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Her stern old father had no sooner discovered how her affections stood committed towards me, and had learned the colour of my reputation, than he had whisked her away from town to his seat in the remote west country, and had vowed upon his soul to have me ducked in a ditch if I so much as showed my nose in those parts. These thoughts of dear, insolent little Cynthia had induced reflections that I could well have done without. It was plain that this last cast of the cards had left the game in the hands of Mr.

Humphrey Waring. He had long had the ear of the old duke, Cynthia's father, and no man knew better how to push the advantages my misfortunes had given him over me. He would marry the greatest heiress in the west country, hate him as she might, whilst Jack Tiverton, the worthless rogue on whom she doted, or, if it please you better, the Right Honourable Anthony Gervas John Plowden-Pleydell, fifth Earl of Tiverton, that ill-fated nobleman, rotted in durance, or writhed in a rope at Tyburn, or spilt his brains on the carpet of his lodgings.

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But for all that I had a mind to attempt a little more mischief before I perished. Why not go to poor little town-bred Cynthia, immured in the country like a bird in a cage, and throw her obstinate old father and her cunning suitor into such a fright as they would not be likely to forget? Indeed, why not? However, when I came to reflect on this scheme more carefully, I found that I had hardly zest enough for it.

My ruin was too complete. Besides, it might cost Cynthia dear. I should have been well pleased to look on my pretty young miss once again and watch the tears course down her cheeks in the stress of our farewell, for I would have you know that I am a man of sentiment when in the humour.

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But it would be a hollow business and little of a kindness to the child to have her weep for such a broken profligate. I should purchase the discomfort of my enemies at too high a price. Yet I must come to a decision speedily. Every instant I expected to hear the law upon the stairs.

Should I spare it any further trouble there and then, or make an attempt to break out of town and lead it a dance across the country? The drawback in the first course was its somewhat arbitrary nature. It was so final and so certain that chance would have no opportunity. The drawback to the second was that I had not a guinea in the world. That morning I had staked my last and lost it.

However, as I weighed the pros and cons with a whimsical deliberation I was taken with a fortunate expedient. Chance had been the ruling passion of my life. It had brought me to this pass.


Why should I not employ it to solve this problem? I summoned M. Cock them both, however, but use particular care that nothing shall suggest which is charged and which is not. Then bring them here and lay them side by side upon this table, still remembering not to betray the fatal one. I awaited his return with an emotion akin to pleasure. I had tasted most of the delights that chance could afford me; but even I, who had staked houses, lands, servants, furniture, and every guinea of my fortune, had not yet gambled with my life.

Thus, when I came to play the greatest stake that is in the power of any man to play, it was but fitting that I should enjoy some little exhilaration in that act. They were both cocked, and it was impossible to distinguish one from the other. Francis coughed in his well-bred manner, and then sighed deeply. But may I say, my lord, with what deep regret I take farewell of your lordship?

I am sure there could not have been a better, kinder master. The Jews will but claim it otherwise, and I would almost as lief it fell into your hands as into theirs. But would you bereave me of the last badge of my respectability? Friends, fortune, estate, the consideration of the world, all are gone, and you would now deny me the solace of my heritage. Yet I commend your wisdom even here, since if you rob others as you have robbed myself, you will presently be able to purchase half the kingdom of Ireland, and set up among the landed gentry.

You will then, I doubt not, find an ancestor or two come not amiss. And if of my grandfather's pattern so much the better, for their virtue will purchase you more credit than any of your own. But I would recommend myself that you took a few ancestors over with the property. They would cost less in a lump. Besides, they tell me they are cheaper in Ireland than anywhere else, except France, where they are even more common than matrimony.

Saying this, without the hesitation of an instant I picked up one of the pistols lying side by side among the cards. Then he went to the mantelpiece, took down the picture, and placed it under his arm.

Slave Cynthia: The Prodigal Mistress

He ran to the window, cast it open, and with the most astonishing skill and agility, squeezed himself through the opening, my grandfather and all; and the roof being well within his reach, he first laid the picture on the tiles, then drew himself up after it, and showed the cleanest pair of heels to the law as ever I saw. And I was so taken with the ready wit and contrivance of the rogue, that although I had the cocked pistol pressed to my temple, I could not pull the trigger for the life of me.

For I stood all a-shake with very laughter, so that the cold muzzle of the weapon tapped now against my forehead, now against my nose, now against my cheekbone, till I vow it was a miracle the hammer did not descend. But in the middle of all this the door was tried and shaken, followed by a fierce tap on the panel, and then came the clear tones of a woman. At the sound of that voice the pistol fell from my hands altogether. Striking the carpet with a thud, it exploded under my feet and knocked a great hole in the wainscot. For an instant the room was full of smoke, gunpowder, and a mighty noise; but the moment I recovered my courage I unfastened the door and confronted the cause of it—Cynthia Carew!

She too was the victim of a not unnatural bewilderment, and as pale as linen. I am all of a twitter. Whose brains have you spilt?

Not your own, I'll warrant me, for you never had any. Give me a kiss now, and get me some ratafia to compose me, and we'll let it pass. I led her within and set her down on the couch. She bore all the evidences of having made a long journey. So far from being dressed in the modishness that was wont to charm St. James's Park, she was covered by a long, dun-coloured cloak, wore a country hat, if I'm a judge of 'em, in which the feathers were crumpled; her shoes were muddy, and she carried a strange look of fear and uneasiness that I had never seen about her before. I procured a clean glass and filled it with wine from the last bottle and made her drain it, for she looked so pale and overborne.

I must admit that the sight of the sweet chit was the one thing in all the world that had the power to please me at that hour, yet there was not a thing that could have happened to leave me in so sore a case. Here had my prettiness come and thrown herself on my protection—on the protection of a man utterly ruined, whom the law was already dogging for his liberty, if not his life. In sooth I must send her back again. It was no sort of a reception, especially when one fell to consider the heroical fashion of her coming to me. But what else was one to do?

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I was at my last gasp, without so much as a guinea, or a roof for my head, since to stay in that house was to court arrest, nor had I a friend in the world to whom I would dare to recommend her. Mopping her tears, she crumpled the sopping handkerchief in her little fist, sat perfectly upright in her seat, and stared so straight at me that I felt the blood hum in my ears. Now there is but one way out of it.

You cannot stay here; there is not a friend to whom I may confide you; child, you must go back to your father. Instead of growing red, the colour that shone I am sure in my face, she grew as pale as snow, and her eyes sparkled with a grim beauty that discomposed me more than it charmed me. She rose from the couch, lifted her chin out of her white throat, and kicked the kings and queens and knaves on the carpet in all directions.

I said I would not marry this Mr.

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Waring; whereon my lord said he would lock me in my room until I was of another mind. And he did lock me in it; and I broke out of it; and I will not go back, no, not if I must subsist on crusts picked from the kennel, and the clothes rot off my body, and I sleep o' nights in a dry ditch or the porch of a church. But come tell me, is it for himself you hate him, or is it for love of me? I think two persons in love could never have been in a worse plight than Cynthia and I.

There seemed no course open to us, other than to flee together, we knew not whither. Before even this could be considered, however, we had to find the means.

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I whistled long and shrill. At nine o'clock this morning I staked my all, including three periwigs, nine pairs of silk breeches, stockings, five cambric brocaded waistcoats, silver-buckled shoes, sword, duelling pistols, house and furniture, the Odes of Horace, and my man-cook—staked 'em on the queen of hearts and lost 'em.

Think on it, my pretty—lost 'em on the queen of hearts. Having come to this odd resolve, it behoved us to lose no time. But whither we should go, neither of us knew. North, south, east, or west, one latitude was as good as another. We should be equally served in each. As for the means at our disposal, we had the sum of twelve-pence halfpenny sterling. I am sure that much the same thoughts were uppermost in the minds of us both, for the moment I looked at little Cynthia sitting on the couch with a tight mouth and ratter quizzical eyes, I broke forth into a shout of laughter, which she returned so promptly that it became a question as to whom the honour of the first peal belonged.

In the midst of this pleasantry I walked to the door of the room and locked it again.