OF HOW CAPTAIN MACPHERSON FULFILLED HIS TRUST

Lady Hester Rawdon´s house stood not far from the Cathedral, something
larger and uglier than its neighbours, with a stone staircase running
along the outside, and the lower windows heavily grated with iron bars.
Gervase and his companion were shown into a long, low-ceiled room on the
ground floor, wainscoted in black oak and looking out on a small garden.

In a corner of the room stood a harpsichord; a piece of fine embroidery
lay on the table. On a chair by the window lay an open book with the
pages turned downwards. Some spring flowers in a vase gave out a perfume
which, somehow, Gervase came to associate with Dorothy, and brought her
vividly before him.

Presently she came in herself, clad in a simple black gown without any
touch of colour. To Gervase she gave her hand without a word, but with a
quiet smile of welcome on her lips, and then she turned to Macpherson,
who stood drawn up to his full height, with his hat under his left arm
and his hand resting on his sword hilt. “I am very glad to see you,” she
said. “We talked much of you, Mr. Orme and myself, and I never doubted
that we should meet again. But,” and she looked at him with inquiring
sympathy, “you have been wounded?”

“A mere scratch,” he answered hastily. “And before I go further, you
will let a rough old soldier say a word, Miss Carew?–though he cannot
speak fairly, and in set terms such as please a woman. When we first met
I spoke harshly and in anger, for which speech I am sorry now. In my
rough journeys I have had knocks that somewhat hardened me, but I ask
your pardon if I have in anywise offended you. I can do no more.”

“I would not have you speak of that,” she answered; “I only remember
your service.”

“The which I did not render you.” Then he went on in evident
perturbation: “You see before you one who played the coward and betrayed
the trust he compelled you to place in his hands. Had I to go through
with it again, it may be I should have done otherwise, but I acted for
the best and followed the light I had. I know you will listen to me
patiently.”

“Surely I will listen to you, but I am certain you have broken no trust
of mine.”

Gervase retired to the window, while Macpherson went through his
narrative without interruption and with an air of self-deprecation that
he seldom showed. When he had done, he drew a piece of parchment from
his breast and laid it on the table. On one side was written the message
that Colonel Lundy had commissioned him to deliver at Enniskillen, on
the other a number of lines and points were traced apparently in red
ink.

“Now,” he said, “that is the whole story, and here is the plan on which
is marked, with what skill I could command, the bearings by which the
spot may be found. I could indeed walk blindfold thither, but I shall
not be here when the time comes. Perhaps Mr. Orme will follow me as I
point out to you the meaning of this scratch.”

Gervase came up to the table, and Dorothy and he together looked down on
the red lines on which the old soldier had placed his forefinger. Then
she looked up hastily: “With what have you done this?” she cried.

“Even with the first ink that came to my hand; ´tis none the less plain
for that. Now,” he continued, “here is the way from the city, and here
are the cross-roads which you cannot miss. Fifty paces further from that
point bring you to a sycamore. Ten steps due west is the hedge, traced
thus. And there at the foot of the wild apple-tree you will find the
hole I digged. ´Tis covered with a flat stone and concealed by bracken,
but by those who know the sign cannot be missed.”

“And I hope,” said Dorothy calmly, looking up in Macpherson´s face,
“that it will never be found. Let it lie buried there for ever. Never
let me look on it again. I would give the world that I had never seen
it.”

Macpherson looked at her in wonder.

“You do not understand me I know, but Mr. Orme does, and I know my
secret is safe with him. Truly,” she added bitterly, and with a certain
wildness, “your chart was well written with blood.”

“´Twas the best I could do: I am sorry that it does not please you.”

“You mistake Miss Carew´s meaning,” said Gervase. “She finds no fault
with what you have done, and I think you have acted discreetly. But
others are concerned in this, and she must not act without
consideration.”

“However I may act,” said Dorothy, “you will promise to say nothing of
this till you have my permission; neither to my aunt nor to my brother.
They must know nothing of it now. And, Mr. Orme, I know the favour that
I ask is great, but I cannot bear the sight of this now; will you keep
it till I ask it from you?”




Gervase consented with some misgiving, but had she ordered him at that
moment to go in search of the treasure single handed, ´tis likely that
he would have done her bidding cheerfully, and gone without a word.

Having no clue to Dorothy´s meaning, Macpherson looked upon it as a
piece of the whimsical extravagance one always found in a woman, and was
content that he had delivered his message, however abruptly, and rid
himself of his responsibility. For himself, he had no desire to meddle
with family secrets, and a young fellow like Gervase Orme was a far
fitter companion to share the confidence of a girl, than a rugged and
plain-spoken soldier like himself. It might be there was more than her
grandfather´s death in the matter, but whatever it was, he would avoid
other people´s business for the future, and keep the beaten road, where
he saw plain ground for his feet.

“Of my own motion,” he said, “I will not speak of this thing, and though
´tis a pity to have the bonny stones and brave pieces lying in a ditch
side, I would not for their worth have carried them a day longer. I even
felt like Judas with the forty pieces–the price of the blood, hanging
about his neck.”

Dorothy shuddered, and hid her face in her hands.

“All is done now,” said Gervase, seeing her distress, “and words will
not mend it. Captain Macpherson and myself must even make for the walls
presently, where he will find work in plenty to his taste. The guns have
been speaking loudly for an hour.”

“Nay,” said Dorothy rising, “you will not go till you have seen my aunt;
she hath been most anxious to thank you for the service you did me. She
is seldom able to see strangers, but she is something better to-day, and
bade me call her before you left.”

Macpherson demurred stoutly and insisted on making his immediate
departure, for he felt by no means at home as it was, and foresaw with a
feeling akin to dismay, an interchange of meaningless civilities with a
silly old woman of rank. But Dorothy would take no refusal; Lady Hester
would not forgive her if she permitted them to leave without seeing her,
and she was gone before Macpherson had finished his protest.

“This is what comes of dealing with a woman, Gervase, my son,” he said,
in a mournful tone, apparently still meditating retreat. “I had rather
face a clump of pikes than come under the artillery of a woman´s tattle.
One is bound up hand and foot, and feels his manhood oozing out through
the pores of his skin, while he beats his brains for a civil speech and
looks in vain for a way of escape. They can talk of nothing I have
knowledge of, and I am too old for quips and gallant speeches. But she
is a brave lass, and I think I wronged her, so that I must suffer for it
now with patience. But for this Lady Hester, a rough old war-horse like
myself hath other business in the world than to stand like a page in a
lady´s chamber and hearken to her gossip. For young fellows like
yourself it may answer, but were I out of this—-”

His resolution, whatever it may have been, remained unspoken, for at
this moment Lady Hester Rawdon came in, leaning on her nephew´s arm–a
frail old lady much broken with illness, who received Gervase with a
show of homely kindness, and strongly expressed her sense of the
good-will he had shown toward her niece. Motioning to him to sit down
beside her on the couch, she drew from him the story of his recent
adventure, and Gervase seeing the interest and pleasure she took in the
narrative, entered at some length into the particulars of his journey.
Regarding the Vicomte de Laprade she made many inquiries–the Vicomte´s
mother being her half sister–and regretted the unhappy state of the
country that prevented her seeing a lad she was very fond of in his
youth. No doubt he was a Catholic, which was to be deplored, but
religion should not weaken the ties of kinship. He was of the same age
with her nephew Jasper, and a fine lad when she saw him last. That was
at Meudon, a great many years ago. There were many changes since then,
and she supposed that she would not know him now. These were dreadful
times and the roaring of the guns frightened her beyond measure, but
there would soon be peace.

So the poor lady rambled on. All the while her nephew stood near without
taking any part in the conversation. He was considerably older than
Dorothy and very like her in appearance, but without the expression and
vivacity which was the great charm of his sister. Gervase thought there
was a look of unfriendliness in his eyes, and resented with some inward
heat, the supercilious air with which he treated him. Macpherson had
stood for some time preserving an awkward silence, until Dorothy
withdrew him to the window, and by slow degrees broke down his silence,
till he suddenly found himself talking with great ease and friendliness.

It was many years since he had looked so nearly in the face of youth and
beauty and listened to the tones of a girlish voice, and who can tell
what secret springs of memory had suddenly been unlocked? Certain it is
that when Gervase and he made their way to the walls half an hour
afterwards, there was an undertone in his voice and a softened look in
his eyes that Orme had never heard or seen before.

“There are hard times,” he said, “before yon sweet lass, harder than she
dreams of, but you and I must help to make them easier if we can. That
rambling old woman and that gay spark of a brother will be a poor help
to her in the day of her trial. I like not yon lad; his eyes shift too
much, and they are ever counting the buttons on your coat while you are
trying to find what is the thought in his mind. I´m thinking he would be
glad to be out of this, could he carry the old woman´s fortune with him.
But the lass herself hath a great heart, and if God sees good will make
a fit mother to a noble race of bairns.”

But Gervase paid very little attention to his speech. The presence of
Dorothy and the look she had given him at parting, so rapid but at the
same time so complete in perfect confidence, had filled him with
happiness, and given him food for contemplation. The old stories that he
had read of wandering knights and heroic paladins had come to be
fulfilled for him; he had found a cause in which to use his sword, and a
lady who was worthy of his devotion; and so a golden vista of great
deeds opened out before him, and he saw glory and love at the end of it.
We will not quarrel with the young fellow´s idle fancies, but leave him
with the girl´s last words—-“You have proved yourself my friend,”
keeping him awake that night and mingling with the substance of his
dreams.