Ruth had sped home through the streets
unattended, as she had come, heedless of the rude
jostlings and ruder greetings she met with from those
she passed; heedless, too, of the smarting of her injured
hand, for the agony of her soul was such that it whelmed
all minor sufferings of the flesh.
In the dining-room at Lupton House
she came upon Diana and Lady Horton at supper, and
her appearance her white and distraught
face and blood-smeared gown brought both
women to their feet in alarmed inquiry, no less than
it brought Jasper, the butler, to her side with ready
solicitude. Ruth answered him that there was no
cause for fear, that she was quite well had
scratched her hand, no more; and with that dismissed
him. When she was alone with her aunt and cousin,
she sank into a chair and told them what had passed
’twixt her husband and herself and most of what
she said was Greek to Lady Horton.
“Mr. Wilding has gone to warn
the Duke,” she ended, and the despair of her
tone was tragical. “I sought to detain him
until it should be too late I thought I
had done so, but.., but... Oh, I am afraid, Diana!”
“Afraid of what?” asked Diana. “Afraid
And she came to Ruth and set an arm in comfort about
“Afraid that Mr. Wilding might
reach the Duke in time to be destroyed with him,”
her cousin answered. “Such a warning could
but hasten on the blow.”
Lady Horton begged to be enlightened,
and was filled with horror when from Diana enlightenment
was hers. Her sympathies were all with the handsome
Monmouth, for he was beautiful and should therefore
be triumphant; poor Lady Horton never got beyond externals.
That her nephew and Sir Rowland, whom she had esteemed,
should be leagued in this dastardly undertaking against
that lovely person horrified her beyond words.
She withdrew soon afterwards, having warmly praised
Ruth’s action in warning Mr. Wilding unable
to understand that it should be no part of Ruth’s
design to save the Duke and went to her
room to pray for the preservation of the late King’s
Left alone with her cousin, Ruth gave
expression to the fears for Richard by which she was
being tortured. Diana poured wine for her and
urged her to drink; she sought to comfort and reassure
her. But as moments passed and grew to hours
and still Richard did not appear, Ruth’s fears
that he had come to harm were changed to certainty.
There was a moment when, but for Diana’s remonstrances,
she had gone forth in quest of news. Bad news
were better than this horror of suspense. What
if Wilding’s warning should have procured help,
and Richard were slain in consequence? Oh, it
was unthinkable! Diana, white of face, listened
to and shared her fears. Even her shallow nature
was stirred by the tragedy of Ruth’s position,
by dread lest Richard should indeed have met his end
that night. In these moments of distress, she
forgot her hopes of triumphing over Blake, of punishing
him for his indifference to herself.
At last, at something after midnight,
there came a fevered rapping at the outer door.
Both women started up, and with arms about each other,
in their sudden panic, stood there waiting for the
news that must be here at last.
The door of the dining-room was flung
open; the women recoiled in their dread of what might
come; then Richard entered, Jasper’s startled
countenance showing behind him.
He closed the door, shutting out the
wondering servant, and they saw that, though his face
was ashen and his limbs all a-tremble, he showed no
sign of any hurt or effort. His dress was as meticulous
as when last they had seen him. Ruth flew to
him, flung her arms about his neck, and pressed him
“Oh, Richard, Richard!”
she sobbed in the immensity of her relief. “Thank
God! Thank God!”
He wriggled peevishly in her embrace,
disengaged her arms, and put her from him almost roughly.
“Have done!” he growled, and, lurching
past her, he reached the table, took up a bottle,
and brimmed himself a measure. He gulped the
wine avidly, set down the cup, and shivered.
“Where is Blake?” he asked.
“Blake?” echoed Ruth,
her lips white. Diana sank into a chair, watchful,
fearful and silent, taking now no glory in the thing
she had encompassed.
Richard beat his hands together in
a passion of dismay. “Is he not here?”
he asked, and groaned, “O God!” He flung
himself all limp into a chair. “You have
heard the news, I see,” he said.
“Not all of it,” said
Diana hoarsely, leaning forward. “Tell us
He moistened his lips with his tongue.
“We were betrayed,” he said in a quivering
voice. “Betrayed! Did I but know by
whom...” He broke off with a bitter laugh
and shrugged, rubbing his hands together and shivering
till his shoulders shook. “Blake’s
party was set upon by half a company of musketeers.
Their corpses are strewn about old Newlington’s
orchard. Not one of them escaped. They say
that Newlington himself is dead.” He poured
himself more wine.
Ruth listened, her eyes burning, the
rest of her as cold as ice. “But...but..,
oh, thank God that you at least are safe, Dick!”
“How did you escape?” quoth Diana.
“How?” He started as if
he had been stung. He laughed in a high, cracked
voice, his eyes wild and bloodshot. “How?
Perhaps it is just as well that Blake has gone to
his account. Perhaps...” He checked
on the word, and started to his feet; Diana screamed
in sheer aifright. Behind her the windows had
been thrust open so violently that one of the panes
was shivered. Blake stood under the lintel, scarce
recognizable, so smeared was his face with the blood
escaping from the wound his cheek had taken.
His clothes were muddied, soiled, torn, and disordered.
Framed there against the black background
of the night, he stood and surveyed them for a moment,
his aspect terrific. Then he leapt forward, baring
his sword as he came. An incoherent roar burst
from his lips as he bore straight down upon Richard.
“You damned, infernal traitor!”
he cried. “Draw, draw! Or die like
the muckworm that you are.”
Intrepid, her terror all vanished
now that there was the need for courage, Ruth confronted
him, barring his passage, a buckler to her palsied
“Out of my way, mistress, or
I’ll be doing you a mischief.”
“You are mad, Sir Rowland,”
she told him in a voice that did something towards
restoring him to his senses.
His fierce eyes considered her a moment,
and he controlled himself to offer an explanation.
“The twenty that were with me lie stark under
the stars in Newlington’s garden,” he told
her, as Richard had told her already. “I
escaped by a miracle, no less, but for what? Feversham
will demand of me a stern account of those lives,
whilst if I am found in Bridgwater there will be a
short shrift for me at the rebel hands for
my share in this affair is known, my name on every
lip in the town. And why?” he asked with
a sudden increase of fierceness. “Why?
Because that craven villain there betrayed me.”
“He did not,” she answered
in so assured a voice that not only did it give him
pause, but caused Richard, cowering behind her, to
raise his head in wonder.
Sir Rowland smiled his disbelief,
and that smile, twisting his blood-smeared countenance,
was grotesque and horrible. “I left him
to guard our backs and give me warning if any approached,”
he informed her. “I knew him for too great
a coward to be trusted in the fight; so I gave him
a safe task, and yet in that he failed me-failed me
because he had betrayed and sold me.”
“He had not. I tell you
he had not,” she insisted. “I swear
He stared at her. “There
was no one else for it,” he made answer, and
bade her harshly stand aside.
Diana, huddled together, watched and
waited in horror for the end of these consequences
of her work.
Blake made a sudden movement to win
past Ruth. Richard staggered to his feet intent
on defending himself; but he was swordless; retreat
to the door suggested itself, and he had half turned
to attempt to gain it, when Ruth’s next words
arrested him, petrified him.
“There was some one else for
it, Sir Rowland,” she cried. “It was
not Richard who betrayed you. It... it was I.”
“You?” The fierceness
seemed all to drop away from him, whelmed in the immensity
of his astonishment. “You?” Then he
laughed loud in scornful disbelief. “You
think to save him,” he said.
“Should I lie?” she asked him, calm and
He stared at her stupidly; he passed
a hand across his brow, and looked at Diana.
“Oh, it is impossible!” he said at last.
“You shall hear,” she
answered, and told him how at the last moment she
had learnt not only that her husband was in Bridgwater,
but that he was to sup at Newlington’s with
the Duke’s party.
“I had no thought of betraying
you or of saving the Duke,” she said. “I
knew how justifiable was what you intended. But
I could not let Mr. Wilding go to his death.
I sought to detain him, warning him only when I thought
it would be too late for him to warn others. But
you delayed overlong, and...”
A hoarse inarticulate cry from him
came to interrupt her at that point. One glimpse
of his face she had and of the hand half raised with
sword pointing towards her, and she closed her eyes,
thinking that her sands were run. And, indeed,
Blake’s intention was just then to kill her.
That he should owe his betrayal to her was in itself
cause enough to enrage him, but that her motive should
have been her desire to save Wilding Wilding
of all men! that was the last straw.
Had he been forewarned that Wilding
was to be one of Monmouth’s party at Mr. Newlington’s,
his pulses would have throbbed with joy, and he would
have flung himself into his murderous task with twice
the zest he had carried to it. And now he learnt
that not only had she thwarted his schemes against
Monmouth, but had deprived him of the ardently sought
felicity of widowing her. He drew back his arm
for the thrust; Diana huddled into her chair too horror-stricken
to speak or move: Richard immediately
behind his sister saw nothing of what was
passing, and thought of nothing but his own safety.
Then Blake paused, stepped back, returned
his sword to its scabbard, and bending himself but
whether to bow or not was not quite plain he
took some paces backwards, then turned and went out
by the window as he had come. But there was a
sudden purposefulness in the way he did it that might
have warned them this withdrawal was not quite the
retreat it seemed.
They watched him with many emotions,
predominant among which was relief, and when he was
gone Diana rose and came to Ruth.
“Come,” she said, and sought to lead her
from the room.
But there was Richard now to be reckoned
with, Richard from whom the palsy was of a sudden
fallen, now that the cause of it had withdrawn.
He had his back to the door, and his weak mouth was
pursed up into a semblance of resolution, his pale
eyes looked stern, his white eyebrows bent together
in a frown.
“Wait,” he said.
They looked at him, and the shadow of a smile almost
flitted across Diana’s face. He stepped
to the door, and, opening it, held it wide. “Go,
Diana,” he said. “Ruth and I must
understand each other.”
Diana hesitated. “You had
better go, Diana,” said her cousin, whereupon
Mistress Horton went.
Hot and fierce came the recriminations
from Richard’s lips when he and his sister were
alone, and Ruth weathered the storm bravely until it
was stemmed again by fresh fear in Richard. For
Blake had suddenly reappeared. He came forward
from his window; his manner composed and full of resolution.
Young Westmacott recoiled, the heat all frozen out
of him. But Blake scarce looked at him, his smouldering
glance was all for Ruth, who watched him with incipient
fear, despite herself.
“Madam,” he said, “’tis
not to be supposed a mind holding so much thought
for a husband’s safety could find room for any
concern as to another’s. I will ask you,
natheless, to consider what tale I am to bear Lord
“What tale?” said she.
“Aye that will account
for what has chanced; for my failure to discharge
the task entrusted me, and for the slaughter of an
officer of his and twenty men.
“Why ask me this?” she
demanded half angrily; then suddenly bethinking her
of how she had ruined his enterprise, and of the position
in which she had placed him, she softened. Her
clear mind held justice very dear. She approached.
“Oh, I am sorry sorry, Sir Rowland,”
He sneered. He had wiped some
of the blood from his face, but still looked terrible
“Sorry!” said he, and
laughed unpleasantly. “You’ll come
with me to Feversham and tell him what you did,”
“I?” She recoiled in fear.
“At once” he informed her.
“Wha... what’s that?”
faltered Richard, calling up his manhood, and coming
forward. “What are you saying, Blake?”
Sir Rowland disdained to heed him.
“Come, mistress,” he said, and putting
forward his hand he caught her wrist and pulled her
roughly towards him. She struggled to free herself,
but he leered evilly upon her, no whit discomposed
by her endeavours. Though short of stature, he
was a man of considerable bodily strength, and she,
though tall, was slight of frame. He released
her wrist, and before she realized what he was about
he had stooped, passed an arm behind her knees, another
round her waist, and, swinging her from her feet,
took her up bodily in his arms. He turned about,
and a scream broke from her.
“Hold!” cried Richard. “Hold,
“Keep off, or I’ll make
an end of you before I go,” roared Blake over
his shoulder, for already he had turned about and was
making for the window, apparently no more hindered
by his burden than had she been a doll.
Richard sprang to the door. “Jasper!”
he bawled. “Jasper!” He had no weapons,
as we have seen, else it may be that he had made an
attempt to use them.
Ruth got a hand free and caught at
the windowframe as Blake was leaping through.
It checked their progress, but did not sensibly delay
it. It was unfortunately her wounded hand with
which she had sought to cling, and with an angry,
brutal wrench Sir Rowland compelled her to unclose
her grasp. He sped down the lawn towards the orchard,
where his horse was tethered. And now she knew
in a subconscious sort of way why he had earlier withdrawn.
He had gone to saddle for this purpose.
She struggled now, thinking that he
would be too hampered to compel her to his will.
He became angry, and set her down beside his horse,
one arm still holding her.
“Look you, mistress,”
he told her fiercely, “living or dead, you come
with me to Feversham. Choose now.”
His tone was such that she never doubted
he would carry out his threat. And so in dull
despair she submitted, hoping that Feversham might
be a gentleman and would recognize and respect a lady.
Half fainting, she allowed him to swing her to the
withers of his horse. Thus they threaded their
way in the dim starlit night through the trees towards
It stood open, and they passed out
into the lane. There Sir Rowland put his horse
to the trot, which he increased to a gallop when he
was over the bridge and clear of the town.