FATHER AND DAUGHTER

POOR Lady Betty, half distracted, fled from the house into Leicester
Fields, trying to find the party that had preceded her with her husband
as a prisoner. The darkness and the peril of the London streets at that
late hour did not enter her thoughts. Bareheaded and without a cloak to
shield her from the cold night air, she ran around the square.

She saw lights in the adjacent houses, she heard voices in the
distance, but she only looked for one—her husband. She took no thought
of the madness of her project; she sped on and on, and might have come
into some great peril had she not fallen almost into the arms of a
man who was running toward Lord Sunderland’s mansion. They came upon
each other in the darkness; in her grief and nervousness she uttered a
little cry, and he knew her voice.

“Lady Clancarty!” he exclaimed, stopping short.

It was young Mackie.

At first she did not recognize him, but when she did, she caught his
arm with a frantic appeal. The light from a dim lantern overhead shone
on her white face.

“My husband!” she cried, “my Lord Clancarty. They have dragged him away
to prison. My—nay, I will not call him my brother—that man yonder,
Charles Spencer, betrayed him—betrayed my husband, and they came into
my very rooms to arrest him—to tear us apart, and he has gone,” she
added wildly, “gone to the Tower.”

“I know,” he replied, deeply moved, “I know. I was at Vernon’s house
and heard it after your—after Lord Spencer got the warrant. I came to
warn you but, alas, I am too late.”

“Yes, too late!” cried Betty, a little wildly, “too late; but I am
going to the Tower—I am going to my husband!”

They had walked on a little way as they talked, and were so near
Aylesbury House that the lights from within fell on her. He saw her
uncovered head and dazzling gown.

“Lady Clancarty,” he said persuasively, “let us go back for your cloak
and mask. You can’t go down the river to the Tower thus—in the cold!”

“I care not for it,” she replied; “go back?” she shuddered, “I could
not—I cannot breathe the same air with Spencer, it poisons me!”

Without another word young Mackie took off his own cloak and wrapped it
around her, and she, in her excitement, took no thought of his exposure
to the cold in his thin suit of velvet and satin.

“I must go!” she reiterated, “the very shortest way—I must go to my
husband!” and her voice broke pitifully.

“You shall go, dear Lady Clancarty,” he said gently, setting himself to
face the task, though a sharp pain rankled in his own bosom, and when
he drew her hand through his arm he set his teeth.

He loved her, too, and she took no more thought of him than of a
stone—such is the way of women.

The night wind cut their faces as they walked toward the river. She was
so used to service from men, to their devotion, that she took his for
granted; she did not even try to talk to him, but he heard her weeping
softly and the pitiful little sound made him shiver. He longed to
comfort her, but he set his teeth harder—he knew she wept for Lord
Clancarty.

When they reached the water stairs she was resolute again and alert.
She walked unassisted down the steps and urged him to take any boat
for the Tower, impatient of the wrangling of the boatmen. She stamped
her foot at them, in fact, and took so high a tone that, at last, the
blackguards subsided and took them meekly enough, though the order,
“the Traitor’s Gate,” caused some murmurs.

Once on the water she sat erect and silent, straining eyes and ears for
the king’s boat, which had, of course, preceded hers, with her husband
aboard. She hoped to be close enough behind to gain admission with him;
she had no other hope, no other prayer but to share his fate, however
wretched, to follow him to prison and to death. Her impulsive nature
stirred at last to its depths swept her on. She could be as heroic now
and as resolute as she had been careless and happy in the summer time
of her life. She was imperial woman to her finger tips; she loved and
hated with the full, fierce tide of her rich nature. She gave all and
kept nothing back.

Young Mackie looking at the dark outline of her figure against the gray
river, felt all this keenly and admired her the more. She was a woman
to die for, he thought, and turned his boyish face away, for he dared
not look at her—it tried him too far.

Something in her mood seemed to cast a spell upon the boatmen; the
wherry swept on in silence, save for the sound of the oars and the
ripple of water under its bow. The lights of the city, feeble lanterns
swung across the narrow, reeking streets, gleamed dimly; the river was
as still as death.

At last the frowning bastions of the Tower—that inexorable fortress,
dark with secrets, grim as Fate,—cast their black shadow over them.
And then,—Betty’s heart stood still—the boat turned and began to
creep under the vaulted arch at the Traitor’s Gate. The faint gleaming
of night upon the waters narrowed behind them and was swallowed up in
darkness, while before, the red lights at the gate began to shine. The
boat jarred on the steps. She looked up and saw the closed wicket and
the guard of yeomen looking down, and suddenly despair seized upon her
and she trembled so that Mackie had almost to lift her from the boat.

Then arose the question of admittance. She wished to see the warden;
but Sir Edward knew this was no easy matter and resorted to a
stratagem.

“We come from Mr. Secretary Vernon,” he said boldly, with an air of
authority.

The sergeant at the gate hesitated, and asked for a permit.

“The matter is pressing,” Mackie said firmly; “we must be admitted.”

The sergeant shook his head, looking gravely out upon them. A yeoman
lifted his torch and the light streamed on Lady Betty’s beautiful face.

“I cannot admit you at this hour,” the old soldier replied firmly but
not unkindly; “my orders are explicit.”

Betty’s face changed and seemed to shrink into childish proportions;
she held out her hands pitifully.

“I beg you,” she said, her voice quivering, “I am Lady Clancarty, the
wife of the earl who has just been arrested. Is he here? I pray you
tell me?”

The two men at the wicket exchanged significant glances, and the elder
looked down at her again in open pity.

“He was committed about twenty minutes ago, madam,” he replied kindly.

“Twenty minutes? O Sir Edward, twenty minutes ago, and I might have
seen him!” and she wept bitterly.

She drew a ring from her finger, a costly jewel, and pressed it upon
the soldier.

“I pray you let me enter too!” she cried, “I would only share his
prison. See, I have no weapons—nothing! I cannot set him free—I only
want to share his fate!”

The sergeant waved aside her jewel.

“Nay,” he said firmly, “bribes I may not take. Truly, madam, if I could
let you see your husband I would do it, but I dare not.”

Mackie urged him then, using the name of the Duke of Devonshire, though
he had felt from the first that without a permit she could never be
admitted. Lady Clancarty would not give way so readily; she struggled
with her grief and commanded her voice again, going closer to the
wicket and laying her hands upon it—that famous wicket which had
closed behind so many prisoners; on Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey,
on Sir Thomas More and Cranmer and on the Duke of Norfolk; the wicket
stained with a long history of terror and despair—was clasped now by
Lady Betty’s slender fingers, and she prayed for admittance—a new
prayer, indeed, at the Traitor’s Gate.

“You will let me in,” she said; “I must speak with the captain of
the guard! I am the daughter of the Earl of Sunderland. I demand this
much—to see the captain of the guard.”

At this the man gave way a little; he sent a yeoman for the captain of
the watch, but he kept the wicket closed and stood grim and silent,
looking out upon them. The torchlight flared up and down, the water
rippled below them on the stone steps—it seemed like the tongue of a
hungry wolf lapping blood—and there was silence.

At last came the echo of heavy feet upon the stone floor, the rattle of
arms, and the tall, gray-headed captain came to the wicket and looked
out, inexorable as fate, though his eyes changed a little at the sight
of Lady Clancarty, common as a woman’s grief was there. He listened to
Mackie’s explanation, gravely respectful but unrelenting.

“I ask only to see him—to share his fate,” Betty said, as Sir Edward
concluded, “’tis so little!”

But the officer shook his head.

“Nay, madam,” he replied kindly, “not without the king’s orders.”

“At least permit her to see her husband, to speak with him,” urged Sir
Edward.

“’Tis a small thing to grant me,” cried Betty, “I pray you, sir,
think of your own wife in a like case, and show compassion on the
unfortunate!”

“Nay, madam, I need no urging,” said the captain, “if it were in my
power—but it is not; since the last assassination plot we have been
strictly enjoined to guard our prisoners of state and hedge them
in with every precaution. Your case is in higher hands than mine.
Surely, Lady Clancarty, you can obtain influence enough to grant your
wish,—your father, Secretary Vernon.”

“My father,” Lady Clancarty repeated bitterly, as she stood thinking,
her white face downcast.

The two men exchanged significant glances; neither of them had hope.
Clancarty was scarcely an object for the king’s clemency; he was a
notorious Jacobite, a man of daring, whose personal prominence as an
Irish earl, no less than his political affiliations, marked him out for
probable example.

Happily, she did not see their looks, she stood leaning against the
wicket, her head bent. She looked up and began to plead again to see
her husband.

“You may put me behind bolts and bars,” she said passionately, “I care
not; indeed, I pray to be a prisoner too, since he is one. Ah, it is
so little that I ask. What could I do? I could not break his chains—I
could not set him free! I only pray—pray you,” she stretched out her
hands in fervent supplication, “to let me share his prison! I cannot be
free while he is here—I will not be free!”

The old soldier shook his head, he was deeply touched.

“I cannot, madam,” he replied; “but let me beg you to carry this
petition to one who can and will surely hear you.”

“You mean the king?” said Mackie.

The officer inclined his head. “I know of no one in these three
kingdoms so merciful,” he replied quietly.

“’Tis a wise thought,” said Sir Edward gently, as if he spoke to a
child; “come, Lady Clancarty, let us carry our petition to his majesty.”

For the moment she had completely broken down. She wept and her sobs
shook her from head to foot.

“I cannot leave him here,” she cried; “how dare you ask me?”

Young Mackie bowed his head; he, too, was shaken by her emotion.

“I only beg of you to appeal to one who has the power to grant your
petition,” he said, very low.

It was a little while yet before she conquered herself and looked up
through her tears at them both.

“I believe you mean kindly to me,” she said, with a humility strangely
touching in one of her high spirit; “I will go to my father, Sir
Edward, he may hear me—but I have little hope—so little hope!” and
she fell to weeping again.

WHEN Lady Clancarty fled wildly from her father’s house, poor Alice was
too much overwhelmed with the agony of the recent scene to know what to
do. For the moment she gave way only to her grief, fleeing from Spencer
and from the woman, Melissa, as she would have fled from pestilence.
But she was too sensible and too faithful to remain long without making
an effort to follow her mistress. In less than an hour, therefore, she
had gathered up a heavy cloak and hood of Lady Betty’s, and assuming
her own mantle, went out into the night. It took no small courage to
do this, when the streets of London were beset by rogues of every
class and description, and the dim streaks of light from an occasional
lantern swung in some archway served only to make the darkness visible.
Alice, who was urged on by no frenzy like Lady Clancarty’s, went out
with a sinking heart, her sharp sense of duty alone keeping her to her
purpose. She had not dared to ask even a lackey from the house to
attend her; these town servants were strangers to her, and everywhere
she looked for treachery. Poor Alice wrapped her cloak around her and
set out alone upon a devious course of wanderings, through every lane
and byway in the vicinity, in a fruitless quest for her dear lady.
Sometimes the girl proceeded quietly through a deserted street; again
she shrank into the shelter of a friendly doorway at the sound of high
voices and drunken laughter; and again—and more than once—she dodged
some ruffian who would have pounced upon her, and fled, saved by swift
running, for she was fleet as any deer. The terrors of the night grew
upon her until her knees shook under her. She could not imagine what
evil had befallen her lovely and unhappy mistress and more than once
she stopped, blinded by tears.

Just as her despair reached a climax, she came in sight of the Standard
Tavern and glanced at it timidly; even at that hour it was well lighted
and full of company. As she watched, a figure came out of the door
and stood by the lantern under the sign—a short, sturdy figure and a
homely Irish face. She recognized Denis, and Denis was Lord Clancarty’s
faithful servant. She did not know that he had only just discovered
the arrest of his master in Sunderland’s house and had put his own
interpretation upon it. She rushed blindly—as we do—upon fate.

“O Mr. Denis!” she cried, revealing her white face under her hood,
“have you seen my mistress? my dear Lady Clancarty?”

Denis wheeled and eyed her with an expression that she did not
understand.

“Begorra!” he ejaculated, beneath his breath, and swept down upon her
like an avalanche.

“I know ye, me darlint,” he said, and there was something in his tone
that sent a shiver through Alice, “ye’ll walk a stip with me an’ tell
me thrue all ye know of this, ivery wurd! Come on, mavourneen, ’tis fer
me ear alone.”

“I can’t go with you,” Alice said, trying to pull away from him, but
his grip was a vise; “my poor lady is out here in the night—I must
find her.”

“A curse upon her!” said Denis fiercely, “a curse upon her smilin’,
desateful face; may she dhry up an’ wither away loike a did leaf—an’
may—”

Alice cried out a little.

“Let me go!” she said, “you bloody Irishman, let me go. I thought you
were a faithful servant to Lord Clancarty.”

“I’ll not let ye go,” retorted Denis savagely, dragging her along,
“I’ll not let ye go until I make yer teeth rattle!”

Alice screamed aloud in an agony of fright; but of what avail was it? A
woman’s scream in the black mouth of a London lane at midnight; it was
only a drop upon the surface of a black pool.

“Scrame away, ye little threacherous, spiteful cat, ye!” said Denis,
shaking her fiercely; “ye’d bethray me masther, would ye? Begorra, I’d
loike ter kill ye intirely! Take that, ye hizzy!” and he gave her a
sound blow that made the poor girl reel.

Alice was no weakling and she put out all her strength and fought him,
screaming.

“Oh, ye cat, ye!” he said harshly, shaking her again; “take that—an’
that, ye lyin’, desateful hizzy! I’ll teach ye,” and he shook her much
as a big dog shakes a kitten.

Alice screamed; if she even dimly conceived his error, she had no
breath to argue with him; she believed, indeed, that her last hour
had come, and shrieked with all her strength. And Denis shook her,
and would have gone on shaking her indefinitely but for a timely
interruption.

WHEN Lady Clancarty ascended the water stairs on her return from the
Tower she was outwardly calm, the floodtide of her emotion having spent
itself in the outburst at the Traitor’s Gate. Young Mackie, still
acting as her sole escort, came up the steps behind her and the two,
pausing at the top, saw dawn breaking over the river. Like a wraith the
fog rolled up along the water, the sky grew pale and in the far east a
light shone, keen and cold. The streets were unusually quiet; it was a
little before the hour when a city stirs for its first breath; darkness
lay deeply in the narrow lanes, and silence. On the river, which
bristled with a forest of masts, some ships put up their sails.

Suddenly they heard a woman’s scream and saw two figures struggling
at the mouth of the lane before them. Mackie started toward them,
but the woman broke away and ran screaming to the water side, almost
brushing against Lady Clancarty, and as she did so there was a cry of
recognition and she fell upon her neck, weeping and exclaiming. It was
Alice Lynn. Sir Edward seized the man.

“You rogue!” he exclaimed, “you would abuse a woman, would you?”

But the fellow, struggling lustily for his liberty, broke out with an
Irish oath, and Mackie knew him.

“You are Lord Clancarty’s man,” he said in surprise, releasing him;
“what means this? I am Sir Edward Mackie.”

“Faix, there’s naything the matther,” replied Denis sullenly, rubbing
his neck; “I was jist givin’ thet dasignin’ hizzy a shaking fer
bethrayin’ me Lord Clancarty—curse her!”

“You are mistaken, my man,” said Mackie, understanding Denis’s error,
“I was at Secretary Vernon’s when Lord Spencer came in for the warrant.
Lady Clancarty has just come from the Tower where she would fain have
shared your master’s imprisonment. Her woman here, I doubt not, is as
faithful.”

“The saints be praised!” exclaimed Denis piously, “I couldn’t b’lave
ill of her ladyship, but whin there’s snake wurrk loike this, yer
honor, I’m afther looking fer th’ woman; ’twas a woman, sir, that
started in these dalings with th’ ould serpent himself. Me lord’s as
good as did now,—woe’s me!”

“Say nothing like that to my lady, I charge you,” said Mackie sharply,
“she cannot bear it.”

At the moment, Betty called Denis, having heard Alice’s story and
divining his mistake.

“I will forgive you, Denis,” she said, “since it was for my lord’s
sake; but you have nearly killed my poor girl with fright and she was
only seeking me.”

“Forgive me, your ladyship,” he said humbly, “I can but die fer ye, me
poor lord—” he broke down, and Lady Clancarty said no more; she, too,
was overcome.

It did not occur to Denis to apologize to the victim of his mistaken
vengeance, but when he learned that Lady Clancarty intended to make
another attempt to get into the Tower, he joined himself to her party,
without asking permission, and followed on, determined to go with her
to his master, ignoring Alice’s abhorrence.

It was with this strangely assorted company that Lady Clancarty
returned at daybreak to her father’s house. Not to remain, as she told
young Mackie, for never again would she dwell under the same roof with
the man who had betrayed her husband.

The events of the night, quite as exciting at home as abroad, had
made the Earl of Sunderland wakeful, so it happened that he was out
of bed when his daughter sought him in his own room. She found him,
clad in a great shag gown, sitting in an armchair by the fire, calmly
sipping a cup of chocolate, his bland countenance showing no sign of
perturbation, no matter what his emotions might have been. Nor did he
express any surprise at his daughter’s appearance in her strange guise
at that unusual hour. He smiled upon her quite benignly and waved her
toward a chair.

“A cup of chocolate, my love,” he said, “you look fatigued.”

Betty looked at him sadly. She knew only too well how hard it was to
touch his heart under that polished exterior, if heart he had at all,
and she had often doubted it.

“You will not sit down?” he asked with apparent surprise; “you must be
tired.”

“I do not wish to rest here,” she replied sadly, “I cannot under the
same roof with Spencer,”—she would not call him her brother; “I know
you have heard all, sir,” she added, watching him keenly—hoping,
fearing; “I have come here to pray your good offices with the king—to
ask you to help your own daughter to save her husband from death!”

Lord Sunderland held up his hand deprecatingly.

“My love,” he said, “I feared as much! Pray do not ask the impossible!
You know how they hate me in Parliament because I am supposed to have
the king’s ear. If I meddle in this they will bring in a bill of
attainder,—it is a favorite scheme of theirs,” he added bitterly.

“But, father, they will kill my husband,” cried Betty, “they will
behead him for high treason, and he only came here to see me!”

Lord Sunderland smiled and sipped his chocolate, quite unmoved.

“He is a traitor, though, my dear,” he remarked, “and quite a notorious
one. My dear Betty, don’t make a scene—you know nothing about the man.”

“He is my husband,” she cried with passionate grief, “is that no tie?”

“I’ve known several fine ladies who did not consider it one,” replied
the earl, with a titter, “notably my Lady Shrewsbury the elder.”

“An infamous creature, and you know it!” cried Betty, with something
of her old spirit, and then she threw herself on her knees beside him;
“father, father,” she pleaded, “you were ever kind to me—oh, pity me,
help me to save him!”

Sunderland tried to raise her; he even caressed her bowed head. He
detested a scene, and he did not know how to manage this beautiful
young creature.

“My child,” he said, “this will pass; you do not know him well enough
to feel his loss. The marriage was my folly; your release—though
doubtless painful and cruel—will be a blessing in disguise.”

Betty recoiled from his touch, her face white.

“I love him,” she declared simply, “his death upon the block would kill
me.”

“Tut, tut!” replied her father heartlessly; “we young people always die
so easily.”

“I would rather die than find those of my own blood so indifferent to
my wretchedness,” cried Betty.

“Perhaps you are indifferent, too,” rejoined the earl; “your mother
lies ill now at Windsor.”

“I am sorry,” Betty said, “but I must try to save my husband. Father,
father!” she clung to his hand weeping, “if you ever loved me—as an
infant, as a child, as a young girl,—do not abandon me now. Oh, help
me to save him! Do you not remember when you used to carry me in your
arms—your little girl? Oh, you were kind to me, father, kinder than
any one else! You will not break my heart now? My mother never cared
for me as you did—never caressed me so, never brought me toys. I loved
you then, sir, and I love you now. Have you no place in your heart for
me—your daughter, your little girl, Elizabeth? Go to the king—you
have but to ask; they say he is merciful, and he trusts you. Oh, save
Donough!”

Lord Sunderland sighed. “My dear,” he said, “I would gladly help you,
but you ask the impossible. I have no power to save a traitor. You know
as well as I that even the Habeas Corpus Act is suspended on account
of that rogue Bernardi and his accomplices; you know the story of the
Fenwick attainder. How can you ask me to risk my head and my family
reputation for this Irishman? You fancy you love him, Betty, but ’tis
only your fancy. There are other men as brave,” he added, with a smile;
“you need not be a widow long.”

Betty sprang to her feet.

“You, too, insult me—and you are my father. Oh, I have no father,
then, any more—the old, dear memories are but dreams—the hand that
caressed my childish head can deal me such a blow as this! Ah, it
breaks my heart! Alas, there is no earthly hope!”

Lord Sunderland poured out another cup of chocolate.

“No,” he replied calmly, “not for Clancarty. Really, my dear, I must
be firm, I cannot and I will not risk my reputation, perhaps my life,
for—” he shrugged his shoulders, “a Jacobite rogue.”

She said nothing, but she gave him a look so eloquent that he shrank
a little, with all his effrontery, as she turned to leave the room.
At the door she paused and waved her hand to him with a gesture of
infinite sadness.

“Farewell, father,” she said softly, “farewell! I loved you—I love
you still—and I forgive you—as I pray to be forgiven. I go, your
daughter no longer—since you disown Clancarty’s wife. I have no home,
no father—only my husband! Farewell, farewell!”

He heard the low sound of her weeping as she went out, her head bowed
and her whole beautiful young figure full of dejection. She felt
herself an outcast.

Share