Winsome Winnie




OR, TRIAL AND TEMPTATION

(Narrated after the best models of 1875)


CHAPTER I

THROWN ON THE WORLD


"Miss Winnifred," said the Old Lawyer, looking keenly over and through his shaggy eyebrows at the fair young creature seated before him, "you are this morning twenty-one."

Winnifred Clair raised her deep mourning veil, lowered her eyes and folded her hands.

"This morning," continued Mr. Bonehead, "my guardianship is at an end."

There was a tone of something like emotion in the voice of the stern old lawyer, while for a moment his eye glistened with something like a tear which he hastened to remove with something like a handkerchief. "I have therefore sent for you," he went on, "to render you an account of my trust."

He heaved a sigh at her, and then, reaching out his hand, he pulled the woollen bell-rope up and down several times.

An aged clerk appeared.

"Did the bell ring?" he asked.

"I think it did," said the Lawyer. "Be good enough, Atkinson, to fetch me the papers of the estate of the late Major Clair defunct."

"I have them here," said the clerk, and he laid upon the table a bundle of faded blue papers, and withdrew.

"Miss Winnifred," resumed the Old Lawyer, "I will now proceed to give you an account of the disposition that has been made of your property. This first document refers to the sum of two thousand pounds left to you by your great uncle. It is lost."

Winnifred bowed.

"Pray give me your best attention and I will endeavour to explain to you how I lost it."

"Oh, sir," cried Winnifred, "I am only a poor girl unskilled in the ways of the world, and knowing nothing but music and French; I fear that the details of business are beyond my grasp. But if it is lost, I gather that it is gone."

"It is," said Mr. Bonehead. "I lost it in a marginal option in an undeveloped oil company. I suppose that means nothing to you."

"Alas," sighed Winnifred, "nothing."

"Very good," resumed the Lawyer. "Here next we have a statement in regard to the thousand pounds left you under the will of your maternal grandmother. I lost it at Monte Carlo. But I need not fatigue you with the details."

"Pray spare them," cried the girl.

"This final item relates to the sum of fifteen hundred pounds placed in trust for you by your uncle. I lost it on a horse race. That horse," added the Old Lawyer with rising excitement, "ought to have won. He was coming down the stretch like blue--but there, there, my dear, you must forgive me if the recollection of it still stirs me to anger. Suffice it to say the horse fell. I have kept for your inspection the score card of the race, and the betting tickets. You will find everything in order."

"Sir," said Winnifred, as Mr. Bonehead proceeded to fold up his papers, "I am but a poor inadequate girl, a mere child in business, but tell me, I pray, what is left to me of the money that you have managed?"

"Nothing," said the Lawyer. "Everything is gone. And I regret to say, Miss Clair, that it is my painful duty to convey to you a further disclosure of a distressing nature. It concerns your birth."

"Just Heaven!" cried Winnifred, with a woman's quick intuition. "Does it concern my father?"

"It does, Miss Clair. Your father was not your father."

"Oh, sir," exclaimed Winnifred. "My poor mother! How she must have suffered!"

"Your mother was not your mother," said the Old Lawyer gravely. "Nay, nay, do not question me. There is a dark secret about your birth."

"Alas," said Winnifred, wringing her hands, "I am, then, alone in the world and penniless."

"You are," said Mr. Bonehead, deeply moved. "You are, unfortunately, thrown upon the world. But, if you ever find yourself in a position where you need help and advice, do not scruple to come to me. Especially," he added, "for advice. And meantime let me ask you in what way do you propose to earn your livelihood?"

"I have my needle," said Winnifred.

"Let me see it," said the Lawyer.

Winnifred showed it to him.

"I fear," said Mr. Bonehead, shaking his head, "you will not do much with that."

Then he rang the bell again.

"Atkinson," he said, "take Miss Clair out and throw her on the world."


CHAPTER II

A RENCOUNTER


As Winnifred Clair passed down the stairway leading from the Lawyer's office, a figure appeared before her in the corridor, blocking the way. It was that of a tall, aristocratic-looking man, whose features wore that peculiarly saturnine appearance seen only in the English nobility. The face, while entirely gentlemanly in its general aspect, was stamped with all the worst passions of mankind.

Had the innocent girl but known it, the face was that of Lord Wynchgate, one of the most contemptible of the greater nobility of Britain, and the figure was his too.

"Ha!" exclaimed the dissolute Aristocrat, "whom have we here? Stay, pretty one, and let me see the fair countenance that I divine behind your veil."

"Sir," said Winnifred, drawing herself up proudly, "let me pass, I pray."

"Not so," cried Wynchgate, reaching out and seizing his intended victim by the wrist, "not till I have at least seen the colour of those eyes and imprinted a kiss upon those fair lips."

With a brutal laugh, he drew the struggling girl towards him.

In another moment the aristocratic villain would have succeeded in lifting the veil of the unhappy girl, when suddenly a ringing voice cried, "Hold! stop! desist! begone! lay to! cut it out!"

With these words a tall, athletic young man, attracted doubtless by the girl's cries, leapt into the corridor from the street without. His figure was that, more or less, of a Greek god, while his face, although at the moment inflamed with anger, was of an entirely moral and permissible configuration.

"Save me! save me!" cried Winnifred.

"I will," cried the Stranger, rushing towards Lord Wynchgate with uplifted cane.

But the cowardly Aristocrat did not await the onslaught of the unknown.

"You shall yet be mine!" he hissed in Winnifred's ear, and, releasing his grasp, he rushed with a bound past the rescuer into the street.

"Oh, sir," said Winnifred, clasping her hands and falling on her knees in gratitude. "I am only a poor inadequate girl, but if the prayers of one who can offer naught but her prayers to her benefactor can avail to the advantage of one who appears to have every conceivable advantage already, let him know that they are his."

"Nay," said the stranger, as he aided the blushing girl to rise, "kneel not to me, I beseech. If I have done aught to deserve the gratitude of one who, whoever she is, will remain for ever present as a bright memory in the breast of one in whose breast such memories are all too few, he is all too richly repaid. If she does that, he is blessed indeed."

"She does. He is!" cried Winnifred, deeply moved. "Here on her knees she blesses him. And now," she added, "we must part. Seek not to follow me. One who has aided a poor girl in the hour of need will respect her wish when she tells him that, alone and buffeted by the world, her one prayer is that he will leave her."

"He will!" cried the Unknown. "He will. He does."

"Leave me, yes, leave me," exclaimed Winnifred.

"I will," said the Unknown.

"Do, do," sobbed the distraught girl. "Yet stay, one moment more. Let she, who has received so much from her benefactor, at least know his name."

"He cannot! He must not!" exclaimed the Indistinguishable. "His birth is such--but enough!"

He tore his hand from the girl's detaining clasp and rushed forth from the place.

Winnifred Clair was alone.


CHAPTER III

FRIENDS IN DISTRESS


Winnifred was now in the humblest lodgings in the humblest part of London. A simple bedroom and sitting-room sufficed for her wants. Here she sat on her trunk, bravely planning for the future.

"Miss Clair," said the Landlady, knocking at the door, "do try to eat something. You must keep up your health. See, I've brought you a kippered herring."

Winnifred ate the herring, her heart filled with gratitude. With renewed strength she sallied forth on the street to resume her vain search for employment. For two weeks now Winnifred Clair had sought employment even of the humblest character. At various dress-making establishments she had offered, to no purpose, the services of her needle. They had looked at it and refused it.

In vain she had offered to various editors and publishers the use of her pen. They had examined it coldly and refused it.

She had tried fruitlessly to obtain a position of trust. The various banks and trust companies to which she had applied declined her services. In vain she had advertised in the newspapers offering to take sole charge of a little girl. No one would give her one.

Her slender stock of money which she had in her purse on leaving Mr. Bonehead's office was almost consumed.

Each night the unhappy girl returned to her lodging exhausted with disappointment and fatigue.

Yet even in her adversity she was not altogether friendless.

Each evening, on her return home, a soft tap was heard at the door.

"Miss Clair," said the voice of the Landlady, "I have brought you a fried egg. Eat it. You must keep up your strength."

Then one morning a terrible temptation had risen before her.

"Miss Clair," said the manager of an agency to which she had applied, "I am glad to be able at last to make you a definite offer of employment. Are you prepared to go upon the stage?"

The stage!

A flush of shame and indignation swept over the girl. Had it come to this? Little versed in the world as Winnifred was, she knew but too well the horror, the iniquity, the depth of degradation implied in the word.

"Yes," continued the agent, "I have a letter here asking me to recommend a young lady of suitable refinement to play the part of Eliza in Uncle Tom's Cabin. Will you accept?"

"Sir," said Winnifred proudly, "answer me first this question fairly. If I go upon the stage, can I, as Eliza, remain as innocent, as simple as I am now?"

"You can not," said the manager.

"Then, sir," said Winnifred, rising from her chair, "let me say this. Your offer is doubtless intended to be kind. Coming from the class you do, and inspired by the ideas you are, you no doubt mean well. But let a poor girl, friendless and alone, tell you that rather than accept such a degradation she will die."

"Very good," said the manager.

"I go forth," cried Winnifred, "to perish."

"All right," said the manager.

The door closed behind her. Winnifred Clair, once more upon the street, sank down upon the steps of the building in a swoon.

But at this very juncture Providence, which always watches over the innocent and defenceless, was keeping its eye direct upon Winnifred.

At that very moment when our heroine sank fainting upon the doorstep, a handsome equipage, drawn by two superb black steeds, happened to pass along the street.

Its appearance and character proclaimed it at once to be one of those vehicles in which only the superior classes of the exclusive aristocracy are privileged to ride. Its sides were emblazoned with escutcheons, insignia and other paraphernalia. The large gilt coronet that appeared up its panelling, surmounted by a bunch of huckleberries, quartered in a field of potatoes, indicated that its possessor was, at least, of the rank of marquis. A coachman and two grooms rode in front, while two footmen, seated in the boot, or box at the rear, contrived, by the immobility of their attitude and the melancholy of their faces, to inspire the scene with an exclusive and aristocratic grandeur.

The occupants of the equipage--for we refuse to count the menials as being such--were two in number, a lady and gentleman, both of advanced years. Their snow-white hair and benign countenances indicated that they belonged to that rare class of beings to whom rank and wealth are but an incentive to nobler things. A gentle philanthropy played all over their faces, and their eyes sought eagerly in the passing scene of the humble street for new objects of benefaction.

Those acquainted with the countenances of the aristocracy would have recognized at once in the occupants of the equipage the Marquis of Muddlenut and his spouse, the Marchioness.

It was the eye of the Marchioness which first detected the form of Winnifred Clair upon the doorstep.

"Hold! pause! stop!" she cried, in lively agitation.

The horses were at once pulled in, the brakes applied to the wheels, and with the aid of a powerful lever, operated by three of the menials, the carriage was brought to a standstill.

"See! Look!" cried the Marchioness. "She has fainted. Quick, William, your flask. Let us hasten to her aid."

In another moment the noble lady was bending over the prostrate form of Winnifred Clair, and pouring brandy between her lips.

Winnifred opened her eyes. "Where am I?" she asked feebly.

"She speaks!" cried the Marchioness. "Give her another flaskful."

After the second flask the girl sat up.

"Tell me," she cried, clasping her hands, "what has happened? Where am I?"

"With friends!" answered the Marchioness. "But do not essay to speak. Drink this. You must husband your strength. Meantime, let us drive you to your home."

Winnifred was lifted tenderly by the menservants into the aristocratic equipage. The brake was unset, the lever reversed, and the carriage thrown again into motion.

On the way Winnifred, at the solicitation of the Marchioness, related her story.

"My poor child!" exclaimed the lady, "how you must have suffered. Thank Heaven it is over now. To-morrow we shall call for you and bring you away with us to Muddlenut Chase."

Alas, could she but have known it, before the morrow should dawn, worse dangers still were in store for our heroine. But what these dangers were, we must reserve for another chapter.


CHAPTER IV

A GAMBLING PARTY IN ST. JAMES'S CLOSE


We must now ask our readers to shift the scene--if they don't mind doing this for us--to the apartments of the Earl of Wynchgate in St. James's Close. The hour is nine o'clock in the evening, and the picture before us is one of revelry and dissipation so characteristic of the nobility of England. The atmosphere of the room is thick with blue Havana smoke such as is used by the nobility, while on the green baize table a litter of counters and cards, in which aces, kings, and even two spots are heaped in confusion, proclaim the reckless nature of the play.

Seated about the table are six men, dressed in the height of fashion, each with collar and white necktie and broad white shirt, their faces stamped with all, or nearly all, of the baser passions of mankind.

Lord Wynchgate--for he it was who sat at the head of the table--rose with an oath, and flung his cards upon the table.

All turned and looked at him, with an oath. "Curse it, Dogwood," he exclaimed, with another oath, to the man who sat beside him. "Take the money. I play no more to-night. My luck is out."

"Ha! ha!" laughed Lord Dogwood, with a third oath, "your mind is not on the cards. Who is the latest young beauty, pray, who so absorbs you? I hear a whisper in town of a certain misadventure of yours----"

"Dogwood," said Wynchgate, clenching his fist, "have a care, man, or you shall measure the length of my sword."

Both noblemen faced each other, their hands upon their swords.

"My lords, my lords!" pleaded a distinguished-looking man of more advanced years, who sat at one side of the table, and in whose features the habitués of diplomatic circles would have recognized the handsome lineaments of the Marquis of Frogwater, British Ambassador to Siam, "let us have no quarrelling. Come, Wynchgate, come, Dogwood," he continued, with a mild oath, "put up your swords. It were a shame to waste time in private quarrelling. They may be needed all too soon in Cochin China, or, for the matter of that," he added sadly, "in Cambodia or in Dutch Guinea."

"Frogwater," said young Lord Dogwood, with a generous flush, "I was wrong. Wynchgate, your hand."

The two noblemen shook hands.

"My friends," said Lord Wynchgate, "in asking you to abandon our game, I had an end in view. I ask your help in an affair of the heart."

"Ha! excellent!" exclaimed the five noblemen. "We are with you heart and soul."

"I propose this night," continued Wynchgate, "with your help, to carry off a young girl, a female!"

"An abduction!" exclaimed the Ambassador somewhat sternly. "Wynchgate, I cannot countenance this."

"Mistake me not," said the Earl, "I intend to abduct her. But I propose nothing dishonourable. It is my firm resolve to offer her marriage."

"Then," said Lord Frogwater, "I am with you."

"Gentlemen," concluded Wynchgate, "all is ready. The coach is below. I have provided masks, pistols, and black cloaks. Follow me."

A few moments later, a coach, with the blinds drawn, in which were six noblemen armed to the teeth, might have been seen, were it not for the darkness, approaching the humble lodging in which Winnifred Clair was sheltered.

But what it did when it got there, we must leave to another chapter.


CHAPTER V

THE ABDUCTION


The hour was twenty minutes to ten on the evening described in our last chapter.

Winnifred Clair was seated, still fully dressed, at the window of the bedroom, looking out over the great city.

A light tap came at the door.

"If it's a fried egg," called Winnifred softly, "I do not need it. I ate yesterday."

"No," said the voice of the Landlady. "You are wanted below."

"I!" exclaimed Winnifred, "below!"

"You," said the Landlady, "below. A party of gentlemen have called for you."

"Gentlemen," exclaimed Winnifred, putting her hand to her brow in perplexity, "for me! at this late hour! Here! This evening! In this house?"

"Yes," repeated the Landlady, "six gentlemen. They arrived in a closed coach. They are all closely masked and heavily armed. They beg you will descend at once."

"Just Heaven!" cried the Unhappy Girl. "Is it possible that they mean to abduct me?"

"They do," said the Landlady. "They said so!"

"Alas!" cried Winnifred, "I am powerless. Tell them"--she hesitated--"tell them I will be down immediately. Let them not come up. Keep them below on any pretext. Show them an album. Let them look at the goldfish. Anything, but not here! I shall be ready in a moment."

Feverishly she made herself ready. As hastily as possible she removed all traces of tears from her face. She threw about her shoulders an opera cloak, and with a light Venetian scarf half concealed the beauty of her hair and features. "Abducted!" she murmured, "and by six of them! I think she said six. Oh, the horror of it!" A touch of powder to her cheeks and a slight blackening of her eyebrows, and the courageous girl was ready.

Lord Wynchgate and his companions--for they it was, that is to say, they were it--sat below in the sitting-room looking at the albums. "Woman," said Lord Wynchgate to the Landlady, with an oath, "let her hurry up. We have seen enough of these. We can wait no longer."

"I am here," cried a clear voice upon the threshold, and Winnifred stood before them. "My lords, for I divine who you are and wherefore you have come, take me, do your worst with me, but spare, oh, spare this humble companion of my sorrow."

"Right-oh!" said Lord Dogwood, with a brutal laugh.

"Enough," exclaimed Wynchgate, and seizing Winnifred by the waist, he dragged her forth out of the house and out upon the street.

But something in the brutal violence of his behaviour seemed to kindle for the moment a spark of manly feeling, if such there were, in the breasts of his companions.

"Wynchgate," cried young Lord Dogwood, "my mind misgives me. I doubt if this is a gentlemanly thing to do. I'll have no further hand in it."

A chorus of approval from his companions endorsed his utterance. For a moment they hesitated.

"Nay," cried Winnifred, turning to confront the masked faces that stood about her, "go forward with your fell design. I am here. I am helpless. Let no prayers stay your hand. Go to it."

"Have done with this!" cried Wynchgate, with a brutal oath. "Shove her in the coach."

But at the very moment the sound of hurrying footsteps was heard, and a clear, ringing, manly, well-toned, vibrating voice cried, "Hold! Stop! Desist! Have a care, titled villain, or I will strike you to the earth."

A tall aristocratic form bounded out of the darkness.

"Gentlemen," cried Wynchgate, releasing his hold upon the frightened girl, "we are betrayed. Save yourselves. To the coach."

In another instant the six noblemen had leaped into the coach and disappeared down the street.

Winnifred, still half inanimate with fright, turned to her rescuer, and saw before her the form and lineaments of the Unknown Stranger, who had thus twice stood between her and disaster. Half fainting, she fell swooning into his arms.

"Dear lady," he exclaimed, "rouse yourself. You are safe. Let me restore you to your home!"

"That voice!" cried Winnifred, resuming consciousness. "It is my benefactor."

She would have swooned again, but the Unknown lifted her bodily up the steps of her home and leant her against the door.

"Farewell," he said, in a voice resonant with gloom.

"Oh, sir!" cried the unhappy girl, "let one who owes so much to one who has saved her in her hour of need at least know his name."

But the stranger, with a mournful gesture of farewell, had disappeared as rapidly as he had come.

But, as to why he had disappeared, we must ask our reader's patience for another chapter.


CHAPTER VI

THE UNKNOWN


The scene is now shifted, sideways and forwards, so as to put it at Muddlenut Chase, and to make it a fortnight later than the events related in the last chapter.

Winnifred is now at the Chase as the guest of the Marquis and Marchioness. There her bruised soul finds peace.

The Chase itself was one of those typical country homes which are, or were till yesterday, the glory of England. The approach to the Chase lay through twenty miles of glorious forest, filled with fallow deer and wild bulls. The house itself, dating from the time of the Plantagenets, was surrounded by a moat covered with broad lilies and floating green scum. Magnificent peacocks sunned themselves on the terraces, while from the surrounding shrubberies there rose the soft murmur of doves, pigeons, bats, owls and partridges.

Here sat Winnifred Clair day after day upon the terrace recovering her strength, under the tender solicitude of the Marchioness.

Each day the girl urged upon her noble hostess the necessity of her departure. "Nay," said the Marchioness, with gentle insistence, "stay where you are. Your soul is bruised. You must rest."

"Alas," cried Winnifred, "who am I that I should rest? Alone, despised, buffeted by fate, what right have I to your kindness?"

"Miss Clair," replied the noble lady, "wait till you are stronger. There is something that I wish to say to you."

Then at last, one morning when Winnifred's temperature had fallen to ninety-eight point three, the Marchioness spoke.

"Miss Clair," she said, in a voice which throbbed with emotion, "Winnifred, if I may so call you, Lord Muddlenut and I have formed a plan for your future. It is our dearest wish that you should marry our son."

"Alas," cried Winnifred, while tears rose in her eyes, "it cannot be!"

"Say not so," cried the Marchioness. "Our son, Lord Mordaunt Muddlenut, is young, handsome, all that a girl could desire. After months of wandering he returns to us this morning. It is our dearest wish to see him married and established. We offer you his hand."

"Indeed," replied Winnifred, while her tears fell even more freely, "I seem to requite but ill the kindness that you show. Alas, my heart is no longer in my keeping."

"Where is it?" cried the Marchioness.

"It is another's. One whose very name I do not know holds it in his keeping."

But at this moment a blithe, gladsome step was heard upon the flagstones of the terrace. A manly, ringing voice, which sent a thrill to Winnifred's heart, cried "Mother!" and in another instant Lord Mordaunt Muddlenut, for he it was, had folded the Marchioness to his heart.

Winnifred rose, her heart beating wildly. One glance was enough. The newcomer, Lord Mordaunt, was none other than the Unknown, the Unaccountable, to whose protection she had twice owed her life.

With a wild cry Winnifred Clair leaped across the flagstones of the terrace and fled into the park.


CHAPTER VII

THE PROPOSAL


They stood beneath the great trees of the ancestral park, into which Lord Mordaunt had followed Winnifred at a single bound. All about them was the radiance of early June.

Lord Mordaunt knelt on one knee on the greensward, and with a touch in which respect and reverence were mingled with the deepest and manliest emotion, he took between his finger and thumb the tip of the girl's gloved hand.

"Miss Clair," he uttered, in a voice suffused with the deepest yearning, yet vibrating with the most profound respect, "Miss Clair--Winnifred--hear me, I implore!"

"Alas," cried Winnifred, struggling in vain to disengage the tip of her glove from the impetuous clasp of the young nobleman, "alas, whither can I fly? I do not know my way through the wood, and there are bulls in all directions. I am not used to them! Lord Mordaunt, I implore you, let the tears of one but little skilled in the art of dissimulation----"

"Nay, Winnifred," said the Young Earl, "fly not. Hear me out!"

"Let me fly," begged the unhappy girl.

"You must not fly," pleaded Mordaunt. "Let me first, here upon bended knee, convey to you the expression of a devotion, a love, as ardent and as deep as ever burned in a human heart. Winnifred, be my bride!"

"Oh, sir," sobbed Winnifred, "if the knowledge of a gratitude, a thankfulness from one whose heart will ever treasure as its proudest memory the recollection of one who did for one all that one could have wanted done for one--if this be some poor guerdon, let it suffice. But, alas, my birth, the dark secret of my birth forbids----"

"Nay," cried Mordaunt, leaping now to his feet, "your birth is all right. I have looked into it myself. It is as good--or nearly as good--as my own. Till I knew this, my lips were sealed by duty. While I supposed that you had a lower birth and I an upper, I was bound to silence. But come with me to the house. There is one arrived with me who will explain all."

Hand in hand the lovers, for such they now were, returned to the Chase. There in the great hall the Marquis and the Marchioness were standing ready to greet them.

"My child!" exclaimed the noble lady, as she folded Winnifred to her heart. Then she turned to her son. "Let her know all!" she cried.

Lord Mordaunt stepped across the room to a curtain. He drew it aside, and there stepped forth Mr. Bonehead, the old lawyer who had cast Winnifred upon the world.

"Miss Clair," said the Lawyer, advancing and taking the girl's hand for a moment in a kindly clasp, "the time has come for me to explain all. You are not, you never were, the penniless girl that you suppose. Under the terms of your father's will, I was called upon to act a part and to throw you upon the world. It was my client's wish, and I followed it. I told you, quite truthfully, that I had put part of your money into options in an oil-well. Miss Clair, that well is now producing a million gallons of gasolene a month!'

"A million gallons!" cried Winnifred. "I can never use it."

"Wait till you own a motor-car, Miss Winnifred," said the Lawyer.

"Then I am rich!" exclaimed the bewildered girl.

"Rich beyond your dreams," answered the Lawyer. "Miss Clair, you own in your own right about half of the State of Texas--I think it is in Texas, at any rate either Texas or Rhode Island, or one of those big states in America. More than this, I have invested your property since your father's death so wisely that even after paying the income tax and the property tax, the inheritance tax, the dog tax and the tax on amusements, you will still have one half of one per cent to spend."

Winnifred clasped her hands.

"I knew it all the time," said Lord Mordaunt, drawing the girl to his embrace, "I found it out through this good man."

"We knew it too," said the Marchioness. "Can you forgive us, darling, our little plot for your welfare? Had we not done this Mordaunt might have had to follow you over to America and chase you all around Newport and Narragansett at a fearful expense."

"How can I thank you enough?" cried Winnifred. Then she added eagerly, "And my birth, my descent?"

"It is all right," interjected the Old Lawyer. "It is A 1. Your father, who died before you were born, quite a little time before, belonged to the very highest peerage of Wales. You are descended directly from Claer-ap-Claer, who murdered Owen Glendower. Your mother we are still tracing up. But we have already connected her with Floyd-ap-Floyd, who murdered Prince Llewellyn."

"Oh, sir," cried the grateful girl. "I only hope I may prove worthy of them!"

"One thing more," said Lord Mordaunt, and stepping over to another curtain he drew it aside and there emerged Lord Wynchgate.

He stood before Winnifred, a manly contrition struggling upon features which, but for the evil courses of he who wore them, might have been almost presentable.

"Miss Clair," he said, "I ask your pardon. I tried to carry you off. I never will again. But before we part let me say that my acquaintance with you has made me a better man, broader, bigger and, I hope, deeper."

With a profound bow, Lord Wynchgate took his leave.


CHAPTER VIII

WEDDED AT LAST

Lord Mordaunt and his bride were married forthwith in the parish church of Muddlenut Chase. With Winnifred's money they have drained the moat, rebuilt the Chase, and chased the bulls out of the park. They have six children, so far, and are respected, honoured and revered in the countryside far and wide, over a radius of twenty miles in circumference.




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