The tall Irishman beside her

THERE was no finer race-course in the country in those days than the
long heath at Newmarket, and there for years the court of England
kept festival. Charles the Second came there, with a train of gay and
dissolute courtiers and fair, frail women; there too came the more
solemn James with much the same following, if a more decorous manner
prevailed, and there came that silent, collected, small man, whose
body so little expressed his soul,—one of the greatest men of his
time,—William the Third.

The king came to his summer palace, and the great lords kept up their
state about him. Euston was famed for the balls of my Lord Arlington
in the days of Charles the Second, and times were little changed in
that respect. In contrast to the courtly splendor, the heath was
fringed with an encampment as gay and varied as any gypsy gathering.
Here were people of all conditions: gypsies, in fact, in their gay
raiment, telling fortunes on the edge of the throng, strolling players,
dancing bears and merry Andrews, and the farmers’ families come as
to a festival to see the stream of fashion. For here were all the
great; even the cockpit at noon was surrounded by stars and ribbons,
and there were hunting and hawking and riding. There too were the
long gowns and black caps of the University dons, so well received by
William, mingling with the motley throng. The world, melted down into
this little space, throbbed and bubbled like a cauldron filled and
boiling over, and never paused except for the sermon on a Sunday.

At midday when the king went to the race-course all Newmarket streamed
out at his heels, from the highest peers and greatest courtiers to
the pickpockets of London; from my Lord of Devonshire to Captain Dick
the horse jockey; from an orange girl of Drury Lane to the Princess
of Denmark; the high and the low, the rich man and the cutpurse, all
were there, and in that mass of many-colored costumes, like a bed of
King William’s tulips at Loo, there were a thousand emotions,—hopes,
fears, hatreds, and ambitions. Money flowed like water, and wagers ran
high; fortunes were made and unmade, and the faces of men and women
had often the tense expression of the gambler. But whatever evil was
there—and much there was—was hidden under an air of jollity, and the
setting of the scene was as variegated as a rainbow.

The long course was cleared for the horses, and on either side, and
especially about the pavilion of the king, the crowd was packed
close, palpitating and murmuring in the sunshine, white and pink,
blue and crimson, green and gold, ribbon upon ribbon of color, men
and women vying with each other in the brilliant beauty and richness
of apparel; and behind, the great emblazoned coaches—drawn usually
by Flanders horses—stood tier upon tier, sometimes empty, when their
owners were promenading, sometimes brimful of lovely smiling faces and
fluttering fans; and beyond these, the farmers and teamsters, gypsies
and tipsters, honest men and thieves. Meanwhile the jockeys rode their
horses out upon the turf for exercise and inspection; no people loved
a fine horse better than the English, and it put the throng in an
excellent humor.

In the midst of the satins and velvets, gold lace and jewels, one small
man was plainly dressed in dark colors with a star upon his breast,—a
man with a pale, dark face and sparkling dark eyes. Every head was
bared before him, and every great dame there courtesied almost to
the ground, and the trumpets sounded as King William took his place.
The warm September air was filled with the hum of many voices, the
trampling of horses, the blare of military music, and the great races
began when the king quietly waved his hand.

Lady Sunderland kept her seat in her own carriage, and all the old
beaux of the court came there to pay their compliments and exchange
rare morsels of gossip with her ladyship, whose wit was keen as her
tongue was merciless. But Lady Clancarty was not of this party. She
had left her seat in the gorgeously emblazoned coach, and escorted by
my Lord of Devonshire himself, she made her way nearer to the scene of
action. Though she had lived much at Althorpe, Lady Clancarty was not
unknown, and she was greeted on every hand as she passed. Her beauty,
her winning address, the place her father occupied in the king’s favor,
made her at once the cynosure of all eyes. Old beaux and young ones
crowded forward for an introduction. Devonshire stood near her, Ormond
and Bedford joined her coterie; in fact, in two hours Lady Betty was
the belle of Newmarket. She looked about her smiling, roguish, keenly
amused, and everywhere she read approbation and admiration, not only in
the faces that she knew, but in the strange ones. Everywhere men paid
her homage; over there the courtiers of the Princess Anne were thinning
out; the circle of my Lady Marlborough grew narrower, but Lady Betty’s
extended like a whirlpool. In the midst of her little triumph, she saw
a tall man coming toward her, singling her out amidst all the others;
his dress was plain and his periwig was of a different fashion, but
she could not mistake that eye or that bearing; she had seen both in
the woods of Althorpe. In a moment more he was bowing before her, and
Ormond introduced him.

“My dear Lady Betty, let me present another admirer, Mr. Richard
Trevor; an Irishman as I would have your ladyship know,” the duke added
in her ear, with a laugh.

Lady Clancarty courtesied, casting a roguish look at the stranger.

“Faith, we have met before, my lord,” she said, and laughed softly.

“Twice before, my lady,” corrected Mr. Trevor, smiling into her eyes.

Betty stared. “Once, sir,” she said.

“As you will, Lady Clancarty,” he replied, and smiled again, the
dare-devil leaping up in his gray eyes—and Betty blushed.

At the moment Lord Savile came up with Mr. Benham.

“Are you betting, Savile?” asked the Duke of Devonshire, with a smiling
glance at the young man.

Savile made a wry face.

“Confound it, my lord, I’ve lost fifty pounds on my mare, Lady Clara,”
he said, “and Benham here has made a hundred on that little black mare
of Godolphin’s,—the devil’s in it.”

“Ah, look at them!” cried Betty, pointing at the track, “they come
flying like birds. Is that your black mare in the lead, Mr. Benham?”

“I’ll hang for it, if he hasn’t won again,” ejaculated Lord Savile, as
they leaned forward to watch the squad of horses coming in on the home
stretch.

There could scarcely be a finer sight: the smooth turf, the shimmer of
sunshine, the beautiful animals running fleetly, for the joy of it,
heads out, eyes flashing fire, foam on the lips, and manes flying,
while the jockeys, like knots of color, hung low over their necks. The
sharp clip of steel-shod feet, a stream of color, sparks flying, and
they were past, going on to the stakes, while silence fell on the great
throng of people; men scarcely breathed, every eye strained after them.
Then suddenly a shout of exultation and despair, strangely mingled, and
the whole crowd blossoming out into a mass of waving handkerchiefs and
tossing hats.

“Ah, was there ever anything so pretty!” cried Lady Betty; “there is
nothing finer than a beautiful horse.”

“Except a beautiful woman,” said my Lord of Ormond gallantly.

“Pray, my lord, do not put us in the same category,” said Lady Betty
laughing; “’tis said that some men rate their horses dearer than their
wives.”

“That is because there are so few Lady Clancartys,” replied Ormond
smiling, and Betty swept him a courtesy.

“Benham’s won again,” remarked Savile, too chagrined to notice anything
else.

“And so have I,” said Mr. Trevor, with a little smile; “’tis an ill
wind that blows nobody good.”

Savile eyed him from head to foot; his quick ear had detected a
peculiarity of voice and accent.

“Are you from Ireland, sir?” he asked insolently.

“Where gentlemen are bred,—yes, my lord,” replied Trevor, his gray
eyes gleaming like steel.

Lady Betty stirred uneasily. “Whose horse was that which came in last?”
she asked.

“Savile’s,” laughed Benham, “don’t you see his brow of thunder?”

“Hard luck, my boy,” remarked Lord Devonshire, smiling, “but there are
many here who will have worse to-day.”

“Ay, and the king’s cough is worse,” remarked Ormond significantly.

“Dr. Radcliffe told him that he would not have his two legs for his
three kingdoms,” said Lord Savile, with a sullen laugh.

Devonshire smiled a little and so did Ormond, but Lady Betty looked
straight before her over the sunny turf.

“My Lord Savile,” she said, “the king has the wisest head in Europe.”

“A king is richest in the hearts that love him,” said Richard Trevor
smoothly, “and the King of England is rich in these.”

Lady Betty darted a quick glance at him, and so did my Lord of Ormond,
but they read nothing. It was a handsome, daring face, with gray eyes
and thin lips,—a face to fear in anger.

“There are riddles and innuendoes everywhere,” remarked Lord Savile
with a shrug; “one knows not how to read them.”

“What I say, I am quite ready to explain, my lord,” Trevor replied
smiling, his eyes hard as flint.

As he spoke my Lady Sunderland came up from her carriage, and with her
two other dames of fashion. In the stir and flutter of their entrance,
Lady Betty and the two young men, Trevor and Lord Savile, were, to all
intents and purposes, alone, and she was perforce a listener to their
talk, which was by no means friendly.

Lord Savile thrust his hands into his pockets.

“What flowers bloom at Saint Germain, sir?” he asked, with a drawl.

“The poppies of Neerwinden, I am told,” replied the Irishman.

Lord Savile’s face turned scarlet. “A very vile joke, sir,” he said, in
a low voice, “and one you may repent of—here!”

“When I am in the society of informers—it may be so,” replied Trevor
haughtily and very low, intending it only for my lord’s ear, but Lady
Betty heard it.

“I would fain walk a little way,” she said suddenly, turning on them,
“they will not race again for half an hour, and I feel the heat here.
My Lord Savile, will you make way for me through the crowd?”

“I will, my lady,” Trevor said, offering his arm.

“Nay, sir,” retorted Savile, “I am the lady’s friend, not you.”

Trevor noticed him as little as a poodle; he still smiled and offered
his hand to Lady Betty.

“Lady Clancarty will choose, sir, not you,” he said contemptuously.

“Lady Clancarty will go with me,” cried Savile, hotly and
authoritatively.

“Faith, she will not, sir,” said Betty laughing; “Lady Clancarty will
be commanded by none, my lord, and Mr. Trevor will do her this small
service. But there are my thanks for your kindness.”

And she courtesied prettily before she laid her hand lightly on the
stranger’s arm and moved at his side through the throng toward the open
heath beyond. Their progress was necessarily slow, and followed by many
admiring glances, for the roses had deepened in Lady Betty’s cheeks.
The tall Irishman beside her was no less a striking figure; his height
and proportions, the clean-cut face, steel-gray eyes, and close-shut
thin lips had a history of their own; no one could doubt it.

As for Lord Savile, he stood fuming and vowing vengeance on the cursed
Irish Jacobite, as he was pleased to name his rival; if a stanch Whig
hated any man, by instinct, he must needs be a Papist and a Jacobite.

LADY BETTY and her companion walked on. The crowd, still huzzaing and
noisy about the victors, was dropped behind them, all its gorgeous
colors knotted into one huge rosette upon the track; beyond were green
meadows and the blue shadows of a grove of limes. The two walked
slowly, Lady Betty a little in advance, her long skirts gathered in one
hand, the other holding her fan, the sun and the breeze kissing the
soft curves of her cheeks. Beside her, holding his hat behind his back,
was Richard Trevor, his eyes on her, while hers were on the landscape;
the long, level stretch of turf, the grove of limes, and farther
off—veiled in golden mist—the wavy outlines of forest and hills.
Above, the sky was blue—blue as larkspur; the air was sweet too, as if
the fragrance of flowers floated on the soft September breeze. A flock
of pigeons, with the whir of many wings, rose from the ground as Betty
approached, and she looked up after them and sighed.

“Is it true that the French king wears red heels to his shoes?” she
asked suddenly and quite irrelevantly.

Mr. Trevor started perceptibly, giving her a quizzical glance.

“They are frequently purple,” he replied, with perfect gravity.

“Because, I suppose, it is a royal color,” she remarked absently; “you
are a Jacobite, Mr. Trevor.”

“Either my disguise is a flimsy one, or your penetration is great, Lady
Clancarty,” he replied, with a whimsical smile; “but I’ll swear I’m not
alone at Newmarket.”

Lady Betty elevated her brows a little.

“It has been frequently hinted that King William was one,” she remarked
tranquilly.

“By the Whigs out of office,” he said, with a short, hard laugh; “he is
not counted one on the Continent.”

“Or in Ireland,” she said; “you were at Londonderry, of course.”

“There were two sides to the wall at Londonderry, my lady,” he
replied; “I was on one—I’ll admit that.”

“It is safe not to be explicit,” she said smiling; “you are an
Irishman, a Papist, and a Jacobite,” she told off each point on her
fingers, “and you are from Munster.”

“Precisely,” said Mr. Trevor, with great composure; “you have nailed me
to the wall, madam; I am a sinner of the blackest dye, a subject for
the gallows.”

“So I supposed,” she said cheerfully, nodding her head at him, “and
being all these things, and from the Continent, can you tell me—” for
the first time she hesitated, stopped short, looking at the turf under
her daintily shod feet, her face crimson.

He waited, smiling, composed, watchful; not helping her by a word or
sign, and she could not read his eyes when she looked into them.

“Do you know Lord Clancarty?” she asked bluntly.

He took time to consider, studying, meanwhile, every detail of her
charming, ingenuous face and perfect figure.

“I have met him,” he said deliberately, “in Dublin and in Paris.”
Betty’s agitation was quite apparent, but she commanded herself and
looked up bravely.

“He is my husband,” she said simply.

Mr. Trevor smiled involuntarily.

“He is a happy man,” he said gallantly.

She made an impatient gesture, laughing and blushing.

“Tell me how he looks?” she asked; “I have never seen him since he was
fifteen and I eleven. Is he a bugbear? They would have me believe so.”

“On the contrary, I have always thought him handsome, my lady,”
Mr. Trevor said, smiling imperturbably, “and altogether the most
companionable man I know.”

“Indeed!” she exclaimed; “yet you told me you had only met him—twice.”

“In two places,” corrected Mr. Trevor quite unmoved, “but frequently.
He’s a fine man, madam, take my word for it; I love him like a brother;
he has only one fault, madam, one sin, and that, I’ll admit, is
unpardonable.”

“And that?” she queried, with uplifted brows, a little haughtily.

“And that,” replied Mr. Trevor calmly, “is the fact that he has been
able to live for fourteen years without his wife.”

Lady Clancarty flushed angrily, and then she laughed that delicious,
mirthful laugh of hers.

“He has existed, sir,” she corrected him, “because he never knew how
delightful Lady Clancarty is.”

“Exactly,” replied Trevor, “a mere existence; life uncrowned by
love—such love as he ought to have won, confound him—is not life. He
might as well be a turnip.”

“So I have always thought,” she replied, with a charming smile; “but
then, you know, Mr. Trevor, he might not have been able to win it.”

“Not win it!” he exclaimed, “not win it, when he is a husband to begin
with. By Saint Patrick, madam, I’d cut his acquaintance for life! Not
win it? What cannot a man do under the inspiration of a beautiful and
noble woman? Kingdoms have been won and lost for them. If Troy fell for
Helen, an empire might well fall for a woman as beautiful and far more
womanly. I’d run Clancarty through, my lady, if he were not willing to
die for his true love. Irishmen are not made of such poor stuff. No,
no, he would win it, never fear.”

Lady Betty’s chin was up and her eyes travelling over the green turf
again.

“An idle boast, sir,” she said carelessly; “no woman would be lightly
won after years of neglect.”

“Nor should be,” he replied, in a deep tone of emotion, “nor should
be! By the Virgin, Clancarty ought to go on his knees from Munster to
Althorpe in penitence.”

“Faith, what would he do about the Channel, Mr. Trevor?” she asked
wickedly.

“Swim it, madam,” he replied promptly; “a true man and a lover would
not drown—with such a saint enshrined before him.”

“A Protestant saint for a Papist penitent,” remarked Lady Betty
smiling; “what a poor consolation.”

“Love laughs at obstacles, my Lady Clancarty,” said Mr. Trevor, “and it
forgets creed.”

“Oh!” she said and her brows went up.

“There is one excuse, though,” he went on, “one—or I would never speak
to Donough Macarthy again.”

“Oh, there is one, then?” she asked doubtfully.

“One—yes,” he replied gravely; “he is a proscribed exile, madam, this
king of yours has excepted him from the Act of Grace; he cannot return
except, indeed, to the Tower and the block. But, after all, to lose a
head is less than to lose a heart.”

Lady Betty laughed.

“Only one can recover a heart,” she said wickedly, “but a head—I never
heard of one that was put on after the headsman.”

“Nor I,” he admitted, “but, after all, one can die but once.”

“And one can love many times,” suggested Betty; “I have heard that my
Lord Clancarty’s heart is tender.”

“Mere fables, madam,” he replied, with cool mendacity; “his heart is
made for one image only and would keep that—to eternity.”

“His must be a valuable and rare heart,” Lady Clancarty remarked
demurely, “too good, sir, to exchange for a human one.”

“Verily too good to give without a fair exchange, madam,” he replied,
smiling audaciously; “nor will Clancarty cast it by the wayside. I know
him for a man who will love and be loved again. He’s no moonstruck
youth, my lady; when he gives he will demand a return.”

She carried her head proudly. “He should have to win it,” she said.

“He would win it,” Trevor retorted boldly, “and he would hold it.
Pshaw, madam, I despise a milksop, and so do you!”

“You are overbold in your assertions, sir,” Betty said, stopping short
and looking back over the heath, shading her eyes with her fan.

“Bold for a friend, my lady,” he said gracefully, “bold for the absent
who has none to plead his cause.”

Lady Betty laughed.

“Do you see that whirling, frantic thing yonder?” she asked, pointing;
“’tis my Lady Sunderland’s India shawl; she is waving to me. We must go
back, sir; she thinks I venture too near the lions.”

“We must go back, it seems, since you command it,” he replied
regretfully, “but I may see Lady Clancarty again? I may speak to her
of—her husband?”

Betty hesitated for the twentieth part of a second and then she smiled.

“We are at the Lion’s Head,” she said, “and I shall receive my friends
after supper—but do not talk of Lord Clancarty.”

He bowed profoundly, and she moved on, for the India shawl was waving
frantically now and Savile and the others were coming toward them.

“I thank you for the privilege,” said Richard Trevor with his daring
smile; “we will talk of Lady Clancarty.”

But Betty answered not a word; she walked back across the heath,
proudly silent, nor did she cast a single relenting glance behind
her—and thus failed to see the quizzical expression in his eyes.

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