'And mine,' said Lockarby.

'Thanks, good friends. Alack! I have dropped my gauntlet in the street. But it is of no import. I thank God that no harm has come to any one. My thanks once more, and may pleasant dreams await ye.' She sprang up the steps and was gone in an instant.

Reuben and I unharnessed our horses and saw them cared for in silence. We then entered the house and ascended to our chambers, still without a word. Outside his room door my friend paused.

'I have heard that long man's voice before, Micah,' said he.

'And so have I,' I answered. 'The old man must beware of his 'prentices. I have half a mind to go back for the little maiden's gauntlet.'

A merry twinkle shot through the cloud which hid gathered on Reuben's brow. He opened his left hand and showed me the doe-skin glove crumpled up in his palm.

'I would not barter it for all the gold in her grandsire's coffers,' said he, with a sudden outflame, and then half-laughing, half-blushing at his own heat, he whisked in and left me to my thoughts.

And so I learned for the first time, my dears, that my good comrade had been struck by the little god's arrows. When a man's years number one score, love springs up in him, as the gourd grew in the Scriptures, in a single night. I have told my story ill if I have not made you understand that my friend was a frank, warm-hearted lad of impulse, whose reason seldom stood sentry over his inclinations. Such a man can no more draw away from a winning maid than the needle can shun the magnet. He loves as the mavis sings or the kitten plays. Now, a slow-witted, heavy fellow like myself, in whose veins the blood has always flowed somewhat coolly and temperately, may go into love as a horse goes into a shelving stream, step by step, but a man like Reuben is kicking his heels upon the bank one moment, and is over ears in the deepest pool the nest.

Heaven only knows what match it was that had set the tow alight. I can but say that from that day on my comrade was sad and cloudy one hour, gay and blithesome the next. His even flow of good spirits had deserted him, and he became as dismal as a moulting chicken, which has ever seemed to me to be one of the strangest outcomes of what poets have called the joyous state of love. But, indeed, pain and pleasure are so very nearly akin in this world, that it is as if they were tethered in neighbouring stalls, and a kick would at any time bring down the partition. Here is a man who is as full of sighs as a grenade is of powder, his face is sad, his brow is downcast, his wits are wandering; yet if you remark to him that it is an ill thing that he should be in this state, he will answer you, as like as not, that he would not exchange it for all the powers and principalities. Tears to him are golden, and laughter is but base coin. Well, my dears, it is useless for me to expound to you that which I cannot myself understand. If, as I have heard, it is impossible to get the thumb-marks of any two men to be alike, how can we expect their inmost thoughts and feelings to tally? Yet this I can say with all truth, that when I asked your grandmother's hand I did not demean myself as if I were chief mourner at a funeral. She will bear me out that I walked up to her with a smile upon my face, though mayhap there was a little flutter at my heart, and I took her hand and I said--but, lack-a-day, whither have I wandered? What has all this to do with Taunton town and the rising of 1685?

On the night of Wednesday, June 17, we learned that the King, as Monmouth was called throughout the West, was lying less than ten miles off with his forces, and that he would make his entry into the loyal town of Taunton the next morning. Every effort was made, as ye may well guess, to give him a welcome which should be worthy of the most Whiggish and Protestant town in England. An arch of evergreens had already been built up at the western gate, bearing the motto, 'Welcome to King Monmouth!' and another spanned the entrance to the market-place from the upper window of the White Hart Inn, with 'Hail to the Protestant Chief!' in great scarlet letters.

Micah Clarke Page 103

Arthur Conan Doyle

Scottish Authors

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Classic Literature Library
Classic Authors

All Pages of This Book