The Lord of the
Manor, An Old English Story
by Henry William Herbert
Left by his sire too young such loss to know,
Lord of himself;—that heritage of wo,
That fearful empire which the human breast
But holds, to rob the heart within of rest.
It was the morning of the first of May, that merriest morning of
the year, in the old days of merry England; and never did a brighter
dawning illuminate a fairer landscape, than that wherein the incidents
occurred, which form the basis of one of those true tales that prove
how much there is of wild and strange romance even in the most
domestic circles of existence.
The landscape was a portion of the western slope of a broad English
valley, diversified with meadow-land and pasture, and many a field of
green luxuriant wheat, and shadowy woods, and bosky dells and dingles;
and with a clear, bright, shallow river rippling along its pebbly
channel, at the base of the soft hills, which swept down to its
flowery marge in gentle loveliness.
The foreground of the picture, for it was one indeed, on the left
hand side, was made up of a thick mass of orchards, and beyond these
by a clump of towering lindens, above which might be seen the arrowy
spire of a village church, piercing the cool air with its gilded vane
and weathercock— the river sweeping round and half enclosing the
garden grounds, and cottages seen among the shrubbery, in a blue
glancing reach spanned by a three-arched bridge of old red brick, all
overrun with ivy. Close to the bridge, but on the west side of the
stream, lay a large tract of open common, carpeted with rich short
greensward, whereon a thousand fairly rings were visible, and
sprinkled with all the bright wild flowers of the early spring. A
winding road of yellow sand traversed the varied surface of the
waste, which was much broken up by hillocks and deep hollows,
alternating clear sunny lights with cool blue shadows; and, after
crossing the river by the old bridge, was lost for a little while
among the orchards of the village, till it again reappeared, near the
centre of the middle distance, above the fringe of willow, birch, and
alder bushes, which skirted all the eastern margin of the river.
Beyond this screen of coppice, the view extended upward for nearly a
mile in distance, over a beautiful park-like lawn, dotted with clumps
of noble trees, and enclosed on every side by woods of tall dark oak.
A large white gate gave access to this fair demesne, with a snug
porter's lodgenestled into a shady covert close beside it; and at the
very crown of the slope, overlooking all the broad and fertile vale,
stood a large mansion of red brick, built in the quaint architecture
of the Elizabethan era, with large projecting oriels and tall
clustered chimneys, and a wide free-stone terrace, bedecked with urns
and balustrades, in front; the dwelling evidently of the lord of that
fair manor. To the right of the woods, which skirted that side of the
park, lay an abrupt ravine, through which a brawling trout stream
made its way down, among large blocks of limestone, and under tangled
covert, to join the river in the valley. Beyond this gorge, the sides
of which were feathered thick with yew, and box, and juniper, rose a
broad barren hill, crowned by the gray and weather-beaten keep of an
old Norman castle, frowning in dark sublimity over the cultured
fields, whose fruits its lords of old had reaped, won by the mortal
sword—and beyond this a range of purple moors towered, summit over
summit, till they were lost at length in the gray mists of the horizon.
It was, as has seen said, the early dawning of the sweet first of
May—so early that the sun had not yet reared the whole of his red
disc above the eastern hills, but half emerged was checkering all the
slopes and the level meadows at the bottom of the valley with
lengthened streams of ruddy lustre, and casting long clear shadows
from every tree or bush or stone that met its rays. Yet, early as it
was, the village was alive with merriment and bustle. A joyous peal
was chiming from the bells of the tall steeple, while a May-pole that
almost vied in height with the neighboring spire, was planted on the
common by the waterside, where the ground lay most level to the
sunshine, and where the greensward grew the mossiest and softest to
the tread. The whole waste had was covered with glad groups of
peasantry, all in their holyday attire, speeding toward the
rendezyous, beneath a huge gnarled hawthorn, which had beheld the
sports of their grandsires, now white as if a sudden snow storm had
powdered its dense foliage with the sweet blossoms that derive their
name from the delicious month which witnesses their birth—the sandy
road, too, and the bridge were glistening with moving parties; while
the shrill merry laugh of girls, and the yet shriller whoop of
childhood, came frequent on the ear from many a sequestered spot
among the budding orchards— nor did the rugged castle hill display
no joyous company; for there, and through the dim-wood glen, and over
the old turn-style, and through the park itself, the happy yeomanry
came flocking to celebrate their feast of flowers.
Just at this moment the park gates were suddenly thrown open, and a
young man rode out into the sandy road, accompanied by several dogs,
and followed by three serving men—two mounted and the third on
foot—and taking the downward track, to the left hand toward the
village and the bridge, was quickly lost to view behind the willows
on the river bank. As he appeared, however, even at that distance,
both by his dress and air to be a person of superior rank to any of
the groups around, and as I shall have much to do with him in the
course of my narrative, I shall attach myself to him during his ride
from the manor gates to the meadow of the May-pole.
He was a young and extremely handsome person, well formed and tall,
and giving promise of great future strength, when his slender and
almost boyish frame should be developed to its full proportions; for
he was, in years, all but a boy, having on that very morning attained
to his majority, and the possession of the fine demesnes, and ample
fortune, which now called him master. His hair was long and slightly
curled, of a deep rich chestnut color; and notwithstanding that it
was the fashion of that day, even for the young and comely, to cover
the whole head with a disfiguring mass of flowing powdered
horse-hair, under the title of a periwig, he wore his locks all
natural and undisguised; and well they harmonized with the fine
coloring and noble outlines of his well marked frank features,
sparkling as they were on that bright happy morning with gratified
ambition, and high hope, and all the bounding energies of prosperous
There were, it is true, some indications— which would not easily
be missed by an experienced physiognomist—that told of strong and
fiery passions concealed beneath that bold and beautiful exterior—
there was a quick and hasty sparkle in the fine open eye, which
indicated a temperament prone to blaze out, at any check to its
desires, into fierce bursts of angry vehemence— there were deep
lines for one so young about the mouth and nostrils, that clearly
spoke of latent but indomitable pride; and something, too, of the
existence of many a voluptuous feeling, ready to spring up giants
from their birth, when any chance occurrence should kindle them to
sudden life; still, in despite these drawbacks to his beauty, for such
in truth they were, he could not fail to be pronounced, and that too
in the highest sense of the term, a fine and noble looking man. He
was dressed, too, in the rich fashion of the day, with a low crowned
and broad brimmed beaver, decked by a hat hand set about with short
white ostrich feathers—his coat of grass green velvet, ornamented by
a slight cord of gold, sat closely on his graceful form; while
breeches of white doeskin, with heavy hunting boots and massive silver
spurs, completed his attire; a light couteau de chasse hanging
at his side, being carried rather as an indication of the wearer's
rank, than as a weapon of defence; which, in the settled and peaceful
state of England at that moment, was almost as unnecessary as at the
The dogs, which ran beside his stirrup, were six or eight in
number, and noble specimens of several choice and favorite breeds.
There was the tall lithe English bloodhound, with his sleek tawny
hide, his pendulous ears, and coal black muzzle; there were two fleet
and graceful greyhounds, one white as snow, the other black as the
raven's wing, with their elastic limbs and airy gait; there were a
leash of King Charles' spaniels, beautiful silky creatures, with ears
that swept the dew; and last, though not least in the owner's
estimation, a savage-looking, wire-haired Scotch terrier, with shaggy
jaws, and keen intelligent expression, though many a scar, of wounds
inflicted in desperate encounters with the hill-fox or prowling
wild-cat, seamed his rough grizzly face.
The male attendants of the young gentlemen were three, as I have
said, in number; one a gray-headed, venerable-looking man, dressed in
a suit of plain snuff-colored clothes, and mounted on a strong brown
cob, which set off admirably, by the contrast, the fine points and
superb condition of the splendid hunter which carried the young lord
of the manor. This aged man, who was, indeed, the steward, who had
lived on the property in the time of this youth's father, and to
whose care and faithful man agement much of the present wealth of the
estate might be attributed, rode not exactly abreast of his master,
nor yet entirely behind him, but so that while preserving a
respectful distance, to show that he laid claim to no standing of
equality, he was still near enough to maintain, without any
inconvenience, whatever conversation it might please the younger man
On the other side, among the dogs, which looked up to him from time
to time with a very evident mixture of fear and affection in their
features, strode along a well-built sturdy fellow of some
eight-and-twenty or thirty years, standing some six feet in his
stockings, and powerful in due proportion to his height. This man, who
was dressed as a gamekeeper or forester, with leather buskins on his
legs, and a short musquetoon or carabine in his hand, was what would
be generally called goodlooking, by those at least who, in the habit
of regarding the mere animal qualities of humanity, neglect the
nobler characteristics of intellectual beauty—for he was
dark-haired and fresh complexioned, with a full bright eye and
prominent features. There was a strong resemblance, moreover, in all
his lineaments to the calm and serene face of the old steward; but it
was in the outlines only, and, even of these, one of the most
remarkable in the father was wholly wanting to the son—for such,
indeed, was their relationship—namely, the ample and majestic
forehead; which striking feature was changed in the younger man for a
low and receding brow, giving a mean and vulgar expression to the
whole countenance, which was, moreover, of a dogged and sullen cast,
with large thick sensual lips, heavy and massive jaws, and all the
animal portions of the head unusually and ungracefully developed. This
unprepossessing face, for such indeed it was, gloomy and lowering,
unless when it was lighted up by a smile even more inauspicious than
the darkness it relieved, flashed out at times under that brief
illumination with a shrewd gleam, half cuning, half malignant, which
rendered it, nor the moment, almost fearful to behold.
The third person was an ordinary groom, in a blue coat with a
livery badge on his farm, carrying pistols at his holsters, and a
heavy hunting whip in his right hand.
Such was the little party which rode down from the manor gate
toward the village-green, on that May morning, amidst the loud and
hearty congratulations of every rustic group they passed on their
way—the honest heart of every jolly yeoman expanding, as he
welcomed to his new possessions the young man, who had dwelt among
them when a gay and thoughtless boy, and won affections which had
still remained unchanged throughout his absence from the home of his
fathers, during his education at school and college, or, in vacation
time, at the distant mansions of his guardians.
It did not take the horsemen long, although the heir paused several
times for a moment or two to converse cheerily with some of the older
farmers, whom he remembered to have been kind to him when a child, or
with some of the stalwart striplings with whom he had fished, or
bird-nested, or ferreted wild rabbits, as companions in the blithe
days of boyhood—it did not take the horsemen long to thread the
windings of the sandy road, to cross the old brick bridge, and reach
the beautiful green meadow, where the tall May-pole stood, as it had
stood for ages, surrounded by a merry concourse, engaged in decking
it with clusters of the flowery hawthorn, and garlands of a thousand
dewy blossoms. While one bold boy, who had climbed to the summit of
the dizzy mast, was hoisting up a hollow globe composed of many
intersecting hoops, all bound with wreaths of eglantine, and hawthorn,
and wild roses, with flaunting streamers and bright ribbons of every
hue under the sun, to crown the flower-girt fabric, another group was
busied, as the horsemen wheeled from the high road into the velvet
green, in piling up a rustic throne beneath the aged hawthorn,
composed of turf bedecked with crocuses and violets, and the sweet
cuckoo buds, and briony, and bright marsh marigolds from the stream's
verge, and water-lilies from its stiller reaches, and buttercups and
daisies from the meadows.
All ceased, however, instantly from their slight labors as the
young gentleman rode forward at a slow pace, his progress actually
hindered by the pressure of the people, crowding up to greet their
honored landlord; and a loud ringing shout, echoed back many times by
each projecting hill through the long valley, spoke, and for once
sincerely, more of heart-love than of lip-loyalty.
A brilliant flush of pleasure suffused his cheeks, and his eyes
sparkled with excitement, as he doffed his plumed hat and bowed
repeatedly to his assembled tenantry. He said, however, nothing in
reply to their tumultuous cheering, until the old steward pricking
his cob gently with the spur, rode up unbidden to his master's side,
and whispered in his ear—
"Speak to them—speak to them, Sir Edward—for they expect it;
and will set it down to pride, it may be, if you do not. Speak to
them, if it be only twenty words."
"Not I, faith!" said the young heir, laughing; "I should stop short
for very bashfulness before I had got ten words out, let alone
twenty. But tell them, good Adam"—
No! no! Sir Edward"—the old man interrupted him, "you
, so please you, be guided for this once by your old servant; your
father was a favorite with them always; and so were you, God bless
you! while you were but a little boy; and, take my word for it, you
shall gain more of good will, and of general favor, by speaking to
them frankly for five minutes, than by distributing five hundred
"Well, if it must be so, old Adam, I suppose it must," returned the
other, "but, by my honor, I had rather scatter the five hundred
pounds, you talk about, among them."
Then drawing himself up in his saddle, without a moment's thought
or preparation, he once more doffed his hat, and addressed himself in
clear and well enunciated words, although his tones at first were
somewhat low, and his manner flurried, to the yeomanry, who stood
around in silent and attentive admiration. As he went on, however,
and gradually became accustomed to the sound of his own voice, that
voice grew stronger, clearer, more sonorous, and his air less
embarrassed, till at length, before he had been speaking quite five
minutes, his notes were even, and sustained, flowing into the ear
like a continued strain of silvery music.
"I thank you, my good friends," he said, "I thank you, from the
bottom of my soul, for this, your frank and warm-hearted reception,
and, when I say I thank you, I would not have you fancy that I am
using a mere word, an empty form of speech, filling the ear indeed,
signifying nothing. No, my good friends and neighbors, when I say
here, I thank you, I mean in truth that my heart is full of gratitude
toward you, and that it is my full and resolute intention, to prove
that gratitude by my deeds to be done among you. I am a very young
man yet, as you all know—and, of the few years which have hitherto
been mine, the most have been passed at a distance from you. Many of
you, whom I see round about, remember well my birth and boyhood; as I
remember many, whom I look upon, for their frank, manly kindness
toward a wayward schoolboy; but as I said even now, I have hitherto
lived afar from you, and you know nothing of my heart or habits; and
therefore, though I feel that your welcome is sincere, your
gratulations honest, I am not such a fool of vanity, as to suppose
all this affection and respectful greeting to be won from you by any
merits of my own. Oh! no, my friends, I know it is the legacy, the
precious legacy of your esteem and love! left to me by the virtues of
a father, a grandfather, a race who have lived here in the midst of
you, for ages, doing good, and receiving ample payment in looking on
a free, a prosperous, and a grate ful people. My heart then would be
dull, indeed, and senseless, if I did not appreciate the richest
legacy of all, which they have left me, in your hereditary love—my
mind must be brutish and irrational, if, in perceiving and
appreciating this, I did not perceive, also, how I must merit your
affection— how I must make it my own absolute possession, even as
it was my father's— how I must leave it to my children, after
me—if it please God, in his wisdom, through me to continue our
line. My friends, I do perceive it! I have come hither to-day,
to live among you, as my fathers did—to be no more your landlord,
than your friend, your neighbor, your protector. I will not draw my
revenues from the country, to lavish them on the idlers of the town!
No, my friends, where my father's life was passed, there will I pass
mine, likewise; and when the time allotted here to us shall be
measured to its end, I trust that I shall lay my bones beside his
bones, in your quiet churchyard! Now, mark what I would say, for I
must not be tedious; I promise you that no man's rent shall be screwed
up by me, beyond his own ability to pay, so he be sober, industrious,
and frugal! I promise you, that no new tenant shall be preferred
before an old one, so long as he deal with me justly. I promise you,
that no strong man shall want good work, and ready payment—no sick
man medicine, and succor—no old man aid and comfort—no poor man
whatsoever help his exigencies need, that I can give to him; so long
as God continue me among you. This, then, I promise you, not as a
boon or bounty, but as I hold it here to be my bounden duty— and
this will I make good to you, so surely as my name is Edward Hale of
Arrington! Now I will trouble you no more, except to pray you to
continue your sports, as if I were not present; and to request you all
to dine with me at noon, on good old English beef and pudding. My
fellows will be down anon, to pitch some tents here on the green, and
set the ale a-flowing—and so once more I thank you."
It is probable that no set oration, delivered by the mightiest of
the world's rhetoricians, bedecked with all the gorgeous ornaments,
that genius can produce from its immortal garners, was ever listened
to with more profound and rapt attention, than the few simple words,
which flowed as it appeared so naturally from the heart to the tongue
of the young landlord. It is certain, that none ever sunk more deeply
into the feelings of the audience—their better, holier feelings!
There was no violent outburst of pleasure—no loud tumultuous
cheering—but a deep hush—a breathing silence! Many of the old
men, and all the women, were in tears; and when they spoke, at
length, it was with husky interrupted voices that they invoked
Heaven's blessings on his head; and when they thought, it was with
gratitude for their own happy lot in owning such a master.
Sir Edward was himself affected, partly it might be from the
excitement of delivering a first speech, and that with success, so
apparent and complete—it might be from the genuine warmth of his
own heart, and strength of his own feelings; for the hearts of the
young are almost ever warm, whether for good or for evil; and their
emotions powerful and abundant; and oftentimes it happens, that the
mere speaking forcibly of feelings, which perhaps at the time exist
but faintly—and as I might say speculatively—will give those
feelings actual force, and cause them to develop themselves with new
and unsuspected vigor. And so it surely was with Edward Hale, in this
He was, as we have seen, extremely young—not in years only, but
in knowledge of the world—and volatile, and hasty, and
impetuous—too much, indeed, a creature and a child of impulse—I
say not that his impulses were evil—I believe not that the impulses
of the very young are so; except in rare and almost monstrous
instances— but they were impulses, ungoverned, uncontrolled by any
principle, any set rule of action, any guide of religion—and,
therefore, even when most originally good, they were liable to be
pushed into excesses; to be deceptive; to be self-deceivers; to
degenerate into downright vices. That Edward Hale had thought, at
times, of the condition of his subordinate fellows, is most
true—that he had often dreamed bright day-dreams, concerning the
happiness of a half patriarchal life among his tenants, is undoubted;
and that his tastes, his habits, his pursuits, all led him to prefer
a country to a city residence, no less so.
So it is true, that being liberal as the wind—nay, almost
lavish—charity, so far at least as charity consists in giving, was
an accustomed and familiar pleasure; that, like all men of glowing
and enthusiastic minds, he was by no means without some crude and
undigested notions of a wild species of Utopian justice! that he was
of too bold and fiery a temperament not to abhor and loathe the very
name of fraud or falsehood—and more, to do him simple justice, too
kindly-hearted to be cruel, or systematically overbearing and
oppressive. Still, it is no less certain that, until that very
morning—nay, until the very minute when accident called on him to
deliver an impromptu speech, when the excitability of his emotions,
and his gratification at his warm reception by his tenants set loose
the flood-gates of his faney and his heart—for in this instance,
both were acted on, and both reacted in connection—he had never
thought consecutively for half an hour on the subject; never had laid
out for himself any rule or principle at all; never had, indeed,
considered that he owed any duties to his fellow men.
"What then," I fancy I can hear the reader say, "What then, was
Edward Hale a hypocrite? Was all his fine, apparently free-hearted
speech a piece of absolute deception?" Neither, dear reader, neither;
the young are rarely, oh! very rarely, hypocrites; rarely deceivers
even, unless it be from fear, in timid dispositions, of some
contingent evils, which they imagine they can shun by falsehood. And
Edward Hale was neither; scarce even a deceiver of himself.
He had returned, only the previous night, to the home of his happy
boyhood, after years of absence; had looked upon the picture of a
mother, whom he almost adored— had trod the floors, along which he
had bounded years ago; how changed, and yet the same; and every thing
he saw and heard and thought of, conspired to call up his better
feelings, and to attune his spirit to a mood more reflective—nay,
almost melancholy— than his wont. A passionate lover of the charms
of nature, he had felt, while he gazed out from his window over the
lovely landscape, while he rode in all the consciousness of power and
health, on his splendid hunter, beneath his old ancestral trees, he
had felt, I say, that he could never love a spot on earth so well as
his own fair demesnes; that he could never live so happily or with so
calm a dignity in any other place, as he could here among his people.
Then, when he found himself quite unexpectedly the object of affection
so enthusiastic, of greetings so sincere and earnest, his fancy
pictured to him in a moment, the pure and exquisite delights of such a
life as he described in his brief speech; his heart yearned to the
kind and humble yeomanry, whose very souls, apparently, were
overflowing with love to all his race. He spoke embarrassed at the
first, and faltering, and undecided; but, as he warmed to his task,
his rich imagination woke; image suggested image, and though, perhaps,
he actually thought, now for the first time, of many of the things he
stated, they glowed so vividly before the eyes of his mind, that he
believed them for the moment to be old and familiar ideas—the well
remembered consequences of past reasoning. He believed, from the
bottom of his heart, that every word he uttered was strictly and
indisputably true; not for his life would he have uttered one, had he
not so believed! And when he ceased to speak, he was affected by the
very ideas that his own lively fancy had, for the first time, set
before him; and he could safely then have registered a vow in heaven
that such had always been his view of his own duties; and that
so he would surely act, as long as he lived to act on earth at all.
As he ceased speaking, he turned his horse half round, as if to
leave the green, saying to a fine hearty-looking yeoman who stood
nearest to him, one of the patriarchs, unquestionably, of the place.
"I must ride, Master Marvel, to Stowcum-Barnesley, to meet some
college friends of mine who promised to come down and spend my
birth-day with me; but it is early yet, you know, and Oliver here,"
patting as he spoke the proud neck of his horse, "makes nothing of
fifteen miles an hour; so I can ride thither easily, and be back with
my friends to dinner."
"Ay, that thou canst, Sir Edward," returned the old man, laughing
cheerily— "Ay, that thou canst; so go thy ways, go thy ways, and
God speed thee!"
Edward Hale touched his horse lightly with the spur, that he made
one quick bound forward; but as he did so, the rider turned half
round in the saddle, for something caught his attention so keenly that
his eye sparkled, and his cheek flushed suddenly. The consequence
was, that he checked Oliver so sharply with the curb, although
involuntarily, that he reared bolt upright, and by the suddenness of
the movement, so nearly unseated his master, that his hold on the
saddle depended for a moment on the rein, and consequently the strain
was increased greatly on the bit.
The hunter stood erect, pawing the air with his fore-feet, as if in
an effort to retrieve his balance. Every one thought that he must
have fallen backward, crushing his rider in the fall, and a shrill
female shriek rang piercingly into the air; but, active, young, and
fearless, Sir Edward scarce perceived the error he had committed
before he repaired it. Throwing himself forward in his stirrups, by a
rapid and elastic spring, he wreathed his fore-finger lightly in the
mane, and gave the horse the spur so sharply that he made a violent
plunge forward and alighted on his fore-feet with a dint that threw
the turf into the air, in fifty several fragments, but failed to move
the horseman in his saddle in the slightest degree.
Then the hot temper of the young man rose; and, though a moment's
thought would have shown him that the horse was in no respect to
blame, he checked him again almost fiercely with the heavy curb, and
spurred him till the blood spirted from his sides, under the galling
rowels. Stung by the treatment, the noble beast yerked out his heels,
and fell into a quick succession of balotades, croupades, and
caprioles, and furious plunges, such as must have inevitably cast
headlong to the earth a less accomplished cavalier, than he who backed
Firm as a rock in his demipique sat Edward Hale, as though he had
been a portion of the animal which he bestrode; but maddened, by the
resistance offered to his first momentary action of injustice, he
plied both lash and spur with almost savage impetuosity, yet with so
rare a skill, that in five minutes' space, or even less, the brown
horse stood stock still, panting, and humbled, and subdued.
He gazed around him for a moment, with a triumphant and defying
glance; and without again looking in the direction of the object,
whatsoever it was, that had before attracted his attention, he bade
his mounted groom give up his horse to the game-keeper, and stay
himself to wait on master Adam Eversly. The change was accomplished
in aminute; and, without any farther words, he dashed into a gallop,
and was speedily lost to view beyond the summit of the hills, which
bounded the valley to the westward.
"Oh! father," cried a beautiful country girl, who was leaning on
the arm of an old gray-headed farmer, "Oh, father, father— how
beautifully young Sir Edward spoke, and what a kind speech that was,
and then how well he sat on that vicious horse of his, and how
quickly he did master him. He is the handsomest gentleman, I think, in
all the country; and the best-hearted too, I'll warrant him."
"And yet, Rose," answered a young stalwart yeoman, who had been
been standing close beside her, leaning on a long two-handed quarter
staff, "and yet, Rose, it was all of his own fault, that the poor
horse was vicious; and then see how he dealt with the dumb
beast for his own failing. He is a handsome man, that's true, as ever
an eye looked upon; but did you see the way his black brows met
together; how the passion flashed out, almost like lightning, under
them; and how he bit his lips till the blood came? Be sure, now, he
has a fearful temper. Why he looked liker to a handsome devil, than
to a Christian man! I would be loth to stand against him, in aught he
had set his heart on."
"For shame—for shame to thee, Frank Hunter," cried the girl he
had addressed as Rose—"For shame on thee, to speak so of the young
winsome gentleman. I hate an envious spirit—and he so kind, too, and
so gentle—didst not hear what he promised— how no poor man should
ever want for any thing; and how no sick man should need doctoring,
so long as his name was Edward Hale—and then to liken him to a
devil! I'm sure, I think he looked like an angel; and spoke like an
angel, too, just come down to us out of heaven!"
"Have a care, Rose," returned the other, gloomily, "have a care,
lest he lure thee to somewhat, that will not lead thee up there;
whether he came down out of heaven or no. I reckon it was all along
o' looking at those brown curls and hazel eyes o' thine, that he came
so near falling from his saddle."
"Why, here's a nice to do," answered the girl, very sharply, "and
what an' he was looking at my curls, or my eyes either; what is that,
master Hunter, to thee, I'd be pleased to know—or who gave thee the
right to say who shall look at me; or who I shall look at either, for
that matter? You are no kin of mine—much less a master."
"Oh, Rose! oh Rose! can it be come to this, between us—and we
"Aye, has it," answered Rose, tossing her pretty head, "aye, has it
come to this— and better now than later!—better trothplighted,
and rue the plighting! than wed and rue the wedding!—better an
envious sweetheart and a jealous; than a hard tyrannizing husband!
Aye, has it come to this, and thou must mend thy manners, ere aught
else come of it, I tell thee."
Her father tried to interpose; but the village beauty was quite too
indignant, to be appeased so readily; and she left his arm instantly,
turning her back without ceremony on her luckless swain, saying that
she must go and join Susan Fairly, for all the girls were seeking
her. So little does it need, to raise a quarrel between those who
truly and sincerely love each other, especially in quick and ardent
It often happens that, in places far removed each from the other,
events are occurring to different individuals, almost at the same
moment, which are destined to produce the most serious results to
other persons, who are equally ignorant of the present action, and
unsuspicious of the future consequence. So intricately and
inextricably blended are the threads of mortal life, and so
wonderfully linked are those chains of cause and effect, in which
even unborn generations are not unfrequently involved, by that vast
and all comprehensive Providence which mortals, in their blindness,
are wont to call chance.
Especially was this the case with Sir Edward Hale, at the present
moment of my tale; though he would have laughed very heartily had any
one told him that the whole happiness of his future life was brought
into jeopardy, while he was thinking only of the pleasures of the
hour, by the intrigues of men in London, some of whom he had never
seen, and scarcely even heard of; yet such unquestionably was the
It was about seven o'clock on the same morning that a plain dark
carriage, con taining a tall, thin, grave looking gentleman, with a
peculiarly sardonic smile, drove rapidly from the door of the
Secretary of State, at whose house an extraordinary cabinet council
had been just held, through Charing Cross, where the magnificent
statue of King Charles the First, by Hubert le Soeur, had resumed its
position, and passed the stately front of Northumberland House,
toward Spring Garden.
Here it paused, before the portico of a stately mansion; and the
footman springing down from the board behind the chariot,
notwithstanding the earliness of the hour, raised such a noisy
summons as soon brought a servant to the door, when the name of the
untimely visitor procured his admittance without delay, although the
man appeared at first somewhat reluctant—saying that the Earl was
not yet awake, and had left word that he should not be disturbed, as
it was very late when he retired.
"I know it, my good friend," replied the visitor—"I know that it
was very late; but it was later by two hours before I was abed, and I
have been up, I assure you, since four o'clock this morning. But,
leaving this aside, which is no matter, I will be your security that
you will do no wrong in awakening my lord, seeing that I have news
for him about which he is very anxious; and it is, moreover, on
business of his majesty that I must see him."
This, of course, put an end, on the instant, to all discussion or
remonstrance on the subject, the man showing him immediately into a
handsome library, containing several thousand volumes, and decorated
with many busts, and two or three fine antique statues.
Begging the visitor, with whom he appeared to be well acquainted,
to take a seat while he apprised the earl of his arrival, he then
withdrew, but returned in a few minutes, saying, "My lord, Sir Henry,
will be down in a quarter of an hour, at the farthest, and begs that
you will wait for him. He desired me to ask if you would take some
chocolate, Sir Henry?"
"Yes, bring me some, Anderson, if it be ready; and, hark ye, tell
my fellows to go home with the chariot; I will walk, when I go hence."
As soon as the man had left the room, the other arose from his
chair and walked toward one of the tall book-cases, as if to seek a
volume, wherewith to while away the time; but, after he had opened the
glass doors, and suffered his eyes to run over a shelf or two, he
either changed his mind or fell into a different train of thought, and
forgot it; for he turned round abruptly, and walked across the room
again, with his hands clasped behind his back.
"It must be done! it must," he muttered to himself; "we must have
his vote, or the whole thing is at an end, and we may just as well
give up the campaign at once! But this will do it; I think, I dare
swear it will! and, if not—if not—we must give him more; though,
hang me! if I know what there is that we can give him that he
is fit for! The garter! aye, the garter—a rare successor he to the
great champions of the order!" And he smiled, with the bitter,
sneering, caustic expression that has been mentioned as peculiar to
At this moment the servant returned, bearing a silver salver, with
a tall chocolate pot of the same metal, richly embossed, and a couple
of superb French-china cups. Scarcely, however, had he frothed and
poured out the rich beverage, which had but lately been introduced
into England, and was still a rarity, before his master entered the
library, in some small agitation, as it seemed, and perhaps even
anxiety. He was a tall and powerfully made man, of some fifty-seven
or fifty-eight years, with features that would have been positively
handsome had there been a solitary gleam of intelligence—a single
trace expressing any thing of character in their symmetrical outlines
and harmonious coloring. He was magnificently, though not completely,
attired in the costume of the day; wearing a dressing gown of splendid
brocade in place of the embroidered coat, and a cap of green velvet,
with a gold band and tassel, in lieu of the huge periwig, which was
then an essential part of a gentleman's full dress.
"Give you good day, Sir Henry," he said as he entered, with a bland
smile upon his face, which did not, however, conceal a nervousness of
manner that told something of eager and fretful expectation. "You
come so early that, as you see, I make no ceremony with you; I have
not even tarried to finish dressing, as I presumed you were in a
"I thank you much, my lord," returned the other, sipping his
chocolate, "both for what you have done, and what you have left
undone; for, indeed, I have something to say to you of moment." Then,
seeing that he did not take the hint, as he expected he would do, and
dismiss the valet, who stood with both his ears wide open, ready to
drink in every word, he said carelessly, "Excellent chocolate, this,
my lord, but I do not think it has ever paid any duty."
"No, no! not it, not it! Sir Henry," answered the ponderous earl,
making precisely the reply for which his guest was looking. "I had
it, in a present, from my good friend, the French ambassador."
"Ah! ah!" answered Sir Henry Davenant, as if thoughtfully, "and
apropos of French, had you Anderson, here, with you when you were
at Paris last?"
"No; he came to me after my return," said the obtuse earl, not yet
perceiving that the drift of Sir Henry's question was to call his
attention to the presence of the man. After a few minutes, however,
during which he appeared to ruminate very sagely, he lifted up his
head with what he intended for a very knowing smile, and told his
valet that he need not wait.
"Very deep of you—very deep, that, Sir Henry. Almost too deep!
for, drown me for a witch if I caught your meaning at the first!"
"But why, in Heaven's name, my dear lord, do you keep such a
long-eared knave as that about you? Why, curiosity is written, as
plainly as the name of a book on its title-page, in every feature of
his face; the very owning such a fellow is enough, almost, to destroy
one's reputation for diplomacy. It is true that the Earl of Asterly
has less need to regard such things than we beginners; but,
nevertheless, even with your finesse, I would hardly desire to risk
"Ha! ha! you are flattering me—you are flattering me, I am
afraid, Sir Henry; though you have not very much the character of
saying pretty things, even to the ladies, bless their souls!" And,
while he spoke, it was as evident as the sun in heaven, that he had
swallowed the dose, palpable as it was, without wincing, or suspecting
that it was, even as he said, a mixture of the grossest adulation
with the most bare-faced ridicule. "But, come," he added, after
another pause of hesitation, "unbuckle your budget, my good sir; what
can you possibly have to say to me so early this morning?"
"Why, the fact is, my lord," answered Davenant, who filled at that
time the very useful post, in reference to the then ministry, which
is now known as that of whipperin to the House of Commons, "that, as I
told you would be the case, when I had the honor of speaking with you
last night, there has been a meeting of the cabinet at Mr.
Secretary's house, this morning."
And the wily baronet paused at this piece of information, partly to
give his heavy auditor time to take in its whole meaning, and partly
because he wished to see exactly what was the amount of his dupe's
anxiety on the subject.
"Indeed—indeed?" the earl replied, in the tone of one inquiring
farther; "you are well informed always, Sir Henry; and what then?
What was the result of their conference, my dear sir?—that is to
say, if it may be spoken."
"Oh, yes, my lord, it may be spoken. If that were not the case, you
would not have seen me here this morning; for my object in coming was
purely to give you the inforformation; which I have leave to do from
Mr. Secretary, and a message from him, likewise—that is to say, if
the government may rely, as they presume they can, on the continued
support of the Earl of Asterly. If not, why—I must keep my budget
closed; which I should be the more sorry to do— because, if opened,
it contains news that I think would give you pleasure."
"Oh! yes, Sir Henry," replied the peer, immediately. "His majesty's
government may certainly count on my support in all matters
consistent with the Protest—"
But before he could get out the whole word and commit himself to
any measure, Davenant interrupted him.
"Oh! my dear lord, of course, the cabinet will not attempt to carry
any measure out, which shall not have received, previously, your
distinguished approbation. But your lordship is too good a politician,
not to feel that no ministry would be justified in submitting a plan
of its campaign, and perhaps offering honors, to any gentleman or
nobleman, how sure soever they might feel of his support, without
something more definite, in the shape of a pledge—"
"Ah!" said the earl, affecting to ponder on what he had heard, but
in reality endeavoring to outwit the keen clear-sighted diplomatist,
who could read every thought in his bosom, almost before it was
formed. "Ah! that makes all the difference!—"
"That is to say," thought Davenant in his own heart, "the hope of
office, or additional rank, makes all the difference. Showing your
hand, rather too openly, my good lord!"
"That makes all the difference, Sir Henry," he resumed, "for as you
say, the fact of the ministry being desirous of consulting me on
their measures, or indeed of their asking for my support at all, is as
I think a sufficient guarantee of their intentions. For it is evident
that they could not imagine it possible that I should lend my
countenance to measures—"
"Of which your lordship's well known capacity and foresight should
not induce you cordially to approve. You take the same views of the
matter which I do myself, my lord. The noble lords, now at the head
of his majesty's government, doubtless would not expect any thing
incompatible with Lord Asterly's known character, for political
consistency and personal integrity. Nevertheless, it is their
resolution in the present unsettled state of parties—and I think
your lordship will admit it to be a necessary and a wise one—to
associate no person, however great his merits, with themselves,
unless it be upon an unconditional pledge."
"Well, sir, I cannot blame them, upon my word, Sir Henry, I cannot.
For there is now-a-days so much political tergiversation, even in the
highest quarters, that no one can be absolutely above suspicion!"—
and, at the very moment he said this, despite all his dullness, he
clearly understood what was expected of him; and, having fully made
up his mind to desert his party for a consideration, was only now
endeavoring to conceal his premeditated baseness from Sir Henry;
which he had about as much chance of doing, as the ostrich, when it
buries its head in the sand of the desert, has of keeping its body
hidden from the lynx-eyed Arabian hunter.
"Then I am to understand, my lord, that you do not object to give
such a pledge to the Secretary—a written pledge, my lord?"
"Why—no—no!" said lord Asterly, in a sort of half-doubtful
tone, "Not absolutely— no! I should not absolutely object—but I
should like to know something a little more definite about the nature
of the measures!"
"Well, then, my lord," returned Sir Henry Davenant," since your
lordship is so scrupulous, for which I confess I honor you so much
the more, I will venture to give you a few hints. In the first place,
the captured French colonies will not be given up under any
circumstances!" This piece of information, by the way, was the more
valuable, because it was the first any one had ever received
concerning the question of their cession; which had never once been
mooted. But notwithstanding this, the earl expressed his grave
satisfaction at the firmness of the noble lords.
"In the next place, his grace of B— will have the vice-royalty of
Ireland. The earl of F— goes as ambassador to France, and your
humble servant, I believe, to the Hague— but that is not quite
certain yet!"—the other two appointments having been known to all
the quid nuncs of the town for a week past, the earl learned
little by this last sentence, and that little, utterly of no account;
but he replied—
"Excellent—excellent—Sir Henry, no better men for the offices,
than they. I will say that it does honor to Mr. Secretary's
discernment. For I presume he had a word to say in the appointments."
"Surely, my lord—surely. His word, I may say, is almost
omnipotent with their lordships; and that, I fancy, is one reason why
he is so desirous of attaching you, my lord, with some others of his
friends, to the party; while he is himself in power."
The Earl of Asterly noted and treasured up the words, but
pretending not to have given them much attention, he added—
"But have you nothing more to tell me?"
"Faith! very little more, my lord—there will be several new
additions to the peerage— two or three ancient titles to be raised
to a higher grade; and then, there are, you know, the two vacant
garters— But upon my life!" he added, breaking off, suddenly, "this
is scarce fair of your lordship; here, you have pumped me of almost
all my secrets, and given me nothing satisfactory after all. But I
trust your lordship will deal kindly with me—this would go far to
ruin me with the great man, if it got wind."
"Why! ha! ha!" responded the earl, laughing very knowingly, "I
think I have been a little hard on you, Sir Henry, a little too
hard—I believe! But, ha! ha! ha! you young fellows ought not to
fancy that you can hood-wink us old boys!—well—well—
well!—but, as you say, I must make it up with you. See here, I will
write a word or two—pray you, excuse me."
Could the dull nobleman have marked the cold, calm, cutting smile,
ineffably contemptuous and full of loathing, with which the
politician surveyed him, while he penned his memorandum, well cased as
he was in complete panoply of self-conceit and gross, complacent
stolidity, he must have been cut to the quick; but he did not raise
his head till he had finished writing, and when he did so, Davenant's
eyes were fixed on the ground in quiet and apparently conscious
The earl pushed the sheet of paper, on which he had written a few
lines with his signature appended to them, across the table to Sir
"There, my good friend; see if that will meet Mr. Secretary's
It was a full and formal promise to support, with all his personal
and political influence, the present cabinet in all its measures,
"I presume," he added, "that of course it will not be shown."
"Of course not, my lord," Sir Henry answered, as he took it; and
then, after casting his eyes slightly over the document,
"Perfectly—perfectly satisfactory," he added,— "nothing can be
more honorable, open, or above board. And now, my lord, allow me to
me, Sir Henry! upon what?" said Lord
Asterly, with a pleasant and conscious smile, which he endeavored
vainly to dissemble.
"There is a dormant marquisate in your lordship's family, I
believe. Beverly, is it not? which your lordship claimed from the
"And was refused!" replied the earl, haughtily, "owing to the
opposition, I think, of my Lord Calverly, who lays claim to it
likewise, though he has no more plea of right, than he has to the
dukedom of Northumberland! I never cared much about it myself, Sir
Henry. But it was an old hobby of my father's; and in respect to his
memory, it was, that I revived the claim."
"And gross injustice was done to you in the refusal. Well, my lord,
in consideration of this, his majesty has been pleased of his own
accord, quite unsolicited, to create you Marquis of Beverly, and I am
happy to be the first person to salute you by the ancient title of
"Indeed! Sir Henry—indeed!" exclaimed the new marquis,
exceedingly gratified, "this is indeed very flattering. His majesty
is very gracious—the rather, as you say, that it is quite
unsolicited; and that no one can say that it is a reward of any party
Old hand as he was at intrigue, and an adept at concealing every
emotion, Davenant hardly could refrain from laughing aloud at the
impudent self-complacency of this speech, when he thought of the
precious document, which he had just pocketed; but he did
refrain—and answered, quietly, and as a matter of course—
"Yes! marquis, it must be very gratifying. But now let us speak of
business. The Irish Bill comes on, you know, next Tuesday se'nnight;
and by it the ministry have determined that they will stand, or fall."
"The Irish Bill! indeed! the Irish Bill!" said the marquis, as he
must now be called. "I did not look for that! you should have told me
of that, Sir Henry."
"Why, marquis," answered Davenant, as if surprised, "I took it for
granted that you must see that. It followed as a natural consequence,
from his Grace's nomination to the vice-royalty."
"And so it did— and so it did—upon my word!" replied the other,
quite as much relieved by the futile explanation, as if it were a
satisfactory excuse for his adopting the measures to-day, which
yesterday he had repudiated—"I never thought of that before."
"I felt quite certain that you would view it in that light, when
you came to reflect," answered Davenant.
"Certainly—certainly—I could not do otherwise," said the
marquis, "but what was it you said about the garter? who did you say
were to succeed to the two vacant stalls?"
not say, marquis; for I don't know; and I don't know,
simply because it has not yet been determined by their lordships."
"Not yet determined! Is not that very strange? a matter, too, of so
great and paramount importance."
"Doubtless there are strong reasons for delay, marquis. In the
first place, notwithstanding the accession of strength to the
government from the complete over-throw of the Duke of Monmouth's
people at Sedgemoor, and the final close of all that infamous affair,
you are aware that there is still a very strong opposition— and on
this Irish question—by the way, how many votes do you carry with
"Five in the lower House, and in the Peers my son-in-law
Helvelyn's, in addition to my own."
"Oh! in the Peers we are safe enough; but, to be frank with you,
marquis, there is a good deal to fear in the Commons—at the best,
we can only count a tie, reckoning all your votes—and, I fancy,
though I do not know it for certain, that any one who could bring
over one or two votes so as to make sure of a majority, might reckon
pretty certainly on the garter."
"Aye! aye!" responded the marquis, falling into a deep fit of
cogitation, from which he presently aroused himself to inquire who
were the members that remained at all doubtful.
"Why, by my honor!" answered Davenant, "there are but three whom we
dare even to count doubtful—and they are at the present dead
against us—the only reason why I call them doubtful is that they
are against us from whim only, or what they call principle; and not
from any pledge, or any great interest, that they have in the matter."
"And who are they?"
"First of all, Captain Trevor—"
"Why don't you give him a regiment?"
"It would not do—he is not at all that sort of man—besides, it
is hardly worth the while to try him; he has a grudge of some kind, I
believe, against Berkley; and we may set him down against us, without
more ado. The next is Frampton of Frampton, and as there is not a
newly imported Arab stallion, or an invincible gamecock of
extraordinary lineage, to be got for love or money in the kingdom, we
have no means of bribing him. As for offering him rank, that is
useless to a man who thinks that to be Frampton of Frampton is a far
finer thing than to be premier peer of England, if we could make him
that, which we can't. Money—worse yet, to a fellow who complains
that he cannot for his life get through a third of his rent roll;
though I believe he feeds half the East Riding with beef and beer,
the year round. Ashley did speak of sending to the Dey of Algiers for
a barb, but there is not time enough. So he is a lost vote, too! The
third and last is Lord Henry St. Maur."
"Ah! St. Maur—St. Maur! is he inclined against you?"
"Not inclined merely. He has declared himself opposed to all our
measures; and he is too young, too full of generous and high
fantasies, to be approachable."
"And yet I think I could approach him on the subject," said the
"You—my lord—you? impossible!" cried Davenant, the whole aim
and object of whose mission was simply to procure the influence of
his man on young St. Maur. "Impossible! we were not aware even that
you knew him."
"I do, but very slightly," answered Beverly; "and yet I think he
can be won. Nay! I almost think I can promise you his vote. Do you
know where he is, Sir Henry?"
"By accident, I do—for I called at his father's yesterday. He is
on a visit to some young country bumpkin of a baronet or other, at
Arrington, in Hampshire—the post town is Stow-cum-Barnsley."
"Indeed, at Sir Edward Hale's—is he?"
"Hale—Hale! By George! I believe Hale was the name. Upon my word,
marquis, you seem to know all the world."
"My place is near Oxford, you know, Sir Henry, and this young
fellow was at Christ Church, with my son, who brought him to Asterly
last year in the long vacation. But he is not at all a bumpkin."
"I dare say not, indeed—for I know nothing about it—only Fred
Jermyn, of the Life Guards, was laughing at him for a quiz the other
night, at the Nag's Head," replied Davenant, who never said a word
without its object, and who had now his own peculiar reason for doing
the young baronet an ill office with the marquis.
"I will write to St. Maur to-day," said the marquis, after a
moment's thought, "I am nearly sure that I can secure you his vote."
"I do not think it is possible," said Davenant, knowing all the
time that it was pretty certain, if the old peer only chose to exert
himself on the right track. "It would require immense
"I flatter myself I have a good deal of influence over him,"
answered the marquis, knowingly.
"I thought you said, but now, that you only knew him slightly?"
"I do only know him slightly."
"Then how, in the devil's name," Sir Henry began, with well feigned
astonishment, when the peer interrupted him—
"Ask me no questions—it is a secret— but I tell you, that Mr.
Secretary may make himself tolerably easy on the matter. I will write
to him this very day, and I shall have an answer by to-morrow night,
for I will send one of my fellows post."
"You are an extraordinary man, marquis; but, if you
accomplish this, I shall set you down as a second Mazarin. Well!
well! you are a fortunate man, too; for I see that you will be the
wearer of this garter, which his grace of Lauderdale, they say, is
"Fie! fie! Sir Henry—fie! Do you suppose that a thought of that
kind ever occurred to me? Oh no—fie! fie! but, on my word, I
believe I can do it."
"I trust that you may not be disappointed. But, in the mean time, I
will take my leave; for I can hear the marchioness', and pretty lady
Fanny's voices in the breakfast parlor. Besides which, I must make
haste with this good news to master Secretary."
Then, with the courtly ceremonial of the day, he took his leave;
but as he crossed the threshold, he muttered to himself—
"Cursed old hypocrite and knave! and idiot, worse than either, for
daring to imagine that he could hoodwink me. Well! never mind. St.
Maur will get Lady Fan's pretty hand, and we shall get his vote; and
Beverly his garter; and, what is worth all the rest, I shall go to the
Hague! the Hague—and then—and then!" and he walked rapidly away,
in the direction of Whitehall, with his whole brain boiling with
ambition, and his whole heart elated and self-confident.
As soon as he had left the room, the new-created marquis rang his
bell, and when his valet entered—
"Anderson," he said, "let Parkins take the green chariot, that has
the coronet only and the cipher on the panels, in embossed work, down
to the coachmaker's, and have them altered instantly for a marquis'
coronet and the letter B—the silver-mounted harness must be all
changed likewise, in the same manner. Do you understand?"
"Yes, my lord."
"And let him tell Mr. Ryckman that all must be ready by two hours
after noon— that it must be ready. I shall require it to go
to St. Stephens. My Lady's chairs must be remounted also, and the
coach newly painted—and do you see that the liveries are correct—"
"Correct, my lord?"
"Yes! correct, you blockhead—correct! The Marquis of
Beverly's—do you understand, you stupid fellow?"
"Yes, my lord marquis," replied the man, with an obeisance almost
oriental in its depth and duration—"your orders shall be performed
instantly, my lord marquis."
"Now, then, follow me to the dressing room, I want my coat, and
periwig, and sword. Has the marchioness come down stairs yet?"
"Yes, my lord marquis."
And strutting away like a peacock, with his head half a foot higher
than when he had come down stairs, as yet an honest man, he conceived
that he had made a capital bargain in swopping away his own
conscience,and the happiness of two or three human beings, one of
them his own daughter, for an empty title, and a yard of satin ribbon!
In the room adjoining the library where the Earl of Asterly—now
Earl, or Asterly, no longer—and his ministerial guest had been
carrying on their political machinations, two ladies were seated at a
breakfast table, which, for the benefit of the pleasant air of the
sweet May morning, had been drawn up to a large open window of the
French fashion, giving access to a balcony full of the rarest exotics
cultivated at that day.
The room was sumptuously furnished in the gorgeous style of the
period, with cabinets of buhl and marquetry, tables inlaid with the
most precious Indian woods, armed chairs and sofas cushioned with
Genoa velvet, curtains of flowered brocade, Persian or Turkey
carpets, several fine pictures by Sir Peter Lely and Vandyke, and two
or three well executed marble statues, copies from the antique, the
taste for which articles of virtu had just begun to be considered
fashionable in England, when it was checked for awhile by the rude
and ignorant barbarism of the Puritan iconoclasts, not to revive
again until the kingdom returned to the rule of its legitimate
The ladies were very different both in age and appearance—more
different, indeed, in appearance, than the difference in age would
seem to justify in relations so near as a mother and her daughter. The
elder lady was a small, slight, meagre person, considerably below the
middle size; and, though she had been praised and ad mired in the
zenith of her womanhood for the sylph-like and graceful symmetry of
her proportions, her figure was now angular and emaciated, and almost
disagreeable to look upon. Her face and features, too, had in her
younger days been called handsome, and to this hour her high and
intellectual forehead had preserved its fine contour, and its
expression of solidity and thoughtfulness. Little, however, else was
there left, that could be called pleasing in her aspect—large,
keen, black eyes, piereing and cold as ice, placed very near together,
gave an air of craft and shrewd half-malignant cunning to features
which would otherwise have been bold and commanding; her nose was
almost Roman, thin, high and nearly fleshless; her mouth compressed,
and characteristic of both energy and resolution. It was impossible
to look at her even for a moment without perceiving that she must be
a person of exceedingly superior mental faculties, of capabilities
more stern and sustained, and of an intellect more massive and
imposing than are natural to her sex; and at the same time it was
almost equally impossible not to believe that she must be as
deficiently endowed with the qualities of the heart, as she was
pre-eminently furnished with those of the head.
There was, indeed, something more than mere craft, and coldness,
and inflexibility of purpose written upon her keen polished
lineaments; for never stranger looked upon her without a vague
feeling of dislike and apprehension; a sort of intuitive sense, that
here was one of those few beings to whom the sufferings of their
fellows are not only wholly unimportant, when ministering to their
own advancement, but are actually subjects of curiosity and interest,
and of a kind of pleasurable excitement.
The other was an extremely beautiful girl of about eighteen or
nineteen years, in every respect the very opposite of the lady I have
described; for she was rather tall, and though her waist was
symmetrical and round, her figure and bust were unusually developed
and voluptuous. She was a blonde, too, as decidedly as her mother was
a brunette, with a profusion of luxuriant light brown hair, scarcely
restrained about her temples by a broad blue ribbon bandeau, and
falling down her neck and over her shoulders in heavy silken masses
of waved ringlets. Her eyes were of the very darkest blue, almost
violet colored, with eyebrows slightly curved, and long lashes, dark
as night, giving an air of character and decision to her face, which
is usually wanting in very fair beauties.
The expression, too, was very fine and prepossessing; there was
mind enough visible in every lineament to counteract every thing
voluptuous or sensual; while there was not too much to be perfectly
compatible with that softness, that predominance of the affectionate
and tender feelings, that superiority of the imaginative to the
reasoning faculties, which we desire to see in a woman. She looked,
in short, such as Wordsworth has so beautifully painted the ideal of
"On a nearer view, A spirit, yet a woman too, With thoughts sublime
and fancies free, And steps of virgin liberty; A creature not too
bright or good For human nature's daily food, For gentle censures,
pleasing wiles, Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears and smiles."
The breakfast table at which they were still seated, although they
had finished their slender meal, was very differently arranged from
the modest breakfasts of these degenerate days; for although there
were chocolate and coffee, and dry toast, and bread in many forms,
there were flasks of red and white wine also, and highly seasoned
ragouts, and roast wildfowl, and fruits, and pastry in abundance. And
not these only—for on a second table were displayed a huge sirloin
of beef, a boar's head from the black forest, and an enormous venison
pasty, flanked by their regular companion, a vast silver tankard
mantling with toast and ale. None of these, however, had they
partaken of, limiting themselves to the fresh fruit, and dry toast,
and frothing chocolate; and they were now loitering at the board,
waiting for the appearance of the master of the house, who had been
thus unwontedly detained.
At last the sound of the front door, clapping heavily after the
visiter, showed them that the detention was at an end, and at the
next moment Sir Henry Davenant walked past the window, and seeing the
ladies, raised his hat and bowed very low.
The blood rushed to the fair face of the younger lady, and she said
at once, with the ingenuous frankness which was one of her most
"Oh! I declare it is that odious man, Sir Henry Davenant. I am
sorry that he has been here, for he always leaves my father restless
and ill at ease. I suppose it is very wrong of me," she added,
laughing, "but I do really almost hate the man."
"Aye! indeed it is very wrong—and, what is worse, very
ridiculous, and even childish. He is the ablest and most rising young
man of his party, and exceedingly clever, well-read, and witty. There
is not a man more courted by society, or one more sure to achieve
greatness," replied her mother. "But I have long given up all hopes
of ever seeing you rational or like the rest of the world, with your
perpetual whims and prejudices."
"I know all that you say, madam," answered the girl; "and it is all
quite true, he is very clever, and witty, and wise too, I dare say,
and sometimes he entertains me in spite of myself, and I almost begin
to like him. And then most likely he commences some odious tirade
against the existence of honesty or honor among men, and of faith or
affection among women, and looks at me with that strange fascinating
eye as if he were reading every thought in my bosom, and that dark
sneering smile which makes every word he utters, how seriously and
solemnly soever, seem like a sarcasm or a mockery. It is as if he were
always ridiculing one!"
"Most likely he is," replied her mother; "most likely he is always
ridiculing you; for indeed, my dear Fanny, you are most thoroughly
ridiculous, with your romantic and Utopian fancies. I do wish I could
see you growing a little rational—a little practical— but I grow
sick of wishing."
"Well, mother mine," replied the girl laughing, "I am very sorry
for it; but I cannot help it, I do assure you. I cannot like the
society, or listen patiently to the conversation of men whose every
action, every word, proves so clearly that they are altogether
heartless and hollow."
"Heartless!"—cried the elder lady with a harsh and bitter
sneer—"heartless! what, prithee, dost thou know about hearts,
minion? But here comes my lord—take care that you anger him not
with your nonsense, Fanny."
But of this there was little danger, for to do him justice he was
at all times a good natured man, and especially a kind father; and
now he wore his face dressed in its brightest garb of smiles, and was
evidently in one of his most complacent moods.
"We waited breakfast for you awhile, my lord," said the unconscious
marchioness, "but your good friend Sir Henry detained you so long
that we were forced to begin for very hunger. But Fanny will ring for
hot chocolate in a moment."
"Sir Henry brought you good news, I am sure, dear father," cried
Lady Fanny, speaking in the same breath with her mother, and
springing forward to meet her favorite parent—for if he were pompous
and a dullard, he was affectionate nevertheless, and kind hearted,
and proud of his children. "What is it? what is it? dear father."
"Nothing that makes much difference to thee, Fan," he replied with
a tender smile, as the beautiful girl threw her arms about his
neck—"though it will to thy brother!"— and for a moment his heart
smote him for the thought he had begun to entertain against her
future peace of mind. Then turning toward his wife he added—
"Yes. Davenant did bring me pleasant tidings. His majesty has been
pleased in the most gracious manner, quite unsolicited moreover, to
revive in my person the dormant Marquisate of Beverly. There will be
a levee, and a drawing room on Wednesday of next week, at which you
will of course be present to kiss hands."
"A marquis—a marquis!—are you indeed, father? I am so glad—so
glad! because I know you wish it"—exclaimed the lively beauty,
clasping her hands together— "and then dear Arthur will be an earl;
will he not? and have a seat in the Peers, during your lifetime; and
he is sure to distinguish himself, he is so clever."
"I don't know about that, Fan," replied the marquis; "the title he
will have of course, by courtesy at least—but whether he will be
called to the Peerage is more doubtful."
And as he spoke, he sat down and helped himself largely to a
salmi of teal, which had been kept smoking hot over a silver
chafing dish, and to a large goblet of Bordeaux wine. But gratified,
although his wife was by the announcement, whose spirit was no less
ambitious and far-reaching than it was shrewd and piercing, she
looked at him steadily, as he applied himself to the good things
which he so sincerely loved, and became certain as she gazed, that
there was something yet behind. She turned toward her daughter then,
and said in the most natural and unconstrained voice in the world.
"Frances, my dear, I thought you had promised to visit your cousin,
Lady Serena Fortescue, this morning! You can have my chair if you
wish it, and Meredith can follow you with two of the running footmen;
I cannot endure, child, that you should suffer these unpunctual
habits to grow upon you."
"I will go, then, immediately," said the fair girl tripping lightly
across the room; but as she reached the door which opened on the
grand staircase, she nodded her head, and smiled, saying to
herself—"A gentle hint once again, that I am de trop! and
rather a transparent hint too, for my lady, who generally laps such
things up pretty thoroughly. Just as if she cared a rush whether I go
to Serena's at twelve of the clock, or earlier. But I will go to
her— I will go—for she is a good girl, and I love her dearly.
Heigho! I wonder why I feel so sad this lovely morning, A sudden
chill seemed to run through my very heart when I saw that
cold-blooded serpent Davenant sneer as he passed the window. I hope
it was not ominous—but no! no! I am not superstitious!"
The moment she left the breakfast room, the marchioness looked full
into her husband's face, and said, "Well! my lord— well! what
else—what more have you got to tell me? and what is the price of
"Why, is not this enough? is not this more, Adeliza, than we could
hope for, or expect, under a ministry who have not hitherto seemed
"That is not what I asked you," answered the lady very sharply, "I
asked you what more you expected, and what price you had paid for
"Price! price! my lady!" replied the new marquis, in his most
dignified and stately manner, "how can you think of any thing so
disgraceful, or speak of it in so coarse a manner, my dear lady?"
"Yes, price, my lord marquis, I said
price! Every thing has
its name; and the name of the pledge, or promise, or vote, or
concession, or whatever else you gave the ministry for this title, is
its price! Now, then, I saw just now in your eye that you
wished to consult me about something or other. I dare say it is not of
the slightest consequence! and if that is the case, or if you have
changed your mind, I will go my way, and get my tatting—but if you
mean to speak, speak plainly—for you are not exactly a sphinx, to
propound riddles; nor do I desire to be the Oedipus to unravel yours,
which I think would be rather unperspicuous than otherwise."
The cruel sarcasm of her tone and manner, even had her words been
less bitter, would have been enough to hinder any but the weakest of
men, and most domineered of husbands from replying; but it had no
such effect on the marquis, long used to hear and obey the imperious
mandates of his wife, whose superior intellect he could not but
acknowledge. He answered, therefore, and at last to the point.
"Of course I gave the ministers a written pledge of my adherence to
their party, and support of their measures; but no one can presume,
except you, my dear Adeliza, who may do any thing with impunity, to
speak of my title as the price of this, since it was granted before
you know that it was granted, Beverly?"
"Why, not exactly, not entirely—Davenant did not—that is to
say, my lady—"
"That is to say, my lord, `not one word about it!'—of course you
did not; for if you had, you would not have promised entire adherence
to a party, some of whose measures you almost stand pledged to oppose.
But now comes my second question— what more do you expect to gain
from them, as the price of your abandoning the Protestant interests?"
"The vacant stall—the garter! marchioness!" he answered, even
more pompously than his wont, though he had writhed visibly as she
gave his conduct its true appellation.
"The garter, indeed! the garter!" she said, a flush of exultation
beaming across her pallid and sallow face. "That is indeed worth
playing for—that is indeed worth an apostacy! But how is
this? I thought Lauderdale was to have had it?"
"He does aspire to it, my lady. But it will be mine
notwithstanding; or I am much mistaken."
"You generally are very much mistaken," said she quietly, and then
resumed. "But what is to be the price of this—what new iniquity?"
"Upon my soul, my lady!" answered the marquis, writhing under the
consciousness that all the harsh words she used were richly merited,
and at the same time losing temper at her taunts—"you are a most
extraordinary personage; one would think you were vexed or angry at
the very things which you constantly urge and encourage me to do. I
should like monstrously to know whose wish it was that I should sue
for the marquisate!—it is too provoking! quite too provoking!"
The lady arched up her eyebrows as he spoke, and smiled, as was her
wont, and then answered very meekly,
"Oh! never mind, my dear lord, what sort of a personage I am. I
should think you must know that, pretty well, by this time; and pray
do not fancy that I am vexed, for on the contrary I am prodigiously
delighted. Still I like calling every thing by its right name, and
you know quite as well as I do—for, though by no means clever, you
do not lack a certain sort of plodding common sense, which is capable
of discerning right from wrong! You know, I say, quite as well as I
do, that it is iniquitous for a politician to desert his party, and
vote against his conscience, which you are going to do, you know, on
the Irish Bill; that is to say, so far as you have got a conscience!
Oh yes! it is certainly very iniquitous! though, at the same time, it
may be, and is very expedient; and much more creditable to you
as a convenient husband, and provident father, than as a public man
or a patriot; which, after all, you never were, nor will be! But come,
you have not told me what you are to do for the garter."
"Well then, if you will have it in plain English—"
"To be sure—to be sure—that is the only way—"
"If you will have it, I am to bring Lord Henry St. Maur over to our
side; and persuade him to vote the Irish Bill, which will carry it
for the ministers by a majority of two. It is a tie now—St. Maur
voting in the opposition."
"Excellent! excellent!—" exclaimed the lady, clapping her hands
joyfully together, and now appearing to be really delighted— "which
you can do very easily, by breaking off Fan's match with Sir Edward
Hale, and promising her hand to the other—that will buy him!—of
course that will buy him!—and though Fanny can't endure him, and
loves Hale with all her heart, that can't be helped, you know! Girls
can't expect that their whims should be gratified, when the
advancement of their families stands directly in the way."
It is perfectly true that the Marquis of Beverly had resolved in
his own heart to do exactly as his wife stated—that he knew the
complete and unquestionable truth of every word she uttered, touching
his daughter's hatred to St. Maur, and love for Sir Edward Hale—in
both of which feelings he had hitherto given her his full sanction;
for, where his base and grovelling ambition stood not in the way of
his paternal feelings, he was a kind and indulgent father. It is
true, likewise, that he knew St. Maur to be worthy of the hatred, and
Hale to merit all the love—and, having well considered all these
things, he meant to sacrifice poor Fanny's happiness, without a
moment's hesitation. Still, as his wife suggested it in her barefaced
sarcastic manner, he positively shuddered—stung to the quick by the
malicious ingenuity with which she probed his very soul, and held up
his every vice and meanness clearly and visibly before his eyes. And
yet she was no paradox, that artful bitter woman. She had
deliberately, when a young, beautiful, clever and much admired girl,
married the gross and dullard earl, at the promptings of her
ambition. Almost hating herself, when she found that the world had
penetrated and branded her motives with their right name; and hating
him to a degree that can hardly be imagined—a degree increasing day
by day with the mortifications which his pompous stupidity day by day
heaped upon her, she avenged herself to the utmost of her
powers—perpetually driving him on to the commission of fresh
meannesses, so as to gratify that ambition, which she now only lived
for; and constantly tormenting him by exhibiting those meannesses to
himself in the most odious light. Having herself smothered down and
stifled in her bosom a sincere and honorable passion for a young man
who, though poor and of small pretension when she abandoned him for
his dull titled rival, had since risen, by dint of worth and talents
only, to high rank and power, she could not even think of prosperous
and happy love without disgust and fury. Disliking her own daughter,
because she felt her to be equal to herself in intellectual parts, and
superior in all other qualities—jealous of her, because she
perceived how popular she was in all society—fearful of her, because
she felt that her own baser essence must naturally be revealed by the
test of her purer spirit, as Satan's at the touch of Ithuriel's
lance—this bad and unnatural wife and mother almost rejoiced that,
while advancing her own narrow and morbid ambition, she was torturing
the guilty conscience of her lord, and breaking the heart of her too
virtuous and charming daughter.
The marquis, I say, positively shuddered, as she revealed to him
his own future intentions and their consequence; and he was silent a
minute or two, before he answered—
"Poor Fan! I am afraid it will grieve her a little while at first;
but young ladies' love-smarts are not generally very lasting. And St.
Maur is young and handsome, and has far greater wealth than Hale, and
title also—I daresay she will be very happy."
"I daresay," answered his wife, with another sneer. "Fanny's mind
is just of the sort most likely to be captivated by money, which she
calls dross—and title, which you have often heard her style tinsel!
Do not you think so? And then as St. Maur never keeps less than three
or four mistresses, and is the most confirmed gambler in London, and
drinks, they say, frightfully, and has a most infernal temper— he
shot his favorite horse in the park the other day, with his servant's
pistol, because it shied from a passing carriage! On all these
accounts, I say, he is very likely, I think, to make her very happy.
But as it must be done, there is no use in troubling ourselves about
it. How do you purpose to proceed?"
"I thought of writing to St. Maur to inform him that we have
thought better of the addresses he paid to Lady Frances Asterly, and
that were it not for his unfortunate opposition to my party,
especially on the Irish Bill, we should rejoice to receive him as our
"Upon my word, Marquis, you improve— you grow quite diplomatic.
Yes, that will do very well, for as Henry is not scrupulous, and is
very much in love with Fan's pretty figure, and has not an iota of
principle, he will doubtless chop about like a weathercock, in less
time than it takes us to talk about it. But how will you get on with
"I shall merely tell her that I have changed my mind, and that she
must marry St. Maur."
"Then she will merely tell you that she will do nothing of the
kind, and she will keep her word, too, as she always does. That will
never do, my lord—never— never!"
"How then? I do not see how else it can be managed."
"She must be made to think Edward Hale faithless to her—told of
some evil and dishonorable deeds of his, artfully simulated, and if
not true, at least truth-like. Hold—where is St. Maur now?"
"Staying with Hale at Arrington— Davenant told me so just now."
"Yes! yes! I recollect he told me himself he was going down thither
to celebrate a birth-day, or some such Tom-foolery; and Percy
Harbottle is to be there too, and that notorious pendable
Captain Spencer. Let me see—let me see—I will write myself to
St. Maur and to Spencer also to-day. They can surely either invent
something that will do the business with Fan; or, what would be much
better still, lead Edward in reality to commit some disgraceful
action—to cheat at cards—or rather, for he is incapable of that,
to get drunk and play, so that they could lay the imputation on
him—or to carry off some country wench or other. Lord! it will be
as easy, as they say, as lying, marquis! But I forgot—I beg your
pardon—I forgot that you do not like to hear the names of the things
you do every day. There, there—do not stay to answer me now; but go
away and write your letter to St. Maur; and write it as short as you
can, do you hear, and as much to the point—and none of your
honorable and virtuous rhodomontades, I beseech of you—which are
always ridiculous, and impose on nobody, you know; because nobody in
the world believes in such things as honor or virtue; and which would
be doubly out of place here, because St. Maur, I am sure, would not
know the meaning of the words. There, now; why don't you go away, and
"Because I want to know what I shall do with the letter, after I
have written it, my lady," answered her lord, quite crestfallen, and
stripped of all his peacock plumes of self-complacency and
"Bring it to me; that I may read it, first of all, and see how many
absurdities you can contrive to squeeze into six lines, and then
enclose it in a long letter of my own to this young hopeful. You must
send a man off with it post to-day; he can reach Arrington to-night,
and return to-morrow morning. Benedict, the newly hired man, will do,
and he must wear plain clothes, and take care that he drop no hint
whose man he is, or whence he comes; but I will tutor him."
"And then—" began the marquis, in an inquiring tone.
"And then," she answered, with a sneering accent, "you can go and
order the coronets on the carriages and harnesses to be altered, and
choose new buttons at the button-maker's, and new liveries at the
tailor's— business just suited to your calibre."
"I have sent Anderson to do all that two hours ago at least. Do you
suppose it possible—"
"I crave your pardon," replied the lady, with an air of affected
blandness, "I ought not to have supposed it possible, marquis—
possible, that business of real instancy or moment could banish from
your mind those nice frivolities and frivolous niceties which are so
thoroughly congenial to natures as comprehensive and politic as your
own. And then, since you have done all this, I would go, were I you,
to Master Child's, and order a new service of gilt plate, with the
proper supporters and coronets, marquis. That will be an amusement for
you; and the old plate is getting rather out of date. I believe it
was as old as the creation in your grandfather's time, who was, I
think, a Lincolnshire grazier! But go—do go, and write the letter!"
When Sir Edward Hale left the meadow of the May-pole in the manner
I have described, he galloped forward at three-quarter's speed of his
fine brown hunter, Eversly having some difficulty in keeping up with
him, until he reached the foot of the western slope of the valley,
where he slackened his pace, and rode on, for a while, in a deep
reverie. And was it indeed Rose, on whom, as Hunter insinuated, the
young baronet cast that quick glance, which had so nearly cost him a
heavy fall from his horse? Reader, it was—for like most youths of
hot impetuous dispositions, he was a passionate admirer of female
beauty; and Rose's loveliness was, in truth, of so high an order,
that it might well have attracted the eyes even of a colder and less
She was, indeed, in face and figure, a paragon, more fitted for the
sphere of courts, than for the simple and somewhat hard realities of
a plain country life. Her beauty was not the mere animal beauty,
consisting chiefly of fresh coloring and vigorous health, which marks
so frequently the country maiden—it was of a far higher and more
Had she been robed in unison, she might have moved, her birth and
rank unquestioned, among the most magnificent array of England's
aristocracy—for she was very tall, and though her swelling bust and
ample shoulders, and all her lower limbs were exquisitely modelled
and developed to the most voluptuous symmetry, her waist was small
and tapering, and the whole contour of her person slender and
graceful. Her arms were like rounded ivory—her hands, small,
delicate and fair, as if they had been little used to any hard or
menial labor— her ankles trim and shapely, and her feet singularly
little for so full and tall a figure.
Her face, however, was yet more striking than her person—it was
that of a clear brunette, with but the palest flush of the most
delicate rose tinging the lustrous darkness of her cheek—her
features approached nearly to the classic model, but there was a
trifling upward inclination in the outlines of the well shaped thin
nose, which added a charm of archness, that regularity too often will
be found to lack— her pouting lips were, if such a thing can be,
almost too deeply crimson; for to nothing that exists, of warm and
soft and sentient, could the hue of that balmy mouth be possibly
It was the eyes, however, the large, deep lustrous eyes, of the
darkest hazel, that caught most suddenly the observation of all who
looked upon her, if it were but for a passing moment—there was an
indescribable fascination in those eyes, an inexplicable mixture of
wild out-flashing light, and soft voluptuous languor, half amorous,
half melancholy, such as is rarely indeed seen at all, and never but
in orbs of that clear translucent brown, that is so far more beautiful
than the dull bead-like black, or the more shallow glitter of the
blue. Her hair, of a dark sunny brown, shining with many an auburn
gloss, where the light fell strong upon its heavy masses, was
luxuriantly abundant; falling off on each side of her high polished
forehead in a maze of thick clustering ringlets, and flowing down her
neck, and over her sloping shoulders, in large and natural curls.
The dress of this fair girl was simple as it could be; yet,
perhaps, no magnificence of garb would have so well displayed her
wondrous charms as that undecorated garment. A low-necked frock of
plain white muslin, sitting quite close to her bust and slender
waist, with tight sleeves reaching to the elbow, and terminating there
in ample plaited ruffles, and a long flowing skirt— a little
cottage bonnet of home-made straw, with a pink ribbon to match her
silken neckerchief and sash, a cluster of violets in the bosom of her
frock, and a nosegay in her hand, the gift—much prized that
morning—of the now half-rejected lover.
Such was the choicest finery of the village belle, and, as I have
already said, it would have been hard indeed to deck her comely
person in any thing that could have displayed her beauties with more
advantage. Those were the days, in courts, of whalebone stomachers
and hoops five fathoms in circumference; of stiff brocaded stuffs,
and powdered head-dresses; of art, and most ungraceful art, against
any touch of nature. Grace and simplicity were discarded, and every
native movement, so beautiful in its natural ease, was hampered and
confined by every species of ligature and bandage that the most
depraved and artificial taste could by any means imagine or suggest.
What wonder, then, that Edward Hale, a passionate admirer, as he
was, of female beauty, accustomed so much to the stiff airs and
affected minauderies of starched ladies, should have been momentarily
struck by the natural and simple loveliness of that fair villager,
whose every turn and motion was full of poetry, and instinct with easy
life. What wonder, then, that when he crossed the hill, and lost
sight of the gay concourse, he should have called the keeper up to his
side, and asked him quite abruptly—
"Tell me, Mark Eversly, tell me," he said, not without a slight
shade of embarrassment appearing in his manner, "who was that fine
old silver-headed farmer who stood close to me on the left-hand side,
when my horse reared so suddenly? There was a tall young fellow at
his elbow, with a quarter staff—Frank Hunter, I believe, if I have
not forgotten more than I think I have. I used to ferret rabbits with
him, if it be the same, many a year ago, in the Monk's coppice. But
who was the old farmer, Mark? I can't remember him."
"Oh, that was Master Castleton, I think, Sir Edward," answered the
fellow, with a cunning grin, clearly perceiving the drift of his
master's question, "there was a very pretty lass upon his arm, wasn't
The hot blood rushed to the brow—the ingenuous brow—of the
young gentleman; and, vexed at the bare idea that his thoughts should
be read, his secret penetrated by a menial, he answered hastily—
"Was there? I did not notice—I hardly think there was, though;
for I suppose I should have observed her, if there had been— seeing
that I am a great admirer of pretty faces."
"I'm sure, then, you'd admire Rose's," answered the wily keeper,
"for it's the prettiest eye, and the handsomest face, too, in all the
village; and then her shape is not behind her face, neither. But I'm
a-thinking it couldn't have been Master Castleton, else, as you say,
you must have noticed Rose. It might have been old Andrew Bell, or
Simon Carter, or John Hall, they were all gathered thereabout, and
they are all grey-headed men, too."
"No, no!" replied the landlord, "it was not any one of these; I
recollect them all right well. It must have been old Castleton; what
did you call him—Harry?"
"No. James, so please your honor; but I don't think it could have
been he, anyhow, Sir Edward; least ways I don't see how you could
have missed observing Rose. Why, bless you! she's the beauty of the
village; there's not a girl like her for twenty miles around. I don't
believe, Sir Edward, you ever saw a handsomer in London."
"Well, now I think on it, I believe there was a girl—a very tall
girl—on his arm; dressed all in white, was she? but Oliver reared
up, just then, and that prevented me from taking notice, I suppose.
What is she? daughter to old Castleton?"
"Yes, sir; and troth-plighted, they say, to that Frank Hunter,
d—n him? but I don't reckon much of that, for she's an arrant
jilt—is pretty Rose. Why she kept company with me, Sir Edward, six
months and better, and then flew off as if she was meat for a king,
when I asked her to be my wife. I warrant me she'd fly from Frank,
there, just as sudden, so be she could 'light on a higher or a richer
"Well, well!" said Hale, half angrily, perhaps, at feeling that his
servant was tampering with thoughts that were even then, though
faintly and uncertainly, at work in his own bosom, and not being yet
prepared to be hurried on his way—"well, all that's nothing to me,
Mark. But why did you damn the young fellow, Eversley? He used to be
as fine a lad as any in the country; and, if he did win your
sweetheart, I dare say that he won her fairly. You should not bear a
grudge, man; all goes by luck in love and liking."
"Oh! it's not that, Sir Edward, it is not that at all! I would not
now have the girl if I could; I'm very glad he took her off my hands,
and very grateful to him for it. I would not have her now, I'm sure,
unless it was for a mistress—and that she is not like to be for a
poor fellow, whatever she might for a born gentleman. It is not that,
at all, that made me damn him; but, bless you! he's the biggest
poacher in the country!"
"Ha! is he—is he? that's bad; we must see to that. Have you got
any proof against him?"
"Not clear—not clear, Sir Edward; but I keep a tight watch on him
always, and I'll be nabbing him, I warrant me, one of these times."
"Do so—do so!" returned the other, forming, almost unconsciously,
a secret feeling of dislike to the young man, who was known as the
accepted suitor of Rose Castleton. "Do so; and if we catch him
tripping badly, we can send him out of the county, or, perhaps, get
him pressed on board the fleet; and then you can get the pretty Rose,
"Oh! I don't want, her, sir—not I," returned the keeper, "I would
not marry her at all, unless I was to be well paid for it, and then
I'd marry the foul fiend, if need were."
"Fie! fie! Mark!" answered Hale— "don't talk in that profligate
manner, I beg of you. But, tell me, where does old Castleton live
now? Your father was saying something to me about his lease, I think,
this morning. It has run out, I fancy, and he wants it renewed."
"Yes, yes, Sir Edward," the other interrupted, eagerly, "it
run out; and he does want it renewed; but then, Sir Edward, it's the
home-farm, like; between Monks' coppice and Raywood; and the
springbrook trout pond lies in the very middle of it—all the best
ground for game in the whole manor—and the best water, too, for
fishing! Now I've been thinking that it will make bad work, if Hunter
marries Rose, and Castleton gets a new lease. Why, bless you, sir!
Frank would not leave a feather in the woods, or a fin in the waters,
after he'd lived in the home-farm a fortnight; besides, the kennel
lies so handy; it always seemed to me the keeper should live there. I
was going to speak to you about that myself. I should like well to
rent it; and my two brothers could look after it, so that I would not
be kept from my duties, neither."
"I'm afraid, Mark, that can't well be; for, you see, I promised not
to remove any tenant; and, besides, old Castleton lived there, under
my grandfather, if I remember rightly; and has been a good tenant,
too. But I won't forget you, Mark, never fear; for I won't forget
you. But now we must make haste, or we shall be late at Barnsley;"
and, with the words, he again put spurs to his horse, and rode on as
fast as he could gallop, until he reached the little post-town; where
he drew bridle at the door of the next country inn, and called aloud
to the hostler—who came running across the court-yard toward
him—asking whether "Lord Henry St. Maur and Captain Spencer had
arrived from London?"
But, before the man had time to answer, a loud burst of laughter
from within replied; and then a gay voice cried—
"Here we are, Ned; here we are; and here have we been these two
hours. Come in—come in hither; quick man, or that rogue Percy
Harbottle will finish the cool tankard before you get a taste of it.
Our horses will be ready in a minute; come, make haste, you must be
athirst this hot day!"
Edward Hale leaped down at the jovial summons, and flinging his
rein to the keeper, ran up the steps, and entered the small clean
parlor, to the left of the passage, where he found his three friends
merrily employed in circulating a mighty silver flagon, filled with
the generous compound of ale and sherry, sugar and toast and spices.
Three very comely personages were they, who occupied the solitary
parlor of the country inn; three such, indeed, as it had probably
never contained at one time before, such that not the landlord and
land-lady only, but Doll the chambermaid, and Dick the tapster, and
even fat old drunken Deborah, the cook, had contrived to find
something or other to do in that parlor, in order to get a glimpse of
the handsome gentlemen from London.
They were three in number, all of distinguished family, and of
appearance and manners suitable to their rank, and none of them above
the middle age, though two were scarcely beyond their boyhood.
The eldest of the three was the notorious Captain Spencer, a peer's
second son, the commander of a gallant frigate now in commission, and
as Lady Beverly had truly designated him, within an hour of the time
when he was sitting there so calm and unruffled, although he knew it
not, the most celebrated pendable of the metropolis. Of tried
and distinguished courage, a good seaman for those days, a gentleman
of the most courtly and finished manners, the Honorable Edmund Spencer
was perhaps as thorough a debauchee and reprobate as existed at that
day in all England. An admirable player at all games, a perfect
musician, a very graceful dancer, his success among women had been
almost unparallelled; and, although several of his adventures had
been marked by very thorough depravity, and had terminated miserably
for his fair victims, still fair and virtuous and innocent and noble
women were found to smile upon the cold-hearted seducer, while they
had not one tear to shed for the hapless beings he had brought down
to shame and misery and untimely death.
With men, his ready wit, his liberality, his frankness and his
courage made him even more generally a favorite than he was with the
softer sex. The very boldness of his vice was to him a protection;
and, as it seemed, a fresh claim on the world's admiration. No
subterfuge had ever sullied his character for truth—whatever wrong
he did to any one, he avowed it openly, and gave honorable
satisfaction. He had shot one husband dead, and desperately wounded
two brothers, fighting to avenge wife's and sister's reputation. An
honorable man par excellence was the Honorable Edmund Spencer.
Yet many a better man had expiated his crimes on the gallows.
Spencer was at this time about forty-three years old, although no
person would have suspected him of being nearly that age; he was
extremely handsome, though of a dark and somewhat saturnine
complexion, with a full bright black eye, an aquiline nose, and one
of the most fascinating smiles that ever wreathed a lip in
blandishment. His hair black as the raven's wing, and without one
speck or line of gray, was exquisitely soft and glossy, and almost as
redundant in its fall of natural tresses as the huge wigs of the day.
His voice was silvery music, and by long habit he had learned to
modulate his accents like the tones of a delicate instrument.
For the young of both sexes never was created an enemy more
dangerous than Edmund Spencer. In the slightest glance of his eye
there lurked wily fascination— in the most trivial word he uttered
there was a covert meaning—a concealed power! But his smile, his
caress, his friendship, or his love, were ruin—utter, inevitable
His dress, although in some degree professional, was rich and
magnificent; for at that period a gentleman could be recognized, by
his distinctive garb alone, from his valet. He wore a coat, cut in the
naval form, with the open sleeves of the period, showing from the
elbow to the wrist the shirt sleeves of plaited lawn fringed with
ruffles of superb Valenciennes lace. It was of dark blue cloth, long
waisted and broad skirted, lined throughout with white sarcenet. His
breeches were of blue velvet, and his vest of the same color, both
slashed with white silk, and adorned with many buttons of solid gold,
embossed with the crown and anchor. He wore high boots and spurs,
having travelled thither on horseback, being rather an uncommon thing
for a sailor, a perfect and graceful cavalier—his hat, with a band
of feathers, and a short crooked hanger lay on the table near him.
Lord Henry St. Maur, who was standing up with his back to the
fire-place, now filled with greens and May-flowers, instead of its
winter decoration of sea coal, was a tall, slight, fair young man,
with nothing particular in his appearance, unless it were a mixed
expression of licentiousness and audacity, which ill became his
beardless lip, and smooth, effeminate features. He was dressed far
more splendidly than the sea captain, in a full suit of maroon
colored velvet, lined and slashed with philomot satin, and decorated
with large ribbon shoulder knots of the same color. He had much
costly lace at his bosom and wrists; the buttons of his coat and his
knee buckles and sword hilt glittered with brilliantly cut steel; and
to complete the picture, a huge fleece of curls, the natural hue of
which was disguised by a profusion of reddish marechal powder, fell
down over his shoulders, and impregnated the whole atmosphere of the
inn-parlor with musk and ambergris, and Heaven knows what beside.
Percy Harbottle, the third of the company, was the youngest
likewise, and the least worthy of notice, though perhaps the most
worthy to be esteemed a gentleman. He was good looking, and good
humored; and, though by no means a fool, certainly neither a genius
nor a wit—in a word, he was a frank, lively, generous-hearted, rash,
impetuous young man, likely enough to be hurried by evil association
into the contracting of bad habits, and of committing follies, or
becoming subject to the more venial vices—but kindly at the same
time, and honorable if unthinking.
In fact, he was a type of that large class of youths at all times
floating like the froth on the top of that great syllabub—the social
world!—whom every one pronounces an "excellent good fellow,"
without being able in the least degree to specify wherein their
excellence consists—whose greatest merits are good looks and animal
good-humor, and whose greatest demerit is a want of ballast, of
stability of character, and singleness of purpose, without which a man
may be agreeable, but cannot possibly be great.
Such was Percy Harbottle—and there be many Percy Harbottles
around us every where—who, exquisitely, and rather coxcombically
attired in light blue silk, laced with gold, and bewigged and
bepowdered to the very acme of the mode, was, at the moment of Sir
Edward's entrance, apparently justifying the apprehensions of the
others concerning the contents of the tankard, by the prodigious
draught which he was making on its racy mixture. He set it down,
however, and drawing a long breath, as Hale came in, jumped up with a
good deal of eagerness, and with his hand extended, to meet him.
Spencer arose also, and put out his hand; but though there was much
elegance and grace in every motion, though his tones were perfect
harmony, and his words not well chosen only, but courteous and even
friend ly, there was something that gave the young baronet a strong
impression of the sea-captain's heartlessness; for he had known him
before but slightly, and was now receiving him rather as a friend of
his school-fellow St. Maur, than as an intimate of his own choosing.
The truth was, that although the captain's manner was exquisite, it
was too evident that it was manner only—there was a total want of
cordiality, or warmth, or in fact of any feeling. And, sooth to say,
it would have been very strange had there not been that want—for it
was on his total freedom from all touch of genuine nature, his
complete mastery over his strongest feelings, his absolute
impossibility of temper, and immobility of feature, on which Edward
Spencer prided himself the most. He had been all his life acquiring
it—and though he had given much pains to many fine accomplishments,
to none had he devoted half the study this had cost him. No wonder he
was perfect in it!
St. Maur nodded, and smiled, and thrust out a single finger, with a
delicious attempt at nonchalance. He was really glad to see Edward
Hale, whom he liked, as well as he liked anything, except himself;
that is to say, so far as he amused him, and gave him no
trouble—and he said he was glad—but he said it as if he was
rather sorry than otherwise. He wanted to be easy and careless; he
had heard Spencer ridicule enthusiasm as boyish and ladylike—and he
had the greatest horror in the world of being thought a boy; and in
endeavoring to be un-enthusiastic, one of the nil admirari
school, he became as stiff as the poker, and as unnatural and unlike
his model, whom he flattered himself he was very closely imitating,
as it is possible to conceive.
In a few minutes, however—for St. Maur's character was far too
impulsive and ill-regulated to be true to any thing— even to
itself, for above half an hour—he became boisterous and noisy, and
displayed spirits so exuberant as to justify in some measure Percy
Harbottle's assertion, that he had only drained the tankard, which it
appeared on inspection he had done to the very dregs, for the purpose
of preserving him from the commission of such a solecism as to be
drunk before dinner.
"Upon my life!" said Spencer, "I do not feel so perfectly assured
that you were in time enough to save him, Percy! Who will bet odds
that he does not tumble off his horse before we reach Arrington?"
"I will, by heaven!" cried St. Maur himself; "I will, in rouleaux!
Is it done!"
"No, not exactly," aswered Spencer, laughing, "not with you, my
dear fellow; for if I did, you would not drink any more in the first
place; and in the second you would keep yourself quiet; and, in short,
I should not be sure of winning."
"And do you never bet, Captain Spencer," asked Hale, half jesting
and half serious, "but when you are sure to win?"
"Never, my dear sir, never," replied Spencer, in his blandest
tones, "do you?"
"Generally, I am afraid," said Sir Edward, laughing merrily.
"Ah! so does Harbottle; except that for `generally' you may read
`always.' Harbottle always bets when he is not sure to
win; or, in other words, when he is sure to lose. He pays too,
which is something in these days. Harbottle is an undeniable man to
bet with. I bet with him myself, a good deal."
Nothing could, indeed, be more strictly true than this last
assertion of the gallant captain, to whose gentlemanlike necessities
Percy Harbottle's betting-book annually ministered, to the tune of a
cool thousand, at the least reckoning. A more cunning and less artful
man than he would have shunned the topic and been detected by his
silence. Spencer knew better, and talking of it openly, those who knew
it to be true scarcely believed it, and those who were not certain
utterly scouted the idea.
For a few minutes after this, the young men conversed merrily and
gaily of fifty trivial incidents which had occurred since their last
meeting; and light jokes called forth lighter laughter; as for the
most part is the case when the gay-hearted and the cheerful, over
whose head time has not shed a single sorrow, meet after passing
absence. But by-and-by the replenished tankard was once again
exhausted, and the young comrades soon began to lack some newer and
more keen excitement.
"Come, come," cried Edward Hale, "let us get, all of us, to horse,
and ride, as quickly as we may, back to the manor. There is a kind of
merry-making of the villagers— a May-day frolic on the green; and,
as it is my birth-day, too, I was obliged to promise the good people
there that I would join their sports; and, what is more, to ask them
all to dine with me at noon, under a tent. I am afraid it will be but
a tedious sort of merriment to you, my boys, after the gaieties of
London; but we must make the best of it; and, to compensate for it,
we'll sup at eight, when all is over, and try my father's choice old
"Ods-life!" cried St. Maur, "there will be nothing tedious in it,
so far as I'm concerned; for, I doubt not, you have store of pretty
lasses here among your tenantry; and if we are to pass the summer here
with you, you know, we must look out for something in the shape of bona robas to while away the time before the shooting season."
"Well, well, Lord harry, you shall see all of them, I promise,"
answered the baronet, with a quick meaning smile; "but then it must
be honor bright. You shall have every help from me in your
amours, but then you must not interfere with mine — hey,
"Hark to him—hark to him, Spencer; hark to him, Harbottle!" cried
the young lord, laughing; "did you, in all your lives, did you ever
hear such a Turk? Why, he only came down hither last night, for the
first time these sixteen years, and the dog has cut out an intrigue
"Oh, I don't wonder at it, not I, in the least," Harbottle
answered; "the fellow always had the eye of a hawk for a pretty
wench, and the devil's own luck in winning them, too. Don't you
remember, St. Maur, how he tricked Neville, at Christ Church, out of
his black-browed Julia, after two days' acquaintance, when Neville had
been better than six months in bringing her to reason?"
"And Neville such a lady-killer, too!" lisped St. Maur; "but I
suppose we had better promise him."
"To be sure, to be sure we had!" answered the other in a breath,
"for if he has got the least start in the world with the girl, we
have no more chance of her than the merest bumpkin in the country."
"So it's a bargain, Hale," continued St. Maur; "you will give each
of us the best of your countenance and assistance, provided we keep
all due distance from your own dulcinea."
"A bargain!" answered the young baronet; and "a bargain! a
bargain!" chimed in his gay, licentious comrades.
"And now, Sir Edward," inquired Spencer, gravely, after they had
mounted, and galloped a few hundred yards from the inn door, "what is
your wench's name? that we may have no mistake here; and what does
she look like?"
"Her name is Rose Castleton," answered Sir Edward Hale, the hot
blood rushing hurriedly to his brow and cheek, as he named her,
against whose peace and honor the wild words of his reckless and
unprincipled companions had almost instantaneously matured his vague
thoughts into violent designs.
"Her name is Rose Castleton; and she is like—simply the most
beautiful woman it ever was my luck to gaze upon. The finest and most
voluptuous figure—the brightest and most sparkling face—the most
luxuriant hair—the softest and most passionate eye! By heavon! the
loveliest girl I ever yet have looked upon were but a foil to her
transcendant beauties!—but let us hurry on our way, or we shall be
And, at the word, they gave the rein to their good steeds, and
touched their sleek sides with the spur, and no one could have found
fault with the pace thereafter, till they came to the hill which
overlooked the vale of Arrington.
No fatrher words were spoken by the gay companions; for, indeed,
the fiery rate at which the cavaliers spurred on toward the manor,
precluded the possibility of conversation— the thick beating clang
of their horses' hoofs on the country road drowning all words pitched
in tones lower than a shout.
It was, indeed, a charming—a delicious morning; the soft south
wind which fanned their brows and fluttered their hair, as they cut
through it rapidly, came laden with the fresh odor of the new mown
hay, and the mingled perfumes of a thousand wild flowers; for all the
hedge-row banks were studded, as thickly as the parterres of a well
kept garden, with primroses and cowslips, and dark clustering
violets,—the scent of which pervaded the whole atmosphere. The tall
hedges, bordering the road on either hand, with their green buds just
bursting into leaf, were actually sheeted with white bloom; while
many a briar rose flaunted with its red blossoms, and many a
honey-suckle hung its rich clusters over brake and thicket.
Myriads of larks were pouring their clear merry notes into the cool
air, as they floated far beyond the reach of human vision, at the
very gates of Heaven; one soaring upward as another dropped, faint and
exhausted with the sweetness of his own melody, to repose himself on
the fresh greensward, and meditate another hymn.
Every thing in the sounds and sights of nature, that spoke to the
senses of the young men, was pleasant and exhilarating; and from a
distance, as if to swell the chorus of general rejoicing, the chime of
a village church came pealing down the wind with notes, as it were,
of mirthful invitation.— Their hearts, too, were glad and jocund;
no selfish thoughts, or interested motives, were at that time alive
within bosoms too generally the slaves to such evil feelings. They
had come down into the free, blithe country to divest their spirits
of the cares and half toilsome pleasures, the din and rivalry, the
jealousy and turmoil of the great city; and having come, they were
prepared and willing to be pleased with almost every thing.
After they had galloped a few miles on their road, the lane which
they had followed hitherto, turned off almost at right angles to the
left hand, another pathway coming in from the opposite direction.
Here the young baronet pulled up his horse, and pointing straight
forward, over a high wattled fence, dividing a large pasture field
from the highway, he called out—
"That is our nearest way, gentlemen, by three miles; and over as
pretty a line of country as you ever rode across. There is not one
ploughed field or meadow in the range; all good firm pasture land,
with fair stand-up fences, and one ten foot brook— nothing more;
what do you say to a lark?"
"By all means! by all means!" cried St. Maur, giving his horse the
spur, and sweeping over the fence cleverly; "which is the way?"
"Straight for the tall oak tree on the hill, in the third
hedge-row; thence you will see the top of the old castle on my
grounds; steer straight for that, boys!"
And away they went, with whoop and halloa, skimming the bright
green fields, and swinging over the easy fences with scarce an effort
of their mettlesome and high-bred horses. It was not long, however,
before the headlong pace at which they rode brought them to the
summit of the hills commanding the scene which has been heretofore
described; and so extraordinary was the beauty of that scene, with
its tranquil landscape, and gay grouping, that the three guests of
the young lord of the manor pulled up, as it were by a common
impulse, their hot horses, and uttered a simultaneous expression of
surprise and admiration.
"Is that your place? By Heaven! you are a luckier fellow than I
fancied, Ned," cried St. Maur.
"Give us your hand, old boy; long may you live to enjoy this fair
manor!" said Harbottle, yet more cordially.
"By the Lord! what a lovely picture. A Poussin in the distance, and
a Tenier merry-making in the foreground," added Spencer, looking at
the view with a paint er's eye, for he was indeed no mean connois
seur in that delightful art.
"It is a fine old place," Hale answered gratified much by the
pleasure of his friend and college comrades; "but come along and you
shall see the place and its inhabitants more nearly."
And, with the words, he again touched his horse with the spur, and
gallopped lightly down the slope, and across the greensward of the
common, toward a large and gaily decorated tent, with several flags
and streamers fluttering in the summer air above it, which had been
erected during his temporary absence, at a short distance from the
May-pole. About the entrance of this grand marquee, a dozen or more of
Sir Edward's servitors were clustered, and flinging his rein to the
foremost of these as he alighted, he bade the others look to the
horses of his friends, and lead them to the stables of the manor.
Loud rang the plaudits of the tenantry as the young master of their
destinies, accompanied by his distinguished looking friends—for
they were all finely made and handsome men, and all, as I have said,
superbly dressed in the rich mode of the day, with gold embroideries,
and rich lace, and fluttering shoulder-knots, and waving
feathers—walked through the merry throng, now pausing for a moment
to shake hands with some sturdy yeoman, whom he remembered as his
play-fellow of yore; now listening to the tedious, but not, for that,
insincere or unwelcome gratulations of some hoary-headed farmer; now
giving brief directions to his steward or serving men concerning the
ale butts to be broached, and the ox to be roasted whole by noon; now
chucking some bright-cheeked demure looking damsel under the chin,
with a light laugh; till all pronounced him the most affable and
kindest-hearted landlord in the county, and augured years of peace
and comfort under his patriarchal sway.
But it was acting all—sheer acting!— natural acting indeed, and
such as might have imposed on the shrewdest judge of human nature;
and for this reason—that Edward Hale but enacted, at that time,
what would have been his own instinctive, natural conduct at another,
had his mind been at ease, and his thoughts disengaged; and even
while he was thus acting, he was almost if not entirely unconscious of
the fact; for he was not a hypocrite—not even a dissembler—and,
though full many a gay licentious vice might have been laid with
justice to his charge, he never had committed any very serious, or at
least any premeditated wrong—and was not, in the least degree, a
hardened or habitual sinner. But now all the worse portions of his
nature were aroused within him.
Voluptuous by nature, and not, perhaps, disinclined to sensuality,
his attention had been struck at first sight by the singular beauty
of Rose Castleton; and a keen, although vague desire of possessing her
had occupied his mind for a moment. A little thought, however, had
quickly brought him back to his better senses; and while he was thus
fluctuating, between the influences of his good and evil genii, a
single admonition from a wise and sincere friend would have drawn the
black drop from his heart. But in the place of the sage adviser,
Edward had met the tempter. The question which he asked of his
ill-disposed game-keeper, in curiosity, and from the want of any
other interesting topic, had been so answered by that artful man as to
inflame the nascent passions of his master; and, by creating a doubt
of Rose's mental purity, to palliate to his mind the offence which he
soon began to meditate against her.
Twofold was the design of Eversly—first, and most prominently he
desired, by basely pandering to the evil qualities of the young
baronet, to gain such an ascendancy over his mind as might contribute
to his own advancement— second, to wreak his vengeance on a girl
who had rejected his addresses, and on the man who had won the love
of her whom he once courted. With his heart burning yet at the hints
and instigations of that bad servant, he had been thrown into the
whirl and vortex of licentious merriment which characterized the
conversation of his companions; and thus his passions were excited,
and his dormant vanity aroused, until by degrees he worked himself
into a resolute determination to make Rose Castleton his victim and
It was on this account that he walked with an absent mind among his
shouting peasantry; uneasy that he could not discover the object of
his burning passion, and unwilling to inquire her whereabouts, lest
he should prematurely wake suspicion.
Suddenly, as he passed the May-pole, and neared the hawthorn bush
and pastoral throne beneath it, his glad eye fell upon the rustic
beauty. She had been chosen Queen of the May, and sat on high,
surrounded by the prettiest of the village maidens, upon the grassy
seat—her bright eye sparkling even more brightly than its wont,
with gratified ambition—her dark cheek flushed with the quick lustre
of successful vanity.
A crown of gorgeous flowers had now supplanted the humble cottage
bonnet, and many a dewy bud was mingled with her long curled tresses;
the modest kerchief that had veiled her sloping shoulders and fair
neck was gone, and was but insufficiently replaced by a gay wreath
which crossed her bosom like a baldric and twined around her waist. A
tall white lily, meet sceptre for so beautiful a queen, graced her
right hand, as with young artless mirth she issued her commands to
the blithe crowd around her.
Why does her cheek so suddenly turn pale—why flush to so hot a
crimson? Alas! poor maid! her eye met Edward Hale's as he drew nigh,
and again noted the strong and passionate expression of delighted
admiration, which it had noted once before. And yet she loved Frank
Hunter—ardently, truly loved him! And yet—and yet— oh woman!
woman! well said the great Magician of the North, noting thy changeful
mood, well did he paint thee—
"In hours of ease Fantastic, wayward, hard to please"—
for thou, Rose Castleton, loving—most truly and most singly
loving—Frank Hunter, and caring nothing for Sir Edward, all for a
poor brief triumph of thy sex's passion, and therewithal to punish
Frank, for his short jealous fit that morning, didst meet the eye of
the young baronet, with that half bold, half bashful glance of
thine— half innocent, half conscious—that made him fancy thee
half won already—made him strain every nerve to win thee.
Fair face and graceful form, and eloquence so warm and wily, as
never peasant maiden listened to without dread peril, and rare skill
in the mazes of the dance, and sumptuous garb, and dignity and rank!
Beware! beware! Rose Castleton.
All day he danced with her upon the green; his gay companions
selecting for their partners the prettiest three of her attendant
nymphs, and, like Sir Edward, monopolizing them the live-long
day—and at the noonday feast she sat beside him, her little heart
high fluttering with vanity and pleasure, and ambition.
She had listened to his vows of love, how delicately syllabled to
her fond foolish ear— his arms had been about her waist—his lips
had snatched a kiss before they parted— and she had promised
too—promised to meet him in the Monk's coppice, ere the moon set
the following night—and yet, weak fool! she dreamed not that she did
any real wrong—and laid the flattering unction to her soul, that
she would forgive Frank soon—when she had made him soundly jealous.
Beware! Rose Castleton, beware! Heaven succor thee! or thou art but a
The moon rose bright and broad behind the castle hill, and poured
its full flood of lustre over the tented meadow, whereon the revels
and the dances of the yeomanry were still kept up with unabated
spirit, long after the young lord of the manor and his guests had
retired from the scene of sylvan merriment.
Meanwhile, a ruddy light began to shine out of the oriel windows of
the old hall, showing that mirth and gaiety maintained their empire
within, as steadily as without the hospitable walls of the proprietor.
The supper room was a fine old fashioned chamber, wainscoated and
ceiled with dark English oak, polished so brightly that the walls
reflected every object almost as distinctly as a crystal mirror. The
monotony of the black woodwork was relieved by a rich cornice, round
the summit of the walls, of flowers and fruits and arabesques, highly
gilt and burnished; the surbase and the panels were surrounded with
workmanship of the same kind, as were the posts and lintels of the
doors, the chimney piece, and the frames of several large Venetian
looking-glasses that hung, one in each angle of the room, which was
an oblong octagon, reaching from the floor to the roof. The floor,
where it was not covered by a fine Turkey carpet, was polished till it
was as bright and almost as slippery as ice; the curtains and the
furniture were of ruby colored velvet, laid down with broad gold
lace; and, when it is taken into consideration that there were above
fifty large wax lights in lamps and chandeliers of cut glass with
many pendants, so disposed in every part of the hall that it was
nearly as light as day, nothing could easily be imagined more grand
and striking in the shape of decoration.
The table was spread with its snow-white drapery, and a profusion
of cut glass and silver glittered upon the board, while the long
necks of several flasks of champagne and Bordeaux, protruding from the
massive coolers, showed that due preparation had been made to gratify
the palate, at well as to delight the eye.
Supper was served, and so well was the household of the young
baronet organized, that all the guests were loud and sincere in their
commendation of his wines, his cookery, his whole menage; and Spencer,
the fastidious spoiled child of the world, privileged to find fault
with any thing at will, whispered aside to St. Maur that his country
friend was by no means to be despised as an Amphitryon, and
immediately challenging Sir Edward to drink champagne with him, told
him aloud, in his significant, blunt-seeming manner, "that it would
not be his fault if he did not become an habituè at his
house—for that his bill of fare was as undeniable as Harbottle's
It must not be supposed, however, that on this, the first evening
of the young heir's majority, he sat down with his three guests alone
to supper. Far from it—the board was laid with more than twenty
covers, and all the landed aristocracy of the county were assembled
to celebrate the birth-day, and welcome the arrival of their young
Some few of these were men of the world and gentlemen in the
highest sense of the word, the venerable Earl of Rochefort and his
three noble sons being among the number.
The greater part of the company, however, with the exception of one
or two clergymen, consisted of country gentlemen, as country
gentlemen of that day—for it is of the time of the last of the
unhappy Stuarts that I am writing—were, almost to a man—that is
to say, mere boorish and unlettered sportsmen, stanch riders after
stag or fox from sunrise to mid-day; stanch topers at the bottle or
the bowl, from afternoon to midnight!
It had not been deemed wise, or in any sense advisable, to omit
this class of neighbors, for many reasons; not that Sir Edward had
the least idea of either becoming one of their number in reality, or
of affecting to do so for the sake of gaining their votes; for, as he
entertained no thought of standing for the county, even at a future
period; nor, had he done so, would he have condescended, therefore,
to any indirection.
Something of this sort he slightly hinted to the old peer who sat
on his right, while apologizing for the rather uproarious mirth which
soon began to prevail at the lower end of the table; but the good old
man smiled slightly as he answered—
"You do not owe me the least apology, my dear Sir Edward; since all
these gentlemen are occasionally guests of mine, likewise, at the
castle; and several of them, though somewhat rough and unpolished,
are very estimable men in their way; good landlords and good
neighbors— upright and charitable, and true English hearts—proud
to the proud, and kindly to the poor. It may be they are a little
addicted to elevating trifles, which are well enough in their way,
into the serious occupation of a life-time. But, after all, I do not
know which of us all is free from this weakness; and it is at least
more venial to pass a life-time in hunting foxes, than in
misgoverning nations, merely for pastime."
"I agree with you perfectly, my lord," said Hale, "and am glad to
find that you do not altogether disapprove of fox hunting, as I must
confess myself rather fond of it, and believe I shall sometimes join
my neighbors when the season comes."
"Disapprove of it—oh, no!" said the earl, laughing, "so far from
that, I was very near determining to set up a pack myself some years
since, when your respected father died, Sir Edward—a loss which you
were too young to feel at that time—and I should probably have done
so, had not our friend, Sir Willoughby de Willoughby, whom I see you
have made your vice-president for the day, undertaken them. Oh, no! I
think hunting an admirable, bold and manly exercise, tending to
hinder our young men from degenerating into mere city coxcombs, or
singing, dancing dilettanti, like the noblesse of Italy— I
mean, of course, if it be not abused. No, no! indeed; I think there
are many pursuits more blameable than hunting, and many associates,
too, more dangerous than fox-hunters!"
And, as he spoke the words, his eye dwelt for a moment on the
handsome face of Captain Spencer, whose character he knew thoroughly
well by reputation; and whom he was extremely sorry to see on terms
of intimacy with a young man to whom, on many accounts, he wished
well; and of whom he was disposed, on a very short acquaintance, to
Sir Edward's eye followed the transient glance; and, as he thought
he had detected a hidden allusion to himself and his guests, the
ingenuous blood rushed crimson to his frank face, and he remained for
a moment or two absent and embarrassed, This was not, however,
noticed by the old nobleman, for he had not made the observation with
reference to Spencer, although the fitness of it struck him the moment
he had spoken; and, not wishing to assume the monitor, or to
interfere in the affairs of others, he had cast his eyes upon his
plate, and appeared to be busy only in apportioning the condiments to
his wild fowl.
The direction of the earl's eye had not, however, been unnoticed by
St. Maur, who, though he did not catch the words uttered, had no
doubt, as he saw the glance followed by his host's embarrassment, that
something had been said in disparagement of his friend. Nothing
occurred, however, at the moment, although a sentiment of dislike was
implanted in St. Maur's breast, which he evinced afterward by taking
every opportunity of holding up the old lord to ridicule, as a
fanatic and half a fool; and of quizzing his sons behind their backs
unmercifully, as milksops and twaddlers, scarce one shade better than
the country bumpkins round about them.
Conversation, except among the few persons at the head of the
table, was soon at an end; bumper toasts circulated fast; song
followed song; and glees and catches without number were trolled, with
far more energy than melody; and cork after cork was drawn; and
punch-bowl after punchbowl was replenished; yet the interminable
thirst of the country squires seemed all the thirstier for each
attempt to allay it. Before the bounds of decency had yet been
transgressed by any person present, the butler entered in a pause
between the quick following bursts of song, bearing two letters on a
large silver waiter—one of which he handed to Captain Spencer, and
the other to Lord Henry St. Maur, saying aloud that they had just
been brought by a servant, who had ridden post from London, and
waited an immediate answer.
Just at this moment the Earl of Rochefort, excused by his age and
character from prolonging the festivities of the board to morning
light, arose to go; begging, however, that he might not break up the
party, and apologizing for carrying off his sons— two of whom were
about to set out for London in the morning.
There was, of course, a general movement of the company, but at
Edward Hale's request they all resumed their seats—he alone
following the earl into the hall to take leave of him; while, on the
same pretence, but in reality wishing to gain an opportunity of
reading their letters, Spencer and St. Maur glided out of the room
immediately behind him.
A short time was occupied in hunting up cloaks, hats and swords,
but it was not long before the earl's party were all in readiness,
and moving toward the hall door.— Just as they reached it, after
taking leave of Sir Edward, Colonel Hardinge, the peer's eldest son,
saw a tall man, in a plain riding dress, with heavy boots and spurs,
and a courier's leather belt about his waist, standing in the
vestibule; and Spencer, who had been questioning him about the letters
he had brought, gliding away, as if desirous of escaping observation.
There was something so singular in the movement, that the Colonel's
attention was called somewhat particularly to the servant, and he at
once recognized him for a fellow who had left him, a few months
before, in order to take service with Lord Asterly.— The man had,
as it happened, been rather a favorite servant, and the colonel,
without much consideration, said as he passed him,
"Ha! Benedict, what has brought you hither? Are you not living
still with my Lord Asterly?"
"Yes, colonel," answered the man, quickly, and quite off his guard;
and then stammering, and appearing a good deal embarrassed— "that
is to say, colonel," he added, "I have left—I brought letters!"
Hardinge, who had merely spoken for lack of any thing else to do,
and without any great interest in the matter, nodded only and passed
on; but Edward Hale had caught the words of the servant, and perceived
his obvious confusion; and, as he returned from escorting the earl to
his carriage, he stopped and asked—
"Did you bring letters for me, my good fellow?"
"No, sir," replied the man at once, "I brought letters for the
honorable Captain Spencer, and my Lord Henry St. Maur! and I want
their answers, if you please, Sir Edward."
"From Lord Asterly?" asked Hale, in astonishment. "Are you Lord
"I was, Sir Edward—but—but" and the man began again to stutter,
and turned fiery red.
"That will do," answered the baronet, passing on—"it does not
signify, at all;" and he thought within himself, "that fellow has
been drinking—or, if not, he is a knave;" and, with his mind a
little disturbed, he re-entered the supper room, where all was
revelry and noise, and loud uproarious glee. Spencer and St. Maur had
not yet returned into the room; but Percy Harbottle, who had contrived
already to render himself very popular with the good-hearted country
gentlemen, called to him as he came in—
"Come, Ned Hale, come—now that your steady friends have left us,
let us set to work instantly; we are bound, I must say to you, in
honor, to drink all of these gentlemen under the table, without any
more delay— for they have had the audacity to challenge us to the
test, and to talk of us Christ Church-men as if we were mere milksops.
Come, order some mulled Burgundy, and let us fall on gallantly."
"Certainly! certainly!" replied Hale— and muttering to himself,
"for this time, at least, there is no help for it, I suppose," he
resumed his chair, and the supper party soon degenerated into a wild
and frantic orgie—through which Hale and Harbottle sustained their
parts with more success than either had anticipated; for, whether it
was that their young and unbroken constitutions offered better
resistance to the wine they swallowed than the enfeebled systems of
the inveterate topers, or that their quietness of manner, and
comparative abstinence during the early part of the evening, gave
them an advantage, certain it is, that while reveler after reveler
fell from his chair, and was carried, or staggered out of the room to
be thrust into his carriage, or conveyed to bed in a state nearly
approaching to insensibility, the young men were by no means even
seriously affected by the liquor they had drunk; and, when they had
seen the last guest safely carried to his chamber, they walked, with
feverish brows indeed, and quivering nerves, and blood unduly heated,
into the drawing-room, where they found St. Maur and the Captain
playing, with perfect coolness, at picquet, and sipping some strong
coffee, which Spencer urged them to take as a sovereign remedy
against the effect of over-drinking.
Edward Hale poured himself out a cup of coffee, and then fixing his
eyes quietly on St. Maur's face, asked him in a tranquil voice,
"Was your letter from the Asterlys, St. Maur?"
"No!" answered St. Maur steadily, "three tierce majors, captain,
and the quatorze of aces, count fourteen."
Spencer looked up quickly, in utter astonishment at the absurd and
reckless falsehood of his friend; but not the smallest sign of wonder
was visible in his composed manners, or on his inscrutable and
impassive features. But he replied at once, eager if possible to
repair the evil which he foresaw from St. Maur's injudicious deniar—
a denial which he knew must sooner or later be discovered, if it was
not so already.
"Nor I, Sir Edward, nor I, either—from the Asterlys—inasmuch as
they are Asterlys no longer—for that I suppose is what Henry means;
since I saw him get a letter from the people you mean, at the very
moment I got mine—which certainly is from her spiteful ladyship;
and a very pretty piece of spite it is too! considering that one
would have expected her to be in a better humor."
The wonder, which the self-possessed and cold-blooded man of the
world had kept down so perfectly, positively beamed from every
feature of St. Maur's face, as he heard this avowal, which appeared
quite as incomprehensible to him as did his falsehood to the other;
who, by one of those marvellous contradictions which we sometimes
discover in the characters of men, though he would have done almost
any other evil thing in the whole world, would not have told a lie to
save his life.
Astonished as he was, however, he saw the utter inutility of trying
to carry the deception out as he had intended. So with a loud and
boisterous laugh, he cried out, "Oh, fie, you blab! You mar-sport! You
have spoiled all my fun. Why did you not stick to it, Spencer?"
"I never say the thing that is not, even in fun!" replied the other
gravely; and as he spoke he met a glance of approbation beaming from
Hale's clear eye, and noted it; and determined to turn the feeling
which it indicated to his purpose. This of course passed as quick as
lightning; and at the same moment St. Maur said, for Spencer's shaft
had pierced deeply,
"Nor I, nor I, Captain Spencer, but your words do not apply; for I
said the thing that is—the true thing!—I did not get a
letter from the Asterlys."
"True, true!" replied the captain with a smile, "my remark was
uncivil and inappropriate. Excuse it."
"But gentlemen, gentlemen," interposed Hale laughing and yet
puzzled, "why am I to be left in the basket? how is this, you speak
truth to the ear and riddles to the sense? The Earl of Asterly—"
"Is Earl of Asterly no longer," answered Spencer. "It has pleased
his most gracious majesty James by the Grace of God, for reasons
which I suppose he and his ministers know—for I am sure nobody else
does—to create his dull earlship Marquis of Beverly; so now I
suppose he will be duller, and more pompous, and more utterly
intolerable than ever."
"Indeed, Marquis of Beverly? and your news, captain?—"
"Is from the new made marchioness. I cannot show it to you, Sir
Edward. Ladies' letters you know—but I wish I could, for it is
"Strange, strange!" thought Edward Hale within himself, although he
gave his thoughts no utterance; "strange that I should have heard
nothing of the matter."
But aloud he only said—"Does her ladyship mention any thing of
Lord Arthur's wherabout? I hoped and in fact expected that he would
have been here to-day Does she mention him at all?"
"Not a word, not a word about him," replied Spencer. "Her ladyship
is not, fancy, the most anxious or affectionate of mothers! By
heaven! I repique you, St. Maur. Yes, I repique you—three for my
point! twelve for my four tierce majors fourteen for my four aces!
fourteen for my four kings! fourteen for my four queens! sixty for
the repique! thirteen I gain on the cards in playing, and forty for
the capot! a hundred and seventy in all. never saw that stroke happen
before. doubt if it ever did! but it is just, I will bet ten to one.
Will you bet, Harbottle? No? Well, good night!—it is late; good
That same night there had been a gay and sumptuous ball in London,
at the prime minister's. The king had himself honored it with his
presence for an hour or two; and all that was gay and witty, great,
beautiful, wise, noble, or in any way distinguished, had been
assembled round the monarch's person. Nothing could possibly have
been more brilliant in the shape of a fête, nothing at the same time
more magnificent and merry.
But the ball had come to an end, as all earthly pleasures will,
even the purest and the most enduring; and once ended had left the
heart full of bitterness and ashes, or at the best vacant and
exhausted. The guests had departed to their homes, to abuse one
another, and criticise, as it might be, the ostentation or the
meanness of their entertainers. The crash of carriages and the din
and quarrelling of drunken servants had subsided into stillness; the
lights were extinguished in the ball-room; the flowers were fading on
the walls; the tables were strewn with the relics of the splendid
supper; and who was now the happier, for the wild gayety, the lavish
luxury, the vast expense?
In a large airy bed-chamber situated in the corner of a stately
house in Spring Gardens, the newly created marquis's, the lady Fanny
Asterly was sitting by an open window that overlooked the beautiful
and quiet Thames, pensive and melancholy, and undressed, as if for
bed; yet she sat there as she had sat for above an hour, and taken no
thought of the time, nor dreamed of lying down since she dismissed her
That evening she had been the beauty of the ball-room, the admired
by all men, the observed of all the observers. Adulations had flowed
into her ears in one continuous stream of silvery music; homage the
most devoted, attentions such as must gratify every female heart,
even when those who tender them are but regarded lightly, had been
paid her on all sides.
Even the monarch had remarked her charms with an observant eye, and
struck with her graceful manners and rare beauty, had desired that
she should be presented to him. Beauty could have no greater triumph
than Fanny Asterly's had met at that high festival. Nor, while the
triumph lasted, had she been insensible to something akin to
gratified ambition, to the high perilous excitement of successful
vanity, and conscious superiority.
Her cheek had flushed with a warmer and more bright carnation; her
eye had beamed more exultingly than its wont, as she swam through the
mazes of the voluptuous dance, the cynosure of every eye; and heard
the stifled hum of admiration which followed her steps every where—
that hushed and sincere applause, paid by the heart to loveliness,
which every woman understands, and to which she who is insensible,
can scarcely be called woman.— Greater or less it may be, but not
genuine, very woman—not that sweet fascinating compound, whose very
weakness is so far more adorable than any strength of mind or
purpose; whose very virtues are so much made up from, and complicated
with, those weaknesses, that you can scarcely destroy one without
throwing down the other; whose very love of pleasing and thirst for
admiration are perhaps half the secret of the pleasure which she
inspires—the admiration which she wins from half reluctant reason.
And Fanny Asterly was not insensible, nor yet ungratified—for she
was indeed all woman—sweet, gentle, innocent and amiable; yet in
her every phase of thought, in her every fault, her every charm, a
very, very woman. Yes! she had been pleased, delighted, almost
intoxicated by the events of that evening; yet now, though she had
not one thought or deed for which she could reproach herself with
justice, it was with no sense of pleasure that she recurred to the
events of the ball.
She felt annoyed and angry with herself that she should have been
pleased and amused by such frivolous folly; she fancied that she had
been guilty of a sort of half infidelity to Edward Hale, in suffering
herself to listen to the flatteries, and to be pleased with the
attentions of the young cavaliers of the court of James.
"And this is his birth-day, too—this is the very day on which,
one little year ago, he plighted me his faith, and we exchanged rings
in the linden avenue at Asterly. Dear little ring—" and she raised
her fingers to her lips, and kissed the senseless gift of her lover's
affection—"dear little ring, how I love you—how I wish that he
were with me here who gave you to me a year since; and he, I doubt it
not, he hath been thinking of me all this night; while I, false girl,
have been listening and smiling, as if I had forgotten—but no! no!
Edward, Edward—" she went on, becoming more excited as she gave
vent to her feelings— "it is not so—it is not. I am true—true
to you in my heart of hearts, Edward! There is not, in my most secret
soul, dear Edward, one thought which I would hide from thee—one
thought which I would hesitate to tell—one thought on which thou
wouldst not smile thine approbation, even as, I doubt not, in thy
spirit there is not one passing fancy which should raise a blush or
call up a frown on my cheek or brow—did I know it."
Alas! for the pure confidence of innocent and guileless womanhood.
Unsullied herself as the virgin snow, her heart and mind an unsoiled
sheet, as it were, of parchment, until love had inscribed there one
fondly cherished name, she never doubted that he on whom she had set
the priceless jewel of her inestimable love was spotless as herself
from any taint of voluptuous and sensual sin—nothing that she could
have heard, scarce any thing that she could have seen, were it not in
his own handwriting, or from his own tongue, would have induced her
to believe that at this very moment he was coveting if not loving the
charms of another woman.
Alas! alas! how does the boasted virtue of the most virtuous and
moral of us men shrink into measureless vice, when compared with the
purity, the trust, the truth of an innocent and loving woman.
Edward Hale was no worse, nay, he was far less evil than the
generality of young men of his age, at that, or perhaps at any day.
Yet, troth-plighted as he was to that sweet girl, he dreamed not that
he did her any wrong in dallying with other women, in winning
their affections, in defrauding them of their virtue, so long as he
preserved his own heart and his own affections in allegiance
to her empire; and by a sophistry not uncommon, though most absurd
and inconsistent, he justified himself in this breach both of purity
and truth by saying to himself that by her father's decision a year
was yet to pass before she could yet be his wife. And she, while his
heart was afire with unholy passions for the betrothed wife of
another, and his brain busy with intrigues whereby to work her ruin,
she, in her exquisite purity of soul, was accusing herself of
faithlessness, and almost weeping over her own imaginary
delinquencies, because she had danced a few harmless dances, and
listened to a few unmeaning compliments, and perhaps, at the most,
endured a casual pressure of the hand from some gay coxcomb, whose
attentions had no meaning beyond the present moment.
But she was sad at heart—the excitement of the last hours had
ceased, and the cold reaction had ensued, as is so frequently the
case, more painfully than the bygone sensations had been pleasurable.
She was sad, almost sick at heart.
The moon was shining broadly into the tall French windows of her
chamber, for she was near her full, and the skies were almost as
light as at noonday, except when some great cloud came sweeping over
the bright disc, and veiling every thing for a few moments in clear
and almost luminous obscurity, when compared to the darkness of a
moonless midnight. And still she sat there watching the vast shadows
creeping over the river's breast, and over the silent streets, and
drawing fancied auguries from their strange forms and ghost-like
After a while she pressed her hand on her heart and said, in low,
mournful tones, "I know not what it is—I know not what ails me! I
do wish that I had seen Serena this morning, or that I could see
Arthur now—I have no reason, it is true, for any fear or
apprehension—yet I do fear everything! Oh! how unhappy I am—oh!
how unhappy! There seemed to fall a shadow on my heart, a chill upon
all my spirit, as I saw that Sir Henry Davenant pass by the window,
with his bitter and sarcastic smile— and he has seemed to haunt me
ever since! I met him twice when I was walking out this morning in
the park, and both times he sneered at me with his horrid supercilious
courtliness—and then, this evening at the ball, his cold snake-like
eye was never withdrawn from my face for a moment; whenever I stopped
in the dance, or turned my head from hearing some gay speech, I was
sure to catch sight of him.— He put me in mind of the skeleton the
old Egyptians used to place at their banquets as a ghastly
admonition. Whenever I beheld him, my heart stood still within me;
and my blood seemed to run cold. Why can it be that I so loathe that
man? Can it be, that the soul is prescient of its secret foes, and is
inexplicably warned against those that shall work it wo?—No!
no!—It cannot be—and yet—I do believe—I do— that he will
one day injure me." And she paused for a long time, and sat still,
thinking deeply; but almost unconscious that she was thinking at all,
so wildly and fantastically did her thoughts come and go; at last she
gave a sort of start; and exclaimed,— "Yes! there is something going
on—there is something wrong and evil plotting against us, I am
sure. My mother—I observed my mother's eye many times to-day, fixed
on me and not lovingly.—She does not love me!—and yet, my
God, my God, what have I ever done, or failed to do, that she should
not? She never loved me; never liked Edward! alas! alas! and my
father, though kind is not energetical.—Oh! Arthur, Arthur, my dear
brother, why are you not here, why are you not at hand to help and
comfort your unhappy sister?—She wrote to-day to St. Maur, and to
Spencer, at his house at Arrington, and not one word to him!
To Spencer—for what can she write to him; but for evil—evil, it
must be evil! And oh! why will he associate himself with comrades
such as Lord Henry, and this Captain Spencer, of whom no man or woman
had ever yet one good word to say—whose very glance is
poison!—Oh! Edward—Edward— did you but know—could you but
know what agony it gives me.—But no! he knows it not—he cannot
know it!—Nor can I send him word at all, nor even summon him to
town, unless my brother should come back!" For a few minutes she was
again silent, but then rising from her chair suddenly, she fell down
upon her knees, and prayed fervently and long; and her meek
supplication finished, stood up refreshed and strengthened, and
feeling something like a ray of heavenly consolation shining upon her
"Well, it is very late," she said; "I will to-bed, to-bed! but, I
fear, not to sleep!" and drawing the curtain over the window, through
which the moonlight fell too brilliantly and full upon her couch, she
walked across the room to reach something from a table, covered with
books and drawings, and a few stands of flowers, before she lay down
She had taken up the article, whatever it was, of which she was in
search, and was in the act of turning away from the table, when her
eye fell quite suddenly, and as if by accident, upon a neatly folded
note, which she did not remember to have seen when she came into the
room, on her return from the minister's ball. She took it up; it was
unopened, and secured with a seal of red wax, bearing a deep
impression, an antique head of Minerva. Thinking to herself that
something must have been lying over it when she looked upon the table
as she re-entered her room, she walked with the note to the window, in
order to read it by the aid of the clear moonlight.
Though she was very anxious, she knew not why, to arrive at the
contents; and though she half prognosticated something of evil
tidings, she yet, as we often do, even when we are the most impatient,
turned it again and again, to examine the seal and superscription,
and conjecture from whom it could possibly have come, when in all
probability by opening it she would have learned the whole in a
The hand-writing was strange to her— certainly strange—and this
very fact, which should naturally have hurried her proceedings, since
it was clear that she could conjecture nothing, probably yet delayed
her longer. It was a clear, correct, Italian hand, rather erect than
otherwise, and larger than is common, but by no means bold, or free,
or dashing. On the contrary it was rather over-nice, every hair-line
being traced with almost mathematical precision, and every dot and
period inserted with clerk-like regularity. It was directed "To the
Lady Frances Asterly, Asterly House, Spring Gardens." The seal was
formed as accurately as the band-writing was minutely finished, and
was equally unknown to the excited and half trembling girl, who by
this time had convinced herself that the small square note contained
some horrible and painful mystery.
Her hand literally shook as she broke the seal, and her eyes swam,
as if dazzled by excess of light, so that some moments passed before
she could fix the letters. At last, by a great effort, she composed
herself, and read as follows:
"One, who has seen and known the Lady Frances Asterly, almost from
her cradle to the present day, although she knows him not, nor has
ever seen him— who has watched her growth, daily, nay almost
hourly, from the wild buoyant days of thoughtless infancy, through the
sweet spring of girlhood, up to her present plenitude of glorious
beauty—who has marked every growing charm both of mind and
body—who has noted her features, full of rare inborn music, her
form ripe in most perfect loveliness—who has read her soul, and
knows it to be pure and bright and spotless as the spirit of the
new-born babe, fresh from the hands of the Creator—who loves her
with an affection surpassing that of a father, because, unlike a
father's, it is divested of all prejudice, and arises only from his
sense of her exquisite and peerless beauty, beauty both of the mind
and body. One who, had he the means of altering his mission and
changing his existence, would be her guardian spirit—one who has
many times already stood, though she knew it not, between her and
many an earthly peril—writes now once more to warn, and if possible
to save her. Mark his words, innocent and lovely one, mark his words;
and, although the task be a hard and bitter one, believe them and be
warned. And oh! above all, fancy not that he who writes these lines,
has any secret or unworthy object— that he is a resentful rival, a
discarded suitor, an avenger of wrong done—"
"For I am none of these. Before thou wert born I was old, wronged
and wretched. It was a fate, a wondrous fate, that interested me in
thy birth, and it has been my fate ever to cross thy path, till I am,
as it were, wound up in thy well being. I had a daughter once,
innocent as thou art, and almost as beautiful—she heard, but would
not heed my warnings—she wedded, was deceived, lived wretched, and
died young, young and heart-broken, as thou wilt live, and die also,
Fanny, if thou attend not this my warning.
"He unto whom thy troth is plighted is not what thou deemest him,
not what could make thee happy. Even now his house is full of revelry
and riot, debauchery and— what it befits thee not to hear of. His
friends and chosen comrades, the worst, the most notorious of the
world's wicked devotees. Beware! beware! ere it shall be too late!
"Be warned by my words, Fanny; but, even warned, I ask you not to
act upon them, until convinced that they are true— true to the
letter, or if lacking truth, lacking it only in that they come not up
to the full measure of his wildness, his unworthiness, his falsehood.
"Reject this warning, and you are lost forever!"
Eagerly she devoured every word of this strange wild epistle. She
read it and re-read it, and in her own despite she felt that it had
left a sting in her soul. It was in vain that she said to herself,
"Tush! it is but an ordinary slander! a vile thing composed by a
wretch who dares not sign his name to the emanations of his own
guilty mind." It was in vain; she could not so banish it, for there
was something in the whole style and wording of the letter, in the
antique and flowery phraseology, in the obscurity and mystery in which
the writer was shrouded, in the dark sounding prophecies, and the
strange emphasis of the warning, that made it obviously different
from a commonplace anonymous letter.
The character of Lady Fanny was naturally somewhat poetical and
romantically inclined; and on this doubtless the writer had
calculated in framing his artful and insidious missive. It happened,
moreover, that the very tone of thoughts, in which she was indulging
herself at the time, harmonized singularly with the spirit of the
letter, and of the warning it contained. She had been secretly
deploring the connection of her betrothed husband with the men whom
she knew to be his companions at this moment; and lo! the letter
spoke, not in dark hints, but in open language, and spoke, as she
believed truly, their characters in the world's estimation; and when
the world does indeed condemn unanimously, it is rare that it
Besides, did it not challenge investigation? Did it not recommend
inquiry? It could not, therefore, be a mere baseless slander. Oh! of
a truth it was very plausible! A very cunning spirit had devised that
shaft, had steeped it in the very poisons which with a devilish
foresight it knew would be the most likely to corrode and canker that
pure heart; and a strong hand, and practised in the works of evil,
when the unguarded moment had been duly chosen, sped it with sure aim
to the mark, to rankle there, and blight the very soul of confidence.
It was not until a late hour, late at least for those primitive
days, that Edward Hale awoke on the morning following the revels of
the first of May; and when he did awake it was with a fevered frame
and an aching head. Some one or other, I forget who, has said that a
man ought to get drunk every now and then for the sake of the serious
thoughts, the earnest promises of reformation, and the very thorough
process of remorse and repentance which he goes through on the
morning succeeding to a hard debauch. Without entering into the
morality of this question at all, or inquiring whether, even if the
salutary effects be not overstated, a man ought to do ill that
good may come of it, it cannot be disputed that the frame of mind in
which a man is left on the subsidence of that violent excitement,
conjoined with the discomfort of the body, is such as to lead him
naturally to grave and serious reflection.
And so it was, in this instance, with the young baronet. He was not
by nature at all disinclined to calm, and, at times, almost solemn
meditation; although the character of his reveries was for the most
part rather imaginative and romantic than contemplative or moral.
Although gay and joyous, and endowed largely with those high spirits
which flow from youth and health, unchecked by present ills, or
presages of future sorrow, he was rather of a poetical temperament,
and that leads oftentimes to a reflective mood.
This morning in particular, after he had arisen from his bed and
dressed himself partially, he sent away his valet, and began to
ponder seriously on the occurrences of the past day. And it was not
long before he became aware, that those occurrences, although in
themselves neither very striking nor uncommon, had given rise to feel
ings in his own bosom, to which he could revert without pain and
something near akin to remorse.
As he sat in his armed chair, partially leaning on the sill of the
open window, looking over the green meadow whereon still stood the
tall May-pole, although the giddy crowd who had made all the space
around it so gay on the preceding morning were now dispersed about
their ordinary avocations, his thoughts reverted instantly to the
beautiful queen of the May. At this calm season of the day, ere the
sun had yet heated the earth, while the air came in fresh and dewy
from the cool woods and grassy meadows, and fanned his brow with its
fresh breath, the feverish excitements and hot passions of the past
day seemed out of place, unhallowed, and distasteful. Better things
were at work within him; better thoughts were aroused by the
comparison involuntarily drawn between that innocent and tranquil
day-break, and the wild revel of the past night.
He was a different man this morning, and the pictures which his
mind conjured up before him of beautiful Rose Castleton, were not
such as he had seen through the medium of glowing Burgundy. He thought
not of her now, with her voluptuous figure swaying and bending in the
dance, its every wavy line instinct with hidden passion; of her white
bosom, all too much exposed by the disordered kerchief, glowing and
throbbing in soft tumult; of her eyes now beaming bright with
gratified ambibition, now swelling, swimming, languishing in amorous
dimness; of her sweet pouting lips; her balmy breath fluttering and
panting between surprise and half offended modesty; of her honeyed
kiss; of her rare form struggling in his embrace, and yet half
willing to be detained, as he snatched the kiss from her lips, and the
rose-bud from her bosom; of the low, silvery, faltering voice in
which she promised to meet him the next evening in the Monk's
coppice! No! these were not the pictures which his fancy this morning
set be fore him. Far, far from it. He saw her weeping, disconsolate
and pensive at her spinning wheel, in some such touching attitude as
that wherein the great German painter has given a form and body to the
rare spiritual Margaret of the great German poet. He saw her with
every vestige of color vanished from her wan cheek every spark
quenched in her bright eye all the soft roundness of her lovely form
wasted away and lost. He saw her kneeling at the village shrine with
clasped hands and streaming eyes, while the sternfiend remorse was
whispering in her ear to despair and die. He saw her prostrate at her
gray-headed father's feet, clasping his knees and supplicating him to
pardon his lost child—he saw the clenched hand and the knitted
brow, and the indignant eye of the relentless father, driving forth
the dishonored girl, who had brought shame on his gray hairs—he saw
the rude route of the village, the coarse brutal rabble hooting the harlot through the long sunny street, and hallooing for the
beadle and the ducking stool! He saw her by the still pool in the
dark woodland, where the stream has no ripple on its surface, and the
black waters tell of its unusual depth, kneeling and striving vainly
to syllable a prayer for mercy before that awful plunge which should
remove her, and forever from the cold sneers of the ruthless world!
He saw her drawn out by the shuddering hands of superstitious
rustics, cold, wan dishevelled, dead—dead, by her own rash
act—her own! say rather his! his whose false love had driven
her to the brink of that abyss whose bottom is perdition!
All this he saw, or seemed to see, in the delineations of his vivid
fancy; he saw and shuddered at the strength of his own imaginings.
"And shall I," he said to himself, half aloud, "shall I, for the poor
gratification of a foul sensual passion, shall I do this thing? For a
few hours, or a few days of fierce and fiery pleasure, shall I
pollute so fair a temple, a temple reared by the hands of our common
God and Father, to be the dwelling of as fair a spirit? shall I, for
any temporal delight, perhaps consign her to eternal ruin? God forbid?
God forbid!" and he stood up in the intensity of his feelings, for he
had worked himself up to a state of considerable excitement, and
walked for several minutes to and fro the room, strengthening his good
resolves at every turn, and manning the fortress of his heart against
the assaults of the Evil One, till he at last satisfied himself that
he was again master of himself, that he could see and converse with
the country beauty, without incurring any danger, or feeling any
undue admiration of her charms; and finally he determined that with a
magnanimity, like that of Scipio, he would at once bring about her
marriage with young Hunter, and give her the lease of the home farm
for a dowry. This honorable resolution taken, well pleased with
himself, conscious of honorable feelings, and proud of his own
integrity, superior to its first very grave temptation, he sat down
once again to reflect on the perfections of his legitimate lady love,
and anticipate in imagination his future marriage with the charming
In truth, he loved her very dearly; as dearly, perhaps, and
devotedly as any very young man untried in the world, unschooled by
suffering, und undisciplined by sorrow, can love a woman. For it is
not in very early youth that are born those deep, interminable,
everlasting passions, which seem to become coexistent with the soul,
and, as it were, part and parcel of it. Nor is it from the lap of
happiness and luxury and joy, that springs the pure strong love that
mocks at time and space, and defies death itself to limit or affect
its infinite duration. No! I believe few men have ever loved with
that intensity which is the very essence of the only love that is
worthy to be called love, until they have known what it is to want
that love, and find it not— until they have experienced real grief
and suffering, and deep sorrow—until they have looked in vain to
the cold world for sympa thy and affection, and learned what it is to
lack them; and then—then, when they have found the one, true,
faithful heart wherewith to share their joys—wherefrom to seek
consolation in their sorrows—then, then they love indeed! and their
love is well worth the winning!
But for one whose whole life had been but one scene of success and
pleasure, who had scarce known, as yet, the meaning of the word
sorrow, so little had any touch of it come near to him, Edward Hale
did truly and sincerely love Frances Asterly. It was not her beauty,
only, nor her sweet manners that had won him; but her heart, her
mind—the purity and truthfulness of the one, the kind, affectionate
and cordial nature of the other! And when a man sets his love on the
qualities of the intellect and of the heart—the qualities that are
immortal and endure forever in never fading and undying glory—and
not upon the qualities of the poor body, that speedily are but as
grass cut down and cast into the oven— small risk is there of his
loving unworthily, or of his changing easily! For, in a word, so to
love is a proof of character, higher than ordinary men possess, in the
lover, and a guarantee for the existence of unusual qualifications in
the object beloved.
And, in both points, this was true of the present case; for Sir
Edward Hale was, beyond doubt, a person of qualifications and mental
character far above the standard average of men. It might be doubtful,
hitherto, whether that character would turn out powerful for good or
for evil in the end—whether those qualifications would serve to
adorn and decorate a virtuous and honorable life, or to lend a false
and meteoric splendor to an irregular and disorderly career; but
there could be no doubt that, whichever way the wheel of his destinies
should turn, in that course he would be found conspicuous and above
his fellows, either in virtue or in vice.
And, perhaps, at this very time, the inward struggle was in
progress, which should decide whether his better or worse genius
would prevail; whether his course through this world should be like
that of a calm and abundant river, bounteous, benevolent and
fertilizing, and flowing gently, after a long and pleasant journey,
through a fair country, into the boundless sea; or, like that of the
sublime mountain torrent, leaping in foam and fury, full of romance
and sounding fame, and dazzling to the eye, and stunning to the cool
ear of reason, but carrying destruction on its way, and leaving
devastation in its rear, and plunging, at the last, headlong down
some precipitous abyss, among groans and cries, and shudderings of
horror, to be swallowed up in the nether gloom.
If it were so, thus far, at least, the better spirit had prevailed;
and, as he finished dressing himself, which he did unassisted by his
valet, his heart was more at ease, and he was in truth both a happier
and a better man than he had been on the previous morning; and it was
with a gay and joyous exterior, covering a self-satisfied and
tranquil confidence in his own good intentions, that he descended the
grand staircase to join his companions in the breakfast parlor.
Some short time, however, before he was ready to go down, he was
not a little surprised to hear the sound of voices on the terrace,
below his windows; the rather as he knew of old that St. Maur was
habitually a late riser—rarely displaying the glories of his well
decorated person to profane and vulgar eyes, until high noon—and he
had no reason for suspecting that the gay captain was more matutinal
than his friend. He looked out of the window, therefore, wondering
who these could be that were astir already; and yet, more to his
surprise, he found that the very men whom he would almost have sworn
had not yet turned themselves over to take their second nap, were
walking to and fro upon the terrace, pausing every now and then, and
talking earnestly in a low voice, as if they were unwilling that
their words should be overheard.
This Hale did not observe at the time, but afterward events
occurred which often led him to reflect on various things which
passed that morning; and then he recollected this, and recollected,
moreover, that when they first saw him leaning out of the window
looking at them, there was a sort of consciousness, if not
embarrassment about St. Maur's air and manner, indicating that he
was, in some sort, the subject of their discourse.
He did notice, however, and not without surprise, that they were
both fully dressed their periwigs arranged and powdered with careful
nicety, and the whole of their attire showing, by its scrupulous
precision that they must have been on foot some hours, and that their
toilets had been performed not negligently nor in haste.
Hale waited for a moment without speaking, until they came directly
under his windows, when he dropped a rose-bud which chanced to be
lying on the table— the same which he had snatched from the bosom
of Rose Castleton in the evening— so that it fell immediately in
front of St. Maur.
He stooped to pick it up from the broad flag-stones that paved the
terrace, and then cried, as he raised his eyes to the window before
seeing who it was—
"By George! a fair challenge, be you who you may, sweet—Ah! you
rogue you rogue, Ned! so it is you, is it? I thought it had been some
fair dame or damsel of whom my beaux yeux had made a conquest.
This is a pretty disappoint ment! Your ugly phiz, in lieu of black
eyes and cherry cheeks, and I know no what beside! The devil take
you, Ned the devil take you!"
"Many thanks to you," replied Hale laughing, "for the warmth of
your morning salutation, which I will not return. I have to crave
your pardon, Captain Spencer, for playing such a sluggard part, as
host, who ought to have been on foot to receive my guest. But it
seems the mulled` Burgundy made me a more sleepy night cap than it
did for you!"
"You forget, you forget," answered Spencer, "that St. Maur and I
did not double the said night-cap quite so often as you did; and it
sat in consequence less heavily on us—but pray do n't think of
apologizing, we have been amusing ourselves delightfully here this
fine clear morning, looking about your magnificent old place."
"Thank you for saying so," returned Hale, "but I fear you could
have found little to amuse you; but I will dress myself in haste, and
come down to you—will you be so kind in the mean time as to call
for chocolate, and make yourselves quite at home? After breakfast we
will see what we can do to kill the day. It is not a good time of the
year for country sports, unless any of you are fishermen; there are
fine trout in the river. But I fancy Mark can find us a heron or two,
and I have a few cast of fine hawks, if you like to see a flight;
coursing and hunting are of course out of the question; but I can
give you some capital rabbit shooting in the fern of the upper
"Oh! I have no doubt we shall do very well; but make haste, make
haste, what we desire most is your company," said the captain, but
almost in the same breath, he added in a half whisper to St. Maur,
"and as our desire will be gratified in a few moments, we must talk
out our talk at once. What were you saying—oh, yes! about
Harbottle—no, no! that will never do—he is not at all to be
trusted in delicate matters like these. No, no! leave it to me, and
my life on it, I arrange every thing to your wishes. But after all I
cannot guess, for my soul, why you are so wild to marry this
penniless girl. It is true, I confess, that she is devilish handsome,
and sprightly looking also; if she were some fellow's wife now, I
could understand it; but to marry her—to marry her! Pshaw, pshaw!
it is mere boy's play. If I were you I would let Hale marry her, nay,
help him to her, and then take her from him; by the Lord, there is a
great game to be played there."
"Hold, Spencer, hold!" St. Maur interrupted him, "you forget that
you are talk ing of a girl whom I seriously intend to make my wife."
"Indeed I do not, my good fellow; I only wish to give you all the
good advice I can beforehand; after she is your wife I shall remember
it, you may be sure—unless indeed I should take a fancy to her
myself— there is no saying what may happen, when men marry handsome
wives; a friend's wife now is twice as good as an acquaintance's, and
an acquaintance's as a stranger's!"
"By heavens! Spencer, you are incorrigible; I should be hurt and
angry with you, if I did not know that it is only your wild way of
talking, and that you would not do the things you talk about to
win the world!"
"Oh no," said Spencer, with a dubious smile, "not at all, not at
all! only, as there is no saying what may happen, and as I hate
treachery as I do the devil or the parson; only don't say, if any
thing should turn up, that I did not give you fair warning, Harry."
St. Maur looked at him for a minute or two steadily, as if to see
whether he was in earnest, and then said, bursting into a light
"You are a sad fellow, but I am not afraid of you. Well, go on,
what is the whole of your scheme? let us be perfect in it."
"Why it seems that this old she devil has arranged all the
preliminaries with pretty Fan already. She is to be made to believe
Hale a perfect devil of licentiousness, and so to break off the match
with him; when you will have it all your own way; for there was never
a man yet, who, backed by father and mother, could not win any girl's
love at any time, when her fancy is disengaged, unless he is a greater
fool than I take you to be. Then she will be piqued and her vanity
wounded in this case, which will make it easier yet for you; and if,
as you say, she does dislike you now, that does not hurt your chance
a straw's value; for my own part, when I want to win a woman, next to
her loving me beforehand, I would choose to have her hate me!
Nothing is so difficult to deal with as indifference— for they
always go by contraries and extremes— women do, I mean Harry—and
so if they begin by hating you, and thinking you a fiend of darkness,
they are pretty sure to adore you in six weeks, and discover that you
are an angel of light."
"Yes, yes! that is all very fine—one of your wiredrawn theories
that come to nothing! However I do not doubt but I can win her easily
enough if we can set her against Hale."
"Well, that is easily done enough, I am sure. Why here is luck
playing into our very hand. The old woman has laid the foundation of
distrust in her daughter's heart already; and here is this young baby
half wild now after this country girl—who by the way is pretty
enough to make a wiser man wild. My only fear was that she would be
too willing. But I have taken care of that—she will not meet him
to-night, and that will whet his appetite; then you must play your
part well—extol her beauty, feed his passion as much as you can;
and I will sneer at him—we will bet high on his success, you for and
I against it! I saw at a glimpse that game-keeper was a rogue, and I
have bought him; he will help us through any thing. Then I have sent
for my lieutenant and a press gang to be here to-morrow, and we will
screw him up to-night to sign an order to have Hunter pressed. It is
a devil of a stretch I know; but we who serve King Jamie to the
utmost, know how to stretch a commission without cracking it; and we
will have him carry off the girl, and so arrange things that it shall
all come out directly; and so he will be disgraced in the eyes of all
good people, and dished with lady Fan."
"Yes, that will do, if we can accomplish it."
"If, if!—to the devil with your ifs!—I tell you it
half accomplished now. I should not at all wonder, if he have half
repented of his wicked wishes this fine morning, now that he is
maudlin—your maudlin state is a great virtue-breeder! But I have
laid a trap for him that will set his tinder in a blaze presently. Do
you but play your part well, and talk all day of her charms, and try
to make him jealous of that fool Harbottle, who is I think smitten a
little with the wench already—get him to show that if you can—and
now, do not forget to write to Delaval, as I told you, expressing
your surprise at finding Hale, as he had hinted to you, such a wild
rake and jolly fellow. Invent, invent!—describe his harems and his
orgies! Draw, draw upon imagination, or if that fail you, look to the
Arabian Nights! But hark you, all in your proper character—reckless
and rash—no sermonizing, or you will spoil all. Do you understand?"
"Yes, to be sure; it will be shown—"
"To her cousin, Lady Serena Fortescue who will tell her so, that
she shall never doubt the channel. I, too, will write to Davenant, in
a quite different strain, but to the same effect. I only wish I could
have got him to commit some outrage or indecency before that
puritanical old beast and idiot, Rochefort; that would have set him
At this moment Sir Edward appeared coming down the steps from the
front door to join them; and at the same time Eversly passed them
going to meet his master, with a beautiful black greyhound bitch
following at his heel, and a large bunch of violets in his hand.
"Ha! Master Keeper," exclaimed Spencer, as the man went by; "what's
in the wind now?" and he spoke loud, on purpose that Hale might hear
him; and then, as Eversly turned round to answer him, he went
on—"By George! what a posy thou hast got there! Here, give it to me,
man, give it to me, and take this guinea in exchange, for I am mortal
fond of posies."
"Excuse me, Captain Spencer," said the fellow, grinning and
pocketing the guinea which the sailor flung to him; "excuse me, for I
would give it willingly if it was mine, which it is not; it is a
present I am carrying to master."
"What's all this? what's all this?" said the young Lord of the
Manor, laughing "Why don't you give Captain Spencer the flowers,
"Nay, nay, Sir Edward, she that gave them to me desired me to put
them in your own hand, and by the same token she sent a message, too."
"She? she!" exclaimed St. Maur; "Sponcer, I'll bet you a
rouleau I can put a name to the she!"
"Done! done!" replied the captain; "done, that you cannot put the
right one. Whisper it now to me, and we will leave it to his
"Well, then, I say Rose Castleton," replied St. Maur, in what was
meant to pass for a whisper, although it reached Edward's ears as
plainly as if it had been uttered in a shout.
"I bide my bet," said Spencer, in the same sort of whisper; "I
shall win it, too; that girl is not to be won so easily—he will never win her! But come," he added, now speaking in his natural
tones, "come; Mercury, it seems, will not deliver his message in the
presence of the assembled gods, but keeps it for the private ear of
Jove. Let us leave them"— and they moved off a little way, out of
earshot, although they watched every movement of the parties.
They saw the hot blood mount crimson to the fair brow of the young
man as he received the nosegay and the message; but it was evident
that his face reddened not with anger, for his eye sparkled and there
was a smile upon his lip, as he asked several questions, to all of
which he got prompt answers from the keeper, who had been primed
already for his part by the wily plotters, and now played it to
The conference did not last above five minutes, when Hale turned
"Be in the way, keeper—be in the way, after breakfast; for we
will either shoot, or see those new merlins fly. Canst find us a
heron-shaw this fine morning?"
"I'll warrant you, Sir Edward?"
"Well, we will see anon. Now let us go to breakfast, gentlemen. I
think a broiled turkey's gizzard will suit my stomach to a turn this
morning, for, to speak truth, I do feel a little squeamish after the
Burgundy. But where is Harbottle? has nobody seen Harbottle? Run,
Mark, and send some one to call Mr. Harbottle to breakfast."
"But in the mean time, baronet," said Spencer, "touching this
bouquet, of which I see you think so well that you are wearing it
next to your heart; will you decide our bet, upon your honor?"
"Is it correct to do so, Captain, when it concerns a woman?"
"No, if it be a lady—yes! if a country girl, Sir Edward."
"I believe you are in the right; the rather that she seems to me
rather a light o' love. How stands your bet?"
"St. Maur bets that it was Rose Castleton sent you the violets. I
hold the opposite."
"St. Maur has won, captain; it
"There, Spencer, there," cried the young lord, triumphantly,
"unbuckle, sailor-man, unbuckle your fat bags; out with the rouleau."
Spencer pulled out his purse, and with apparent reluctance handed
to him the sum which he had lost, saying, as he did so,
"I must look out for Percy Harbottle, now—for you dare not stand
the other bet, St. Maur."
"What other bet? what other bet, Captain Spencer?" answered Lord
Henry with well feigned eagerness, and a little show of anger. "I do
not like such remarks as these! I stand any bet, that any man dare
stand, at least if I see a possibility of winning it. What bet is it
"That he wins her," answered Spencer, "that he wins the girl in any
reasonable time; you dare not bet that, St. Maur; but it does not
come within your category—there is no possibility of your
"I will, though—I
will!" exclaimed St. Maur; "I will bet
you a cool thousand that he has her living with him as his mistress
in a fortnight."
"A cool thousand! done! I shall win that," said the captain,
They had been all walking together toward the house, while this
conversation, if conversation it can be called, was going forward;
but now Sir Edward stopped short, piqued not a little at the sort of
undervaluing way in which Spencer spoke of his chances with the girl,
and said, trying to laugh, but evidently a little mortified—
"And why do you think so, Captain Spencer? Have you so vast an idea
of the girl's virtue?"
"Why, I had rather you would pardon me. I was in the wrong to speak
as I did; I would rather you should ask me no more."
"No, no! speak out. You have said too much, or too little. I insist
on it, that you let us have the whole. Do you think her impregnable?"
"Oh dear, no! Far from it. She is willing enough, any one can see.
But you will excuse me, Sir Edward, I have some experience in these
matters, and I do not think you are the man."
"Who then? yourself, perhaps, captain?" replied Hale, still more
piqued by his answer, although perfectly good humored.
"Oh, no! not myself, upon my word! though I should like very well
to have the wench in London for a month or so, for she is a devilish
handsome woman, that is certain; and her slim, rounded figure would
show admirably well in a mazarine blue riding-dress of the last mode,
slashed with gold colored brocade. By heaven! I think I can see her
now, reining that strawberry roan Spanish jennet of mine through the
Parks. Heavens! St. Maur, how she would catch men's eyes. It would be
a year's renown to return to London as her protector. But I beg your
pardon, Sir Edward, for wandering from your question— no! I assure
you, on my honor, that I had not myself in mind at all, when I spoke.
No! I think Percy Harbottle a likelier man. I saw her look at him out
of the corners of those large languishing eyes of hers, two or three
times while you were dancing with her."
"Perhaps you would like, captain," replied Hale, assuming a
tranquillity which he did not feel, "perhaps you would like to bet
that she will be Harbottle's mistress in a week, and not mine,
for I intend to try all means to make her mine."
"Of course you do," said St. Maur; "nobody doubted that—nobody,
at least, who knows you. With the encouragement you have had, you
would be a precious ninny if you did not. Of course you will try, and
succeed, too. I'll be sworn of it."
"I cannot bet that she
will be Harbottle's mistress; for I
don't know, at all, that he is thinking about her. I would bet—but no, no! baronet," he interrupted himself, "I am your guest,
and I don't wish to win your money. Besides, it is my jesting that
has put you up to the notion. It would not be fair."
"To the notion of what?" asked Hale, very quickly, "put me up to
the notion of what?"
"Of courting this girl, to be sure," answered Spencer. "But let us
say no more about it. Come, let us go to breakfast."
"You forget that I told you yesterday at Barnsley that my eye was
upon her—you forget—"
"Yes, to be sure he does," interrupted St. Maur, "or rather he
pretends to forget, to get off betting. He knows as well as we do
that you will win her."
"I know nothing of the sort! I know that he will not."
"Once again, will you bet?" said Sir Edward, who was growing almost
"If you insist upon it, yes."
"I say, then, that I will have her openly as my mistress within one
week from this day."
"I understand you perfectly, and take the converse. For how much?"
"For any thing you please, from one to five thousand."
"Oh! one—one is enough; for one thousand be it. It is a bet!"
"Very well, there is an end of that— then let us go to breakfast;
and here comes Percy Harbottle," and he took several quick steps
forward in advance of the rest, to greet him. As he did so Spencer
fell back to St. Maur a pace or two, and whispered in his ear—
"You stand my loss to him, if I should lose the bet; as it is most
likely that I shall."
"Yes, yes! I understand it so," said the other, "but come on
quickly, or he will see us whispering together, and suspect
And overtaking him, they all walked on together, and entered the
breakfast room, joking and laughing merrily.
 Retsch's Outline Illustrations of Goethe's Faust.
Breakfast passed joyously and gaily, no more allusions were made to
the bets, Spencer carefully avoiding the subject, as if he thought
that he might give offence by continuing it; but St. Maur and
Harbottle continued to expatiate upon the charms of Rose Castleton,
the felicity of the man who should have the luck to gain her, and the
certainty of its giving him the greatest eclat of any one in London,
to produce her in the parks, or at the theatre, as a part of his
Breakfast was in those days, as I have said before, a far more
solid affair than it is with us; the draughts, which were quaffed at
it were not mere tea and coffee, but humming ale and generous wines;
and with the thirst upon them that is the sure successor of a last
night's debauch, and with their somewhat wild and boyish ha bits, all
drank somewhat largely; not, of course, to excess at all, or even to
exhilaration, but enough to enliven the blood, and open something of
the reserve which bars men's hearts at times, till they are thawed by
some such genial application.
And I am sorry to say that between the slight stimulus of the wine,
and the spur of the witty and licentious conversation that was going
on around him, Sir Edward soon lost the recollection of the better
feelings which had that morning possessed him; and now completely
under the empire of false pride, and vanity, and fear of mockery, and
goaded by the burning spirit of rivalry, felt as completely and as
resolutely bent on ruining pretty Rose Castleton, as a few hours
before he had been determined to give her to another.
As soon as breakfast was over, while St. Maur and Spencer excused
themselves for the purpose of writing a few letters, Edward with
Percy Harbottle walked round the grounds, and visited the stalls, and
the kennels, and the mews of the falcons; and finally set to amusing
themselves by making the grooms ride the hunters in succession
backward and forward over a high leaping bar.
While thus employed they were joined by the others, and the
question was put, how the day was to be spent, until dinner time.
"Oh! confound dinner!" replied Spencer; "I hate your regular two
o'clock dinner, it so thoroughly breaks up the day. Let us go out and
hawk or shoot, if Sir Edward likes my plan, all day; taking some ale
and cold meat with us, and come home to a good early supper, and we
will have another bout at the Burgundy. What say you, worthy host of
"That is a bright thought, and a right good plan," answered Hale.
"I am like you; I hate your ceremonious dinner so early in the day,
and I love your extemporaneous sylvan meal on the green turf, under
the shady trees, or beside some clear and bubbling runnel."
"Yes," answered St. Maur, "or in some jolly farmer's house, with
his pretty daughter to pour out the ale, and kiss you behind the
door, when the father is looking the other way."
A loud laugh followed this characteristic speech; and then they
began to inquire what should be the order of the day, and it was
speedily decided that they would shoot rabbits in the park, in
preference to hawking in the meadows, or fishing in the stream— and
Eversly being called in to name a farm-house situated conveniently for
taking the mid-day meal, suggested, not altogether unexpectedly to
Edward Hale, nor without having pocketed beforehand a handsome fee
for his advice, suggested farmer Castleton's.
"Ha! ha! Then we shall see the pretty Rose again—hey, Ned?" said
"And Percy Harbottle will have a chance of entering the lists, if
he will," said Spencer.
"No, no!" replied Harbottle, "every lad to his own lass. I stick to
my promise; he gave me a good chance with a pretty girl yesterday,
and hang me if I cross him to-day."
In a few moments they were all equipped, and ready for the sport,
accompanied by servants with hunting-poles to beat the bushes, and
spaniels to start the game, and boys with spare ammunition, and all
means and appliances for a blithe day's sport.
Taking their way across the trout stream, and through the dense oak
grove, they crossed the tall castle hill, and going out by a postern
in the brick wall of the park, entered a deep and hollow road, between
high banks of sand, crested on either hand by the walls of the home
park and the deer park—and overshadowed by the rich foliage of the
huge oaks, which almost crossed their branches overhead, and made the
lane at noonday almost as dark as midnight. A second postern, at a
short distance up the lane, gave access to the deer-park—a wild
tract of barren broken land, with many gulleys and ravines, each
watered by its gushing streamlet, each clothed with feathery
brushwood and tall fern, among which the gray burrowers, they came in
pursuit of, squatted by hundreds.
At a short distance from the double portions, they caught a
glimpse, as they crossed the road, of a large rambling brick
farm-house, with tall fantastic pinnacles, and the twisted chimneys
of the Elizabethan style, peering from out the shade of the dark oaks,
and abutting on the deer-park wall.
"There is the home farm," said the keeper—"old Castleton's, you
know, Sir Edward; I sent the boys up with the wine, and word we would
be there at two hours past noon; and he says, if you please, Sir
Edward, he will be very blithe to see you, and they will have the
goose pie ready."
"A capital thing, too, is a good goose pie," said Hale, "and we
will find appetites conformable, I'll warrant it. Now, give me my
gun, for here we are upon the ground, and so let loose the spaniels.
Are they steady, Mark?"
"No steadier in England, your honor," answered the keeper, "than
the two black King Charles'! they are worth fifty guineas any day, of
any gentleman's gold! I'll be judged by these gentlemen if they be
not—although I say it who should not, seeing that it was I who broke
Then, without more ado, they betook themselves to their sport; and
here I might easily describe the merry pastime, which I love;
expatiate on the sagacity and discipline of the well trained dogs, the
wiles and exertions of the game, the skill and woodcraft of the
sportsmen, the lovely woodland scenery, the free fresh air, and all
the pleasant sights and cheery sounds which give half their charm to
the manly and exhilarating sports of the field. But it would all too
long detain us from matters of more stirring interest; and, moreover,
such things are far more exciting in reality than in description, and will pall in the telling.
Suffice it that the game was abundant, the day prosperous, the
young marksmen in good cue; the dogs behaved well, the shooting was
extremely good, and the sport undeniable, for above a hundred rabbits
had been bagged by the three guns before the hour indicated for their
rustic dinner was announced, by the long keen blast of a bugle,
strongly and scientifically winded, from the porch of the neighboring
"There goes old Castleton," cried Hale, "he was the huntsman to my
father's pack, many years since! That says that the goose pie is
Leaving the brakes wherein they had been shooting, a short walk
brought them to the well stocked and hospitable farm-house, where
blunt old fashioned English hospitality received them, with its cheery
and unceremonious welcome. The goose pie was pronounced excellent,
and such justice done to it as showed that the praise was sincere;
the home-brewed ale as clear as amber, as mild as milk, and almost as
strong as brandy, was duly honored; and, above all, as Edward
expected, lovely Rose Castleton was there—looking, he thought, even
lovelier than before, in her tight fitting russet jacket, and short
blue petticoat, with her beautiful round arms bare nearly to the
shoulder, and her trim shapely ankles, displayed by her brief
There was, however, something in Rose's manner that Hale did not
understand; she would not talk much to him, nor jest at all; yet many
a stolen glance met his—now dwelling boldly, now as coquettishly
averted; still he could not exactly make it out, until, as her father
turned aside to speak to St. Maur, she cast her eye quickly toward
the old man, and laid her finger on her lips.
Frank Hunter, with the wonted indiscretion of men and lovers, under
such circumstances, had been to see her that morning; and, like a
fool as he was, instead of coaxing, had reproached and harrassed her;
and, concluding by calling for her father's interposition, had
procured her a sound scolding, in set terms, for her flirtiness and
vanity, in fancying that a gentleman like Sir Edward would demean
himself so much as to look at her.
This, very naturally, excited her ire; and, as she knew right well
that Sir Edward was not only marvellously well inclined to look at
her, but to accept very thankfully any favors that she would grant
him, she felt more than half disposed to prove to her discarded swain
how much he and her father were mistaken, by doing things that
yesterday she would have been ashamed to think of.
In truth, between the fascinations of the young lord of the manor,
the sulky and unflattering resentment of her lover, and the most
injudicious violence of her father, who really had not the least
suspicion that Hale was thinking about his daughter, and fancied that
it was merely an absurd whim of the girl's, to tease Frank Hunter—in
truth, Rose Castleton was in dread peril of going irretrievably
Nothing of any moment passed; nor could Sir Edward find any
opportunity of speaking to the poor girl alone until when the dinner
was finished, and they were returning to their sports; after they had
all quitted the house with the old farmer, he made a plea of having
left his shot pouch, and ran back himself, before any one could
anticipate him, to fetch it. He found, as he expected, Rose Castleton
alone, looking out of the window after them. As he entered the garden
gate she looked round, and seeing the shot bag, guessed, with a
woman's rapid wit, what it meant—caught it up, and stepped out into
the porch to meet him.
There were two servant girls removing the dinner things in the
hall, and, as if accidentally, she pulled the heavy door to after
her. The porch was deep and projecting, and, as Hale entered it, he
cast a quick glance round to see if he was observed, but all was safe!
The very air of Rose, her heightened color, the quickened motion of
her bosom, and the trembling of her small hand, showed that she was
not all unconscious.
"I thank you, Rose," he said quite aloud, in order to be overheard;
"that is just what I came back for."
But, with the words, he caught her round the waist with both his
arms, and pressed her soft and panting bosom to his own— took one
long kiss from her unreluctant lips, and whispered, "You will come,
Rose, you will come, dearest Rose, to-night?"
"Be sure I will," she replied—"if they will let me—if I can
slip away; but—but," she added, with an arch smile, "you must
promise that you will not harm me."
Before he could reply, however, the old man's step was heard
without; and putting her fingers up to her rosy lips, and blowing him
a kiss, she vanished. The door clapped heavily, and, making as if it
had closed on his own exit, Edward walked out with the pouch in his
hand, spoke a few words to the old man, and hurried on to join his
They returned to their sport,—but the mind of Edward was too much
engrossed by other matters; his heart beat thick and fast—his hand
was unsteady—he missed four or five fair shots in succession; and
his friends laughed at him; but he bore all their jeering in good
part, and laughed, in his turn, at them, as he told them that "He
laughed the loudest who laughed last!" "Look out," he added, "look
out for your thousand, captain!"
"Ha! is it so?" said Spencer, "has she made an appointment?"
"For nine o'clock to-night!"
"Hurrah!" cried St. Maur. "Hurrah! we shall do the captain—I knew
we should. Halloa! there goes a rabbit, right from between my legs!"
and he took a quick sight and fired.
"Missed him, by Jove!" said Hale, and firing himself, he turned the
rabbit over; and the little spaniel, not much bigger itself than the
beast it presumed to carry, retrieved it very cleverly.
Their shooting was continued until the shades of evening had begun
fairly to set in; and then, with their shooting ponies fairly laden
with the quantity of game they had shot, their dogs almost tired out,
and themselves in the highest possible spirits, they returned
homeward to supper.
Just as they came in sight of the house, the first bell was ringing
out clearly and merrily, so that there was little time to spare
before the social meal should be set on the board—and this little
Captain Spencer, determined that Edward should have no more time for
quiet consideration, contrived to make still less, by detaining him
some minutes on the steps of the hall door, in frivolous conversation.
Then starting suddenly, as if he had forgotten himself, he
said—"Upon my word! we shall scarce have five minutes to make our
ablutions. Now, pray, lose no time, my dear Sir Edward, for I am
"Not I, faith," answered the baronet, running up stairs in high
glee—"I will be with you in five minutes."
Then Spencer turned round, with a quiet smile, to St. Maur, and
"The game is won!—that is to say, if you have not made any
blunder in your letter to Delaval. I wish I had found time to see it
before you sent it off. Mine to Davenant was a master-piece! Not a
word that could be contradicted; yet not a word that might not be
construed into any thing."
"I think, for my part, that the game is lost! Here is this silly
wench going to meet him quietly to-night. He wins her almost without
wooing—wearies of her as soon as she is won—and there 's an end of
the whole thing, and no one the wiser."
"That is all you know about it! and, true enough, that is all that
would come of it, if there were no head wiser than your own to
"How is it, then? How—"
"Never you mind. It is all well, that is enough for you. Go away
now, and prepare yourself for supper."
It was not twenty minutes before to the light-hearted sports of the
day the excitement of the lighted hall succeeded—the sumptuous
supper—the rich and genial wines—the frolic mirth—the graceful
revelry— the voluptuous song—the licentious boasting. Now there
was nothing of the gross and low debauchery which had rendered the
orgies of the past night disgusting to every refined or gentle spirit;
now there was nothing coarse or boisterous or obscene; wine flowed,
it is true, liberally, but not to excess; now there was present every
thing that could excite and stimulate, and nothing that could jar upon
or disgust the senses.
So passed the evening, until the hour drew nigh for the host's
appointment, and then, easily excused, Sir Edward stole away to the
rendezvous in the low Monk's Coppice.
The setting moon shed her long rays of silvery light over the
velvet greensward, and the huge shadows of the giant oaks slept
peacefully amid the sheeny radiance; there was not a breath of air to
stir even the highest sprays; the fleecy clouds hung motionless in
the depths of the unfathomed air; there was not a sound abroad, but
the gurgling of the distant trout stream, brought nearer, as it
seemed, by the absence of all other sounds; the deer were couched
among the tall fern, in dreamless slumbers; the only living object
that met the eye of the young baronet, as he glided like a guilty
thing through his rich demesne, was a large white owl sweeping with
its great wings along the wood-side, noiseless and wary as himself,
and like himself in pursuit of innocent prey.
All abroad was content, and peace, and tranquillity, but in his
heart was the hell of fierce passions, unchained and for the time
indomitable; the calmness of the scene was unregarded; or, if
regarded, was considered only as convenient to his purpose; not as
inculcating a lesson, or contrasting with the turbulence and tumult
that he felt within.
That night, although they waited for him, and revelled late, his
friends saw nothing of their host; and when, two hours past midnight,
they adjourned, they were informed by the house-steward that Sir
Edward, not being well at ease, had been a-bed these four hours.
"I told you so," whispered Spencer, "I told you he would not get
her very easily. Good night! good night! to-morrow will play out the
The morrow came, and when the party were assembled at the
breakfast table, the brow of Edward Hale was so dark and moody, that
from this alone it was evident he must have been disappointed; but
this it did not suit his guests to perceive, and as soon as he
entered the apartment, St. Maur, who was awaiting him, cried out,
with a merry laugh—
"Why this is the very insolence of conquest, Ned. They tell me that
you were abed at ten o'clock; was not the lovely Rose worth one
"Tush!" answered the young baronet, sharply; "damnation on it! she
did not come at all. Instead of Rose, I met that great brute, Mark
Eversly, at the place, to tell me she was watched, and could not get
out to meet me. And now, to wind up the whole, her old dotard of a
father has been here, as soon as it was light this morning, with
Frank Hunter, to ask my sanction for her marriage, on the day after
to-morrow. He did not directly tell me so, but it is quite clear that
she had told him every thing, for he talked about a love-quarrel with
her betrothed husband, and her flightiness, and coquetting with some
other man to punish him! And how sorry she was now, and how much she
repented of her misconduct, and how willing Frank was to forgive her,
and how anxious he was himself to marry her at once to the man she
loved, lest scandal, and perhaps worse should come of it."
"Pshaw! pshaw! that is the merest humbug. They have found you out
somehow or other, and have been badgering the girl out of her wits.
It is as clear as day-light that she loves you, and would rather be
your mistress than that bumpkin's wife. Only do not despair, and you
shall have her yet."
"No, no!" replied Hale bitterly, "no— St. Maur—no! it is
impossible. By all the powers of hell! she is lost to me altogether,
and forever; and I—I—by the Lord that lives! I would give half my
fortune, half my life to win her."
"Nonsense, man, nonsense," replied St. Maur, "why the deuce should
she be lost to you? It will never do to give it up thus. Why Spencer
will win our two thousand guineas; I suppose that does not signify to
you, who are as rich as Croesus, but it is every thing to me, who have
not been a minor eighteen years, with ten thousand pounds per annum
"Why, what the devil would you have me do, man?" answered Sir
Edward, angrily; "I tell you I would give ten thousand pounds to win
"Then why don't you win her, baronet?" said Spencer, laughing. "I
could do it, for a twentieth part of the sum."
"Oh, you mean buy her, I suppose; buy her of the father, or the
bridegroom! But you would be very much mistaken if you were to try
that game. You would be pretty sure to get your head broken with a
quarter-staff, for your pains."
"Indeed, I mean nothing of the kind," said he; "but I could do it."
"How? how? I will do any thing— any thing in the world to win
"You forget, baronet, that I have bet against you; and it is hardly
likely that I should help you to win my own money."
"Oh, I have lost the bet; I have lost the bet fairly, for I have
consented to her marrying Hunter," replied Edward. "I had given up
all hopes of success, and, indeed, had filled up a draft in your name
on my goldsmith before I came down stairs; here it is, Captain
Spencer. Now we are straight on that score. So you are free to help
me now. How would you win her?"
"Why, by a little gentle violence. Carry her off, to be sure,"
answered Spencer, pocketing the draft.
"More easily said, that, than done!" answered Hale.
"Oh, you are young—you are young," replied the other. "Give me
the necessary orders, and I will arrange it all for you, in the
twinkling of an eye."
"I will give you any thing you please, captain," answered the
baronet, very quickly, "if you will show me how you can do it."
"Well, just sit down at that table. You are a magistrate, are you
"Yes; what of that?"
"Every thing—every thing! Just sit down, and write me an order to
take in charge Francis Hunter, as a poacher, or vagabond, or any
thing you please, and to put him on board my frigate—and I will do
it this very night—if I take him out of his own house."
"But how will you get the force?"
"Never you mind. I have got force nearer than you think for. My
frigate lies in the Southampton river, and perhaps my lieutenant and
a gang are nearer at hand than she is. Perhaps I brought them hither
with a view to some fun for myself; you need not inquire. In these
times the king's very good friends, as I am, can do a great many very
funny things. Only do you give me the order, and tell me where to
catch Master Frank, and he shall find himself to-morrow night under
hatches of the good ship Royal Oak, instead of being under a coverlet
with a bonny bride. And, if he needs must be married, my boatswain
shall be parson, and tie him up to the gunner's daughter. A saucy
scoundrel, to interfere thus with his betters."
"That is soon done," said Hale, who was now thoroughly maddened
between passion, rivalry, and disappointment, "that is soon done,"
and with the words he drew an order, signed it, and gave it to
Spencer; "and for the rest, there is no difficulty in getting hold of
Hunter. He told me himself that he should ride to Alresford this
evening, to buy the wedding ring, or some such foolery, and return
homeward by the forest road ere midnight; I will show you where you
may post your men, and catch him—and what then?"
"Why, then, you shall ride out with me, and show me the spot; and
then go on and call to pay your respects on the good Earl of
Rochefort; and, if he press you, as it is like he will, stay dinner
with him. Then you must let Mark Eversly show St. Maur which is the
window of the girl's bed-chamber, and he must have the carriage
waiting in some safe place by the park wall, and carry off the girl
for you, and the scandal of that will fall on him, not on you; and he
has earned so good a reputation for such deeds, that one more or less
will make no difference to him; and as for Hunter, I will not post my
men until sunset, and when the job is done will return quietly to the
Hall, and no one will be a word the wiser, until a three years' cruise
is over, and by that time the whole thing will be forgotten."
"Excellent! excellent!" exclaimed Sir Edward. "And as I return from
Rochefort's, I will meet St. Maur in the carriage, have a sham
quarrel with him, and bring her back to her father's as her rescuer."
"And so secure a two hour's
tête à tête
with her in the
first place, in which, of course, you can overcome all her scruples,
if she have any, and win her for your mistress under her father's
very nose; and that, too, with his everlasting gratitude to you for
saving her from this vile profligate. Ah! you are a cunning fellow,
Hale; and, before many years, will be as deep a hand as myself, I
It needed little time to arrange all their schemes of iniquity, in
due form, and with every probability of success; and then, when all
was planned, St. Maur and Harbottle set out to fish the stream; while
Spencer and the young lord of the manor rode out together, the former,
as he gave it out, to carry letters to the post at Barnsley, the
latter to pay his respects to the Earl of Rochefort; but it was a
matter of some little surprise to the household that they took no
attendants with them, and that they ordered a late supper, saying
that they should neither of them be home until near midnight.
Throughout that day every thing went on well for the conspirators;
Spencer had reconnoitered the ground thoroughly, as he rode out with
his friend in the morn ing; had found his lieutenant with the men, as
he expected, at Barnsley; and had given them his instructions so
skilfully that he felt well assured no suspicion could in any case
fall upon him as the perpetrator of the meditated outrage, until he
should himself choose to reveal his agency in the matter.
Meanwhile, Sir Edward Hale had galloped onward, without giving his
mind time to cool from the turmoil of fierce passion which was still
raging there, to Kingston castle, the seat of the Earl of Rochefort;
and there, too, every thing had happened to his liking, for shortly
after his arrival a furious thunder-storm arose, and lasted so long
that he was pressed, as he desired to to be, to stay for dinner, and
no plea was left him for refusing the kindly and oft urged invitation.
Thus passed the day, unmarked by any thing of moment, and night
came on untimely for the season, and boisterous, and unpleasant, and
in all respects suited to the purposes of the conspirators. Few men
were likely to be abroad on such a night, if it were not on urgent
business; for it had been a dim gray misty evening since the
thunder-storm, with every now and then a violent burst of cold and
wintry rain; the wind howled fearfully among the tree-tops, and the
chimneys of the manor, and it was withal so dark and black, that long
before midnight a man could not have seen his hand at a yard before
This storm had afforded Spencer a fair excuse for dining at the
little Inn at Barnsley; while his men went off singly, or in small
parties, so as to pass unnoticed, to rendezvous at a well known and
conspicuous landmark, the Battle Pillar, as it was called, a large
block of gray granite, commemorative of some event long since
forgotten, standing by the wayside, on a large waste common, covered
with fern and bushes, and interspersed with pools and pits full of
water, where they were to be joined by their officers in the course of
the night, and receive further orders.
Hale had, however, some difficulty in escaping from the
hospitalities of the castle, in consequence of the unusual inclemency
of the night; and it was only by alleging the presence of his guests
at home, as an insurmountable obstacle to his remaining all night,
that he was enabled to avoid the well meant persecutions of the old
After that, he had another struggle to undergo, before he could get
away without accepting the escort of half a dozen of the earl's
blue-coated serving men, whom it would have very illy suited him to
take along with him that night; but finally, when it was nearly ten
o'clock, he succeeded in making good his retreat, and began to ride
rapidly toward the place appointed.
Eleven o'clock struck from many a village steeple, and quarter
elapsed after quarter, and now it was almost on the stroke of twelve,
and all things were prepared for action—a carriage, one of the
lightest of the ponderous vehicles of that day, with four strong
horses harnessed to it, stood in a hollow way close to the postern
gate in the park wall, sheltered from observation by the dense
shadows of the overhanging trees, ready to bear off Rose to London so
soon as she should be seized by the ruffians appointed for that task
under the orders of Lord Henry St. Maur. Meantime the gang of
sailors, well armed, with bludgeons, pistols, and cutlasses, lay hid
in the dark thickets by the side of the Alresford road, with Captain
Spencer and his first lieutenant; while guarded by three men, in a
low charcoal burner's shed, long since deserted, on the skirts of the
forest-land, and scarcely half a mile distant, a light taxed cart,
with two swift horses attached to it, tandem-fashion, was in waiting
to bear the captured yeoman to his floating prison.
The times had been calculated closely— and all, so far, had gone
successfully. Frank Hunter was even now jogging homeward, as the
leaders of the press-gang anticipated, with a full purse and happy
heart, from the distant market-town; and now Lord Henry, with his
ruffians, was actually at his post by the lonely farm, and consulting
his repeater ere he should give the word to plant the ladder against
the chamber window of the innocent girl, who slept, all unsuspicious
and unconscious, the calm, soft sleep of youthful happiness.
Sir Edward Hale, however, was ill at ease and anxious he was too
young in evil—he had too much of actual goodness in his
composition—was too unhardeued in the road of sin, not to feel many
a twinge of conscience, many a keen compunctious visitation. He, too,
was now near the place of action—he had already ridden many miles
since leaving the castle, where he had spent the day; and his heart,
fearfully agitated, began to turn almost sick within him, as he was
now rapidly approaching the point on the great London road whereat,
an hour or two later, he was to meet the carriage bearing his
destined mistress from her terrified and grieving family.
He had, as I have said already, felt full many a prick of
conscience, full many a touch of half repentant sorrow; but still,
whenever he made up his mind to turn from the evil of the way in
which he was going, as he did many times that night, dread— that
false dread which so often drives frail man to crime and
sorrow—dread, I mean, of the mockery and laughter of his more
hardened comrades, prevailed, and hindered him from turning his head
homeward, and countermanding the perpetration of those base outrages.
Still, though he dared not halt in the career of sin—though he
felt that he could not, even though he would, repent—he was
sad, moody and reluctant; and he rode onward slowly, guiding his
horse with an irresolute and feeble hand through the blind darkness.
He was now two or three miles only distant from the station at the
cross-roads, which had been fixed upon as the spot where he was to
overtake the carriage, and enact the part of Rose's rescuer from St.
Maur and his myrmidons. He was just in the act of crossing the
bridle-road which led from the market-town, whence Hunter was
returning, past the wild forest-land skirting his own park, wherein
the press-gang was patiently awaiting the appearance of the young
The London road, after it crossed the narrow track in question,
mounted the brow of a short bold hill, and dived at once into a deep
and shadowy dingle, with a large brook, which had been swollen by that
night's rain into a wild and foaming torrent, threading the bottom of
the dell. The brook, which lay between rocky banks, was spanned at
this place by a rude wooden bridge, that had, for some time past, been
gradually falling into ruin; and scarce two hours before the time at
which Sir Edward reached the spot, the whole of the weak fabric had
been swept away by the swollen torrent.
At the cross-road the youthful baronet paused, even longer than
before, and doubted— yes, greatly doubted—whether he should not
alter, even now, his purpose; but, as he did so, the distant clatter
of a hoof came down the house-road from the direction of
Alresford—and, instantly suspecting that the traveller could be no
other than Frank Hunter, he dashed his spurs into his horse's side,
and gallopped furiously across the hill, and down the steep descent,
toward the yawning chasm, fearful of being seen, under these
circumstances, by the man on whom he was preparing to inflict an
injury so fearful.
Down the steep track he drove furiously— headlong—spurring his
noble hunter— on! on! as if he were careering in full flight—
flight from that fearful fury, a self-tormenting conscience; which,
to borrow the imagery of the Latin lyrist—"Climbs to the deck of
the brazen galley, and mounts on the croupe of the flying horseman!"
"On he came! on! Now he was at the brink of the dread precipice!
One other bound would have precipitated horse and man together into
the dark abyss! But the horse bounded not! he saw, almost too late,
the frightful space, and stood with his feet rooted to the verge,
stock still, even as a sculptured image! stock still from his furious
gallop, even at the chasm's brink!
Headlong was Edward Hale launched by the shock into the flooded
stream; and well was it for him that the stream was so wildly
flooded; for had he fallen on the rocks, which in ordinary weather
lay bare and black in the channel, he had been dashed to atoms.
Deep! deep he sunk into the wheeling eddies—but he rose instantly
to the surface, and struck out lightly for his life! for he was both
a bold and active swimmer. At the same instant he shouted
loudly—wildly— so as no man can shout who is not in such
desperate extremity—again and again for succor!
Just at this moment the moon came out bright from the scattered
clouds, and showed him all the perils of his state, but showed him no
way to escape them, so steeply did the rocks tower above his head—so
wildly did the torrent whirl him upon its mad and foaming waters.
Again he shouted—and again—and once he thought his shout was
answered; fainter he waxed and fainter; he sunk—rose— sunk, and
rose again; a deadlier and more desperate struggle—a wilder yell for
help, and the water rushed into his mouth, and a flash reeled across
his eyes, and he was floating helplessly—hopelessly down the gulf,
when a strong arm seized him, and dragged him to the bank; for he had
drifted through the gorge, and the stream flowed here through low and
level meadows. A little space he lay there senseless, and then, by
the kind and attentive energies of his rescuer, he was brought back to
life—and his first glance, as his soul returned to him, fell on the
frank face of the man who had preserved him! That man was Frank
Hunter! All Edward Hale's best feelings rushed back in a flood upon
him—he started to his knee!
"I thank thee!" he cried fervently— "with all my soul I thank
thee, mighty, Almighty Lord! that thou hast saved me— not from this
death alone, but from this deadly sin!"
And, seizing Hunter's hand, he poured into his half incredulous and
all bewildered ear the story—the confession—of his dark meditated
"But there is time—there is yet time," he cried—"the horses!
where are the horses?"
"Here! here, Sir Edward," cried the stout yeoman; "I caught your
hunter as I came along, and tied him with my hackney to a tree here
at the hill foot."
A moment, and they were both in the saddle, furiously spurring
toward a cross-road, which led directly to the place where we have
seen the carriage, and leaving the press-gang far behind them; for
Hunter had quitted his homeward track on hearing Sir Edward's cry for
help, and so avoided that danger. A second bridge, a little lower
down the river, soon gave them the means of crossing it and regaining
the high road; and they were nearing the lane by which the carriage
must come up, at every stride of their horses; and there was now no
longer any doubt but they were in good time. Just as they were about
to turn, however, down the oft mentioned lane, they were arrested by
the clang of several horses at a gallop, coming down the great road
from London, so as to meet them, and by a shout—
"Stand! stand! and tell us the road to Arrington!"
Edward Hale answered in a moment, for he knew the voice. "Good God!
Lord Arthur, is that you?"
"Hale! Heaven be praised," cried the new comer; "then I am in luck.
But what the deuce are you doing here? and who is this with you?"
Where are St. Maur and Spencer?"
"I will tell you another time—I will tell you another time,
Arthur Asterly," replied Sir Edward; for it was Lady Fanny's
brother—an officer in the Life Guards— who, at his sister's
entreaty, had ridden down post-haste. "Come with me, quick! come with
me, and see me repair a great intended wrong!"
"One minute—for I
must tell you now what I have ridden
post from town to tell you. I was just off guard at Windsor when Fan
sent for me, and I have not had time to take off my uniform! You are
the dupe of a set of scoundrels! Spencer and St. Maur have been
urging you to a great offence, for their own evil ends! and, grieved
I am to say it, with my mother's cognizance. They thought themselves
very cunning with their anonymous letters, and base schemes to make
Fan think you a villain; but Fan and I detected them in no time; and,
I thank God! it has been the means of bringing my poor father to his
senses; and he would have thrown up the cursed marquisate, which was
the price of all this knavery—but the king, for all the ill they
speak of him, has acted nobly— nobly! I saw him myself, and told him
the whole story, and he wrote a manly and generous letter, in his own
hand, restoring the pledge he had given to that scoundrel, Davenant!
and I have come down here, post-haste, to save you—and I am time
enough to do so—am I not, dear Ned?"
"Sir Edward was saved ere you came, my lord—if I may be so bold
as to speak to you, who are a great gentleman. His own good heart and
good feelings saved him," cried the bold yeoman, half crying with the
violence of his emotions.
"I am afraid not," said Sir Edward, unwilling to take any credit he
did not deserve; "it was chance only, or rather Providence—a
blessed accident—and gratitude to this good man for his timely
service! But for him, Arthur, I should be dead now—dead in the
perpetration of a cowardly base crime!"
"Well, God be praised that you are saved by any means," cried Lord
Arthur, "but let us gallop on, if there is any thing to do!"
"Much, much! there is much to do," answered Hale; "follow,
follow!"—and, putting spurs to his horse, he dashed down the lane
toward the brick farm-house.
They reached it in time; reached it just as Rose Castleton,
fainting between surprise and terror—for the girl's head and not
her heart had been led astray, and her repentance had been real—was
thrust into the carriage by the hand of Henry St. Maur.
"St. Maur!" cried Edward, springing from his horse, as he arrived
on the spot, "St. Maur, you are a villain! You drove me into this for
your own evil ends—but all your villanies are discovered—and you
may thank God, if you believe that there is a God, that no more harm
has come of it."
And, lifting Rose respectfully out of the carriage, he placed her
in the arms of her chosen bridegroom, saying, "Here, take her,
Hunter—take her! I give her to you, and will give you her dowry
to-morrow— take her, God bless you, and be happy!"
"Sir Edward Hale, you shall answer me for this, by heaven!" cried
St. Maur furiously.
"When you will, my lord, when you will!"
"Then now, now!" exclaimed St. Maur, "I say now!"—and he
unsheathed his rapier ere the words were out of his mouth. Sir Edward
Hale followed his example on the instant; and before any one could
interpose, their blades were crossed. It was almost too dark for
sword play, but the lamps of the carriage were lighted, and the
inmates of the farm had by this time run out, with several torches
and lanterns, so that the gleam of their weapons could be
distinguished in this glimmering light."
The young baronet fought only on the defensive, St. Maur thrusting
at him with insane and revengeful rashness, so that Edward might have
killed him two or three times, had he been so minded. But, at the
fourth or fifth pass, the young lord's foot slipped on the wet
greenward, and he fell his full length, breaking his small sword as
he did so.
"Take your life. Take your life, my lord, and mend it," said
Edward, putting up his sword.
Sullenly the young nobleman arose, and shook the hilt of his broken
blade at the victor.
"You will repent of this!" he said; and, snatching the rein of one
of the servants' horses, which stood near, he sprung to its back, and
galloping off toward the Hall was quickly lost in the swart darkness.
But Edward Hale never did repent it.
A pause ensued of some moments after his departure, which was at
length broken by Lord Arthur Asterly, who said, "Well, we had better
all go quietly home to our beds now; and to-morrow we can talk over
these things at our leisure; that is to say, if it be not the better
plan to bury them all in oblivion; for, by the blessing of
Providence, there has no harm befallen any one, and I think the
adventures of this night are over. So send away the carriage, Ned,
and your people; and let us two trot to the Hall together, for I have
a good many private explanations for your ear; and we will not hurry,
for it is just as well to let those scoundrels have time to evacuate
the premises. I do not think they will have the impudence to wait for
But the adventures of the evening were not over. For, unhappily,
Spencer having grown weary of waiting with his men, left them in
charge of the lieutenant, and came galloping up to the entrance of the
hall in one direction, just as St. Maur arrived there from another,
bareheaded, his dress covered with clay, and his scabbard empty by his
"Ho! St. Maur," said the captain, as he saw him, "what does all
this mean? Whence do you come in this array? Where is Sir Edward?"
"It means, sir," replied St. Maur furiously, for he was in the mood
to wreak his spite on any one who happened to be near him, "that
Arthur Asterly has come down post from London, and all is discovered,
and we are a brace of fools and villains!"
"Speak for yourself, pray, my good lord! With regard to yourself I
have no doubt you are perfectly right—you must know best,"
said Spencer, in the most coolly irritating manner. "But I allow no
man to apply such words to me."
"You will have to fight half the world, then, captain," answered
St. Maur, seeing the folly of quarreling with his own confederate,
"for every thing is blown—blown to the four winds!"
"Then Hale has given up the wench?"
"Given her up! to be sure he has! given her to the farmer fellow!
and called me a villain to my teeth! We fought, and but that I fell
and broke my sword, I would have—"
"Done wonders, doubtless!" interrupted Spencer. "But see here, if I
understand you aright, I win a cool thousand of you! You bet me that
Hale would have this cursed wench, within a fortnight, for his
mistress. Now, as I mean to make myself scarce, and to keep myself on
board my frigate until this blows over, you may as well book up."
"Why, Spencer," exclaimed St. Maur, "you forget—"
"Indeed, I forget nothing! did you not make the bet?"
Just at this moment Harbottle, who knew not a word of what had been
passing, disturbed by their loud voices, came out upon the terrace,
with several servants bearing lights, and every word that followed
was heard by all of them.
"I did; but did we not understand that it was to be drawn in
"Not I, my lord—not I, my lord; I never play child's play. When I
bet, I bet; and when I win, I expect to be paid. Now the question is,
will you pay me?"
"No, sir, I will not, for you have not won it. You are cheating me."
"Yes, sir, you
are cheating me," exclaimed St. Maur
fiercely. "You are cheating me, or trying to do so! You are—"
"Quite enough said, my lord," answered Spencer, perfectly composed.
"You heard him, Harbottle; you heard what he said. Now, my Lord Henry
St. Maur, in my mind the quicker these things are settled the better.
My pistols are in my holsters loaded; your are doubtless the same—
if not, take your choice of mine!"
It was in vain that Harbottle, that the servants, would have
interposed—both were determined, obstinate, unyielding!
Ten paces were stepped off upon the terrace—the reluctant
servants were compelled to advance the torches—each took a weapon
in his hand, and to prevent worse horror—for they swore that if
balked they would fight muzzle to the breast, and give the word
themselves—Harbottle gave the signal.
The pistols flashed at once—but one report was heard—and, ere
that reached the ears of the spectators, St. Maur sprung up a yard
into the air, and fell to the ground dead, with the bullet in his
At this moment the approaching sounds of Sir Edward and his friend
were heard, quickened by the pistol shots. Speneer's keen ear first
caught them; and, as he sprung to his horse, he took a sealed
package, undirected, out of the bosom of his coat, and threw it to
Harbottle, exclaiming, "Give that to Edward Hale—it is his—and
say I am sorry for what has passed; for to him, at least, I owe no ill
It was the order to arrest Frank Hunter, under Sir Edward's hand
and seal; but before Harbottle had raised it from the ground, the
homicide was out of sight, and the young baronet came upon the ground
with Lord Arthur Asterly.
The fall of the guilty and unhappy St. Maur, was the catastrophe of
this romance— for a romance it was of domestic life!— and, like
all other romances, it ended in a marriage!
From that day forth Sir Edward Hale was a better and a wiser
man!—from that day forth sin had no more any permanent dominion
over him! No obstacle now opposed his union, in due season, with
charming Fanny Asterly—and with his sweet wife and a fair and noble
family—for God smiled upon his marriage—he lived long and happily
among his happy tenants; and when he died the country people mourned
him, as "the good Lord of the Manor!"