She had escaped severe punishment then, chiefly because Cromwell’s laws against gambling were not so rigorous at the time as they had since become, also because she was able to plead ignorance of them, and because of the status of first offense.
Therefore she knew quite well what she risked through the scheme which she had so boldly propounded to Sir Marmaduke. Dire disgrace and infamy, if my Lord Protector’s spies once more came upon the gamesters in her house—unawares.
Utter social ruin and worse! Yet she risked it all, in order to help him. She did not love him, nor had she any hopes that he would of his own free will do more than give her a bare pittance for her needs once he had secured Lady Sue’s fortune; but she was shrewd enough to reckon that the more completely she was mixed up in his nefarious projects, the more absolutely forced would he be to accede to her demands later on. The word blackmail had not been invented in those days, but the deed itself existed and what Editha had in her mind when she risked ostracism for Sir Marmaduke’s sake was something very akin to it.
But he, in the meanwhile, had thrown off his dejection. He was full of eagerness, of anticipated triumph now.
The rough idea which was to help him in his schemes had originated in Editha’s brain, but already he had elaborated it; had seen in the plan a means not only of attaining his own ends with regard to Sue, but also of wreaking a pleasing vengeance on the man who was trying to frustrate him.
“I pray you, be of good cheer, fair Editha,” he said quite gaily. “Your plan is good and sound, and meseems as if the wench’s fortune were already within my grasp.”
“Within our grasp, you mean, Marmaduke,” she said significantly.
“Our grasp of course, gracious lady,” he said with a marked sneer, which she affected to ignore. “What is mine is yours. Am I not tied to the strings of your kirtle by lasting bonds of infinite gratitude?”
“I will start to-morrow then. By chaise to Dover and thence by coach,” she said coldly, taking no heed of his irony. “’Twere best you did not assume your romantic role again until after your own voyage to London. You can give me some money I presume. I can do nothing with an empty purse.”
“You shall have the whole contents of mine, gracious Editha,” he said blandly, “some ten pounds in all, until the happy day when I can place half a million at your feet.”
THE HOUSE IN LONDON
It stood about midway down an unusually narrow by-street off the Strand.
A tumble-down archway, leaning to one side like a lame hen, gave access to a dark passage, dank with moisture, whereon the door of the house gave some eighteen feet up on the left.