Francis Lynde.

The master of Appleby; a novel concerning itself in part with the great struggle in the two Carolinas; but chiefly with the adventures therein of two gentlemen who loved one and the same lady online

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Online LibraryFrancis LyndeThe master of Appleby; a novel concerning itself in part with the great struggle in the two Carolinas; but chiefly with the adventures therein of two gentlemen who loved one and the same lady → online text (page 4 of 33)
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"Nay, you have changed all that, dear lady.
Truly, I did at first fly out at him and all con-
cerned for what has made me a poor pensioner in
my father's house or rather in the house that was
my father's. But that was while the hurt was new.
I have been a soldier of fortune too long to think
overmuch of the loss of Appleby Hundred. 'Twas
my father's, certainly ; but 'twas never mine."

"And yet and yet it should be yours, John Ire-
ton." She said it bravely, with uplifted face and
eloquent eyes that one who ran might read.

" 'Tis good and true of you to say so, little one ;
but there be two sides to that, as well. So my
father's acres come at last to you and Richard Jen-
nifer, I shall be well content, I do assure you,

She sprang up from Her low seat and went to
stand in the window-bay. After a time she turned


and faced me once again, and the warm blood was
in cheek and neck, and there was a soft light in her
eyes to make them shine like stars.

"Then you would have me marry Richard Jenni-
fer?" she asked.

'Twas but a little word that honor bade me say,
and yet it choked me and I could not say it.

"Dick would have you, Margery; and Dick is
my dear friend as I am his."

"But you?" she queried. "Were you my friend,
as well, is this as you would have it ?"

My look went past her through the lead-rimmed
window-panes to the great oaks and hickories on
the lawn ; to these and to the white road winding in
and out among them. While yet I sought for words
in which to give her unreservedly to my dear lad,
two horsemen trotted into view. One of them was
a king's man; the other a civilian in sober black.
The redcoat rode as English troopers do, with a
firm seat, as if the man were master of his mount ;
but the smaller man in black seemed little to the
manner born, and daylight shuttled in and out be-
neath him, keeping time to the jog-trot of his beast.

I thought it passing strange that with all good
will to answer her, these coming horsemen seemed
to hold me silent. And, indeed, I did not speak
until they came so near that I could make them

"I am your friend, Margery mine; as good a
friend as you will let me be. And as between Rich-


ard Jennifer and another, I should be a sorry friend
to Dick did I not "

She heard the clink of horseshoes on the gravel
and turned, signing to me for silence while she
looked below. The window overhung the entrance
on that side, and through the opened air-casement I
heard some babblement of voices, though not the

"I must go down," she said. " 'Tis company
come, and my father is away."

She passed behind my chair, and, hearing her
hand upon the latch, I had thought her gone gone
down to welcome my enemy and his riding mate,
the factor. But while I was cursing my unready
tongue and repenting that I had not given her some
small word of warning, she spoke again.

"You say 'Richard Jennifer or another.' What
know you of any other, Monsieur John ?"

"Nay, I know nothing save what you have told
me; and from that I have been hoping there was
no other."

"But if I say there may be?"

My heart went sick at that. True, I had thought
to give her generously to Dick, whose right was
paramount ; but to another

"Margery, come hither where I may see you."
And when she stood before me like a bidden child :
"Tell me, little comrade, who is that other ?"

But now her mood was changed again, and from
standing sweet and pensive she fell a-laughing.


"What impudence!" she cried. "Ma foil You
should borrow Pere Matthieu's cassock and brev-
iary; then, mayhap, I might confess to you. But
not before."

But still I pressed her.

"Tell me, Margery."

She tossed her head and would not look at me.
"Dick Jennifer is but a boy ; suppose this other were
a man full-grown."


"And a soldier."

The sickness in my heart became a fire.

"O Margery! Don't tell me it is this fiend who
came just now !"

All in a flash the jesting mood was gone, but
that which took its place was strange to me. Tears
came; her bosom heaved. And then she would
have passed me but I caught her hands and held
them fast.

"Margery, one moment : for your own sweet sake,
if not for Dick's or mine, have naught to do with
this devil's emissary of a man. If you only knew
if I dared tell you "

But for once, it seemed, I had stretched my privi-
lege beyond the limit. She whipped her hands from
my hold and faced me coldly.

"Sir Francis says you are a brave gentleman,
Captain Ireton, and though he knows well what you
would be about, Ke has not sent a file of men to
put you in arrest. And in return you call him


names behind his back. I shall not stay to listen,

With that she passed again behind my chair, and
once again I heard her hand upon the latch. But
I would say my say.

"Forgive me, Margery, I pray you; 'twas only
what you said that made me mad. 'Tis less than
naught if you'll deny it."

I waited long and patiently, and thought she must
have gone before her answer came. And this is
what she said :

"If I must tell you then ; 'tis now two weeks and
more since Sir Francis Falconnet asked me to marry
him. I I hope you do feel better, Captain Ire-

And with these bitterest of all words to her leave-
taking, she left me to endure as best I might the
hell of torment they had lighted for me.



It was full two days after the coming of the baro-
net and the factor-lawyer Pengarvin before I saw
my lady's face near-hand again, and sometimes I
was glad for Richard Jennifer's sake, but oftener
would curse and swear because I was bound hand
and foot and could not balk my enemy.

I knew Sir Francis and the lawyer still lingered
on at Appleby Hundred indeed, I saw them daily
from my window and Darius would be telling me
that they waited upon the coming of some courier
from the south. But this I disbelieved. Some such-
like lie the baronet might have told, I thought ; but
when I saw him walk abroad with Margery on his
arm, pacing back and forth beneath the oaks and
bending low to catch her lightest word with grave
and courtly deference that none knew better how to
feign, I knew wherefore he stayed knew and raged
afresh at my own impotence, and for the thought
that Margery was wholly at the mercy of this devil.

Yours is a colder century than was ours, my
dears. Your art has tempered love and passion into



sentiment, and hate you have learned to call aversion
or dislike. But we of that simple-hearted elder
time were more downright ; and I have writ the
word I mean in saying that my love was at the
mercy of this fiend.

I know not how it is or why, but there are men
who have this gift some winning way to turn a
woman's head or touch her heart ; and I knew well
this gift was his. 'Twas not his face, for that was
something less than handsome, to my fancy; nor
yet his figure, though that was big and soldierly
enough. It was rather in some subtlety of man-
ner, some power of simulation whereby in any
womanly heart he seemed to stand at will for that
which he was not.

As I have said, I knew him well enough ; knew
him incapable of love apart from passion, and that
to him there was no sacredness in maiden chastity
or wifely vows. So he but gained his end he cared
no whit what followed after; ruin, broken hearts,
lost souls, a man slain now and then to keep the
scale from tipping all were as one to him, or to
the Francis Falconnet I knew.

And touching marriage, with Margery or any
other, I feared that love would have no word to
say. Passion there might be, and that fierce desire
to have and wear which burns like any miser's fever
in the blood ; but never love as lovers measure it.
Why, then, had he proposed to Margery ? The an-
swer did not tarry. Since he was now but a gentle-
man volunteer it was plain that he had squandered


his estate, and so might brook the marriage chain
if it were linked up with my father's acres.

It was a bait to lure such a gamester strongly.
As matters stood with us in that wan summer of
exhaustion and defeat, the king's cause waxed and
grew more hopeful day by day. And in event of
final victory a landless baronet, marrying Margery's
dower of Appleby Hundred, might snap his fingers
at the Jews who, haply, had driven him forth from

And as for Margery? Truly, she had told me,
or as good as told me, that her maiden love had
pledged itself a pawn for Jennifer's redeeming. But
there be other things than love to sway a woman's
will. This volunteer captain with the winning way
was of the haute noblesse, and he could make her
Lady Falconnet. Moreover, he was with her day
by day ; and you may mark this as you will ; that a
present suitor hath ever the trump cards to play
against the absent lover.

So, brooding over this, I wore out two most dis-
mal days the first in many I had had to pass alone.
But on the morning of the third the sky was light-
ened, though then the light was but a flash and
darkness followed quickly after. She came again
and brought me a visitor; it was this same Father
Matthieu with whom she had jestingly compared
me, and lest I should take my punishment too lightly,
stayed but to make the good priest known to me.

Now I was born and bred an heretic, by any
papist's reckoning, but I have ever held it witless in


that man who lets a creed obstruct a friendship.
Moreover, this sweet-faced cleric was the friendliest
of men ; friendly, and yet the wiliest Jesuit of them
all, since he read me at a glance and fell straight-
way to praising Margery.

"A truly sweet young demoiselle," he said, by
way of foreword, no sooner was the door closed
behind her, and while he preached a sermon on this
text I grew to know and love him.

He was a little man, as bone and muscle go, with
deep-set eyes, and features kind and mild and fine
as any woman's ; some such face as Leonardo gave
St. John, could that have been less youthful. I
could not tell his order, though from his well-worn
cassock girded at the waist with a frayed bit of
hempen cord he might have been a Little Brother
of the Poor. But this I noted; that he was not
tonsured, and his white hair, soft and fine as Mar-
gery's, was like an aureole to the finely chiseled
features. As missionary men of any creed are apt,
he looked far older than he really was; and when
he came to tell me of his life among the Indians,
it was patent how the years had multiplied upon

I listened, well enough' content to learn him bet-
ter by his own report.

"But you must find it thankless work; this gos-
peling in the wilderness," I ventured, when all was
said. " Tis but a hermit's life for any man of
parts; and after all, when you have done your ut-
most, your converts are but savages, as they were."


At this he smiled and shook his head. "Non,
Monsieur, not so. You are a soldier and can not
see beyond your point of sword. Mais, mon ami,
they have souls to save, these poor children of the
forest, and they are far more sinned against than
sinning. I find them kind and true and faithful ;
and some of them are noble, in their way."

I laughed. "I've read about those noble ones,"
I said. " 'Twas in a book called 'Hakluyt's Voy-
ages.' Truly, I know them not as you do, for in
my youth I knew them most in war. We called
them brave but cruel then ; and when I was a boy I
could have shown you where, within a mile of this,
they burned poor Davie Davidson at the stake."

"Ah, yes; there has been much of that," he
sighed. "But you must confess, Captain Ireton,
that you English carry fire and sword among them,

From that he would have told me more about the
savages, but I was interested nearer home. As I
have said, I was like any prisoner in a dungeon
for lack of news, and so by degrees I fetched him
round to telling me of what was going on beyond
my window-sight of lawn and forest.

Brave deeds were to the fore, it seemed. At
Ramsour's Mill, a few miles north and west, some
little handful of determined patriots had bested
thrice their number of the king's partizans, and that
without a leader bigger than a county colonel.
Lord Rawdon, in command of Lord Cornwallis's
van, had come as far as Waxhaw Creek, but, being


unsupported, had withdrawn to Hanging Rock.
Our Mr. Rutherford was on his way to the Forks
of Yadkin to engage the Tories gathering under
Colonel Bryan. As yet, it seemed, we had no force
of any consequence to take the field against Corn-
wallis, though there were flying rumors of an army
marching from Virginia, with a new-appointed gen-
eral at its head.

On the whole it was the king's cause that pros-
pered, and the rising wave of invasion bade fair to
inundate the land. So thought my kindly gossip;
and, having naught to gain or lose in the great war,
or rather having naught to lose and everything to
gain, whichever way these worldly cards might run,
he was a fair, impartial witness.

As you may well suppose, this news awoke in me
the lust of battle, and I must chafe the more for
having it. And while my visitor talked on, and I
was listening with the outward ear, my brain was
busy putting two and two together. How came it
that the British outpost still remained at Queens-
borough, with my Lord Rawdon withdrawn and the
patriot home guard well down upon its rear ? Some
urgent reason for the stay there must be; and at
that I remembered what Darius had told me of its
captain's waiting for some messenger from the

I scored this matter with a question mark, putting
it aside to think on more when I should be alone.
And when the priest had told me all the news at
large, we came again to speak of Margery.


"I go and come through all this borderland," he
said, when I had asked him how and why he came
to Appleby Hundred, "but it was mam'selle's mes-
sage brought me here. She is my one ewe lamb in
all this region, and I would journey far to see her."

I wondered pointedly at this, for in that day the
West was fiercely Protestant and the Mother
Church had scanty footing in the borderland.

"But Mistress Margery is not a Catholic !" said I.

His look forgave the protest in the words.

"Indeed, she is, my son. Has she not told you ?"

Now truly she had not told me so in any measured
word or phrase; and yet I might have guessed it,
since she had often spoken lovingly of this same
Father Matthieu. And yet it was incredible to me.

"But how I do not understand how that can
be," I stammered. "Surely, she told me she was of
Huguenot blood on the mother's side, and that

The missionary's smile was lenient still, but full
of meaning.

"Not all wKo wander from the Catholic fold are
lost forever, Captain Ireton. The mother of this
demoiselle lived all her life a Protestant, I think,
but when she came to die she sent for me. And
that is how her child was sent to France and grew
up convent-bred. Monsieur Stair gave his promise
at the mother's death-bed, and though he liked it not,
he kept it."

"Aha, I see. And for this single lamb of your
scant fold you brave the terrors of our heretic back-


woods? It does you credit, Father Matthieu. The
war fills all horizons now, mayhap, but I have seen
the time in Mecklenburg when your cassock would
have been a challenge to the mob."

His smile was quite devoid of bitterness. "The
time has not yet passed," he said, gently. "I have
been six weeks on the way from Maryland hither,
hiding in the forest by day and faring on at night.
Indeed, I was in hiding on a neighboring planta-
tion when our demoiselle's messenger found me."

This put me keen upon remembering what had
gone before; how he had said at first that she had
sent for him. I thought it strange, knowing how
perilous the time and place must be for such as he.
But not until he rose and, bidding me good day,
left me to myself, did I so much as guess the thing
his coming meant. When I had guessed it; when
I put this to that her telling me Sir Francis had
proposed for her, and this her sending for the
priest the madness of my love for her was as
naught compared to that anger which seized and
racked me.

I know not how the hours of this black day were
made to come and go, grinding me to dust and
ashes in their passage, yet leaving me alive and
keen to suffer at the end.

A thousand times that day I lived in torment
through the scene in which the priest had doubtless
come to play his part of joiner. The stage for it
would be the great room fronting south ; the room
my father used to call our castle hall. For guests


I thought there would be space enough and some to
spare, for, as you know, our Mecklenburg was
patriot to the core. But as to this, the bridegroom's
troopers might fill out the tale, and in my heated
fancy I could see them grouped beneath the candle-
sconces with belts and baldrics fresh pipe-clayed,
and shakos doffed, and sabretaches well in front.
"A man full-grown a soldier," she had said; and
trooper-guests were fitting in such case.

From serving in a Catholic land I knew the cus-
toms of the Mother Church. So I could see the
priest in cassock, alb and stole as he would stand
before some makeshift altar lit with candles. And
as he stands they come to kneel before him; my
winsome Margery in all her royal beauty, a child
to love, and yet an empress peerless in her woman's
realm ; and at her side, with his knee touching hers,
this man who was a devil!

i What wonder if I cursed and choked and cursed
again when the maddening thought of what all this
should mean for my poor wounded Richard and
later on, for Margery herself possessed me? In
which of these hot fever-gusts of rage the thought
of interference came, I know not. But that it came
at length a thought and plan full-grown at birth
I do know.

i The pointing of the plan was desperate and sim-
ple. It was neither more nor less than this: I
knew the house and every turn and passage in it,
and when the hour should strike I said I should go
down and skulk among the guests, and at the cru-


cial moment find or seize a weapon and fling my-
self upon this bridegroom as he should kneel before
the altar.

With strength to bend him back and strike one
blow, I saw not 'why it might not win. And as for
strength, I have learned this in war: that so the
rage be hot enough 'twill nerve a dying man to
hack and hew and stab as with the strength of ten.

Although it was most terribly over-long in com-
ing, the end of that black day did come at last, and
with it Darius to fetch my supper and the candles.
You may be sure I questioned him, and, if you
know the blacks, you'll smile and say I had my la-
bor for my pains the which I had. His place was
at the quarters, and of what went on within the
house he knew no more than I. But this he told
me; that company surely was expected, and that
some air of mystery was abroad.

When he was gone I ate a soldier's portion,
knowing of old how ill a thing it is to take an empty
stomach into battle. For the same cause I drank a
second cup of wine, 'twas old madeira of my
father's laying-in, and would have drunk a third
but that the bottle would not yield it.

It was fully dark when I had finished, and, think-
ing ever on my plan, would strive afresh to weld
its weakest link. This was the hazard of the
weapon-getting. With full-blood health and
strength I might have gone bare-handed ; but as it
was, I feared to take the chance. So with a candle
I went a-prowling in the deep drawers of the old


oaken clothes-press and in the escritoire which once
had been my mother's, and found no weapon bigger
than a hairpin.

It was no great disappointment, for I had looked
before with daylight in the room. Besides, the wine
was mounting, and when the search was done the
hazard seemed the less. So I could rush upon him
unawares and put my knee against his back, I
thought the Lord of Battles would give me strength
to break his neck across it.

At that I capped the candles, and, taking post in
the deep bay of the window, set myself to watch
for the lighting of the great room at the front. This
had two windows on my side, and while I could not
see them, I knew that I should see the sheen of
light upon the lawn.

The night was clear but moonless, and the thick-
leafed masses of the oaks and hickories rose a wall
of black to curtain half the hemisphere of starry
sky. As always in our forest land, the hour was
shrilly vocal, though to me the chirping din of
frogs and insects hath ever stood for silence. Some-
where beyond the thicket-wall an owl was calling
mournfully, and I bethought me of that supersti-
tion old as man, for aught I know of how the
hooting of an owl betokens death. And then I
laughed, for surely death would come to one or
more of those beneath my father's roof within the
compass of the night.

Behind the close-drawn curtain, though I could
see it not, the virgin forest darkened all the land ;


and from afar within its secret depth's I heard, or
thought I heard, the dismal howling of the timber
wolves. Below, the house was silent as the grave,
and this seemed strange to me. For in the time of
my youth a wedding was a joyous thing. Yet I
would remember that these present times were per-
ilous ; and also that my bridegroom captained but a
little band of troopers in a land but now become
fiercely debatable.

It must have been an hour or more before the
sound of distance-muffled hoofbeats on the road
broke in upon the chirping silence of the night. I
looked and listened, straining eye and ear, hearing
but little and seeing less until three shadowy horse-
men issued from the curtain-wall of black beneath
my window.

It was plain that others watched as well as I, for
at their coming a sheen of light burst from the
opened door below, at which there were sword-
clankings as of armed men dismounting, and then
a few low-voiced words of welcome. Followed
quickly the closing of the door and silence; and
when my eyes grew once again accustomed to the
gloom, I saw below the horses standing head to
head, and in the midst a man to hold them.

"So!" I thought; "but three in all, and one of
them a servant. 'Twill be a scantly guested wed-
ding." And then I raged within again to think of
how my love should be thus dishonored in a corner
when she should have the world to clap its Hands
and praise her beauty.


At that, and while I looked, the lawn was banded
farther on by two broad beams of light ; and then I
knew my time was come.

Feeling my way across the darkened chamber I
softly tried the door-latch. It yielded at the touch,
but not the door. I pulled, and braced myself and
pulled again. 'Twas but a waste of strength. The
door was fast with that contrivance wherewith my
father used to bar me in what time I was a boy and
would go raccooning with our negro hunters. My
enemy was no fool. He had been shrewd enough
to lock me in against the chance of interruption.

I wish you might conceive the helpless horror
grappling with me there behind that fastened door ;
but this, indeed, you may not, having felt it not.
For one dazed moment I was sick as death with
fear an4 frenzy and I know not what besides, and all
the blackness of the night swam sudden red before
my eyes. Then, in the twinkling of an eye, the
madness left me cool and sane, as if the fit had been
the travail-pain of some new birth of soul. And
after that, as I remember, I knew not rage nor haste
nor weakness knew no other thing save this ; that I
had set myself a task to do and I would do it.

My window was in shape like half a cell of honey-
comb, and close beside it on the outer wall there
grew an ancient ivy-vine which more than once had
held my weight when I was younger and would
evade my father's vigilance.

I swung the casement noiselessly and clambered
out, with hand and foot in proper hold as if those


youthful flittings of my boyhood days had been but
yesternight. A breathless minute later I was down
and afoot on solid ground ; and then a thing chanced
which I would had not. The man whom I had
called a servant turned and saw me.

"Halt ! Who goes there ?" he cried.

Online LibraryFrancis LyndeThe master of Appleby; a novel concerning itself in part with the great struggle in the two Carolinas; but chiefly with the adventures therein of two gentlemen who loved one and the same lady → online text (page 4 of 33)