THE MISSISSIPPI BUBBLE
How the Star of Good Fortune Rose and Set and Rose Again, by a Woman's Grace, for One John Law of Lauriston
A Novel by
The Illustrations by Henry Hutt
I THE RETURNED TRAVELER II AT SADLER'S WELLS III JOHN LAW OF LAURISTON IV THE POINT OF HONOR V DIVERS EMPLOYMENTS OF JOHN LAW VI THE RESOLUTION OF MR. LAW VII TWO MAIDS A-BROIDERING VIII CATHARINE KNOLLYS IX IN SEARCH OF THE QUARREL X THE RUMOR OF THE QUARREL XI AS CHANCE DECREED XII FOR FELONY XIII THE MESSAGE XIV PRISONERS XV IF THERE WERE NEED XVI THE ESCAPE XVII WHITHER
I THE DOOR OF THE WEST II THE STORM III AU LARGE IV THE PATHWAY OF THE WATERS V MESSASEBE VI MAIZE VII THE BRINK OF CHANGE VIII TOUS SAUVAGES IX THE DREAM X BY THE HILT OF THE SWORD XI THE IROQUOIS XII PRISONERS OF THE IROQUOIS XIII THE SACRIFICE XIV THE EMBASSY XV THE GREAT PEACE
I THE GRAND MONARQUE II EVER SAID SHE NAY III SEARCH THOU MY HEART IV THE REGENT'S PROMISE V A DAY OF MIRACLES VI THE GREATEST NEED VII THE MIRACLE UNWROUGHT VIII THE LITTLE SUPPER OF THE REGENT IX THE NEWS X MASTER AND MAN XI THE BREAKING OF THE BUBBLE XII THAT WHICH REMAINED XIII THE QUALITY OF MERCY
THE RETURNED TRAVELER
"Gentlemen, this is America!"
The speaker cast upon the cloth-covered table a singular object, whose like none of those present had ever seen. They gathered about and bent over it curiously.
"This is that America," the speaker repeated. "Here you have it, barbaric, wonderful, abounding!"
With sudden gesture he swept his hand among the gold coin that lay on the gaming table. He thrust into the mouth of the object before him a handful of louis d'or and English sovereigns. "There is your America," said he. "It runs over with gold. No man may tell its richness. Its beauty you can not imagine."
"Faith," said Sir Arthur Pembroke, bending over the table with glass in eye, "if the ladies of that land have feet for this sort of shoon, methinks we might well emigrate. Take you the money of it. For me, I would see the dame could wear such shoe as this."
One after another this company of young Englishmen, hard players, hard drinkers, gathered about the table and bent over to examine the little shoe. It was an Indian moccasin, cut after the fashion of the Abenakis, from the skin of the wild buck, fashioned large and full for the spread of the foot, covered deep with the stained quills of the porcupine, and dotted here and there with the precious beads which, to the maker, had more worth than any gold. A little flap came up for cover to the ankle, and a thong fell from its upper edge. It was the ancient foot-covering of the red race of America, made for the slight but effectual protection of the foot, while giving perfect freedom to the tread of the wearer. Light, dainty and graceful, its size was much less than that of the average woman's shoe of that time and place.
"Bah! Pembroke," said Castleton, pushing up the shade above his eyes till it rested on his forehead, "'tis a child's shoe."
"Not so," said the first speaker. "I give you my word 'tis the moccasin of my sweetheart, a princess in her own right, who waits my coming on the Ottawa. And so far from the shoe being too small, I say as a gentleman that she not only wore it so, but in addition used somewhat of grass therein in place of hose."
The earnestness of this speech in no wise prevented the peal of laughter that followed.
"There you have it, Pembroke," cried Castleton. "Would you move to a land where princesses use hay for hosiery?"
"'Tis curious done," said Pembroke, musingly, "none the less."
"And done by her own hand," said the owner of the shoe, with a certain proprietary pride.
Again the laughter broke out. "Do your princesses engage in shoemaking?" asked a third gamester as he pushed into the ring. "Sure it must be a rare land. Prithee, what doth the king in handicraft? Doth he take to saddlery, or, perhaps, smithing?"
"Have done thy jests, Wilson," cried Pembroke. "Mayhap there is somewhat to be learned here of this New World and of our dear cousins, the French. Go on, tell us, Monsieur du Mesne—as I think you call yourself, sir?—tell us more of your new country of ice and snow, of princesses and little shoes."
The original speaker went a bit sullen, what with his wine and the jests of his companions. "I'll tell ye naught," said he. "Go see for yourselves, by leave of Louis."
"Come now," said Pembroke, conciliatingly. "We'll all admit our ignorance. 'Tis little we know of our own province of Virginia, save that Virginia is a land of poverty and tobacco. Wealth—faith, if ye have wealth in your end of the continent, 'tis time we English fought ye for it."
"Methinks you English are having enough to do here close at home," sneered Du Mesne. "I have heard somewhat of Steinkirk, and how ye ran from the half-dressed gentlemen of France."
Dark looks followed this bold speech, which cut but too closely to the quick of English pride. Pembroke quelled the incipient outcry with calmer speech.
"Peace, friends," said he. "'Tis not arms we argue here, after all. We are but students at the feet of Monsieur du Mesne, who hath returned from foreign parts. Prithee, sir, tell us more."
"Tell ye more—and if I did, would ye believe it? What if I tell ye of great rivers far to the west of the Ottawa; of races as strange to my princess's people as we are to them; of streams whose sands run in gold, where diamonds and sapphires are to be picked up as ye like? If I told ye, would ye believe?"
The martial hearts and adventurous souls of the circle about him began to show in the heightened color and closer crowding of the young men to the table. Silence fell upon the group.
"Ye know nothing, in this old rotten world, of what there is yet to be found in America," cried Du Mesne. "For myself, I have been no farther than the great falls of the Ontoneagrea—a mere trifle of a cataract, gentlemen, into which ye might pitch your tallest English cathedral and sink it beyond its pinnacle with ease. Yet I have spoke with the holy fathers who have journeyed far to the westward, even to the vast Messasebe, which is well known to run into the China sea upon some far-off coast not yet well charted. I have also read the story of Sagean, who was far to the west of that mighty river. Did not the latter see and pursue and kill in fair fight the giant unicorn, fabled of Scripture? Is not that animal known to be a creature of the East, and may we not, therefore, be advised that this new country takes hold upon the storied lands of the East? Why, this holy friar with whom I spoke, fresh back from his voyaging to the cold upper ways of the Northern tribes, who live beyond the far-off channel at Michilimackinac—did he not tell of a river of the name of the Blue Earth, and did he not himself see turquoises and diamonds and emeralds taken in handfuls from this same blue earth? Ah, bah! gentlemen, Europe for you if ye like, but for me, back I go, so soon as I may get proper passage and a connection which will warrant me the voyage. Back I go to Canada, to America, to the woods and streams. I would see again my ancient Du L'hut, and my comrade Pierre Noir, and Tete Gris, the trapper from the Mistasing—free traders all. Life is there for the living, my comrades. This Old World, small and outworn, no more of it for me."
"And why came you back to this little Old World of ours, an you loved the New World so much?" asked the cynical voice of him who had been called Wilson.
"By the body of God!" cried Du Mesne, "think ye I came of my own free will? Look here, and find your reason." He stripped back the opening of his doublet and under waistcoat, and showed upon his broad shoulder the scar of a red tri-point, deep and livid upon his flesh. "Look! There is the fleur-de-lis of France. That is why I came. I have rowed in the galleys, me—me a free man, a man of the woods of New France!"
Murmurs of concern passed among the little group. Castleton rose from his chair and leaned with his hands upon the table, gazing now at the face and now at the bared shoulder of this stranger, who had by chance become a member of their nightly party.
"I have not been in London a fortnight since my escape," said the man with the brand. "I was none the less once a good servant of Louis in New France, for that I found many a new tribe and many a bale of furs that else had never come to the Mountain for the robbery of the lying officers who claim the robe of Louis. I was a soldier for the king as well as a traveler of the forest. Was I not with the Le Moynes and the band that crossed the icy North and destroyed your robbing English fur posts on the Bay of Hudson? I fought there and helped blow down your barriers. I packed my own robe on my back, and walked for the king, till the raquette thongs cut my ankles to the bone. For what? When I came back to the settlements at Quebec I was seized for a coureur de bois, a free trader. I was herded like a criminal into a French ship, sent over seas to a French prison, branded with a French iron, and set like a brute to pull without reason at a bar of wood in the king's galleys—the king's hell!"
"And yet you are a Frenchman," sneered Wilson.
"Yet am I not a Frenchman," cried the other. "Nor am I an Englishman. I am no man of a world of galleys and brands. I am a man of America!"
"'Tis true what he says," spoke Pembroke. "'Tis said the minister of Louis was feared to keep these men in the galleys, lest their fellows in New France should become too bitter, and should join the savages in their inroads on the starving settlements of Quebec and Montreal."
"True," exclaimed Du Mesne. "The coureurs care naught for the law and little for the king. As for a ruler, we have discovered that a man makes a most excellent sovereign for himself."
"And excellent said," cried Castleton.
"None of ye know the West," went on the coureur. "Your Virginia, we know well of it—a collection of beggars, prostitutes and thieves. Your New England—a lot of cod-fishing, starving snivelers, who are most concerned how to keep life in their bodies from year to year. New France herself, sitting ever on the edge of an icy death, with naught but bickerings at Quebec and naught but reluctant compliance from Paris—what hath she to hope? I tell ye, gentlemen, 'tis beyond, in the land of the Messasebe, where I shall for my part seek out my home; and no man shall set iron on my soul again."
He spoke bitterly. The group about him, half amused, half cynical and all ignorant, as were their kind at this time of the reign of William, were none the less impressed and thoughtful. Yet once more the sneering voice of Wilson broke in.
"A strange land, my friend," said he, "monstrous strange. Your unicorns are great, and your women are little. Methinks to give thy tale proportion thou shouldst have shown shoon somewhat larger."
"Peace! Beau," said Castleton, quickly. "As for the size of the human foot—gad! I'll lay a roll of louis d'or that there's one dame here in London town can wear this slipper of New France."
"Done!" cried Wilson. "Name the one."
"None other than the pretty Lawrence whom thou hast had under thine ancient wing for the past two seasons."
The face of Wilson gathered into a sudden frown at this speech. "What doth it matter"—he began.
"Have done, fellows!" cried Pembroke with some asperity. "Lay wagers more fit at best, and let us have no more of this thumb-biting. Gad! the first we know, we'll be up for fighting among ourselves, and we all know how the new court doth look on that."
"Come away," laughed Castleton, gaily. "I'm for a pint of ale and an apple; and then beware! 'Tis always my fortune, when I come to this country drink, to win like a very countryman. I need revenge upon Lady Betty and her lap-dog. I've lost since ever I saw them last."
AT SADLER'S WELLS
Sadler's Wells, on this mild and cheery spring morning, was a scene of fashion and of folly. Hither came the elite of London, after the custom of the day, to seek remedy in the reputed qualities of the springs for the weariness and lassitude resultant upon the long season of polite dissipations which society demanded of her votaries. Bewigged dandies, their long coats of colors well displayed as they strutted about in the open, paid court there, as they did within the city gates, to the powdered and painted beauties who sat in their couches waiting for their servants to bring out to them the draft of which they craved healing for crow's-feet and hollow eyes. Here and there traveling merchants called their wares, jugglers spread their carpets, bear dancers gave their little spectacles, and jockeys conferred as to the merits of horse or hound. Hawk-nosed Jews passed among the vehicles, cursed or kicked by the young gallants who stood about, hat in hand, at the steps of their idols' carriages.
"Buy my silks, pretty lady, buy my silks! Fresh from the Turkey walk on the Exchange, and cheaper than you can buy their like in all the city—buy my silks, lady!" Thus the peddler with his little pack of finery.
"My philter, lady," cried the gipsy woman, who had left her donkey cart outside the line. "My philter! 'Twill keep-a your eyes bright and your cheeks red for ay. Secret of the Pharaohs, lady; and but a shilling!"
"Have ye a parrot, ma'am? Have ye never a parrot to keep ye free and give ye laughter every hour? Buy my parrot, lady. Just from the Gold Coast. He'll talk ye Spanish, Flemish or good city tongue. Buy my parrot at ten crowns, and so cheap, lady!" So spoke the ear-ringed sailor, who might never have seen a salter water than the Thames.
"Powder-puffs for the face, lady," whispered a lean and weazen-faced hawker, slipping among the crowd with secrecy. "See my puff, made from the foot of English hares. Rubs out all wrinkles, lady, and keeps ye young as when ye were a lass. But a shilling, a shilling. See!" And with the pretense of secrecy the seller would sidle up to a carriage of some dame, slip to her the hare's foot and take the shilling with an air as though no one could see what none could fail to notice.
Above these mingled cries of the hangers-on of this crowd of nobility and gentles rose the blare of crude music, and cries far off and confused. Above it all shone the May sun, brighter here than lower toward the Thames. In the edge of London town it was, all this little pageant, and from the residence squares below and far to the westward came the carriages and the riders, gathering at the spot which for the hour was the designated rendezvous of capricious fashion. No matter if the tower at the drinking curb was crowded, so that inmates of the coaches could not find way among the others. There was at least magic in the morning, even if one might not drink at the chalybeate spring. Cheeks did indeed grow rosy, and eyes brightened under the challenge not only of the dawn but of the ardent eyes that gazed impertinently bold or reproachfully imploring.
Far-reaching was the line of the gentility, to whose flanks clung the rabble of trade. Back upon the white road came yet other carriages, saluted by those departing. Low hedges of English green reached out into the distance, blending ultimately at the edge of the pleasant sky. Merry enough it was, and gladsome, this spring day; for be sure the really ill did not brave the long morning ride to test the virtue of the waters of Sadler's Wells. It was for the most part the young, the lively, the full-blooded, perhaps the wearied, but none the less the vital and stirring natures which met in the decreed assemblage.
Back of Sadler's little court the country came creeping close up to the town. There were fields not so far away on these long highways. Wandering and rambling roads ran off to the westward and to the north, leading toward the straight old Roman road which once upon a time ran down to London town. Ill-kept enough were some of the lanes, with their hedges and shrubs overhanging the highways, if such the paths could be called which came braiding down toward the south. One needed not to go far outward beyond Sadler's Wells of a night-time to find adventure, or to lose a purse.
It was on one of these less crowded highways that there was this morning enacted a curious little drama. The sun was still young and not too strong for comfort, and as it rose back of the square of Sadler's it cast a shadow from a hedge which ran angling toward the southeast. Its rays, therefore, did not disturb the slumbers of two young men who were lying beneath the shelter of the hedge. Strange enough must have been the conclusions of the sun could it have looked over the barrier and peered into the faces of these youths. Evidently they were of good breeding and some station, albeit their garb was not of the latest fashion. The gray hose and the clumsy shoes plainly bespoke some northern residence. The wig of each lacked the latest turn, perhaps the collar of the coat was not all it should have been. There was but one coat visible, for the other, rolled up as a pillow, served to support the heads of both. The elder of the two was the one who had sacrificed his covering. The other was more restless in his attitude, and though thus the warmer for a coat, was more in need of comfort. A white bandage covered his wrist, and the linen was stained red. Yet the two slept on, well into the morn, well into the rout of Sadler's Wells. Evidently they were weary.
The elder man was the taller of the two; as he lay on the bank beneath the hedge, he might even in that posture have been seen to own a figure of great strength and beauty. His face, bold of outline, with well curved, wide jaw and strong cheek bones, was shaded by the tangled mat of his wig, tousled in his sleep. His hands, long and graceful, lay idly at his side, though one rested lightly on the hilt of the sword which lay near him. The ruffles of his shirt were torn, and, indeed, had almost disappeared. By study one might have recognized them in the bandage about the hand of the other. Somewhat disheveled was this youth, yet his young, strong body, slender and shapely, seemed even in its rest strangely full of power and confidence.
The younger man was in some fashion an epitome of the other, and it had needed little argument to show the two were brothers. But why should two brothers, well-clad and apparently well-to-do, probably brothers from a country far to the north, be thus lying like common vagabonds beneath an English hedge?
Far down the roadway there rose a cloud of dust, which came steadily nearer, following the only vehicle in sight, probably the only one which had passed that morning. As this little dust-cloud came slowly nearer it might have been seen to rise from the wheels of a richly-built and well-appointed coach. Four dark horses obeyed the reins handled by a solemn-visaged lackey on the box, and there was a goodly footman at the back. Within the coach were two passengers such as might have set Sadler's Wells by the ears. They sat on the same seat, as equals, and their heads lay close together, as confidantes. The tongues of both ran fast and free. Long gloves covered the arms of these beauties, and their costumes showed them to be of station. The crinoline of the two filled all the body of the ample coach from seat to seat, and the folds of their figured muslins, flowing out over this ample outline, gave to the face of each a daintiness of contour and feature which was not ill relieved by the high head-dress of ribbons and bepowdered hair. Of the two ladies, one, even in despite of her crinoline, might have been seen to be of noble and queenly figure; the towering head-dress did not fully disguise the wealth of red-bronze hair. Tall and well-rounded, vigorous and young, not yet twenty, adored by many suitors, the Lady Catharine Knollys had rarely looked better than she did this morning as she drove out to Sadler's, for Providence alone knew what fault of a superb vital energy. Her eyes sparkled as she spoke, and every gesture betokened rather the grand young creature that she was than the valetudinarian going forth for healing. Her cheek, turned now and again, showed a clear-cut and untouched soundness that meant naught but health. It showed also the one blemish upon a beauty which was toasted in the court as faultless. Upon the left cheek there was a mouche, excessive in its size. Strangers might have commented on it. Really it covered a deep-stained birth-mark, the one blur upon a peerless beauty. Yet even this might be forgotten, as it was now.
The companion of the Lady Catharine in her coach was a young woman, scarce so tall and more slender. The heavy hoop concealed much of the grace of figure which was her portion, but the poise of the upper body, free from the seat-back and erect with youthful strength as yet unspared, showed easily that here, too, was but an indifferent subject for Sadler's. Dark, where her companion was fair, and with the glossy texture of her own somber locks showing in the individual roll which ran back into the absurd fontange of false hair and falser powder, Mary Connynge made good foil for her bosom friend; though honesty must admit that neither had yet much concern for foils, since both had their full meed of gallants. Much seen together, they were commonly known, as the Morning and Eve, sometimes as Aurora and Eve. Never did daughter of the original Eve have deeper feminine guile than Mary Connynge. Soft of speech—as her friend, the Lady Catharine, was impulsive,—slow, suave, amber-eyed and innocent of visage, this young English woman, with no dower save that of beauty and of wit, had not failed of a sensation at the capital whither she had come as guest of the Lady Catharine. Three captains and a squire, to say nothing of a gouty colonel, had already fallen victims, and had heard their fate in her low, soft tones, which could whisper a fashionable oath in the accent of a hymn, and say "no" so sweetly that one could only beg to hear the word again. It was perhaps of some such incident that these two young maids of old London conversed as they trundled slowly out toward the suburb of the city.
"'Twould have killed you, Lady Kitty; sure 'twould have been your end to hear him speak! He walked the floor upon his knees, and clasped his hands, and followed me about like a dog in a spectacle. Lord! but I feared he would have thrown over the tabouret with his great feet. And help me, if I think not he had tears in his eyes!"
"My friend," said Lady Kitty, solemnly, "you must have better care of your conduct. I'll not have my father's old friend abused in his own house." At which they both burst into laughter. Youth, the blithely cruel, had its own way in this old coach upon the ancient dusty road, as it has ever had.
But now serious affairs gained the attention of these two fairs. "Tell me, sweetheart," said Lady Catharine, "what think you of the fancy of my new dresser? He insists ever that the mode in Paris favors a deep bow, placed high upon the left side of the 'tower.' Montespan, of the French court, is said to have given the fashion. She hurried at her toilet, and placed the bow there for fault of better care. Hence, so must we if we are to live in town. So says my new hair-dresser from Paris. 'Tis to Paris we must go for the modes."
"I am not so sure," began Mary Connynge, "as to this arrangement. Now I am much disposed to believe—" but what she was disposed to believe at that time was not said, then or ever afterward, for at that moment there happened matters which ended their little talk; matters which divided their two lives, and which, in the end, drove them as far apart as two continents could carry them.
"O Gemini!" called out Mary Connynge, as the coachman for a moment slackened his pace. "Look! We shall be robbed!"
The driver irresolutely pulled up his horses. From under the shade of the hedge there arose two men, of whom the taller now stood erect and came toward the carriage.
"'Tis no robber," said Lady Catharine Knollys, her eyes fastened on the tall figure which came forward.
"Save us," said Mary Connynge, "what a pretty man!"
JOHN LAW OF LAURISTON
Unconsciously the coachman obeyed the unvoiced command of this man, who stepped out from the shelter of the hedge. Travel-stained, just awakened from sleep, disheveled, with dress disordered, there was none the less abundant boldness in his mien as he came forward, yet withal the grace and deference of the courtier. It was a good figure he made as he stepped down from the bank and came forward, hat in hand, the sun, now rising to the top of the hedge, lighting up his face and showing his bold profile, his open and straight blue eye.
"Ladies," he said, as he reached the road, "I crave your pardon humbly. This, I think, is the coach of my Lord, the Earl of Banbury. Mayhap this is the Lady Catharine Knollys to whom I speak?"
The lady addressed still gazed at him, though she drew up with dignity.
"You have quite the advantage of us," said she. She glanced uneasily at the coachman, but the order to go forward did not quite leave her lips.
"I am not aware—I do not know—," she began, afraid of her adventure now it had come, after the way of all dreaming maids who prate of men and conquests.
"I should be dull of eye did I not see the Knollys arms," said the stranger, smiling and bowing low. "And I should be ill advised of the families of England did I not know that the daughter of Knollys, the sister of the Earl of Banbury, is the Lady Catharine, and most charming also. This I might say, though 'tis true I never was in London or in England until now."
The speech, given with all respectfulness, did not fail of flattery. Again the order to drive on remained unspoken. This speaker, whose foot was now close to the carriage step, and whose head, gravely bowed as he saluted the occupants of the vehicle, presented so striking a type of manly attractiveness, even that first moment cast some spell upon the woman whom he sought to interest. The eyes of the Lady Catharine Knollys did not turn from him. As though it were another person, she heard herself murmur, "And you, sir?"
"I am John Law of Lauriston, Scotland, Madam, and entirely at your service. That is my brother Will, yonder by the bank." He smiled, and the younger man came forward, hesitatingly, and not with the address of his brother, though yet with the breeding of a gentleman.
The eyes of Mary Connynge took in both men with the same look, but her eyes, as did those of the Lady Catharine, became most concerned with the first speaker.
"My brother and I are on our first journey to London," continued he, with a gay laugh which did not consort fully with the plight in which he showed. "We started by coach, as gentlemen; and now we come on foot, like laborers or thieves. 'Twas my own fault. Yesterday I must needs quit the Edinboro' stage. Last night our chaise was stopped, and we were asked to hand our money to a pair of evil fellows who had made prey of us. In short—you see—we fared ill enough. Lost in the dark, we made what shift we could along this road, where we both are strangers. At last, not able to pay for better quarters even had we found them, we lay down to sleep. I have slept far worse. And 'tis a lovely morning. Madam, I thank you for this happy beginning of the day."
Mary Connynge pointed to the bandage on the younger man's arm, speaking a low word to her companion.
"True," said the Lady Catharine, "you are injured, sir; you did not come off whole."
"Oh, we would hardly suffer the fellows to rob us without making some argument over it," said the first speaker. "Indeed, I think we are the better off hereabouts for a brace of footpads gone to their account. I made them my duties as we came away. Will, here, was pricked a trifle, but you see we have done very well."
The face of Will Law hardly offered complete proof of this assertion. He had slept ill enough, and in the morning light his face showed gaunt and pale. Here, then, was a situation most inopportune; the coach of two ladies, unattended, stopped by two strangers, who certainly could not claim introduction by either friend or reputation.
"I did but wish to ask some advice of the roads hereabout," said the elder brother, turning his eyes full upon those of the Lady Catharine. "As you see, we are in ill plight to get forward to the city. If you will be so good as to tell me which way to take, I shall remember it most gratefully. Once in the city, we should do better, for the rascals have not taken certain papers, letters which I bear to gentlemen in the city—Sir Arthur Pembroke I may name as one—a friend of my father's, who hath had some dealings with him in the handling of moneys. I have also word for others, and make sure that, once we have got into town, we shall soon mend our fortune."
Lady Catharine looked at Mary Connynge and the latter in turn gazed at her. "There could be no harm," said each to the other with her eyes. "Surely it is our duty to take them in with us; at least the one who is wounded."
Will Law had said nothing, though he had come forward to the road, and, bowing, stood uncovered. Now he leaned against the flank of one of the horses, in a tremor of vertigo which seized him as he stood. It was perhaps the paleness of his face that gave determination to the issue.
"William," called the Lady Catharine Knollys, "open the door for Mr. Law of Lauriston!"
The footman sprang to the ground and held open the door. Therefore, into the coach stepped John Law and his brother, late of Edinboro', sometime robbed and afoot, but now to come into London in circumstances which surely might have been far worse.
John Law entered the coach with the dignity and grace of a gentleman born. He bowed gravely as he took his seat beside his brother, facing the ladies. Will Law sank back into the corner, not averse to rest. The eyes of the two young women did not linger more upon the wounded man than upon his brother. He, in turn, looked straight into their eyes, courteously, respectfully, gravely, yet fearlessly and calmly, as though he knew what power and possibilities were his. Enigma and autocrat alike, Beau Law of Edinboro', one of the handsomest and properest men ever bred on any soil, was surely a picture of vigorous young manhood, as he rode toward Sadler's Wells, with two of the beauties of the hour, and in a coach and four which might have been his own.
Now all the sweet spring morning came on apace, and from the fields and little gardens came the breath of flowers. The sky was blue. The languor of springtime pulsed through the veins of those young creatures, those engines of life, of passion and desire. Neither of the two women saw the torn garb of the man before them. They saw but the curve of the strong chest beneath. They heard, and the one heard and felt as keenly as the other, the voice of the young man, musical and rich, touching some deep-seated and vibrating heart-string. So in the merry month of May, with the birds singing in the trees, and the scent of the flowers wafted coolly to their senses, they came on apace to the throng at Sadler's Wells. There it was that John Law, finding in a pocket a coin that had been overlooked, reached out to a vender and bought a rose. He offered his flower with a deep inclination of the body to the Lady Catharine.
It was at this moment that Mary Connynge first began to hate her friend, the Lady Catharine Knollys.
THE POINT OF HONOR
"Tell me, friend Castleton," said Pembroke, banteringly, "art still adhering to thy country drink of lamb's-wool? Methinks burnt ale and toasted apple might better be replaced in thy case by a beaker of stronger waters. You lose, and still you lose."
"May a plague take it!" cried Castleton. "I've had no luck these four days. 'Tis that cursed lap-dog of the duchess. Ugh! I saw it in my dreams last night."
"Gad! your own fortune in love must be ill enough, Sir Arthur," said Beau Wilson, as he pushed back his chair during this little lull in the play of the evening.
"And tell me why, Beau?"
"Because of us all who have met here at the Green Lion these last months, not one hath ever had so steady a run of luck. Sure some fairy hath befriended thee. Sept et le va, sept et le va—I'll hear it in my ears to-night, even as Castleton sees the lap-dog. Man, you play as though you read the pack quite through."
"Ah, then, you admit that there is some such thing as a talisman. I'll not deny that I have had one these last three evenings, but I feared to tell ye all, lest I might be waylaid and robbed of my good-luck charm."
"Tell us, tell us, man, what it is!" cried Castleton. "Sept et le va has not been made in this room before for many a month, yet here thou comest with the run of sept et le va thrice in as many hours."
"Well, then," continued Pembroke, still smiling, "I'll make a small confession. Here is my charm. Salute it!"
He cast on the table the Indian moccasin which had been shown the same party at the Green Lion a few evenings before. Eager hands reached for it.
"Treachery!" cried Castleton. "I bid Du Mesne four pounds for the shoe myself."
"Oh ho!" said Pembroke, "so you too were after it. Well, the long purse won, as it doth ever. I secretly gave our wandering wood ranger, ex-galley slave of France, the neat sum of twenty-five pounds for this little shoe. Poor fellow, he liked ill enough to part with it; but he said, very sensibly, that the twenty-five pounds would take him back to Canada, and once there, he could not only get many such shoes, but see the maid who made this one for him, or, rather, made it for herself. As for me, the price was cheap. You could not replace it in all the Exchange for any money. Moreover, to show my canniness, I've won back its cost a score of times this very night."
He laughingly extended his hand for the moccasin, which Wilson was examining closely.
"'Tis clever made," said the latter. "And what a tale the owner of it carried. If half he says be true, we do ill to bide here in old England. Let us take ship and follow Monsieur du Mesne."
"'Twould be a long chase, mayhap," said Pembroke, reflectively. Yet each of the men at that little table in the gaming room of the Green Lion coffee-house ceased in his fingering the cards, and gazed upon this product of another world.
Pembroke was first to break the silence, and as he heard a footfall at the door, he called out:
"Ho, fellow! Go fetch me another bottle of Spanish, and do not forget this time the brandy and water which I told thee to bring half an hour ago."
The step came nearer, and as it did not retreat, but entered the room, Pembroke called out again: "Make haste, man, and go on!"
The footsteps paused, and Pembroke looked up, as one does when a strange presence comes into the room. He saw, standing near the door, a tall and comely young man, whose carriage betokened him not ill-born. The stranger advanced and bowed gravely. "Pardon me, sir," he said, "but I fear I am awkward in thus intruding. The man showed me up the stair and bade me enter. He said that I should find here Sir Arthur Pembroke, upon whom I bear letters from friends of his in the North."
"Sir," said Pembroke, rising and advancing, "you are very welcome, and I ask pardon for my unwitting speech."
"I come at this hour and at this place," said the newcomer, "for reasons which may seem good a little later. My name is John Law, of Edinboro', sir."
All those present arose.
"Sir," responded Pembroke, "I am delighted to have your name. I know of the acquaintance between your father and my own. These are friends of mine, and I am delighted to name ye to each other. Mr. Charles Castleton; Mr. Edward Wilson. We are all here to kill the ancient enemy, Time. 'Tis an hour of night when one gains an appetite for one thing or another, cards or cold joint. I know not why we should not have a bit of both?"
"With your permission, I shall be glad to join ye at either," said John Law. "I have still the appetite of a traveler—in faith, rather a better appetite than most travelers may claim, for I swear I've had no more to eat the last day and night than could be purchased for a pair of shillings."
Pembroke raised his eyebrows, scarce knowing whether to be amused at this speech or nettled by its cool assurance.
"Some ill fortune?"—he began politely.
"There is no such thing as ill fortune," quoth John Law. "We fail always of our own fault. Forsooth I must explore Roman roads by night. England hath builded better, and the footpads have the Roman ways. My brother Will—he waiteth below, if ye please, good friends, and is quite as hungry as myself, besides having a pricked finger to boot—and I lost what little we had about us, and we came through with scarce a good shirt between the two."
A peal of laughter greeted him as he pulled apart the lapels of his coat and showed ruffles torn and disfigured. The speaker smiled gravely.
"To-morrow," said he, "I must seek me out a goldsmith and a haberdasher, if you will be so good as to name such to me."
"Sir," said Sir Arthur Pembroke, "in this plight you must allow me." He extended a purse which he drew from his pocket. "I beg you, help yourself."
"Thank you, no," replied John Law. "I shall ask you only to show me the goldsmith in the morning, him upon whom I hold certain credits. I make no doubt that then I shall be quite fit again. I have never in my life borrowed a coin. Besides, I should feel that I had offended my good angel did I ask it to help me out of mine own folly. If we have but a bit of this cold joint, and a place for my brother Will to sit in comfort as we play, I shall beg to hope, my friends, that I shall be allowed to stake this trifle against a little of the money that I see here; which, I take it, is subject to the fortunes of war."
He tossed on the board a ring, which carried in its setting a diamond of size and brilliance.
"This fellow hath a cool assurance enough," muttered Beau Wilson to his neighbor as he leaned toward him at the table.
Pembroke, always good-natured, laughed at the effrontery of the newcomer.
"You say very well; it is there for the fortune of war," said he. "It is all yours, if you can win it; but I warn you, beware, for I shall have your jewel and your letters of credit too, if ye keep not sharp watch."
"Yes," said Castleton, "Pembroke hath warrant for such speech. The man who can make sept et le va thrice in one evening is hard company for his friends."
John Law leaned back comfortably in his chair.
"I make no doubt," said he, "that I shall make trente et le va, here at this table, this very evening."
Smiles and good-natured sneerings met this calm speech.
"Trente et le va—it hath not come out in the history of London play for the past four seasons!" cried Wilson. "I'll lay you any odds that you're not within eye-sight of trente et le va these next five evenings, if you favor us with your company."
"Be easy with me, good friends," said John. Law, calmly. "I am not yet in condition for individual wagers, as my jewel is my fortune, till to-morrow at least. But if ye choose to make the play at Lands-knecht, I will plunge at the bank to the best of my capital. Then, if I win, I shall be blithe to lay ye what ye like."
The young Englishmen sat looking at their guest with some curiosity. His strange assurance daunted them.
"Surely this is a week of wonders," said Beau Wilson, with scarce covered sarcasm in his tone. "First we have a wild man from Canada, with his fairy stories of gold and gems, and now we have another gentleman who apparently hath fathomed as well how to gain sudden wealth at will, and yet keep closer home."
Law took snuff calmly. "I am not romancing, gentlemen," said he. "With me play is not a hazard, but a science. I ought really not to lay on even terms with you. As I have said, there is no such thing as chance. There are such things as recurrences, such things as laws that govern all happenings."
Laughter arose again at this, though it did not disturb the newcomer, nor did the cries of derision which followed his announcement of his system.
"Many a man hath come to London town with a system of play," cried Pembroke. "Tell us, Mr. Law, what and where shall we send thee when we have won thy last sixpence?"
"Good sir," said Law, "let us first of all have the joint."
"I humbly crave a pardon, sir," said Pembroke. "In this new sort of discourse I had forgot thine appetite. We shall mend that at once. Here, Simon! Go fetch up Mr. Law's brother, who waits below, and fetch two covers and a bit to eat. Some of thy new Java berry, too, and make haste! We have much yet to do."
"That have ye, if ye are to see the bottom of my purse more than once," said Law gaily. "See! 'tis quite empty now. I make ye all my solemn promise that 'twill not be empty again for twenty years. After that—well, the old Highland soothsayer, who dreamed for me, always told me to forswear play after I was forty, and never to go too near running water. Of the latter I was born with a horror. For play, I was born with a gift. Thus I foresee that this little feat which you mention is sure to be mine this very night. You all say that trente has not come up for many months. Well, 'tis due, and due to-night. The cards never fail me when I need."
"By my faith," cried Wilson, "ye have a pretty way about you up in Scotland!"
John Law saw the veiled ill feeling, and replied at once:
"True, we have a pretty way. We had it at Killiecrankie not so long ago; and when the clans fight among themselves, we need still prettier ways."
"Now, gentlemen," said Pembroke, "none of this talk, by your leave. The odds are fairer here than they were at Killiecrankie's battle, and 'tis all of us against the Scotch again. We English stand together, but we stand to-night only against this threat of the ultimate fortune of the cards. Moreover, here comes the supper, and if I mistake not, also the brother of our friend."
Will bowed to one and the other gentlemen, unconsciously drifting toward his brother's chair.
"Now we must to business," cried Castleton, as the dishes were at last cleared away. "Show him thy talisman, Pem, and let him kiss his jewel good by."
Pembroke threw upon the table once more the moccasin of the Indian girl. John Law picked it up and examined it long and curiously, asking again and again searching questions regarding its origin.
"I have read of this new land of America," said he. "Some day it will be more prominent in all plans."
He laid down the slipper and mused for a moment, apparently forgetful of the scene about him.
"Perhaps," cried Castleton, the zeal of the gambler now showing in his eye. "But let us make play here to-night. Let Pembroke bank. His luck is best to win this vaunter's stake."
Pembroke dealt the cards about for the first round. The queen fell. John Law won. "Deux," he said calmly, and turned away as though it were a matter of course. The cards went round again. "Trois," he said, as he glanced at his stakes, now doubled again.
Wilson murmured. "Luck's with him for a start," said he, "but 'tis a long road." He himself had lost at the second turn. "Quint!" "Seix!" "Sept et le va!" in turn called Law, still coolly, still regarding with little interest the growing heap of coin upon the board opposite the glittering ring which he had left lying on the table.
"Vingt-un, et le va!"
"Good God!" cried Castleton, the sweat breaking out upon his forehead. "See the fellow's luck!—Pembroke, sure he hath stole thy slipper. Such a run of cards was never seen in this room since Rigby, of the Tenth, made his great game four years ago."
"Vingt-cinq; et le va!" said John Law, calmly.
Will touched his sleeve. The stake had now grown till the money on the hoard meant a matter of hundreds of pounds, which might he removed at any turn the winner chose. It was there but for the stretching out of the hand. Yet this strange genius sat there, scarce deigning to smile at the excited faces of those about him.
"I'll lay thee fifty to one that the next turn sees thee lose!" cried Castleton.
"Done," said John Law.
The iciness in the air seemed now an actual thing. There was, in the nature of this play, something which no man at that board, hardened gamesters as they all were, had ever met before. It was indeed as though Fate were there, with her hand upon the shoulder of a favored son.
"You lose, Mr. Castleton," said Law, calmly, as the cards came again his way. He swept his winnings from the coin pushed out to him.
"Now we have thee, Mr. Law!" cried Pembroke. "One more turn, and I hope your very good nerve will leave the stake on the board, for so we'll see it all come back to the bank, even as the sheep come home at eventide. Here your lane turns. And 'tis at the last stage, for the next is the limit of the rules of the game. But you'll not win it."
"Anything you like for a little personal wager," said the other, with no excitement in his voice.
"Why, then, anything you like yourself, sir," said Pembroke.
"Your little slipper against fifty pounds?" asked John Law.
"Why—yes—," hesitated Pembroke, for the moment feeling a doubt of the luck that had favored him so long that evening. "I'd rather make it sovereigns, but since you name the slipper, I even make it so, for I know there is but one chance in hundreds that you win."
The players leaned over the table as the deal went on. Once, twice, thrice, the cards went round. A sigh, a groan, a long breath broke from those who looked at the deal. Neither groan nor sigh came from John Law. He gazed indifferently at the heap of coin and paper that lay on the table, and which, by the law of play, was now his own.
"Trente et le va," he said. "I knew that it would come. Sir Arthur, I half regret to rob thee thus, but I shall ask my slipper in hand paid. Pardon me, too, if I chide thee for risking it in play. Gentlemen, there is much in this little shoe, empty as it is."
He dandled it upon his finger, hardly looking at the winnings that lay before him. "'Tis monstrous pretty, this little shoe," he said, rousing himself from his half reverie.
"Confound thee, man!" cried Castleton, "that is the only thing we grudge. Of sovereigns there are plenty at the coinage—but of a shoe like this, there is not the equal this day in England!"
"So?" laughed Law. "Well, consider, 'tis none too easy to make the run of trente. Risk hath its gains, you know, by all the original laws of earth and nature."
"But heard you not the wager which was proposed over the little shoe?" broke in Castleton. "Wilson, here, was angered when I laid him odds that there was but one woman in London could wear this shoe. I offered him odds that his good friend, Kittie Lawrence—"
"Nor had ye the right to offer such bet!" cried Wilson, ruffled by the doings of the evening.
"I'll lay you myself there's no woman in England whom you know with foot small enough to wear it," cried Castleton.
"Meaning to me?" asked Law, politely.
"To any one," cried Castleton, quickly, "but most to thee, I fancy, since 'tis now thy shoe!"
"I'll lay you forty crowns, then, that I know a smaller foot than that of Madam Lawrence," said Law, suavely. "I'll lay you another forty crowns that I'll try it on for the test, though I first saw the lady this very morning. I'll lay you another forty crowns that Madam Lawrence can not wear this shoe, though her I have never seen."
These words rankled, though they were said offhand and with the license of coffee-house talk at so late an hour. Beau Wilson rose, in a somewhat unsteady attitude, and, turning towards Law, addressed him with a tone which left small option as to its meaning.
"Sirrah!" cried he, "I know not who you are, but I would have a word or two of good advice for you!"
"Sir, I thank you," said John Law, "but perhaps I do not need advice." He did not rise from his seat.
"Have it then at any rate, and be civil!" cried the older man. "You seem a swaggering sort, with your talk of love and luck, and such are sure to get their combs cut early enough here among Englishmen. I'll not tolerate your allusion to a lady you have never met, and one I honor deeply, sir, deeply!"
"I am but a young man started out to seek his fortune," said John Law, his eye kindling now for the first time, "and I should do very ill if I evaded that fortune, whatsoever it may be."
"Then you'll take back that talk of Mrs. Lawrence!"
"I have made no talk of Mrs. Lawrence, sir," said Law, "and even had I, I should take back nothing for a demand like yours. 'Tis not meet, sir, where no offense was meant, to crowd in an offensive remark."
Pembroke said nothing. The situation was ominous enough at this point. A sudden gravity and dignity fell upon the young men who sat there, schooled in an etiquette whose first lesson was that of personal courage.
"Sirrah!" cried Beau Wilson, "I perceive your purpose. If you prove good enough to name lodgings where you may he found by my friends, I shall ask leave to bid you a very good night."
So speaking, Wilson flung out of the room. A silence fell upon those left within.
"Sirs," said Law, a moment later, "I beg you to bear witness that this is no matter of my seeking or accepting. This gentleman is a stranger to me. I hardly got his name fair."
"Wilson is his name, sir," said Pembroke, "a very good friend of us all. He is of good family, and doth keep his coach-and-four like any gentleman. For him we may vouch very well."
"Wilson!" cried Law, springing now to his feet. "'Tis not him known as Beau Wilson? Why, my dear sirs, his father was friend to many of my kin long ago. Why, sir, this is one of those to whom my mother bade me look to get my first ways of London well laid out."
"These are some of the ways of London," said Pembroke, grimly.
"But is there no fashion in which this matter can be accommodated?"
Pembroke and Castleton looked at each other, rose and passed him, each raising his hat and bowing courteously.
"Your servant, sir," said the one; and, "Your servant, sir," said the other.
DIVERS EMPLOYMENTS OF JOHN LAW
"And when shall I send these garments to your Lordship?" asked the haberdasher, with whom Law was having speech on the morning following the first night in London.
"Two weeks from to-day," said Law, "in the afternoon, and not later than four o'clock. I shall have need for them."
"Impossible!" said the tradesman, hitherto obsequious, but now smitten with the conviction regarding the limits of human possibilities.
"At that hour, or not at all," said John Law, calmly. "At that time I shall perhaps be at my lodgings, 59 Bradwell Street, West. As I have said to you, I am not clad as I could wish. It is not a matter of your convenience, but of mine own."
"But, sir," expostulated the other, "you order of the best. Nothing, I am sure, save the utmost of good workmanship would please you. I should like a month of time upon these garments, in order to make them worthy of yourself. Moreover, there are orders of the nobility already in our hands will occupy us more than past the time you name. Make it three weeks, sir, and I promise—"
His customer only shook his head and reiterated, "You heard me well."
The tailor, sore puzzled, not wishing to lose a customer who came so well recommended, and yet hesitating at the exactions of that customer, sat with perplexity written upon his brow.
"So!" exclaimed Law. "Sir Arthur Pembroke told me that you were a clever fellow and could execute exact any order I might give you. Now it appears to me you are like everybody else. You prate only of hardships and of impossibilities."
The perspiration fairly stood out on the forehead of the man of trade.
"Sir," said he, "I should be glad to please not only a friend of Sir Arthur Pembroke, but also a gentleman of such parts as yourself. I hesitate to promise—"
"But you must promise," said John Law.
"Well, then, I do promise! I will have this apparel at your place on the day which you name. 'Tis most extraordinary, but the order shall be executed."
"As I thought," said John Law.
"But I must thank you besides," resumed the tradesman. "In good truth I must say that of all the young gentlemen who come hither—and I may show the names of the best nobility of London and of some ports beyond seas—there hath never stepped within these doors a better figure than yourself—nay, not so good. And I am a judge of men."
Law looked at him carelessly.
"You shall make me none the easier, nor yourself the easier, by soft speech," said he, "if you have not these garments ready by the time appointed. Send them, and you shall have back the fifty sovereigns by the messenger, with perhaps a coin or so in addition if all be well."
"The air of this nobility!" said the tailor, but smiling with pleasure none the less. "This is, perhaps, some affair with a lady?" he added.
"'Tis an affair with a lady, and also with certain gentlemen."
"Oh, so," said the tailor. "If it he, forsooth, an enterprise with a lady, methinks I know the outcome now." He gazed with professional pride upon the symmetrical figure before him. "You shall be all the better armed when well fitted in my garments. Not all London shall furnish a properer figure of a man, nor one better clad, when I shall have done with you, sir."
Law but half heard him, for he was already turning toward the door, where he beckoned again for his waiting chair.
"To the offices of the Bank of England," he directed. And forthwith he was again jogging through the crowded streets of London.
The offices of the Bank of England, to which this young adventurer now so nonchalantly directed his course, were then not housed in any such stately edifice as that which now covers the heart of the financial world, nor did the location of the young and struggling institution, in a by-street of the great city, tend to give dignity to a concern which still lacked importance and assuredness. Thither, then, might have gone almost any young traveler who needed a letter of credit cashed, or a bill changed after the fashion of the passing goldsmiths.
Yet it was not as mere transient customer of a money-changer that young Law now sought the Bank of England, nor was it as a commercial house that the bank then commanded attention. That bank, young as it was, had already become a pillar of the throne of England. William, distracted by wars abroad and factions at home, found his demands for funds ever in excess of the supply. More than that, the people of England discovered themselves in possession of a currency fluctuating, mutilated, and unstable, so that no man knew what was his actual fortune. The shrewd young financier, Montague, chancellor of the exchequer, who either by wisdom or good fortune had sanctioned the founding of the Bank of England, was at this very time addressing himself to the question of a recoinage of the specie of the realm of England. He needed help, he demanded ideas; nor was he too particular whence he obtained either the one or the other.
John Law was in London on no such blind quest as he had himself declared. He was here by the invitation, secret yet none the less obligatory, of Montague, controller of the financial policy of England. And he was to meet, here upon this fair morning, none less than my Lord Somers, keeper of the seals; none less than Sir Isaac Newton, the greatest mathematician of his time; none less than John Locke, the most learned philosopher of the day. Strong company this, for a young and unknown man, yet in the belief of Montague, himself a young man and a gambler by instinct, not too strong for this young Scotchman who had startled the Parliament of his own land by some of the most remarkable theories of finance which had ever been proposed in any country or to any government. As Law had himself arrogantly announced, he was indeed a philosopher and a mathematician, young as he was; and these things Montague was himself keen enough to know.
It promised, then, to be a strange and interesting council, this which was to meet to-day at the Bank of England, to adjust the value of England's coinage; two philosophers, one pompous trimmer, and two gamblers; the younger and more daring of whom was now calmly threading the streets of London on his way to a meeting which might mean much to him.
To John Law, adventurer, mathematician, philosopher, gambler, it seemed a natural enough thing that he should be asked to sit at the council table with the ablest minds of the day and pass upon questions the most important. This was not what gave him trouble. This matter of the coinage, these questions of finance—they were easy. But how to win the interest of the tall and gracious English girl whom he had met by chance that other morn, who had left no way open for a further meeting; how to gain access to the presence of that fair one—these were the questions which to John Law seemed of greater importance, and of greater difficulty in the answering.
The chair drew up at the somber quarters where the meeting had been set. Law knew the place by instinct, even without seeing the double row of heavy-visaged London constabulary which guarded the entrance. Here and there along the street were carriages and chairs, and multiplied conveyances of persons of consequence. Upon the narrow pavement, and within the little entrance-way that led to the inner room, there bustled about important-looking men, some with hooked noses, most with florid faces and well-fed bodies, but all with a certain dignity and sobriety of expression.
Montague himself, young, smooth-faced, dark-eyed, of active frame, of mobile and pleasing features, sat at the head of a long table. The high-strung quality of his nervous system was evidenced in his restless hands, his attitude frequently changed.
At the left of Montague sat Somers, lord keeper; older, of more steady demeanor, of fuller figure, of bold face and full light eye, a politician, not a ponderer. At the right of Montague, grave, silent, impassive, now and again turning a contemplative eye about him, sat that great man. Sir Isaac Newton, known then to every nobleman, and now to every schoolboy, of the world. A gem-like mind, keen, clear, hard and brilliant, exact in every facet, and forsooth held in the setting of an iron body. Gentle, unmoved, self-assured, Sir Issac Newton was calm as morn itself as he sat in readiness to give England the benefit of his wisdom.
Beyond sat John Locke, abstruse philosopher, a man thinner and darker than his confrere, with large full orb, with the brow of the student and the man of thought. In dignity he shared with the learned gentleman sitting near him.
All those at the board looked with some intentness at the figure of the young man from the North, who came as the guest of Montague. With small formality, the latter rose and advanced to meet Law with an eager grasp of the hand. He made him known to the others present promptly, but with a half apology.
"Gentlemen," said he, "I have made bold to ask the presence with us of a young man who has much concerned himself with problems such as those which we have now in hand. Sir Isaac Newton, this is Mr. Law of Edinboro'. Mr. Law, the fame of John Locke I need not lay before you, and of my Lord Somers you need no advice. Mr. Law, I shall pray you to be seated.
"I shall but serve as your mouthpiece to the Court, gentlemen," resumed Montague, seating himself and turning at once to the business of the day. "We are all agreed as to the urgency of the case. The king needs behind him in these times a contented people. You have already seen the imminence of a popular discontent which may shake the throne of England, none too safe in these days of change. That we must reorganize the coinage is understood and agreed. The question is, how best to do this without further unsettling the times. My Lord Keeper, I must beg you for your suggestions."
"Sir," said Somers, shifting and coughing, "it is as you say. The question is of great moment. I should suggest a decree that the old coin shall pass by weight alone and not by its face value. Call in all the coin and have it weighed, the government to make future payment to the owner of the coin of the difference between its nominal and its real value. The coin itself should be restored forthwith to its owner. Hence the trade and the credit of the realm would not suffer. The money of the country would be withdrawn from the use of the country only that short time wherein it was in process of counting. This, it occurs to me, would surely be a practical method, and could work harm to none." My Lord Somers sat back, pulling out his chest complacently.
"Sir Isaac," said Montague, "and Mr. Locke, we must beg you to find such fault as you may with this plan which my Lord Keeper hath suggested."
Sir Isaac made no immediate reply. John Locke stirred gently in his chair. "There seemeth much to commend in this plan of my Lord Keeper," said he, leaning slightly forward, "but in pondering my Lord Keeper's suggestion for the bringing in of this older coin, I must ask you if this plan can escape that selfish impulse of the human mind which seeketh for personal gain? For, look you, short as would be the time proposed, it taketh but still shorter time to mutilate a coin; and it doth seem to me that, under the plan of my Lord Keeper, we should see the old currency of England mutilated in a night. Sir, I should opine in the contrary of this plan, and would base my decision upon certain principles which I believe to be ever present in the human soul."
Montague cast down his eye for a moment. "Sir Isaac," at length he began, "we are relying very much upon you. Is there no suggestion which you can offer on this ticklish theme?"
The large, full face of the great man was turned calmly and slowly upon the speaker. His deep and serene eye apparently saw not so much the man before him as the problem which lay on that man's mind.
"Sir," said Sir Isaac, "as John Locke hath said, this is after all much a matter of clear reasoning. There come into this problem two chief questions: First, who shall pay the expense of the recoinage? Shall the Government pay the expense, or shall the owner of the coin, who is to obtain good coin for evil?
"Again, this matter applieth not to one man but to many men. Now if one half the tradesmen of England rush to us with their coin for reminting, surely the trade of the country will have left not sufficient medium with which to prosper. This I take to be the second part of this problem.
"There be certain persons of the realm who claim that we may keep our present money as it is, but mark from its face a certain amount of value. Look you, now, this were a small thing; yet, in my mind, it clearly seemeth dishonesty. For, if I owe my neighbor a debt, let us say for an hundred sovereigns, shall I not be committing injustice upon my neighbor if I pay him an hundred sovereigns less that deduction which the realm may see fit thus to impose upon the face of my sovereign? This, in justice, sirs, I hold it to be not the part of science, nor the part of honesty, neither of statesmanship, to endorse."
"Sir Isaac," cried Montague, striking his nervous hands upon the table, "recoin we must. But how, and, as you say, at whose expense? We are as far now from a plan as when we started. We but multiply difficulties. What we need now is not so much negative measures as positive ones. We must do this thing, and we must do it promptly. The question is still of how it may best be done. Mr. Law, by your leave and by the leave of these gentlemen here present, I shall take the liberty of asking you if there doth occur to your mind any plan by which we may be relieved of certain of these difficulties. I am aware, sir, that you are much a student in these matters."
A grave silence fell upon all. John Law, young, confident and arrogant in many ways as he was, none the less possessed sobriety and depth of thought, just as he possessed the external dignity to give it fitting vehicle. He gazed now at the men before him, not with timorousness or trepidation. His face was grave, and he returned their glances calmly as he rose and made the speech which, unknown to himself, was presently to prove so important in his life.
"My Lords," said he, "and gentlemen of this council, I am ill-fitted to be present here, and ill-fitted to add my advice to that which has been given. It is not for me to go beyond the purpose of this meeting, or to lay before you certain plans of my own regarding the credit of nations. I may start, as does our learned friend, simply from established principles of human nature.
"It is true that the coinage is a creature of the government. Yet I believe it to be true that the government lives purely upon credit; which is to say, the confidence of the people in that government.
"Now, we may reason in this matter perhaps from the lesser relations of our daily life. What manner of man do we most trust among those whom we meet? Surely, the honest man, the plain man, the one whose directness and integrity we do not doubt. Truly you may witness the nature of such a man in the manner of his speech, in his mien, in his conduct. Therefore, my Lords and gentlemen, it seems to me plain that we shall best gain confidence for ourselves if we act in the most simple fashion.
"Let us take up this matter directly with Parliament, not seeking to evade the knowledge of Parliament in any fashion; for, as we know, the Parliament and the king are not the best bed-fellows these days, and the one is ready enough to suspect the other. Let us have a bill framed for Parliament—such bill made upon the decisions of these learned gentlemen present. Above all things, let us act with perfect openness.
"As to the plan itself, it seems that a few things may be held safe and sure. Since we can not use the old coin, then surely we must have new coin, milled coin, which Charles, the earlier king of England, has decreed. Surely, too, as our learned friend has wisely stated, the loss in any recoinage ought, in full justice and honesty, to fall not upon the people of England, but upon the government of England. It seems equally plain to me there must be a day set after which the old coin may no longer be used. Set it some months ahead, not, as my Lord Keeper suggests, but a few days; so that full notice may be given to all. Make your campaign free and plain, and place it so that it may be known, not only of Parliament, but of all the world. Thus you establish yourselves in the confidence of Parliament and in the good graces of this people, from whom the taxes must ultimately come."
Montague's hands smote again upon the table with a gesture of conviction. John Locke shifted again in his chair. Sir Isaac and the lord keeper gazed steadfastly at this young man who stood before them, calmly, assuredly, and yet with no assumption in his mien.
"Moreover," went on John Law, calmly, "there is this further benefit to be gained, as I am sure my countryman, Mr. Paterson, has long ago made plain. It is not a question of the wealth of England, but a question of the confidence of the people in the throne. There is money in abundance in England. It is the province of my Lord Chancellor to wheedle it out of those coffers where it is concealed and place it before the uses of the king. Gentlemen, it is confidence that we need. There will be no trouble to secure loans of money in this rich land, but the taxes must be the pledge to your bankers. This new Bank of England will furnish you what moneys you may need. Secure them only by the pledge of such taxes as you feel the people may not resent; give the people, free of cost, a coinage which they can trust; and then, it seems to me, my Lords and gentlemen, the problem of the revenue may be thought solved simply and easily—solved, too, without irritating either the people or the Parliament, or endangering the relations of Parliament and the throne."
The conviction which fell upon all found its best expression in the face of Montague. The youth and nervousness of the man passed away upon the instant. He sat there sober and thoughtful, quiet and resolved.
"Gentlemen," said he at last, slowly, "my course is plain from this instant. I shall draw the bill and it shall go to Parliament. The expense of this recoinage I am sure we can find maintained by the stockholders of the Bank of England, and for their pay we shall propose a new tax upon the people of England. We shall tax the windows of the houses of England, and hence tax not only the poor but the rich of England, and that proportionately with their wealth. As for the coin of England, it shall be honest coin, made honest and kept honest, at no cost to the people of old England. Sirs, my heart is lighter than it has been for many days."
The last trace of formality in the meeting having at length vanished, Montague made his way rapidly to the foot of the table. He caught Law by both his hands.
"Sir," said he, "you helped us at the last stage of our ascent. A mistake here had been ruinous, not only to myself and friends, but to the safety of the whole Government. You spoke wisely and practically. Sir, if I can ever in all my life serve you, command me, and at whatever price you name. I am not yet done with you, sir," resumed Montague, casting his arm boyishly about the other's shoulder as they walked out. "We must meet again to discuss certain problems of the currency which, I bethink me, you have studied deeply. Keep you here in London, for I shall have need of you. Within the month, perhaps within the week, I shall require you. England needs men who can do more than dawdle. Pray you, keep me advised where you may be found."
There was ill omen in the light reply. "Why, as to that, my Lord," said Law, "if you should think my poor service useful, your servants might get trace of me at the Green Lion—unless I should be in prison! No man knoweth what may come."
Montague laughed lightly. "At the Green Lion, or in Newgate itself," said he. "Be ready, for I have not yet done with you."
THE RESOLUTION OF MR. LAW
The problems of England's troubled finances, the questions of the coinage, the gossip of the king's embroilments with the Parliament—these things, it may again be said, occupied Law's mind far less than the question of gaining audience with his fair rescuer of the morn at Sadler's Wells. This was the puzzle which, revolve it as he might, not even his audacious wit was able to provide with plausible solution. He pondered the matter in a hundred different pleasing phases as he passed from the Bank of England through the crowded streets of London, and so at length found himself at the shabby little lodgings in Bradwell Street, where he and his brother had, for the time, taken up their quarters.
"It starteth well, my boy," cried he, gaily, to his brother, when at length he had found his way up the narrow stair into the little room, and discovered Will patiently awaiting his return. "Already two of my errands are well acquit."
"You have, then, sent the letters to our goldsmith here?" said Will.
"Now, to say truth, I had not thought of that. But letters of credit—why need we trouble over such matters? These English are but babes. Give me a night or so in the week at the Green Lion, and we'll need no letters of credit, Will. Look at your purse, boy—since you are the thrifty cashier of our firm!"
"I like not this sort of gold," said Will Law, setting his lips judicially.
"Yet it seems to purchase well as any," said the other, indifferently. "At least, such is my hope, for I have made debt against our purse of some fifty sovereigns—some little apparel which I have ordered. For, look you, Will, I must be clothed proper. In these days, as I may tell you, I am to meet such men as Montague, chancellor of the exchequer—my Lord Keeper Somers—Sir Isaac Newton—Mr. John Locke—gentry of that sort. It is fitting I should have better garb than this which we have brought with us."
"You are ever free with some mad jest or other, Jack; but what is this new madness of which you speak?"
"No madness at all, my dear boy; for in fact I have but come from the council chamber, where I have met these very gentlemen whom I have named to you. But pray you note, my dear brother, there are those who hold John Law, and his studies, not so light as doth his own brother. For myself, the matter furnishes no surprise at all. As for you, you had never confidence in me, nor in yourself. Gad! Will, hadst but the courage of a flea, what days we two might have together here in this old town!"
"I want none of such days, Jack," said Will Law, soberly. "I care most to see you settled in some decent way of living. What will your mother say, if we but go on gaming and roistering, with dangers of some sudden quarrel—as this which has already sprung up—with no given aim in life, with nothing certain for an ambition—"
"Now, Will," began his brother, yet with no petulance in his tone, "pray go not too hard with me at the start. I thought I had done fairly well, to sit at the table of the council of coinage on my first day in London. 'Tis not every young man gets so far as that. Come, now, Will!"
"But after all, there must be serious purpose."
"Know then," cried the elder man, suddenly, "that I have found such serious purpose!"
The speaker stood looking out of the window, his eye fixed out across the roofs of London. There had now fallen from his face all trace of levity, and into his eye and mouth there came reflex of the decision of his speech. Will stirred in his chair, and at length the two faced each other.
"And pray, what is this sudden resolution, Jack?" said Will Law.
"If I must tell you, it is simply this: I am resolved to marry the girl we met at Sadler's Wells."
"Yes, how—what—?" repeated his brother, mockingly.
"But I would ask, which?"
"There was but one," said John Law. "The tall one, with the brassy-brown, copper-red hair, the bright blue eye, and the figure of a queen. Her like is not in all the world!"
"Methought 'twas more like to be the other," replied Will. "Yet you—how dare you think thus of that lady? Why, Jack, 'twas the Lady Catharine Knollys, sister to the Earl of Banbury!"
Law did not at once make any answer. He turned to the dressing-table and began making such shift as he could to better his appearance.
"Will," said he, at length, "you are, as ever, a babe and a suckling. I quite despair of you. 'Twould serve no purpose to explain anything to so faint a heart as yours. But you may come with me."
"Whither? Where else, than to the residence of this same lady! Look you, I have learned this. She is, as you say, the sister of the Earl of Banbury, and is for the time at the town house in Knightwell Terrace. Moreover, if that news be worth while to so white-feathered a swain as yourself, the other, damsel, the dark one—the one with the mighty pretty little foot—lives there for the time as the guest of Lady Catharine. They are rated thick as peas in a pod. True, we are strangers, yet I venture we have made a beginning, and if we venture more we may better that beginning. Should I falter, when luck gave me the run of trente et le va but yesterday? Nay, ever follow fortune hard, and she waits for you."
"Yes," said Will, scornfully. "You would get the name of gambler, and add to it the name of fortune-hunting, heiress-seeking adventurer."
"Not so," replied John Law, taking snuff calmly and still keeping the evenness of his temper. "My own fortune, as I admit, I keep safe at the Green Lion. For the rest, I seek at the start only respectful footing with this maid herself. When first I saw her, I knew well enough how the end would be. We were made for each other. This whole world was made for us both. Will, boy, I could not live without the Lady Catharine Knollys!"
"Oh, cease such talk, Jack! 'Tis ill-mannered, such presumption regarding a lady, even had you known her long. Besides, 'tis but another of your fancies, Jack," said Will. "Wilt never make an end of such follies?"
"Yes, my boy," said his brother, gravely. "I have made an end. Indeed, I made it the other morning at Sadler's Wells."
"Methinks," said Will, dryly, "that it might be well first to be sure that you can win past the front door of the house of Knollys."
John Law still kept both his temper and his confidence.
"Come with me," said he, blithely, "and I will show you how that thing may be done."
TWO MAIDS A-BROIDERING
"Now a plague take all created things, Lady Kitty!" cried Mary Connynge, petulantly flinging down a silken pattern over which she had pretended to be engaged. "There are devils in the skeins to-day. I'll try no more with't."
"Fie! For shame, Mary Connynge," replied Lady Catharine Knollys, reprovingly. "So far from better temperance of speech, didst ever hear of the virtue of perseverance? Now, for my own part—"
"And what, for your own part? Have I no eyes to see that thou'rt puttering over the same corner this last half hour? What is it thou art making to-day?"
The Lady Catharine paused for a moment and held her embroidery frame away from her at arm's length, looking at it with brow puckering into a perplexed frown.
"I was working a knight," said she. "A tall one—"
"Yes, a tall one, with yellow hair, I warrant."
"Why, so it was. I was but seeking floss of the right hue, and found it difficult."
"And with blue eyes?"
"True; or perhaps gray. I could not state which. I had naught in my box would serve to suit me for the eyes. But how know you this, Mary Connynge?" asked the Lady Catharine.
"Because I was making some such knight for myself," replied the other. "See! He was to have been tall, of good figure, wearing a wide hat and plume withal. But lest I spoil him, my knight—now a plague take me indeed if I do not ruin him complete!" So saying, she drew with vengeful fingers at the intricately woven silks until she had indeed undone all that had gone before.
"Nay, nay! Mary Connynge! Do not so!" replied Lady Catharine in expostulation. "The poor knight, how could he help himself? Why, as for mine, though I find him not all I could wish, I'll e'en be patient as I may, and seek if I may not mend him. These knights, you know, are most difficult. 'Tis hard to make them perfect."
Mary Connynge sat with her hands in her lap, looking idly out of the window and scarce heeding the despoiled fabric which lay on her lap. "Come, confess, Lady Kitty," said she at length, turning toward her friend. "Wert not trying to copy a knight of a hedge-row after all? Did not a certain tall young knight, with eyes of blue, or gray, or the like, give pattern for your sampler while you were broidering to-day?"
"Fie! For shame!" again replied Lady Catharine, flushing none the less. "Rather ask, does not such a thought come over thine own broidering? But as to the hedge-row, surely the gentleman explained it all proper enough; and I am sure—yes, I am very sure—that my brother Charles had quite approved of my giving the injured young man the lift in the coach—"
"Provided that your Brother Charles had ever heard of such a thing!"
"Well, of that, to be sure, why trouble my brother over such a trifle, when 'twas so obviously proper?" argued Lady Catharine, bravely. "And certainly, if we come to knights and the like, good chivalry has ever demanded succor for those in distress; and if, forsooth, it was two damsels in a comfortable coach, who rescued two knights from underneath a hedge-row, why, such is but the way of these modern days, when knights go seeking no more for adventures and ladies fair; as you very well know."
"As I do not know, Lady Catharine," replied Mary Connynge. "To the contrary, 'twould not surprise me to learn that he would not shrink from any adventure which might offer."
"You mean—that is—you mean the tall one, him who said he was Mr. Law of Lauriston?"
"Well, perhaps. Though I must say," replied Mary Connynge, with indirection, "that I fancy the other far more, he being not so forward, nor so full of pure conceit. I like not a man so confident." This with an eye cast down, as much as though there were present in the room some man subject to her coquetry.
"Why, I had not found him offering such an air," replied Lady Catharine, judicially. "I had but thought him frank enough, and truly most courteous."
"Why, truly," replied Mary Connynge. "But saw you naught in his eye?"
"Why, but that it was blue, or gray," replied Lady Catharine.
"Oh, ho! then my lady did look a bit, after all! And so this is why the knight flourisheth so bravely in silks to-day—Fie! but a mere adventurer, Lady Kitty. He says he is Law of Lauriston; but what proof doth he offer? And did he find such proof, it is proof of what? For my part, I did never hear of Lauriston nor its owner."
"Ah, but that I have, to the contrary," said Lady Catharine. "John Law's father was a goldsmith, and it was he who bought the properties of Lauriston and Randleston. And so far from John Law being ill-born, why, his mother was Jean Campbell, kinswoman of the Campbell, Duke of Argyll; and a mighty important man is the Duke of Argyll these days, I may tell you, as the king's army hath discovered before this. You see, I have not talked with my brother about these things for naught."
"So you make excuse for this Mr. Law of Lauriston," said Mary Connynge. "Well, I like better a knight who comes on his own horse, or in his own chariot, and who rescues me when I am in trouble, rather than asks me to give him aid. But, as to that, what matter? We set those highway travelers down, and there was an end of it. We shall never see either of them again."
"Of course not," said Lady Catharine.
"It were impossible."
"Oh, quite impossible!"
Both the young women sighed, and both looked out of the window.
"Because," said Mary Connynge, "they are but strangers. That talk of having letters may be but deceit. They themselves may be coiners. I have heard it said that coiners are monstrous bold."
"To be sure, he mentioned Sir Arthur Pembroke," ventured Lady Catharine.
"Oh! And be sure Sir Arthur Pembroke will take pains enough that no tall young man, who offers roses to ladies on first acquaintance, shall ever have opportunity to present himself to Lady Catharine Knollys. Nay, nay! There will be no introduction from that source, of that be sure. Sir Arthur is jealous as a wolf of thee already, Lady Kitty. See! He hath followed thee about like a dog for three years. And after all, why not reward him, Lady Kitty? Indeed, but the other day thou wert upon the very point of giving him his answer, for thou saidst to me that he sure had the prettiest eyes of any man in London. Pray, are Sir Arthur's eyes blue, or gray—or what? And can you match his eyes among the color of your flosses?"
"It might be," said Lady Catharine, musingly, "that he would some day find means to send us word."
"Who? Sir Arthur?"
"No. The young man, Mr. Law of Lauriston."
"Yes; or he might come himself," replied Mary Connynge.
"Fie! He dare not!"
"Oh, but be not too sure. Now suppose he did come—'twill do no harm for us to suppose so much as that. Suppose he stood there at your very door, Lady Kitty. Then what would you do?"
"Do! Why, tell James that we were not in, and never should be, and request the young man to leave at once."
"And never let him pass the door again."
"Certainly not! 'Twould be presumption. But then"—this with a gentle sigh—"we need not trouble ourselves with this. I doubt not he hath forgot us long ago, just as indeed we have forgotten him—though I would say—. But I half believe he hit thee, girl, with his boldness and his bow, and his fearlessness withal."
"Who, I? Why, heavens! Lady Kitty! The idea never came to my mind. Indeed no, not for an instant. Of course, as you say, 'twas but a passing occurrence, and 'twas all forgot. But, by the way, Lady Kitty, go we to Sadler's Wells to-morrow morn?"
"I see no reason for not going," replied Lady Catharine. "And we may drive about, the same way we took the other morn. I will show you the same spot where he stood and bowed so handsomely, and made so little of the fight with the robbers the night before, as though 'twere trifling enough; and made so little of his poverty, as though he were owner of the king's coin."
"But we shall never see him more," said Mary Connynge.
"To be sure not. But just to show you—see! He stood thus, his hat off, his eye laughing, I pledge you, as though for some good jest he had. And 'twas 'your pardon, ladies!' he said, as though he were indeed nobleman himself. See! 'Twas thus."
What pantomime might have followed did not appear, for at that moment the butler appeared at the door with an admonitory cough. "If you please, your Ladyship," said he, "there are two persons waiting. They—that is to say, he—one of them, asks for admission to your Ladyship."
"What name does he offer, James?"
"Mr. John Law of Lauriston, your Ladyship, is the name he sends. He says, if your Ladyship please, that he has brought with him something which your Ladyship left behind, if your Ladyship please."
Lady Catharine and Mary Connynge had both arisen and drawn together, and they now turned each a swift half glance upon the other.
"Are these gentlemen waiting without the street door?" asked Lady Catharine.
"No, your Ladyship. That is to say, before I thought, I allowed the tall one to come within."
"Oh, well then, you see, Mary Connynge," replied Lady Catharine, with the pink flush rising in her cheek, "it were rude to turn them now from our door, since they have already been admitted."
"Yes, we will send to the library for your brother," said Mary Connynge, dimpling at the corners of her mouth.
"No, I think it not needful to do that," replied Lady Catharine, "but we should perhaps learn what this young man brings, and then we'll see to it that we chide him so that he'll no more presume upon our kindness. My brother need not know, and we ourselves will end this forwardness at once, Mary Connynge, you and I. James, you may bring the gentlemen in."
Enter, therefore, John Law and his brother Will, the former seeming thus with ease to have made good his promise to win past the door of the Earl of Banbury.
John Law, as on the morning of the roadside meeting, approached in advance of his more timid brother, though both bowed deeply as they entered. He bowed again respectfully, his eyes not wandering hither and yon upon the splendors of this great room in an ancestral home of England. His gaze was fixed rather upon the beauty of the tall girl before him, whose eyes, now round and startled, were not quite able to be cold nor yet to be quite cast down; whose white throat throbbed a bit under its golden chain; whose bosom rose and fell perceptibly beneath its falls of snowy laces.
"Lady Catharine Knollys," said John Law, his voice deep and even, and showing no false note of embarrassment, "we come, as you may see, to make our respects to yourself and your friend, and to thank you for your kindness to two strangers."
"To two strangers, Mr. Law," said Lady Catharine, pointedly.
"Yes"—and the answering smile was hard to be denied—"to two strangers who are still strangers. I did but bethink me it was sweet to have such kindness. We were advised that London was cruel cold, and that all folk of this city hated their fellow-men. So, since 'twas welcome to be thus kindly entreated, I believed it but the act of courtesy to express our thanks more seeming than we might as that we were two beggars by the wayside. Therefore, I pay the first flower of my perpetual tribute." He bowed and extended, as he spoke, a deep red rose. His eye, though still direct, was as much imploring as it was bold.
Instinctively Mary Connynge and Lady Catharine had drawn together, retreating somewhat from this intrusion. They were now standing, like any school girls, looking timidly over their shoulders, as he advanced. Lady Catharine hesitated, and yet she moved forward a half pace, as though bidden by some unheard voice. "'Twas nothing, what we did for you and your brother," said she. She extended her hand as she spoke. "As for the flower, I think—I think a rose is a sweet-pretty thing."
She bent her cheek above the blossom, and whether the cheek or the petal were the redder, who should say? If there were any ill at ease in that room, it was not Law of Lauriston. He stood calm as though there by right. It was an escapade, an adventure, without doubt, as both these young women saw plainly enough. And now, what to do with this adventure since it had arrived?
"Sir," said Lady Catharine at length, "I am sure you must be wearied with the heavy heats of the town. Your brother must still be weak from his hurt. Pray you, be seated." She placed the rose upon the tabouret as she passed, and presently pulled at the bell cord.
"James," said she, standing very erect and full of dignity, "go to the library and see if Sir Charles be within."
When the butler's solemn cough again gave warning, it was to bring information which may or may not have been news to Lady Catharine. "Your Ladyship," said he, "Sir Charles is said to have taken carriage an hour ago, and left no word."
"Send me Cecile, James," said Lady Catharine, and again the butler vanished.
"Cecile," said she, as the maid at length appeared, "you may serve us with tea."
"You mistake, sir! I am no light o' love, John Law!"
Thus spoke Catharine Knollys. She stood near the door of the great drawing-room of the Knollys mansion, her figure beseeming well its framing of deep hangings and rich tapestries. Her eyes were wide and flashing, her cheeks deeply pink, the sweet bow of her lips half a-quiver in her vehemence. Her surpassing personal beauty, rich, ripe, enticing, gave more than sufficient challenge for the fiery blood of the young man before her.
It was less than two weeks since these two had met. Surely the flood of time had run swiftly in those few days. Not a day had passed that Law had not met Catharine Knollys, nor had yet one meeting been such as the girl in her own conscience dared call better than clandestine, even though they met, as now, under her own roof. Yet, reason as she liked, struggle as she could, Catharine Knollys had not yet been quite able to end this swift voyaging on the flood of fate. It was so strange, so new, so sweet withal, this coming of her suitor, as from the darkness of some unknown star, so bold, so strong, so confident, and yet so humble! All the old song of the ages thrilled within her soul, and each day its compelling melody had accession. That this delirious softening of all her senses meant danger, the Lady Catharine could not deny. Yet could aught of earth be wrong when it spelled such happiness, such sweetness—when the sound of a footfall sent her blood going the faster, when the sight of a tall form, the ring of a vibrant tone, caused her limbs to weaken, her throat to choke?