THE ARREST

MEANWHILE, Alice Lynn, with a pale face and watchful eyes, ran down
the gallery that opened into Lady Clancarty’s private apartments; she
locked the door at the upper end and thrust the key into her pocket;
she ran back to the only other entrance, the door upon the staircase,
and there she seated herself upon the upper step, a devoted sentinel,
though her heart beat almost to suffocation. If Clancarty were
discovered here—here in his wife’s rooms! Alice shook from head to
foot; some awful intuition warned her that peril was at hand.

The gallery was long and dim; two tall tapers in the sconces upon the
landing cast a soft radiance in a little space, but left deep shadows.
The great house was strangely still. Alice sat and listened to the
beating of her own heart which seemed louder than the faint sound of
voices behind the closed door at her back. So great was her love for
Lady Betty that, like Catharine Douglas, she would have thrust her arm
into the staples and held the door against a host, but for all that
she was frightened. Presently she started and looked down the stairs.
She had heard a soft tread below—yes, she was not mistaken; a woman
was coming up, the one woman whom she had thought safely out of the
house that night, the one she trusted least, Melissa Thurle. At the
moment Alice hated her, and set her teeth and waited, but she trembled,
too. As for Melissa, she came up softly, a quiet smile on her smooth
face, serenity in her shifting eyes; soft, stealthy, feline in every
movement. She pretended to be startled when she stumbled upon Alice,
who barred the stairs. Melissa pressed her hand to her heart.

“Why, how you frightened me!” she cried; “what is it, Alice?”

“Nothing,” retorted Alice, who was little skilled in subterfuge and
only stubbornly determined; “I thought you were gone to your aunt’s.”

“I started,” replied Melissa sweetly, “but ’twas too cold. I came
back, and I have a message for Lady Betty from Lord Sunderland.”

“She has a headache,” said Alice; “you can leave the message with me;
no one is to disturb her ladyship to-night unless she calls me.”

“Dear, dear!” exclaimed Melissa, undisturbed, however; “this is
unusual—but, unhappily, I must see my lady; Lord Sunderland’s orders
are explicit. I dare not disobey.”

“I do!” declared Alice stubbornly, though she quaked, for she heard
voices again and she knew, by Melissa’s face, that she heard them, too,
for a gleam passed over it, swift as the drawing of a knife.

“You are of no consequence,” said the woman firmly; “I will see her,”
and she made a sudden spring to set the girl aside.

But Alice was strong, if she was not diplomatic, and she caught her
firmly by the waist.

“You shall not see her!” she cried, her face blazing with honest anger,
“you shall not worry her. I am stronger than you, and you will never
get past me—never!” and she swung Melissa bodily back to the lower
step.

At the moment, while the two eyed each other furiously, both heard a
man’s voice behind the closed door of Lady Clancarty’s room. Alice
turned white, and Melissa laughed.

She said not a word more. She laughed and shrugged her shoulders, and
Alice’s face burned with shame and anger. “The hateful wretch, the
insulting, crawling creature,” the girl thought; yet she was relieved
to see her turn and walk quietly away. At the landing, however, she
stopped and laughed.

“I beg your pardon,” she said sweetly, “I’ll not interrupt you again,
Miss Prude.”

And she went on, while Alice burned to run after her and box her ears.
But she kept her post, not daring to leave the door unguarded, and
after awhile, she called to Lady Betty and warned her, but in vain; the
lovers could not part so soon. Clancarty lingered—lingered while the
precious minutes flew and fate travelled nearer and yet nearer.

Once out of Alice’s sight, Melissa crept, with her soft, catlike
tread, along the lower gallery, felt her way down a narrow stair, the
same by which Clancarty had ascended, and looking over her shoulder
occasionally to see if the girl followed her, she opened another door
noiselessly, crept on down a long room and through a hall. About her
was every sign of luxury and magnificence, rich soft rugs upon the
floors, long mirrors, beautiful statuary, rare bric-a-brac from the
India houses, every evidence of culture and extravagance, and she
crept like a panther ready to spring. Her face was like a white patch
in the dusk of the candle-light, her green eyes shone, too, like a
cat’s. On, on she crept, stealthy, determined, venomous; a dangerous
creature bent on a miserable errand. Again, looking back for Alice,
another flight of stairs, and then a pause before a pair of closed
folding-doors. She drew her breath and pressed her hand to her heart.
It took courage, but she had it, of an evil sort, the courage that
crawls in secret places and strikes a man behind the back. She opened
the door gently and stood in a sudden flood of light, looking at Lord
Spencer.

He sat by a great candelabrum, reading some pages of manuscript, and he
did not hear her. But having come so far, she would not be balked; she
glided nearer and began to purr at him. The sound was scarcely human,
but he looked up quickly and bent his eyes sternly upon her. He was so
cold a man, so pompous and important, that even this creeping creature
recoiled a little. But it was too late now; his very glance was a
command.

“I beg pardon, my lord,” she murmured, soft as oil, “but my love for
the family—my duty drove me here!”

“What for?” he demanded coolly, viewing her from head to foot.

She was a little frightened.

“My lord,” after all she blurted it out under those eyes of his,
“there’s a man in your sister’s rooms!”

He sprang from his chair with clenched hands.

“You damned lying cat, you!” he exclaimed, between his teeth.

Melissa fell on her knees.

“Oh, my lord,” she whined, “I did not mean that! ’Tis her husband—’tis
Lord Clancarty himself!”

It was as though a white mask had fallen on his face, his figure was
rigid, his eyes glittered; rage was almost choking him.

“How do you know, woman?” he asked fiercely.

“I know him, sir, he has been haunting her,” hurried on Melissa, “at
Althorpe, at Newmarket, and now here. ’Twas he who fought the duel in
the meadow. They have tried to hide it from me but they could not. He
is in her room now.”

Spencer glared at her, his hands twitching; when he spoke it was
hoarsely.

“How came he there? How came he in this house?” he demanded.

“Alice Lynn admitted him,” said Melissa, glibly enough now, her eyes
narrow and pale; “and she is trying to guard the doors. You may see her
for yourself, my lord,” and she fastened her eager gaze upon him.

She thought to see him take his sword and go in search of his enemy;
she had whetted her appetite for revenge for her mistress’ scorn of her
with the thought of a duel in Lady Clancarty’s rooms, and of Clancarty
in blood at his wife’s feet, or driven out into the night—whipped! Ah,
how she licked her lips at the thought; that would be the very acme of
triumph, and the young countess had treated her with such contempt.

But Lord Spencer disappointed her.

“Send hither Giles,” he said sharply, and as she went out, reluctant to
close the scene, she saw him pick up his hat and cloak.

Wild with eagerness and curiosity, she hung about the door; she heard
some orders to Giles, the confidential servant, and she saw Spencer go
out alone, and gasped in surprise and disappointment. Was he afraid?

And Giles looked askance at her as he passed.

“Where did he go?” she whispered eagerly.

“To the devil,” said the man sullenly, “you’re a pretty bird, you are,”
and he measured her with rough scorn, even while he sat down by the
main door with his pistol on his knee.

Melissa wetted her lips, creeping along by the wall opposite, watchful
and feline.

“Are you to catch him here?” she demanded, meaning Lord Clancarty.

The man stared at her again.

“Yes,” he replied, “I’m told to shoot him, but steer clear, my girl,
people don’t always hit the mark,” and he grinned.

“I shall tell Lord Spencer!” she hissed at him.

“Do! ’tis your business,” retorted the man, “and ’twill hang you
sometime, my lady-bird!”

AT the door of Leicester House Lady Clancarty’s coach stood waiting
to take her to the ball at my Lord Bridgewater’s, and she had quite
forgotten both the ball—which was a grand affair—and the coach. So
it was that Lord Spencer found it waiting his convenience for a very
different purpose. He entered it at once and directed the coachman to
go to Westminster to the house of the Under Secretary of State, and
away the great, rumbling, emblazoned coach rolled on its deadly errand,
not freighted with the charming and vivacious countess but with a young
nobleman, whose heart swelled with passion and another emotion, which
his lordship mistook for virtue—the virtue of the Roman who slew his
daughter.

As he rode through the dark streets of London that night, a link-boy
running at the horses’ heads, a tumult of strange feelings struggled
in his bosom. Passion ran high then, and party hatreds led men to
the dagger and the sword. The very fact that his father’s political
roguery was a byword made the young man more zealous for his own
reputation. He burned to be a Whig of the Whigs, a shining example as
a party leader, a distinguished patriot, and now he found sedition in
his own household, a viper in his bosom. His hatred of his Jacobite
brother-in-law ran so entirely in accord with his political creed and
his ideas of patriotism, that he mistook it for a virtuous indignation.
He moved, therefore, with an air of righteous displeasure, of calm
dignity, when he descended from the coach at the secretary’s door.

He was received with obsequious respect by the servants and ushered up
the stairs to the private office. Mr. Secretary Vernon had entertained
friends at supper and was playing shovel-board with his guests at the
time. He came in, therefore, in a genial mood, to urge Lord Spencer to
join them. He had every reason to propitiate the young Whig, to soothe
and flatter a man who had already gained some weight in Parliament. But
Lord Spencer cut short his civilities.

“I come on pressing business, Mr. Secretary,” he said gravely, with
a dejected air; “a young girl’s folly can, perhaps, be excused, yet
’tis hard to tell you that my sister—from compassion—has received a
traitor into my father’s house;” he paused, looking solemnly at the
secretary.

Vernon pricked up his ears. The assassination plot of Barclay and
Bernardi and the little band of conspirators which had thought to cut
off King William, was not yet old enough to have lost its terrors, and
the Blue Posts Tavern was known to swarm with Jacobites, made bold—as
most Whigs believed—by William’s lenity.

“Your lordship distresses me,” he said politely, as Spencer seemed to
wait for him; “may I hear more?”

“You know the story,” his lordship said regretfully, “the foolish
marriage between my sister and the Earl of Clancarty?”

Vernon nodded, a sudden change coming over his face.

“Clancarty is in London,” said Spencer, “and my sister has received
him. You can picture my despair at such folly! Mr. Secretary, I must
have a warrant, at once, and a guard to send the villain to the Tower.”

Secretary Vernon shot a look at him that a wiser man would have called
disdainful, but Spencer was too self-absorbed to see it.

“I remember that Clancarty is excepted from the king’s amnesty,” said
the secretary thoughtfully, “he falls under the penalties of the last
Treason Act—but your sister—can’t we manage this more adroitly, my
lord?”

Lord Spencer looked at him with sternly virtuous anger. “Sir,” he
replied, “I put my duty before all else—I desire his immediate arrest.
Delay may mean his ultimate escape.”

Vernon bowed. “My lord,” he said, and his lip curled scornfully, “you
have truly Roman virtue. I will fill out the warrant at once and place
it at your disposal. You desire a guard from the Tower?” he added, as
he went to his table and began to write.

“I do, and speedily,” replied the young nobleman, with a sort of savage
eagerness.

“Your lordship shall be accommodated,” Vernon said, and touched the
bell which summoned his clerk, and to him the secretary gave a few
sharp orders. Then he turned to Lord Spencer.

“This young man will accompany you, my lord,” he said blandly, “and
will give this warrant into the hands of the proper officer, who will
go with you also, taking a sufficient guard to effect the capture.”

Spencer thanked him. “Your zeal is commendable, Mr. Secretary,” he said
proudly, “’tis an hour of peril to the state, and believe me, sir, when
I serve my country thus, I sacrifice my dearest feelings at its altar.”

Vernon bowed profoundly.

“My lord,” he responded, “you deserve the plaudits of a grateful
people. The misfortunes of civil war and civil dissensions have divided
many a house against itself in this kingdom.”

But after Spencer left, the secretary walked back into the room where
a party of young men were playing shovel-board, and he told the story
with a shrug.

“I thought of offering him thirty pieces of silver,” he remarked, “for
his sister’s husband.”

“Zounds!” exclaimed one young gallant, “my Lady Clancarty will be a
widow—’tis an ill wind that blows nobody good.”

But another guest cursed Lord Spencer as a cowardly villain. It was Sir
Edward Mackie.

“There’s a story that it was Clancarty who fought the duel with Lord
Savile at Newmarket,” said another; “what say you to that, Mackie?”

But he was gone.

“Jove!” exclaimed one of the secretary’s guests, “I’ll wager ten pounds
he’s gone to warn them!”

And Vernon only smiled.

IN spite of Alice’s warning, in spite of the deadly peril that
surrounded him, Clancarty lingered at his wife’s side. It was hard to
say farewell, hard to leave her, and though her heart was filled with
misgivings and anxieties, Lady Betty could not urge him to go; indeed,
she clung to him, weeping at the thought of a parting that involved
such perils and hardships for him and such sorrow for her. Moreover,
there was much to talk of and to plan. They did not mean to be
separated long; she was to go with him to the Continent or to Ireland,
and there were a thousand details to arrange, a thousand hopes and
fears to strengthen or allay—and they were lovers, and when did lovers
ever learn to watch the tedious hand of time?

The ball at Lord Bridgewater’s was forgotten, Spencer was forgotten,
all the world, in fact, while Betty—lovely with happiness, glowing
and smiling in her splendid gown—thought of no one but her husband,
and desired no admiration but his.

“Ah, my darling,” he whispered, looking down at her as her face lay
against his breast, “can you give up all this?” he touched her lace and
jewels, “and this?” he pointed at the luxurious room, “and all you have
and are—to follow a poor exile into poverty and obscurity?”

She smiled divinely.

“To follow my beloved even to the ends of the earth,” she said, “‘for
better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, until death do us
part,’” she murmured tenderly.

“Amen!” he said, and laid his face against her soft hair, moved—how
deeply she could not know; her utter trust, her fondness touched him
to the heart. This splendid woman, with every gift of nature and of
fortune, willing to renounce all for him—he held her close and his
eyes dimmed.

“Ah,” he said, “’tis worth living, dear heart, for your sake! When I
thought you scorned my poverty and would rather be the wife of Savile
than mine, I cared not if I died—but now! Ah, Betty, you could make a
dungeon paradise.”

“Nay,” she replied, “it shall not be a dungeon, but a home, my husband,
somewhere—even where these quarrelling kings cannot disturb our
paradise. Faith, my politics grow strangely mixed,” she added, with a
smile.

“Love knows no politics,” he answered, smiling too, “you and I shall
not quarrel over our principles, sweetheart.”

As he spoke, the door was thrown open and Alice ran into the room with
a ghastly face.

“Oh, my lady,” she cried, “there’s something wrong—I hear strange
voices below, there are men upon the stairs! My lord must hide.”

Betty sprang to her feet.

“Quick!” she cried, “Donough, there is the other door!”

“’Tis useless,” cried Alice; “they come from both sides—I saw them!”

“Then I will hide you!” Betty cried wildly, catching her husband’s arm.

For an instant he hesitated; he, too, heard the heavy feet in the
gallery, then he shook his head.

“No, Betty, dear,” he said, “I cannot be hunted like a rat in a hole; I
must face them like a man, like your husband.”

She uttered a little cry of despair and clung to him, while Alice wrung
her hands.

“Oh, the window, my lord!” she cried, “there is a balcony!”

“Too late, my girl,” Lord Clancarty replied calmly, the light flashing
in his gray eyes, his head erect; “no, no, I’ve never let an enemy see
my back—I can’t learn to run now.”

Betty looked up at him and caught her breath; here was a man after
her own heart. She felt his hand go to his sword and she, too, looked
toward the door. They had not even thought of barring it, but it would
have been useless, for it was thrown wide open by a sheriff’s deputy,
who was followed by a guard of stout yeomen from the Tower.

“Is Donough Macarthy, Earl of Clancarty, here?” demanded the sheriff,
fixing his eyes on the earl as he stood there, with his wife clinging
to him.

“I am Clancarty,” he replied proudly. Resistance would have been worse
than useless, and he only pressed his dear Betty closer to his heart;
he knew that separation was inevitable.

“I have a warrant to seize the body of the Earl of Clancarty and carry
him to the Tower, on the charge of high treason,” said the officer,
producing the parchment and reading the warrant aloud in the king’s
name.

“I do not acknowledge the authority of the Prince of Orange,” said
Clancarty calmly, “but I must submit to superior numbers,” he added,
with a scornful glance at the six stout yeomen who had filed into the
room and stood gaping at Lady Clancarty. “You have arrested me in the
apartments of my wife. I came to London solely to see the Countess of
Clancarty, but I will go with you without further protest.”

The officer bowed to Lady Clancarty.

“I am reluctant to part you, my lord,” he said grimly, “but we have no
time to lose; my orders are explicit.”

“You might find a better office, sir,” said Lady Betty, withering
him with a look, and then breaking down when her husband kissed her
farewell.

“Have comfort, dear heart,” he whispered, though he knew the case was
desperate; “bear up for my sake—now!”

But she clung to him in a passion of grief, begging to go with him to
the Tower until it wrung his heart anew to leave her. Even the soldiers
glanced away in grim silence, and she was half unconscious when
Clancarty unclasped her hands from his neck and laid her in Alice’s
arms.

“Care for her, Alice,” he said, in a tone of deep but restrained
emotion, “guard her tenderly, do not leave her in this hour of
trial—for they will tear me from her! My poor darling—my poor wife!”

He lingered to kiss her again, to push the soft hair back from her
forehead, and it was only a final order from the sheriff that took him
from her side.

The guards had escorted him out at last, or rather he had walked
out proudly with them, though his heart was aching for her. They
were already at the lower door when Lady Clancarty, recovering
consciousness, sprang up to come face to face with Spencer. Then the
truth flashed upon her and she stood before him with a terrible face.

“You—you betrayed him!” she cried, “you sent those men here to drag
him away!”

Lord Spencer took it as a compliment.

“I did,” he said piously; “I delivered the traitor to his fate; I would
do it were he my own flesh and blood. No sacrifice is too great for
truth and justice.”

“You hypocrite!” cried Lady Betty passionately; “you have broken your
sister’s heart for the sake of your pride—your politics! You have
murdered my husband—my husband!” she wrung her hands in agony.

“I have done my duty,” he replied coldly.

“Your duty?” she cried bitterly; “was it then your duty to betray your
sister’s husband? To force an officer and his guard into your sister’s
rooms—to trample on her tenderest feelings—to mortify and crush
her? Duty!” she repeated scornfully, “then may no man henceforth do
his duty! Such virtue is more vile than vice—such courage worse than
cowardice! How dare you face me or look at me? An injured woman! I mark
your white face, sir, and I marvel at its pallor; it should burn with
shame.”

Spencer ground his teeth in anger. “You saucy minx,” he said, “how
dared you have that man here?”

“How dared I?” she repeated, “how dared I have my husband with me? Whom
should I have with me if not my husband?”

She paused for breath; her bosom rose and fell, she put her hands to
her throat as if she choked. It was a moment before she could speak.

“What have you done?” she went on passionately, her slender figure
towering, her eyes on fire; “you have torn him from my arms, you
have sent him to his death, but you cannot tear him from my heart!
While that beats, while the blood runs through these veins, I will
love him—love him! And he is my husband—my husband, do you hear,
you coward? I bear his name, I am his, his flesh and blood, his very
own—you cannot separate us! Even if you kill him, our souls are one;
you cannot part them any more than you can rend the sky asunder! I am
not your sister—I am Clancarty’s wife.”

“Shame on you, madam,” said Spencer bitterly, his face like ashes, gray
and white; “shame on you to declare yourself so passionately enamoured
of a Jacobite—a reprobate—a—”

“Of my husband,” she said, and her low voice cut like a lash.

“Your husband,” he mocked; “are you sure that he is your lawful
husband? A sneaking rogue who crept to your room by a back-stair—who
would not face your family like a man of honor!”

“What insult more have you for me?” she cried; “’tis you who dared not
face him; you crept behind him like a coward, you—you Judas!”

She caught her breath, her hands at her throat again.

“Sit down, madam,” said his lordship coldly; “your fury suffocates you.
It will not avail,” he laughed, “to set the rogue free!”

She looked at him strangely.

“Are you human?” she asked, “are you like other men?—or some
monster, some abortive creature, cast upon the earth to wreck the
lives of others? How could any woman marry you? I think you are not
human—though we are of the same mother!”

Spencer laughed bitterly.

“Quite human, Elizabeth,” he said sneering, “as human as my termagant
sister—as the rogue they are carrying now to the Tower, where, I
trust, he’ll rest well—and safe.”

She recoiled half way across the room and stared at him wildly, as if
her very senses were bewildered.

“To the Tower?” she repeated, like a child who had a lesson by rote,
“the great gloomy Tower yonder?”

“Would you have preferred Newgate?” my lord asked maliciously,
beginning to find some joy in a situation that had not been without
humiliation.

“They carry my husband to the Tower!” Lady Betty cried wildly, clasping
her hands to her bosom as if to still the tumult there, “and I stand
here talking to the Judas who betrayed him! Go hang yourself, my
lord,—surely you cannot want to live,” she went on, mad with her
despair; “let me see your face no more. The very air you breathe
poisons me. Never, never shall the same roof shelter us again! I go,
sir, your sister no longer, but the beggar’s wife. I go to share his
fate, to starve with him, to die for him or with him! But to see you no
more forever and forever!”

She rushed past him, sweeping her skirts aside that they might not so
much as touch him, and ran wildly out of the room.

Fleeing through the long galleries and down the stairs, in her splendid
dress, and heedless of the gaping servants and of the bitter cold she
went out, bareheaded, into the night.

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