BIDS FAREWELL TO A SCOTS LAIRD
The night was mild and dark, and the high-road which the two men followed was defined only by the faint glimmer of the rain-pools that lay in every rut. The smell of wet earth was in their nostrils, and the noise of brimming streams in their ears, and to Alastair, with a sword at his side again, the world was transformed. All might yet be saved for the Cause, and in twelve hours he should see the Prince; the thought comforted him, but it was not the main tenant of his mind. For a woman's face had lodged there like an obsession in sleep; he saw Claudia's eyes change from laughter to tragedy and back again to laughter, he heard her tongue stumble musically among greetings, he fancied he saw—nay, it was beyond doubt—her face some day light up for him, as a girl's lights up for her lover. … Across the pleasant dream passed the shadow of a high coat-collar and a long sharp nose. He shivered, remembering the ugly business before him.
"Where are the Spoonbills?" he asked.
"By now they will be close around Brightwell, ready to run to my whistle."
"Are they armed?"
"With staves only. We are men of peace."
"Suppose Norreys has a troop of Kingston's Horse for garrison. Or even that he and Kyd and a servant or two have pistols. We are too evenly matched to administer justice in comfort."
"Then we must use our wits," was the answer. "But a file or two of your Highland muskets would not be unwelcome."
The wish was fulfilled even as it was uttered. As they swung round a corner of road, half a mile from Brightwell gates, they had to rein in their horses hard to avoid a collision with a body of mounted men. These were halted in a cluster, while by the light of a lantern their leader made shift to examine a scrap of paper. The sudden irruption set all the beasts plunging, and the lantern went out in the confusion, but not before Alastair had caught sight of him who had held it.
"God's mercy!" he cried. "Charles Hay! Is it Tinnis himself?"
"You have my name," a voice answered, "and a tongue I have heard before."
Alastair laughed happily. "Indeed you have heard it before, Mr. Charlie. In quarters and on parade, and at many a merry supper in the Rue Margot. Your superior officer has a claim upon you."
The lantern, being now relit, revealed a tall young man with twenty troopers at his back, most of them large raw lads who were not long from the plough tail. The leader's face was flushed with pleasure. "Where in God's name have you been lurking, my dear sir?" he cried. "I have looked for you at every bivouac, for I longed to clap eyes again on a soldier of Lee's, after so much undisciplined rabble."
"The story will keep, Charles, and meantime I claim a service. You are on patrol?"
"A patrol of Elcho's ordered to feel our way down this valley and report at Derby town by breakfast. 'Tis a cursed difficult affair riding these hills when there is no moon."
"You have time and to spare before morn. Turn aside with me here for a matter of two hours. You shall have a good supper to cheer you, and will do your Prince a distinguished service. I pledge my word for it."
"Lead on," said Mr. Hay. "I am back in Lee's again, and take my orders from Captain Maclean."
He cried to his men, and the troop wheeled behind him, where he rode with Alastair and the Spainneach. "Now tell me the ploy," he said. "It should be a high matter to keep you away from Derby this night, where they say the fountains are to run claret."
"We go to do justice on a traitor," said Alastair, and told him the main lines of the story. Mr. Hay whistled long and loud.
"You want us to escort the gentleman to Beelzebub's bosom," he asked.
"I want you to escort him to the Prince."
"Not the slightest use, I do assure you. His Highness has a singular passion for gentry of that persuasion. Yesterday Lord George's force brought in a black-hearted miscreant, by the name of Weir, caught red-handed no less, and a fellow we had been longing for months to get our irons on. Instead of a tow or a bullet he gets a hand-shake from His Highness, and is bowed out of the camp with 'Erring brother, go and sin no more.' Too much damned magnanimity, say I, and it's not like we'll get much of it back from Cumberland. Take my advice, and hang him from the nearest oak, and then apologise to His Highness for being in too much of a loyal hurry."
The gates of Brightwell to Alastair's surprise stood open, and in the faint light from a shuttered window of the lodge it seemed as if there had been much traffic.
"Where are your Spoonbills?" he asked the Spainneach.
"I do not know. In furze bush and broom bush and hazel thicket. But when I whistle, in ten seconds they will be at the door of Brightwell."
The troopers were left in the dark of the paved court, with certain instructions. Accompanied by the Spainneach, Mr. Hay and Mr. Hay's troop sergeant, Alastair rode forward to the great door, and pulled the massive bell-rope. A tinkle sounded inside at an immense distance, and almost at the same moment the door was opened. There was a light within which revealed the ancient butler.
"We have business with Sir John Norreys."
"Sir John awaits you," said the man. "But are there not others with you, sir?"
So the conspirators had summoned their friends, doubtless a troop of Kingston's Horse from down the water. A thought struck him.
"We are also appointed to meet a Scotch gentleman, Mr. Kyd," he said.
"Mr. Kyd arrived some minutes ago," was the answer, "and is now repairing his toilet after his journey. Will you be pleased to enter?"
Alastair spoke in French to Mr. Hay, who gave an order to his troop sergeant, who took the horses and fell back; and the three men passed through the outer portals into the gaunt gloomy hall in which Alastair had shivered on his first visit. Tonight there was a change. A huge fire of logs roared up the chimney, and from a door ajar came a glimpse of firelight in another room, and the corner of a laden table. Miserly Brightwell was holding revel that night.
Hay flung himself on a settle and toasted his boots.
"Comfort," he cried, "after bleak and miry moors, and I have a glimpse of the supper you promised me. Sim Linton will hold the fort against any yokels on cart-horses that try to interrupt us. But what has become of your swarthy friend?"
The Spainneach had disappeared, and the two were alone. Kyd has his papers here, thought Alastair, and it were well to make certain of them first. Evidence should be collected before the court sat. It would seem that the staging of the play was in other hands than his, and what had been proposed as a feast would by an irony of destiny be turned into mourning. … And then he realized with a shock that Claudia was beneath this roof, an unwitting, unsuspecting dove in a nest of ravens. … But in a little the Duchess Kitty would be with her and she would be safe in Oxfordshire, and some day he would journey there. …
A figure was standing at the foot of the great staircase, a splendid figure, with a nobly laced coat and such ruffles as were rarely seen outside St. James's. It wore a sword, but its carriage was not that of a soldier. It advanced into the circle of the firelight, and, seeing it was observed, it bowed and smiled graciously. Its face was that of a young man, with a long sharp nose.
"I bid you welcome, gentlemen," it began, and then its eyes rested on Alastair. An instant and extreme terror flooded its face. It stopped abruptly, stumbled a step and then turned and ran.
Alastair was after the man like an arrow, but his feet slipped on the stone floor, and ere he had recovered himself Norreys had disappeared in the corridor which led to the back regions of the house. It was in gloom, but a lamp burned at the far end, and to this Alastair directed himself. But the place was a cul-de-sac, and he had to turn back and find a side-passage. The first led him into cellars, the second into the kitchen, where there seemed to be a strange to-do, but no sign of Norreys. At last he found the way to the back-yard, and rushed through an open door into a storm of rain. Surely the Spoonbills must have prevented the man's escape. But the Spoonbills had been nodding on that side of the house, for it was certain that Norreys had gone. No doubt he had kept a horse always ready saddled, and the sound of hooves could be heard growing faint on the turf of the park. Hatless and cloakless, Sir John had fled to his Whig friends in Nottinghamshire to claim reward and sanctuary.
Alastair's first impulse was there and then to ride the man down, with Hay's troopers and the Spoonbills alike on his trail. His hatred of him had flared up furiously, when the mean face in the firelight had broken in on his thoughts of Claudia. The fellow must be brought to justice, or the castle of fancy he had been building would tumble. But it was clear that Kyd must first be dealt with, and, bitterly unwilling, he allowed his inclinations to give place to his duty.
Kyd's papers! The thought struck him that Norreys might have carried them off, and sent him hurrying along the passages to the hall, where Mr. Hay was still basking like a cat in the warmth. There, too, stood the Spainneach, looking like a panther in his lean dark shadowy grace.
"Mr. Kyd is in his chamber, cleansing himself of the stains of travel and humming merrily. I mistrust the servants, Sir Sandy, so I have replaced them by our own folk. Where are the said servants, you ask? Shut up in various corners, very scared and docile. Likewise I have discovered Mr. Kyd's travelling-bag. It is in strange wardenship. Come and see."
The man, stepping lightly, led the way up a broad shallow staircase, to a room of which he noiselessly opened the door. The hospitable warmth downstairs had not penetrated to that cold chamber, for the air of it was like a tomb. On a table stood a saddle-bag from which the contents had been spilled, and over these contents hung the two grey women whom Alastair had seen on his earlier visit. They caressed the papers as if they were misers fumbling banknotes, one lean and hawk-beaked, the other of a dropsical fatness.
"Sir Robert Leatham—fifty men and five hundred pounds—good pickings in that, sister. That makes the roll of Hereford complete. The fines will not be less than half a million pounds, and at two pounds per centum that is a sum of ten thousand—half to cousin John and half to him we know of. …"
The other was fingering the rings on a tally-stick.
"He favours you, Caroline, and between you there will be a rare fortune. Cousin Johnnie has promised me Brightwell, when our father leaves us, and I look to you to assist the conveyance. That is my price, remember. If you play me false, I will scratch your eyes out and curse him till he rots. Ay, and I will tell on him to that puling miss in the Green Chamber. … Does Johnnie sup to-night?"
"Ay, and departs early, for he is bound for the Duke of Richmond, but he we know of stays till the Duke comes hither. He's the great man, sister, and Johnnie but a boy. A clever dutiful boy, to be sure, with an old head on his young shoulders. I'll wager that when they both come to die there will be little difference between the fortunes of Sir John Norreys of Weston and Sir Robert Grosvenor of Eaton. The pity of it that he has set his heart on that baby-faced wench."
"She brought him a fine estate, Caroline."
"Pish! He thinks less of the good acres than her pink cheeks. I could scratch them till the bones were bare. … Read the Shropshire roll again, sister. How deep is Henry Talbot?"
The two witches, obscene, malevolent, furtive, bent over the papers as over a bubbling cauldron. Alastair stepped forward, choking down a strong disgust.
"I must beg your permission to remove these papers, mesdames. They are required for the conference to which Mr. Kyd will presently descend."
The women huddled together, stretching each an arm over the papers.
"Mr. Kyd gave them into our charge," they said in one voice.
"He releases you from that charge," said Alastair. "Permit me, madam," and he laid a hand on the saddle-bag and began to re-fill it.
The women would have resisted had not the Spainneach stepped behind them and murmured something into the lean one's ear. Whatever it was, it caused her to draw back her protecting arm and bid her sister do likewise. Alastair bundled the papers into the bag, and left the room followed by two pairs of wolfish eyes. The Spainneach locked the door, and left the key on the outside. "Best keep these wild cats fast in their cave," he observed. "There might have been a tussle over that treasure-trove, had I not remembered something I had heard of those grey ones long ago. Now I go to find the servant Edom."
"When Kyd leaves his room see that the hall is empty. I will await him in the dining-room. When I ring, do you and Hay enter and join us. Make Edom wait at the meal with the servants you have provided."
"It is a noble meal which is now cooking," said the Spainneach. "Even the miserly will spend themselves on a high occasion. It is the habit of Madame Norreys to sup in her room, and that room is at the far end of the house from us. She will not be disturbed if we grow merry."
Alastair sat himself by the fire in the great vaulted dining-room and tore open the saddle-bag. He ran hastily through the papers, for he was looking for what he knew to be there, and it did not take him long to discard the irrelevant. Once or twice, as he found what he hoped and yet feared to find, an exclamation was wrung from him. He selected several documents and placed them in his breast, and re-read others with set lips and a knotted forehead. Then he looked into the fire and mused. …
Through the open door came the sound of a step on the paved floor of the hall, a heavy, assured, leisurely step. The young man kicked the saddle-bag under the table and stood erect by the hearth with an odd smile on his face. Grimness had left it, and a wry courtesy remained.
The laird of Greyhouses was a gallant sight. Gone were the splashed boots and muddy breeches, and all that might recall the wintry roads. He was dressed as on that night at Cornbury when he had kept Sir Christopher Lacy company—in flowered waistcoat, and plum-coloured coat, and canary stockings, and buckled shoes that shone like well-water. He was humming a little tune as he entered, his eye bright and content, his heavy figure tautened and refined by hard travelling, his shapely face rosy as a winter's eve. It was the entrance of a great man to a company where he expects to be acclaimed, for there was self-consciousness in the primness of his mouth. He lifted his genial eyes and saw Alastair.
The man was a superb actor, for though Alastair was watching him like a hawk he could see no start of surprise, no flicker of disappointment or fear.
"Captain Maclean, upon my soul!" he cried. "And who would have expected it? Man, I did not know you were acquaint here. But 'tis a joyful meeting, my dear sir, and I'm felix opportunitate coenae the day." He held out a cordial hand, which the young man left unnoticed.
"I am happy to repay hospitality," he said. "You welcomed me some weeks back at a wayside inn, and it is my turn now to provide the entertainment. Let us sit down to supper, Mr. Kyd. There are other guests," and he stretched a hand to the bell-rope.
"I confess I was expecting a wheen more," said Mr. Kyd, and there was just the faintest quiver of his eyelids.
"Sir John Norreys begged to be excused. He was summoned into Nottinghamshire somewhat suddenly—so suddenly that I fear he will take a catarrh, for he has forgotten his hat and cloak. The ladies of the house are detained in their chamber, and the master, as we know, has been bed-ridden these many years. But there are others to take their place." Again he stretched out his hand, but Kyd interrupted him.
"What is the meaning of it?" he asked in a low voice. "What does this pleasantry betoken, Captain Maclean?"
"It betokens that Menelaus has come to Phaeacia to see his old crony Alcinous. The two will have much to say to each other, but they will regret that Achilles is not here to make it a three-handed crack."
The mention of Achilles seemed to perturb the other. He narrowed his eyes, and into them came the shadow of that look which Alastair had surprised on the evening at the inn. Then he stepped to the table, filled a glass of claret and drank it off, while Alastair rang the bell.
The Spainneach entered with Hay on his heels. Kyd regarded them with puzzled eyes, as if striving to recapture a memory.
"I present to you Mr. Charles Hay of Tinnis," said Alastair, "who commands a troop in His Highness's Lowland Horse. The other gentleman is of the Nameless Clan. Sit you down, sirs."
Kyd obeyed, but his eyes were not on the food and wine, for he was thinking hard. He had a stout heart and had often faced peril, so he forced his mind to consider the situation's possibilities, when a weaker man would have been a-flutter. Would the horsemen he had asked for from Kingston arrive in time?—that was the main point. Beyond doubt they would, and meantime he would confuse this Highland jackanapes, who seemed to have stumbled on some damaging truths. But the appearance of Alastair, whom he had utterly written off from his list of obstacles, worried him in spite of all his robust philosophy. He made pretence to eat, but he only crumbled his bread and toyed with his meat, though he drank wine thirstily. The servants who moved about the room, too, perturbed him. There was his own man Edom acting as butler, but the others were strange folk, outlandishly dressed and with dark secret faces, and one, a trooper of Hay's, had a belt with pistols round his middle and that at his shoulder which might be a white cockade.
Alastair read his thoughts.
"I fear, sir, that your entertainment is not what you hoped, but I have done my best to provide a recompense. Since his Grace of Kingston could not send a garrison, I have brought Mr. Hay's Scots. Since Sir John Norreys is summoned elsewhere, I have provided Mr. Hay in his stead. And since the ladies upstairs cannot honour us, I have bidden another lady, who will shortly arrive."
The news seemed to move Kyd to action. Hope from Kingston's horse was over, and the only chance lay in carrying matters with a high hand, and bluffing his opponent who must be largely in the dark. His plans had been too deep-laid to be discovered by a casual moss-trooper.
"Most considerate, I'm sure," he said. "But let's have an end of these riddles. I come here to a well-kenned house, expecting to meet an old friend, and find him mysteriously departed, and you in his place talking like an oracle. I venture to observe that it's strange conduct between gentlemen of the same nation. What's the meaning of it, sir?" He pushed back his chair, and looked squarely at the young man.
"The meaning of it is that Judas has come to judgment."
Kyd laughed, with an excellent semblance of mirth, and indeed he felt relieved. This was a mere random general charge, for which he could readily invent a defence. "Oh, sits the wind that airt? It's most extraordinary the way we of the honest party harbour suspicions. I've done it myself many's the time. Weel-a-weel, if I've to thole my assize, so be it. I've a quiet conscience and a good answer to any charge. But who is to sit in judgment?"
The man's composure was restored. He filled himself a glass of claret, held it to the light, and savoured its bouquet before he sipped.
As if in answer to his question the door opened to admit two new-comers. One was a small lady, with a black silk mask from her brow to her lips, so that no part of her face was visible. A velvet hood covered her hair, and her dress was hidden from sight by a long travelling-robe of fur. Behind her shambled a tall man, whose big hands strayed nervously to his dusty cravat and the threadbare lapels of his coat.
"Here is your judge," said Alastair. "Madam, will you sit in the seat of justice?"
He pulled forward a high-backed Restoration chair, and placed before it a footstool. Solemnly like a cardinal in conclave the little lady seated herself.
"Who is the prisoner?" she asked. "And what bill does the Prince's attorney present against him?"
The servants had moved to the back of the room, and stood in the shadow like guards at attention. By a strange chance the place seemed to have borrowed the similitude of a court—Kyd at one end of a table with the guards behind him, Mr. Johnson like a justice's clerk sprawling beside the lady's chair.
"His name, madam," said Alastair, "is Nicholas Kyd of Greyhouses in the Merse, the principle doer of his Grace of Queensberry, and likewise a noted Jacobite and a member of His Highness's Council."
"And the charge?"
"That this Nicholas Kyd has for many months betrayed the secrets of his master, and while professing to work for the Cause has striven to defeat it by withholding vital information. Further, that the same Nicholas Kyd has sought for his own gain to bring about the ruin of divers honest gentlemen, by inducing them to pledge their support to His Highness and then handing such pledges to King George's Government."
"Heard you ever such havers?" said Kyd boisterously. This was what he had hoped for, a wild general accusation, the same he had heard brought against Balhaldy and Traquair and a dozen others, but never substantiated. "You'll have a difficulty in proving your case, Mr. Attorney."
Then Alastair told his tale from that hour when in the ale-house he met Kyd. He told of Kyd's advice to go by Flambury and his troubles there, of the message given him in error, of Edom and his mission, of Sir John Norreys and his suspected doings, of his own kidnapping and imprisonment and the confession of Ben the Gypsy in the moorland farm.
"Your proofs, sir," said the judge.
"They are here," he replied, and drew from his breast a sheaf of papers. "There, madam, is the full account of the Duke of Beaufort's purpose in Wales, written out and inscribed to the Duke of Kingston, for transmission to Mr. Pelham. There you have another document narrating conversations with the trusting Jacobites of the Marches. There you have a letter from Beaufort to his Prince, which would appear from its superscription to be directed afresh to the Duke of Cumberland."
The lady looked at the papers shown her, knitted her brows and returned them. She glanced at Kyd, whose face was set in a mask which he strove to make impassive.
"Proceed with your second and graver charge, sir," she said.
Alastair told of his conversation with General Oglethorpe and of Kyd's visit to the General's room at midnight. He told of the two hags upstairs who were in partnership. "And for proof," he cried, "here are the rolls of three counties taken from the man's saddle-bags, giving a list of the gentlemen who are liable to fines for their political action, and noting the shares which will come to each of the conspirators. Do you require further evidence, madam?"
The room had grown very still, and no one of the company stirred, till Kyd brought his fist down on the table. His face had whitened.
"What says the prisoner?" the lady asked.
"Lies, madam, devilish lies—and these papers a common forgery. Some enemy—and God knows I have many—has put them in my baggage."
"You are acquainted with the handwriting, madam?" Alastair asked.
She studied the papers again. "I have seen it a thousand times. It is a well-formed and capable style, clerkly and yet gentlemanlike. Nay, there can be no doubt. His hand wrote these lists and superscriptions."
Kyd's face from pallor flushed scarlet. "God's curse, but am I to have my fame ruined by a play-acting wench! What daftness is this? What knows this hussy of my hand of write?"
"Do you deny the authorship, sir?" Alastair asked.
The man had lost his temper. "I deny and affirm nothing before a court that has no sort of competence. I will answer to the Prince, when he calls for an answer, and I can promise a certain gentleman his kail through the reek on that day."
"I should be happy to be proved in error. But if the papers should happen to be genuine you will admit, sir, that they bear an ugly complexion."
"I'll admit nothing except that you're a bonny friend to lippen so readily to a clumsy fabrication. Ay, and you've the damned insolence to bring in a baggage from the roads to testify to my hand of write. You'll have to answer to me for that, my man."
There was a low laugh from the mask. He had not recognized her, partly because of his discomposure and fear and partly because he had never dreamed of her presence in that countryside. When, therefore, she plucked the silk from her face and looked sternly down on him, he seemed suddenly to collapse like a pricked bladder. His stiff jaw dropped, his eyes stared, he made as if to speak and only stammered.
"Your face condemns you, sir," she said gravely. "I have seen your writing too often to mistake it, and I have lived long enough in the world to recognize the sudden confusion of crime in a man's eyes. I condemn you, sir, as guilty on both charges, and fouler and shamefuller were never proven."
Kyd's defence was broken; but there was a resolute impudence in the man which made him still show fight. He looked obstinately at the others, and attempted a laugh; then at the Duchess, with an effrontery as of a fellow-conspirator.
"It seems we're both in an ugly place," he said. "You ken my secret, madam, which I had meant to impart to you when an occasion offered. Here's the two of us honest folks at the mercy of the wild Jacobites and wishing sore that the Duke of Kingston would make better speed up the water."
"That is not my wish," she said, with stony eyes.
It was those eyes which finally unnerved him.
"But, madam," he cried, "your Grace—you are of the Government party, the party I have served—I have letters from Mr. Pelham … you winna suffer the rebels to take vengeance on me for loyalty to King George."
"I am a Whig," said she, "and will not condemn you for political conduct, base though I must judge it. The Prince's Attorney must hale you to another court. You will take him to your master—" this to Alastair—"and leave him to that tribunal."
"With your assent, madam, I do not ask for judgment on the first charge, and I do not propose that he should go to the Prince. The penalty for his treason is death, and I am unwilling to saddle His Highness before he has won his throne with the duty of putting an end to a rascal."
She nodded. "I think you are wise, sir. But the second charge is the more heinous, for it offends not against the law of men's honour, but the law of human kindness and the law of God. There I find him the chief of sinners. What penalty do you ask for?"
"I ask that your Grace pronounce sentence of perpetual exile."
"But where—and how?"
"It matters not, so long as it is forth of Britain."
"But you cannot be eternally watching the ports."
"Nay, but he will not come back. There is a brotherhood which has already aided me—your Grace knows nothing of them, but they know everything of your Grace. It is the brotherhood of Old England, and is sure as the judgment of God. To that charge we will commit him. They will see him forth of England, and they will make certain that he does not return."
Kyd's face had lightened, as if he saw a prospect of avoiding the full rigours of the sentence. The Duchess marked it and frowned, but he misread her mood, which he thought one of displeasure at Alastair's plan. He adopted an air of humble candour.
"Hear me, your Grace," he implored. "It's a queer story mine, but a juster than you think. I'm not claiming to be a perfect character, and I'm not denying that I take a canny bit profit when I find it, like an eident body. The honest truth is that I don't care a plack for politics one side or the other, and it's nothing to me which king sits on the throne. My job's to be a trusty servant of His Grace, and no man can say that I'm not zealous in that cause. Ay, and there's another cause I'm sworn to, and that's Scotland. I'm like auld Lockhart o' Carnwath—my heart can hold just the one land at a time. I call God Almighty to witness that I never did ill to a kindly Scot, and if I've laboured to put a spoke in the Chevalier's coach-wheels, it's because him and his wild caterans are like to play hell with my puir auld country. Show me what is best for Scotland, and Nicholas Kyd will spend his last bodle and shed his last drop of blood to compass it."
There was an odd earnestness, even a note of honesty, in the man's appeal, but it found no acceptance. The lady shivered.
"If you can get him abroad, sir," she addressed Alastair, and her voice was hard as granite, "I think I can promise you that he will not return. My arm is a weak woman's, but it strikes far. His services will be soon forgotten by Mr. Pelham, but Kitty of Queensberry does not forget his offences. Though I live for fifty years more, I will make it my constant business to keep the rogue in exile."
The man seemed to meditate. Doubtless he reflected that even the malice of a great lady could not keep him for ever out of the country. She might die, or her husband lose his power, and politics would be politics to a Whig Government. One of those who looked on divined his thoughts, for a soft voice spoke.
"I do not think that Greyhouses will ever again be a pleasant habitation for the gentleman. Has he forgotten the case of the laird of Champertoun?"
Kyd started violently.
"Or the goodman of Heriotside?" The voice was gentle and soothing, but it seemed to wake acute terror in one hearer.
"Men die and their memories, but when all of us are dust the Bog-blitters will still cry on Lammermuir. I think that Mr. Kyd has heard them before at Greyhouses. He will not desire to hear them again."
The Spainneach had risen and stood beside Kyd, and from the back of the room two of the Spoonbills advanced like guardian shadows. The big man in the rich clothes had shrunk to a shapeless bundle in the chair, his face grey and his eyes hot and tragic. "Not that," he cried, "don't banish me from my native land. I'll go anywhere you please in the bounds o' Scotland—to St. Kilda, like Lady Grange, or to the wildest Hielands, but let me feel that I'm in my own country. I tell you my heart's buried aneath Scots heather. I'll die if you twine the Lammermuirs and me. Anything you like, my lady, but let me bide at home."
He found only cold eyes and silence. Then he seemed to brace himself to self-command. His face was turned to the Duchess, and he sat up in his chair, settled his cravat, and with a shaking hand poured himself a glass of wine. His air was now ingratiating and sentimental, and he wiped a tear from his eye.
"Nos patriae fines et dulcia liquimus arva," he said. "I'll have to comfort myself with philosophy, for man's life is more howes than heights. Heigho, but I'll miss Scotland. I'm like the old ballad:
'Happy the craw
That biggs i' the Totten Shaw
And drinks o' the Water of Dye,
For nae mair may I.’"
The words, the tone, the broken air gave to Alastair a moment of compunction. But in Mr. Johnson they roused another feeling. Half raising himself from his chair, he shook his fist at the speaker.
"Sir," he cried, "you are worse than a rogue, you are a canting rogue. You would have driven twenty honest men into unmerited exile by your infamies and had no pity on them, but you crave pity for yourself when you are justly banished. I have sympathy with many kinds of rascal, but none with yours. Your crimes are the greater because you pretend to sensibility. With you, sir, patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel."
Alastair picked the saddle-bag from below the table, and emptied its remaining contents in the fire.
"Except what I keep for His Highness's eye, let ashes be the fate of this treason. There is your baggage, sir. You may want it on your long journey."
The hand that lifted it was Edom's.
"I'll get the other pockmantie ready, sir," he said to Kyd in the grave tone of a good servant. "Your horse is no just in the best fettle for the road, but I ride lichter nor you, and ye can take mine."
"But you do not propose to continue in his service?" Alastair cried in astonishment. "See, man, you have saved my life, and I will take charge of your fortunes."
Edom halted at the door. "I thank ye, sir, for your guidwill. But I was born at Greyhouses, and my faither and his faither afore him served the family. It's no a sma' thing like poalitics that'll gar a Kyd and a Lowrie take different roads."