Tải bản đầy đủ

Beau brocade


BeauBrocade
byBaronessOrczy
1908
PartI:TheForge
PartII:TheHeath
PartIII:Brassington
PartIV:H.R.HTheDukeofCumberland
PartI:TheForge
ChapterI
ByActofParliament
Thegaffersstoodroundandshooktheirheads.
WhentheCoporalhadfinishedreadingtheRoyalProclamation,oneortwoof
themsighedinadesultoryfashion,othersmurmuredcasually,“Lordy!Lordy!to
thinkonit!Dearieme!”
Theyoungonesneithersighednormurmured.Theylookedatoneanother
furtively,thenglancedawayagain,asifafraidtoreadeachother’sthroughs,and
inashamefulmannerwipedtheirmoisthandsagainsttheirroughcordbreeches.
Therewerenowomenpresentfortunately:therehadbeenheavyrainsonthe
Moortheselastthreedays,andwhatroadstherewerehadbecomewell-nigh
impassable.Onlyafewmen—somehalf-dozen,perhaps—outofthelonely

homesteadsfromdownBrassingtonway,hadtrampedinthewakeofthelittle
squadofsoldiers,inordertohearthisActofParliamentreadathecross-roads,
andtoseethedocumentdulypinnedtotheoldgallows-tree.
Fortunatelytherainhadceasedmomentarily,onlyacool,brisknor’-westercame
blusteringacrosstheHeath,makingtheoldermenshiverbeneaththeirthin,
well-wornsmocks.


Northandsouth,eastandwest,BrassingMoorstretcheditsmournfullengthsto
thedistantframeworkofthePeakfaraway,withmileuponmileofgrey-green
gorseandgoldenbrackenandlongshootsofpurple-stemmedbramble,andhere
andtherepatchesofvividmauve,wheretheheatherwasjustburstinginto
bloom;oranonaclumpofdarkfirst,withruddytrunksandgauntarmsstretched
menacinglyoverthesparseyounglifebelow.
Andhere,atthecross-roads,theHeathseemedmoredesolatethanever,despite
thatonecottagewiththeblacksmith’sshedbeyondit.Theroadsthemselves,the
oneofAldwark,theotherfromWirksworth,thethirdlittlemorethanamorass,a
shortcuttoStretton,allboremutetestimonytotheremoteness,thealoofnessof
thisforgottencornerofeighteenth-centuryEngland.
Thentherewastheoldgallows,whereuponmanyafoot-padorsheep-stealerhad
paidfullpenaltyforhiscrimes!True,JohnStich,theblacksmith,nowuseditas
asign-postforhistrade:amonsterhorseshoehungtherewhereoncethebones
ofDickCaldwell,thehighwayman,hadwhitenedinthebleakairoftheMoor:
still,atmomentslikethese,whennoonespoke,thewindseemedtobringand
echoofghostlysighsandlaughter,forDickhadbreathedhislastwithacoarse
jestonhislips,andtheearsofthetimidseemedstilltocatchtheeeriesoundof
hishorse’shoofsploughingtheruddy,shallowsoiloftheHeath.
Forthemoment,however,thecross-roadspresentedasceneofquiteunusual
animation:theCorporalandhissquadlookedresplendentintheirscarlettunics
andwhitebuckskins,andMr.Inch,thebeadlefromBrassington,wasalsothere
inhisgold-lacedcoat,bob-tailedwigandthree-corneredhat:hehadlentthe
dignityofhispresencetothissolemnoccasion,andinhightop-boots,bellin
hand,hadtrampedfivemileswiththesoldiers,sothathemightshouta
stentorian“Oyez!Oyez!”whenevertheypassedoneofthefewcottagesalong
theroad.
Butnoonespoke.TheCorporalhandedtheRoyalProclamationtooneofthe
soldiers;hetooseemednervousandillatease.Thenor’-wester,withsingular
wantofrespectfortheKingandParliament,commencedavigorousattackupon
thegreatdocument,pullingatitinwantonfrolic,almosttearingitoutofthe
handsoftheyoungsoldier,whodidhisbesttofixitagainsttheshaftoftheold


gallows.
Thewhiteparchmentlookeduncannyandghostlikeflutteringinthewind;no


doubtthenor’-westerwouldsoontearittorags.
“Lordy!Lordy!tothinkonit!”
Thereitwas,fixedupatlast.Up,sothatanychancetravellerwhocouldmight
read.Butthosewhowerenowassembledthere—shepherds,mostofthem,on
theMoor—viewedthewrittencharacterswithaweandmisgiving.Theyhadhad
Mr.Inch’sassurancethatitwasillwritthere,thattheKinghimselfhadputhis
nametoit;andtheyoungCorporal,whohadreaditout,hadreceivedthe
documentfromhisownsuperiorofficer,whoinhisturnhadhaditatthehands
ofHisGracetheDukeofCumberlandhimself.
“IthavingcometotheknowledgeofHisMajesty’sParliamentthatcertain
subjectsoftheKinghavelatelyraisedthestandardofrebellion,settingupthe
Pretender,CharlesEdwardStuart,abovetheKing’smostlawfulMajesty,itis
herebyenactedthatthesepersonsareguiltyofhightreasonandbythelawsof
thekingdomarecondemnedtodeath.Itisfurtherenactedthatitisunlawfulfor
anyloyalsubjectoftheKingtoshelterorharbour,clotheorfeedanysuch
personswhoareviletraitorsandrebelstotheirKingandcountry:andthatany
subjectofHisMajestywhokillssuchatraitororrebeldoththerebycommitand
actofjusticeandloyalty,forwhichhemayberewardedbythesumoftwenty
guineas.”
Itwasthislastparagraphthatmadethegaffersshaketheirheadsandsay
“Lordy!Lordy!tothinkonit!tothinkonit!”Foritseemedbutyesterdaythat
theoldMoor,aye,andthehamletsandvillagesofDerbyshire,wereringingwith
thewildshoutsofPrinceCharlie’sHighlandBrigade,butyesterdaythathis
handsomeface,hisgreenbonnetlacedwithgold,hisHighlandplaidandrich
accoutrements,hadseemedtoproclaimvictorytotheStuartcausefromoneend
ofthecountrytotheother.
Tobesure,thatglorious,mad,merrytimehadnotlastedverylong.Allthe
wiseacreshadforetolddisasterwhenthePrince’sstandardbroke,justasitwas
takenintomyLordExeter’shouseinFullStreet.Theshafthadsnappedcleanin
half.Whatcouldthatportendbuthumiliationanddefeat?
TheretreatfromDerbywasstillfreshineveryone’smemory,andtherewere
thosefromWirksworthwhorememberedtherear-guardofPrinceCharlie’s
army,thehussarswiththeirhalf-starvedhorsesandbedraggledfinery,whohad


sweptdownonthevillagesandhomesteadsroundaboutAshbourneandhad
pillagedandplunderedtotheirheart’scontent.
Butthenthosewerethefortunesofwar;fighting,rushing,running,plundering,
wildhuzzars,madcavalcades,noise,bustle,excitement,joyofvictory,and
sorrowofdefeat;—butthis!!...thisProclamationwhichtheCorporalhad
broughtallthewayfromDerby,andwhichhadbeensignedbyKingGeorge
himself,thismeantsilence,hushedfootsteps,ahiddenfigureperhaps,pallidand
gaunt,hidingbehindtheboulders,oramidstthegorseontheMoor,orperishing
mayhapatnight,lostinthebog-landupStrettonway,whilstJudas-liketreads
creptstealthilyonthetrack.Itmeanttreacherytoo,thepriceofblood,afellowcreature’slifetobesoldfortwentyguineas.
Nowonderthegafferscouldthinkofnothingtosay;nowondertheyoungmen
lookedatoneanothershamefaced,andinfear.
Whoknows?AnyDerbyshireladnowmightbecomeahumanbloodhound,a
trackerofhisfellow-creatures,ahunterofmen.Thereweretwentyguineastobe
earned,andoutthereontheHeath,inthehutoftheshepherdortheforgeofthe
smith,manyapalewanfacehadbeenseenoflate,which…
Itwasterribletothinkon;forevenouthere,onBrassingMoor,thereexisted
someknowledgeofTyburnGate,andofTowerHill.
Atlastthegroupsbegantobreakup,theCorporal’sworkwasdone.His
Majesty’sProclamationwouldflutterthereinthecoolSeptemberwindfor
awhile;thenpresentlythecrowswouldpeckatit,therainwoulddashitdown,
thelastbitofdirtyragwouldbetornawaybyanOctobergale,butinthe
meanwhilethefewinhabitantsofBrassingtonandthoseofAldwarkwouldknow
thattheymightdenyastarvingfellow-creaturebreadandshelter,aye!andshoot
himtoo,likeawildbeastinaditch,andhavetwentyguineasrewardtoboot.
“I’veseennoughtofJohnStich,MasterInch,”saidtheCorporalatlast.“Behe
fromhome?”
Andheturnedtowhere,justintheforkoftheroad,thethatchedcottage,witha
glimpseoftheshedbeyondit,stoodsolitaryandstill.
“Nay,Ihavenotobservatedthatfact,MasterCorporal,”repliedMasterInch,
clearinghisthroatforsomeofthosewordswhichhadgainedforhimwide-


spreadadmirationformilesaround.“IhadnotobservatedthatJohnStichwas
fromhome.ThoughinverityitbehoovesmetosaythatIdonothearthesound
ofMasterStich’shammeruponhisanvil.”
“ThenI’llgoacrossatonce,”saidtheCoporal.“Forward,mymen!JohnStich
mighthavesavedmethetrouble,”headded,gropinginhiswalletforanother
copyofHisMajesty’sProclamation.
“Nay,MasterCorporal,donotgiveyourselfthefutiletroubleoftraversingthe
muddyroad,”saidMr.Inch,sententiously.“JohnStichisaloyalsubjectofKing
George,andbymyfaith!hewouldnotharbourgatearebel,takemywordforit.
Although,mindyou,Mr.Corporal,Ihaveoftsuspicionated…”
Mr.Inch,thebeadle,lookedcautiouslyround;allthepompousnessofhis
mannerhadvanishedinatrice.Hisbroadfacebeneaththebob-tailedwigand
three-corneredhatlookedlikearosyreceptacleofmysteriousinformation,ashe
laidhisfathandontheCorporal’ssleeve.
Thestragglinggroupsofyokelswerefastdisappearingdownthemuddytracks;
somewerereturningtoBrassington,othersweretrampingAldwarkway;one
wizened,solitaryfigurewasslowlytoilinguptheroad,litltemorethana
quagmire,thatlednorthwardacrosstheHeathtowardsStrettonHall.
Thesoldiersstoodatattentionsomefifteenyardsaway,muteanddisinterested.
Fromtheshedbeyondthecottagetheresuddenlycamethesoundofthe
blacksmith’shammeruponhisanvil.Mr.Inchfeltsecurefromobservation.
“IhaveoftsuspicionatedJohnStich,thesmith,ofbefriendingthefoot-padsand
highwaymenthathauntthisGod-forsakenMoor,”hesaid,withanairofexcited
importance,rollinghisbeadyeyes.
“Nay,”laughedtheCorporal,good-humouredly,asheshookoffMasterInch’s
fathand.“You’dbestnotwhisperthisconfidencetoJohnStichhimself.AsI
live,hewouldcrackyourskullforyou,MasterBeadle,aye,beiteversofullof
dictionarywords.JohnStichisanhonestman,Itellyou,”headdedwitha
pleasantoath,“themosthonestthissideofthecountry,anddon’tyouforgetit.”
ButMr.Inchdidnotapproveoftheyoungsoldier’stoneoffamiliarity.Hedrew
uphisfivefeetofbroadstaturetotheirfullheight.


“Nay,butIdesignatednoharm,“hesaid,withoffendeddignity.“JohnStichisa
worthfellow,andIspokeofnoordinaryfoot-pads.Mymind,”headded,
dwellinguponthatmysteriouspossessionwithconsciouspride,“mymind,I
maysay,wasdominatingonBeauBrocade.”
“BeauBrocade!!!”
AndtheCorporallaughedwithobviousincredulity,whichfurthernettledMr.
Inch,thebeadle.
“Aye,BeauBrocade,”hesaidhotly,“themalicious,pernicious,damnedrascal,
whogivesus,thatrepresentatethemajestyofthelaw,amightydealoftrouble.”
“Indeed?”sneeredtheCorporal.
“IdareswearthatdownatDerby,”retortedMr.Inch,spitefully,“youhavenot
evenheardofthatpersonage.”
“Oh!weknowwellenoughthatBrassingMoorharboursmoremiscreantsthan
anycornerofthecountry,”laughedtheyoungsoldier,“butmethoughtBeau
Brocadeonlyexistedintheimaginationofyourhalf-wittedyokelsabouthere.”
“Thereyouareingraveerror,MasterCorporal,”remarkedthebeadlewith
dignity.“BeauBrocade,permitmetoobserve,doesexistintheflesh.‘Twasonly
lastnightSirHumphreyChalloner’scoachwasstoppednotthreemilesfrom
Hartington,andhisHonourrobbedoffiftyguineas,bythatpernicious
highwayman.”
“ThenyoumustlaythisBeauBrocadebytheheels,MasterInch.”
“Aye!that’seasilysaid.Layhimbytheheelsforsooth,andwho’sgoingtodo
that,pray?”
“Nay,that’syouraffair.Youdon’texpectHisGracetheDukeofComberlandto
lendyouaportionofhisarmy,doyou?”
“HisGracemightdoworse.BeauBrocadeisadangerousrascaltothequality.”
“Onlytothequality?”


“Aye,he’llnottouchapoorman;‘tisonlytherichheisafter,andusesbutlittle
ofhisill-gottengainonhimself.”
“Howso?”askedtheCorporal,eagerly,forinspiteoftheexcitementofcamp
liferoundaboutDerby,thefameofthedaringhighwaymanhaderenowtickled
thefancyoftheyoungsoldiersoftheDukeofCumberland’sarmy.
“Why,ItoldyouSirHumphreyChallonerwasrobbedontheHeathlastnight—
robbedoffiftyguineas,eh?”saidMasterInch,whisperingineagerconfidence.
“Well,thismorning,whenSquireWestarrivedatthecourt-house,hefoundfifty
guineasinthepoorbox.”
“Well?”
“Well,that’snotthefirsttimenoryetthesecondthatsuchamatterhasoccurred.
Thedoltsroundabouthere,theladsfromBassingtonorAldwark,orevenfrom
Wirksworth,wouldneverwillinglylayahandonBeauBrocade.Therascal
knowsitwellenough,andcarriesonhisshamefultradewithimpunity.”
“Odd’sfish!butmeseemsthetradeisnotsoshamefulafterall.Whatisthe
fellowlike?”
“Nay,noonehaseverseenhisface,thoughhisfigureontheMoorisfamiliarto
many.Heisalwaysdressedinthelatestfashion,hencethevillagershavecalled
himBeauBrocade.Somesayheisaroyalprinceindisguise—healwayswearsa
mask;somesayheisthePretender,CharlesStuarthimself;othersdeclarehis
faceispittedwithsmallpox;othersthathehasthefaceofapig,andtheearsofa
mule,thatheiscoveredwithhairslikeaspaniel,orhasablueskinlikeanape.
Butnooneknows,andwithhalfthevillagersontheHeathtoaidandabethim,
heisnotliketobelaidbytheheels.”
“Afinestory,MasterInch,”laughedtheCorporal.“Andistherenorewardfor
thecaptureofyourpig-faced,hairy,blue-skinnedroyalprincedisguisedasa
commonhighwayman?”
“Aye,arewardofahundredguineas,”saidMr.Inch,inawhisperthatwas
hardlyaudibleabovethemurmurofthewind.“Ahundredguineasforthe
captureofBeauBrocade.”
TheCorporalgavealongsignificantwhistle.


“Andnooneboldenoughtoattemptthecapture?”hesaidderisively.
Mr.Inchshookhisheadsadly.
“Noonecoulddoitsingle-handed;therascaliscunningaswellasbold,and…”
ButatthispointevenMr.Inch’svolubletonguewassuddenlyandsummarily
silenced.Thewordsdiedinhisthroat;hisbell,thebadgeofhisimportantpublic
office,fellwithamightyclatterontheground.
Alaugh,along,loud,joyous,mirthfullaugh,rangclearasasilvergongacross
thelonelyMoor.Suchalaughaswouldmakeanyone’sheartgladtohear,the
laughofafreeman,ofamanwhoiswhole-hearted,ofamanwhohasnever
ceasedtobeaboy.
AndpompousMr.Inchslowlyturnedonhisheel,asdidalsotheyoung
Corporal,andbothgazedoutupontheHeath;thepatientlittlesquadofsoldiers
too,allfixedtheireyesupononespot,justbeyondJohnStich’sforgeand
cottage,notfiftyyardsaway.
There,clearlyoutlinedagainstthecould-ladensky,wasthegracefulfigureofa
horseandrider;thehorse,asleekchestnutthoroughbred,whichfilledallthe
soldiers’heartswithenvyandcovetousness;therider,ayouthful,uprightfigure,
whoseeverymovementbetokenedstrengthoflimbandelasticityofmuscle,the
veryposeamodelofeaseandgrace,theshouldersbroad;thehead,withablack
maskwornovertheface,wascarriedhighanderect.
Intruthitwasagoodlypicturetolookupon,withthatmassivebandofwhite
clouds,andthelittlepatchesofvividblueasarich,shimmeringdomeaboveit,
thegold-tippedbracken,thepurpleheatherallaround,andfarawayasamistcoveredbackground,thegreen-cladhillsandmassiveTorsofDerbyshire.
SogoodapicturewasitthatthetardySeptembersunpeepedthroughtheclouds
andhadalookatthatfinespecimenofeighteenth-centuryEnglishmanhood,
thenpausedawhile,perchancetohearagainthatmirthful,happylaugh.
Thengameagustofwind,thesunretreated,thesoldiersgasped,andlo!before
Mr.InchorMr.Corporalhadrealizedthatthepicturewasmadeoffleshand
blood,horseandriderhasdisappeared,there,faroutacrosstheHeath,beyond
thegorseandbrambleandthebuddingheather,withnotahandfulofduskto


markthewaytheywent.
Onlyoncefromfar,veryfar,almostfromfairyland,therecame,liketheechoof
asliverbell,thesoundofthatmad,merrylaugh.
“BeauBrocade,asIlive!”murmuredMr.Inch,underhisbreath.
ChapterII
TheForgeofJohnStich
JohnStichtoohadheardthatlaugh;foramomenthepausedinhiswork,
straightenedhisbroadbackandleanthisheavyhammerupontheanvil,whilsta
pleasantsmilelituphisbronzedandruggedcountenance.
“TheregoestheCaptain,”hesaid,“Iwondernowwhat’sticklinghim.Ah!”he
addedwithashortsigh,“thesoldiers,maybe.Hedoesn’tlikesoldiersmuch,
doesn’ttheCaptain.”
Hesighedagainandlookedacrosstowhere,onaroughwoodenbench,sata
youngmanwithheadrestingonhishand,hisblueeyesstaringmoodilybefore
him.ThedressthisyoungmanworewasacounterpartofthatinwhichJohn
himselfwasarrayed;roughworstedstockings,thickflannelshirtwithsleeves
welltuckedupoverfine,musculararms,andalarge,greasy,well-wornleather
apron,denotingtheblacksmith’strade.Butthoughthehandsandfacewere
coveredwithgrime,acloseobserverwouldsoonhavenoticedthatthosesame
handswereslenderandshapely,thefingerslong,thenailsneatlytrimmed,whilst
theface,anxiousandcarewornthoughitwas,hadalookofhabitualcommand,
ofpridenotyetcrushedoutofken.
JohnStichgazedathimforawhile,whilstalookofpityandanxietysaddened
hishonestface.Thesmithwasamanoffewwords;hesaidnothingthen,and
presentlythesoundofhishammerupontheanviloncemorefilledtheforgewith
itspleasantecho.ButthoughJohn’stonguewasslow,hisearwasquick,andin
onemomenthehadperceivedthedullthudmadebytheCorporal’ssquadas,
havingpartedfromMr.Inchatthecross-roads,thesoldiersploughedtheirway
throughthemudroundthecottageandtowardstheforge.
“Hist!”saidJohn,inarapidwhisper,pointingtothefire,“thebellows!quick!”


Theyoungmantoohadstartedinobviousalarm.Hisear—theearofafugitive,
trainedtoeverysoundthatbetokeneddanger—wasasalertasthatofthesmith.
Withasuddenefforthepulledhimselftogether,andquicklyseizedtheheavy
bellowswithawill.Heforcedhiseyestoglancecarelesslyatthedoorandhis
lipstowhistlealivelycountrytune.
TheCorporalpausedamomentattheentrance,takingaquicksurveyofthe
interioroftheforge,hismenatattentionbehindhim.
“IntheKing’sname!”hesaidloudly,asheunfoldedtheProclamationofHis
Majesty’sParliament.
Hisordersweretoreaditineveryhamletandeveryhomesteadinthedistrict;
JohnStich,theblacksmith,wasanimportantpersonageallaroundBrassing
Moor,andhehadnothearditreadfrombeneaththeoldgallowsatthecrossroadsjustnow.
“Well,Corporal,”saidtheworthysmith,quietly,asheputdownhishammerout
ofrespectfortheKing’sname.“Well,andwhatdoesHisMajesty,KingGeorge
II.,desirewithJohnStich,theblacksmith,eh?”
“Notwithyoualone,JohnStich,”repliedtheCorporal.“ThisisanActof
ParliamentandconcernsallloyalsubjectsoftheKing.Whobeyonlad?”he
asked,carelesslynoddingtowardstheyoungmanatthebellows.
“MynephewJim,outo’Nottingham,”repliedJohnStich,quietly,“mysister
Hannah’schild.Yourecollecther,Corporal?ShewasinservicewithmyLord
ExeterupatDerby.”
“Oh,aye!MistressHannahStich,tobesure!Ididn’tknowshehadsuchafine
ladofherown,”commentedtheCorporal,astheyoungmanstraightenedhistall
figureandlookedhimfearlesslyintheface.
“Ladsgrowupfastenough,don’tthey,Corporal?”laughedhonestStich,
pleasantly;“butcome,let’shearHisMajesty’sProclamationsinceyou’vegotto
readit.ButyouseeI’mverybusyand…”
“Nay,‘tismyduty,JohnStich,‘ineveryhomesteadinDerbyshire’‘tistobe
read,sosaysthisActofParliament.Youmighthavesavedthistroublehadyou
comedowntothecross-roadsjustnow.”


“Iwasbusy,”remarkedJohnStich,drily,andtheCorporalbegantoread:—
“IthavingcometotheknowledgeofHisMajesty’sParliamentthatcertain
subjectsoftheKinghavelatelyraisedthestandardofrebellion,settingupthe
Pretender,CharlesEdwardStuart,abovetheKing’smostlawfulMajesty,itis
herebyenactedthatthesepersonsareguiltyofhightreasonandbythelawsof
thekingdomarecondemnedtodeath.Itisfurtherenactedthatitisunlawfulfor
anyloyalsubjectoftheKingtoshelterorharbour,clotheorfeedanysuch
personswhoareviletraitorsandrebelstotheirKingandcountry:andthatany
subjectofHisMajestywhokillssuchatraitororrebeldoththerebycommitand
actofjusticeandloyalty,forwhichhemayberewardedbythesumoftwenty
guineas.”
TherewasapausewhentheCorporalhadfinishedreading.JohnStichwas
leaninguponhishammer,theyoungmanoncemorebusiedhimselfwiththe
bellows.Outside,theclearingshowerofSeptemberrainbeganpatteringupon
thethatchedroofoftheforge.
“Well,”saidJohnStichatlast,astheCorporalputtheheavyparchmentawayin
hiswallet.“Well,andareyougoingtotelluswhoarethosepersons,Corporal,
whomourvillageladsaretoldtomurderbyActofParliament?Howshallwe
knowarebel…andshoothim…whenweseeone?”
“Therewerefortypersonsdownonthelistafewweeksago,personswhowere
knowntobeinhidinginDerbyshire,”saidtheyoungsoldier,“but…”
“Well,what’syour‘but,’Corporal?Therewerefortypersonswhom‘twaslawful
tomurderafewweeksago….Whatofthem?”
“Theyhavebeencaughtandhanged,mostofthem,”repliedthesoldier,quietly.
“Jim,lad,mindthatfire,”commentedJohnStich,turningtohis“nephewouto’
Nottingham,”forthelatterwasstaringwithglowingeyesandquiveringlipsat
theCorporal,who,notnoticinghim,continuedcarelessly,—
“TherewasLordLovatnow,youmusthaveheardofhim,JohnStich,hewas
beheadedafewdaysago,andsowasLordKilmarnock…andtheywerelords,
yousee,andhadaheadsmanalltothemselvesonTowerHill,that’supin
London:somelesserfolkhavebeenhanged,andnowthereareonlythreerebels
atlarge,andtherearetwentyguineaswaitingforanyonewhowillbringthehead


ofoneofthemtothenearestmagistrate.”
Thesmithgrunted.“Well,andwhoarethey?”heaskedroughly.
“SirAndrewMacdonaldupfromTweedside,thenSquireFairfield,you’dmind
him,JohnStich,overStaffordshireway?”
“Aye,aye,Imindhimwellenough.HismotherwasaPapistandheclungtothe
Stuartcause…youngman,too,andhidingforhislife….Well,andwhoelse?”
“TheyoungEarlofStretton.”
“What!himfromStrettonHall?”saidJohnStichinopenastonishment.“Jim,
lad,”headdedsternly,“thouartaclumsyfool.”
Theyoungmanhadstartedinvoluntarilyatsoundofthelastnamementionedby
theCorporal;andthebellowswhichhehadtriedtowieldfellwithaclatterto
thefloor.
“Begy!butanActofParliamentcanmaketheealawfulassassin,itseems,”
addedhonestJohn,withalaugh,“butletmeperishifitcanmaketheeagood
smith.Whatthinkyou,MasterCorporal?”
“Odd’slife!theladistoosoft-heartedmayhap!OurDerbyshireladshaven’t
muchsenseintheirheads,havethey?”
“Well,youmindthesaying,Corporal,‘DerbyshirebornandDerbyshirebred…’
eh?”
“‘Strongi’thearmandweaki’thehead,’”laughedthesoldier,concludingthe
aptquotation.“That’sjustit.Odd’sbuds!theywantsomesense.What’sarebel
oratraitorbutvermin,eh?anddon’twekillvermin,allofus,anddon’tcallit
murdereither—what?”
Helaughedpleasantlyandcarelesslyandtappedthesideofhiswalletwhere
restedHisMajesty’sProclamation.Hewasayoungsoldier,nothingmore,
attentivetoduty,readytoobey,neitherwillingnorallowedtoreasonforhimself.
Hehadbeentaughtthatrebelsandtraitorswerevermin…egad!verminthey
were,andassuchmustbegotridofforthesakeoftherestofthekingdomand
thesafetyofHisMajestytheKing.


JohnStichmadenocommentontheCorporal’sprofessionoffaith.
“We’lltalkaboutallthatsomeothertime,Coporal,”hesaidatlast,“butIam
busynow,yousee…”
“Nooffense,friendStich….Odd’slife,dutyyouknow,John,duty,eh?His
Majesty’sorders!andIhadthemfromtheCaptain,whohadthemfromtheDuke
ofCumberlandhimself.SoyoumindtheAct,friend!”
“Aye!Iminditwellenough.”
“EveryoneknowsyoutobealoyalsubjectofKingGeorge,”addedtheCorporal
inconciliatorytones,forJohnwasapowerinthedistrict,“andI’msureyour
nephewisofthesame,butdutyisduty,andnooffencemeant.”
“That’srightenough,Corporal,”saidJohnStich,impatiently.
“Sogood-morrowtoyou,JohnStich.”
“Good-morrow.”
TheCorporalnoddedtotheyoungman,thenturnedonhisheelandpresentlyhis
voicewasheardringingoutthewordofcommand,—
“Attention!—Rightturn—Quickmarch!”
JohnStichandtheyoungmanwatchedthehalf-dozenred-coatedfiguresasthey
turnedtoskirtthecottage:thedullthudoftheirfeetquicklydyingaway,asthey
woundtheirwayslowlyupthemuddypathwhichleadsacrosstheHeathto
Aldwarkvillage.
ChapterIII:TheFugitive
Insidetheforgeallwasstill,whilstthelastofthemuffledsoundsdiedawayin
thedistance.JohnStichhadnotresumedwork.Itwashisturnnowtostare
moodilybeforehim.
Theyoungmanhadthrownthebellowsaside,andwaspacingtheroughearthen
flooroftheforgelikesomecagedanimal.


“Tracked!”hemurmuredatlastbetweenclenchedteeth,“trackedlikesomewild
beast!perhapsshotanonlikeadangerouscurbehindahedge!”
Hesighedalongandbittersigh,fullofsorrow,anxiety,disappointment.Ithad
cometothisthen!Hisnameamongtheothers:thetraitors,therebels!andhean
innocentman!
“Nay,mylord!”saidthesmith,quietly,“notwhileJohnStichownsaroofthat
canshelteryou.”
Theyoungmanpausedinhisfeverishwalk;alookofgentlenessandgratitude
softenedthecarewornexpressiononhisface:withaboyishgesturehethrew
backthefairhairwhichfellincurlyprofusionoverhisforehead,andwitha
frankandwinninggracehesoughtandgraspedthewrothsmith’sroughbrown
hand.
“HonestStich!”hesaidatlast,whilsthisvoiceshookalittleashespoke,“andto
thinkthatIcannotevenrewardyourdevotion!”
“Nay,mylord,”retortedJohnStich,drawinguphisburlyfiguretoitsfullheight,
“don’ttalkofreward.Iwouldgladlygivemylifeforyouandyourfamily.”
Andthiswasnoidletalk.JohnStichmeanteverywordhesaid.Honest,kind,
simple-heartedJohn!helovedthosetowhomheowedeverything,lovedthem
withallthedevotionofhisstrong,faithfulnature.
ThelateLordStrettonhadbroughthimup,caredforhim,givenhimatrade,and
sethimupinthecottageandforgeatthecross-roads,andhonestStichfeltthat
aseverythingthatwasgoodinlifehadcomefrommylordandhisfamily,so
everythinghecouldgiveshouldbetheirsinreturn.
“Ah!Ifearme!”sighedtheyoungman,“thatitisyourlifeyourisknowby
shelteringme.”
Yetitwasallsuchahorriblemistake.
PhilipJamesCascoyne,eleventhEarlofStrettonwasatthistimenottwenty-one
yearsofage.ThereisthatfineportraitofhimatBrassingHallpaintedby
Hogarthjustbeforethistime.Theartisthaswellcaughttheproudfeatures,the
fineblueeyes,theboyish,curlyhead,whichhavebeenthecharacteristicsofthe


Gascoynesformanygenerations.Hehasalsosucceededinindicatingthe
sensitivenessofthemouth,thatsomewhatfeminineturnofthelips,thatalltooroundcurveofthechinandjaw,whichperhapsrobsthehandsomefaceofits
virilemanliness.Therecertainlyisalookofindecision,ofweaknessofwill
aboutthelowerpartoftheface,butitissofrank,soyoung,soinsouciant,thatit
winsallhearts,evenifitdoesnotcaptivatethejudgment.
Ofcourse,whenhewasveryyoung,hissympathieswentouttotheStuartcause.
HadnottheGascoynessufferedanddiedforCharlesStuartbutahundredyears
ago?Whythechange?Whythisallegiancetoanaliendynasty,toakingwho
spokethelanguageofhissubjectswithaforeignaccent?
Hisfather,thelateLordStretton,acontented,unargumentativeBritishnobleman
oftheeighteenthcentury,hadnotthoughtitworthhiswhiletoexplaintothe
growingladthereligiousandpoliticalquestionsinvolvedintheupholdingof
thisforeigndynasty.Perhapshedidnotunderstandthemaltogetherhimself.The
familymottois“PourleRoi.”SotheGascoynesfoughtforaStuartwhenhewas
King,andagainsthimwhenhewasaPretender,andoldLordStrettonexpected
hischildrentoreverencethefamilymotto,andhavenoopinionsoftheirown.
AndyettotheheartsofmanytheStaurtcausemadeastrongappeal.From
Scotlandcamethefameofthe“bonniePrince”whowonallheartswhere’erhe
went.Philipwasyoung,hisfather’sdisciplinewasirksome,hehadsomefriends
amongtheHighlandlords:andwhilehisfatherlivedtherehadasyetbeenno
occasionintheEnglishMidlandstodoanythingverydaringfortheStuart
Pretender.
WhentheEarlofStrettondied,Philip,amereboythen,succeededtotitleand
estates.Inthefirstflushofnewdutiesandnewresponsibilitieshisold
enthusiasmremainedhalfforgotten.Asapeeroftherealmhehadregisteredhis
allegiancetoKingGeorge,andwithhisyouthfulromanticnatureallafire,he
clungtothatnewoathofhis,idealizeditandloyallyresistedtheblandishments
andluresheldouttohimfromScotlandandfromFrance.
ThencamethenewsthatCharlesEdward,backedbyFrenchmoneyandFrench
influence,wouldmarchuponLondonandwouldstopatDerbytorallyroundhis
standardhisfriendsintheMidlands.
YoungLordStretton,tornbetweenmemoriesofhisboyhoodandthedutiesof


hisnewposition,fearedtobeinveigledintobreakinghisallegiancetoKing
George.Themalevolentfairywhoathisbirthhadgivenhimthatweakmouth
andsoftlyroundedchin,hadstampedhisworstcharacteristicontheyoung
handsomeface.Philip’sonehopeatthisjuncturewastofleefromtemptation;he
knewthatCharlesEdward,rememberinghispastardour,woulddemandhishelp
andhisadherence,andthathe,Philip,mightbepowerlesstoresist.
Sohefledfromthecounty:despisinghimselfasacoward,yetboyishlyclinging
totheideathathewouldkeeptheoathhehadsworntoKingGeorge.Hewished
toputmilesofcountrybetweenhimselfandthepossiblebreaking
ofthatoath,thepossibleyieldingtothe“bonniePrince”whomnonecould
resist.Helefthissister,LadyPatience,atStrettonHall,wellcaredforbyold
retainers,andhe,aloyalsubjecttohisKing,becameafugitive.
Thencamethecatastrophe:thatmiserableretreatfromDerby,thebedraggled
remainsofadisappointedarmy;finallyCullodenandcompletedisaster;King
George’ssoldiersscouringthecountryforrebels,thebillsofattainder,thequick
trialsandswiftexecutions.
SoonthesuspiciongrewintocertaintythatthefugitiveEarlofStrettonwasone
ofthePretender’sforemostadherents.OnhiswearywayfromDerbyPrince
CharlesEdwardhadaskedandobtainedanight’sshelteratStrettonHall.When
Philiptriedtocommunicatewithhissister,andtoreturntohishome,hefound
thatshewaswatched,andthathewashimselfattaintedbyActofParliament.
Yethefelthimselfguiltlessandloyal.Hewasguiltlessandloyal:howhisname
cametobeincludedinthelistofrebelswasstillamysterytohim:someone
musthavelodgedsworninformationagainsthim.Butwho?—Surelynothisold
friends—theadherentsofCharlesEdward—outofrevengeforhisdefection?
Inthemeanwhile,he,amerelad,becameanoutcast,condemnedtodeathbyAct
ofParliament.Presentlyallmightbecleared,allwouldbewell,butforthe
momenthewaslikeawildbeast,hidinginhedgesandditches,withhislifeat
themercyofanygraspingJudaswillingtosellhisfellow-creatureforafew
guineas.
Itwashorrible!horrible!Philipvainlytriedallthedaystorousehimselffromhis
morbidreverie.Atintervalshewouldgraspthekindsmith’shandandmutter
anxiously,—


“Mylettertomysister,John?—Youaresureshehadit?”
AndpatientJohnwouldrepeatadozentimestheday,—
“Iamquitesure,mylord.”
ButsincetheCorporal’svisitPhilip’smoodhadbecomemorefeverish.
“Myletter,”herepeated,“hasPatiencehadmyletter?Whydoesn’tshecome?”
AndspiteofJohn’sentreatieshewouldgototheentrancewhichfacedthelonely
Heath,andwithburningeyeslookoutacrossthewildernessoffurzeand
brackentowardsthatdistanthorizonwherelayhishome,wherewaitedhis
patient,lovingsister.
“Ibegyou,mylord,comeawayfromthedoor,itisn’tsafe,notreallysafe,”
urgedJohnStichagainandagain.
“ThenwhywillyounottellmewhotookmylettertoStrettonHall?”saidthe
boywithfeverishimpatience.
“Mylord…”
“Somestupiddoltmayhap,whohaslosthisway…or…perchancebetrayed
me…”
“Mylord,”pleadedthesmith,“haveInotswornthatyourletterwentbyhands
asfaithful,astrustyasmyown?”
“ButI’llnotrestanyoudonottellmewhotookit.Iwishtoknow,”headded
withthatsuddenlookofcommandwhichalltheStrettonshavewornformany
generationspast.
Theoldhabitualdeferenceoftheretainerforhislordwasstrongintheheartof
John.Heyielded.
“Nay,mylord,andyou’llnotbesatisfied,”hesaidwithasigh,“I’lltellyou,
thoughHeavenknowsthathissafetyisasdeartomeasyours—andbothdearer
thanmyown.”


“Well,whowasit?”askedtheyoungman,eagerly.
“IentrustedyourletterforLadyPatiencetoBeauBrocade,thehighwayman—”
InamomentPhilipwasonhisfeet:danger,amazement,horror,robbedhimof
speechforafewseconds,butthenexthehadgrippedthesmith’sarmandlikea
furious,thoughtless,unreasoningchild,hegasped,—
“BeauBrocade!!...thehighwayman!!!...Mylife,myhonourtoahighwayman!!!
Areyoumadordrunk,JohnStich?”
“Neither,mylord,”saidJohnwithgreatrespect,butlookingtheyoungman
fearlesslyintheface.“Youdon’tknowBeauBrocade,andtherearenosafer
handsthanhis.HeknowseveryinchoftheMoorandfearsneithermannor
devil.”
Touchedinspiteofhimselfbythesmith’searnestness,Philip’swrathabated
somewhat;stillheseemeddazed,notunderstanding,vaguelyscentingdanger,or
treachery.
“Butahighwayman!”herepeatedmechanically.
“Aye!andagentleman!”retortedJohnwithquietconviction.“Agentlemanif
evertherewasone!Aye!andnottheonlyonewhohasta’entotheroadthese
hardtimes,”headdedunderhisbreath.
“Butathief,John!Amanwhomightsellmyletter,betraymywhereabouts!...”
“Aman,mylord,whowoulddieintorturesoonerthandothat.”
Thesmith’squietandearnestconvictionseemedtochaseawaythelastvestige
ofPhilip’swrath.Stillheseemedunconvinced.
“Aheroofromance,John,thishighwaymanofyours,”helaughedbitterly.
HonestJohnscratchedthebackofhiscurlyblackhead.
“Noa!”hesaid,somewhatpuzzled.“Iknownoughtaboutthatorwhat’sa…a
heroofromance.ButIdoknowthatBeauBrocadeisafriendofthepoor,and
thatourvillageladswon’tlaytheirhandsonhim,eveniftheycould.No!not


thoughtheGovernmenthaveofferedahundredguineasasthepriceofhishead.”
“Fivetimesthevalueofmine,itseems,”saidPhilipwithasigh.“But,”he
added,withasuddenreturntofeverishanxiety,“ifhewascaughtlastnight,with
myletterinhishands…”
“Caught!!!BeauBrocadecaught!”laughedJohnStich,“nay,allthesoldiersof
theDukeofCumberland’sarmycouldn’tdothat,mylord!Besides,Iknowhe
wasn’tcaught.IsawhimonhischestnuthorsejustbeforetheCorporalcame.I
heardhimlaughing,attheredcoats,maybe.Nay!mylord,Ibegyouhaveno
fear,yourletterisinherladyship’shandnow,I’lllaymylifeonthat.”
“Ihadtotrustsomeone,mylord,”hesaidafterawhile,asLordStrettononce
morerelapsedintomoodysilence.“Icoulddonothingforyourlordshipsinglehanded,andyouwantedthatlettertoreachherladyship.Iscarceknewwhatto
do.ButIdidknowIcouldtrustBeauBrocade,andyoursecretisassafewith
himasitiswithme.”
Philipsighedwearily.
“Ah,well!I’llbelieveitall,friendJohn.I’lltrustyouandyourfriend,andbe
gratefultoyouboth:havenofearofthat!WhoamIbutawretchedcreature,
whomanyrascalmayshootbyActofParliament.”
ButJohnStichhadcometotheendofhispowerofargument.Neveramanof
manywords,hehadonlybecomevolublewhenspeakingofhisfriend.Philip
triedtolookcheerfulandconvinced,buthewaschafingunderthisenforced
inactivityandthedark,closeatmosphereoftheforge.
Hehadspenttwodaysunderthesmith’sroofandtimeseemedtocreepwith
lead-weightedwings:yeteverysound,everystrangefootstep,madehisnerves
quiverwithmorbidapprehension,andevennow,atsoundofatremulousvoice
fromtheroad,heshrank,moodyandimpatient,intothedarkestcornerofthe
hut.
ChapterIV
JockMiggs,theShepherd
“Beyeathome,MasterStich?”


Acurious,wizenedlittlefigurestoodinthedoorwaypeeringcautiouslyintothe
forge.
InamomentJohnStichwasonthealert.
“Sh!”hewhisperedquickly,“havenofear,mylord,‘tisonlysomefoolfromthe
village.”
“Didyesayyebaintathome,MasterStich?”queriedthesametremulousvoice
again.“Ididn’tquitehearye.”
“Yes,yes,I’mhereallright,JockMiggs,”saidthesmith,heartily.“Comein!”
JockMiggscamein,makingaslittlenoise,andtakingupaslittleroomas
possible.Dressedinawell-wornsmockandshabbycorduroybreeches,hehada
curiousshrunken,timidairabouthiswholepersonality,asheremovedhissoft
felthatandbeganscratchinghisscantytow-coloredlocks:hewasayoungish
mantoo,probablynotmuchmorethanthirty,yethisbrownfacewasamassof
rutsandwrinkleslikeafurrowedpathonBrassingMoor.
“Morning,Mr.Stich…morning,”hesaidwithacertainairofvaguenessand
apology,aswithobviousadmirationhestoppedtowatchthebroadbackofthe
smithandhisstrongarmswieldingtheheavyhammer.
“Morning,Miggs,”retortedJohn,notlookingupfromhiswork,“how’stheold
woman?”
“Idunno,Mr.Stich,”repliedMiggs,withadubiousshakeofthehead.“Badly,I
expec’...sameasyesterday,”headdedinamorecheerfulspirit.
“Why!what’sthematter?”
“Idunno,Mr.Stich,thatthere’sanythingthematter,”explainedJockMiggswith
slowandsaddeliberation,“butshe’sdead…sameasyesterday.”
InvoluntarilyPhiliplaughedatthequaintfatalisticstatement.
“Hello!”saidMiggs,lookingathimwiththesameapatheticwonder,“whobe
yonlad?”


“That’smynephewJim,outo’Nottingham,”saidJohn,“cometogivemea
hand.”
“Morning,lad,”pipedMiggs,inhishightreble,asheextendedawrinkled,bony
handtoStretton.
“Lud,JohnStich,”heexclaimed,“andone’dknowhewasoneo’yourfamily
fromthemusclehe’sgot.”
Andgently,meditatively,herubbedoneshriveledhandagainsttheother,looking
withaweatthefinefigureofamanbeforehim.
“Abangingladyournephewtoo,”headdedwithachuckle;“he’llbeturningthe
headsofallthegirlsthissideo’Brassington,maybe.”
“Oh!I’llwarranthe’sgotasweetheartathome,eh,Jimlad?—ormaybemore
thanone.Butwhatbringsyeherethisday,friendMiggs?”
Thewizenedlittlefaceassumedapuzzledexpression.
“Idunno…”hesaidvaguely,“maybeIwantedtotellyeaboutthesoldiersIseed
attheRoyalGeorgeoverBrassingtonway.”
“Whatabout‘em,Miggs?”
“_I_dunno…Iseeacorporalandlotsoffellersinred…somesaythere’smore
o’them…Idunno.”
“Ha!”saidStich,carelessly.“Whataretheyafter?”
“Idunno,”commentedMiggs,imperturbably.“Somesaythey’reafterthatChap
BeauBrocade.TherewasacoachstoppedontheHeath‘gainlastnight.Fifty
guineashetookoutofit,hedid…”AndJockMiggschuckledfeeblywith
apparentbutirresponsibledelight.“SomefolksayitwereSirHumphrey
Chanlloner’scoachoverfromHartington,andnoone’sgoingtobreaktheir
heartsoverthat!he!he!he!...butIdunno,”headdedwithsuddenfrightened
vagueness.
“BetheycavalrysoldiersoverattheRoyalGeorge,Miggs?”askedJohn.


“Idunno…Iseednohorses…looksmorelikefootsoldiers…butIdunno.The
Corporalhereadoutsomethingjustnowaboutourgettingtwentyguineasifwe
shootoneo’themrebels.I’dbemightygladtogettwentyguineas,Master
Stich,”hesaidreflectively,“butIdunnoashowIcouldhandleamusket
rightly…andfolkssaythemtraitorsaremightydesperatefellows…butI
dunno…”
ThenwithsuddenresolutionJockMiggsturnedtothedoorway.
“Morning,MasterStich,”hesaiddecisively.“Morning,lad!...morning.”
“Morning,Miggs.”
However,itseemedthatJockMiggs’svisittotheforgewasnotsopurposeless
asitatfirstappearedtobe.
“He!he!he!”hechuckled,asifsuddenlyrecollectinghiserrand.“I’dalmost
forgotwhyIcame.FarmerCrabtreewantedtoknow,MasterStich,ifyou’mgot
thewether’scollarmendedyet?”
“Oh,yes,tobesure,”repliedthesmith,pointingtoaroughbenchonwhichlaya
numberofmetalarticles.“You’llfinditonthattherebench,Jock.Farmer
Crabtreesoldhissheepyet?”
Jocktoddleduptothebenchandpickedupthewether’scollar.
“Noa!”hemuttered,“notyet,worseluck!Andhistemperisthathot!Sodon’t
‘eechargehimtoomuchforthatcollar,MasterStich,orit’smethat’llhaveto
suffer.”
AndMiggsrubbedhisshouldersignificantly.Stichlaughed.Philiphimself,in
spiteofhisanxiety,couldnothelpbeingamusedatthequaintfigureofthelittle
shepherdwithhiswizenedfaceandgentle,vaguelyfatalisticmanner.
Thusitwasthatnooneintheforgehadperceivedthepatterofsmallfeetonthe
mudoutside,andwhenJockMiggs,withmoreelaborate“Mornings”andfinal
leave-takings,oncemorereachedthedoorway,hecameinviolentcollisionwith
ashort,be-cloakedandclosely-hoodedfigurethatwaspickingitswayonvery
small,veryhigh-heeledshoes,throughthemazeofpuddleswhichguardedthe
entrancetotheforge.


TheimpactsentJockMiggs,scaredandapologetic,stumblinginonedirection,
whilstthegreyhoodflewofftheheadofitsweareranddisclosedinthesetting
ofitsshell-pinkliningamerry,pretty,impudentlittleface,withbrowneyes
sparklingandredlipspoutinginobviousirritation.
“Lud,man!”saidthedaintyyoungdamsel,witheringtheunfortunateshepherd
withascornfulglance,“whydon’tyoulookwhereyou’regoing?”
“Idunno,”repliedJockMiggs,withhisusualhumblevagueness.“Morning,
miss…morning,MasterStich…morning.”
Andstillscared,stillinobviousapologyforhisexistence,hepulledathis
forelock,re-adjustedhishatoverhistow-colouredlocks,tookhisfinalleave,
andpresentlybegantowendhiswayslowlybacktowardstheHeath.
Butwithintheforge,atfirstsoundoftheyounggirl’svoice,Strettonhadstarted
inuncontrollableexcitement.
“Betty!”hewhispered,eagerlyclutchingJohnStich’sarm.
“Aye!aye!”repliedthecautioussmith,“butIbegyou,mylord,keepinthe
backgrounduntilIfindoutifallissafe.”
MistressBetty’ssaucybrowneyesfollowedJockMiggs’squaint,retreating
figure.
“Well!you’reaprettybitofsheep’swool,ain’tye?”sheshoutedafterhim,with
alaughandashrugofherplumpshoulders.
Thenshepeeredintotheforge.
“Ludloveyou,MasterStich!”shesaid,“howgoesitwithyou?”
Inobediencetothecounselsofprudence,Strettonhadretiredintotheremote
corneroftheforge.JohnStichtoowasmaskingtheentrancewithhisburly
figure.
“Allthebetter,MistressBetty,”hesaid,“forasightofyourprettyface.”
Hehadbecomeveryred,hadhonestJohn,andhisroughmannerseemed


completelytohavedesertedhim.Infact,nottoputtoofineapointuponit,the
worthysmithlookeddistinctlyshyandsheepish.
Shelookedupathimandlaughedapleased,coquettishlittlelaugh,thelaughof
awomanwhohasoftbeentoldthatsheispretty,andhasnotgottiredofthe
hearing.JohnStich,moreover,wassobigandburly,folkscalledhimhardand
rough,anditvastlyentertainedtheyoungdamseltoseehimstandingthere
beforeher,asawkwardanduncomfortableasJockMiggshimself.
“AmInottostepinside,MasterStich?”sheasked.
“Yes,yes,MistressBetty,”murmuredJohn,whoseemedtohavelosthimselfin
admirationofapairoftinybuckledshoesmuddytotheankles—suchankles!—
whichshowedtogreatadvantagebeneathBetty’sshortgreenkirtle.
Anangry,impatientmovementbehindhim,however,quicklyrecalledhis
scatteredsenses.
“Didherladyshipreceivealetter,mistress?”heaskedeagerly.
“Oh,yes!astrangerbroughtit,”repliedBetty,withapout,forshepreferred
John’smuteappreciationofhersmallpersontohisinterestinothermatters.
However,thedemonofmischiefnodoubtwhisperedsomethinginherearfor
thefurtherundoingoftheworthysmith,forsheputonanarch,mysteriouslittle
air,turnedupherbrowneyes,sighedwithaffection,andmurmuredecstatically,

“Oh!suchastranger!thefineeyesofhim,MasterStich!andsuchanair,and
oh!”addedlittlemadamwithunction,“suchclothes!”
Butthoughnodoubtallthesefineairsandgraceswroughtdeadlyhavocinpoor
John’sheart,heconcealeditwellenoughunderashowofeagerimpatience.
“Yes!yes!thestranger,”hesaid,castingafurtiveglancebehindhim,“hegave
youaletterformylady?”
“La!butyouneedn’tbeinsuchahurry,MasterStich!”retortedMistressBetty,
addingwithalltheartificeofwhichshewascapable,“thestrangerwasn’t.”
ButthiswastoomuchforJohn.Therehadbeensuchawealthofmeaningin


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