A ROYAL DUKE

THE Duke of Cumberland was at Holyrood House. He had come down from
the North by way of Stirling, and having spent some days in Edinburgh,
he was making his final arrangements to set out for England. He was
returning in the enviable character of conquering hero, and he knew
that a great reception awaited him in London, where every preparation
was being made to do him honour; he was thinking of these things as he
sat in one of the grim rooms of the ancient palace. There was not much
luxury here; and looking across the table at which he sat and out of
the window, he could see the dirty roofs of the Canongate–a very
different prospect from the one that would soon meet his eyes. He was
sick of Scotland.

Papers were littered on the table, and his secretary had just carried
away a bundle with him. He was alone, because he expected a lady to
whom he had promised an audience, but he was not awaiting her with the
feelings that he generally brought to such occasions. Cumberland had
received the visits of many women alone since leaving England, but his
guests were younger than the one whose approach he could now hear in
the anteroom outside. He drew his brows together, for he expected no
profit and some annoyance from the interview.

He rose as she was ushered in and went to the open fireplace, where he
stood awaiting her, drawn up to his full height, which was not great.
The huge iron dogs behind him and the high mantel-piece above his head
dwarfed him with their large lines. He was not an ill-looking young
man, though his hair, pulled back and tied after the fashion of the
day, showed off the receding contours that fell away from his temples,
and made his blue eyes look more prominent than they were.

He moved forward clumsily as Christian curtsied.

“Come in, madam, come in. Be seated. I have a few minutes only to give
you,” he said, pointing to a chair on the farther side of the table.

She sat down opposite to him.

“I had the honour of being presented to your Royal Highness last
year,” she said.

“I remember you well, ma’am,” replied he shortly.

“It is in the hope of being remembered that I have come,” said she.
“It is to ask you, Sir, to remember the services of my house to
yours.”

“I remember them, ma’am; I forget nothing.”

“I am asking you, in remembering, to forget one thing,” said she. “I
shall not waste your Royal Highness’s time and mine in beating about
bushes. I have travelled here from my home without resting, and it is
not for me to delay now.”

He took up a pen that lay beside him, and put the quill between his
teeth.

“Your Royal Highness knows why I have come,” continued she, her eyes
falling from his own and fixing themselves on the pen in his mouth. He
removed it with his fat hand, and tossed it aside.

“There is absolute proof against Flemington,” said he. “He accuses
himself. I presume you know that.”

“I do. This man–Captain Logie–has some strange attraction for him
that I cannot understand, and did him some kindness that seems to have
turned his head. His regard for him was a purely personal one. It was
personal friendship that led him to–to the madness he has wrought.
His hands are clean of conspiracy. I have come all this way to assure
your Highness of that.”

“It is possible,” said Cumberland. “The result is the same. We have
lost the man whose existence above ground is a danger to the kingdom.”

“I have come to ask you to take that difference of motive into
consideration,” she went on. “Were the faintest shadow of conspiracy
proved, I should not dare to approach you; my request should not pass
my lips. I have been in correspondence with him during the whole of
the campaign, and I know that he served the king loyally. I beg your
Highness to remember that now. I speak of his motive because I know
it.”

“You are fortunate, then,” he interrupted.

“Captain Callandar, to whom he gave himself up, wrote me two letters
at his request, one in which he announced his arrest, and one which I
received as I entered my coach to leave my door. Archie knows what is
before him,” she added; “he has no hope of life and no knowledge of my
action in coming to your Highness. But he wished me to know the
truth–that he had conspired with no one. He is ready to suffer for
what he has done, but he will not have me ashamed of him. Look,
Sir—-”

She pushed the letter over to him.

“His motives may go hang, madam,” said Cumberland.

“Your Highness, if you have any regard for us who have served you,
read this!”

He rose and went back to the fireplace.

“There is no need, madam. I am not interested in the correspondence of
others.”

He was becoming impatient; he had spent enough time on this lady. She
was not young enough to give him any desire to detain her. She was an
uncommon-looking woman, certainly, but at her age that fact could
matter to nobody. He wondered, casually, whether the old stories about
her and Charles Edward’s father were true. Women struck him only in
one light.

“You will not read this, your Royal Highness?” said Christian, with a
little tremor of voice.

“No, ma’am. I may tell you that my decision has not altered. The case
is not one that admits of any question.”

“Your Highness,” said Christian, rising, “I have never made an abject
appeal to anyone yet, and even now, though I make it to the son of my
king, I can hardly bring myself to utter it. I deplore my–my boy’s
action from the bottom of my soul. I sent him from me–I parted from
him nearly a year ago because of this man Logie.”

He faced round upon her and put his hands behind his back.

“What!” he exclaimed, “you knew of this? You have been keeping this
affair secret between you?”

“He went to Montrose on the track of Logie in November,” said she; “he
was sent there to watch his movements before Prince Charles marched to
England, and he did so well that he contrived to settle himself under
Lord Balnillo’s roof. In three days he returned to me. He had reported
on Logie’s movements–I know that–your Highness’s agents can produce
his report. But he returned to my house to tell me that, for some
fool’s reason, some private question of sentiment, he would follow
Logie no longer. ‘I will not go man-hunting after Logie’–those were
his words.”

“Madam—-” began Cumberland.

She put out her hand, and her gesture seemed to reverse their
positions.

“I told him to go–I told him that I would sooner see him dead than
that he should side with the Stuarts! He answered me that he could
have no part with rebels, and that his act concerned Logie alone. Then
he left me, and on his way to Brechin he received orders to go to the
Government ship in Montrose Harbour. Then the ship was attacked and
taken.”

“It was Flemington’s friend, Logie, who was at the bottom of that
business,” said Cumberland.

“He met Logie and they fought,” said Madam Flemington. “I know none of
the details, but I know that they fought. Then he went to Edinburgh.”

“It is time that we finished with this!” exclaimed Cumberland. “No
good is served by it.”

“I am near the end, your Highness,” said Christian, and then paused,
unnerved by the too great suggestiveness of her words.

“These things are no concern of mine,” he observed in the pause; “his
movements do not matter. And I may tell you, ma’am, that my leisure is
not unlimited.”

It was nearing the close of the afternoon, and the sun stood like a
red ball over the mists of the Edinburgh smoke. Cumberland’s business
was over for the day, and he was looking forward to dining that
evening with a carefully chosen handful of friends, male and female.

Her nerve was giving way against the stubborn detachment of the man.
She felt herself helpless, and her force ineffective. Life was
breaking up round her. The last man she had confronted had spurned her
in the end–through a mistake, it was true–but the opportunity had
been given him by her own loss of grip in the bewilderment of a
crisis. This one was spurning her too. But she went on.

“He performed his work faithfully from that day forward, as your Royal
Highness knew when you took him to the North. His services are better
known to you, Sir, than to anyone else. He gave himself up to Captain
Callandar as the last proof that he could take no part with the
rebels. He threw away his life.”

“_That_, at least, is true,” said the Duke, with a sneer. He was
becoming exasperated, and the emphasis which he put on the word ‘that’
brought the slow blood to her face. She looked at him as though she
saw him across some mud-befouled stream. Even now her pride rose above
the despair in her heart. He was not sensitive, but her expression
stung him.

“I am accustomed to truth,” she replied.

He turned his back. There was a silence.

“I came to ask for Archie’s life,” she said, in a toneless, steady
voice, “but I will go, asking nothing. Your Royal Highness has nothing
to give that he or I would stoop to take at your hands.”

He stood doggedly, without turning, and he did not move until the
sound of her sweeping skirts had died away in the anteroom. Then he
went out, a short, stoutish figure passing along the dusty corridors
of Holyrood, and entered a room from which came the ring of men’s
voices.

A party of officers in uniform got up as he came in. Some were playing
cards. He went up to one of the players and took those he held from
between his fingers.

“Give me your hand, Walden,” said he, “and for God’s sake get us a
bottle of wine. Damn me, but I hate old women! They should have their
tongues cut out.”