The voice of her lost Marquis, which even in her dreams she could
attribute to none but him, roused Dorothy at once. She sprang from
her bed, flew to the window, and flung it wide. That same moment,
from the shadows about the hall-door, came forth a man on horseback,
and rode along the tiled path to the fountain, where never had hoof
of horse before trod. Stranger still, the tramp sounded far away,
and woke no echo in the echo-haunted place. A phantom surely--horse
and man! As they drew nearer where she stared with wide eyes, the
head of the rider rose out of the shadow into the moonlight, and she
recognised the face of Richard--very white and still, though not, as
she supposed, with the whiteness and stillness of a spectre, but
with the concentration of eagerness and watchful resolution. The
same moment she recognised Lady. She trembled from head to foot.
What could it mean but that beyond a doubt they were both dead,
slain in battle, and that Richard had come to pay her a last visit
ere he left the world. On they came. Her heart swelled up into her
throat, and the effort to queen it over herself, and neither shriek
nor drop on the floor, was like struggling to support a falling
wall. When the spectre reached the marble fountain, he gave a little
start, drew bridle, and seemed to become aware that he had taken a
wrong path, looked keenly around him, and instead of continuing his
advance towards her window, turned in the direction of the gate. One
thing was clear, that whether ghostly or mortal, whether already
dead or only on the way to death, the apparition was regardless of
her presence. A pang of disappointment shot through her bosom, and
for the moment quenched her sense of relief from terror. With it
sank the typhoon of her emotion, and she became able to note how
draggled and soiled his garments were, how his hair clung about his
temples, and that for all accoutrement his mare had but a halter.
Yet Richard sat erect and proud, and Lady stepped like a mare full
of life and vigour. And there was Marquis, not cowering or howling
as dogs do in spectral presence, but madly bounding and barking as
if in uncontrollable jubilation!
The acme of her bewilderment was reached when the phantom came under
the marquis's study-window, and she heard it call aloud, in a voice
which undoubtedly came from corporeal throat, and that throat
Richard's, ringing of the morning and the sunrise and the wind that
shakes the wheat--anything rather than of the tomb:
'Ho, master Eccles!' it cried; 'when? when? Must my lord's business
cool while thou rubbest thy sleepy eyes awake? What, I say! When?
--Yes, my lord, I will punctually attend to your lordship's orders.
Expect me back within the hour.'
The last words were uttered in a much lower tone, with the respect
due to him he seemed addressing, but quite loud enough to be
distinctly heard by Eccles or any one else in the court.
Dorothy leaned from her window, and looked sideways to the gate,
expecting to see the marquis bending over his window-sill, and
talking to Richard. But his window was close shut, nor was there any
light behind it.
A minute or two passed, during which she heard the combined discords
of the rising portcullis. Then out came Eccles, slow and sleepy.
'By St. George and St. Patrick!' cried Richard, 'why keep'st thou
six legs here standing idle? Is thy master's business nothing to
Eccles looked up at him. He was coming to his senses.
'Thou rides in strange graith on my lord's business,' he said, as he
put the key in the lock.
'What is that to thee? Open the gate. And make haste. If it please
my lord that I ride thus to escape eyes that else might see further
than thine, keen as they are, master Eccles, it is nothing to thee.'
The lock clanged, the gate swung open, and Richard rode through.
By this time a process of doubt and reasoning, rapid as only thought
can be, had produced in the mind of Dorothy the conviction that
there was something wrong. By what authority was Richard riding from
Raglan with muffled hoofs between midnight and morning? His speech
to the marquis was plainly a pretence, and doubtless that to Eccles
was equally false. To allow him to pass unchallenged would be
treason against both her host and her king.
'Eccles! Eccles!' she cried, her voice ringing clear through the
court, 'let not that man pass.'
'He gave the word, mistress,' said Eccles, in dull response.
'Stop him, I say,' cried Dorothy again, with energy almost frantic,
as she heard the gate swing to heavily. 'Thou shalt be held to
'He gave the word.'
'He's a true man, mistress,' returned Eccles, in tone of
self-justification. 'Heard you not my lord marquis give him his last
orders from his window?'
'There was no marquis at the window. Stop him, I say.'
'He's gone,' said Eccles quietly, but with waking uneasiness.
'Run after him,' Dorothy almost screamed.
'Stop him at the gate. It is young Heywood of Redware, one of the
busiest of the round-heads.'
Eccles was already running and shouting and whistling. She heard his
feet resounding from the bridge. With trembling hands she flung a
cloak about her, and sped bare-footed down the grand staircase and
along the north side of the court to the bell-tower, where she
seized the rope of the alarm-bell, and pulled with all her strength.
A horrid clangour tore the stillness of the night, re-echoed with
yelping response from the multitudinous buildings around. Window
after window flew open, head after head was popped out--amongst the
first that of the marquis, shouting to know what was amiss. But the
question found no answer. The courts began to fill. Some said the
castle was on fire; others, that the wild beasts were all out;
others, that Waller and Cromwell had scaled the rampart, and were
now storming the gates; others, that Eccles had turned traitor and
admitted the enemy. In a few moments all was outcry and confusion.
Both courts and the great hall were swarming with men and women and
children, in every possible stage of attire. The main entrance was
crowded with a tumult of soldiery, and scouts were rushing to
different stations of outlook, when the cry reached them that the
western gate was open, the portcullis up, and the guard gone.
The moment Richard was clear of the portcullis, he set off at a
sharp trot for the brick gate, and had almost reached it when he
became aware that he was pursued. He had heard the voice of Dorothy
as he rode out, and knew to whom he owed it. But yet there was a
chance. Rousing the porter with such a noisy reveillee as drowned in
his sleepy ears the cries of the warder and those that followed him,
he gave the watch-word, and the huge key was just turning in the
wards when the clang of the alarm-bell suddenly racked the air. The
porter stayed his hand, and stood listening.
'Open the gate,' said Richard in authoritative tone.
'I will know first, master,--' began the man.
'Dost not hear the bell?' cried Richard. 'How long wilt thou
endanger the castle by thy dulness?'
'I shall know first,' repeated the man deliberately, 'what that
Ere he could finish the sentence, the butt of Richard's whip had
laid him along the threshold of the gate. Richard flung himself from
his horse, and turned the key. But his enemies were now close at
hand--Eccles and the men of his guard. If the porter had but fallen
the other way! Ere he could drag aside his senseless body and open
the gate, they were upon him with blows and curses. But the
puritan's blood was up, and with the heavy handle of his whip he had
felled one and wounded another ere he was himself stretched on the
ground with a sword-cut in the head.