THE WEARING OF THE GREEN

THAT night was the night of Devonshire’s great ball and all Newmarket
was agog, streets were blocked with fours and sixes—the great coaches
jammed in rows, with fighting, swearing coachmen and postilions. As for
the chairs, they were blocked in so closely that half the chairmen had
black eyes or bloody noses in the morning; and the link-boys, let loose
in this carnival, ran hither and yon, with their lanthorns flaring
in the wind like ministering imps in an inferno, while the country
people and the tavern tipsters and the market women filled up the
last crevices, to see beauty and fashion pass in and out the flaring
doorway, whence came strains of music and the sounds of laughter. The
king, it was true, would not be there; his cough—or despatches from
France, it was whispered—would keep him in bed that festive night, but
Lady Marlborough was there and in her train the Princess Anne. People
had begun already to put the pair in this sequence, and laughed, in
their sleeves, at it and at William’s tolerance, for no one despised my
Lord Marlborough more than that astute, cool-headed monarch, who knew
him to be as false as he was brilliant.

Excepting only the king himself, the whole world of fashion was at
the ball, and the house was dressed with green boughs and flowers,
rushes and sweet seg, and a wassail bowl stood in the hall wreathed
with blossoms. The band was stationed on the staircase landing, the
musicians clad for the occasion in scarlet waistcoats and shorts, deep
clocked scarlet stockings, and coats of yellow velvet stamped on the
back with red roses and on the left breast with the Devonshire arms.
There were female attendants, too, attired quaintly in gay flowered
silks and wearing vizards, who served the fyne of pocras, sobyll bere
and mum below stairs, while above the rooms were lighted by flambeaux
and the floors polished like mirrors for the dancers. There were to be
dances of every sort, from the country romp, “cuckolds all awry,” with
“hoite come toite,” and the more stately galliard, to “Trenchemore” and
the cushion dance and “tolly polly.”

Her Grace of Marlborough, in towering headdress and a gown of red
velvet over a petticoat of cloth of gold, led the first dance with his
Grace of Devonshire, the Princess Anne and the duke being _vis-à-vis_,
but only a poor spectacle by comparison.

The whole house overflowed with the throng. The greatest of the court
were there, Bedford and Ormond and Hartington,—and there, too,
were Godolphin and Somers and a bevy of beauty; ruffles of lace and
gleams of jewels, and here and there the rosy cheeks of the daughters
of the country squires. Old dames looked on from the wall, smiling
and delighted when a daughter danced and frowning at a more favored
neighbor, and the young beaux had no rest, but danced in their tight
French shoes and bowed until their backs were doubled.

But the greatest stir was when Lady Clancarty led the galliard with her
noble host, my lady all in white and gold, with one pink rose in her
hair, her eyes shining, and her cheeks fresher than the rose. Down the
long room they came and her feet scarcely seemed to touch the floor,
and she held her head so high that it almost overlooked his grace,
who bowed smilingly toward her, a stately figure himself as he moved
in his splendid dress down the space left by the dancers, the music
scarcely drowning the murmur of applause. Her Grace of Marlborough was
outshone and she bit her lip and tossed her head.

It was after this, when my Lady Clancarty, flushed and lovely, stood
surrounded by a throng that the Irishman, Mr. Trevor, pushed through
them all to her side. A handsome figure, too, and one which had won
more than one admiring glance that night; a graceful figure clad in
white satin, self-possessed, accomplished. French in manner; he had
caught the trick at Versailles, and his gray eyes looked straight into
hers. The strains of the dance floated up the stairs; my Lord Savile
pressed forward.

“Our dance, my lady,” he said, almost imperatively thrusting between.

For an instant she hesitated and then she smiled and laid her hand in
Mr. Trevor’s, so near that it brushed Savile’s sleeve.

“This dance is promised, my lord,” she said sweetly, and passed out on
the floor with her partner.

The young lord swore in a subdued voice, happily unheard by any one.
All eyes were on my lady and her partner.

“What a pair!” they murmured.

“Mars and Venus!” cried a courtier.

“Venus and Apollo!” said another, and every eye was on them.

Yet the two thought not of it, they danced superbly, it is true, and
with a joy in it, being adepts in the art, but Betty could think of
no one but the man who held her hand, whose eyes held hers, too, by a
spell. Perhaps, she feared a little the mastery of his ways, yet she
had never danced before with such a partner.

“You have learned to dance in France, sir, I think,” she said lightly,
laughing a little.

“Perhaps,” he replied, smiling too, “but I think I learned on the mossy
fields of old Ireland, that I was born a dancer.”

Afterwards they went out on the balcony together, the night air cooling
their faces. Below was the garden, for this was the rear of the house.
It was dark and silent without, but the strains of music floated
through the open windows and the light from within fell on her.

He took something from his breast and pressing it to his lips, held it
out to her.

“Will you wear it, my lady,” he said softly, “the symbol of an
unfortunate country and—of a loyal heart?”

She looked at it strangely, it was a piece of shamrock. Perhaps she
meant to refuse it, but she saw Savile coming and a malicious imp
leaped into her eyes. She took it and tried to fasten it in her hair
but her fingers faltered, and Savile drew nearer; the music, too,
heralded another dance.

“Permit me,” said Richard Trevor, and deftly fastened the shamrock
where the rose had been, that slipped and fell between them on the
floor.

Lady Clancarty’s face was crimson. Trevor knelt on one knee and taking
up the rose kissed it.

“A fair exchange,” he said.

She bit her lip and stretched out her hand to snatch the flower.

“You will dance with me now, my lady?” said Lord Savile.

“You were long in coming,” replied her ladyship wickedly, with mock
eagerness, but not without a backward glance to see the effect of it;
but the coquette was disappointed.

At her words, the Irishman let her flower lie where it had fallen,
and in a few minutes she saw him dancing with the pretty daughter of
a country squire. Lady Clancarty liked it so little that she set her
teeth on her lip and gave my Lord Savile a bit of her temper. Yet she
wore the shamrock, though half the room began to comment upon it.

It was morning when the great rout broke up and the stream of coaches
began to move again. The crowd had stayed; they knew my lord duke’s
generosity and that the broken meats from that fête would keep them for
a sevennight, and they waited to pour at last into the kitchenway and
come out heavy-laden; they were there when the great people went away
in their coaches and chairs.

Lady Sunderland was already in her chair and her daughter was coming
down the stair with a throng of followers, but it was Richard Trevor
who walked beside her.

“The rose I would not take from the ground,” he whispered, “I am no
beggar of crumbs—but the shamrock—”

She smiled and her bright eyes looked beyond him at the throng below.

“The shamrock!” he murmured.

It was not in her hair; had she thrown it away? A step lower down and
she held out her hand and dropped the sprig into his.

“A poor thing, sir, but ’tis yours,” she said, “and you were long in
claiming it,” she added, laughing softly.

At the moment a wreath of flowers, cast from the balcony above, fell
lightly on her shoulders, and she stood laughing, the petals showering
her and falling all about her feet.

He kissed her finger tips gallantly.

“The Queen of the Rout is crowned!” he said.

MELISSA stood meekly before her mistress.

“My Lady Sunderland’s compliments, madam,” she said, with her usual
purr; “will you play basset to-night?”

“No,” replied Lady Clancarty; “many thanks; but tell my mother that I
am to have guests, and my purse is too thin for basset.”

As the door closed on Melissa, Lady Clancarty rose from her
dressing-table.

“I will wear the pink flowered brocade, Alice,” she said.

Alice opened her eyes. “Oh, my lady,” she remonstrated, “it is too
lovely; I thought you meant it only for the king’s levees.”

Her mistress smiled. “May not the king come here—if he chooses?” she
said mischievously. “The brocade, Alice.”

Unconvinced, Alice brought the garment, a beautiful and costly thing
frosted with rare lace, and as she helped Lady Betty put it on she was
more and more impressed with its charms.

“Oh, my lady,” she murmured, “you do look lovely in it—’tis too fine
by half.”

Betty craned her neck backward, looking over her shoulder into the
glass; the folds of the sheeny satin fell about her, the bodice fitted
like a glove, displaying every curve of her well-rounded form, and
it was low cut, revealing a neck and shoulders like snow. The beauty
smiled.

“Bring me my string of pearls,” she said.

Alice brought them without a word and helped her fasten them about her
throat. Betty looked into the mirror again and then fell to fingering
the bracelet on one round arm.

“Alice,” she said, half laughing, “he is here.”

The handmaid started, looking at her in wonder.

“Who, my lady?—not Lord Clancarty?”

“The stranger we met in the woods at Althorpe,” her mistress replied,
“who would have kissed me for a milkmaid.”

“Indeed, madam, I think he would as lief kiss you as a queen,” Alice
said blushing, “the bold gallant! He is here—and who is he?”

Lady Clancarty clasped and unclasped her bracelet while the roses
deepened in her cheeks.

“He is called Richard Trevor,” she said softly; “a pretty name, Alice,
Richard—rich-hearted, lion-hearted—like our great Plantagenet.”

Alice looked at her in bewilderment. Lady Betty had as many moods as
April: did she mean to fall in love, at last, after all her loyalty to
that unknown and terrible exile? Alice wondered. But saying nothing she
stooped down, instead, to smooth the shining folds of the beautiful
gown.

“Go fix the candles, Alice,” Lady Clancarty said, with a soft little
sigh, “and place a table for cards—and the lute and guitar—place them
there also. Presently my guests will be here.”

The handmaid obeyed, too perplexed by this new mood of my lady’s to
venture on the smallest observation. She had arranged the room with
simple taste when Lady Betty entered it a few moments later. It was not
as large a room as her mother’s, but it was furnished, too, with an
open fireplace where a single log burned, for the nights were chilly.
Candles were set on the mantel and the table, while through the open
door came the buzz of conversation, for Lady Sunderland was deep in a
game of basset with Lady Dacres and his Grace of Bedford. Betty did not
disturb them but observed them from a distance, noticing her mother’s
rouged face and nodding headdress, and Lady Dacres’s pinched and eager
features. The old dame was as keen as any gamester. The mother and
daughter had so little in common that they seemed like strangers, and
the younger countess stood looking at the log in deep thought when
Richard Trevor was announced. As she courtesied, she gave him a quick,
keen glance, but made nothing of that bold handsome face of his, though
quick to note the distinction of his appearance and bearing, those of a
man used to courts as well as camps. She saw it all at a glance, as she
had seen it at first, but she chose to receive him with cool politeness.

“You play basset, of course, sir?” she said demurely.

But he saw the pitfall.

“I’m too poor, madam,” he replied smiling. “I can remember hearing an
old courtier tell how he lost his fortune to King Charles at basset.”

“I trust the king gave it back to him,” she said quickly.

“He made him a lottery cavalier,” rejoined Mr. Trevor calmly.

Betty smiled scornfully. “And for such a king men have died!” she said
significantly.

“Ingratitude is only human at the worst,” he replied, laughing softly,
“and you know, ‘the king can do no wrong!’”

Lady Betty put her finger on her lip, with a glance toward the
card-players.

“You are right,” he said, regardless of her caution, “’tis quite
useless to die for any king. There is only one thing worth dying for,
and that—is supremely worth living for, too.”

“And it is not a king?” she commented thoughtfully, “or a queen?”

“A queen, yes,” he admitted, “but the queen of hearts. The only thing
worth living for,” he said, and his voice grew deep and tender, “and
dying for, my Lady Clancarty, is—Love.”

She blushed and her eyes fell. He had the most compelling glance she
had ever encountered. Those eyes of his would enthrall hers, and she
looked away.

“I never heard of any man dying of it,” she remarked, with a bitter
little laugh.

“That’s because a wise man would rather live for it,” he said; “what
exquisite torment for a man to die and leave it behind him—in the
shape of a lovely widow.”

“Ah,” said Lady Betty, with a roguish smile, “therein lies the sting!”

“Precisely,” admitted the Irishman; “if there’s one thing that could
bring me back to this vale of tears it is my successor!”

“I have heard that in India the widows are burnt on the funeral pyres,”
she remarked, a glow of amusement in her eyes; “you might arrange it so
for the future Mrs. Trevor.”

He shook his head disconsolate. “She’s sure to be a woman of spirit,”
he said; “I couldn’t get her consent.”

Betty shrugged her shoulders. “After all you have said of love you
can’t find a woman to die for it?”

“I would rather she lived for it,” he said, with his daring smile, “and
for me!”

“Men are purely selfish,” she retorted with fine indifference, “it’s
always ‘for me’; hadn’t you better dream of living for her?”

“I do!” he replied promptly; “faith, if I didn’t dream of her I should
immediately expire—she’s the star of my life.”

“Oh!” said Lady Betty, in a strange voice, “it has gone as far as
that?—she is French, I suppose?” she added with polite interest and
elevated brows.

“I never inquire into the nationality of divinities,” he said coolly;
“she’s an angel, and that’s enough for her humble adorer.”

“You Papists are fond of saints,” remarked my lady, tapping the floor
with her foot.

“And sinners,” he admitted.

Betty turned her shoulder toward him.

“What color are her eyes?” she asked, playing with her fan.

“I can’t look into them at this moment,” he replied with audacity, “but
I hope to tell you later.”

She flashed a withering glance at him.

“They are brown,” he announced coolly.

Anger and amusement struggled for a moment on Lady Betty’s face, and
then she laughed and dropped her fan.

He stooped to pick it up and something green and shrivelled fell before
her. Lady Betty put her foot on it. He handed her the fan with a bow.
The voices in the other room rose a little in a dispute.

“What are they saying?” she asked, swaying her fan before her face.

He listened and smiled. “They are talking of Lady Horne’s divorce,” he
said; “what is your ladyship’s view of it?”

She hesitated—and there is a proverb!

“You are a Papist,” she said, “do you believe that a marriage—even a
foolish one—is indissoluble?”

“Certainly I do,” he replied piously; “perish the thought of severing
the tie!”

She reddened.

“So, ’tis ‘for better or for worse’!” she said bitterly, “and usually
for worse.”

“‘Until death us do part,’” he quoted piously again.

Lady Betty started and turned from red to white.

“’Tis a horrible idea,” she said, with a shudder,—Lord Sunderland
would have heard her with amazement,—“no escape for a poor woman who
has been ensnared into a wretched union!”

“A wretched union,” he repeated slowly, a change coming over his face,
“a wretched union; are all marriages so wretched, my lady?”

“A great many of them,” she retorted tartly, and he could only see the
curve of her white shoulder and the back of her head.

He knelt on one knee and began to look around on the floor with an
anxious face. After a moment she looked at him over her shoulder.

“What is it?” she asked, blushing and biting her lip.

“My shamrock,” he said, peeping under the table with an air of
perplexity.

“Do you always carry vegetables with you?” she asked witheringly.

“I have—since last night,” he retorted, still searching.

“And you dropped it here?” she asked innocently.

He passed his sword under a chair and drew it back slowly over the
floor.

“Yes,” he replied, in a tone of deep anxiety, “’twas here.”

She moved to the other side of the fireplace.

“Is that it?” she asked, coolly pointing.

He pounced upon the withered sprig and kissed it, and rising stood
looking at her.

“But,” he said, and a daring smile played about his mouth; he took a
step nearer, “but some marriages are made—in heaven.”

“And others—” Lady Clancarty pointed downward with a wicked smile.

“Ah,” he answered, “those are of earth, earthy; but when love steps in,
then, my lady, then—”

“There comes my Lord Savile,” she said, and smiled sweetly.

“Damn him!” he muttered beneath his breath.

The door opened to admit Lord Savile and Mr. Benham, and her greeting
was cordiality itself.

“Here’s a gentleman who has staked all his fortune on his gray mare and
lost it!” Mr. Benham said, his hand on Savile’s shoulder, “and he has
done nothing but weep for it.”

“Saint Thomas!” exclaimed that nobleman, “I’m not the first to stake
all on a woman and lose.”

“Leave the saint out of it, my lord, when you put the sinner in,” said
Lady Betty.

“Oh, Saint Mary, there goes my last crown!” came from the other room in
the shrill lament of Lady Dacres.

Both Savile and Trevor laughed.

“Change the sex of your saint and you have an honorable example,”
remarked Trevor, as he picked up the countess’ guitar and began to
finger it lightly.

“I’m a ruined man,” said Savile recklessly, “unless that fickle
dame—Fortune—smiles on me to-morrow.”

“You ought to call her a fickle mare, my lord,” suggested Lady Betty
artlessly; “when Fortune runs upon four legs it must needs be more
fleet than upon two.”

Lord Savile looked into her eyes with a smile.

“If love were kind, fortune might fly, my lady,” he said daringly, but
very low.

Lady Clancarty flushed hotly as she turned to greet a newcomer, Sir
Edward Mackie, one of Devonshire’s gentlemen; a young fellow with a
round, boyish face, who had worn his heart upon his sleeve until he
lost it to Lady Betty. But so ingenuous was he, so frankly generous and
devoted, that she gave him now her sweetest smile.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trevor still tuned the guitar, but he had heard Savile’s
whisper to my lady and had watched her face with keen and searching
eyes. Young Mackie brought news for Lady Clancarty.

“Your brother has come,” he said eagerly, “my Lord Spencer; I have
just had the honor to wait upon him. Very proud I am too, my lady,
for is he not one of the new lights of the party, and one of the most
learned young men in Britain?”

She shrugged her white shoulders laughing.

“He is all that, Sir Edward,” she said, “and more—much more,” she
added with a droll expression of despair.

“Much learning doth make him mad,” said Mr. Trevor smiling. “I have
known such cases on the Continent.”

“’Tis instructive,” Betty admitted, smiling at Sir Edward’s boyish
face, “but ’tis dry.”

“Give me a fine horse, a fine woman, and fine music, and all the books
in England might burn,” said Benham.

“Oh!” said Lady Betty, and she lifted her brows with a contemptuous
glance.

“In sequence, according to your valuation of them, sir,” remarked Mr.
Trevor, with a cool smile, “a poor compliment to the sex. But music
expresses something—something only—of the beauty and charm of a fair
woman.”

“Sing to us, do!” interposed the countess, “I despise comparisons.”

“To hear is to obey, my lady,” he replied, beginning at once to play
the sad wild air that made her start and change color.

Would he dare to sing that here? she thought, her heart beating hard;
would he dare? How little she knew him! In a moment his rich tenor
voice, a voice of peculiar charm and timbre, filled the room and even
startled the card-players.

“’Tis you shall reign alone,
My dark Rosaleen!
My own Rosaleen!
’Tis you shall have the golden throne,
’Tis you shall reign, and reign alone,
My dark Rosaleen!”

He sang the wild ballad through to the end, and as he ceased, Lady
Betty turned to him and smiled, applauding softly. But she said
nothing, although young Mackie was openly delighted, and Lady
Sunderland exclaimed that it was a marvellous fine performance of a
poor song.

“’Tis an old ballad, madam,” Mr. Trevor replied courteously, “and
perhaps a poor one, but dear to the Irish heart.”

“Sing an English one next time, sir, or a Dutch—la—yes, your Grace of
Bedford, we grow to love everything Dutch.”

Lord Savile meanwhile, with his hands thrust into his pockets and his
face flushed, lounged nearer to the singer.

“A very pretty performance,” he said, with an insolent drawl, “worthy
a tavern musician. By Jove, sir, the tune is pestiferous here; an
Irishman and a cow-stealer are synonymous.”

Richard Trevor smiled, his gray eyes flashing dangerously.

“And English noblemen are often cowards, and liars to boot, sir,” he
said in an undertone, his hand still on the guitar.

“I am at your service,” said Savile, in a passionate voice.

Trevor glanced warningly at Lady Clancarty.

“Elsewhere, my lord, with pleasure,” he said, still smiling, “I might
add with joy.”

Lady Sunderland came in now with her guests; she had won at basset and
was in high good humor.

“A song,” she cried, “another song.”

Her eyes sought Trevor and he bowed gravely.

“At another time, my lady,” he said; “now I must wait on a friend, who
has the first claim upon me. My ladies all, good-night,” and he bowed
gracefully, a certain merry defiance in his glance.

Lady Betty held out her hand involuntarily.

“I thank you for the ballad,” she said and smiled.

He carried her hand to his lips and, it may be, kissed it with more
fervor than courtesy required, for the rosy tide swept over her white
neck and her cheeks and brow.

As he went out, Lady Sunderland tapped her fan upon her lips. “Don’t
tell it,” she said, with the coquetry of a girl of sixteen, “don’t tell
it, but la!—he has the finest figure I ever saw, and the legs of an
Apollo.”

“’Pon my soul, madam, that’s a compliment that’s worth dying for,” Mr.
Benham said, with a peculiar smile at Savile.

Betty seeing it, went over and stood staring into the embers on the
hearth, though she pretended to be talking to young Mackie.

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