G. APPLEBY TERRILL
AS I LAY in Pevensey Marsh that afternoon I was the happiest man in all England, as surely as for the past six months I had been the most wretched. My contentment was so great that when I reflected on it I came to believe that the joy of a coward who finds himself in safety after peril must surpass all other human joys. A shameful conclusion —but my dangers had proved intolerable, and now I was in safety, or within touch thereof.
I had not been always craven. My courage was good enough in the days when I rode with Langdale’s Brigade, and for long after it had sufficed for my duty, which was to serve the King as best I might in the land from which they who slew his father had driven him; but at length the Lord Protector, by setting a price on my head, had sapped me.
From an ordinary “malignant” under suspicion, I became a fugitive worth a long chase, which was quickly up, and so close on my heels that though I was not actually beaten out of cover to run for it, I yet got little comfort from the friendly roofs or night shadows which hid me, since every sudden hoof-beat or tramp of jack-boots fell on my ears as a certain summons to prison-cell and execution.
Soon England itself appeared to me but a vast prison wherein I might lurk for a little space, but out of which I could not escape. I dreaded even to sleep, for fear my life should pay for that sleep; and never did I go to bed without wishing heartily that I could change it for a resting-place that
my fevered mind loved to imagine—a patch of 7> sand on some distant isle, round which a great y
surf towered so that no man might approach.
That island, with its promise of untroubled sleep, was a vision of earthly paradise.
DEYOND seas! To be beyond seas! To win across to Holland or to France! The yearning became a frenzy with me; I must ship over the Narrows, or soon I should be shrieking aloud in my terror. But, with my friends spied on and myself spied for, the means were hard to come by, and my limbs had taken to tremble and my lips to quiver when I spoke, so overstrained I was,
ere a piece of good fortune brought Dirk Telkirk, the honest Dutchman, into the matter.
And now7 the horrid times w7ere past. Here was I in the waste of Pevensey Marsh with not a living man in sight: nor like to be. Behind me w7as the ruined chapel of Northeye, Telkirk’s landmark, and before me the shingly beach off which his hoy w7ould heave-to when darkness fell. It might w7ell chance that speck of sail yonder was the hoy herself, even now taking her bearings for her run in. In thirty hours, with this fair breeze, I should be in
A Stirring A ovelette of Cromwellian Times.
Rotterd’am. But why stretch to thirty hours? In four I should be safe aboard. Now, at this moment, I was safe—well, within touch of safety!
The sweetness of that knowledge! Resting on my elbow in perfect enjoyment, and breathing deep in the newness of my relief, smiled anon over the sea, and anon down at the crimson and yellow water-lily leaves that were spread on the black w7ater of the dike by my side, and again at the cattle ranging about me. It was these same cattle which presently recalled something I had ceased to think upon in the happiness of my situation— how close I had come to the cruellest fate conceivable, capture when I had reached the very edge of the marsh, after creeping and tiptoeing undetected through fifty miles of England. And at the recollection of the peril I shivered far more vehemently than I had at the instant of it.
The curiosity of a young white bull drew’ him to the place where I had thrown down Leyburn; other of the creatures followed him, and soon there was a group sniffing shyly at the body. Leyburn had come there thus. He was a rebel man that knew my face well, and as I stepped into the rough road w’hich was between me and the marsh (stepped carelessly, perchance. for the first time in my journe y, since my troubles seemed ended . I came right against him. resting under a hedge, with his horse tied to a bush. As soon as he saw me he leapt up. crying my name in triumph, and drawing pistol from his girdle. But had a snaphaunce pistol lying loose and cocked in my
pocket, and before he could lift his I shot desperately at him. and shot him dead. Then, lest he be found and a hue raised. I put him athwart
his horse and brought them both into my retreat, unsaddling and unbridling the beast and sending him to feed among the cattle, that he should not savour of a rider did any chance to sight him.
TES. I shivered hard: but quickly my calm returned. Providentially I had got through; the dangers were left behind me—left for good and all. The byways of London, the corners of watched manors, might haunt me in my dreams, but I should never go back to them. Go
back! ! would not turn inland now for a king’s ransom,
for a king’s daughter!
The happiest man in England once more, I lolled, weary and mud-stained, on the sunny grass. I began to day-dream of Holland, and of the simple things which would give me marvellous pleasure—a care-free saunter through Rotterdam streets, a fair lodging which I might enter and leave in the sight of all men. And presently, the price of the lodging being in my mind, I put my hand to an inner pocket that held my money and my letters to the Dutch bankets. All were secure: but what—ah, it was the sealed paper which had fallen from Leyburn. There was a look of State about it. and. though sick indeed of State matters, 1 had pouched it to read at my leisure. I drew it forth. "To Deputy Major-Geneial Burfield, at Sir H. Ferrer’s House, in Hastings.”
Leyburn's fall from my bullet had broken two of the seals; l snapped the third, opened the letter, and read:
"His Highness the Lord Protector
"By these Commandeth,
"That, whereas you hold in custody Beatrix Mary Ruthven, or Rivven. sentenced to be put to death for High Treason, which sentence you were to see carried out on Thursday next coming, being the fifteenth day of this instant month, you do now delay the execution of the same sentence, and deliver the said Beatrix Mary Ruthven. or Rivven. to Captain Leyburn. by whose hands these reach you. that he may forthwith bring the said Beatrix to us in London to be further questioned: and you shall furnish Captain Leyburn with such escort of troopers as he may ask, for the safeguarding of the prisoner on the road hither.
"’Given under our hand this Tuesday the thirteenth
day of Aptil, 1653.
"To Deputy Major-General Burfield.”
I put the letter down and looked at the sea again, but I was little disposed to smile now. So, in killing Leyburn, I
had killed a woman also. To-day was the fourteenth: since the reprieve would not now reach Major-General Burfield. Beatrix Mary Ruthven, or Rivven. whoever she might be.—and by the words "high treason” she had wrought bravely in the King's cause— would die to morrow. I sat up. regretting bitterly that I had discovered the letter. Here was my peace of mind, my hard-won happiness, gone. Because of this ill thing I must carry overseas with me the knowledge that in saving my own life. I had sacrificed a captive woman's.
1 LOCKED my hands about one knee and tried to reason calmly.
That is. I tried to satisfy my conscience. This letter, now. it was not a pardon: it would give Beatrix Mary Ruthven another week of life, perhaps, but no more. And yet it might give more. The Protector, maybe, would find her guilt less than supposed, or a touch of mercy might come to him, for. harsh villain though he was, his love for his daughters inclined him sometimes, so it was said, to pity a woman in distress.
I held my knee tighter. Grant it, then, that the letter shadowed a pardon. I was still free from reproach. I had waylaid it unwittingly, and could I.a fugitive hid in a marsh, see to its delivery? As that question took form I shrank from it. for the answer was,
"Yes—at a deadly risk.”
"No. no!” I breathed desperately, striving to crush that answer; and the bare thought that I might yield to it gave me a paroxysm of fear. No! nothing short of Cromwell’s troopers should drag me back from my march, now that I had gained it. Leave it of my own tree-will? Go again, with my courage all drained, into the dreadful
courage background? I would not go a yard thither! Hazard my life afresh and more perilously than ever before! Miss the hoy to a certainty!—and I within touch of safety! I were mad if I did so.
I felt that I had won and was preserved, but the struggle had shaken me, and so weak and craven was my condition. that now a kind of anger filled my heart, and I fell shamefully to raging against her who had been near to tempting me. Let her die, this Beatrix Mary Ruthven, this siren that might have destroyed me! Yea, let her die and me be quit of her! Then I remembered that she was no siren, but a woman who had known such fears as had broken me, and now knew worse, since her last night was at hand. Was ever man more base than I, whojstormed
on her instead of pitying her?' She had no thought to lure me. She was not aware of my existence or my strait. What if she were? What would she urge me? Perchance, “Give not your life for me.”
These imagined words unrested me. I frowned, biting my lip hard. I would not go for them! But presently worse followed, sprung, I suppose, from some music in her names. A scrap of faulty verse, which I had no consciousness of forming, was dancing suddenly in my brain, and it danced there without ceasing:
"If Beatrix Mary Rivven "Unto her death be given,
"You shall not be forgiven.”
It was torture, and at last I groaned and clapped my hands to my face. The battle was begun again. For a space I bowed forward and back like a sore-smitten man, moaning, arguing, praying, now for my life, now for the will to hazard it.
THIS woman was the weaker, infinitely the more pathetiefigure, of us twain. I could not take her life! I could not carry such a memory with me to the grave! To hesitate thus to give my life for hers were false to all honour. Yet what mattered dishonour? It could be lived down. I wanted my life, calm days and quiet musings in Holland. In three hours Telkirk would come for me. Three hours! If I were to have a chance of saving her and catching the hoy withal, I must act at once—decide at once. Besides? Madness! My legs were trembling. They would refuse to carry me if I turned from the marsh. Leyburn’s horse? I cursed it. I should swoon in the saddle. But I must decide!
And forthwith I decided, and, though my heart beat as if it would wreck itself, I got to my feet at once, picked up the saddle and the bridle, and walked tb the horse, a good Spanish chestnut, which had wandered near to me.
Whilst I was fixing the gear on him I determined, and quickly this time, which of two plans I should follow. On the face of it, the simplest and least perilous course would
be to ride towards Hastings until I met with . some person of trustworthy appearance, whom I should beg to take the letter to Major-General.Burfield. But against this was the fact that, to ensure its speedy performance, I must tell him of its life-and-death urgency; whereupon his suspicions would be aroused at my entrusting it to him, and, as like as not, ere’my back were well turned, he would show it-to some passing soldiery, who, scenting something strange, would come scouring after me.
ALSO, Ihad now found more manhood in me than I thought to, and felt a distaste for leaving Beatrix Mary Ruthven a prisoner still confronted with death, when, with a little more risk, I might do the business very handsomely and bring her aboard the hoy.
I settled the item. I wQuld play Captain Leyburn, and trust he was not known in these parts, as I believed it probable.
Time was whát I lacked. They might keep me an hour or two hours in Hastings. As fast as I was able, I took off from Leyburn and put upon myself his jack-boots, belt and sword, and spider headpiece, thus assuming a military guise; and I did not neglect to find his pass and "gfk»» transfer it to my own pocket.
But in the act of mounting I paused and came down again. I had forgotten the broken seals of the letter. With my penknife I cut away the edges, luckily clear of writing, on which they were. Then I refolded the letter and tied it with a piece of ribbon taken from one of those I carried to the Dutch bankers, so that it might well pass as having been given to me unsealed. In ten minutes I was at a canter along the road whereon I had met Leyburn.
It must have been the weariness of Leyburn’s own limbs which caused him to rest, for the horse was quite
fresh, evidently from a post-house not many miles back, and though I eased him at the high ground behind the hamlet of Boxhill, and once when in doubt of my way, he took me very fast into Hastings. The vigorous ride, with all concealment cast aside, and the knowledge of having some other aim than my own preservation, did me good.
I began to play Captain Leyburn with spirit.
“Sir H. Ferrer’s house?” I cried two or three times when I was in the chief street, and clattering up to a door which was shown me, I gave a loud careless order, even before I was dismounted, to a soldier, who had come from the adjoining stable-yard, to hold the chestnut.
“Put me a pillion saddle on this horse, corporal.”
The hall door was open, and two troopers and a manservant were eyeing me from the threshold.
“Take my name to Major-General Burfield,” I said to the footman as I walked up the steps: “Captain Leyburn, from his Highness.”
T T E WAITED to bid me into the hall and to be seated, and went. So the major-general was at home, I thought; fortune was kind to me. But I was to be disappointed.
A young man with a quill pen in his hand descended the stairs and gave me a slight bow. “Major-General Burfield is out at present, sir. I am his secretary. Can I be of service to you?”
“I fear not, sir,” I said, standing up, “unless you can deliver to me a prisoner.”
“I fear not, sir,” he answered, smiling.
“I would you were able,” I said in a friendly tone of jest, “for I must instantly take the road again. I am from the Lord Protector, who enjoined me to make the greatest speed. How soon will the major-general return?”
“He should not be away above an hour.”
“An hour!” I exclaimed blankly. I put my hand on the young man’s sleeve. “You would oblige me much, sir, if you could tell me where to find him, or send him word of my being here.” Then, fearing that my manner had been too anxious, I added with a rueful laugh, “As it is, I shall be forced to ride through most of the night to repair lost time.”
“Ill luck that,” he answered, “both for you and the prisoner. Is it the maid, by chance?”
His face lighted up. “I like thee for that news,” he said heartily. “I confess to have thought overmuch of tomorrow —not that I should have been there. Yes, I will set them searching for the major-general, and come you to the library and drink a cup of wine, for I must go back to my writing.”
I had fasted all day, and so enjoyed the sack and fruitcake he set before me, but the victual did nothing to allay my impatience, and presently I was fidgeting in a way that must sorely have distracted the young man from his penmanship. I moved about and looked at the pictures on the walls, returning several times to one which, strangely enough, was a scene in Holland—a church and a quiet market-place. How thoroughly I wished 1 were one of the figures therein, going peacefully to worship!
This delay at the outset was affecting my new-found courage, which threatened to desert me. Again and again 1 foresaw two incidentsdetection, or success, but the hoy sailing without me. A full hour had gone by, and the secretary was on the point of sending out fresh messengers, when the library door was opened, and there entered a short, thin man, with a pale, disagreeable face and a white moustache, wearing a buff military coat and 'broad hat.
“The major-general,” whispered the secretary swiftly to me, and he got up. saying. “Captain Leyburn. sir. ridden post from his Highness.”
THE major-general nodded gruffly, sat down and leaned back in the secretary's chair, pushed his hat from Iris brow, and held out his hand. I gave him the letter.
He twitched the ribbon off in a manner which betokened no taste for my handiwork. "Sealingwax scarce at Westminster?" he asked, spreading open the paper and not looking up.
“It was writ and given me in haste, sir," I answered steadily, seizing the chance to lay stress on my hurry.
He read. “Very well." he said at the end, but plainly disapproving. Then he raised his eyes to me testily. "But
where is the haste? I have been twice sought out and told that you were here and not a moment to spare."
“Does not his Highness explain it in the letter, sir?" I asked, as if surprised. "He bade me most strait.1 y use the greatest speed, and I was delayed at the last post."
He shook his head. "What troopers do you want?”
1 was prepared for this question. "By your leave, sir." I answered, “I want none. I requisitioned two at Lewes, who are waiting for me beyond the town here."
He picked up a pen and commenced to write. “So you
want the prisoner forthwith? But it will be dark soon. Do you ride through the night?”
“Through a great part of it, sir.”
He folded a paper, sealed it with emphasis, and gave it to the secretary. Then he waved me to sit down, for I had stood since his entrance.
“I have ordered her to be fetched from the jail,” he said as the secre-
tary left us, and then he began to “ “
conversé with a certain grumpy courtesy. . - - 5 V
I would fain have asked how long Wm. the prisoner would be, but I deemed it wiser to curb my desire, and, in fact, to make no mention of her, and we talked of the common news of the day, and I was hard beset to conceal that I knew less of it than he.
The light was fading, and he had put a taper to the candles on the table, and I was preparing to give up all hope of the hoy, when a medley of footsteps told us that those we expected were come.
THE secretary showed himself first and held the door wide. Then there appeared on the threshold only a cornet and a trooper, and for an instant I feared that they had brought no one, and, more, that my trickery was discovered and they were come to seize me. I sank my hand into my pocket, where the snaphaunce lay.
But the trooper stood aside and disclosed another form.
I saw a white face, that did not reach to the cornet’s shoulder, and a cloak—a cloak hanging so straitly that it could cover but a slight body.
So far, only a sense of duty, or, perhaps it were better said, a fear of being haunted, had carried me along; but the sight of Beatrix Mary Ruthven, or Rivven, in the being, in the midst of her burly enemies and under the shadow of death, took my pity instantly, and I was glad that I had come for her, whatever the cost.
The cornet saluted the majorgeneral from where he stood, and then placed his hand beneath the prisoner’s arm. She advanced, moving weakly and as if near to a swoon, and he led her, with some kindness in his manner, to a chair, wherein she sat, and, after drooping her head at first, looked up, her eyes very wide open, at the major-general. The secretary had rightly called her “maid.” I thought her not above eighteen, and her face very beautiful, with its delicate short nose and perfect mouth and chin, and the lovely clean curve which ran from chin to ear. Pallor and a red flush around the eyes from weeping could little detract from a face so featured.
“Under favour, sir,” said the cornet to the majorgeneral, “I do not think she can travel to-night.”
“Eh? Wherefore not?” He leaned across the table towards the girl. “Young mistress, you are in better case than your high crimes deserve. Not so near death but what you may save yourself, I believe, an you speak fair to the Lord Protector. So take that advice to heart, and now rouse you up, for you are to go to London to-night.” “I am thankful—so thankful,” she said slowly, “and would fain do your wish, but I—the good tidings have dismayed me.” She breathed hard and sank her head on her hand, and I saw that she was trembling much.
' 8 'HE major-general glanced at me. “You were best makeup your mind to sup with me, Captain Leyburn,” he said. “As she is, she cannot sit pillion, and, of course, that is your plan?”
‘Yes,” I answered; “and, by your leave, sir, ride she must and soon. I once neglected a command of his Highness, and have no mind to again. If Mistress Ruthven hath no strength to hold my belt, she can be belted to
I spoke firmly, as onewhohadnointentiontobe crossed; but hope was dying within me. I saw myself taken after all by this ill chance. If the major-general deemed the prisoner unfit for riding, he could, as my senior officer, take it upon himself to retain her, and answer to Cromwell for doing so. But, fortunately in the circumstances, he was not a man of merciful nature.
“Belt her to you?” he said. “Yes, it could be done.” He eyed me with pleasure. “You are like me, sir; you
yield not readily to obstacles, that is easily seen.” “No, sir,” I said with relief, and I was little surprised that on looking towards the prisoner I found her gazing over her finger-tips at me in shrinking apprehension. My words had been very harsh, and my face, with its lack of shaving, and with, I suspected, many an earth-stain, though the common mark of one riding post, might well discomfort her.
I walked up to her chair, intent to reassure .hersomewhat by a question as to how she did;
howbeit, the major-general mistook my action for impatience.
“Now, mistress,” he said, “Captain Leyburn awaits you. Stand up.”
As if his words had shot her, she fell across an arm of the chair.
“Urn! she will beat you, sir,” he said, rising impatiently.
“Not if I may have the tending of her,” I answered, raising her a little and holding her so that her head leaned right forward. “Pour some water into that dish,” I added to the secretary.
I raised her head to cast some of the water in her face, and then let it fall forward again, soaking my palm continually and pressing it to her brow; and when I thought her senses returning I set her back, and taking a cup of wTater from the secretary, who stood by to assist me, won her into drinking some.
“You are better!” I asked.
She replied, “Yes,” but faintly, with closing eyes,
I set her forward again, wetting my hand and holding her brow as before, and gazed down upon her browm hair, and felt the pitiful throb of her temple against my fingers. In troth, I was hard put to to know how I could get her away. I determined on a risk.
“Some wine or spirits,” I said to the secretary.
He went first to the bottle I had drunk from, and finding it empty, hurried out of the room, as I had expected. The major-general and the cornet were talking on the far side of the table.
I bent my lips to her ear. “Come, come,” I said softly, as if to chide her. “Come,” I whispered; then, lotver still and rapidly. “For your life’s sake and mine, come now. I am a King’s man, trying to save you.”
I felt her start in my hands, and soon could tell by the great drawing of her breath and the straining of her little form that she was striving with all her will to recover herself; and, knowing what encouragement can do, I said to her ever and anon, “You are better; I see that you are better.”
And gradually she became so, and when the secretary returned was able with her own hand to lift a'breaker of strong waters to her lips, whereof, at my urging, she drank a fair quantity.
“A tender leech!” said the major general, who for some minutes past had been studying me with, I feared, a hint of suspicion in his thoughts.
‘What would you?” I answered laughing. “His Highness will not be tender of me for delay. And, with your permission, sir, she does well enough to be put on horse. The fresh air in her face-—”
I broke off, for I could perceive his doubt growing. Then I recalled Leyburn’s pass, which contained no description of the bearer as wTould betray me. That might lend a little more weight and get me through yet.
“If you will be pleased to endorse my pass, sir, with sanction to carry the prisoner”— And I held it out carelessly.
He took it and glanced over it, and his face became more assured; and then, to my great relief, he sat down and wrote across it.
“Get you gone, then, Captain Leyburn,” he said, giving it back to me, “and my humble services to his Highness.”
HE maid, whose pretty, narrow7 hands had been busied w7ith pulling the hood of her cloak over her hair, stood up at his words. She wisely showed no trace of eagerness, but, fixing her eyes on me, waited as if in miserable indifference. Yet a faint colouring of excitement had stolen to her cheeks.
I saluted the major-general and turned to the door without more ado; and, the secretary leading the way, she and the cornet and I went down and out to my horse, which the corporal held ready, having obediently girt on a pillion.
Into this the cornet lifted her, so soon as I was mounted and I felt her fingers in my belt.
“You are strong enough to hold on?” I asked.
“Yes,” said she behind me.
Then “Good-night and good thanks to you, sirs.” I said, and, giving the corporal a silver piece, started atrot down the street, ready to shout for joy at my success, but to despair for another reason. By now it was almost fully dark.
As yet I had scarce learnt the sound of my companion’s voice, so mute had she been from her first coming into the library. But ere w7e had gone many yards she spoke quickly across my shoulder.
“Sir, sir, what you whispered was true? You are saving me? You are a true man?”
“True enough man, mistress,” I answered, "as the rebels yonder wyould have proved on my body had they guessed my name; and at present you are safefrom them.” I eased the chestnut down to a walk. “We will talk here and quickly,” I said; “for, once out of the town, we must gallop hard, and shall have no breath for speech.”
I told her in a few words of my hunted condition and the manner of my coming to her aid. “And now. Mistress Ruthven,” I ended by saying, ‘T still may catch the hoy, and you were far best out of England—nay, you cannot think to remain. Will you trust to me and to Telkirk. an old, honourable man. and cross with us to Holland, whence you can write to your family?”
Instead of answering my question at once, she slipped one of her hands from my belt and laid it on my arm, and leaned forward so that her breath was on my cheek.
“Thank you, thank you, for my life,” she said, “which henceforth, under God, I owe to you. You had barely saved your own, yet you straightway perilled it again for me. I know not how to tell you my gratitude; and I think you the bravest,.noblest man that is in England.”
The edge of her hood, with a tress of hair lying across it, as I could feel, touched my neck. It sent a thrill through me, and my heart gave a great beat. I found myself drawing a long breath and realizing what gladness a certain maid may instantly bring upon a man. But I could not let her words pass.
"You must not name me brave,” I said, "unless you would shame me. Call me rather the ‘Great Coward of Pevensey Marsh.’ for that is my fitting style. I clung to my marsh, and tong declared l would not leave go though you died of my cravenness. Knew you ever such a cur?”
Her fingers tightened about my sleeve. "Brave, brave!” she murmured. "How you durst have come forth I know not' Could 1 have done so? Could I turn back a step now. think you?” She shivered against me.' "Not for a king’s ransom!”
The very words, those last, that had run in my head not long ago. Indeed, we were a shattered pair! And yet not so; my courage was with me again, and waxing stronger for knowing of her fear.
"Not for a king’s ransom,” she repeated. "Not to save a life! But l have not answered you. Yes, I will go to Holland with you, and be deeper in your debt for taking me. I have no near kin in England now, since they killed my uncle when they made me prisoner: but my Aunt Ruthven is at the French Court, and will receive me. -And tell me not of your worthy Hollander,” she added, almost wich reproach. “I were base, I think, did I not gladly trust myself to you."
Her confidence in me, though mayhap I expected no less, was pleasant to hear. I twitched our Spaniard into a rapid trot, and her free hand went back to my belt.
"So, now for the hoy.” 1 said. I spoke gaily, both from a desire to cheer her spirit and from the effect which her presence had on me. But I doubted much that we should find the hoy. At this very minute Telkirk might be putting off in his boat for me. When he discovered that l was not on the beach, he would not wait, but deem me waylaid on my road thither, since I had been given ample time to reach the trysting-place. Howbeit, I noticed, as we came to the outskirts of the town, that night was not so completely fallen as I had thought, but that the darkening was in part from a sea-mist; and as this circumstance, together with the dying down of the breeze, would make the hoy slower in approaching the shore, my hopes revived somewhat.
By galloping the chestnut to his uttermost we might yet win to sea. But this same galloping, now that the time was come for it, was no nice prospect, with the pits and other snares of the road, dangerous enough in broad daylight, now scarcely to be seen if one stared straight down at them. But there was no other course.
"Hold tight, Mistress Ruthven,” I said. “If we fall, you were best to spring out sideways.” And then I gathered the reins shorter and spurred.
FEW rides can have been wilder than that one of ours.
Ere we had well started, the maid, to prevent herself being cast out of the pillion, was forced to work her hands along each side of my belt and grip it in front of me, bracing herself with her arms around my body and her breast against my back, so beset were we by jolts, swerves and stumbles—stumbles which wrere harrowing uncertainties—to the tune of the Spaniard’s dèsperately striking hoofs and heavy snorts. .
She was admirably brave in such a case. I felt her gasps, but she did not let me hear them, and never thought to speak a word of caution. As for me, I resigned myself to catastrophe at any stride. With jaw hardened and muscles tense, I took it for granted that I was about to be launched headlong.
Yeî I rode with a certain caution, for what it was worth. The right was not so thick but I could see something of how the road before me lay. I could make out its dark face, gleaming here and there with wet, twenty yards ahead, and perceive when it began to rise or fall. Cruel though the practice was, I drove on hardest when we were going uphill, and thus could afford to hand a little on a downward slope, where full career must have proved fatal.
In such wise, marvellously escaping an actual fall, we made speed towards the marsh, only twice losing time, when I stopped in doubt of the proper road, but decided aright. Our fortune held so good that we met not a single soldier nor heard a voice accost us save occasionally a rustic shout, which reviled us from a hedge whither the crier had hastily sprung; and presently we had gone by the lights of Boxhill, plain enough, and I was facing a fresh difficulty'—how' to distinguish the spot where we must enter the marsh, just behind Northeye Chapel, which I could not hope to see from the road.
T CEASED to goad the Spaniard, dead-beat by now, and spoke of my quandary when I thought we were near the place. Mistress Ruthven and I strained our eyes, but in vain. Her counsel was to go seaward forthwith, yet I hesitated to do that. There was a path to the chapel and a track beyond to the beach, could I but dis-
cover them. Both were long gone out of use, desolate relies (or I had not lain so near), but they were of great import to us, for they avoided the dikes and pools. To venture by any other way in this gloom would be tö struggle through water and mud at every second pace, and possibly to drown. I pricked on a little, until I was sure I had come far enough, but there was no trace of a path. Se I drew rein and dismounted.
"We must grope for it, mistress,” I said, 'holding up my hands to her, “and we were safer to trust to our feet.”
She put her hands on my shoulders and came down in my arms, and the holding of her light body for a second, with her face so close tô mine that I could see her smile and the brightness of her eyes, was a talisman that drove all annoyance from me. I led the staggering horse off the road and let him go, after loosing his band, hoping that he would find a kind master, if not claimed by the post-house, for he had served us very well; and then I touched her wrist.
“Will you hold my hand?” I said. “You are like to' need it.”
“And you to need mine,” shè said with a little laugh, peering before her; “for all equally may stumble here. I hope I shall have the strength to hold you up.” With a turn her palm came warmly into mine, (we were both gloveless), and her fingers clung, “Is this mud or a rushbed?” she asked, making a careful step. -
We moved on for perhaps a hundred paces; then the gleam of water stopped us. It was a dike. I'might have jumped, but there was no such remedy for h,er..
“To the right or the left?” she queried.
I led her to the left for another hundred paces, only to... be stopped by a second dike at right angles to the first.
“So it should have been the right,” she said, still cheerily. “Come, we müst hasten;” ánd, gripping my hand tighter, she took me at a run back over the firm ground. “How long will the hoy wait?” she panted after a while.
BEFORE I could reply she drove against me, crying out warningly, and we were sinking into thin mud, dropping as if through water. A terrible fear that oür heads would follow our legs under flashed through me as I clutched her by the waist; and, indeed, hot until the slime was pouring over the tops of my jack-boots did I feel a. solider footing beneath. I was able to maintain my balance, and, lifting her clear, I got us both to firm ground again ; but the outcome of the misadventure was that her lightness of spirit was all gone, not because she stood soaked and shoeless, but because we seemed cut off from the sea. I believed I heard a sob from her. \
“Nay, nay, we are not beat yet,” I said whilst pulling -off and emptying my boots. “Let us go straight for the sëa. I will carry you over the dikes.”
“Can you?” she asked, hope reviving in her voice.
. “Yes; T saw this afternoon that the water was not above three feet deep in any one of them, and the bedslooked not too soft to bear one.”
I would have picked her up there and then and carried her all the way to save her feet, hut she forbade me, saying she would take no hurt of the grass. We climbed side by side down to the water-level of the first dike, and I lowered myself into it, and found that I stood quite steady when about waist deep. Taking her upon my shoulder, I made a big stride and lodged her safe against the other bank, where she must needs, pause and bid me clasp her hand to help myself up, which I did readily, though, being afraid to bear on so slight a thing, I had greater trouble to extricate myself than I should have had without her aid.
For a score of minutes, in which we crossed'three more dikes, we seemed to make good progress. Then a swamp turned us from our true course, and an accident followed, for the bed of the next dike we essayed proved treacherous, failing me at the very time I was lifting her. We struck the water with a great splash and dived completely under; and I pity her to this hour in thinking what her sensations must have been as she fell from the grayness about her into the blackness which smothered her with an ice shock. My own feelings were bad enough, for > I knew riot what quagmire might be under us. Howbeit, I gained my legs momentarily, clasping her with one arm, and made a swirling leap at the farther bank, clutching a bunch of rushes thereon before I could fall again, and scrambling forth.
I put her on her feet, yet still held her anxiously.
“Can you forgive my blundering?” I asked.
“What need to ask forgiveness for an accident?” she said, looking up at me. “And should I not forgive you anything, who have saved my life? Oh! I am the one that must beg forgiveness; I have brought you to a sorry pass. I believe we are lost. I believe we shall never find the hoy. Oh, you have thrown away your life for me—I know it! And I, what shall I do? I dare not go back!”
HER voice rose and then failed her, and she began to cry bitterly. I strove hard to speak her some comfort, and presently she took my arm gently from about her and sought my hand, and, heavy with .water and heavy in hand, we fared on again.
The mist had now increased, and several times we 'doubted that we were keeping straight for the sea, and stopped to listen for the sound of its breaking, which was fallen so gentle as scarcely to be heard, and no great guide, since it stretched so far on either hand. And for a while I was depressed with a strange dread—a dread that we should come upon Leyburn’s body. I suppose that my 'overwrought state made me ill-inclined to see it, for it would really have been of good use, telling me of our whereabouts.
An hour must have passed since our last ducking, when suddenly she shook my hand'in excitement. “Look!” she said, pointing, her finger close to my face. “A house.”
I stared, and saw the mist dark and solid a little to one side of us, and my heart bounded for joy.
“A house,” she repeated.
“Ay,” I said, “and, by God’s grace, His House. It is Northeye Chapel, that we have so long sought.”
I drew her forward eagerly, blessing her eyes over and over again as we went, and quickly we were on the path.
IT WAS stony beneath its grass, and without more hesitation I picked her up, and made seaward with running strides. But I had somewhat overrated my strength, I found. The prolonged sufferings of my mind must have told upon me, and several times I was forced to stand and recover breath, feeling my legs very weak and a strange pulsing all over me. And it was during one of these halts that we heard distinctly a man’s voice give a
shout far behind us. __
“Ah!” she cried in my ear, and clung hard to me. “What does it mean?”
“I know not,” I said; nor did we ever learn. But it gave us a bad fright and drove me to frantic efforts.
Some fifty yards from the white mounds of pebbles which marked the beginning of the beach, and were just to be seen at the distance, I was exhausted, and set her down, listening the while for a repetition of the shout. It did not come.
But presently, as we walked on, my foot struck some •shingle, making a sharp rattling cascade—and the sound, it seemed, betrayed us to an ambush. There was a hoarse cough at our very feet; forms which had been lying unperceived scrambled to rise; the shingle all about us poured and crashed beneath scampering steps.
Mistress Ruthven screamed loudly and without disguise, and small blame to her. I heard my own voice as I whipped out the snaphaunce, which I had reloaded lately from some dry powder that was in my tinder-box, and then I changed my tone to an exclamation of relief.
, “Sheep,” I said. She sighed deeply and hung upon my arm, her head fallen against me.
“Sheep?” she said, speaking very low. *T thought it was death. But soon it will be death, will it not? We cannot escape. Nay, I cannot move farther.”
“The hoy,” I said, trying to encourage her.
She shook her head mutely, hopelessly.
Somehow I found strength to pick her up again, and to carry her across the shingle almost to the water’s edge. There I lowered her down until she lay, and I dropped beside her, as despairing as she, for there was no sight of boat or man, no sound of oar or voice.
The hoy had gone. What chance now of safety for me for her? None! We were finished with life, we two drenched, exhausted figures, sunken down here finished, except for a few days or hours of weary evasion.
BUT ere long I sat up; I must think. The hoy had gone: let all thoughts of it go too. What of the future? Was it worth pondering upon? Should I rouse myself to plan, or yield to the apathy I felt settling upon me? Had I been alone I should have lain down again dully, abanddoning consideration as a torment and useless. But this little form by me! Beatrix Mary Ruthven, prone on her face now, with her brow pressed on her arms. Could I let her suffer anguish of disappointment, perchance die of grief for want of cheering words, when there might yet be a chance in a thousand of my saving her from our enemies, when Cromwell still might spare her, since the rescue had been no device of her contriving? No, in troth, not if there were any manhood left in me. Dreadful as a turning back into England was to me, I must paint such in bright colours for her.
I stood up and touched her shoulder. "Since the hoy is gone. Mistress Ruthven, we must arrange matters anew,” I said cheerfully, “and keep ourselves secure and comfortable until Telkirk is again ready to help us."
She raised herself a little—shivering, by the sound of her voice. "Secure -where?” she said.
1 turned and faced inland. “With one or another of my friends."
"No!” she cried. "No, no! I cannot go back. I will not leave the shore. To see soldiers, to see towns—prisons, would send me mad. I will not go back. I will lurk in the marsh, if I die of cold and want. Better die peacefully here than in a cell or on a scaffold boards."
I lifted her and held her hand as before, she weeping piteously.
"Walk," I said. “You are cold. And now, listen.
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Continued from page 16
What matter a few more weeks in England? Honestly, I think you have little to fear. Even if you be taken, the Protector will give you your life. But you shall not be taken. Presently, when dawn comes, we will find the horse and be once more Captain Leyburn and his prisoner. As such I can safely carry you whither I list for days to come, and that shall be to a certain faithful house where you shall find friends, sisters and a mother, and” (I chafed her hand) “bright fires to sit by and a bright supper-table too, where the talk shall be of Telkirk hasting back to fetch you away.”
THUS I spoke, and at great length, showing even how she might walk abroad without fear by practising some change in her appearance, until to my delight she began to turn brave, and to be as confident as I made pretence to be. though her confidence, as she let me see, hung upon a condition.
“It is very wonderful,” she said, “how you have heartened me. There seems scarce any danger in what we have agréed upon, and I shall be of good courage now, so long as you are by me; but otherwise”—Both her hands gripped mine tightly. “Oh, go not from me, go not out of call, till we be safe in Holland, or I am lost! Surely lost!”
I enfolded the pleading hands. “Till Holland,” I said; “and there I shall not go far from you, unless you bid me.”
She looked at me earnestly as she drew her hands from mine. “I shall not bid you,” she said. “You—you shall see me into France an you like. And now,” she added quickly, “what are we to do till daylight?”
I thought of the shout we had heard, and balanced its suggestion of danger against the cold of the night and our wetness.
“A fire inside the chapel walls,” I answered. “The sacrilege will be forgiven us in our poor circumstances.”
I felt against my pocket to make sure, that I had put back the tinder-box after recharging the snaphaunce—and, just as before it had been her eyes, now it was her ears, for, “I can hear a boat rowing!” she exclaimed.
I held my breath, held it long, and was on the point of telling her she was deceived, when a faint oup-oup, oup-oup, •caught me from out at sea.
Darting my hands to my mouth, I shouted over the water.
“They have answered,” she cried, whilst my own voice echoed deafeningly in my ears. “There!”
And this time I heard a weak and distant “All right—coming.” That
calm reply banished doubt. The boat was the hoy’s. “Telkirk,” I said to her.
ÜQR the moment following neither she I nor I stirred or spoke, nor, I believe, thought it strange we did not. Each guessed the prayer of thanks filling the other’s soul. And then we went joyfully
to the edge of the. sea, and after a little space I called again: “Captain Telkirk?” “Ay, ay,” came the old man’s voice. “Is dat Mr. Simpson?”
“It is, captain, and well pleased to hear you. I feared to have missed you.”
“Oh, de fog and calm make us very late. But no matter now. Dere vill be vint at dawn.”
The yellow blur of a lantern, which some one had lifted, showed, and soon we could, make out the boat’s hull and the figures in her.
“Vat—eh? Two?” exclaimed Telkirk. “Yes, an extra voyager, by your good leave,” I said.
“Alaty! Is de laty in de same box?” “Ay,” I answered; “and a desperate box it has been. You will not refuse her?” “No, certainly. I dake her vit pleasure. Ah, de vater shallow hereabouts.”
“No need to run aground,” I said; “we will come out to you.” I turned to my companion and put my arm round the slim waist that necessity had made me so free of. “For the last time,” I said, meaning that I should have no occasion after this to carry her.
“Yes,” she answered softly. She let her hand rest on the arm about her, as if she thought I referred only to that. “Yes,” she said, “for the last time, of course. I have liked to feel it in danger, but I shall not want it in safety—on our Franceward road.”
Her voice seemed scarce in accord with, her words. I paused in the act of stooping to lift her, and my face was scarce an inch from hers. I read her eyes. Then quickly she looked aside, with plain intimation. She had shown me a promise, but I must expect no more as yet.
So I kept my gaze on the boat as I waded out, nor seemed to think of what I bore, yet all the while I was telling myself that, dear as my life had been to me when I carried it, as the saying is, in my hands, it was become infinitely more precious now that I carried it in my arms —which I knew full well I was doing.