So saying, he left the room, and sought out Caspar, with whom he contrived the ringing of a bell in the marquis’s chamber by the drawbridge in its fall, the arrangement for which Caspar was to carry out that same evening after dark. He next sought his father, and told him and his brother Charles the whole story; nor did he find himself wrong in his expectation that the prospect of so good a jest would go far to console the marquis for the annoyance of finding that his household was not quite such a pattern one as he had supposed. That there was anything of conspiracy or treachery involved, he did not for a moment believe.
After dinner, while the horses were brought out, lord Herbert went again to his wife’s room. There was little Molly waiting to bid him good-bye, and she sat upon his knee until it was time for him to go. The child’s looks made his heart sad, and his wife could not restrain her tears when she saw him gaze upon her so mournfully. It was with a heavy heart that, when the moment of departure came, he rose, gave her into her mother’s arms, clasped them both in one embrace, and hurried from the room. He ought to be a noble king for whom such men and women make such sacrifices.
To witness such devotion on the part of personages to whom she looked up with such respect and confidence, would have been in itself more than sufficient to secure for its object the unquestioning partisanship of Dorothy; partisan already, it raised her prejudice to a degree of worship which greatly narrowed what she took for one of the widest gulfs separating her from the creed of her friends. The favourite dogma of the school-master-king, the offspring of his pride and weakness, had found fitting soil in Dorothy. When, in the natural growth of the confidence reposed in her by her protectors, she came to have some idea of the immensity of the sums spent by them on behalf of his son, had, indeed, ere the close of another year read the king’s own handwriting and signature in acknowledgment of a debt of a quarter of a million, she took it only as an additional sign—for additional proof there was no room—of their ever admirable devotion to his divine right. That the marquis and his son were catholics served but to glorify the right to which a hostile faith yielded such practical homage.
Immediately after nightfall she repaired to Caspar, and between them everything was speedily arranged for the carrying out of lord Herbert’s counter-plot.
But night after night passed, and the bell in the marquis’s room remained voiceless.
Molly and the white horse.
Meantime lord Herbert came and went. There was fighting here and fighting there, castles taken, defended, re-taken, here a little success and there a worse loss, now on this side and now on that; but still, to say the best, the king’s affairs made little progress; and for Mary Somerset, her body and soul made progress in opposite directions.