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forty, and his face revealed a character quite different. His features
were sharp, his eyes quick; if prudence was the predominating quality of
the first, resource took its place in the second. While the first man
sat patiently at the table, this one stood impatiently at the window.
Now he lifted the blind, now he dropped it again.

The third sat in front of the fire with his face upturned to the
ceiling. He was a tall, big man with mighty legs which sprawled one on
each side of the hearth. He was the youngest of the three by five years,
but his forehead at this moment was so creased, his mouth so pursed up,
his cheeks so wrinkled, he had the look of sixty years. He puffed and
breathed very heavily; once or twice he sighed, and at each sigh his
chair creaked under him. Major O'Toole of Dillon's regiment was
thinking.

"Gaydon," said he, suddenly.

The man at the table looked up quickly.

"Misset."

The man at the window turned impatiently.

"I have an idea."

Misset shrugged his shoulders.

Gaydon said, "Let us hear it."

O'Toole drew himself up; his chair no longer creaked, it groaned and
cracked.

"It is a lottery," said he, "and we have made our fortunes. We three are
the winners, and so our names are not crossed out."

"But I have put no money in a lottery," objected Gaydon.

"Nor I," said Misset.

"And where should I find money either?" said O'Toole. "But Charles Wogan
has borrowed it for us and paid it in, and so we're all rich men.
What'll I buy with it?"

Misset paced the room.

"The paper came four days ago?" he said.

"Yes, in the morning."

"Five days, then," and he stood listening. Then he ran to the window and
opened it. Gaydon followed him and drew up the blind. Both men listened
and were puzzled.

"That's the sound of horseshoes," said Gaydon.

"But there's another sound keeping pace with the horseshoes," said
Misset.

O'Toole leaned on their shoulders, crushing them both down upon the sill
of the window.

"It is very like the sound a gentleman makes when he reels home from a
tavern."

Gaydon and Misset raised themselves with a common effort springing from
a common thought and shot O'Toole back into the room.

"What if it is?" began Misset.

"He was never drunk in his life," said Gaydon.

"It's possible that he has reformed," said O'Toole; and the three men
precipitated themselves down the stairs.

The drunkard was Wogan; he was drunk with fatigue and sleeplessness and
pain, but he had retained just enough of his sober nature to spare a
tired mare who had that day served him well.

The first intimation he received that his friends were on the watch was
O'Toole's voice bawling down the street to him.

"Is it a lottery? Tell me we're all rich men," and he felt himself
grasped in O'Toole's arms.

"I'll tell you more wonderful things than that," stammered Wogan, "when
you have shown me the way to a stable."

"There's one at the back of the house," said Gaydon. "I'll take the
horse."

"No," said Wogan, stubbornly, and would not yield the bridle to Gaydon.

O'Toole nodded approval.

"There are two things," said he, "a man never trusts to his friends.
One's his horse; t' other's his wife."

Wogan suddenly stopped and looked at O'Toole. O'Toole answered the look
loftily.

"It is a little maxim of philosophy. I have others. They come to me in
the night."

Misset laughed. Wogan walked on to the stable. It was a long building,
and a light was still burning. Moreover, a groom was awake, for the door
was opened before they had come near enough to knock. There were twelve
stalls, of which nine were occupied, and three of the nine horses stood
ready saddled and bridled.

Wogan sat down upon a corn-bin and waited while his mare was groomed and
fed. The mare looked round once or twice in the midst of her meal,
twisting her neck as far as her halter allowed.

"I am not gone yet, my lady," said he, "take your time."

Wogan made a ghostly figure in the dim shadowy light. His face was of an
extraordinary pallor; his teeth chattered; his eyes burned. Gaydon
looked at him with concern and said to the groom, "You can take the
saddles off. We shall need no horses to-night."

The four men returned to the house. Wogan went upstairs first. Gaydon
held back the other two at the foot of the stairs.

"Not a word, not a question, till he has eaten, or we shall have him in
bed for a twelvemonth. Misset, do you run for a doctor. O'Toole, see
what you can find in the larder."

Wogan sat before the fire without a word while O'Toole spread the table
and set a couple of cold partridges upon it and a bottle of red wine.
Wogan ate mechanically for a little and afterwards with some enjoyment.
He picked the partridges till the bones were clean, and he finished the
bottle of wine. Then he rose to his feet with a sigh of something very
like to contentment and felt along the mantel-shelf with his hands.
O'Toole, however, had foreseen his wants and handed him a pipe newly
filled. While Wogan was lighting the tobacco, Misset came back into the
room with word that the doctor was out upon his last rounds, but would
come as soon as he had returned home. The four men sat down about the
fire, and Wogan reached out his hand and felt O'Toole's arm.

"It is you," he said. "There you are, the three of you, my good friends,
and this is Schlestadt. But it is strange," and he laughed a little to
himself and looked about the room, assuring himself that this indeed was
Gaydon's lodging.

"You received a slip of paper?" said he.

"Four days back," said Gaydon.

"And understood?"

"That we were to be ready."

"Good."

"Then it's not a lottery," murmured O'Toole, "and we've drawn no
prizes."

"Ah, but we are going to," cried Wogan. "We are safe here. No one can
hear us; no one can burst in. But I am sure of that. Misset knows the
trick that will make us safe from interruption, eh?"

Misset looked blankly at Wogan.

"Why, one can turn the key," said he.

"To be sure," said Wogan, with a laugh of admiration for that device of
which he had bethought himself, and which he ascribed to Misset, "if
there's a key; but if there's no key, why, a chair tilted against the
door to catch the handle, eh?"

Misset locked the door, not at all comprehending that device, and
returned to his seat.

"We are to draw the greatest prize that ever was drawn," resumed Wogan,
and he broke off.

"But is there a cupboard in the room? No matter; I forgot that this is
Gaydon's lodging, and Gaydon's not the man to overlook a cupboard."

Gaydon jumped up from his chair.

"But upon my word there is a cupboard," he cried, and crossing to a
corner of the room he opened a door and looked in. Wogan laughed again
as though Gaydon's examination of the cupboard was a very good joke.

"There will be nobody in it," he cried. "Gaydon will never feel a hand
gripping the life out of his throat because he forgot to search a
cupboard."

The cupboard was empty, as it happened. But Gaydon had left the door of
the street open when he went out to meet Wogan; there had been time and
to spare for any man to creep upstairs and hide himself had there been a
man in Schlestadt that night minded to hear. Gaydon returned to his
chair.

"We are to draw the biggest prize in all Europe," said Wogan.

"There!" cried O'Toole. "Will you be pleased to remember when next I
have an idea that I was right?"

"But not for ourselves," added Wogan.

O'Toole's face fell.

"Oh, we are to hand it on to a third party," said he.

"Yes."

"Well, after all, that's quite of a piece with our luck."

"Who is the third party?" asked Misset.

"The King."

Misset started up from his chair and leaned forward, his hands upon the
arms.

"The King," said O'Toole; "to be sure, that makes a difference."

Gaydon asked quietly, "And what is the prize?"

"The Princess Clementina," said Wogan. "We are to rescue her from her
prison in Innspruck."

Even Gaydon was startled.

"We four!" he exclaimed.

"We four!" repeated Misset, staring at Wogan. His mouth was open; his
eyes started from his head; he stammered in his speech. "We four against
a nation, against half Europe!"

O'Toole simply crossed to a corner of the room, picked up his sword and
buckled it to his waist.

"I am ready," said he.

Wogan turned round in his chair and smiled.

"I know that," said he. "So are we all - all ready; is not that so, my
friends? We four are ready." And he looked to Misset and to Gaydon.
"Here's an exploit, if we but carry it through, which even antiquity
will be at pains to match! It's more than an exploit, for it has the
sanctity of a crusade. On the one side there's tyranny, oppression,
injustice, the one woman who most deserves a crown robbed of it. And on
the other - "

"There's the King," said Gaydon; and the three brief words seemed
somehow to quench and sober Wogan.

"Yes," said he; "there's the King, and we four to serve him in his
need. We are few, but in that lies our one hope. They will never look
for four men, but for many. Four men travelling to the shrine of Loretto
with the Pope's passport may well stay at Innspruck and escape a close
attention."

"I am ready," O'Toole repeated.

"But we shall not start to-night. There's the passport to be got, a plan
to be arranged."

"Oh, there's a plan," said O'Toole. "To be sure, there's always a plan."
And he sat down again heavily, as though he put no faith in plans.

Misset and Gaydon drew their chairs closer to Wogan's and instinctively
lowered their voices to the tone of a whisper.

"Is her Highness warned of the attempt?" asked Gaydon.

"As soon as I obtained the King's permission," replied Wogan, "I hurried
to Innspruck. There I saw Chateaudoux, the chamberlain of the Princess's
mother. Here is a letter he dropped in the cathedral for me to pick up."

He drew the letter from his fob and handed it to Gaydon. Gaydon read it
and handed it to Misset. Misset nodded and handed it to O'Toole, who
read it four times and handed it back to Gaydon with a flourish of the
hand as though the matter was now quite plain to him.

"Chateaudoux has a sweetheart," said he, sententiously. "Very good; I do
not think the worse of him."

Gaydon glanced a second time through the letter.

"The Princess says that you must have the Prince Sobieski's written
consent."

"I went from Innspruck to Ohlau," said Wogan. "I had some trouble, and
the reason of my coming leaked out. The Countess de Berg suspected it
from the first. She had a friend, an Englishwoman, Lady Featherstone,
who was at Ohlau to outwit me."

"Lady Featherstone!" said Misset. "Who can she be?"

Wogan told them of his first meeting with Lady Featherstone on the
Florence road, but he knew no more about her, and not one of the three
knew anything at all.

"So the secret's out," said Gaydon. "But you outstripped it."

"Barely," said Wogan. "Forty miles away I had last night to fight for my
life."

"But you have the Prince's written consent?" said Misset.

"I had last night, but I made a spill of it to light my pipe. There were
six men against me. Had that been found on my dead body, why, there was
proof positive of our attempt, and the attempt foiled by sure
safeguards. As it is, if we lie still a little while, their fears will
cease and the rumour become discredited."

Misset leaned across Gaydon's arm and scanned the letter.

"But her Highness writes most clearly she will not move without that
sure token of her father's consent."

Wogan drew from his breast pocket a snuff-box made from a single
turquoise.

"Here's a token no less sure. It was Prince Sobieski's New Year's gift
to me, - a jewel unique and in an unique setting. This must persuade her.
His father, great King John of Poland, took it from the Grand Vizier's
tent when the Turks were routed at Vienna."

O'Toole reached out his hand and engulfed the jewel.

"Sure," said he, "it is a pretty sort of toy. It would persuade any
woman to anything so long as she was promised it to hang about her neck.
You must promise it to the Princess, but not give it to her - no, lest
when she has got it she should be content to remain in Innspruck. I
know. You must promise it."

Wogan bowed to O'Toole's wisdom and took back the snuff-box. "I will not
forget to promise it," said he.

"But here's another point," said Gaydon. "Her Highness, the Princess's
mother, insists that a woman shall attend upon her daughter, and where
shall we find a woman with the courage and the strength?"

"I have thought of that," said Wogan. "Misset has a wife. By the
luckiest stroke in the world Misset took a wife this last spring."

There was at once a complete silence. Gaydon stared into the fire,
O'Toole looked with intense interest at the ceiling, Misset buried his
face in his hands. Wogan was filled with consternation. Was Misset's
wife dead? he asked himself. He had spoken lightly, laughingly, and he
went hot and cold as he recollected the raillery of his words. He sat in
his chair shocked at the pain which he had caused his friend. Moreover,
he had counted surely upon Mrs. Misset.

Then Misset raised his head from his hands and in a trembling voice he
said slowly, "My boy would only live to serve his King. Why should he
not serve his King before he lives? My wife will say the like."

There was a depth of quiet feeling in his words which Wogan would never
have expected from Misset; and the words themselves were words which he
felt no man, no king, however much beloved, however generous to his
servants, had any right to expect. They took Wogan's breath away, and
not Wogan's only, but Gaydon's and O'Toole's, too. A longer silence than
before followed upon them. The very simplicity with which they had been
uttered was startling, and made those three men doubt at the first
whether they had heard aright.

O'Toole was the first to break the silence.

"It is a strange thing that there never was a father since Adam who was
not absolutely sure in his heart that his first-born must be a boy. When
you come to think philosophically about it, you'll see that if fathers
had their way the world would be peopled with sons with never a bit of
a lass in any corner to marry them."

O'Toole's reflection, if not a reason for laughter, made a pretext for
it, at which all - even Misset, who was a trifle ashamed of his display
of feeling - eagerly caught. Wogan held his hand out and clasped
Misset's.

"That was a great saying," said he, "but so much sacrifice is not to be
accepted."

Misset, however, was firm. His wife, he said, though naturally timid,
could show a fine spirit on occasion, and would never forgive one of
them if she was left behind. He argued until a compromise was reached.
Misset should lay the matter openly before his wife, and the four
crusaders, to use Wogan's term, would be bound by her decision.

"So you may take it that matter's settled," said Misset. "There will be
five of us."

"Six," said Wogan.

"There's another man to join us, then," said Gaydon. "I have it. Your
servant, Marnier."

"No, not Marnier, nor any man. Listen. It is necessary that when once
her Highness is rescued we must get so much start as will make pursuit
vain. We shall be hampered with a coach, and a coach will travel slowly
on the passes of Tyrol. The pursuers will ride horses; they must not
come up with us. From Innspruck to Italy, if we have never an accident,
will take us at the least four days; it will take our pursuers three. We
must have one clear day before her Highness's evasion is discovered.
Now, the chief magistrate of Innspruck visits her Highness's apartments
twice a day, - at ten in the morning and at ten of the night. The
Princess must be rescued at night; and if her escape is discovered in
the morning she will never reach Italy, she will be behind the bars
again."

"But the Princess's mother will be left," said Gaydon. "She can plead
that her daughter is ill."

"The magistrate forces his way into the very bedroom. We must take with
us a woman who will lie in her Highness's bed with the curtains drawn
about her and a voice so weak with suffering that she cannot raise it
above a whisper, with eyes so tired from sleeplessness she cannot bear a
light near them. Help me in this. Name me a woman with the fortitude to
stay behind."

Gaydon shook his head.

"She will certainly be discovered. The part she plays in the escape must
certainly be known. She will remain for the captors to punish as they
will. I know no woman."

"Nay," said Wogan; "you exaggerate her danger. Once the escape is
brought to an issue, once her Highness is in Bologna safe, the Emperor
cannot wreak vengeance on a woman; it would be too paltry." And now he
made his appeal to Misset.

"No, my friend," Misset replied. "I know no woman with the fortitude."

"But you do," interrupted O'Toole. "So do I. There's no difficulty
whatever in the matter. Mrs. Misset has a maid."

"Oho!" said Gaydon.

"The maid's name is Jenny."

"Aha!" said Wogan.

"She's a very good friend of mine."

"O'Toole!" cried Misset, indignantly. "My wife's maid - a very good
friend of yours?"

"Sure she is, and you didn't know it," said O'Toole, with a chuckle. "I
am the cunning man, after all. She would do a great deal for me would
Jenny."

"But has she courage?" asked Wogan.

"Faith, her father was a French grenadier and her mother a _vivandière_.
It would be a queer thing if she was frightened by a little matter of
lying in bed and pretending to be someone else."

"But can we trust her with the secret?" asked Gaydon.

"No!" exclaimed Misset, and he rose angrily from his chair. "My wife's
maid - O'Toole - O'Toole - my wife's maid. Did ever one hear the like?"

"My friend," said O'Toole, quietly, "it seems almost as if you wished to
reflect upon Jenny's character, which would not be right."

Misset looked angrily at O'Toole, who was not at all disturbed. Then he
said, "Well, at all events, she gossips. We cannot take her. She would
tell the whole truth of our journey at the first halt."

"That's true," said O'Toole.

Then for the second time that evening he cried, "I have an idea."

"Well?"

"We'll not tell her the truth at all. I doubt if she would come if we
told it her. Jenny very likely has never heard of her Highness the
Princess, and I doubt if she cares a button for the King. Besides, she
would never believe but that we were telling her a lie. No. We'll make
up a probable likely sort of story, and then she'll believe it to be the
truth."

"I have it," cried Wogan. "We'll tell her that we are going to abduct an
heiress who is dying for love of O'Toole, and whose merciless parents
are forcing her into a loveless, despicable marriage with a tottering
pantaloon."

O'Toole brought his hand down upon the arm of the chair.

"There's the very story," he cried. "To be sure, you are a great man,
Charles. The most probable convincing story that was ever invented! Oh!
but you'll hear Jenny sob with pity for the heiress and Lucius O'Toole
when she hears it. It will be a bad day, too, for the merciless parents
when they discover Jenny in her Highness's bed. She stands six feet in
her stockings."

"Six feet!" exclaimed Wogan.

"In her stockings," returned O'Toole. "Her height is her one vanity.
Therefore in her shoes she is six feet four."

"Well, she must take her heels off and make herself as short as she
can."

"You will have trouble, my friend, to persuade her to that," said
O'Toole.

"Hush!" said Gaydon. He rose and unlocked the door. The doctor was
knocking for admission below. Gaydon let him in, and he dressed Wogan's
wounds with an assurance that they were not deep and that a few days'
quiet would restore him.

"I will sleep the night here if I may," said Wogan, as soon as the
doctor had gone. "A blanket and a chair will serve my turn."

They took him into Gaydon's bedroom, where three beds were ranged.

"We have slept in the one room and lived together since your message
came four days ago," said Gaydon. "Take your choice of the beds, for
there's not one of us has so much need of a bed as you."

Wogan drew a long breath of relief.

"Oh! but it's good to be with you," he cried suddenly, and caught at
Gaydon's arm. "I shall sleep to-night. How I shall sleep!"

He stretched out his aching limbs between the cool white sheets, and
when the lamp was extinguished he called to each of his three friends by
name to make sure of their company. O'Toole answered with a grunt on his
right, Misset on his left, and Gaydon from the corner of the room.

"But I have wanted you these last three days!" said Wogan. "To-morrow
when I tell you the story of them you will know how much I have wanted
you."

They got, however, some inkling of Wogan's need before the morrow came.
In the middle of the night they were wakened by a wild scream and heard
Wogan whispering in an agony for help. They lighted a lamp and saw him
lying with his hand upon his throat and his eyes starting from his head
with horror.

"Quick," said he, "the hand at my throat! It's not the letter so much,
it's my life they want."

"It's your own hand," said Gaydon, and taking the hand he found it
lifeless. Wogan's arm in that position had gone to sleep, as the saying
is. He had waked suddenly in the dark with the cold pressure at his
throat, and in the moment of waking was back again alone in the inn near
Augsburg. Wogan indeed needed his friends.




CHAPTER IX


The next morning Wogan was tossing from side to side in a high fever.
The fever itself was of no great importance, but it had consequences of
a world-wide influence, for it left Wogan weak and tied to his bed; so
that it was Gaydon who travelled to Rome and obtained the Pope's
passport. Gaydon consequently saw what otherwise Wogan would have seen;
and Gaydon, the cautious, prudent Gaydon, was careful to avoid making an
inopportune discovery, whereas Wogan would never have rested until he
had made it.

Gaydon stayed in Rome a week, lying snug and close in a lodging only one
street removed from that house upon the Tiber where his King lived.
Secrets had a way of leaking out, and Gaydon was determined that this
one should not through any inattention of his. He therefore never went
abroad until dark, and even then kept aloof from the house which
overlooked the Tiber. His business he conducted through his servant,
sending him to and fro between Edgar, the secretary, and himself. One
audience of his King alone he asked, and that was to be granted him on
the day of his departure from Rome.

Thus the time hung very heavily upon him. From daybreak to dusk he was
cooped within a little insignificant room which looked out upon a little
insignificant street. His window, however, though it promised little
diversion, was his one resource. Gaydon was a man of observation, and
found a pleasure in guessing at this and that person's business from his
appearance, his dress, and whether he went fast or slow. So he sat
steadily at his window, and after a day or two had passed he began to be
puzzled. The moment he was puzzled he became interested. On the second
day he drew his chair a little distance back from the window and
watched. On the third day he drew his chair close to the window, but at
the side and against the wall. In this way he could see everything that
happened and everyone who passed, and yet remain himself unobserved.

Almost opposite to his window stood a small mean house fallen into
neglect and disrepair. The windows were curtained with dust, many of the
panes were broken, the shutters hung upon broken hinges, the paint was
peeling from the door. The house had the most melancholy aspect of long
disuse. It seemed to belong to no one and to be crumbling pitifully to
ruin like an aged man who has no friends. Yet this house had its uses,
which Gaydon could not but perceive were of a secret kind. On the very
first day that Gaydon sat at his window a man, who seemed from his dress
to be of a high consideration, came sauntering along that sordid
thoroughfare, where he seemed entirely out of place, like a butterfly
on the high seas. To Gaydon's surprise he stopped at the door, gave a
cautious look round, and rapped quickly with his stick. At once the door
of that uninhabited house was opened. The man entered, the door was
closed upon him, and a good hour by Gaydon's watch elapsed before it was
opened again to let him out. In the afternoon another man came and was
admitted with the same secrecy. Both men had worn their hats drawn down
upon their foreheads, and whereas one of them held a muffler to his


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Online LibraryA.E. W. MasonClementina → online text (page 7 of 20)