, Mr. Notary?” Lady Barbara put in haught'ly. “Mr. Betterton sups twice a wesk with His Majesty. Surely then you may invite him without shame under your roof!”
“And I’ve never seen the great Actor close to,” remarked Lord Stour lightly. “I’ve oft marvelled what he was like in private life.”
“Oh!” said Lord Douglas, with a distinct note of acerbity in his voice, “he is just like any other Fe low of his degree. These mountebanks have of late thought themselves SoT-ebodies, just because ’tis the fashion for Gentlemen to write plays and to go to the Theatre. My Lord Rochester, Sir George Etherege and the others have so spoilt them by going about constantly with them, that the Fellows scarce know their place now. This maxi Betterton is the worst of the let. He makes love to the Ladies of the Court, for-
gets that he is naught but a Rogue and a Vagabond and not worthy to be seen in the company of Gentlemen. Oh! I’ve oft had an itching to lay a stick across the shoulders of some of these louts!”
I would that I could convey to you, dear Mistress, the tone of spite wherewith Lord Douglas spoke at this moment, or the look of contempt which for the moment quite disfigured his good-looking face. That he had been made aware at some time of Mr. Betterton’s admiration for Lady Barbara became at once apparent to me, also that he looked upon that admiration as a presumption and an insult.
• I was confirmed in this supposition by the look which he gave then and there to his Sister, a look which caused her to blush to the very roots of her hair. I fancy, too, that he also whispered something on that subject to my Lord Stour, fer a dark frown of anger suddenly appeared upon the latter’s Face and he muttered an angry and rough ejaculation.
As for me, I am an humble Clerk, a peaceful Citizen and a practising Christian; but just at that moment I felt that I hated Lord Douglas Wychwoode and his Friend with a bitter and undying hatred.
jl/fESEEMED as if the air within the room had be1 1 come surcharged with a subtle and heady fluid akin to an Intoxicant, so many Passions were even then warring in the innermost hearts of us all. The~e was Hatred and Spite, and Fervour and Love. We were all of us alive at that moment, if you know what I mean. We were Individuals who felt and thought individually and strongly; not just the mere sheeplike creatures swayed hither and thither by the modes and exigencies of the hour. And I can assure you that even then, when we heard Mr. Betterton’s quick step ascending the stairs, we all held cur breath and watched the door as if something Supernatural was about to be i'evealed to us.
The next moment that door was thrown open and Mr. Betterton appeared upon the threshold.
Ah ! if only you had seen him then,. Mistress, your heart would have rejoiced, just as mine did, at the sight. Personally, I could never tell You if Mr. Betterton is tall or short, handsome or ill-favoured; all that I know is that when heds in a room you cannot look at anyone else; he seerhs to dwai’f every other Man by the Picturesqueness of his Personality.
And now—oh! ÿou should have seen him ats he stood there, framed in the doorway, the grey afterhoon light of this dull September day falling full upon his face, with those glittering eyes of his and the kindly, firm mouth, round which there slowly began to spread a gently mocking smile. He was richly dressed, as was his wont, with priceless lace frills at throat and wrists, and his huge periwig set off to perfection the nob’Tty of his brow.
With one swift gaze round the room, he had taken in the full situation. You know yourself, dear Mistress, what marvellous powTers of intuition he has. His glance swept over Lady Barbara’s exquisite come. liness, her somewhat flurried mien and wide, inquisitive .eyes; over Lord Douglas, sullen and contemptuous; my Lord Stour, wrathful and suspicious; Mistress Euphrosine and Mr. Baggs, servile and tremulous. I doubt not that his keen eyes had also spied me watching his every movement from behind the screen.
The mocking smile broadened upon his face. With one shapely leg extended forward, his right arm holding his hat, his arm executing a superb flourish, he swept to the assembled company an elaborate bow.
“My Lords, your servant,” he said. Then bowed more gravely to Lady Barbara and added with a tone of subtle and flattering deference: “I am as al-
ways your Ladyship’s most humble and most devoted slave.” Whereupon her Ladyship swept him one of those graceful curtsies which I understand have become themode in fashionable Society of late. But the young Gentlemen seem-
Continued on page 62
His Majesty’s WellBeloved
Continued from page 21
ed to have lost count of their manners. They were either too wrathful or too much taken aback to speak. Mistress Euphrosine, with her nose in the air, was preparing to sail majestically out of the room.
MR. BETTERTON then stepped .in.
He threw down his hat and playfully made pretence to intercept Mistress Euphrosine.
“Sister, I do entreat you,” he said with mock concern, “dó not carry your well-shaped nose so high. The scent of Heaven will not reach your nostrils, trv how yoú may. . . . ’Tis more likely that you will smell the brimstone which clings to my perruque.”
And before Mistress Euphrosine had time to think of a retort, he had turned to her Ladyship with that gentle air of deference which became him so well.
“How comes it,” he asked, “that I have the privilege of meeting your Ladyship here?”
“A mere accident, Sir,” my Lord Stour interposed, somewhat high-handedly I thought. “Her Ladyship, fearing to be molested by the crovyd, came to meet Lord Douglas here.”
“I understand,” murmured Mr. Betterton. And I who knew him so well, realized that just for the moment he understood nothing: save that he was in the presence of this exquisitely beautiful Woman who had enchained his fancy. He stood like onè transfixed, his eyes fastened almost in wonderment upon the graceful Apparition before him. I should not be exaggerating, fair Mistress, if I said that he seemed literally to be drinking in every line of her dainty Figure; the straight, white throat, the damask cheek and soft, fair hair, slightly disarranged. ■ He had of a truth lost consciousness of his surroundings, and this to such an extent that it apparently set my Lord Stour’s nerves on edge; for anon he said with evident irritation and a total disregard both of polite usage and of trut^i, since of course he knew quite well to whom he was speaking:
“I did not catch your name, Sir; though you seem acquainted with her Ladyship.”
He had to repeat the query twice, and with haughty impatience, before Mr. Betterton descended from the clouds in order to reply.
“My name is Betterton, Sir,” he said, no less curtly than my lord.
“Betterton? Ah, yes!” his Lordship went on, with what I thought was studied insolence, seeing that he was addressing one of the most famous men in England. “I have heard the name before. . . . but where, I cannot remember. . . Let me see, you are. . . ?” “An Actor, Sir,” Mr. Betterton gave haughty answer. “Therefore an artist, even though an humble one; but still a World contained in one man.”
Then his manner changed, the stiffness and pride went out of it and he added in - his more habitual mode of good-natured banter, whilst pointing in the direction of Mistress Euphrosine: “That, however, is not, I imagine, the opinion which my worthy Sister—a pious lady, Sir—-hath of my talents. She only concedes me a Soul when she gloats over the idea that it shall be damned.”
“You are insolent!” quoth Mistress Euphrosine, as she stalked majestically to the door. “And I’ll not stay longer to hear you blaspheme.”
Even so, her Brother’s lightly mocking ripple of laughter pursued her along the course of her dignified exit through the door.
“Nay, dear Sister,” he said. “Why not stay and tell these noble Gentlemen your doubts as to which half of me ?n the hereafter will be stoking the fires of hell and which half be wriggling in the flames?” Then he added, turning gaily once more to the visitors as Mistress Euphrosine finally departed and banged the door to behind her: “Mistress Baggs, Sir, is much troubled that she cannot quite cannot make up her mind how much of me is Devil and how much a lost Soul.”
“Of a surety, Sir,” retorted Lord Douglas, with the same tone of malicious spite wherewith he had originally spoken of Mr. Betterton, “every Gentlemen is bound to share your worthy Sister’s doubts on that point . . . and as to whether your right hand or your sharp tongue will fizzle first down below.”
THERE was a moment’s silence in the room—oh ! the mere fraction of a second—whilst I, who knew every line of Mr. Betterton’s face, saw the quick flash of anger which darted from his eyes at the insolent speech. Lady Barbara too had made an instinctive movement, whether towards him in protection or towards her Brother in reproach, I could not say. Certain it is that that movement chased away in one instant Mr. Betterton’s flaming wrath. He shrugged his shoulders and retorted with quiet mockery:
“Your Lordship, I feel sure, will be able to have those doubts set at rest presently. I understand that vast intelligence will be granted to Gentlemen —down there.”
At once my Lord’s hand went to his sword.
“Insolent!-” he muttered; and
my Lord Stour immediately stepped to his friend’s side.
Like the Fleet Street crowd awhile ago, these two Gentlemen meant mischief. For some reason, which was not far to seek, they were on the verge of a quarrel with Mr. Betterton—nay! I believe that they meant to provoke him into one. In wordy warfare, however, they did not stand much chance against the great Actor’s caustic wit, and no doubt their sense of impotence made them all the more wrathful and quarrelsome.
Mr. Baggs, of course, servile and obsequious as was his wont, was ready enough to interpose. A quarrel inside his house, between valued Clients and his detested Brother-in-law, was not at all to his liking.
“My Lords ...” he mumbled half-incoherently, “I implore you ... do not heed him ... he ... ”
His futile attempts at conciliation tickled Mr. Betterton’s sense of humour. The last vestige of his anger vanished in a mocking smile.
“Nay, good Master Theophilus,” he said coolly, “prithee do not interfere between me and the wrath of these two Gentlemen. Attend to thine own affairs . . . and to thine own conspiracies,” he added—spoke suddenly under Mr. Baggs’ very nose, so that the latter gave a jump and involuntarily gasped: “Conspiracies? . . . What—what the devil do you mean, Sir, by conspiracies?”
“Oh, nothing—nothing—my good friend,” replied Mr. Betterton lightly. “But when I see two hot-headed young Cavaliers in close conversation with a seedy Lawyer, I know that somewhere in the pocket of one of them there is a bit of handwriting that may send the lot of them to the Tower first and to— well !—to Heaven afterwards.”
MY heart was in my mouth all the time that he spoke. Of course he could not know how near the truth he was, and I firmly belive that his banter was a mere Arrow shot into the air; but even so it grazed these noble Lords’ equanimity. Lord Douglas had become very pale, and my Lord Stour looked troubled, or was it my fancy? But I
am sure that her Ladyship’s blue eyes rested on Mr. Betterton with a curious, searching gaze. She too wondered how much knowledge of the truth lay behind his easy,sarcasm.
Then Lord Douglas broke into a laugh.
“There, for once, Sir Actor,” he said lightly, “your perspicacity is at fault. My Lord the Earl of Stour and I came to consult your Brother-in-law on a matter of business.”
“And,” exclaimed Mr. Betterton with i mock concern, “I am detaining you with my foolish talk. I pray you, Gentlemen, take no further heed of me. Time treads hard, on your aristocratic heels, whilst it is the slave of a poor, shiftless Actor like myself.”
“Yes, yes,” once more interposed the mealy-mouthed ‘ Mr. Baggs. “I pray you, my Lords—your .Ladyship—to
come to my inner office-”
There was a general movement amongst the company, during which-I distinctly heard Lord Douglas Wychvvoode whisper to my Lord Stour:
“Can you wonder that I always long to lay h, stick across that man’s shoulders? His every word sounds like insolence . . . And he has dared to make love to Barbara ...”
Her Ladyship, however, seemed loth to linger. The hour of a truth was getting late.
“Father will be anxious,” she said. “I have stayed out over long.”
“Are the streets safe, I wonder?” my Lord Stour remarked.
“Perfectly,” broke in Mr. Betterton. “And if her Ladyship will allow me,
I will conduct her to her chair.”
Again my Lord Stour flashed out angrily, and once more the brooding quarrel threatened to burst the bounds of conventional intercourse. This time the Lady Barbara herself interposed.
“I pray you, good my Lord,” she said, “do not interfere. Mr. Betterton and I are old friends. By your leave, he shall conduct me to my chair. Do we not owe it to him,” she added gaily, “that the streets are quiet enough to enab’e us all to get home in peace?”
Then she turned to Mr. Betterton and said gently:
“If you would be so kind, Sir—my men are close by—I should be grateful if you will tell them to bring my chair along.”
She held out her hand to him and he bowed low and kissed the tips of her fingers. Then he went.
LORD DOUGLAS’ spiteful glance followed the distinguished Actor’s retreating figure until the door had closed upon him. Then he said drily:
“Perhaps you are right, Babs. He may as well fetch your chair. It is raining hard and one Lacquey is as good as another.”
He turned to Mr. Baggs, who, standing first on one leg and then on another presented a truly pitiable sDectacle of servility and unmanliness. I think he had just come to realize that I had been in the room behind the screen all the while, and that my presence would be unwelcqme to their Lordships if they knew that I had overheard all the!r conversation. Certain it is that I saw him give a quick glance in my direction, and then he became even more fussy and snivelling than before.
“In my inner office,” he murmured. “I pray you to honour me, my Lords ... A glass of wine, perhaps . . until the copies are finished. I should be so proud . . . and . . . and . . . we should be quite undisturbed . . . whereas here . . . I only regret ...”
I despised him for all that grovelling, and so did the Gentlemen, I make no doubt. Nevertheless they were ready to follow him.
“We must wait somewhere,” Lord Douglas said curtly.
“And I should be glad of a glass of wine.”
Lady Barbara was standing in the window recess, waiting for her chair. She insisted on mv Lord Stour going with her Brother into the inner room. Undoubtedly she did not wish either of them to meet Mr. Betterton again.
“I promise you.” she said with quiet determination, “that I’ll not stop to
1 speak with him. I’ll watch through the i window until my Men bring the chair;
[ then I will go down at once.”
i “But-” protested his Lordship.
i “I entreat you to go, my Lord,” she
! reiterated tartly. “And you too,
I Douglas. My temper is on edge, and if I am not left to myself for a few moments I shall have an attack of nerves.”
! She certainly spoke with unwonted ! sharpness. Thus commanded, it would ! have been churlish to disobey. The j young Gentlemen, after a second or two longer of hesitation, finally followed I Mr. Baggs out of the room.
Now, I could not see the Lady Barbara, for she was ensconced in a window-recess, just as I was; but I heard her give a loud sigh of impatience. There was no doubt that her nerves had been jarred. Small wonder, seeing all that she had gone through—the noise and rioting in the streets, her terror and her flight; her unexpected meeting with her lover; then the advent of Mr. Betterton and that brooding quarrel between him and the two Gentlemen, which threatened to break through at any moment.
The next minute I saw her Ladyship’s chair brought to a halt down below, and she crossed the line of my vision between the window and the sofa, where she had left her cloak. She picked it up and was about to wrap it round her shoulders, when the door was flung open and Mr. Betterton came in. He gave a quick glance round the room and saw that the Lady Barbara was alone—or SQ he thought, for of course he did not see me. He carefully closed the door behind him and came quickly forward, ostensibly to help her Ladyship on with her cloak.
“It is kind of you, Sir, thus to wait on me,” she said coldly. “May I cla^m your arm to conduct me to my chair?”
She was standing close in front of him just then, with her back to him and her hands raised up to her shoulders in order to receive her cloak, which he had somewhat roughly snatched out of her grasp.
“My arm?” he riposted with a vibrating note of passion in his mellow voice. “My life, myself, are all at your Ladyship’s service. But will not you wait one little moment and say one kind word to the poor Actor whose art is the delight of Kings and whose Person is the butt of every Coxcomb who calls himself a Gentleman?”
He flung the cloak upon a chair and tried to take her hand, which however, she quickly withdrew, and then turned, not unkindly, to face him.
“My Brother is hasty, Sir,” she said more gently. “He has many prejudices which no doubt time and experience of life will mend. As for me,” she added lightly, “I am quite ready to extend the hand of friendship not only to the Artist but to the Man.”
SHE held out her hand to him. Then, as he did not take it, but stood there looking at her with that hungry, passionate look which revealed the depth of his admiration for her, she cont;n. ued with a bantering tone of reproach: “You will not take my hand, Sir?” “No,” he replied curtly.
“But I am offering you my friendship,” she went on, with a quick, nervy little laugh ; for she was woman enough believe me, to understand his look.
“Friendship between Man and Woman is impossible,” he sa d in a strange, hoarse voice which I scarce recognized as his.
“What do you mean?” she retorted with a sudden stiffening of her figure and a haughty glance which he, of a truth, should have known boded no good for his suit.
“I mean,” he replied, “that between a Man and a Woman, who are both young and both endowed with heart and soul and temperament, there may be enmity or love, hatred or passion; but friendship never.”
“You talk vaguely, Sir,” she rejoined coldly. “I pray you, give me my cloak.”
“Not,” he retorted, “before I have caused your Ladyship to cast one short glance back over the past few months.” “With what purpose, I pray you?”
“So that yoü might recognize as you gaze alpng. their .vista the man who
since he first beheld you hath madly worshipped you.”
She stood before him, still facing him, tall and of truth divinely fair. Nay! this no one could gainsay. For the moment I found it in my heart to sympathize with his infatuation. You, dear Mistress, were not there to show him how much lovelier still a woman could be, and the Lady Barbara had all the subtle flavour, too, of forbidden fruit. Mr. Betterton sank on one knee before her; his mellow voice sounded exquisitely tender and caressing. Oh! had I been a Woman, how gladly would I have listened to his words. There never was such a voice as that of Mr. Betterton. No wonder that he can sway the hearts of thousands by its Mag'c; no wonder that thousands remain entranced while he speaks. Now, I assure You, Mistress, that tears gathered in my eyes, there was such true passion, such depth of feeling, in his tone’. But Lady Barbara’s heart was not touched. In truth, she loved another man, and her whole outlook on life and men was distorted by the environment amidst which she had been brought up.
The exquisite, insinuating voice with its note of tender appeal only aroused her contempt. She jumped to her feet with an angry exclamation. What she said, I do not quite remember; but it was a remark which must have stung him to the quick, for I can assure you, dear Mistress, that Mr. Betterton’s pride is at least equal to that. of thr greatest Nobleman in tbe land. But all that he did say was:
“Nay, Madam; an Artist’s love is not an insult, even to a Queen.”
“Possibly, Sir,” she riposted coldly. "But I at least cannot listen to you. So I pray you let me rejoin my servants.” “And I pray you,” he pleaded, without rising, “humbly on my knees, to hear me just this once!”
SHE protested, and would have le”t him thei’e, kneeling, while she ran out of the room: but he had «succeeded in getting hold of her hand and was clinging to it with both his own, whilst from his lips there came a torrent of uassionate pleading such as I could not have thought any Woman capable of resisting for long.
“I am not a young Dandy,” he urged; “nor yet a lank-haired, crazy Poet who grows hysterical over a woman’s evebrow. I am a man, and an Artist, rich with an inheritance such as even you” Ancestors would have envied me. Mine inheritance is the mind and memory of cultured England and a Name wh;ch by m'ne Art I have rendered immortal.” “I honour your genius, Sir.” she rejoined coolly; “and because of it, I try to excuse your folly.”
“Nay!” he continued with passionate insistence. “There are passions so sweet that they excuse all the follies they provoke. Oh ! I pray you listen ... I have waited in silence for months net daring to anproach you. You seemed immeasurably above me. as distant as the Stars; but whilst I, poor and lowly-born, waited and worshipped silently, success forged for me a name, so covered with Glory that I dare at last place it at your feet.”
“I am touched. Sir. and honoured, I assure you.” she said somewhat ;mpatiently. “But afi this is naught but folly, and reason should teach you that the daughter of the Marquis of Sidbury can be nothing to you.”
But by this time it was evident that the great and distinguished Actor had allowed his folly to conquer his reason. I elosed my eyes, for I could not bear to see a man whom I so greatly respected kneeling in such abject humiliation before a Woman who had nothing for him but disdain. Ah! Women can be very cruel when they do not love. In truth, Lady Barbara, with all her rank and wealth, could not really have felt contempt for a Man whom the King himself and the highest in the land delighted to honour; yet I assure you, Mistress, that some of the things she said made me blush for the sake of the high-minded man who honours me with his friendship.
“Short of reason, Sir,” she said, with unmeasured hauteur at one time “I pray you recall your far-famed sense of humour. Let it show you Thomas Bet-
terton, the son of a scullion, asking the hand of the Lady Barbara Wychwoode in marriage.”
HPHIS was meant for a slap in the Íface, and was naught but a studied insult; for w~e all knowT that the story of Mr. Betterton’s father having been a menial is utterly without foundation. But I assure you that by this t'me he was blind and deaf to all save to the insistent call of his own overwhelming passion. He did not resent the insult, as I thought he would do; but merely rejoined fervently:
“I strive to conjure the picture; but only see Tom Betterton, the worldfamed Artist, wooing the woman he loves.”
But what need is there for me to recapitulate here all the fond and foolish things which were spoken by a truTy great man to a chit of a g:rl who was too self-centred and egotistical to an-, precíate the great Honour which he was conferring on her by his wooing. - I was holding my breath, fearful lest I should be seen. To both of these Proud People before me, my known presence wr.uld have been an added hum’liation Already Lady Barbara, impatient of Mr. Betterton’s importunity, was rais;ng her voice and curtly bidding him to leave her in peace. I thought every moment that she would call out to he1Brother, when Heaven alone would know what would happen next.
“Your importunity beccm~s an insult, Sir,” she said at last. “I command you to release my hand.”
She tried to wrench it from his grasp, but I imagine that his hold on her wrist was so strong that she could not free herself. She looked around her now with a look of Helplessness, which would have gone to my heart if I had any feeling of sympathy left after I had poured out its full measure for mv stricken Friend. He was not himseH then, I assure you, Mistress. I know that the evil tongue of those who hate and envy him have poured in«idi us poison in your ears, that they told you that Mr. Betterton had insulted the Lady Barbara past forgiveness and had behaved towards her like a Cad and a Bully. But this I swear to be untru°. I was there all the time, and I saw t all. He was on his knees, and never attempted to touch her beyond cl;ng:ng to her Hand and covering it with kisses. He was an humble and a stricken Man, who saw his love rejected, his passion flouted, his suffering mocked.
I tell you that all he did was to cling to her hand.
HpHEN, all at once, I suppose some-*• thing frightened her, and she called loudly:
I don’t think that she meant to call, and I am sure that the very next second she had already regretted what she had done.
Mr. Betterton jumped to his feet, sobered in the instant; and she stood alone in the middle of the room, gazing somewhat wild-eved in the direction of the door, which had already boen violently flung open and through which my Lord Stour and Lord Douglas now hurriedly stepped forward.
“What is it, Babs? ’ Lord Douglas queried roughly. “Why are you still here?. . . . And what ... ?”
He got no further. His glance had alighted on Mr. Betterton, and I never saw quite so much concentrated Fury and Hatred in any one’s eyes as now aopeared in those of Lord Douglas WychW'oode.
But already the Lady Barbara had recovered herself. No doubt she realized the Mischief which her involuntary call had occasioned. The quarrel which had been slowly smouldering the whole afternoon was ready to burst into living flame at this moment. Even so, she tried to stem its outburst, pro.t sting that she had been misunderstood. She even tried to laugh; but the laugh sounded pitiably forced.
“But it’s nothing, Douglas, dear,” she said. “I protest. Did I really call? I do not remember. As a matter of fact, Mr. Betterton was good enough to recite some verses for my delectation. . .
My enthusiasm must have run away with me. . . and, unwittingly, I must
have called out.....”
Obviously the explanation was a lame one. I felt myself that it would not be believed. On the face of my Lord Stour thunderclouds of wrath were fast gathering, and though Mr. Betterton had recovered his presence of mind with all the Art at his command, yet thei-e was a glitter in hi3 eyes which he was powerless to veil, whilst the tremor of her Ladyship’s lips while she strove to speak calmly aroused my Lord Stour’s ever-wakeful Jealousy.
Lord Douglas, as was his wont apparently whenever he was deeply moved, was pacing up and down the room ; his hands were clasped behind his back and from time to time I could see their convulsive twitching. Lord Stour now silently helped her Ladyship on with her cloak. I was thankful that Mr. Baggs and Mistress Euphrrsine were keeping in the background, else I verily believe that their obsequious Snivellings would have caused my quivering Nerves to play me an unpleasant trick.
Mr. Betterton had retired to the nearest window-recess, so that I could not see him. All that I did see were the two Gentlemen and the threatenng clouds which continued to gather upon their brows. I also heard mv Lord Stour whisper hurriedly in Lord Douglas’ ear:
“In the name of our friendship, Man, let me deal with this.”
I felt as if an icy hand had gripped my heart. I could not conjecture what that ominous speech could portend. Lady Barbara now looked very pale and troubled; her hands as they fumbled with her cloak trembled visibly. Lord Stour, wit^h a masterful gesture, took one of them and held it firmly under his arm.ilT,'
He then led her towards the door. Just befoi’e she went with him, however, her Ladyship turned', and I imagine sought to attract Mr. Betterton’s attention.
“I must thank you, Sir,” she said, with a final, pathetic attempt at conciliation, “for your beautiful Recitation. I shall be greatly envied, methinks, by those who have only heard Mr. BettHrton declaim upon the stage.”
Lord Douglas had gone to the door. He opened it and stood grimly by whilst my Lord Stour walked out, with her Ladyship upon his arm.
CHAPTER FIVE The Outrage I
r ORD DOUGLAS WYCHWOODE did not speak to Mr. Betterton after her Ladyship and my Lord Stour had gone out of the room, but continued his restless pacing up and_down. I thought his silence ominous.
Half consciously, I kept my attention fixed upon the street below, and presently saw the Lady Barbara get into her chair and bid adieu to his Éordsbip, who remained standing on our doorst'-p until the Sedan was borne away up the street and out of sight. Then, to my astonishment, he walked down as far as the “Cock” tavern and disappeared within its doors.
The silence in our parlour was getting on my nerves. I could not see Mr. Betterton, only Lord Douglas from time to time, when in his ceaseless tramping his short, burly figure crossed the line of my vision.
Anon I once more thought of my work. There were a couple more copies of the Manifesto to be done, and I set to, determined to finish them. Time went on, and the afternoon light was now rapidly growing dim. Outside, the weather had not improved. A thin rain was coming down, which turned the traffic-way of our street to sticky mud.
I remember, just after I had completed my work and tidied up my papers, looking out of the window and seeing, in the now fast-gathering gloom, the young Lord of Stour on the doorstep of the “Cock” tavern, in close conversation with half a dozen ill-clad and ill-condi-
tioned Ruffians. But I gave the matter no further thought just then, for my mind happened to be engrossed with doubts as to how I should convey the Copies I had made to my Employer without revealing my presence to Lord Douglas Wychwoode.
His Lordship himself, however, soon relieved me of this perplexity, for presently he came to a halt by the door which led to the inner office and quite unceremoniously pushed it open and walked through. I heard his peremptory demands for the Copies, and Mr. Baggs’ muttered explanations. But I did not wait a moment longer. This was obviously my best opportunity for re-appearing upon the scene without his Lordship realizing that I had been n the parlour all the time. I slipped out from my hiding place and carefully re-arranged the screen in its former, position, then I tip-toed across the room.
In the gloom, I caught sight of Mr. Betterton standing in one of the recesses, his slender white hands, which were so characteristic of his refined, artistic Personality, clasped behind his back. I would have given a year or two of my humdrum life for the privilege of speaking to him then and of expressing to him some of that Sympathy with which my heart was overflowing. -But no one knows better than I how proud a Man he is, and how he would have resented the thought that anyone else had witnesed his humiliation.
So I executed the manoeuvre which I had in roy mind without further delay. I opened the door which gave on the stairs noiselessly, then closed it again with a bang, as if I had just come in. Then I strode as heavily as I could across the room to the door of the inner office, against which I then rapped with my knuckles.
“Who’s that?” Mr. Baggs’ voice queried immediately.
“The copies, Sir, which you ordered,” I replied in a firm voice. “I have finished them.”
“Come in! come in!” then broke in Lord Douglas impatiently. “I have waited in this accursed hole quite long enough.”
The whole thing went off splendidly, and even Mr. Baggs did subsequently compliment me on my clever ruse. Lord Douglas never suspected the fact that I had never been out of the Parlour, but had heard from the safe shelter of the window-recess everything that had been going on.
Ï1THEN, a few moments later, I re ' ' turned to the Pas-Imfr eager to have a few minutes’ speech with Mr. Betterton, I saw that he had gone. Anon, Kathleen the maid brought in the candles and closed the shutters. I once more took my place at my desk, but this time made no use of the screen. After awhile, Lord Douglas came in, followed by the ever-obsequious Mr. Baggs, and almost directly after that, my Lord' Stour came back.
His clothes were very wet and he shook the rain out from the brim of his hat. ,
“What a time you have been !” Lord Douglas said to him. “I was for going away without seeing you.”
“I wanted to find out what had happened in here,” my Lord Stour gave reply, speaking in a whisper.
“What do you mean?”
“The fellow had the audacity to pay his addresses to Lady Barbara,” my Lord Stour went on, still speaking below his breath. “I guessed as much, but wanted to make sure."
Lord Douglas uttered an angry cath, and Lord Stour continued hurriedly: “Such insolence had to be severely punished, of course; and I saw to it.” “How?” queried the otljer eagerly.
“I have hired half a dozen ruffians from the tavern yonder, to waylay him with sticks on his way from here, and to give him the sound thrashing which he deserves.”
It was with the most terrific effort at self-control that I succeeded in smothering the cry of horror which had risen to my lips. As it was, I jumped to my feet ana both my chair and the candle
from my desk fell with a clatter to the floor. I think that Mr. Baggs hurled a Volley of abuse upon me for my clumsiness and chided me in that the grease from the candle was getting wasted by dripping on the floor. But the Gentlemen paid no heed to me. They were still engaged in their abominable conversation. While I stooped to pick up the chair and the candle, I heard my Lord Stour saying to his friend :
“Come with me and see the deed accomplished. The Mountebank must be made to know whose hand is dealing him the well-merited punishment. My hirelings mean to waylay hint at the corner of Spreadeagle Court, a quiet place which is not far from here, and which leads into a blind alley. Quickly, now,” he added ; “or we shall be too late.
More I did not hear; for, believe me, dear Mistress, I felt like one possessed. For the nonce, I did not care whether I was seen or not; whether Mr. Baggs guessed my purpose or not. I did not care if he abused me or even punished me later for my strange behaviour. All that I knew and felt just then was thst I must run to the corner of Spreadeagle Court, where one of the most abominable Outrages ever devised by one Man against Another was even then, being perpetrated. I tore across the room, through the door and down the stairs, hatless, my coat tails flying behind me, like some Maniac escaDiner from his Wardlers.
I ran up Chancery Lane faster, I think, than any man ever ran before. Already my ears were ringing with the sound of distant shouts and scuffling. My God ! grant that I may not come too late! I, poor, weak, feeble of body, could of course do nothing against six paid and armed Ruffians; but at least I could be there to ward off or receive some of the blows which the arms of the sacrilegious Miscreants were dealing, at the instance of miserable Coxcombs, to a man whose Genius and Glory should have rendered him almost sacred in their sight.
AS long as I live will that awful picture haunt me as I saw it then. You know the Blind Alley on the lefthand side of Spreadeagle Court, with, at the end of it, the great double doorway which gives on the back premises of Mr. Brooks’ silk warehouse. It was against that doorway that Mr. Betterton had apparently sought some re■ semblance of refuge when first he was set upon by the Ruffians. By the time that I reached the corner of the Blind Alley, he had fallen against the door; for at first I could not see him. All that I saw was a group of burly backs, and arms waving sticks about in the air. All that I heard, oh, my God! were ribald cries and laughter, and sounds as wild animals must make when they fall, hungry, upon their prey. The Ruffians, I make no doubt, had no grudge against their Victim; but they had been well instructed and would be well paid if their foul deed was conscientiously accomplished.
My Wrath and Anxiety gave me the strength which I otherwise lack. Pushing, jostling, crawling, 1 contrived to work my way through the hideous barrier which seethed and moved and shouted betwixt me and the Man whom I love.
When I at Ipst kneeled beside him, I saw and heard nothing more. I did not feel the blows which one or two of the Ruffians thought fit to deal to Me. I only saw him, lying there against the door, panting, bleeding from forehead and hands, his clothes torn, h^s noble face of a deadly pallor. Í drew his handkerchief from his coat pocket and staunched the wounds upon his face; I pillowed his head against my Shoulder; I helped him to struggle to his feet. He was in mortal pain and too weak to speak; but a ray of kindliness and of gratitude flashed through his eyes when he recognized me.
The Ruffians were apparently satisfied with their hideous work; but they still stood about at the top of the Alley, laughing and talking, waiting no donbt for their Blood Money. Oh! if wishes could have struck those Miscreants dumb or blind or palsified, my feebla
>.’oice would have been raised to Heaven, crying for Vengeance on such an infamous deed. Hot tears were coursing down my cheek, my temples throbbed with pain and misery, as my arm stole round the trembling figure of my F riend.
'■'pHEN all at once those tears were Jdried, the throbbing of my temples was stilled. I felt no longe’’ b'ke a Man, but like a petrified statue of indignation and of hate. The sound of my Lord Stour’s voice had just struck upon mine ear. Vaguely through the gloom I could see him and Lord Douglas Wychwoode parleying with those abominable Ruffians. . . I heard the jingle of money. . . blood money ... the ring of ribald laughter. snatches of a bibulous song.
These sounds and the clang of the Gentlemen’s footsteps upon the cobblestones also reached Mr. Betterton’s fastfading senses. I felt a tremor coursing right through his limbs. With an almost superhuman effort, he pulled himself together and drew himself erect, still clinging with both hands to my arms. By the time that the two young Cavaliers' had reached the end of the Blind Alley, the outraged man was ready to confront them. Their presence here, those sounds of jingling money and of laughter, had told him the whole abominable tale. He fought against his weakness, against pain and against an impending Swoon. He was still livid, but it was with rage. His eves had assumed an unnatural fire; h:s whole appearance as he stood there against the solid background of the mass ve door, was sublime in its forceful expression of towering Wrath and of hitter, deadly humiliation.
Even those two miserable Coxcombs paused for an instant, silenced and awed by what they saw. The laughter died upon their lips; the studied sneer upon their faces gave place to a transient expression of fear.
Mr. Betterton’s arm was now extended and with trembling hand he pointed at Lord Stour.
“ ’Tis you -” he murmured hoarse-
ly. “You—who have done—this thing?”
“At your service,” renlied the young man, with a lightness of manner which was obviously forced and a great show of haughtiness and of insolence. “My friend Lord Douglas here has allowed me the privilege of chastising the common Mountebank for daring to raise his eyes to the Lady Barbara Wychwoode
At mention of the Lady’s name, I felt Mr. Betterton’s clutch on my arm tighten convulsively.
“Does she--” he queried, “does
“I forbid you,” interposed Lord Douglas curtly, “to mention my Sister’s name in the matter.”
“ ’Tis to my Lord Stour I am speaking,” rejoined Mr. Betterton more firmly. Then he added : “You will give me satisfaction for this outrage, my Lord
“Satisfaction?” riposted his Lordship coolly. “What do you mean?”
“One of us has got to die because of this.” Mr. Betterton said loudly. .
Whereupon my Lord Stour burst into a fit of hilarious laughter, which sounded as callous as it was forced.
“A duel?” he almost shr eked, in a rasping voice. “Ha! ha! ha! a duel!!! —a duel with you? . . . With Tom Betterton, the Son of a Scullion. . . By my faith! ’tis the'best joke you ever made. Sir Actor. . . ’tis worth repeating upon the stage!”
But the iniured man waited unmoved unt’l his Lordshio’s laughter died down in a savage oath. Then he said calmly:
“The day and hour, my Lord Stour?’ “This is folly, Sir,” rejoined the young Cavalier coldly. “The Earl of Stour can only cross swords with an equal.” '
“In that case, my Lord,” was Mr. Betterton’s calm reply, “you can only cross swords henceforth with a coward and á liar.”
“Damned, insolent cur!” cried Lord Stour, maddened with rage no doubt at the other’s calm contempt. He advanced towards us with arm uplifted then perhaps felt ashamed, or frightened— I know not whichCertain it is that Lord Douglas succeededin dragging him back a step or two, whilst he said with ■well-studied contempt:
“Pay no further heed to the fellow, my friend. He has had his punishment —Do not bandy further words with ' him.”
HE was for dragging Lord Stour away quickly now. I do believe that he was ashamed of the abominable deed. At any rate, he could not bear to look upon the Man who had been so diabolically wronged.
“Come avfay, man!” he kept reiterating at intervals. “Leave him alone!” “One moment, my Lord,” Mr. Betterton called out in a strangely powerful tone of voice. “I wish to hear your last word.”
By now we could hardly see one another. The Blind Alley was almost in total glcom. Only against the fastgathering dusk I could still see the hated figures of the two young Cava Hers, their outlines blurred by the even ing haze. Lord Stour was certainly on the point of going; but at Mr.' Betterton’s loudly spoken challenge, he paused once more, hesitated for the fract on. of a second, then carne a step or two back towards us.
“My last word?” he said coldly. Then he looked Mr. Betterton up and down, his every movement, his whole attitude, a deadly insult. “One does not fight with such as you,” he said, laughed, and would have turned away immediately, only that Mr. Betterton, with a quick and unforeseen movement reached forward and grippéd him by the wrist.
“Insolent puppy !” he said in a whisper, so hoarse and yet so distinct that not an intonation, not a syHatfie. of it was lost, “that knows not the Giant it has áwakened by its puny bark. You refuse to cross swords with Tom Betterton, the son of a Menial, as you choose to say? Very well then, ’tis Thomas Betterton, the artist of undying reknown, who now declares war against you. For every insult and every blow, he will be even with You; for he will launch against You the irresistible thunderbolt that kills worse than death and which is called Dishonour! .... Aye! I wi’l fight you, my Lord; not to your death, but to your undying shame. And n-ow.” he added more feebly, as he threw his Lordship’s arm away from him with a gesture of supreme contempt; “go, I pray You. go! I’ll not detain You any longer. You and your friend are free to laugh for the last time to-day at the name which I. with my genius, have rendered immortal. Beware, my Lord! The ridicule that kills, the obloauy which smirches worse than the impious hand of paid Lacqueys. This is the word of Tom Betterton, my Lord; the firsts of his name, as you, please God, will be the last of yours!”
Then, without a groan, he fell, swooning, upon my shoulder. When consciousness of my surroundings once more returned to me, I realized that the two Gentlemen had gone.
(To be Continued.)