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- St. George and St. Michael Vol. II - 20/34 -


CHAPTER XXX.

RICHARD AND THE MARQUIS.

A very few strokes of the brazen-tongued clamourer had been enough to wake the whole castle. Dorothy flew back to her chamber, and hurrying on her clothes, descended again to the court. It was already in full commotion. The western gate stood open, with the portcullis beyond it high in the wall, and there she took her stand, waiting the return of Eccles and his men.

Presently lord Charles came through the hall from the stone court, and seeing the gate open, called aloud in anger to know what it meant. Receiving no reply, he ran with an oath to drop the portcullis.

'Is there a mutiny amongst the rascals?' he cried.

'There is no cause for dread, my lord,' said Dorothy from the shadow of the gateway.

'How know you that, fair mistress?' returned lord Charles, who knew her voice. 'You must not inspire us with too much of your spare courage. That would be to make us fool-hardy.'

'Indeed, there is nothing to fear, my lord,' persisted Dorothy. 'The warder and his men have but this moment rushed out after one on horseback, whom they had let pass with too little question. They are ten to one,' added Dorothy with a shudder, as the sounds of the fray came up from below.

'If there is then no cause of fear, cousin, why look you so pale?' asked lord Charles, for the gleam of a torch had fallen on Dorothy's face.

'I think I hear them returning, doubtless with a prisoner,' said Dorothy, and stood with her face turned aside, looking anxiously through the gateway and along the bridge. She had obeyed her conscience, and had now to fight her heart, which unreasonable member of the community would insist on hoping that her efforts had been foiled. But in a minute more came the gathering noise of returning footsteps, and presently Lady's head appeared over the crown of the bridge; then rose Eccles, leading her in grim silence; and next came Richard, pale and bleeding, betwixt two men, each holding him by an arm; the rest of the guard crowded behind. As they entered the court, Richard caught sight of Dorothy, and his face shone into a wan smile, to which her rebellious heart responded with a terrible pang.

The voice of lord Charles reached them from the other side of the court.

'Bring the prisoner to the hall,' it cried.

Eccles led the mare away, and the rest took Richard to the hall, which now began to be lighted up, and was soon in a blaze of candles all about the dais. When Dorothy entered, it was crowded with household and garrison, but the marquis, who was tardy at dressing, had not yet appeared. Presently, however, he walked slowly in from the door at the back of the dais, breathing hard, and seated himself heavily in the great chair. Dorothy placed herself near the door, where she could see the prisoner.

Lady Mary entered and seated herself beside her father.

'What meaneth all this tumult?' the marquis began. 'Who rang the alarum-bell?'

'I did, my lord,' answered Dorothy in a trembling voice.

'Thou, mistress Dorothy!' exclaimed the marquis. 'Then I doubt not thou hadst good reason for so doing. Prithee what was the reason? Verily it seems thou wast sent hither to be the guardian of my house!'

'It was not I, my lord, gave the first alarm, but--' She hesitated, then added, 'my poor Marquis.'

'Not so poor for a marquis, cousin Dorothy, as to be called the poor Marquis. Why dost thou call me poor?'

'My lord, I mean my dog.'

'The truth will still lie--between me and thy dog,' said the marquis. 'But come now, instruct me. Who is this prisoner, and how comes he here?'

'He be young Mr. Heywood of Redware, my lord, and a pestilent roundhead,' answered one of his captors.

'Who knows him?'

A moment's silence followed. Then came Dorothy's voice again.

'I do, my lord.'

'Tell me, then, all thou knowest from the beginning, cousin,' said the marquis.

'I was roused by the barking of my dog,' Dorothy began.

'How came HE hither again?'

'My lord, I know not.'

''Tis passing strange. See to it, lord Charles. Go on, mistress Dorothy.'

'I heard my dog bark in the court, my lord, and looking from my window saw Mr. Heywood riding through on horseback. Ere I could recover from my astonishment, he had passed the gate, and then I rang the alarm-bell,' said Dorothy briefly.

'Who opened the gate for him?'

'I did, my lord,' said Eccles. 'He made me believe he was talking to your lordship at the study window.'

'Ha! a cunning fox!' said the marquis. 'And then?'

'And then mistress Dorothy fell out upon me--'

'Let thy tongue wag civilly, Eccles.'

'He speaks true, my lord,' said Dorothy. 'I did fall out upon him, for he was but half awake, and I knew not what mischief might be at hand.'

'Eccles is obliged to you, cousin. And so the lady brought you to your senses in time to catch him?'

'Yes, my lord.'

'How comes he wounded? He was but one to a score.'

'My lord, he would else have killed us all.'

'He was armed then?'

Eccles was silent.

'Was he armed?' repeated the marquis.

'He had a heavy whip, my lord.'

'H'm!' said the marquis, and turned to the prisoner.

'Is thy name Heywood, sirrah?' he asked.

'My lord, if you treat me as a clown, you shall have but clown's manners of me; I will not answer.'

''Fore heaven!' exclaimed the marquis, 'our squires would rule the roast.'

'He that doth right, marquis or squire, will one day rule, my lord,' said Richard.

''Tis well said,' returned the marquis. 'I ask your pardon, Mr. Heywood. In times like these a man must be excused for occasionally dropping his manners.'

'Assuredly, my lord, when he stoops to recover them so gracefully as doth the marquis of Worcester.'

'What, then, would'st thou in my house at midnight, Mr. Heywood?' asked the marquis courteously.

'Nothing save mine own, my lord. I came but to look for a stolen mare.'

'What! thou takest Raglan for a den of thieves?'

'I found the mare in your lordship's stable.'

'How then came the mare in my stable?'

'That is not a question for me to answer, my lord.'

'Doubtless thou didst lose her in battle against thy sovereign.'

'She was in Redware stable last night, my lord.'

'Which of you, knaves, stole the gentleman's mare?' cried the marquis.--'But, Mr. Heywood, there can be no theft upon a rebel. He is by nature an outlaw, and his life and goods forfeit to the king.'

'He will hardly yield the point, my lord. So long as Might, the sword, is in the hand of Right, the--'


St. George and St. Michael Vol. II - 20/34

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