last, and for that word of yours I will wait. You do me
the grace to say that always I have been honest with you.
Then believe me honest now."
So helpless, so dear she seemed, that he wanted but little
of gathering her, then and there, into his arms, but for her
sake, who must not be affrighted, he held himself in check.
Perhaps in time he might win her to him; at that moment
he must strive solely to win her to her own safety. To that
end he found in himself the grace to lie valiantly. "Why,"
said he, " let us be reasonable, Althea. This marriage is but
an expedient to help us both, remember, nothing more."
She looked at him, with eyes that seemed to reach his soul.
"I trust you, Jock," she said slowly. "If you will, of your
goodness they shall call me your wife you shall take
me hence and oh ! from my heart I thank you, and I
grieve that I can make you no return ! "
At that moment, while their eyes met, he heard the sound
of a door gently opened and of a soft footstep on the threshold.
He knew that step, but he stood steady, back to the new-
comer, face to Althea, and the hands with which he held her
hands did not waver. "Whatever you owe me, you have
more than paid back to me this hour," he said, in full realiza-
tion of the debt of his recovered manhood that was due her,
and then, still standing by her side, he turned and with un-
flinching eyes fronted the chestnut-haired Philip.
"Well?" said Philip, blinking.
" Mistress Lovewell is pleased to do me honor by becoming
my wife," Jock answered. If Philip ventured on a sneer,
he had resolved to strike him.
Possibly Philip read that determination in Jock's face, for
he did not sneer. "Since that is your decision," he said,
260 THE FAIR MAID OF GRAYSTONES
"I have at hand a parson who came hither to solemnize
this day a different marriage. He is an independent, and
their rites are brief and of scant formality. I'll bid him in,
and the marriage shall be made this hour."
"Ay," said Jock, "and call in your whole household, d'ye
mind ? You shall not spread your foul lies afterward, that we
fled hence unwedded. Fetch hither all your people, I say!"
Jock had his will in this, even as he had looked to have it,
for he had reckoned wisely that Philip and his mother, all
the more set, in their sudden great fortune, to keep Jarvis
from marrying a dowerless girl of tarnished repute, would
for their own advantage do everything to make Althea's
marriage fast and legal. One by one the household of Gray-
stones, from the stableboys and kitchen wenches to the
chestnut-haired Philip and his mother, Mistress Difficult,
near a score of legal witnesses, gathered in the hall, and in the
centre of that hostile circle Jock and Althea were made man
and wife. The independent clergyman of Wogan's choosing
would have used the barest of ceremonies, but Althea, at the
last minute, drew a ring from her bosom and snapped it from
the cord by which it hung about her neck.
" I will be married with this, my mother's ring," she said,
with her old spirit, and she had her will.
When the last word was spoken, Jock took her in his arms
and kissed her. He had not forgotten the folk that circled
them about, rather, remembering but too well, he sought to
give the girl comfort and to win for himself strength. With
her kiss on his lips, he turned and among the faces faces of
women that tittered and of men that in the front rank scowled
or in the safety of the rear rank sneered he singled out the
chestnut-haired Philip. " Now," he flung the words like
a challenge, "I will take my wife hence."
Promptly Philip lifted a mocking voice. "Way there for
THE BREAKING OF THE BRIDECAKE 261
The men shuffled back, nudging each other, grinning as
they left a free pathway to the door, and one of the serving
wenches giggled shrilly. In that moment, with the goodly
applause of his dependents to hearten him, Philip stepped up
to Jock with hand outstretched. "Hold!" said he. "Take
your wife's inheritance with you."
It was a shilling piece that Philip proffered, and for a mo-
ment Jock was minded to dash the coin back into his face.
But he came from the north, and with northern prudence he
reflected that, now that he had the world to face, without
money or friends and with a wife at his side, he were foolish
to despise even a shilling. To the audible delight of the
household of Graystones, he pocketed the coin. "I thank
you, kinsman," he said. " On my word, I shall return later
unto Graystones to tell you how deeply I thank you for
this and for another matter that you bear in mind."
The serving folk, still following their cue, laughed, but
Philip, eye to eye with Jock, did not laugh. He went back
a step and stood biting his thin lips, while Jock put his arm
about Althea and between the lines of snickering servants
led her from the hall.
Outside the house, on a common impulse to shake the dust
of Graystones from their feet, Jock and Althea made their
way across the courtyard, and passing beneath the old gate-
house, reached the lane that led to Heronswood. In silence
they turned to the right and skirted the hedge that bounded
the lands of the Heyrouns, till they had passed the great
stables and the paddock. Then it was that, safe outside of
the demesne of Graystones, Althea, so steady and so brave
while her enemies looked upon her, sat down on the turf
by the wayside, and resting her head upon her knees, sobbed
and sobbed, while Jock, in utter helplessness, stood looking
on. Once he bent, with a muttered word of comfort, and
started to put his arm about her, but she shrank from him.
262 THE FAIR MAID OF GRAYSTONES
"No, no!" she choked. " Oh, I did ill to consent ! Oh,
in very truth I would that I were dead!"
At that moment both caught the sound, in the paddock,
of running feet that drew quickly near. Straightway Althea
dried her eyes, striving to find a face of defiance to show to her
kindred, and Jock turned alertly to a gap in the hedge, hard
at hand, through which danger might come. Next instant
they both could have laughed at their fears, for through the
gap there came no more than the breathless little scullery
wench called Dol.
"Here is your cloak, Mistress Althea," she panted, "and
sure I wish ye Godspeed, and long life and happiness, though
I durst not say it yonder in the hall, and here, mistress, I
have fetched ye a cake of mine own baking that ye might
have a bridecake, else surely ye would never be rightly
married, and I must speed back ere they miss me I "
Abruptly as she had come, the little maid whisked away
through the hedge, and Althea was left staring at a small
and steaming spicecake that rested on her lap. She began
to laugh, an echo of her old laughter, though the tears were
still wet upon her cheeks.
"Bless her kind heart!" she said. "But, Jock, whatever
shall we do with this luckless cake?"
He knelt on the ground beside her, and taking the little
cake, broke it in halves. "Why, eat it, dear lass!" he said.
"Eat it, for luckl"
AT THE EBB
IN this, at least, the scullery wench's gift brought luck,
that, in the homely act of eating hot spicecake, Jock and
Althea must needs slacken something of the tragic tension
with which they had quitted Graystones. The boy, by old
practical habit, was first to fall to consideration of ways and
means, and promptly, while he ate, he spoke of them. Had
Althea, in this emergency, any kindred, any friends to whom
he might conduct her, he questioned, and with secret joy of
which he felt that he should be ashamed, he found that she
"I have no friends in Sussex," she said, "else, you may
be sure, I had never come to accept my Uncle Philip's charity.
And of my Heyroun kin, my Aunt Henrietta showed me favor
by times, but 'twas done only to spite my Aunt Difficult.
She would cry out upon me now, and bar her door against
"She'll look for that chance till she's blind with looking,"
Jock rounded the sentence. " But what of the folk at Dray-
"Isabel sent me forth of her house," Althea said quietly.
"Yes," said Jock, "and I am already too deep in Rafe
Heyroun's debt to go thither as if I looked to win further
favor. We'll e'en fend for ourselves now, and owe thanks
to no man."
264 THE FAIR MAID OF GRAYSTONES
It was a pretty declaration, but Althea, grown practical
in her turn, reduced it to mere high sound. "And whither
shall we go first ? " she asked, as she ate the last of the
Jock whistled and then smiled, as it was, on the whole,
a better thing to do and as cheap as to scowl. Said he : " I've
a stepdame and fourteen half and quarter brothers and
sisters in Daske Forest, and I've never a friend to count on
nearer than there. Shall we trudge thither?"
At a certain point of desperation matters become amusing,
and Althea, having reached that point, smiled in answer.
"How far is that, Jock?" she asked. "Several counties
distant, is it not?"
"A matter of nine counties," he answered lightly, "and
something less than two hundred mile."
"That would be a journey of at least a fortnight," she com-
mented, "and what store of money have we, Jock?"
An exhaustive search revealed the fact that Althea had
in her pocket a silver sixpence, and Jock had two pennies,
which had slipped through a hole in the lining of his doublet,
so that he had failed to find and give them to Mother Hendie.
Besides this hoard, they had the shilling of Philip's contemp-
tuous bestowal, which showed large and imposing against the
copper pence and the shrivelled sixpence. " Tis a rare thing
to be an heiress!" quoth Jock, and Althea laughed, though
instantly her face clouded again.
Truly, it was not a pleasant prospect for two friendless
folk, a journey of two hundred miles on a capital of one
and eight pence, but it seemed the only thing for them to
do. Alike descendants of the Lancashire Holcrofts, they
wasted no time in unpractical self-pity, but having eaten
their bridecake, rose up and started courageously upon their
With sound good sense Jock shaped their course through
AT THE EBB 265
field-paths and byways. He had a suspicion that his true
identity had not been proclaimed through the countryside
and that, bearing the odium of Captain Hetherington, he
might suffer at the hands of the country folk the rough treat-
ment that the Captain had well merited. At need he could
fight, and that he once more could say that of himself,
he gave humble thanks to Heaven and to Althea ! but he
was no pick-quarrel, especially when he had heavy odds
against him, and he was weaponless. He regretted in special
his lack of weapons and presently contrived to break him a
cudgel in the roadside thicket, a poor substitute for a sword,
yet better than nothing.
That night the newly-wedded pair spent in the shelter of a
straw-stack, some six miles to the west of Heronswood. The
air was edged with the frosts of mid-October and the evening
wind was keen, but Jock burrowed a deep hollow in the straw
for Althea's comfort, and when once he had seen that she
slept, tired out with their march, slipped off his doublet and
spread it over her. He trusted that now she would not suffer
with the cold, and for himself, as he had done the most of his
life, he suffered in silence. A part of the night he tramped
up and down the bare, gusty field, swinging his arms to warm
himself, and when he grew tired of marching he huddled down
in the lee of the stack. Too cold to sleep, he sat wide-eyed
and watched the stars, luminous with frost, that wheeled
above him Charles's Wain on the sparsely gemmed north-
ern horizon, the sharp point of the Polar star, the streaming
banner of the Milky Way.
" This is my marriage night," he reflected, and in the grim
contrast of the reality with what his fancy had aforetime
painted, found humor of a sort.
In the chill dawning Jock and Althea took up, each coura-
geously, for the other's comfort, the course of life to which for
several days they held. Each day they walked as far as
266 THE FAIR MAID OF GKAYSTONES
Althea's strength would endure. At night they slept, now
beneath a hedge, now in the shelter of a deserted barn, once
upon the fresh hay of a stable, where Jock groomed horses in
the morning and so earned new milk to Althea's breakfast.
With their little money, eked out to gain the worth of every
penny, they bought bread, and shamelessly Jock foraged by
night and with the skill born of old experience "found," as
he phrased it, late apples and even raw turnips to piece out
their scant fare. To all outward seeming their life was as
poor, as hopeless, as degraded, as life could be and yet be
life. With the practical sense in outward things on which he
prided himself, Jock knew this as well as any chance onlooker
that stared and scoffed at them as they trudged by his door,
yet for all that, in the soul of him, perversely, against his
reason, he knew himself at peace, nay, even well content.
For one great boon, he found himself each moment strong
of hand and quick of thought, as, in the shaken state in which
he had left the Graystones cellar, he had scarcely hoped to be
again. For a greater boon, he found himself of service to
the girl of his love, and in return he had all payment, ex-
cept the payment that he had pledged himself in honor not
to ask, payment of her presence, of the trust in her eyes
when she looked upon him, of the sweet and patient courage
with which, somewhat for his sake, he felt, she met all dis-
Of the girl's own heart, what can be said? Bittersweet
hours those were to her, both in the living of them and in
after-recollection. She was fain of the lad's company, yet
loath to burden him, proud that she bore the name of his
wife, yet shamed to think of the pity in which, she held, that
name had been bestowed, jealous of each spent moment that
brought so much nearer the time of their parting, yet, in
mere justice to him, praying for that parting time to come.
Thus they trudged on through the autumn fields and the
AT THE EBB 267
dusty roads, outwardly a scorn and a laughing stock, inwardly
living to each other a life where the sweet outweighed the bit-
ter, till at last, a week from their setting forth, came a day
when the external was forced upon them crushingly and their
fools' paradise had an end.
It had been a day of lowering gray clouds that rested
blanket-wise upon the hills, and with nightfall came a flurry
of spiteful rain. On the gray horizon the wayfarers spied
neither stack nor shelter of any kind, and in search of har-
borage they trudged on till they found themselves overtaken
by the dark of the rain-harried evening. Little by little, in
the last hours, Jock had felt his hardihood desert him, so that
now he went in glum silence. In his pockets, where he had
thrust his hands for warmth, he counted his money by touch
and found that he stood possessed of sixpence. They had
spent more than two-thirds of their stock, they had not come
sixty miles upon their long journey, and he saw no chance to
earn money to carry them farther. He had the strength of
his arms and some skill with horses and cattle, but he could
not look for employment in a Puritan county, where his step
and carriage proclaimed him a soldier, and his wretched
state gave him to be a soldier of the losing side.
In dumb misery he plodded forward with his face to the
pelting rain, and he was wondering where and how this weary
march would end, when he heard a little moan from Althea.
As he turned to her, the girl sank down on the rain-soaked
turf by the wayside. In the dark he could not see her face,
but he read a tragic story of lost courage in the outline of her
"What is amiss, sweetheart?" he coaxed, forgetting his
compact in pity of her plight.
So near do tragedy and comedy touch shoulders that Althea
laughed at her own answer. " "Pis a hole worn in my shoe,
Jock. Indeed, my foot is blistered, and oh ! I am so cold
268 THE FAIR MAID OF GRAYSTONES
so cold!" Poor, plucky, little comrade, she let her courage
go out in the sob with which she ended.
Regardless of his pledge, he took her into his arms, chafing
her numbed hands, pressing her cold cheek to his. At first
with joy he realized that she was relaxing, yielding without
resistance, as if glad of his nearness, but next moment he read
nothing but ill omen in this surrender. So well had he learned
and loved the girl's essential reticence of person that he
knew that only in bitter extremity, past heeding or caring for
aught, would she have brooked his touch. Like a wild thing
driven from its fastnesses by fire or by cold, she had come
to his arms as the less of evils.
Presently, in the midst of her tears, Althea found the relief
of words : " But it is madness sheer madness ! We cannot
go on thus. You must surely see that we cannot. Tis as it
was with us there upon the islet in the Illey. Alone, you
might have gone on to safety then. With me claiming your
care, we both came finally to Graystones. You must leave
me, Jock, and go upon your way."
"Did I go on and leave you, there upon the islet?" he
" It were better for you if you had," she answered wearily.
Too tired even for tears, she rested in his arms, too tired even
to utter the lie that had been upon her lips, "It had been
better for me!" Instead she pleaded, "'Twas an expedient,
our marriage, you said it. Now that its purpose is done, now
that I am free of Graystones, let me go my way." As she
heard the words, uttered in her stoutest tone, she shivered
with involuntary fear lest he obey them.
Jock merely laughed, as hearty a laugh as a man could
muster while his teeth were chattering with cold. "My
dear," said he, "'tis not the custom in the north whence I
come for a man to leave his dog to starve by the wayside,
let alone his wife."
AT THE EBB 269
At that word he felt her shrink from him, and gently he
released his hold upon her, but he finished what he had to
say. " You are mine, at least, to care for and to guard. Do
not forget that, Althea, and speak no more of my deserting
you. Somehow we shall win through this pass."
He spoke with enough confidence to revive a flicker of cour-
age in the exhausted girl, but at heart he knew not whereof
he spoke. All about him he saw the prospect dark, dark as
the bleak night itself, and look where he would, he spied no
loophole of escape. For the present, however, he saw the
instant need of getting Althea under shelter. As if she had
been a boy, he read a whole history of physical weariness and
collapse, not mere feminine hysteria, behind her tears.
Coaxing her, laughing at her, he got her to her feet, and
again they started forward. She went but lamely, footsore
in her broken shoes, so that he half carried her. By now the
rain had ceased, but the damp chill of it hung heavy in the
air, and the sky was overcast, and the stars were hidden. In
a nightmare of darkness and penetrating damp, Jock went
forward, with the burden of the outworn girl sagging against
his arm and shoulder, and at his heart a weight of dread that
grew with each step till it was near to crushing him.
At long last he made out, through the blackness, the small,
sharp lights of a village. "You shall have food, and a bed
beneath a Christian roof," he promised Althea, and he real-
ized that she must be far gone indeed, when he found that,
instead of crying out, as was her custom, against such rash
expenditure, she heard the proffer in silence.
In the village he sought out the one poor inn, and there he
spent their last sixpence. That night, while Althea slept in the
chamber above, he sat by the low fire in the kitchen, and
cudgelled his brains for some way out. He could not sleep
for thinking on their plight, but passed the long hours in beat-
ing himself, as it were, against a blank wall of circumstance.
270 THE FAIR MAID OF GRAYSTONES
It was not till daylight, when he was washing his face at
the stable pump, that hi the gossiping talk of a friendly hostler
he caught a name that he remembered well, and that in-
stant grasped in his hand the clew to escape for which he had
prayed. A little later, when Althea came belowstairs, he
met her with a hopefulness that was not all assumed.
Said he, " What an if we stop short of Daske Forest ? Will
you weep yourself blind for disappointment?"
She tried to smile, though her face was white and her eyes
were heavy with weariness.
"Here in this house," he went on, "I've been reminded of
a gentleman that was my friend, what time we lay in Col-
chester, and, I dare swear, was no mere carpet-friend. In
any case, I'll test his kindness now. His name is called
Verney Claybourne, and they tell me that he dwells at the
manor of Claybourne, not twenty mile to the north of here."
Althea gave a weak little gasp. " Twenty mile ? Oh, Jock ! "
She sank down on the nearest seat.
"We can walk that distance in two days," he hurried on
in a stout voice. " Verney was taken prisoner, there at Col-
chester, but he was a man of substance and will have ran-
somed himself long since. And he will give us shelter and
succor, else never let me trust man more ! "
On such slender hope they set forth, breakfastless, on
their twenty-mile walk to Claybourne. Of the thousand con-
tingencies that might dash their hope, Althea was too merci-
ful to question Jock, and he himself was set not to think. He
strode along that day, chin up and fists clenched. Over and
over he repeated, as if the words held a charm, that Verney
must be there at Claybourne he must he must ! It
seemed to Jock as if, by the very force of his will oft expressed,
he could compel fate itself.
By noon Althea was so faint with hunger that she could
walk no farther. He left her beneath the hedge, and went
AT THE EBB 271
to a farmhouse, where all the afternoon he hewed wood and
fetched water for a blackguardly churl. It was the very
crucifixion of his pride, but he won in return a pocketful of
stale bread. He went back to Althea, he persuaded her, al-
most by sheer strength of will, to eat a morsel, and then, with
his help, to stumble forward a mile or two farther. There
they spent the night, huddling for shelter beneath a bridge,
and in the morning, when they had eaten the last of their
bread, set forward again.
"We shall lie to-night at Claybourne," Jock said with
Through that iron day of weariness that wore to the soul,
he upheld himself, he upheld the girl, till the moment of con-
summation. Just as the sun was setting, they came in sight,
above the hedgerows of the lane that they followed, of a square
church tower in a boscage of yews, and the gables of a stone
house. Almost tremulous in that instant of triumph, Jock
climbed the stile that led over the hedge and helped Althea
to a place on the step below him.
From the vantage-point of the stile he descried, in the
field beyond, a laborer, a ditcher, who was just shouldering
his spade ere he started homeward, and he hailed the fellow.
"Yonder is Claybourne, friend?" He indicated the church
tower, the gabled house, and the lower huddle of thatched
roofs that showed above the hedges, two fields away.
"Ay, yon's Claybourne manor," said the man.
Jock wet his lips ere he ventured the next question. "Is
Mr. Verney Claybourne at the manor house?"
" Young squire, is it ?" the man questioned slowly. " Nay,
he's not come home. If ye be minded to go a-begging," he
added shrewdly, "best shog off from the manor house. Old
dame, his mother, rules the roost while squire's away, and
she's rare and angry that squire went roaming the country
wi' the rakehelly king's men and had ransom to pay, and
272 THE FAIR MAID OF GRAYSTONES
seeing that you're a king's man, by the cut of you, she'll surely
set the dogs on you."
The man jogged away through the dim field, and Jock and
Althea remained sitting stupidly upon the stile. After a
moment she dropped her head against his knee. He put his
arm about her, and so they sat in silence, while round them
the shadows deepened and the light faded out of the west.
"Come," he said at last in a lifeless voice. "We cannot
sit here all night."
Without further words, they turned back up the lane
that they had followed from the main highway. Althea
limped, dragging herself along painfully, but she uttered no
reproaches for the false hope that had been fostered in her,
and dumbly Jock was thankful for this forbearance. Un-
decided, for once, he himself went but slowly, and soon,
almost without settled plan, he turned from the beaten track