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J. C. (John Collis) Snaith.

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should not have hesitated to try to find a purchaser for our equipage,
difficult as the matter might have proved. For I was convinced that we
were really in a more unsafe situation now than ever before. It would
be impossible to avoid publicity; and at every inn we came to we should
be the objects of conjecture, and everything pertaining to us would be
discussed and commented on. Besides, we could no longer sleep where we
listed. The horses would require rest and succour whatever the
deprivations of their masters.

After addressing and re-addressing ourselves to the great problem of
how to obtain the service of innkeepers without paying for the same, we
came to the conclusion that we could best hope to do so by adopting a
former expedient, which was attended with not unhappy results. In lieu
of hard cash we must present them with a grievous tale of being stopped
by a highwayman, who had taken our last penny. To do this with the
best effect, however, we must neglect no opportunity of maintaining in
our own persons the status of our chaise and horses. My own attire did
well enough for an ostler, but as our friend Mr. Sadler had pointed
out, it was likely to detract from the story we had to tell.
Therefore, I decided to exchange my raiment for the more appropriate
clothes of Mr. Waring. I did not apprehend any difficulty in regard to
the fit, as we were greatly alike in stature.

With this end in view I selected the necessary articles of apparel from
the box, and left Cynthia to take care of our vehicle, whilst I retired
into the shelter of a neighbouring hedge and made a complete
transformation of my outward semblance. Mrs. Cynthia was hugely
delighted at the result. She had never quite been able to acquiesce in
my late style, and her feelings on the subject were pretty clearly
indicated by her immense satisfaction now.

"Shoes, and silk stockings too," says she with a childlike pleasure.
"And what a dear laced coat, and what nice white ruffles! I am certain
you make a far more perfect gentleman than you do an ostler, though to
be sure you are greatly lacking a shave."

"It is ever so," says I. "The moment one goes up in the world one's
responsibilities multiply. When I was an ostler my unrazored chin
passed without comment; but the moment I improve my condition I must
shave every morning, or else be more miserable than ever I was in my
former station."

Mrs. Cynthia was too preoccupied with my appearance to chide me for
long-winded truisms of this sort. I must not omit to state that during
my absence she had supplied the deficiencies in her own attire by
taking a smart three-cornered hat of Mr. Waring's which, though greatly
too large for her, she had contrived artfully to adjust on the back of
her head, and thereby gained a sweetly rakish appearance from it; and
further supplied her lack of a cloak in a no less skilful fashion by
draping one of the rugs about her in a way that simulated such an
article.

We came to an inn with our pitiful tale. We had it all most
wonderfully pat, having rehearsed it carefully, until we were able to
pour it forth with an infinity of detail. If the distressed condition
of the horses, and our own evident sincerity were not enough, there
were the boxes all tumbled and ransacked to add weight to the evidence.
Our imposition being so well received, and the attitude of the landlord
seeming so friendly, we determined to run the risk of being overtaken,
and break our journey here for an hour while we made a meal, and the
horses were fed and rested. Whether it was that the landlord was a man
of a most tender heart, or that our address was so truly excellent, I
cannot say, but certainly the honest fellow did not hesitate to take us
at our own valuation. If there was any small particular in which he
could serve the earl and countess he should be more than happy. The
small particular in which he was able to do so was by remitting the
amount of our charges against a future occasion, and by lending us a
guinea or two on no better security than the possession of our pleasant
manners and a chaise and a pair of horses.

We went our way in much better heart. We were fortified indeed by such
a generous confidence. And so susceptible is the mind to the opinion
of others, that on the strength of the landlord's disposition, we began
to hold up our heads again in the world, and to take a rose-coloured
view of our affairs. All was not lost yet by a good deal. With our
admirable equipage we had resources of a sort; and we were still in the
complete possession of our freedom. It remained for us to utilize it
to the full.

It was while we were engaged with this train of speculation that a
concrete and definite idea came into my head. Why not make for the
port of Bristol and flee the country? Why not indeed?

"A brave plan, truly," Cynthia says, "but we cannot do it without
money."

"We will sell our horses and chariot to some honest vintner of Bristol
city," says I, "and the proceeds should easily suffice to take us to
the Americas."

Although Mrs. Cynthia shook her head and deprecated it as a wild-goose
scheme, she was compelled to admit that it was the best that offered.
Her protests were not unmingled with regret, for she could not be got
to consider it so light a thing to renounce her country. For my part I
must confess that I was troubled with no such scruples. Like all
persons who serve it scurvily, and who are least of an ornament to it,
I held myself to be as ill-used by it as ever it had been by me. I
felt that I could renounce it for ever without a pang.

After some little meditation I became immeasurably taken with this
scheme. There was no reason why with one bold stroke we should not
renounce our liabilities and put away our dangers. Every hour we spent
in England now was at our peril. But let us reach the port of Bristol
and turn our chaise and horses into ready money sufficient to defray
the expenses of the voyage, and once again should we be able to breathe
the air of freedom. Seeing me more than ever possessed with the
notion, Mrs. Cynthia, like a dutiful wife, began presently to yield to
it. She owned at least that a life over seas could not be much more
precarious than the one we were at present enjoying, and it might
conceivably be less so.

"But I could wish," says she, "that we had more to found our fortunes
on. How can we support ourselves when we get to - to
what-d'ye-call-'em?"

"You will spin, my dear," says I, "and I shall delve, in some lone wood
cabin on the prairie."

"But we shall perish of the dulness in a twelve-month."

"Oh no, my dear," says I, "there will be wild beasts and Red Indians to
provide us with more than enough of relaxation."

By slow degrees I brought her so entirely to my way of thinking, that
she became as keen to make the port of Bristol as ever I could be.
Indeed, so much were we put in mind of this that we began to make
inquiries of our whereabouts, that we might set our faces thither at
the earliest moment. We lay that night at an honest, comfortable inn,
and learned to our surprise that our wanderings had brought us to
within a day's journey of Exeter. We had certainly not supposed that
we had come so far from town, nor that we had penetrated so far into
the country of the enemy. For, as Cynthia excitedly exclaimed, in the
near neighbourhood of Exeter was her father's seat. This unexpected
circumstance wrought upon her in a singular way.

"I would dearly love to look on the old place for the last time," she
said.

Although her father's house had in itself so slight a hold on her
affection that she had renounced its advantages for ever, despite all
the desperate consequences of such an act, its proximity had still the
power to kindle a sentiment in her heart. Besides, as a little later
she pointed out, there was a certain expedience in going thither.
There were some small pieces of her personal property that she had left
behind in the sudden recklessness of her flight, which could be easily
retrieved and would add materially to our resources. This to my mind
was something like an argument. I had no longer that fine disregard
for ways and means with which I had set out on our pilgrimage. Money
was a base consideration enough, but it seemed a mighty difficult
matter to do without it. Cynthia's few jewels and trinkets were likely
to serve us too well, even in the Americas, for us to afford to
disregard them.

Here then was an end to all my objects. We would diverge a little out
of the straight road to Bristol, and pay a visit to Cynthia's home in
the absence of her papa. We counted for our safety on the fact that we
must be some hours ahead of that irate old gentleman. All the same, we
were taking a considerable risk. Much depended on how soon our papa
had been able to replace the chaise and horses we had stolen from him.
But I do not think we hesitated an instant on this account, having once
committed ourselves to this daring course. Besides, there was a
certain savour of humour in paying a call on his Grace in these
circumstances, which did a great deal to reconcile us to the
inconvenience.




CHAPTER XXI

WE REAP THE FRUITS OF OUR AUDACITY

The whimsical plan fixed in our minds, we began at once to conceive a
keener rest for our affairs. Notwithstanding the urgency of our
travelling, we had not exchanged the Duke's horses at any of the
posting-houses we had passed. Poverty had taught us a fine economic
prudence. Whatever we might gain in speed we should lose in momentary
value, for his Grace's animals were an admirable pair, on which the
best part of our fortune depended at Bristol. The continuous strain
was already telling on them, however, and they flagged a good deal
during the day.

The evening had already come when we approached our destination. Among
the country lanes in the twilight it called for all Cynthia's intimate
knowledge of the neighbourhood to enable us to pursue the direct path
to her father's house. The moon was showing over the trees, and we
were within a mile of the place, according to madam's account, when we
were startled by a disconcerting incident. A sudden clatter of horses'
hoofs arose in the lane. From whence they came we could not tell; but
before we had time to think much about them, a horseman was riding
beside us, with a particularly sinister-looking pistol presented at our
faces.

My poor little madam nestled to me in a great deal of terror; but for
my own part I must confess that I was more annoyed than daunted by such
an unwarrantable intrusion.

"My dear fellow," I protested, "you are but wasting your time; and you
are wasting ours too, which just now I am inclined to think is the more
valuable. We have not a guinea in the world. Had we one we should be
only too happy to present it to you."

The highwayman laughed in a familiar voice.

"Why," says he, putting a pair of mischievous eyes into the chaise, "is
it not my friend, Lord What's-his-name?"

"My love," says I to the trembling Cynthia, "here is your papa."

"Of course," says the highwayman, "you mean the Duke of Thing-em-bob."

"To be sure I do," says I. "We are very well met, I think."

By this our chaise had stopped, and Mr. Sadler had pulled his horse up
too. I was not at all displeased by this interruption, for in any
circumstances the sight of this merry, cheerful fellow was welcome. He
was one of those rare persons whose voice alone had the power to charm.
He was a genial rogue indeed; an engaging spirit whom to meet was to
ask to dinner. We were already the better for his society.

Therefore, as we had but a mile to go to the Duke's house - Hurley Place
was the name of it - I proposed that we should carry him along with us,
and enjoy his company at dinner. Mr. Sadler was nothing loth.

Wherefore it fell out that the Lady Cynthia returned to her ancestral
home in the company of a notorious highwayman, and a bankrupt, a
discredited peer. What a suppressed excitement there was to be sure
when we drove up to the door, and it became known among the servants
that the Lady Cynthia had returned of her own free will! More than one
aged servitor, who had grown old in the service of the Duke, was so
affected by the erring child's return that he shed a silent tear.
Inquiry elicited the fact that there was no reason to expect our papa
at present: and that not a word had been heard of his Grace since he
had left the house in pursuit of his naughty daughter.

Nothing could have been more delightful than the sensations we
experienced on our brief re-entry into civilization. What luxuries in
the matter of washing, shaving, and polishing generally were we able to
enjoy after the discomforts of our itinerary!

Cynthia had her own maid to dress her; Mr. Sadler was provided with a
valet of the Duke's, and another man was found for me. Orders were
given to the butler that the best dinner for three persons the cook
could devise was to be served in an hour, and in the meantime we
arrayed ourselves in our choicest garments to do justice to it. It was
the last evening of luxury we were likely to spend; and we were
determined that we would neglect no opportunity of making the most of
it.

The contents of Mr. Waring's valise were a material assistance to my
wardrobe, and for that matter to Mr. Sadler's too. His silk stockings
and breeches, brocaded vests, and laced coats, served us admirably. We
took advantage of them, chiefly, I think, for the laudable reason that
we might do the more honour to Cynthia and the dinner. And I at least
am free to confess that the sensation of having once again clean smart
clothes upon my person gave a wonderful impetus to my self-esteem. I
felt that I could look the world in the face once more, and that I was
again my own man. I never was a scoffer at the virtues of fine
clothes, and distrust him that is. So long as one is sure of one's
tailor, one's soul may take care of itself. The grace of a good coat
is communicated to the wearer.

Although Mr. Sadler and I were attired as near the first fashion as our
borrowed plumes would permit, we were as nothing to Mrs. Cynthia. When
she joined us in the room where the dinner was laid, my friend, the
highwayman, _blasé_ as he was, could not repress his admiration. She
did indeed appear to perfection not only in the cunning of her gown,
but in the sparkling animation of her face, her lively colour, and the
mocking intrepidity lurking in her eyes.

Her mood was a match for the occasion. She clearly recognized the
extravagant whimsicality of sitting down to dinner in such company, at
such a season, and in such a place. It was a piece of mad folly, of
cynical bravado; and she took her seat at the table with an air of
reckless mischief that was wholly adorable. She played the game.
To-morrow we must leave our native land for ever, but that night we
contrived to forget everything - our perilous situation, our destitution
and our desperate case, in quips and jests, good wine and boisterous
laughter.

Mr. Sadler afterwards, very deservedly I do not doubt, came to be
hanged. But it was sound judgment in me to invite him to our last
dinner. What a fine merry rogue he was, to be sure! What an instinct
he betrayed for goodfellowship! He came to be hanged, it is true, but
that night his laugh rang the loudest and frankest, his jests had the
keenest edge, and it was from his eyes that the most whole-hearted
humour beaconed. He was as merry a rascal as any with whom I ever had
the honour to drain a glass. But he was a man of true breeding too, so
that he neither embarrassed Mrs. Cynthia as a highwayman less of a
gentleman doubtless would have done in such singular circumstances; nor
did he once arouse anger or jealousy in me.

"To your eyes, your ladyship, and to your lordship's nose," so far from
provoking offence, became a source of mirth from the frank jovial tones
with which it was uttered, and the inimitable gestures by which it was
accompanied. For his own part, Mr. Sadler admitted that this meeting
was highly piquant to him, since on a former occasion he had solemnly
written us down in his own mind as a pair of cheats and impostors. It
struck him as an entirely remarkable circumstance that after all we
should prove to be the very persons we had purported to be; and as one
no less so, that he should ever have presumed us to be otherwise. But
as I pointed out to him, after all, his error was not so surprising.
The judgment of the world is at the mercy of the obvious. It prefers
to appraise a picture by its frame. Were it otherwise, our very
titles, and material distinctions of that kind, would cease to have a
meaning.

Oblivious of everything, we continued to cat and drink, and be of good
cheer. In the audacity of our mood neither Cynthia nor I gave a
thought to our pursuers. We did not consider that we were in the house
of the enemy, and that it could be by no means unexpected that we
should be surprised at any hour. And I am not sure that we were
prepared greatly to care should aught so untoward happen. By this I
believe we were utterly desperate. A reaction had come upon us. We,
who had been so excessively solicitous for the well-being of our skins
and the preservation of our perfect liberty, were at this moment unable
to muster much interest in these matters. We were in a warm room, in a
congenial society, snug, well fed, and mighty well content. No two
persons could have been in a happier case in which to confront the
worst. Let the devil walk in if he chose. For once we were in a
condition to beard him. Our cheeks burnt; our eyes shone; our hearts
were overflowing and generous.

Such was the state of our minds, when without a solitary note of
warning, and as a wholly natural consequence, the devil walked in. In
the very height of our cheerful rattle, of our foolish talk that
hallowed by the bottle was so witty, the door opened suddenly, and the
oath that sprang to my lips involuntarily to greet the servant who had
so unceremoniously obtruded himself upon our familiar gaiety, was
stifled before it was uttered. The little Duke hopped in, purple, and
gobbling like a turkey. The cool and smiling Mr. Humphrey Waring,
chewing his eternal wisp of straw, followed at his heels at a more
elegant leisure.

I suppose their sudden unheralded appearance was to us in the nature of
a thunderbolt. Yet after all it was so little unexpected as not to
astonish us. And, speaking for myself, now that I was fairly cornered,
my last card played, the old recklessness returned, and instead of
faltering before this outraged old gentleman, I rose, bowed, and
greeted him with the completest self possession. And as I did so,
whether by virtue of the noble wine of his Grace's cellar, or as
probably by an ecstasy of desperation, I conceived a kind of joy of our
meeting.

Between his alternate gobblings and hoppings and gaspings for breath,
the old gentleman must have come perilously close to his inevitable
apoplexy. At first in his inarticulate fury he could neither speak nor
act; and I found myself awaiting his good pleasure quite a long time,
with a smile of greeting on my lips, and my hand on my heart.




CHAPTER XXII

THE LAST

In the end it was neither his Grace nor I who broke the spell. Mr.
Waring took the wisp of straw from his teeth, and says:

"Tiverton, my dear fellow, you amuse me."

"I rather amuse myself," says I, a little wearily. "We are come to the
last act in this somewhat pitiful poor-hearted sort of farce, and I
suppose we must continue furiously to laugh until the curtain is rung
down."

"Of course, my dear fellow, of course," says Waring. "But before we do
so, would it not be as well if we had a few brief explanations in the
true stage manner? In the first place, may I ask why you so
persistently shun the society of the one person who is the most likely
to contribute something towards setting you right in the eyes of the
world?"

"I confess I do not understand you," says I.

"Then I am sorry for it," says my rival, with a strange frank smile.
"For, after all, the person I refer to is myself."

"You?" says I.

The incredulity in my voice caused the man to open his snuff-box very
deliberately, and to offer its contents to me.

"Perhaps, after all," says he, "there is no particular reason why you
should take my meaning. For you have doubtless forgotten that I am the
only person now alive who was privileged to witness a certain incident.
But that of course may be a fact you may wish to forget; or the
incident in question may be too trifling for your recollection. In any
case I ask your pardon if I weary you."

"On the contrary," says I coldly, "you interest me vastly."

"The topic is one I should crave your pardon for mentioning," says the
other, with his baffling air; "were not your interest so greatly at
stake. I presume you are not unacquainted with the construction the
world hath already put upon this matter?"

"I am not," says I curtly.

"Then I hope, my dear fellow," says Waring, "you will accept a service,
however slight, at my hands. My testimony may be of some little value
to you before a jury of your peers."

My rival held out his hand with a jovial grace. I stood looking at it,
groping, with the wine still in my brain. For the candour sparkling in
the fellow's eyes was a thing I had never seen in that place before;
the winning earnestness of it was so hard to realize that it
overwhelmed me. The bitter truth suddenly poured into my heart like a
torrent.

"My God," says I, "all this time I have been weighing your character by
the measure of my own. Is it not ever the fate of the mean and the
little to do so? You have been the phantom, from whom we have fled.
The phantom, however, was not in a chaise and pair, but in our own
hearts!"

"The old fault, Tiverton, I protest," says Waring. "What a trite,
pragmatical, moralizing fellow it is! I do hope you will not, like
your damned old ancestor, lay a burden on an unprovoking posterity and
write a book."

"Ecod, I will," says I, "one day. I will take a revenge of my mean
mind by exhibiting it naked to the sneers of the world. But in the
meantime, Waring, I must show you in your true colours to my little
Cynthia. Even her feminine penetration had not divined them."

It was a light word, lightly uttered; and I cursed myself. The man was
as pale as his neckcloth, and the old mocking whimsicality - alas! I
had nearly writ ugliness - was in his eyes. There was but an instant in
which this was to be observed, however, for with shaking fingers he
opened his snuff-box, and regained possession of himself.

I offered him my hand.

"Waring," says I, "we cannot ever be friends. You will continue to
loathe me as you would a thief; and I on my part shall continue to hate
you for the consummate hypocrite and charlatan you are. But, curse my
jacket, sir! as a dilettante in the arts, as a lover of the beautiful,
I shall reverence for ever your singularly noble character."

"Then I am repaid," says this cynical, candid devil. "'Tis the reward
I had looked for, my good Tiverton, that you, robber and ruffian as you
are, whose foremost desire will ever be to put an inch of steel in my
heart, should yet be condemned to lay your neck in the dust while
Humphrey Waring walks upon it. I do not think I could desire a
prettier revenge. 'Tis a dear pretty chit, though."

Involuntarily his eyes wandered across the room to Cynthia. Mine
followed them, in spite of myself, jealously. It was then I saw that a
strange thing had happened. Father and daughter were seated together,
tears streaming down their faces, locked in one another's arms.

"Your victory is completer than I had supposed," says my rival coolly.

At the moment I did not perceive the full force of his meaning. An
instant later, however, I had that felicity. The old man in a broken
voice called me over to him. The tears still streamed down his cheeks.

"I am a foolish, fond old man," says his Grace. "Curse it all, was
there ever such a damned, snuffling, weak old fool as I am! Ecod, I
must be very old. How old am I, Humphrey?"

"Eighty-two in December, Duke."

"Curse me, so I am," says his Grace. "If I hadn't been so old - if I
had been eighty now, if I had been eighty - I would 'a broken a stick
across your shoulders, miss, and I would 'a peppered your hide with
lead, young what's-your-name. But as I'm so old, 'od's lud! I suppose
I must be benevolent. Miss says she loves you, young man - don't you,


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