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The Brown Mask   By: (1864-1922)

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THE BROWN MASK

By

Percy J. Brebner

Author of "Princess Maritza," "Vayenne," "A Royal Ward"

1911

CONTENTS

CHAPTER

1. BRETHREN OF THE ROAD 2. BARBARA LANISON 3. GREY EYES 4. THE NUN OF AYLINGFORD 5. CHILDREN OF THE DEVIL 6. MAD MARTIN 7. KING MONMOUTH 8. SEDGEMOOR AND AFTERWARDS 9. "THE JOLLY FARMERS" 10. FATE AND THE FIDDLER 11. THE FUGITIVE AT AYLINGFORD 12. BARBARA HELPS TO CLOSE A DOOR 13. THE WAY OF ESCAPE 14. A WOMAN REBELS 15. BARBARA LANISON IN TOWN 16. PREPARED FOR SACRIFICE 17. BARBARA'S SELF SACRIFICE 18. THE JOURNEY TO DORCHESTER 19. THE HUT IN THE WOOD 20. SCARLET HANGINGS 21. LORD ROSMORE DICTATES TERMS 22. THE LUCK OF LORD ROSMORE 23. LORD ROSMORE AS A FRIEND 24. LOVE AND FEAR 25. THE TRIPLE ALLIANCE 26. THE FLIGHT 27. OUT OF DORCHESTER 28. THE LEATHER CASE 29. SAFETY 30. ALONG THE NORTH ROAD

CHAPTER I

BRETHREN OF THE ROAD

Dismal in appearance, the painted sign over the mean doorway almost obliterated by time and weather, there was nothing attractive about the "Punch Bowl" tavern in Clerkenwell. It was hidden away at the end of a narrow alley, making no effort to vaunt its existence to the world at large, and to many persons, even in the near neighbourhood, it was entirely unknown. Like a gentleman to whom debauchery has brought shame and the desire to conceal himself from his fellows, so the "Punch Bowl" seemed an outcast amongst taverns. Chance visitors were few, were neither expected nor welcomed, and ran the risk of being told by the landlady, in terms which there was no possibility of misunderstanding, that the place was not for them. It was natural, therefore, that a certain air of mystery should surround the house, for, although the alley was a cul de sac , there were stories of marvellous escapes from this trap even when the entrance was closed by a troop of soldiers, and it was whispered that there was a secret way out from the "Punch Bowl" known only to the favoured few. Nor was an element of romance wanting. The dwellers in this alley were of the poorest sort, dirty and unkempt, picking up a precarious livelihood, pickpockets and cutpurses "foysters" and "nyppers" as their thieves' slang named them; yet, through all this wretched shabbiness there would flash at intervals some fine gentleman, richly dressed, and with the swagger of St. James's in his gait. Conscious of the sensation he occasioned, he passed through the alley looking strangely out of place, yet with no uncertain step. He was a hero, not only to these ragged worshippers, but in a far wider circle where wit and beauty moved; he knew it, gloried in it, and recked little of the price which must some day be paid for such popularity. The destination of these gentlemen was always the "Punch Bowl" tavern.

Neither of a man, nor of a tavern, is it safe to judge only by the exterior. A grim and forbidding countenance may conceal a warm heart, even as the unprepossessing "Punch Bowl" contained a cosy and comfortable parlour. To night, half a dozen fine gentlemen were enjoying their wine, and it was evident that the landlady was rather proud of her guests. Buxom, and not too old to forget that she had once been accounted pretty, she still loved smartness and bright colours, was not averse to a kiss upon occasion, and had a jest coarse, perhaps, but with some wit in it for each of her customers. She knew them well their secrets, their love episodes, their dangers; sometimes she gave advice, had often rendered them valuable help, but she had also a keen eye for business. Her favours had to be paid for, and even from the handsomest of her customers a kiss had never been known to settle a score. The "Punch Bowl" was no place for empty pockets, and bad luck was rather a crime than an excuse. When it pleased her the landlady could tell many tales of other fine gentlemen she had known and would never see again, and she always gave the impression that she considered her former customers far superior to her present ones... Continue reading book >>




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