N elly—Nelly—Nell! Now, where's the wench?” cried Mrs. Gwyn, before she had more than passed the threshold of her daughter's house in St. James's Park—the house with the terrace garden, where, as the sedate Evelyn records, the charming Nelly had stood exchanging some very lively phrases with her royal lover on the green walk below, giving the grave gentleman cause to grieve greatly. But, alas! the record of his sorrow has only made his untold readers mad that they had not been present to grieve, also, over that entrancing tableau. “Nelly—Nell! Where's your mistress, sirrah?” continued the somewhat portly and undoubtedly overdressed mother of the “impudent comedian,” referred to by Evelyn, turning to a man-servant who wore the scarlet livery of the king.

“Where should she be, madam, at this hour, unless in the hands of her tirewomen? It is but an hour past noon.”

“You lie, knave! She is at hand,” cried the lady, as the musical lilt of a song sounded on the landing above the dozen shallow oak stairs leading out of the square hall, and a couple of fat spaniels, at the sound, lazily left their place on a cushion, and waddled towards the stairs to meet and greet their mistress.

She appeared in the lobby, and stood for a moment or two looking out of a window that commanded a fine view of the trees outside—they were in blossom right down to the wall. She made a lovely picture, with one hand shading her eyes from the sunlight that entered through the small square panes, singing all the time in pure lightness of heart. She wore her brown hair in the short ringlets of the period, and they danced on each side of her face as if they were knowing little sprites for whose ears her singing was meant.

“Wench!” shouted her mother from below. The sprites that danced to the music of the mother's voice were of a heavier order altogether.

“What, mother? I scarce knew that you were journeying hither to-day,” cried Nelly, coming down the stairs. “'T is an honour, and a surprise as well; and, i' faith, now that I come to think on't, the surprise is a deal greater than the honour. If you say you have n't come hither for more money, my surprise will be unbounded.”

It was nothing to Nelly that she spoke loud enough to be heard by the footmen in the hall, as well as by the servants in the kitchen. She knew that they knew all about her, and all about her mother as well. Perhaps some of them had bought oranges from her or her mother in the old days at Drury Lane, before she had become distinguished as an actress, and in other ways.

“I 'm not come for money, though a trifle would be welcome,” said the mother, when Nelly had shown her the way into one of the rooms opening off a corridor at one side of the hall—a large apartment, furnished with ludicrous incongruity. A lovely settee, made by the greatest artist in France, and upholstered in bright tapestry, was flanked by a couple of hideous chairs made by the stage carpenter of Drury Lane, and by him presented to Nelly. A pair of Sèvres vases, which had for some years been in St. James's Palace stood on a side-board among some rubbish of porcelain that Nelly had picked up in the purlieus of Westminster.

The mother was about to seat herself heavily on the gilded settee, when Nelly gave a little scream, startling the elder lady so that she, too, screamed—a little hoarsely—in sympathy.

“What's the matter, girl—what's the matter?” she cried.

“Nothing is the matter, so far, mother, but a mighty deal would have been the matter, if you had seated yourself other where than in that chair.'Snails, madam, who are you that you should plump your person down on a seat that was made for a legitimate monarch?”

“I'm a legitimate wife, hear you that, you perky wench?” cried the mother, craning her neck forward after the most approved fashion of pending belligerents at Lewkinor Street, Drury Lane.

“The greater reason you should avoid that settee, dear mother; it has never been other than the chattel of a prince,” laughed Nelly. “And now, prithee, why the honour of this visit, while the month is not yet near its close?”

“I have met with an old friend of yours, this day, Nell,” said the mother, “and he is coming hither,—'t is that hath brought me.”

“An old friend! I' faith, good mother, 't is the young friends are more to my taste. The savour of Lewkinor Street doth not smell sweet, and it clings most foully to all our old friends.”

“Oh, ay, but you once was n't so dainty a madam!”

“'T were vain to deny it, mother, since it can be urged against me that I became your daughter. No, no, good mother, friend me no old friends—I like them new—the newer the better—plenty of gilding—none of it rubbed off—gingerbread and courtiers—plenty of gilding, and plenty of spice beneath. But the old life in Lewkinor Street—in the coal-yard—ah! 't was like to sour oranges, mother, thick skin above, and sourness under. 'Snails! it doth set my teeth on edge to think of it.”

“Oh, ay; but now and again we lighted upon a Levant orange in the midst of a basketful—a sweet one to suck, and one to leave a sweet taste behind it.”

“The best were mightily improved by the addition of a lump of sugar. But what hath all this vegetable philosophy to do with your visit to me to-day? If you mean to stay, I'll send out for a couple of stone of sugar without delay!”

“Philosophy, Madame Impudence! You accuse your mother of philosophy, when everyone knows that your own language was—”

“Worthy of a lady of quality, mother. It seemeth that you are anxious to hear whether or not I retain anything of my old skill in that direction, and by my faith, dear mother, you shall learn more than will satisfy your curiosity, if you beat about the bush much longer. Whom say you that you met to-day?”

“What should you say if I told you that his name was Dick Harraden?”

“What, Dick! Dick!—Dick Harraden!”

Nell had sprung to her feet, and had grasped her mother by the shoulder, eagerly peering into her face. After a moment of silence following her exclamation, she gave her mother a little push, in the act of taking her hand off her shoulder, and threw herself back in her own chair again with a laugh—a laugh that surrounded a sigh, as a bright nimbus surrounds the sad face of a saint in a picture.

“What should I say, do you ask me?” she cried. “Well, I should say that you were a liar, good mother.” Nell was never particular in her language. As an exponent of the reaction against the Puritanism of the previous generation, she was admitted by very competent judges to have scarcely an equal.

“I'm no liar,” said the mother. “'T was Dick himself I met, face to face.”

“It puzzles me to see wherein lies your hope of getting money from me by telling me such a tale,” said Nell.

“I want not your money—at least not till the end of the month, or thereabouts. I tell you, I saw Dick within the hour.”

“'T was his ghost. You know that when he threw away his link he took to the sea, and was drowned in a storm off the Grand Canary. What did the seafaring man tell us when I asked him if he had seen Dick?”

“A maudlin knave, who offered you a guinea for a kiss at the pit door of Drury Lane, and then bought a basket of oranges and gave them away singly to all comers.”

“But he said he had sailed in the same ship as Dick, and that it had gone down with all aboard save only himself.”

“Oh, ay; and he wept plentifully when he saw how you wept—ay, and offered to be your sweetheart in the stead of poor Dick, the knave! For I saw Dick with these eyes, within the hour.”

“Oh, mother—and you told him—no, you durs n't tell him—”

“He had just this morning come to London from the Indies, and it was luck—ill-luck, maybe—that made him run against me. He plied me with question after question—all about Nell—his Nell, he called you, if you please.”

“His Nell—ah, mother! his Nell! Well, you told him—”

“I told him that you would never more need his aid to buy foot-gear. Lord! Nell, do you mind how he bought you the worsted stockings when you were nigh mad with the chilblains?”

“And you told him... For God's sake, say what you told him!”

“I did n't mention the king's name—no, I'm loyal to his Majesty, God save him! I only told him that you had given up selling oranges in the pit of Drury Lane, and had taken to the less reputable part of the house, to wit, the stage.”

“Poor Dick! he did n't like to hear that. Oh, if he had stayed at home and had carried his link as before, all would have been well!”

“What is the wench talking about? Well—all would have been well? And is not all well, you jade? 'T were rank treason to say else. Is n't this room with its gilded looking-glasses and painted vases pretty well for one who had been an orange girl? The king is a gentleman, and a merry gentleman, too. Well, indeed!”

“But Dick!—what more did you say to him, mother?”

“I asked him after himself, to be sure. I' faith the lad has prospered, Nell—not as you have prospered, to be sure—”

“Nay, not as I have prospered.”

“Of course not; but still somewhat. He will tell you all, himself.”

“What? You told him where I dwelt?”

“'I meant it not, Nelly; but he had it from me before I was aware. But he knows nothing. I tell you he only came to London from Bristol port in the morning. He will have no time to hear of the king and the king's fancies before he sees you.”

“He is coming hither, then? No, he must not come! Oh, he shall not come! Mother, you have played me false!”

“I? Oh, the wench is mad! False? What could I say, girl, when he pressed me?”

“You could have said that I was dead—that would have been the truth. The girl he knew is dead. He must not come to this house.”

“Then give your lacqueys orders not to admit him, and all will be well. But I thought that you would e'en see the lad, Nell, now that he has prospered. If he had n't prospered it would be different.”

“Only an orange-seller, and yet with the precepts of a lady of quality! I'll not see him. Did he say he'd come soon?”

“Within an hour, he said.” Instinctively, Nell looked at her reflection in a mirror.

“I'll not see him,” she repeated. “That gown will do well enough for one just returned from the Indies,” said the mother, with a leer.

“Oh, go away, go away,” cried her daughter. “You have done enough mischief for one morning. Why could not you have let things be? Why should you put this man on my track?”

“'T is a fool that the wench is, for all her smartness,” said the mother. “She was picked out of the gutter and set down among the noblest in the land, and all that held on to her gown were landed in pleasant places; and yet she talks like a kitchen jade with no sense. If you will not see the lad, hussy, lock your door and close your shutters, after giving orders to your lacqueys to admit him not. If needful, the king can be petitioned to send a guard to line the Park with their pikes to keep out poor Dick, as though he was the devil, and the Park the Garden of Eden.”

“Oh, go away—go away!”

“Oh, yes; I 'll go—and you 'll see him, too—no fear about that. A girl, however well provided for—and you're well provided for—would n't refuse to see an old sweetheart, if he was the old serpent himself; nay, she'd see him on that account alone. And so good day to you, good Mistress Eve.”

She made a mock courtesy, the irony of which was quite as broad as that of her speech, and marched out of the room, holding her narrow skirts sufficiently high to display a shocking pair of flat-footed boots beneath.

Her daughter watched her departure, and only when she had disappeared burst into a laugh. In a moment she was grave once again. She remained seated without changing her attitude or expression for a long time. At last she sprang to her feet, saying out loud, as though some one were present to hear her:

“What a fool thou art, friend Nell, to become glum over a boy sweetheart—and a link boy, of all boys. Were I to tell Mr. Dryden of my fancy, he would write one of his verses about it, making out that poor Dick was the little god Cupid in disguise, and that his link was the torch of love. But I'll not see him.'T were best not. He'll hear all, soon enough, and loathe me as at times I loathe myself—no, no; not so much as that, not so much as that: Dick had always a kind heart. No; I'll not see him.” She went resolutely to the bell-pull, but when there, stood irresolute with the ornamental ring of brass in her hand, for some moments before pulling it. She gave it a sudden jerk, and when it was responded to by a lacquey, she said:

“Should a man call asking to see me within the next hour, he is to be told—with civility, mind you: he is a gentleman—that—that I am in this room, and that I will see him for five minutes—only five minutes, mind you, sirrah.”

“And the man—the gentleman—is to be admitted, madam?”

“Certainly—for five minutes.”

“Your ladyship will regulate the time?”

“Go away, you numbskull! How could I regulate the time? I'm no astronomer.”

“Madam, I meant but to inquire if you are to be interrupted at the end of five minutes.”

“I gave you no such instruction, sirrah. It is enough for you to carry out the instruction I gave you. Carry it out, and yourself in the bargain.”

The man bowed and withdrew. He was familiar with the colloquial style of his mistress and her moods.

When the man had gone Nelly laughed again, but suddenly became graver even than she had yet been.

“What have I done?” she cried. “Oh, there never was so great a fool as me! No, no; I'll not see him! I have as kind a heart as Dick, and I'll prove it by not seeing him.”

And yet, when she had her hand on the lock of the door, she stood irresolute once again for some moments. Then she went out with a firm step, her intention being to countermand in the hall the instructions she had given to the servant in the parlour; but in the hall she found herself face to face with her old friend, Sir Charles Sedley. He had brought her a bunch of violets.

“The satyr offers flowers to Aurora,” said the courtier to the courtesan, bowing as gracefully as a touch of rheumatism permitted.

“And Aurora was so fond of flowers that she accepted them, even from the most satiric of satyrs,” said Nell, sinking into a courtesy.

“I plucked these flowers for the fairest flower that—”

“Ah, that is one of Mr. Dryden's images in the reverse,” laughed Nell. “What was the name of t' other young thing?—Proserpine, that's it—who was plucking flowers, and was herself plucked. 'Snails! that's not the word—she was n't a fowl.”

“'Fore Gad, Nell, I never heard that story; it sounds scandalous, so tell it us,” said Sir Charles. “What was the name of the wench, did you say?”

“Her name was Nell Gwyn, and she was gathering oranges to sell in the pit of Drury Lane, when, some say Satan, and some say Sedley—the incongruity between the two accounts is too trifling to call for notice—captivated her, and she had nothing more to do with oranges or orange blossoms.”

“And her life was all the merrier, as I doubt not Madame Proserpine's was when she left the vale of Enna for—well, the Pit—not at Drury Lane.”

“That were a darker depth still. You 've heard the story, then. Mr. Dryden says the moral of it is that the devil has got all the pretty wenches for himself.”

“Not so; he left a few for the king.”

“Nay, the two are partners in the game; but the King, like t' other monarch, is not so black as he is painted.”

“Nor so absolutely white as to be tasteless as the white of an egg, Nell.”

“His Majesty is certainly not tasteless.”

“On the contrary, he is in love with you still, Nell.”

They were standing apart from the group of servants in the hall. Nell Gwyn had pretended that she was about to ascend the stairs, but loitered on the second step, with her right elbow resting on the oak banister, while she smelt at the violets with her head poised daintily, looking with eyes full of mischief and mirth at the courtier standing on the mat, the feathers of his broad-leafed hat sweeping the ground, as he swung it in making his bows.

Suddenly Nell straightened herself as she looked down the hall toward the door; she started and dropped her violets. All the mischief and mirth fled from her eyes as a man was admitted, with some measure of protestation, by the porter. He was a young man with a very brown face, and he carried no sword, only the hanger of a sailor; his dress was of the plainest—neither silk nor lace entered into its manufacture.

Before Sir Charles had time to turn to satisfy himself as to the identity of the man at whom Nell was gazing so eagerly, she had run down the hall, and seized the newcomer by both hands, crying:

“Dick—Dick—It is you, yourself, Dick, and no ghost!”

“No ghost, I dare swear, Nell,” cried the man, in a tone that made the candles in the chandelier quiver, and Sir Charles Sedley to be all but swept off his feet. “No ghost, but—O Lord, how you've grown, Nell! Why, when I burnt my last link seeing you home, you was only so high!” He put his hand within a foot of the floor.

“And you, too, Dick! Why, you're a man now—you'll grow no more, Dick,” cried Nell, still standing in front of him, 'with his hands fast clasped in her own. Suddenly recollecting the servants who were around, she dropped his hands, saying: “Come along within, Dick, and tell me all your adventures since last we were together.”

“Lord! Adventures! You do n't know what you 've set yourself down for, Nell. If I was to tell you all, I should be in your company for at least a week.”


She led him past Sir Charles Sedley, without so much as glancing at the courtier, and the newcomer had no eyes for anyone save Nell. A servant threw open the door of the room where she had been with her mother, and the two entered.

Sir Charles took snuff elaborately, after he had replaced his hat on his head.

“If his Majesty should arrive, let him know that I am in the long parlour,” he said to a servant, as he walked toward a door on the left.

He paused for a space with his hand on the handle of the door, for there came from the room into which Nell Gwyn and Dick Harraden had gone a loud peal of laugh ter—not a solo, but a duet.

He turned the handle.

So soon as he had disappeared, there came another ripple of laughter from the other room, and the lacqueys lounging in the hall laughed, too. Within the room, Nell was seated on the settee and Dick Harraden by her side. She had just reminded him of the gift of the worsted stockings which he had made to her, when he was a link-boy, and she an orange-girl in Drury Lane. They had both laughed when she had pushed out a little dainty shoe from beneath her gown, displaying at the same time a tolerably liberal amount of silk stocking, as she said:

“Ah, Dick, it 's not in worsted my toes are clad now. I have outgrown your stockings.”

“Not you, Nell!” he cried. “By the Lord Harry! your feet have got smaller instead of larger during these years—I swear to you that is so.”

“Ah, the chilblains do make a difference, Dick,” said she, “and you never saw my feet unless they were covered with chilblains. Lord! how you cried when you saw my feet well covered for the first time.”

“Not I—-I didn't cry. What was there to cry about, Nell?” he said.

She felt very much inclined to ask him the same question at that moment, for his face was averted from her, and he had uttered his words spasmodically.

“Poor Dick! You wept because you had eaten nothing for three days in order to save enough to buy my stockings,” she said.

“How know you that?” he cried, turning to her suddenly.

“I knew it not at the time,” she replied, “but I have thought over it since.”

“Think no more of it, Nell. O Lord! to think that I should live to see Nell again! No—no; I'll not believe it. That fine lady that I see in the big glass yonder cannot be Nell Gwyn!”

“Oh, Dick, would any one but Nell Gwyn remember about Nell Gwyn's chilblains?”

“Hearsay, mere hearsay, my fine madam!”

“By what means shall I convince you that I'm the Nell you knew? Let me see—ah, I know. Dick, I 'll swear for you; you know well that there was not one could match me in swearing. Let me but begin.”

“O Lord! not for the world. You always knew when to begin, Nell, but you ne'er knew when to stop. And how doth it come that you have n't forgot the brimstone of the Lane, Nelly, though you have become so mighty fine a lady?”

“'Snails, Dick, the best way to remember a language is to keep constantly talking it!”

“But in silks and satins?”

“Oh, I soon found that I only needed to double the intensity of my language in the Lane in order to talk the mother tongue of fashion.”

“If swearing make the fine lady, you'll be the leader of the town, Nell, I'll warrant. But do n't say that you doubled your language—that would be impossible.”

“Oh, would it, indeed?”

“Not so? Then for God's sake do n't give me a sample of what you reached in that way, for I 've only lived among the pirates and buccaneers of the Indies since.”

“Then I'll e'en spare thee, Dick. But take warning: do n't provoke me. You would n't provoke a pirate whose guns you knew to be double-shotted. Do n't say that I'm not Nell Gwyn for all my silks and lace. Why, man, doth oatmeal porridge cease to be porridge because it's served in a silver platter? Did your salt pork turn to venison when you ate it off the gold plate that you stole from the chapels?”

“Lord, Nell, I was n't a pirate.”

“What! Did n't you say just now that you had been among pirates and buccaneers in the Indies?”

“I was among them, but not of them.”

“You mean to say that you were neither a pirate nor a buccaneer?”


“Then all I can say is that I'm mightily ashamed of you, Dick. I counted on your being at least a pirate. Don't say that you became a merchant; I never could abide dishonesty, Dick.”

“Well, no; I never became just a merchant, Nell—at least, not the sort of merchant that merchants would call a merchant.”

“Oh, then, there's some hope for you yet, Dick. We may be friends still.”

“Friends? Well, I should say so! What did I work for, do you think, through all these years? What did I lay up a store of guineas for—guineas and Spanish doubloons and pieces of eight for——”

“And you have made a fortune, Dick? Think of that! Ah, I fear that you must have been a regular merchant after all; only regular merchants make fortunes in these days.”

“Ay, but some irregular ones do pretty fairly for themselves.”

“And you were somewhat irregular, I dare swear?”

“Well, I wasn't regularly irregular, dear, only by fits and starts. Ah, what I said to myself was: 'I've put the stockings on Nell, but I've to get the shoes for her yet.' That's what gave me the strength of ten men—working for those shoes, Nell.”

“Poor Dick! and now when you come home, you find that I am already provided for.”

Again she showed him the dainty tips of her shoes.

“Those are fair weather shoes, Nell,” he cried.

“Ay, that they are, Dick,” she assented, with a note of sadness in her voice.

“But what I would offer you would stand the stress of all weather—fair or foul, Nell.”

“I believe you, Dick, with all my heart. I know what you had to offer me; but it 's too late now, too late, Dick.”

“Too late? What do you mean, girl?”

The look that came into his face frightened her. She threw herself back on the settee and laughed loudly for a minute or two.

“That's what I mean,” she cried, tilting up her toes until they were on a level with his knees. “What else could I mean than that I'm already sufficiently shod? Even Nell Gwyn can't wear more than one pair of shoes at a time, Dick. It's rather a pity, but 't is an ill that must be borne. Now tell us all about yourself, Dick. Tell us how you fought with pirates and buccaneers—never mind telling how you made a fortune in pieces of eight: there's no romance about making a fortune—tell us about the pirates, and above all, tell us what the Spanish Main is.”

“The Spanish Main—why, it's the Spanish Main, to be sure—south of the Indies—a good place for trade, and a good place for pirates. But you, Nell; I wonder if you meant anything by saying that I had come back too late? I thought, you know, when I met your mother——”

“Oh, I want to hear about the fighting—the buccaneers! I do n't want to hear about my mother; I hear enough about her. You fought the pirates? Well, next to being a pirate yourself, that's the best thing.”

“Well, if you must know, I got about me a few score of lads—most of them were stout Irish lads who were sold to the plantations by Cromwell.”

“The monster!”

“Ay, we made up a brave crew, I can tell you. Our plan was to do no pirating on our own behalf, but only to attack the pirates when they had a deck-load of spoil. Taking from thieves is n't stealing, is it, Nell?”

“No; that's business.”

“A bit irregular, it may be, as I said just now; but bless you, Nelly, it was like sermon-preaching compared to some sorts of business that thrive mightily at the Indies. Anyhow, here I am to-day, sound and hearty, Nell, with a pretty nice fortune made already, and more to come—here I am, ready and willing to buy you the best pair of shoes in London town, and every other article of attire you may need for the next dozen—ay, the next fifty years.”


“Is n't it true that you were always my sweetheart, Nell? Didn't you say that you would never marry another? Well, you've kept your word so far—your mother told me that.”

“Ah, that's the worst of it.”

“The worst of it! That's the best of it, Nelly; for though a fine lady, living in a mansion like this—why, it might be a palace—the King himself might come here——-”

“The King—you've heard that—that the King?”

She grasped him fiercely by the sleeve, and was eagerly peering into his face.

He burst out laughing, but suddenly checked himself.

“The King—the King—what was there for me to hear?” he asked in a low voice. “I only arrived from Bristol port in the morning. How could I hear anything?”

“I do n't want to hear anything, except to hear you say that you have n't broken your promise—that you have n't married any one else.”

“Oh, go away, Dick—go away!” she cried, burying her face on the arm of the settee.

He got upon his feet slowly and painfully, and stood over her.

“Why should I go away?” he asked, in the same grave voice. “If I love you—and you know I do—and if you love me—and I believe that you do—it is not for me to go away. Ah, is it possible that you have given your promise to marry some one else? Do n't weep, Nell; that's it, I see, and it can be made all right. Is that it, dear?”

“No, no. Oh, go away—go away, and never return to make me feel how miserable I am!”

“I'll not go away. There's some mystery about you and this house, and I'll not go before I fathom it.”

She looked up and saw him standing there with his arms folded.

She leaped up so quickly that she almost seemed to spring into his arms. He thought so, at any rate, and was about to clasp her when she caught both of his hands in her own, gazing tearfully—eagerly—wistfully, into his face.

“Dick—dear Dick,” she said; “if you love me still—and I know you do—you will leave me now. Oh, you should never have come here—I did not mean you to come; but if you love me, Dick, you will leave me now—leave me and go into the nearest coffee-house, and ask of the first man you see there who is Nell Gwyn? What is Nell Gwyn? If you return to me after that, then—then, Dick, I swear to you that I'll marry you; there will be none to stay us then, none to come between—the King himself shall not come between us.”

He gripped her hands fiercely, his face close down to hers.

“By God, I 'll do it!” he said, through his set teeth. “I'll do it. You have put it upon me. I know that I shall hear nothing but what is good of you, and I'll return to claim you, as sure as there's a sun in heaven.”

He dropped her hands, snatched up his hat, and walked firmly to the door. When there, he turned slowly and looked back at her. She was standing pale and lovely where he had left her. Her eyes were upon his face.

He flung himself through the door, and she fell on her knees beside the settee, burying her face in one of its cushions.

For some minutes, nothing was heard in the room but the sound of her sobs; but then the silence was broken by a shout outside—a shout and the noise of a scuffle. Cries of “Hold him back! Hold him back!” came from the servants, and mixed with some full-bodied imprecations in other voices. Nell started to her feet, as the door of the room was all but crashed in, and she was standing with a startled look on her face, as the door was flung wide open, and Dick Harraden hurled a limp antagonist into the room.

“He shall eat his words—every foul word he uttered he shall swallow in the presence of Nell herself,” cried Dick, and then Nell recognised Sir Charles Sedley as the man who was standing panting, with a broken sword in his hand, by her side, facing Dick.

“For God's sake, Dick!—Sir Charles—what has happened?”

The courtier was too breathless to speak—he signified so much very pleasingly to Nell.

“The cowardly knave!” panted Dick. “But I swore that I'd make him eat his words, and by the Lord Harry, I'll keep my oath!”

“Sir Charles, pray—oh, Dick!”

“Dick me no Dicks, Nell, until this popinjay has gone down on his knees before you and asked your pardon for his foul words,” cried Dick. “Down you go, my gentleman, were you fifty times Sir Charles.”

“For heaven's sake, Nell, keep that fire-eater at a distance,” gasped Sir Charles; “he's fit for Bedlam!”

“Stand where you be, Dick,” said Nell. “What said Sir Charles Sedley to give you offence?”

“He said that you—no, I 'll hang in chains in Execution Dock before I repeat the lie—but he'll take it back, every word, if I have to wring his neck!”

Dick was with difficulty kept at a distance.

“Did he say aught about the King and me?” asked Nell, in a low voice.

“It was, I swear, a most unhappy contretems, Nell,” said Sir Charles, smiling in a somewhat constrained way. “How could I know that there was one man in England who did n't know how splendid, yet how natural, a conquest the charms of Mistress Eleanor Gwyn have achieved?”

“Then you only spoke the truth, Sir Charles,” said Nell. “God above us!”

Dick staggered back, and grasped the frame of a chair to support himself. There was a long silence.

He took a faltering step or two towards where she stood in the middle of the room.

“I see it all now,” he said, in a low voice. “I see it all. This house—the lacqueys in scarlet—the King's servants—they are the King's servants, and you—you, Nell, are the King's——Oh, God! let me die—let me die! This is what I came home for! You told me to go to the first coffee-house; I did n't need to go so far. Oh, Nelly, if I had come home to stand beside the green hillock of your grave I could have borne it, but this—this!”

He dropped into a chair and covered his face with his hands. His sobbing was the only sound in the room.

After a long pause he got slowly upon his feet.

“I'm going away,” he said. “My heart is broken, Nell—my heart is broken. Good-bye, Nell.”

“Good-bye, Dick.”

She had not moved from the middle of the room. She did not hold out a hand to him. He walked slowly to the door. Then he turned round.

“I humbly ask your pardon, sir,” he said to Sir Charles.

“Sir,” said the courtier, “I honour you more than any living man.”

“Nell—Nell—come to me—come away with me—come to my arms, Nell,” cried the man, holding out his hands to her from where she stood.

Sir Charles watched her face. He saw it light up for a moment. Her hands moved; she was going to him.

No, she only looked at the man who loved her and was ready to offer her everything, and said:

“Dick, I have a boy in a cradle upstairs.”

There was another long pause before Dick whispered the words: “God bless thee, Nell,” Then the door was flung wide in his face by a lacquey, who bowed to the ground as he ushered in a rather plainfaced man wearing a diamond star and a broad blue sash, as well as a diamond garter.

Nell sank in a courtesy, and Sir Charles Sedley made an obeisance. Dick remained unmoved.

“Ha! what have we here?” said the stranger. “'Odsfish! a pretty family picture! Who may you be, good sir?” he asked of Dick.

“Who may you be?” asked Dick.

“Well, who I may be in a year or two, the Lord and Nelly only knows—she says a merry pauper. But who I am is easier said; I happen just now to be the King.”

Dick stood unmoved.

“Then I could tell you what you are, sir,' said Dick.

“Not half as well as I could tell you, my friend,” said the King.

“I wonder if your Majesty ever hears the truth?” said Dick.

“Seldom; any time I do, it comes from the lips of Nelly, yonder,” replied the King. “And by my soul, sir, I would rather hear the truth from Nelly, than a lie from the most honourable of my subjects.”

“Profligate!” cried Dick.

“I answer to that name, sir; what then?” said the King.

“What then? God only can reply to your 'what then?' The answer rests with Him. He will not forget to answer you when His time comes.”

“Even so,” said the King, in a low tone, bending his head.

Sir Charles had moved round the settee, and had opened the door. He touched Dick on the elbow. Dick started for a moment and then stalked through the door. Sir Charles went out with his face turned towards the King.

“A straightforward fellow, but as conceited as a Puritan, Nell,” cried the King, with a laugh. “What brought him here?” But Nell had sunk once more on her knees beside the settee, and her face was, as before, buried in the cushion.

“Ha, what's this, Nelly? What's amiss?” said the King, bending over her.

“Oh, go away—go away! I never want to see you again. You heard the word, profligate, profligate!”

“I'll go away, Nell, so soon as I pass to you the two papers which I hold in my hand.”

“I want no papers; I want to be alone.”

“Come, dear child; see if you will like your new plaything.”

He pushed before her one of the two papers which he held.

She glanced at it without rising, and without taking it from him. Suddenly she put out a hand to it.

“What?” she cried. She was now on her feet. “You have done it for me—all for me? The hospital to be built at Chelsea! Oh, my liege!”

“Now the other paper,” said the King.

She took it from him.

“Ah, Royal Letters Patent—our boy—our Charlie—Duke of St. Albans! Oh, my liege—my King—my love forever!” She sank on her knees, and, catching his hand, covered it with kisses—with kisses and tears.

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