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"My poor Meg, I fear you must if all this be true, and I suppose this be convinced against your will,” the morning he has repented of his old man said tenderly, caressing the knavery, and so gone on his way.” hand he held. Are not these the Ah," Meg said quietly, “it doings of a madman? One day he was Tony who whispered? My Lord arrives, he asks for your hand, in so thought it was I.” strange a fashion that those who love “What?” gasped Sir William. you are driven to believe that there But the girl quickly checked heris truth in the stories they hear of self. If her grandfather was ready him. Then,—what man in his senses, to blame Harry Marlowe for what if he desired,-most unreasonably- Antonio, with more than good reason, to speak with you alone, would not guessed him to have done, it was not have found a better place than Ditch she who would prove it against him. Lane, a more seemly hour than one of Not a word of his passionate confesthe morning? And now,—to leave sion should pass her lips. the town on foot, alone, over the “ All I can tell," she said, low but moorland in the snow, without fare- very positively, "is that Lord Marwell to you or me, without my answer lowe has sworn I shall be his. And to his suit, -a message to his men to I am his for evermore. He has done follow him northwards! If the man us high honour, you and me. He is be not crazy, what is he, Meg ?” neither wicked nor crazy. If he be The girl stood silent. After

gone,

,-he is the Queen's man, and moment Sir William went on : “I some messenger from the Queen must see it all, Meg. He is either crazy or have called him secretly. He will wicked. Hark to what Tony thinks, come back, and I will wait for him what he warned me of last night.

But I am not sure ; Nay, start not away so; Tony has a I think he is not gone ; I think some quick brain, and loves thee and me. evil-" When my Lord came into this room The door opened and Antonio and set his eyes on you, Tony heard came in, followed by a man-at-arms, him say,—to himself, as it were, whose stupid face was flushed with '' Too good for the Popinjay !! Ah, Christmas cheer. Margaret looked but hark a moment longer. When hard into the velvet shadow of he began to ask for you in marriage, Antonio's eyes—was he false or true? in his strange sudden way, Tony is —and suddenly she saw her lover's sure that it was for his brother, not fate there. She made a step with himself, he was speaking. But 'twas hands outspread, faltered and dropped Tony who put his real thought into a upon the floor, falling her length, word for him. ‘Yourself, my Lord !' with all her brown hair loose and quoth Tony in a whisper,—did you long, at the feet of these men hear him? Marlowe did, and took it entering. up like a parrot or a popinjay. 'My- Later, when with tears and sobs self!' says he. Talk of popinjays ! from old Kate, and stony terror on 'tis the nickname they give Dick his the face of Alice Tilney, she had brother, my Lady's son. Poor woman, been carried away, still as if dead, to if she charged Harry to plead his her own room, Sir William, his voice cause, as Tony thinks, she was ill- and his whole frame shaking, called guided enough. And 'twas a bold Antonio to his side. and a necessary thing for him to burn

“ Your pen, Tony!” he said. Sit her letters. But the man's a knave, you down and write a letter to my

upon my knees.

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Lady Marlowe. Ask the meaning old murse and the worthies of Ruddiof these things, tell all that has ford, he lingered a few moments in come to pass, and how her mad step- the place where she had stood, and son's doings have well-nigh killed my where the air and earth seemed to Margaret.

keep her presence still.

With a Ah, dear Sir, 'tis the shock, she quick wild movement he stooped will recover,” Antonio said in his and kissed the stones her feet had softest voice, and smiled with an touched; cold and damp they were, exquisite tenderness. “Let us wish but to him as refreshing as grass in Queen Margaret joy of her knight, summer.

on his way to her !” he added “For a few hours, a few hours inaudibly.

only, my beautiful Meg!” he mur

mured to himself. " Then comes the CHAPTER V.

climax of this sweet adventure. The

old man shall give you to me, for I Thus every one, except a few will take no denial. After all, as persons who knew better, supposed the world wags, I'm a better match that Lord Marlowe had justified his than Dick, and he has no right to be nick-name that Christmas morning. angry.

Now back to quarters, -to For certainly it was only a Mad sleep, if sleep I may. Ah, Meg, to Marlowe who would have started on dream of thee!” foot and alone in the dark, in advance He walked down the lane towards of his men, through the wild moorland the west gate, near which he and his country, deep in snow, which lay for men were lodged. Strolling carelessly, miles to the north of Ruddiford. looking on the ground, with a murThe road was little better than a mur of loving speeches on his lips, as track at the best of times, winding if the girl who called them forth were up shoulders of heather-covered hill, in his arms still, he knew nothing between jutting rocks and steep-sided of the dark world round him till valleys. Wild characters haunted it, several men stepped out from an swarming out of the caves in its alley and barred his way, while a lonelier recesses. Even the traders smoking torch flamed in his eyes and and carriers, who went that way with dazzled him. their pack-horses, were wont to linger Before him stood a young man in the shelter of Ruddiford till they as tall as himself, fair and desperatewere enough in number to attempt looking, with red locks hanging down the northern road with safety. his cheeks and a drawn sword in his

What had really happened was this. hand. Four or five more young Instead of starting alone to the north fellows, armed to the teeth, wild and voluntarily, unaccountably, leaving the eager of look, crowded up behind this girl who had taken him captive with leader. Two more, creeping through the sweetness of her eyes, the ruddy the darkness, stole up at Harry's back, shining of her hair, and hurrying on so that he was fairly surrounded. to that other woman, royal, unfortu- " “Surrender, my Lord Marlowe," nate, who claimed his entire devotion, said the leader of the band.

“ Give Harry Marlowe had been dragged up your sword, or- "he flourished his southward in unfriendly company. own.

When he parted with his love, and “Who are you, Sir, who ventures saw her walk away between the thus to speak to me ? ” said Harry swinging lanthorns in charge of her haughtily. “Plainly you do not

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know me.
Stand out of my way,

“ Yorkist-traitor—we know your with your rascal companions.” lady step-mother is in love with

There was such a fearless command March,” he said. “The Queen will in his manner that the youth who be better without such service as faced him shrank for a moment and yours. Fight, -or be whipped out of hesitated.

the town." “ Jasper,” cried one of the others “What does the man mean ?" said suddenly, "he hath no sword.” Harry, with perfect calmness.

It was true. Harry had gone out fore I kill you, Sir, you will ask to the midnight mass with no weapon pardon for these insults and ribald but a short ornamental dagger, and lies. Have I fallen among a pack wearing no defensive armour of any of highway robbers ? kind, but a velvet jacket and short “No, you have met a true lover of furred gown and cap. Ever careless, Mistress Margaret.” the thought of danger in these little The words were loudly whispered, streets of Sir William Roden's town and made Harry start, for he was had not so much as occurred to him. instantly reminded of the mysterious He had separated from his men, with whisper, Yourself, my lord, of the the thought of following Mistress evening before. Margaret and gaining a word with “ There are demons abroad,-or her. Since then, no thought but of angels,” he muttered. Then, spurnher had even crossed his mind. ing Jasper's sword with his foot, he

Ah, the insolent Yorkist!” cried drew his small dagger and stood on Jasper Tilney. “He thinks he is in

“ He thinks he is in guard. “If you fight like a gentlea land of sheep. He comes in with a man, and alone, we are not illfine swagger, takes the fairest of our matched. Six or seven to one is ladies, and thinks to ride on his way. heavy odds ; still, I may account for We are not worth a sword-cut, it some of you." seems. Come, my Lord, take mine, At first Harry contented himself and a good blade too. You shall with warding off Jasper's blows, fight for Mistress Roden, or I'll kill which he did with marvellous cleveryou as you stand.”

ness and agility, even wounding him “Jasper, you fool,” hissed a voice slightly in the left wrist, for Jasper at his elbow, “why give him the was a rash and careless fighter. It chance of killing you ? And we don't is also to be said that he fought halfwant a brawl in the street, here under heartedly, and against the conscience the walls. Take him,-carry him off, which even this young ruffian bad. -do what you please when you have His sword, his steel-guarded coat, him safe away."

against the dagger of a man dressed The advice came from a slender in velvet, -it was too like murder to man in a mask, the only one of the please young Tilney, here a better band whose face was hidden.

man than any of his worthless Fellow“Peace, foreigner,” said Jasper ship. But the prick on his wrist roughly. “Keep out of the way, roused him, and also enraged his there."

companions, who saw the blood dripAs he spoke, he pulled off a glove ping suddenly. Jasper gave and threw it in Lord Marlowe's face, smothered cry, and aimed a then flung his own sword clattering violent blow at Marlowe, who stepped at his feet, and snatched one from the back to avoid it. He was caught and nearest of his followers.

tripped up from behind ; a blow on

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more one.”

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the back of his head brought him “There, -out with the torch,-take down senseless, while Jasper, standing him up, two of you, carry him down over him, swore furiously at his com- to your horses, and away with you. panions.

You have ridden with a dead man One pressed forward with the before now, and he is but a stunned torch, the two who had stolen up behind knelt down by Harry to ex- “Ay, but, Tony-Sir William, and amine his hurt, and looked up half she, will wonder that he is gone. savagely, half laughing, into the What story-" angry face above them.

"Leave that to me; only keep him Tony's doing, -he signed to us,” they out of her way.

This Yorkist, -as said, and Jasper turned upon the you were pleased in your wisdom to masked Italian. “What are you

call him—he is the Queen's man, her doing, you black snake, pushing your special favourite, and who will wonder false face between gentlemen ? Why if his first mistress has called him should we not fight it out as he willed away from this new fancy?” it? He is worth all you crawling The young men did as they were cowards put together. Is the man advised. Antonio, his eyes gleaming dead, you fellows ?”

through his mask, watched the group, “Dead, no," said one of them

as carrying the long form of Harry it sulkily. “I did but fetch him a stole between the drifts of snow. “If clout to quiet him,--and you had best my suspicions are right, my Lord,” he hold your ungrateful tongue, Master muttered, "they might drop you into Tilney."

the castle ditch and leave you there; “Come, be pacified, we are all at not many of your own would mourn your service,” Antonio said softly. What are your commands ? Shall we take him to Master Simon, who Harry Marlowe woke to deadly will bind up his head and your arm,- sickness and throbbing pain, with a or shall we go knock at the castle discomfort so terrible that he, who • gate, and carry him in to Sir William knew what it was to bear wounds and Mistress Margaret? Then you patiently, groaned aloud in spite of may have a good chance of acting himself. witness at the marriage, if it be this He was tied a horse which day, as my Lord demanded, and they was trotting roughly along an unwill scarce refuse him now. Patience, even track, his head hanging down, Master Jasper,” he added, as the striking each moment against the young man glared at him; “'tis pity animals shoulder, and so tightly to quarrel with your best friends. bound as to be incapable of moving This fight of yours could not have or raising himself. It was still dark, , lasted long, here under the walls ; except from the glimmer of the some of the men would have looked snow. Up and down hill, it seemed, out, and spoilt your game quickly. his captors carried him, at the same You should thank me for stopping dreadful jogging pace. His head your foolishness.”

was bursting, his heart thumping “ What are we to do with him ? violently. He was conscious that Leave him here?" growled Jasper. horses were tramping behind and

“ If you wish the wedding to come before; he could hear the creak of off, leave him here by all means," leather and the rattle of bridles, the Antonio answered, and smiled. crunching tread of many hoofs upon

you."

on

a few

the snow.
Now and then

“Here's water enough,” muttered words or a laugh passed among the Jasper. troop that surrounded him, but on While his comrades tooked on, some the whole this Christmas gambol of laughing, some discontented, he took theirs was soberly gone through. A a handful of snow, pressed some into man was running at his horse's head, Harry's mouth, and rubbed the rest breathing hard, swearing sometimes over his brow and temples. In a few and hurrying the beast on. Now and minutes the prisoner looked up with then a rough hand tried the cords intelligence in his eyes. “ Help me and straps that fastened the prisoner. to my feet; I can walk or ride When Harry groaned for the second now," he said, and stretched out his or third time, this man gave him a hand to Jasper, who stared at him pull which jarred every nerve and curiously. muscle in his body, and panted as Most men would have felt the he ran, -"Here, Jasper, my Lord's degradation of such a state. crying out. Must we silence him been knocked down from behind, tied again ? "

to a horse like a criminal, carried off " Alive, is he?” said Jasper Tilney a helpless captive, and now to be from the front of the troop. “Nay, dependent for acts of the commonest let him alone, let him cry. We shall humanity on a rival and an enemy, be home in ten minutes."

who had insulted him and done his “He won't live

so long,” said best to kill him,-it was enough to another, riding on the off side. "His burden a man with misery and shame. head's got twisted, he's nigh choking. But Mad Marlowe was not made of Best see to him, if you want him alive ordinary stuff; he was too stately to at King's Hall."

be touched by shame.

Give me your Another carelessly remarked:“What hand,” he said imperiously, and Jasper use is the long-legged brute to you, Tilney, staring hard and with a slow, Jasper? Let him die a natural death, involuntary movement, obeyed him. and drop him in old Curley's ditch,- Lord Marlowe stood upright, the food for the crows, and less trouble men and horses thronging round. for you."

One had lighted a horn lanthorn, “Poor old Curley, when he finds which did little more than give form him in the morning! A text for the and consistency to the shadows of Christmas sermon,” laughed another. that dreary winter dawn. The waste

The whole troop, following its of fields stretched away, pale and dim, leader, halted suddenly, and Jasper a few great trees, a clump of thorn Tilney threw himself off his horse. or holly, just visible here and there “You are a set of devils,” he said to against the snow.laden sky. The road, them. “I won't have the man die; such as it was, seemed to lead on he is a brave fellow. Give me southward; but the troop, when they knife ; cut these cords, and set him stopped to release him, were about on his feet.”

to turn into a rough track across a But this was easier said than done, broad field to the west, barred a mile for Harry, his limbs stiff and cramped or two away by a black barrier of from the tying, his head dizzy and forest. reeling with pain, staggered and fell " Where are you leading me, Sirs ?" in the snow by the roadside.

Harry asked with effort; then he “Water !” was the only word he laid a hand on Jasper's shoulder and said.

leaned upon him, which character

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