When the morrow came, however, Sir Crispin showed no signs of carrying out his proposal of the night before, and departing from Castle Marleigh. Nor, indeed, did he so much as touch upon the subject, bearing himself rather as one whose sojourn there was to be indefinite.

Gregory offered no comment upon this; through what he had done for Kenneth they were under a debt to Galliard, and whilst he was a fugitive from the Parliament's justice it would ill become Gregory to hasten his departure. Moreover, Gregory recalled little or nothing of the words that had passed between them in their cups, save a vague memory that Crispin had said that he had once known Roland Marleigh.

Kenneth was content that Galliard should lie idle, and not call upon him to go forth again to lend him the aid he had pledged himself to render when Crispin should demand it. He marvelled, as the days wore on, that Galliard should appear to have forgotten that task of his, and that he should make no shift to set about it. For the rest, however, it troubled him but little; enough preoccupation did he find in Cynthia's daily increasing coldness. Upon all the fine speeches that he made her she turned an idle ear, or if she replied at all it was but petulantly to interrupt them, to call him a man of great words and small deeds. All that he did she found ill done, and told him of it. His sober, godly garments of sombre hue afforded her the first weapon of scorn wherewith to wound him. A crow, she dubbed him; a canting, psalm-chanting hypocrite; a Scripture-monger, and every other contumelious epithet of like import that she should call to mind. He heard her in amazement.

“Is it for you, Cynthia,” he cried out in his surprise, “the child of a God-fearing house, to mock the outward symbols of my faith?”

“A faith,” she laughed, “that is all outward symbols and naught besides; all texts and mournings and nose-twangings.”

“Cynthia!” he exclaimed, in horror.

“Go your ways, sir,” she answered, half in jest, half in earnest. “What need hath a true faith of outward symbols? It is a matter that lies between your God and yourself, and it is your heart He will look at, not your coat. Why, then, without becoming more acceptable in His eyes, shall you but render yourself unsightly in the eyes of man?”

Kenneth's cheeks were flushed with anger. From the terrace where they walked he let his glance roam towards the avenue that split the park in twain. Up this at that moment, with the least suspicion of a swagger in his gait, Sir Crispin Galliard was approaching leisurely; he wore a claret-coloured doublet edged with silver lace, and a grey hat decked with a drooping red feather—which garments, together with the rest of his apparel, he had drawn from the wardrobe of Gregory Ashburn. His advent afforded Kenneth the retort he needed. Pointing him out to Cynthia:

“Would you rather,” he cried hotly, “have me such a man as that?”

“And, pray, why not?” she taunted him. “Leastways, you would then be a man.”

“If, madam, a debauchee, a drunkard, a profligate, a brawler be your conception of a man, I would in faith you did not account me one.”

“And what, sir, would you sooner elect to be accounted?”

“A gentleman, madam,” he answered pompously.

“I think,” said she quietly, “that you are in as little danger of becoming the one as the other. A gentleman does not slander a man behind his back, particularly when he owes that man his life. Kenneth, I am ashamed of you.”

“I do not slander,” he insisted hotly. “You yourself know of the drunken excess wherewith three nights ago he celebrated his coming to Castle Marleigh. Nor do I forget what I owe him, and payment is to be made in a manner you little know of. If I said of him what I did, it was but in answer to your taunts. Think you I could endure comparison with such a man as that? Know you what name the Royalists give him? They call him the Tavern Knight.”

She looked him over with an eye of quiet scorn.

“And how, sir, do they call you? The pulpit knight? Or is it the knight of the white feather? Mr. Stewart, you weary me. I would have a man who with a man's failings hath also a man's redeeming virtues of honesty, chivalry, and courage, and a record of brave deeds, rather than one who has nothing of the man save the coat—that outward symbol you lay such store by.”

His handsome, weak face was red with fury.

“Since that is so, madam,” he choked, “I leave you to your swaggering, ruffling Cavalier.”

And, without so much as a bow, he swung round on his heel and left her. It was her turn to grow angry now, and well it was for him that he had not tarried. She dwelt with scorn upon his parting taunt, bethinking herself that in truth she had exaggerated her opinions of Galliard's merits. Her feelings towards that ungodly gentleman were rather of pity than aught else. A brave, ready-witted man she knew him for, as much from the story of his escape from Worcester as for the air that clung to him despite his swagger, and she deplored that one possessing these ennobling virtues should have fallen notwithstanding upon such evil ways as those which Crispin trod. Some day, perchance, when she should come to be better acquainted with him, she would seek to induce him to mend his course.

Such root did this thought take in her mind that soon thereafter—and without having waited for that riper acquaintance which at first she had held necessary—she sought to lead their talk into the channels of this delicate subject. But he as sedulously confined it to trivial matter whenever she approached him in this mood, fencing himself about with a wall of cold reserve that was not lightly to be overthrown. In this his conscience was at work. Cynthia was the flaw in the satisfaction he might have drawn from the contemplation of the vengeance he was there to wreak. He beheld her so pure, so sweet and fresh, that he marvelled how she came to be the daughter of Gregory Ashburn. His heart smote him at the thought of how she—the innocent—must suffer with the guilty, and at the contemplation of the sorrow which he must visit upon her. Out of this sprang a constraint when in her company, for other than stiff and formal he dared not be lest he should deem himself no better than the Iscariot.

During the first days he had spent at Marleigh, he had been impatient for Joseph Ashburn's return. Now he found himself hoping each morning that Joseph might not come that day.

A courier reached Gregory from Windsor with a letter wherein his brother told him that the Lord General, not being at the castle, he was gone on to London in quest of him. And Gregory, lacking the means to inform him that the missing Kenneth was already returned, was forced to possess his soul in patience until his brother, having learnt what was to be learnt of Cromwell, should journey home.

And so the days sped on, and a week wore itself out in peace at Castle Marleigh, none dreaming of the volcano on which they stood. Each night Crispin and Gregory sat together at the board after Kenneth and Cynthia had withdrawn, and both drank deep—the one for the vice of it, the other (as he had always done) to seek forgetfulness.

He needed it now more than ever, for he feared that the consideration of Cynthia might yet unman him. Had she scorned and avoided him and having such evidences of his ways of life he marvelled that she did not—he might have allowed his considerations of her to weigh less heavily. As it was, she sought him out, nor seemed rebuffed at his efforts to evade her, and in every way she manifested a kindliness that drove him almost to the point of despair, and well-nigh to hating her.

Kenneth, knowing naught of the womanly purpose that actuated her, and seeing but the outward signs, which, with ready jealousy, he misconstrued and magnified, grew sullen and churlish to her, to Galliard, and even to Gregory.

For hours he would mope alone, nursing his jealous mood, as though in this clownish fashion matters were to be mended. Did Cynthia but speak to Crispin, he scowled; did Crispin answer her, he grit his teeth at the covert meaning wherewith his fancy invested Crispin's tones; whilst did they chance to laugh together—a contingency that fortunately for his sanity was rare—he writhed in fury. He was a man transformed, and at times there was murder in his heart. Had he been a swordsman of more than moderate skill and dared to pit himself against the Tavern Knight, blood would have been shed in Marleigh Park betwixt them.

It seemed at last as if with his insensate jealousy all the evil humours that had lain dormant in the boy were brought to the surface, to overwhelm his erstwhile virtues—if qualities that have bigotry for a parent may truly be accounted virtues.

He cast off, not abruptly, but piecemeal, those outward symbols—his sombre clothes. First 'twas his hat he exchanged for a feather-trimmed beaver of more sightly hue; then those stiff white bands that reeked of sanctity and cant for a collar of fine point; next it was his coat that took on a worldly edge of silver lace. And so, little by little, step by step, was the metamorphosis effected, until by the end of the week he came forth a very butterfly of fashion—a gallant, dazzling Cavalier. Out of a stern, forbidding Covenanter he was transformed in a few days into a most outrageous fop. He walked in an atmosphere of musk that he himself exhaled; his fair hair—that a while ago had hung so straight and limp—was now twisted into monstrous curls, a bunch of which were gathered by his right ear in a ribbon of pale blue silk.

Galliard noted the change in amazement, yet, knowing to what follies youth is driven when it woos, he accounted Cynthia responsible for it, and laughed in his sardonic way, whereat the boy would blush and scowl in one. Gregory, too, looked on and laughed, setting it down to the same cause. Even Cynthia smiled, whereat the Tavern Knight was driven to ponder.

With a courtier's raiment Kenneth put on, too, a courtier's ways; he grew mincing and affected in his speech, and he—whose utterance a while ago had been marked by a scriptural flavour—now set it off with some of Galliard's less unseemly oaths.

Since it was a ruffling gallant Cynthia required, he swore that a ruffling gallant should she find him; nor had he wit enough to see that his ribbons, his fopperies, and his capers served but to make him ridiculous in her eyes. He did indeed perceive, however, that in spite of this wondrous transformation, he made no progress in her favour.

“What signify these fripperies?” she asked him, one day, “any more than did your coat of decent black? Are these also outward symbols?”

“You may take them for such, madam,” he answered sulkily. “You liked me not as I was—”

“And I like you less as you are,” she broke in.

“Cynthia, you mock me,” he cried angrily.

“Now, Heaven forbid! I do but mark the change,” she answered airily. “These scented clothes are but a masquerade, even as your coat of black and your cant were a masquerade. Then you simulated godliness; now you simulate Heaven knows what. But now, as then, it is no more than a simulation, a pretence of something that you are not.”

He left her in a pet, and went in search of Gregory, into whose ear he poured the story of his woes that had their source in Cynthia's unkindness. From this resulted a stormy interview 'twixt Cynthia and her father, in which Cynthia at last declared that she would not be wedded to a fop.

Gregory shrugged his shoulders and laughed cynically, replying that it was the way of young men to be fools, and that through folly lay the road to wisdom.

“Be that as it may,” she answered him with spirit, “this folly transcends all bounds. Master Stewart may return to his Scottish heather; at Castle Marleigh he is wasting time.”

“Cynthia!” he cried.

“Father,” she pleaded, “why be angry? You would not have me marry against the inclinations of my heart? You would not have me wedded to a man whom I despise?”

“By what right do you despise him?” he demanded, his brow dark.

“By the right of the freedom of my thoughts—the only freedom that a woman knows. For the rest it seems she is but a chattel; of no more consideration to a man than his ox or his ass with which the Scriptures rank her—a thing to be given or taken, bought or sold, as others shall decree.”

“Child, child, what know you of these things?” he cried. “You are overwrought, sweetheart.” And with the promise to wait until a calmer frame of mind in her should be more propitious to what he wished to say further on this score, he left her.

She went out of doors in quest of solitude among the naked trees of the park; instead she found Sir Crispin, seated deep in thought upon a fallen trunk.

Through the trees she espied him as she approached, whilst the rustle of her gown announced to him her coming. He rose as she drew nigh, and, doffing his hat, made shift to pass on.

“Sir Crispin,” she called, detaining him. He turned.

“Your servant, Mistress Cynthia.”

“Are you afraid of me, Sir Crispin?”

“Beauty, madam, is wont to inspire courage rather than fear,” he answered, with a smile.

“That, sir, is an evasion, not an answer.”

“If read aright, Mistress Cynthia, it is also an answer.”

“That you do not fear me?”

“It is not a habit of mine.”

“Why, then, have you avoided me these three days past?”

Despite himself Crispin felt his breath quickening—quickening with a pleasure that he sought not to account for—at the thought that she should have marked his absence from her side.

“Because perhaps if I did not,” he answered slowly, “you might come to avoid me. I am a proud man, Mistress Cynthia.”

“Satan, sir, was proud, but his pride led him to perdition.”

“So indeed may mine,” he answered readily, “since it leads me from you.”

“Nay, sir,” she laughed, “you go from me willingly enough.”

“Not willingly, Cynthia. Oh, not willingly,” he began. Then of a sudden he checked his tongue, and asked himself what he was saying. With a half-laugh and a courtier manner, he continued, “Of two evils, madam, we must choose the lesser one.”

“Madam,” she echoed, disregarding all else that he had said. “It is an ugly word, and but a moment back you called me Cynthia.”

“Twas a liberty that methought my grey hairs warranted, and for which you should have reproved me.”

“You have not grey hairs enough to warrant it, Sir Crispin,” she answered archly. “But what if even so I account it no liberty?”

The heavy lids were lifted from her eyes, and as their glance, frank and kindly, met his, he trembled. Then, with a polite smile, he bowed.

“I thank you for the honour.”

For a moment she looked at him in a puzzled way, then moved past him, and as he stood, stiffly erect, watching her graceful figure, he thought that she was about to leave him, and was glad of it. But ere she had taken half a dozen steps:

“Sir Crispin,” said she, looking back at him over her shoulder, “I am walking to the cliffs.”

Never was a man more plainly invited to become an escort; but he ignored it. A sad smile crept into his harsh face.

“I shall tell Kenneth if I see him,” said he.

At that she frowned.

“But I do not want him,” she protested. “Sooner would I go alone.”

“Why, then, madam, I'll tell nobody.”

Was ever man so dull? she asked herself.

“There is a fine view from the cliffs,” said she.

“I have always thought so,” he agreed.

She inclined to call him a fool; yet she restrained herself. She had an impulse to go her way without him; but, then, she desired his company, and Cynthia was unused to having her desires frustrated. So finding him impervious to suggestion:

“Will you not come with me?” she asked at last, point-blank.

“Why, yes, if you wish it,” he answered without alacrity.

“You may remain, sir.”

Her offended tone aroused him now to the understanding that he was impolite. Contrite he stood beside her in a moment.

“With your permission, mistress, I will go with you. I am a dull fellow, and to-day I know not what mood is on me. So sorry a one that I feared I should be poor company. Still, if you'll endure me, I'll do my best to prove entertaining.”

“By no means,” she answered coldly. “I seek not the company of dull fellows.” And she was gone.

He stood where she had left him, and breathed a most ungallant prayer of thanks. Next he laughed softly to himself, a laugh that was woeful with bitterness.

“Fore George!” he muttered, “it is all that was wanting!”

He reseated himself upon the fallen tree, and there he set himself to reflect, and to realize that he, war-worn and callous, come to Castle Marleigh on such an errand as was his, should wax sick at the very thought of it for the sake of a chit of a maid, with a mind to make a mock and a toy of him. Into his mind there entered even the possibility of flight, forgetful of the wrongs he had suffered, abandoning the vengeance he had sworn. Then with an oath he stemmed his thoughts.

“God in heaven, am I a boy, beardless and green?” he asked himself. “Am I turned seventeen again, that to look into a pair of eyes should make me forget all things but their existence?” Then in a burst of passion: “Would to Heaven,” he muttered, “they had left me stark on Worcester Field!”

He rose abruptly, and set out to walk aimlessly along, until suddenly a turn in the path brought him face to face with Cynthia. She hailed him with a laugh.

“Sir laggard, I knew that willy-nilly you would follow me,” she cried. And he, taken aback, could not but smile in answer, and profess that she had conjectured rightly.

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