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Amelia Edith Huddleston Barr.

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all the evening, and was not amiable. As he stood behind her chair, Lord
Leffham asked, -

"What think you, Hyde, of a party at picquet?"

"Oh, indeed, my lord, you are too much for me!"

"I will give you three points." Then, calling a footman, "Here, fellow,
get cards."

Lady Capel flung her own down. "No, no, Leffham. Spare my grandson:
there are bigger fish here. Dick, I am angry at you. I have a mind to
banish you for a month."

"I am going to Norfolk for two weeks, madam."

[Illustration: "Dick, I am angry at you"]

"That will do. It is a worse punishment than I should have given you.
Norfolk! There is only one word between it and the plantations. At this
time of the year, it is a clay pudding full of villages. Give me your
arm, Dick; I shall play no more until my luck turns again. Losing cards
are dull company indeed."

"I am very sorry that you have been losing. I came to ask for the loan
of a hundred pounds, grandmother."

"No, sir, I will not lend you a hundred pounds; nor am I in the humour
to do anything else you desire."

"I make my apology for the request. I ought to have asked Katherine."

"No, sir, you ought not to have asked Katherine. You ought to take what
you want. Jack Capel took every shilling of my fortune and neither said
'by your leave' nor 'thank you.' Did the Dutchman tie the bag too
close?"

"Councillor Van Heemskirk left it open, in my honour. When I am
scoundrel enough to touch it, I shall not come and see you at all,
grandmother."

"Upon my word, a very pretty compliment! Well, sir, I'll pay you a
hundred pounds for it. When do you start?"

"To-morrow morning."

"Make it afternoon, and take care of me as far as your aunt Julia's. The
duke is of the royal bed-chamber this month, and I am going to see my
daughter while he is away. It will make him supremely wretched at court
to know that I am in his house. So I am going there, and I shall take
care he knows it."

"I have heard a great deal of his new house."

"A play-house kind of affair, Dick, I assure you, - all in the French
style; gods and goddesses above your head, and very badly dressed nymphs
all around, and his pedigree on every window, and his coat of arms on
the very stairs. I have the greatest satisfaction in treading upon them,
I assure you."

"Why do you take the trouble to go? It can give you no pleasure."

"Imagine the true state of things, Dick. The duke is at court - say he is
holding the royal gold wash-basin; but in the very sunshine of King
George's smile, he is thinking, 'That snuffy old woman is lounging in my
white and gilt satin chairs, and handling all my Chinese curiosities,
and asking if every hideous Hindoo idol is a fresh likeness of me.' I am
always willing to take some trouble to give pleasure to the people I
like; I will gladly go to any amount of trouble to annoy the people I
hate as cordially as I hate my good, rich, noble son-in-law, the great
Duke of Exmouth."

"Will you play again?"

"No; I lost seventy pounds to-night."

"I protest, grandmother, that such high stakes go not with amusement.
People come here, not for civility, but for the chance of money."

"Very well, sir. Money! It is the only excuse for card-playing. All the
rest is sinning without temptation. But, Dick, put on the black coat to
preach in, - why do they wear black to preach in? - and I am not in a
humour for a sermon. Come to-morrow at one o'clock; we shall reach
Julia's before dinner. And I dare say you want money to-night. Here are
the keys of my desk. In the right-hand drawer are some _rouleaus_ of
fifty pounds each. Take two."

[Illustration: She was softly singing to the drowsy child]

The weather, as Lady Capel said, was "so very Decemberish" that the
roads were passably good, being frozen dry and hard; and on the evening
of the third day Hyde came in sight of his home. His heart warmed to the
lonely place; and the few lights in its windows beckoned him far more
pleasantly than the brilliant illuminations of Vauxhall or Almacks, or
even the cold splendours of royal receptions. He had given Katherine no
warning of his visit - partly because he had a superstitious feeling
about talking of expected joys (he had noticed that when he did so they
vanished beyond his grasp); partly because love, like destiny, loves
surprises; and he wanted to see with his own eyes, and hear with his own
ears, the glad tokens of her happy wonder.

So he rode his horse upon the turf, and, seeing a light in the stable,
carried him there at once. It was just about the hour of the evening
meal, and the house was brighter than it would have been a little later.
The kitchen fire threw great lustres across the brick-paved yard; and
the blinds in Katherine's parlour were undrawn, and its fire and
candle-light shone on the freshly laid tea-table, and the dark walls
gleaming with bunches of holly and mistletoe. But she was not there. He
only glanced inside the room, and then, with a smile on his face, went
swiftly upstairs. He had noticed the light in the upper windows, and he
knew where he would find his wife. Before he reached the nursery, he
heard Katherine's voice. The door was a little open, and he could see
every part of the charming domestic scene within the room. A middle-aged
woman was quietly putting to rights the sweet disorder incident to the
undressing of the baby. Katherine had played with it until they were
both a little flushed and weary; and she was softly singing to the
drowsy child at her breast.

It was a very singular chiming melody, and the low, sweet, tripping
syllables were in a language quite unknown to him. But he thought that
he had never heard music half so sweet and tender; and he listened to
it, and watched the drowsy, swaying movements of the mother, with a
strange delight, -

"Trip a trop a tronjes,
De varkens in de boonjes,
De keojes in de klaver,
De paardeen in de haver,
De eenjes in de waterplass,
So groot mijn kleine Joris wass."

Over and over, softer and slower, went the melody. It was evident that
the boy was asleep, and that Katherine was going to lay him in his
cradle. He watched her do it; watched her gently tuck in the cover, and
stand a moment to look down at the child. Then with a face full of love
she turned away, smiling, and quite unconsciously came toward him on
tiptoes. With his face beaming, with his arms opened, he entered; but
with such a sympathetic understanding of the sweet need of silence and
restraint that there was no alarm, no outcry, no fuss or amazement. Only
a whispered "Katherine," and the swift rapture of meeting hearts and
lips.

[Illustration: Chapter heading]




XIII.

"_Death asks for no man's leave,
But lifts the latch, and enters, and sits down_."


The great events of most lives occur in epochs. A certain period is
marked by a succession of important changes, but that ride of fortune,
be it good or ill, culminates, recedes, goes quite out, and leaves life
on a level beach of commonplaces. Then, sooner or later, the current of
affairs turns again; sometimes with a calm, irresistible flow, sometimes
in a tidal wave of sudden and overwhelming strength. After Hyde's and
Katherine's marriage, there was a long era noticeable only for such
vicissitudes as were incident to their fortune and position. But in May,
A.D. 1774, the first murmur of the returning tide of destiny was heard.
Not but what there had been for long some vague and general expectation
of momentous events which would touch many individual lives; but this
May night, a singular prescience of change made Hyde restless and
impatient.

It was a dull, drizzling evening; and there was an air of depression in
the city, to which he was unusually sensitive. For the trouble between
England and her American Colonies was rapidly culminating; and party
feeling ran high, not only among civilians, but throughout the royal
regiments. Recently, also, a petition had been laid before the king from
the Americans then resident in London, praying him not to send troops to
coerce his subjects in America; and, when Hyde entered his club, some
members were engaged in an angry altercation on this subject.

"The petition was flung upon the table, as it ought to have been," said
Lord Paget.

"You are right," replied Mr. Hervey; "they ought to petition no longer.
They ought now to resist. Mr. Dunning said in the House last night that
the tone of the Government to the Colonies was, 'Resist, and we will cut
your throats: acquiesce, and we will tax you.'"

"A kind of 'stand and deliver' government," remarked Hyde, whistling
softly.

Lord Paget turned upon him with hardly concealed anger. "Captain, you,
sir, wear the king's livery."

"I give the king my service: my thoughts are my own. And, faith, Lord
Paget, it is my humour to utter them when and how I please!"

"Patience, gentlemen," returned Mr. Hervey. "I think, my lord, we may
follow our leaders. The Duke of Richmond spoke warmly for Boston last
night. 'The Bostonians are punished without a hearing,' he said; 'and if
they resist punishment, I wish them success.' Are they not Englishmen,
and many of them born on English soil? When have Englishmen submitted to
oppression? Neither king, lords, nor commons can take away the rights of
the people. It is past a doubt, too, that his Majesty, at the levee last
night, laughed when he said he would just as lief fight the Bostonians
as the French. I heard this speech was received with a dead silence, and
that great offence was given by it."

"I think the king was right," said Paget passionately. "Rebellious
subjects are worse than open enemies like the French."

"My lord, you must excuse me if I do not agree with your opinions. Was
the king right to give a government to the Canadians at this precise
time? What can his Protestant North-American subjects think, but that he
designs the hundred thousand Catholics of Canada against their
liberties? It is intolerable; and the king was mobbed this afternoon in
the park, on the matter. As for the bishops who voted the Canada bill,
they ought to be unfrocked."

"Mr. Hervey, I beg to remind you that my uncle, who is of the see of St.
Cuthbert, voted for it."

"Oh, it is notorious that all the English bishops, excepting only Dr.
Shipley, voted for war with America! I hear that they anticipate an
hierarchy there when the country is conquered. And the fight has begun
at home, for Parliament is dissolved on the subject."

"It died in the Roman-Catholic faith," laughed Hyde, "and left us a
rebellion for a legacy."

"Captain Hyde, you are a traitor."

"Lord Paget, I deny it. My loyalty does not compel me to swear by all
the follies and crimes of the Government. My sword is my country's; but
I would not for twenty kings draw it against my own countrymen," - then,
with a meaning glance at Lord Paget and an emphatic touch of his
weapon, - "except in my own private quarrel. And if this be treason, let
the king look to it. He will find such treason in every regiment in
England. They say he is going to hire Hessians: he will need them for
his American business, for he has no prerogative to force Englishmen to
murder Englishmen."

"I would advise you to be more prudent, Captain Hyde, if it is in your
power."

"I would advise you to mind your own affairs, Lord Paget."

"It is said that you married an American."

"If you are perfectly in your senses, my lord, leave my affairs alone."

"For my part, I never believed it; and now that Lady Suffolk is a widow,
with revenues, possibly you may" -

"Ah, you are jealous, I perceive!" and Hyde laughed scornfully, and
turned on his heel as if to go upstairs.

Lord Paget followed, and laid his hand upon Hyde's arm.

"Hands off, my lord. Hands off all that belongs to me. And I advise you
also to cease your impertinent attentions to my cousin, Lady Suffolk."

"Gentlemen," said Mr. Hervey, "this is no time for private quarrels;
and, Captain, here is a fellow with a note for you. It is my Lady
Capel's footman, and he says he comes in urgent speed."

Hyde glanced at the message. "It is a last command, Mr. Harvey; and I
must beg you to say what is proper for my honour to Lord Paget. Lady
Capel is at the death-point, and to her requests I am first bounden."

It was raining hard when he left the club, a most dreary night in the
city. The coach rattled through the muddy streets, and brought, as it
went along, many a bored, heavy countenance to the steaming windows, to
watch and to wonder at its pace. Lady Capel had been death-stricken
while at whist, and she had not been removed from the parlour in which
she had been playing her last game. She was stretched upon a sofa in the
midst of the deserted tables, yet covered with scattered cards and
half-emptied tea-cups. Only Lady Suffolk and a physician were with her;
though the corridor was full of terrified, curious servants, gloating
not unkindly over such a bit of sensation in their prosaic lives.

At this hour it was evident that, above everything in the world, the old
lady had loved the wild extravagant grandson, whose debts she had paid
over and over, and whom she had for years alternately petted and
scolded.

"O Dick," she whispered, "I've got to die! We all have. I've had a good
time, Dick."

"Shall I go for cousin Harold? I can bring him in an hour."

"No, no. I want no priests; no better than we are, Dick. Harold is a
proud sinner; Lord, what a proud sinner he is!" Then, with a glint of
her usual temper, "He'd snub the twelve apostles if he met them without
mitres. No priests, Dick. It is you I want. I have left you eight
thousand pounds - all I could save, Dick. Everything goes back to William
now; but the eight thousand pounds is yours. Arabella is witness to it.
Dick, Dick, you will think of me sometimes?"

And Hyde kissed her fondly. Ugly, heartless, sinful, she might be to
others; but to him she had been a double mother. "I'll never forget
you," he answered; "never, grandmother."

"I know what the town will say: 'Well, well, old Lady Capel has gone to
her deserts at last.' Don't mind them, Dick. Let them talk. They will
have to go too; it's the old round - meat and mirth, and then to
bed - a - long - sleep."

"Grandmother?"

"I hear you, Dick. Good-night."

"Is there anything you want done? Think, dear grandmother."

"Don't let Exmouth come to my funeral. I don't want him - grinning
over - my coffin."

"Any other thing?"

"Put me beside Jack Capel. I wonder - if I shall - see Jack." A shadow,
gray and swift, passed over her face. Her eyes flashed one piteous look
into Hyde's eyes, and then closed forever.

And while in the rainy, dreary London twilight Lady Capel was dying,
Katherine was in the garden at Hyde Manor, watching the planting of
seeds that were in a few weeks to be living things of beauty and
sweetness. It had ceased raining at noon in Norfolk, and the gravel
walks were perfectly dry, and the air full of the fragrance of
innumerable violets. All the level land was wearing buttercups. Full of
secrets, of fluttering wings, and building nests were the trees. In the
apple-blooms the bees were humming, delirious with delight. From the
beehives came the peculiar and exquisite odour of virgin wax. Somewhere
near, also, the gurgle of running water spread an air of freshness all
around.

[Illustration: She was stretched upon a sofa]

And Katherine, with a little basket full of flower-seeds, was going with
the gardener from bed to bed, watching him plant them. No one who had
seen her in the childlike loveliness of her early girlhood could have
imagined the splendour of her matured beauty. She had grown "divinely
tall," and the exercise of undisputed authority had added a gracious
stateliness of manner. Her complexion was wonderful, her large blue eyes
shining with tender lights, her face full of sympathetic revelations.
Above all, she had that nameless charm which comes from a freedom from
all anxious thought for the morrow; that charm of which the sweet secret
is generally lost after the twentieth summer. Her basket of seeds was
clasped to her side within the hollow of her left arm, and with her
right hand she lifted a long petticoat of quilted blue satin. Above this
garment she wore a gown of wood-coloured taffeta, sprigged with
rose-buds, and a stomacher of fine lace to match the deep rufflings on
her elbow-sleeves.

Little Joris was with his mother, running hither and thither, as his
eager spirits led him: now pausing to watch her drop from her white
fingers the precious seed into its prepared bed, anon darting after some
fancied joy among the pyramidal yews, and dusky treillages, and cradle
walks of holly and privet. For, as Sir Thomas Swaffham said, "Hyde
garden looked just as if brought from Holland;" and especially so in the
spring, when it was ablaze with gorgeous tulips and hyacinths.

She had heard much of Lady Capel, and she had a certain tenderness for
the old woman who loved her husband so truly; but no thought of her
entered into Katherine's mind that calm evening hour. Neither had she
any presentiment of sorrow. Her soul was happy and untroubled, and she
lingered in the sweet place until the tender touch of gray twilight was
over fen and field. Then her maid, with a manner full of pleasant
excitement, came to her, and said, -

"Here be a London pedler, madam; and he do have all the latest fashions,
and the news of the king and the Americans."

Now, for many reasons, the advent of a London pedler was a great and
pleasant event at the Manor House. Katherine had that delightful and
excusable womanly foible, a love of fine clothing; and shops for its
sale were very rare, even in towns of considerable size. It was from
packmen and hawkers that fine ladies bought their laces and ribbons and
gloves; their precious toilet and hair pins, their paints and powders,
and India scarfs and fans, and even jewellery. These hawkers were also
the great news-bearers to the lonely halls and granges and farmhouses;
and they were everywhere sure of a welcome, and of such entertainment as
they required. Generally each pedler had his recognized route and
regular customers; but occasionally a strange dealer called, and such,
having unfamiliar wares, was doubly welcome. "Is it Parkins, Lettice?"
asked Katherine, as she turned with interest toward the house.

"No, ma'am, it isn't Parkins; and I do think as the man never showed a
face in Hyde before; but he do say that he has a miracle of fine
things."

In a few minutes he was exhibiting them to Katherine, and she was too
much interested in the wares to notice their merchant particularly.

Indeed, he had one of those faces which reveal nothing; a face flat,
hard, secret as a wall, wrinkled as an old banner. He was a hale,
thick-set man, dressed in breeches of corduroy, and a sleeved waistcoat
down to his knees of the same material. His fur cap was on the carpet
beside his pack; and he had a fluent tongue in praise of his wares, as
he hung his silks over Lettice's outstretched arm, or arranged the
scarfs across her shoulders.

There was a slow but mutually satisfactory exchange of goods and money;
and then the pedler began to repack his treasures, and Lettice to carry
away the pretty trifles and the piece of satin her mistress had bought.
Then, also, he found time to talk, to take out the last newspapers, and
to describe the popular dissatisfaction at the stupid tyranny of the
Government toward the Colonies. For either from information, or by some
process rapid as instinct, he understood to which side Katherine's
sympathies went.

"Here be the 'Flying Postman,' madam, with the great speech of Mr. Burke
in it about the port of Boston; but it won't do a mossel o' good, madam,
though he do tell 'em to keep their hands out o' the Americans'
pockets."

"The port of Boston?"

"See you, madam, they are a-going to shut the port o' Boston, and make
Salem the place of entry; that's to punish the Bostonians; and Mr.
Burke, he says, 'The House has been told that Salem is only seventeen
miles from Boston but justice is not an idea of geography, and the
Americans are condemned without being heard. Yet the universal custom,
on any alteration of charters, is to hear the parties at the bar of the
House. Now, the question is, Are the Americans to be heard, or not,
before the charter is broken for our convenience?... The Boston bill is
a diabolical bill.'"

He read aloud this bit of Mr. Burke's fiery eloquence, in a high,
droning voice, and would, according to his custom, have continued the
entertainment; but Katherine, preferring to use her own intelligence,
borrowed the paper and was about to leave the room with it, when he
suddenly remembered a scarf of great beauty which he had not shown.

"I bought it for my Lady Suffolk," he said; "but Lord Suffolk died
sudden, and black my lady had to wear. It's forrin, madam; and here it
is - the very colour of affradiles. But mayhap, as it is candle-teening,
you'd like to wait till the day comes again."

A singular look of speculation came into Katherine's face. She examined
the scarf without delay; and, as she fingered the delicate silk, she led
the man on to talk of Lady Suffolk, though, indeed, he scarcely needed
the stimulus of questioning. Without regard as to whether Katherine was
taking any interest or not in his information, he detailed with hurried
avidity the town talk that had clung to her reputation for so many
years; and he so fully described the handsome cavalry officer that was
her devoted attendant that Katherine had no difficulty in recognizing
her husband, even without the clews which her own knowledge of the
parties gave her.

She stood in the gray light by the window, fingering the delicate
satin, and listening. The pedler glanced from his goods to her face, and
talked rapidly, interloping bits of news about the court and the
fashions; but going always back to Lady Suffolk and her lover, and what
was likely to take place now that Lord Suffolk was out of the way.
"Though there's them that do say the captain has a comely wife hid up in
the country."

Suddenly she turned and faced the stooping man: "Your scarf take: I will
not have it. No, and I will not have anything that I have bought from
you. All of the goods you shall receive back; and my money, give it to
me. You are no honest hawker: you are a bad man, who have come here for
a bad woman. You know that of my husband you have been talking - I mean
_lying_. You know that this is his house, and that his true wife am I.
Not one more word shall you speak. - Lettice, bring here all the goods I
bought from this man; poisoned may be the unguents and scents and
gloves. Of such things I have heard."

She had spoken with an angry rapidity that for the moment confounded the
stranger; but at this point he lifted himself with an insolent air, and
said, "The goods be bought and paid for, madam; and, in faith, I will
not buy them back again."

"In faith, then, I will send for Sir Thomas Swaffham. A magistrate is
he, and Captain Hyde's friend. Not one penny of my money shall you have;
for, indeed, your goods I will not wear."

She pointed then to the various articles which Lettice had brought
back; and, with the shrug of a man who accepts the inevitable, he
replaced them in his pack, and then ostentatiously counted back the
money Katherine had given him. She examined every coin, and returned a
crown. "My piece this is not. It may be false. I will have the one I
gave to you. - Lettice, bring here water in a bowl; let the silver and
gold lay in it until morning."

[Illustration: She stood in the gray light by the window]

And, turning to the pedler, "Your cap take from the floor, and go."

"Of a truth, madam, you be not so cruel as to turn me on the fens, and
it a dark night. There be bogs all about; and how the road do lay for
the next house, I know not."

"The road to my house was easy to find; well, then, you can find the
road back to whoever it was sent you here. With my servants you shall
not sit; under my roof you shall not stay."

"I have no mind to go."

"See you the mastiff at my feet? I advise you stir him not up, for
death is in his jaw. To the gate, and with good haste! In one half-hour
the kennels I will have opened. If then within my boundaries you are, it
is at your life's peril."

She spoke without passion and without hurry or alarm; but there was no
mistaking the purpose in her white, resolute face and fearless attitude.


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