And after that, Blanche was silent.
Note 1. The Gentiles (saith Saint Augustine), which seem to be of the purer religion, say, We worship not the images, but by the corporal image we do behold the signs of the things which we ought to worship. And Lactantius saith, The Gentiles say, We fear not the images, but them after whose likeness the images be made, and to whose names they be consecrated. And Clemens saith, That serpent the Devil uttereth these words by the mouth of certain men: We, to the honour of the invisible God, worship visible images.—(Third Part of the Homily on Peril of Idolatry: references in margin to Augustine Ps. 135; Lactantius l. 2. Inst.; Clem., L. S ad Jacob.) Here are the "Fathers" condemning as Pagan the reasoning of modern Papists.
Note 2. "Credit et defendit que in eucharistia sive altaris sacramento verum et naturalem Christi corpus ac verus et naturalis Christi sanguis sub speciebus panis et vini vere non est; et quod ibi est materialis panis et materiale vinum tantum absque veritati et presentia corporis et sanguinis Christi."—Indictment of Reverend Lawrence Saunders, January 30, 1555; Harl. MS. 421, folio 44.
"Tenes et defendes in prout quod in eucharistia sive sacramento altaris verum naturalem et realem Christi corpus ac verus naturalis et realis Christi sanguis sub speciebus panis et vini vere non est, sed post consecratione remanet substantia panis et vini."—Indictment of Reverend Thomas Rose, May 31, 1555; Harl. MS. 421, folio 188.
Note 3. There is the initial M on the pedestal of one or more of these black Virgins, which of course the priests interpret as Mary. This is certainly not the case. It has been suggested that it stands for Maia, a name of the Tuscan goddess. May it not be the initial of Mylitta, "the Mediatrix," one of the favourite names of the great original goddess?
Note 4. See Hislop's Two Babylons, pages 22, 122, 491, et aliis; and Shepheard's Traditions of Eden, page 117, note (where many references are given), and page 188.
"A cross of gold, of silver, or of wood, Or of mean straw, hid in each shape of life; Some trial working for eternal good, Found in our outward state or inward strife."
"Bab! Art thou yonder?"
"Is it Jennet?"
"Ay. There's a gentlewoman i' th' bower to see thee."
"Nay,—a gentlewoman! Who can it be?"
"I've told thee all I know. Hoo [she] wanted Mistress Clare; and I said hoo were down at th' parsonage; then hoo said, 'Is Barbara Polwhele here?' And I said, 'Ay, hoo's come o'er to fot [fetch] somewhat for th' young mistresses.' So hoo said, 'Then I'll speak wi' her.' So I took her to my Lady, for I see hoo were a gentlewoman; and hoo's i' th' bower."
"I wis nought of her," said Barbara. "I never looked to see none here that I know."
"Well, thou'd best go to her," decided Jennet Barbara hurried down, and found an old silver-haired lady sitting with Lady Enville, and addressed by her with marked deference.
"Well, Bab!" said the old lady, who was brisk enough for her years; "thou dost not seem no younger since I saw thee in Cornwall, and the mirror yonder saith neither am I."
"Marry La'kin! but if I thought it metely possible, I would say it were surely Mistress Philippa Basset!"
"I will not confute thee, Bab, though it be but metely possible," said the lively old lady, laughing. "I came to see the child Clare; but hearing she was hence, I then demanded thee. I will go down to the parsonage anon. I would like well to see Robin, and Thekla likewise."
"Eh, Mistress Philippa! but there be great and sore changes sithence you were used to come unto the Lamb to see Mistress Avery!"
"Go to, Barbara! Hast dwelt sixty years, more or less, in this world, and but now found out that all things therein be changeable? What be thy changes to mine? Child, there is not a soul that I loved in those days when Isoult dwelt in the Minories, that is not now with God in Heaven. Not a soul! Fifty years gone, brethren and sisters, there were seven of us. All gone, save me!—a dry old bough, that sticketh yet upon the tree whence all the fair green shoots have been lopped away. And I the eldest of all! The ways of God's Providence be strange."
"I said so much once unto Master Robin," responded Barbara with a smile; "but he answered, 'twas no matter we apprehended not the same, for the Lord knew all, and ordered the end from the beginning."
"He hath ordered me a lonely journey, and a long," said Philippa sadly. "Well! even a Devon lane hath its turning."
"And what brought you thus far north, Mistress Philippa, an' I make not too bold?"
"Why, I came to see Bridget's childre. I have bidden these four months gone with Jack Carden. And being so nigh ye all, I thought I would never turn home without seeing you."
Lady Bridget Carden was the daughter of Philippa Basset's step-father. They were not really related; but they had been brought up as sisters from their girlhood.
"Nigh, Mistress Philippa!" exclaimed Barbara in surprise. "What, from Cheshire hither!"
Philippa laughed merrily. "Marry come up, Bab! thou hast not dwelt seven years in Calais, as I have, and every yard of lawn for thy partlets to be fetched from London, and every stone of thy meat to boot. Why, thou earnest thine own self as far as from Cornwall."
"Eh, marry La'kin! Never came I that way but once, and if God be served, [if it be His will] I never look to turn again."
Philippa turned to Lady Enville, who had sat, or rather reclined, playing with a hand-screen, while she listened to the preceding conversation. "And how goeth it with the child, tell me, Orige? She is not yet wed, trow?"
"Not yet," replied Lady Enville, with her soft smile. "I shall ne'er be astonied if she wed with Arthur Tremayne. 'Twere a very fair match, and he is good enough for Clare."
"A good stock, and an old; and a good lad, I trust. Thou must have a care, Orige, not to cast the child away on one that will not deal well and truly by her."
"Oh, Arthur would deal well," said Lady Enville carelessly. "He is a mighty sobersides, and so is Clare. They were cut out for one another."
"Poor child!" said Philippa.
"'Poor child'—and wherefore, Mrs Basset, say you so?"
"Because, Orige, it seemeth me she hath no mother."
"Nay, Mistress Basset, what signify you?"
"No mother, Orige—or as good as none. An' Clare had been my child, I had never handed her o'er, to Arthur Tremayne nor any other, with no more heed than a napron-full of sticks."
"Well, in very deed, I do take the better care of the twain for Blanche to be well matched. Lo' you, Mistress Basset, Blanche is of good lineage; and she is rare lovesome—well-nigh as fair as I was at her years—so that I would not have her to cast herself away, in no wise: but for Clare—which hath small beauty, and is of little sort—it maketh not much matter whom she may wed."
"Good lack, Orige Enville, is a maid's heart no matter?—is a maid's life no matter? Why, woman! thou lackest stirring up with a poker! I marvel if I were sent hither to do it."
"Gramercy, Mistress Basset!" cried Lady Enville in horror. "That stirring up is it which I can in no wise abide."
"The which shows how much thou lackest it. But I am afeard thou art too far gone for any good. Well, I will look after the child; and I will set Thekla on to do it. And if I find Arthur to be a good man and true, and Clare reasonable well affected unto him,—trust me, I will not interfere. But if not,—Orige, I will not see Walter's child cast away, if thou wilt."
"Nay, good lack, Mrs Basset, what would you do?"
Lady Enville knew the energy and determination of the old lady's character, and that if she set her mind upon a course of action, she was pretty sure to carry it through, and to make other people do as she wished.
"I will do that" said Philippa decidedly. "I will judge whether the lot thou hast chalked out for Clare be fit for her."
"But in case you judge it not so, what then?"
"Then I will have the child away."
"I could ne'er allow that, Mistress Basset," said Lady Enville with unusual decision.
"I shall ne'er ask thee, Orige," returned Philippa, with a slightly contemptuous stress upon the pronoun. "I will talk with thine husband; I trust he will hear reason, though thou mayest not. And I could find good places enow for Clare; I have many friends in the Court. My Lady Dowager of Kent [Susan Bertie, the only daughter of Katherine Duchess of Suffolk] would work, I know, for Isoult Barry's granddaughter; and so would Beatrice Vivian [a fictitious person], Isoult's old comrade, that hath a daughter and a niece to boot in the Queen's chamber. And I dare say my Lady Scrope [Note 1] would do somewhat for me. Any way, I would assay it."
"What, to have Clare in the Queen's Majesty's Court?" demanded Lady Enville, her eyes sparkling with interest and pleasure. "O Mistress Basset, could you not compass the same for Blanche?"
"In the Court! By my troth, nay!" said Philippa heartily. "I would never set maid that I cared a pin for in Queen Bess's Court. Soothly, there be good women there, but—And as for Blanche,—I will see her, Orige, ere I say aught. Blanche hath stole all thine heart, methinks— so much as there was to steal."
"But what meant you touching Clare, Mistress Basset?"
"What meant I? Why, to have her with some worthy and well-conditioned dame of good degree, that should see her well bestowed. I would trust my Lady Dowager of Kent, forsooth, or my Lady Scrope—she is a good woman and a pleasant—or maybe—"
"And my Lady Scrope is herself in the Court, I take it," said Lady Enville, pursuing her own train of thought, independent of that of Philippa.
"Ay, and were therefore the less fitting," said Philippa coolly. "Take no thought thereabout, Orige; I will do nought till I have seen the maidens."
"But, Mistress Basset! you would ne'er count that mine husband's word, that is not in very deed her father, should weigh against mine, that am her true and natural mother?" urged Lady Enville in an injured tone.
"Thou art her natural mother, Orige, 'tis sooth," was the uncompromising answer: "but whether true or no, that will I not say. I rather think nay than yea. And if thine husband be better father unto the child than thou mother, he is the fitter to say what shall come of the maid. And I can alway reason with a man easilier than a woman. Women be geese, mostly!"
With which reasonably plain indication of her sentiments, the old lady rose and took her leave. She would have no escort to the parsonage. She would come back and be introduced to Sir Thomas when she had seen the girls. And away she trudged, leaving Lady Enville in the undesirable situation of one who feels that a stronger will than his own is moulding his fate, and running counter to his inclinations.
Open doors were kept at the parsonage, as was generally the case in Elizabethan days. It was therefore no surprise to Mrs Tremayne, who was occupied in the kitchen, with her one servant Alison acting under her orders, to hear a smart rap on the door which shut off the kitchen from the hall.
"Come within!" she called in answer, expecting some parishioner in want of advice or alms.
But in marched an upright, brisk old lady, with silver hair, and a stout staff in her hand.
"I am come to see Thekla Rose," said she.
Mrs Tremayne was surprised now. It was thirty years since that name had belonged to her.
"And Thekla Rose has forgot me," added the visitor.
"There is a difference betwixt forgetting and not knowing," replied Mrs Tremayne with a smile.
"There is so," returned the old lady. "Therefore to make me known, which I see I am not,—my name is Philippa Basset."
The exclamation of delighted recognition which broke from the Rector's wife must have shown Philippa that she was by no means forgotten. Mrs Tremayne took her visitor into the parlour, just then unoccupied,— seated her in a comfortable cushioned chair, and, leaving Alison to bake or burn the cakes and pie in the oven as she found it convenient, had thenceforward no eyes and ears but for Philippa Basset. Certainly the latter had no cause to doubt herself welcome.
"I spake truth, Thekla, child, when I said I was come to see thee. Yet it was but the half of truth, for I am come likewise to see Robin: and I would fain acquaint me with yonder childre. Be they now within doors?"
"They be not all forth, or I mistake," said Mrs Tremayne; and she went to the door and called them—all four in turn. Blanche answered from the head of the stairs, but avowed herself ignorant of the whereabouts of any one else; and Mrs Tremayne begged her to look for and bring such as she could find to the parlour, to see an old friend of Clare's family.
In a few minutes Blanche and Lysken presented themselves. Arthur and Clare were not to be found. Philippa's keen, quick eyes surveyed the two girls as they entered, and mentally took stock of both.
"A vain, giddy goose!" was her rapid estimate of Blanche; wherein, if she did Blanche a little injustice, there was some element of truth. "Calm and deep, like a river," she said to herself of Lysken: and there she judged rightly enough.
Before any conversation beyond the mere introductions could occur, in trotted Mrs Rose.
"Mistress Philippa, you be the fairest ointment for the eyen that I have seen these many days!" said the lively little Flemish lady. "Ma foi! I do feel myself run back, the half of my life, but to look on you. I am a young woman once again."
"Old friend, we be both of us aged women," said Philippa.
"And it is true!" said Mrs Rose. "That will say, the joints be stiff, and the legs be weakened, and the fatigue is more and quicker: but I find not that thing within me, that men call my soul, to grow stiff nor weak. I laugh, I weep, I am astonied,—just all same as fifty years since. See you?"
"Ah! you have kept much of the childly heart," answered Philippa smiling. "But for me, the main thing with me that is not stiff nor weak in me is anger and grief. Men be such flat fools—and women worser, if worse can be."
Blanche opened her eyes in amazement Lysken looked amused.
"Ah, good Mistress Philippa, I am one of the fools," said Mrs Rose with great simplicity. "I alway have so been."
"Nay, flog me with a discipline if you are!" returned Philippa heartily. "I meant not you, old friend. You are not by one-tenth part so much as—" Her eye fell on Blanche. "Come, I name none.—And thou art Frank Avery's daughter?" she added, turning suddenly to Lysken. "Come hither, Frances, and leave me look on thee."
"My name is not Frances, good Mistress," replied Lysken, coming forward with a smile.
"Isoult, then? It should be one or the other."
"Nay—it is Elizabeth," said Lysken, with a shake of her head.
"More shame for thee," retorted Philippa jokingly. "What business had any to call thee Elizabeth?"
"My father's mother was Lysken Klaas."
"Good.—Well, Thekla, I have looked this face o'er, and I can read no Avery therein."
"'Tis all deep down in the heart," said Mrs Tremayne.
"The best place for it," replied Philippa. "Thou wilt do, child, as methinks. I would say it were easier to break thy heart than to beguile thy conscience. A right good thing—for the conscience. Is this Clare?" she asked, breaking off suddenly as Clare came in, with a tone which showed that she felt most interest in her of the three. She took both Clare's hands and studied her face intently.
"Walter's eyes," she said. "Isoult Barry's eyes! The maid could have none better. And John Avery's mouth. Truth and love in the eyes; honour and good learning on the lips. Thou wilt do, child, and that rarely well."
"Mistress Philippa Basset is a right old friend of thy dear grandame, Clare," said Mrs Tremayne in explanation. "Thou canst not remember her, but this worthy gentlewoman doth well so, and can tell thee much of her when they were young maids together, and thy grandmother was gentlewoman unto Mistress Philippa her mother, my sometime Lady Viscountess Lisle."
Clare looked interested, but she did not say much.
Mr Tremayne and Arthur came in together, only just in time for four-hours.
"God save thee, Robin dear!" was Philippa's greeting. "Art rested from Little Ease? I saw thee but slightly sithence, mind thou, and never had no good talk with thee."
Mr Tremayne laughed more merrily than was usual with him.
"Good Mistress Philippa, if thirty years were not enough to rest a man, in very deed he were sore aweary."
"Now, Arthur," said Philippa, turning to him bluntly, "come and let me look thee o'er."
Arthur obeyed, with grave lips, but amused eyes.
"Robin's eyes—Thekla's mouth—Father Rose's brow—Custance Tremayne's chin," she said, enumerating them rapidly. "If the inward answer the outward, lad, thou shouldst be a rare good one."
"Then I fear it doth not so," said Arthur soberly, "Humbleness will do thee no hurt, lad.—Now, Thekla, let us have our four-hours. I could eat a baken brick wall. Ay me! dost mind thee of the junkets, in old days, at the Lamb?"
"Thekla, I told thee afore, and I do it yet again,—women be flat fools. The biggest I know is Orige Enville. And in good sooth, that is much to say! She is past old Doll, at Crowe, that threw her kerchief over the candle to put it out. Blanche may be a step the better; methinks she is. But for all that, she is Orige Enville's daughter. I would as soon fetch my bodkin and pierce that child to the heart, as I would send her to the Court, where her blind bat of a mother would fain have her. 'Twere the kindlier deed of the twain. Lack-a-daisy! she would make shipwreck of life and soul in a month. Well, for Clare, then—I give thee to wit, Thekla, thou art that child's mother. Orige is not. She never was worth her salt. And she never will be. So the sooner thou win the maid hither, the better for her."
"She doth abide hither, Mistress Philippa, even now."
"Tush, child! I mean the sooner she weds with Arthur."
"Weds with Arthur!"
It was manifest that the idea had never entered Mrs Tremayne's head until Philippa put it there.
"Prithee, wherefore no?" demanded the old lady coolly. "Orige means it. Mercy on us, Thekla Rose! art thou gone wood?"
"Mrs Philippa! Who e'er told you my Lady Enville meant any such thing?"
"The goose told me herself," said Philippa bluntly, with a short laugh. "'Twas not in a civil fashion, Thekla. She said Arthur was good enough for Clare; it recked not whom Clare wedded withal. Marry come up! if I had not let mine head govern mine hands, I had fetched her a good crack on the crown with my staff. It could ne'er have hurt her brain—she has none. What were such women born for, do all the saints wit?—without it were to learn other folk patience."
Thekla Tremayne was a woman, and a mother. She would have been more than human if she had not felt hurt for this insult to her boy. Was Clare, or anything else in the world, too good for her one darling?
"Come,—swallow it, Thekla, and have done," said Philippa. "And by way of a morsel of sugar at after the wormwood, I will tell thee I do not think Clare hates him. I studied her face."
"Mistress Philippa, you read faces so rarely, I would you could read Lucrece Enville. Margaret, which is eldest of the three, is plain reading; I conceive her conditions [understand her disposition] well. But Lucrece hath posed me ever since I knew her."
"I will lay thee a broad shilling, child, I read her off like thou shouldst a hornbook when I see her. Ay, I have some skill touching faces: I have been seventy years at the work."
That evening, just before supper, the indefatigable old lady marched into the hall at Enville Court. Lady Enville introduced her to Sir Thomas and Mistress Rachel, and presented her step-daughters and Jack. Philippa made her private comments on each.
"A worthy, honest man—not too sharp-sighted," she said of Sir Thomas to herself. "And a good, sound-hearted woman"—of Mistress Rachel. "There is a pickie, or I mistake," greeted Jack. "This is Margaret, is it? Clear as crystal: not deep, but clear. But this face"—as Lucrece came before her—"is deep enough. Not deep like a river, but like a snake. I could do well enough with your plain, honest sister; but I love you not, Mistress Lucrece. Enville. Your graceful ways do not captivate me. Ah! it takes a woman to know a woman. And the men, poor silly things! fancy they know us better than we do each other."
If Philippa had spoken that last sentiment audibly, she would have won the fee-simple of Rachel Enville's heart.
"Sir Thomas," said Philippa, when they rose from supper, "when it may stand with your conveniency, I would fain have an half-hour's talk with you."
Sir Thomas was ready enough to confer with the old lady, whom he liked, and he led her courteously to his wife's boudoir. Lady Enville sat down in her cushioned chair, and made a screen of her fan.
"Sir Thomas," began Philippa bluntly, "I would fain wit what you and Orige mean to do with Clare? Forgive my asking; I love the child for her grandame's sake."
"Good Mistress, you be full welcome to ask the same. But for me, I know not how to answer, for I never took any thought thereupon. Hadst thou thought thereon, Orige?"
"I counted her most like to wed with Arthur Tremayne," said Lady Enville carelessly.
"I ne'er thought of him," remarked Sir Thomas.
"If it be so, good," said Philippa. "I have looked the lad o'er, and I am satisfied with him. And now, I pray you, take one more word from an old woman, of your gentleness. What do you with Blanche?"
In answer to this question—for Philippa was well known to Sir Thomas by repute, and he was prepared to trust her thoroughly—the whole story of Don Juan came out. Philippa sat for a minute, looking thoughtfully into the fire.
"Have a care of yonder maid," she said.
"But what fashion of care, Mistress Basset? An' you grant it me, I would value your thought thereupon."
Philippa turned to Sir Thomas.
"Have you not," she said, "made somewhat too much of this matter? Not that it was other than grave, in good sooth; yet methinks it had been better had you not let Blanche see that you counted it of so much import. I fear she shall now go about to count herself of mighty importance. Childre do, when you make much of their deeds; and Blanche is but a child yet, and will so be for another year or twain. Now this young man is safe hence, I would say, Fetch her home. And let none ever name the matter afore her again; let bygones be bygones. Only give her to see that you account of her as a silly child for the past, but yet that you have hope she shall be wiser in the future."
"Well, herein I see not with you," said Lady Enville. "I had thought it rare good fortune for Blanche to wed with Don John."
Sir Thomas moved uneasily, but did not answer. Philippa turned and looked at the speaker.
"That was like," she said quietly. But neither of her hearers knew how much meaning lay beneath the words.
"And what think you touching Lucrece?" asked Mrs Tremayne the next day, when Philippa was again at the parsonage.
"I ne'er had a fancy for snakes, Thekla."
"Then you count her deceitful? That is it which I have feared."
"Have a care," said Philippa. "But what is to fear? A care of what?"
"Nay, what feareth any from a snake? That he should sting, I take it. He may do it while you be looking. But he is far more like to do it when you be not."
The evening before the two sisters were to return to Enville Court, Mrs Tremayne and Clare were sitting alone in the parlour. Clare had manoeuvred to this end, for she wanted to ask her friend a question; and she knew there was a particular period of the evening when Mr Tremayne and Arthur were generally out, and Lysken was occupied elsewhere. Mrs Rose and Blanche remained to be disposed of; but the former relieved Clare's mind by trotting away with a little basket of creature comforts to see a sick woman in the village; and it was easy to ask Blanche to leave her private packing until that period. But now that Clare had got Mrs Tremayne to herself, she was rather shy in beginning her inquiries. She framed her first question in a dozen different ways, rejected all for various reasons, and finally—feeling that her opportunity was sliding away—came out with that one which she had most frequently cast aside.
"Mistress Tremayne, account you it alway sinful to harbour discontent?"
"I could much better answer thee, dear maid, if I knew the fountain whence thy question springeth."
This was just the point which Clare was most shy of revealing. But she really wanted Mrs Tremayne's opinion; and with an effort she conquered her shyness.
"Well,—suppose it had pleased God to cast my lot some whither, that the daily work I had to do was mighty dislikeful to me; and some other maiden that I knew, had that to do withal which I would have loved dearly:—were it ill for me to wish that my business had been like hers?"
"Whom enviest thou, my child?" asked Mrs Tremayne very gently.
Clare blushed, and laughed.
"Well, I had not meant to say the same; but in very deed I do envy Lysken."
"And wherefore, dear heart?"
"Because her work is so much higher and better than mine."
Mrs Tremayne did not answer for a moment. Then she said,—"Tell me, Clare,—suppose thy father's serving-men and maids should begin to dispute amongst themselves,—if Sim were to say, 'I will no longer serve in the hall, because 'tis nobler work to ride my master's horses:' or Kate were to say, 'I will no longer sweep the chambers, sith 'tis higher matter to dress my master's meat:' and Nell,—'I will no longer dress the meat, sith it were a greater thing to wait upon my mistress in her chamber,'—tell me, should the work of the house be done better, or worser?"
"Worser, no doubt."
"Well, dear heart, and if so, why should God's servants grudge to do the differing works of their Master? If thou art of them, thy Master, hath set thee thy work. He saw what thou wert fit to do, and what was fit to be done of thee; and the like of Lysken. He hath set thee where thou art; and such work as thou hast to do there is His work for thee. Alway remembering,—if thou art His servant."
Clare did not quite like that recurring conjunction. It sounded as if Mrs Tremayne doubted the fact.
"You think me not so?" she asked in a low voice.
"I hope thou art, dear Clare. But thou shouldst know," was the searching answer.
There was silence after that, till Clare said, with a sigh, "Then you reckon I ought not to wish for different work?"
"I think not, my maid, that wishing and discontent be alway one and the same. I may carry a burden right willingly and cheerfully, and yet feel it press hard, and be glad to lay it down. Surely there is no ill that thou shouldest say to thy Father, 'If it be Thy will, Father, I would fain have this or that.' Only be content with His ordering, if He should answer, 'Child, thou hast asked an evil thing.'"
There was another pause, during which Clare was thinking.
"Am I the first to whom thou hast opened thine heart hereon, dear Clare?"
"Well, I did let fall a word or twain at home," said Clare smiling; "but I found no like feeling in response thereto."
"Not even from Margaret?"
"Meg thought there was work enough at home," replied Clare laughing, "and bade me go look in the mending-chest and see how much lacked doing."
"Nor Mistress Rachel?"
"Nay, Aunt Rachel said I might well be thankful that I was safe guarded at home, and had not need to go about this wicked world."
"Well, there is reason in that. It is a wicked world."
"Yet, surely, we need try to make it better, Mistress Tremayne: and—any woman could stitch and cut as well as I."
Clare spoke earnestly. Mrs Tremayne considered a little before she answered.
"Well, dear heart, it may be the Lord doth design thee to be a worker in His vineyard. I cannot say it is not thus. But if so, Clare, it seemeth me that in this very cutting and stitching, which thou so much mislikest, He is setting thee to school to be made ready. Ere we be fit for such work as thou wouldst have, we need learn much: and one lesson we have to learn is patience. It may be that even now, if the Lord mean to use thee thus, He is giving thee thy lesson of patience. 'Let patience have her perfect work.' 'Tis an ill messenger that is so eager to be about his errand, that he will needs run ere he be sent. The great Teacher will set thee the right lessons; see thou that they be well learned: and leave it to Him to call thee to work when He seeth thee ripe for it."
"I thank you," said Clare meekly; "maybe I am too impatient."
"'Tis a rare grace, dear heart,—true patience: but mind thou, that is not idleness nor backwardness. Some make that blunder, and think they be patiently waiting for work when work waiteth for them, and they be too lazy to put hand thereto. We need have a care on both sides."
But though Mrs Tremayne gave this caution, in her own mind she thought it much more likely that Blanche would need it than Clare.
"And why should I press back her eagerness, if the Lord hath need of her? Truly"—and Thekla Tremayne sighed as she said this to herself—"'the labourers are few.'"
Note 1. Philadelphia Carey, a kinswoman of Queen Elizabeth through her mother, Anne Boleyn.
"For my soul's sake, Maid Marjorie, And yet for my soul's sake, - I know no wrong I've done to thee, Nor why thy heart should break."
Rather late on the same evening, Sir Thomas walked into the parsonage, and rapped with his silver-hilted staff at the parlour door. Clare had gone up-stairs, and Mrs Tremayne was at that moment alone. She offered to send for her young guests, but he declined; he wished first to speak with her apart. He told her that Don Juan had gone to London; and that before leaving him, that estimable young gentleman had frankly communicated the interesting fact that he was bound by an engagement to a lady of his own country.
"Now what think you? Were it better, or worser, that Blanche should know the same?"
"Better far—by all manner of means," said the Rector's wife decidedly.
"I thought even so," replied Sir Thomas. "I had come sooner, but my wife was contrary thereto."
Mrs Tremayne could not feel astonished to hear of any amount of unwisdom on the part of Lady Enville, but she merely repeated that she thought it much better that Blanche should know.
"It should help to open her eyes. Though in sooth I do think they be scantly so close shut as at the first."
"Then you will tell the child, good Mistress?"
"If you so desire, assuredly: but wherefore not give her to wit yourself?"
Sir Thomas evidently shrank from the idea.
"For Blanche's sake, I do think it should be better, Sir Thomas. You speak as he that hath heard this right from Don Juan himself; for me, I have but heard it from you."
"Well, if needs must—for Blanche's sake, then," said her father, sighing. "Pray you, send the child hither."
In another minute Blanche came in, with a warm welcome for her father in eyes and voice.
"So thou comest home to-morrow, my skylark!" he said. "Art thou glad, or sorry, Blanche?"
"Oh, glad, Father!"
"And all we be glad likewise.—Blanche, Don John is gone to London."
"Yes, I guessed so much," she answered, in a rather constrained tone.
"And ere he went, my darling, he said somewhat unto me which I reckon it best thou shouldst hear likewise."
Blanche looked up, surprised and expectant,—perhaps with a shade of fear. Sir Thomas passed his arm round her, and drew her close to him. He anticipated a burst of tears, and was ready to console her.
"He told me, dear heart, that he is, and for divers years hath so been, troth-plight unto a maiden of his own land, with whom he shall wed when he is gone home."
There was no light in the room but from the fire, and Blanche's head was bent low, so that her father could not see her face. But no tears answered him. No answer came at all. Sir Thomas was astonished.
"Doth it grieve thee, my Blanche?" he asked tenderly, when he had waited a moment.
He waited still another. Then the reply came.
"I suppose it was better I should know it," she said in a cold, hard voice.
"So thou seest, dear child, he meant not his fair words."
"No," she said, in the same tone. "He meant it not."
Sir Thomas let her go. He thought she bore it uncommonly well. She did not care much about it, thank Heaven! He was one of those numerous surface observers who think that a woman cannot be startled if she does not scream, nor be unhappy if she does not weep.
Blanche went quietly enough out of the room, saying that she would send Clare. Her father did not see that in the middle of the stairs she paused, with a tight grasp on the banister, till the deadly faintness should pass off which seemed to make the staircase go spinning round her. Clare noticed nothing peculiar when Blanche came into their bedroom, and told her that Sir Thomas was below. But as soon as her sister was gone, Blanche knelt down by the bed, and buried her face in the counterpane.
This, then, was the end. The shrine was not only deserted—it was destroyed: the idol was not only dethroned—it was broken, and shown to be nothing but stone. Don Juan was not true. Nay, worse—he never had been true. His vow of eternal fidelity was empty breath; his reiterated protestations of single and unalterable love were worth just nothing. He had only been amusing himself. He had known all the while, that in exchange for the solid gold of her young heart, he was offering her the veriest pinchbeck.
Blanche had been half awake before, and she was wide awake now. Yet the awakening, for all that, was very bitter. Naturally enough, her first thought was that all men were of this stamp, and that there was no truth in any of them. Aunt Rachel was right:—they were a miserable, false, deceiving race, created for the delusion and suffering of woman: she would never believe another of them as long as she lived. There might be here and there an exception to the rule, such as her father or Mr Tremayne; she could not believe such evil of them: but that was the rule. And Blanche, being not quite seventeen, declared to herself that after this vast and varied experience of the world, she would never—not if she lived to be a hundred—never trust man again.
She slipped quietly down-stairs, and caught Sir Thomas just as he was leaving the house.
"Father!" she whispered, sliding into his hand the little packet of Don Juan's hair, "maybe I ought to have given you this aforetime. Allgates now take it; it is nought to me any more—sith he is hot."
Sir Thomas transferred the little parcel to his pocket.
"'Give thee good night, my jewel! We shall all be fain to have thee home again to-morrow."
Blanche returned the greeting, but glided away again, and was seen very little that night. But Mrs Tremayne guessed the state of the girl's mind more truly than Sir Thomas had done.
The next day they went home.
"Bless thee, my precious Blanche!" was Lady Enville's greeting. "And thee too, Clare. Good lack, how faded is yon camlet! 'Tis well ye were but at the parsonage, for it should have shamed thee any other whither."
"Well, child!" said Aunt Rachel. "I trust thou hast come home to work like a decent lass, and not sit moaning with thine hands afore thee like a cushat dove. What man ever trod middle earth that was worth a moan?"
"I will essay to give you content, Aunt Rachel," said Blanche quietly.
"Clare, my good lass, I have lacked thee sorely. I scarce wis what to do without thee."
Clare looked pleased. "Well, Aunt Rachel, I am come to work, and that with a will," she answered cheerily.
"I am thankful to hear it. Now, if Heaven's will it be, all things shall go on as usual once again."
But nothing was to go on as usual any more.
Not for Margaret, for Harry Travis had returned from the Netherlands, and her marriage was to be that day six weeks. Not for Lucrece, who was elated with what she considered her triumph over Blanche, and was on the look-out for fresh laurels. Not for Blanche, as the reader knows: nor for Clare, as he soon will know: nor even for Rachel herself—
"Though only the sorrow of others Threw its shadow over her."
There was but one person to whom matters went on at all as usual, and that was Lady Enville. As usual, to her, meant a handsome dress, a cushioned chair, a good dinner, and an occasional junketing: and since recent events had not interfered with any of these, Lady Enville went on much as usual. Yet even she never ceased to regret Blanche's lost coronet, which no revelation of Don Juan's duplicity would ever persuade her had not been lying at her daughter's feet, ready to be taken up and worn. She was one of those persons who will not believe anything which they do not wish to be true; and on them vouchers and verifications are always thrown away.
The first point different from usual was that Arthur Tremayne began to drop in continually at Enville Court. Lady Enville was gratified, for she thought her neat little arrangement was taking effect; and it would be a comfort, she said to herself, to have Clare off her hands. She said this one day to Rachel: but though, she knew that worthy spinster's opinion of matrimony, yet she was hardly prepared for the diatribe which she received in answer. Rachel had lately, and with much annoyance, began to perceive—what she had never seen so clearly before—that Lady Enville cared very little for her elder daughter. And of all the four girls, Clare was Rachel's darling. She was prepared to do battle in her cause to a greater extent than she herself knew. So, having received this hint, Rachel set herself to watch Arthur, and see that he behaved properly.
It was not easy to guess Arthur's motive in coming. He usually sat between Clare and Blanche when he was present at supper; and just now that was pretty often. But either of the two might be the attraction. In other respects, his courtesies were evenly divided among the four, and were not pointed to any.
Meanwhile, Clare was honestly trying to do the work set her well, and to be contented with it. She often carried her troubles to Mrs Tremayne, and sought advice or cheering at her hands: nor was she ever sent away unsatisfied. Rachel was delighted with Clare's steady and cheerful help, and complacently thought that the parsonage had done her good.
So the summer drew on, and Margaret was married to Harry Travis, and went to live in another part of the county.
On a late afternoon in autumn, Clare stood in the arbour, tying up bouquets. An old friend of Sir Thomas was expected on a visit, and was likely to arrive that evening. This was Sir Piers Feversham, [fictitious person] a Norfolk knight, of Lancashire extraction on his mother's side, who had not seen Sir Thomas Enville since both had been young squires together in the household of the Earl of Derby. His nephew and heir presumptive, John Feversham, [fictitious person] was coming with him. There was little presumption, to all appearance, about the heirship, for Sir Piers bore the character of a confirmed old bachelor, and was now upwards of sixty.
Clare's bouquets were nearly all tied up, and ready to be carried to the hall, which was to be decorated in honour of the guests. She was tying the last but one, when she heard slow footsteps and low voices passing on the outside of the arbour. Not too low, however, for two sentences to be audible inside,—words which blanched Clare's cheek, and made her trembling fingers loose their hold, till the gathered flowers slid away one by one, and lay a fragrant mass on the ground at her feet.
The remarks which she overheard were limited to a fervent appeal and a low reply. The appeal—which was a declaration of love—was uttered in the familiar accents of Arthur Tremayne; and the answer—a vague disclaimer of merit which sounded like a shy affirmative—came in the low, soft voice of Lucrece Enville.
Clare was totally ignorant of the fate which her mother had designed for her; nor had she ever realised until that evening that she cared more for Arthur than she did for Jack. They were both like brothers to her: but now she suddenly felt that if it had been Jack whose voice she had heard uttering similar words, it would have mattered little or nothing to her.
The hardest thought of all was that of resigning him to Lucrece. Fourteen years had elapsed since that day of their childhood on which Clare had witnessed the first instance of Lucrece's duplicity; but she had never been able to forget it, and it had infused a sort of vague discomfort and constraint into all their intercourse.
"Oh, if it had been Lysken!" said Clare to her own heart. "I could have borne it better."
And it had to be borne, and in utter silence. This trouble could not be carried to Mrs Tremayne; and the idea of betraying Lucrece, as that young lady had herself betrayed Blanche, would have seemed black treachery to Clare. No, things must take their course: and let them take it, so long as that would make Arthur happy, and would be for his good. In her inmost heart Clare was sorely doubtful about both items. Well, she could ask God to grant them.
It was half an hour later than she had expected when Clare carried her nosegays into the hall. She went on mechanically putting them in order, and finding, when she had finished, that there was one more than was needed, she carried it to her mother's boudoir.
"How late thou art, Clare!" said Lady Enville, looking up from Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia, which she was lazily reading. "Sir Piers may come now at any minute. Hast made an end in the hall?"
"Hast one posy left o'er? Set it here, by my chair, child. Dost know where is Blanche?"
Clare's conscience smote her as soon as she had given this answer. Certainly she did not know where Lucrece was; but she could very well guess.
"I would thou wert not fully thus bashful, Clare; hast nought but 'Ay' and 'No'?—I would fain have thee seek Lucrece: I desire speech of her."
Clare did not reply at all this time. She had disposed of her flowers, and she left the room.
Seek Lucrece! Clare had never had a harder task. If the same burden had been laid on them, Lucrece would have left the commission unfulfilled, and Blanche would have sent somebody else. But such alternatives did not even suggest themselves to Clare's conscientious mind. She went through the hall towards the garden door in search of Lucrece.
"Child, what aileth thee?" asked a voice suddenly, as Clare was opening the garden door.
"I?" said Clare absently. "Lucrece—my mother would have me seek her."
"Sit thee down, and I will send her to thy mother," said Rachel.
Away she went; and Clare sat down by the fire, feeling just then as if she could do little else. Lucrece glided through the hall with her smooth, silent step, but did not appear to see Clare; and Rachel followed in a minute.
"I have sent Lucrece to thy mother," she said. "Now, child, what aileth thee?"
"Oh—nothing, Aunt Rachel."
"When I was a small maid, Clare, my mother told me that 'twas not well to lie."
"I did not—Aunt Rachel, I cry you mercy—I meant not—"
"Thou meantest not to tell me what ailed thee. I know that. But I mean to hear it, Clare."
"'Tis nought, in very deed, Aunt—of any moment."
"Nought of any moment to thee?"
"Nay, to—Oh, pray you, ask me not, Aunt Rachel! It makes no matter."
"Ha! When a maid saith that,—a maid of thy years, Clare,—I know metely well what she signifieth. Thou art a good child. Get thee up-stairs and pin on thy carnation knots."
Clare went up the wide hall staircase with a slow, tired step, and without making any answer beyond a faint attempt at a smile.
"Ha!" said Rachel again, to herself. "Providence doth provide all things. Methinks, though, at times, 'tis by the means of men and women, the which He maketh into little providences. I could find it in mine heart to fall to yonder game but now. Only I will bide quiet, methinks, till to-morrow. Well-a-day! if yon grandmother Eve of ours had ne'er ate yon apple! Yet Master Tremayne will have it that I did eat it mine own self. Had I so done, Adam might have whistled for a quarter. The blind, stumbling moles men are! Set a pearl and a pebble afore them, and my new shoes to an old shoeing-horn, but they shall pick up the pebble, and courtesy unto you for your grace. And set your mind on a lad that you do count to have more sense than the rest, and beshrew me if he show you not in fair colours ere the week be out that he is as great a dunce as any. I reckon Jack shall be the next. Well, well!— let the world wag. 'Twill all be o'er an hundred years hence. They shall be doing it o'er again by then. Howbeit, 'tis ill work to weep o'er spilt milk."
Sir Piers Feversham and his nephew arrived late that evening. The former was a little older than Sir Thomas Enville, and had mixed more in general society;—a talkative, good-natured man, full of anecdote; and Blanche at least found him very entertaining.
John Feversham, the nephew, was almost the antipodes of his uncle. He was not handsome, but there was an open, honest look in his grey eyes which bore the impress of sincerity. All his movements were slow and deliberate, his manners very quiet and calm, his speech grave and sedate. Nothing in the shape of repartee could be expected from him; and with him Blanche was fairly disgusted.
"As sober as a judge, and as heavy as a leaden seal!" said that young lady,—who had been his next neighbour at the supper-table,—when she was giving in her report to Clare while they were undressing. "He hath but an owl's eye for beauty, of whatever fashion. Thou mindest how fair was the sunset this even? Lo' thou, he could see nought but a deal of water in the sea, and divers coloured clouds in the sky. Stupid old companion!"
"And prithee, Mistress Blanche, who ever did see aught in the sea saving a cruel great parcel of water?"
"Good lack, Bab!—thou art as ill as he. Clare, what seest thou in the sea?"
Clare tried to bring her thoughts down to the subject.
"I scantly know, Blanche. 'Tis rarely beautiful, in some ways. Yet it soundeth to me alway very sorrowful."
"Ay so, Mistress Clare!" returned Barbara. "It may belike to thee, poor sweet heart, whose father was killed thereon,—and to me, that had a brother which died far away on the Spanish main."
"I suppose," answered Clare sighing, "matters sound unto us according as we are disposed."
"Marry, and if so, some folks' voices should sound mighty discordant," retorted Barbara.
Blanche was soon asleep; but there was little sleep for Clare that night. Nor was there much for Rachel. Since Margaret's marriage, Lucrece had shared her aunt's chamber; for it would have been thought preposterous in the Elizabethan era to give a young girl a bedroom to herself. Rachel watched her niece narrowly; but Lucrece neither said nor did anything from which the least information could be gleaned. She was neither elated nor depressed, but just as usual,—demure, slippery, and unaccountable.
Rachel kept her eye also, like an amateur detective, upon Arthur. He came frequently, and generally managed to get a walk with Lucrece in the garden. On two occasions the detective, seated at her own window, which overlooked the garden, saw that Arthur was entreating or urging something, to which Lucrece would not consent.
The month of Sir Piers Feversham's stay was drawing to a close, and still Rachel had not spoken to her brother about Lucrece. She felt considerably puzzled as to what it would be either right or wise to do. Lucrece was no foolish, romantic, inexperienced child like Blanche, but a woman of considerable worldly wisdom and strong self-reliance. It was no treachery to interfere with her, in her aunt's eyes, since Lucrece herself had been the traitor; and for Clare's sake Rachel longed to rescue Arthur, whom she considered infatuated and misled.
Before Rachel had been able to make up her mind on this point, one Saturday afternoon Sir Thomas sought her, and asked her to come to the library.
"Rachel," he said, "I would fain have thy counsel. Sir Piers Feversham—much to mine amazing—hath made me offer of service [courtship] for Lucrece. What thinkest thereon?"
"Brother, leave her go!"
"He is by three years elder than I, Rachel."
"Ne'er mind thou."
"Methinks he should make the maid a good husband?" remarked Sir Thomas interrogatively.
"Better than she shall make him a wife," said Rachel grimly.
"Brother, I have ne'er said this to thee aforetime; but my true conviction is that Lucrece is a mischief-maker, and until she be hence, there is like to be little peace for any. I saw not all things at the first; but I can tell thee now that she hath won Arthur Tremayne into her toils, and methinks she tried hard to compass Don Juan. If she will wed with Sir Piers (and he dare venture on her!) let it be so: he is old enough to have a care of himself; and she is less like to wreck his life than she should be with a younger man. In good sooth, there is all the less of it to wreck."
"Yet, Rachel, if the maid be entangled with Arthur—"
"Make thy mind easy, Tom. 'Tis Arthur is entangled, not she. Trust her for that! She hath good enough scissors for the cutting of a like knot."
"Arthur ne'er spake word to me," said Sir Thomas, with a perplexed, meditative air.
"That is it which I would know, Tom. Ne'er spake word, quotha? So much the better. Well! I reckon thou shalt be like to tell Orige; but leave her not persuade thee to the contrary course. Yet I think she is scarce like. A knighthood and Feversham Hall shall go down very sweetly with her."
"But there is yet another matter, Rachel. Sir Piers maketh offer to set Jack in good place about the Court, for the which he saith he hath power. What sayest to that, trow?"
"I say that Jack is safe to go to wrack some whither, and may be 'twere as well hence as hither."
"It shall be mighty chargeable, I fear," said Sir Thomas thoughtfully.
"Jack shall be that any whither."
"Wouldst have me, then, say Ay to both offers?"
"Nay, think well touching Jack first. I meant not that. Good sooth! I sorely misdoubt—"
"Well, I will see what saith Orige unto both, and Jack and Lucrece to either."
"If I be a prophet," answered Rachel, "one and all shall say, Ay."
If that were the criterion, Rachel proved a prophet One and all did say ay. Lady Enville was enchanted with both schemes. Jack averred that life at home was a very humdrum kind of thing, and life might be worth having in London, and at Court. And Lucrece, in her demure style, softly declared that she was thankful for Sir Piers' goodness, and would gladly accept his offer, though she felt that her merits were not equal to the kind estimate which he had formed of her.
"But, Lucrece," said her father gravely, "one told me that Arthur Tremayne had made suit unto thee."
If he expected the mask to drop for an instant from the soft, regular features of Lucrece, he was sadly disappointed. Not a look, nor a gesture, showed that she felt either surprised or disconcerted.
"'Tis true, Father. The poor lad did say some like words unto me. But I gave him no encouragement to seek you."
"Thou wouldst have me to conceive, then, that thou art wholly free from any plight whatsoe'er unto Arthur?"
"Wholly free, Father. I ne'er gave him to wit otherwise."
Sir Thomas believed her; Rachel did not. The next thing, in the squire's honest eyes, was to let Arthur know that Lucrece was about to marry Sir Piers,—not directly, since Arthur himself had made no open declaration; but he proposed to go down to the parsonage, and mention the fact, as if incidentally, in Arthur's presence. He found Lucrece rather averse to this scheme.
"It should but trouble the poor lad," she said. "Why not leave him discover the same as matters shall unfold them?"
"Tom!" said Rachel to her brother apart, "go thou down, and tell Arthur the news. I am afeared Lucrece hath some cause, not over good, for wishing silence kept."
"Good lack!" cried the worried Squire. "Wellnigh would I that every one of my childre had been a lad! These maidens be such changeable and chargeable gear, I verily wis not what to do withal."
"Bide a while, Tom, till Jack hath been in the Court a year or twain; maybe then I shall hear thee to wish that all had been maids."
Down to the parsonage trudged the puzzled and unhappy man, and found that Arthur was at home. He chatted for a short time with the family in general, and then told the ladies, as a piece of news which he expected to interest them, that his daughter Lucrece was about to be married. Had he not intentionally kept his eyes from Arthur while he spoke, he would have seen that the young man went white to the lips.
"Eh, ma foi!" said Mrs Rose.
"With whom shall she wed?" asked Mrs Tremayne.
"Sir Thomas, is that true?" was the last remark—in hoarse accents, from Arthur.
"It is true, my lad. Have I heard truly, that you would not have it so?"
Mrs Tremayne looked at her son in a mixture of astonishment and dismay. It had never occurred to her guileless, unsuspicious mind that the object of his frequent visits to Enville Court could be any one but Clare.
"Sir, I cry you mercy," said Arthur with some dignity. "I do readily acknowledge that I ought not to have left you in the dark. But to speak truth, it was she, not I, that would not you should be told."
"That would not have me told what, Arthur?"
"That I loved her," said Arthur, his voice slightly tremulous. "And— she said she loved me."
"She told me that she had given thee no encouragement to speak to me."
"To speak with you—truth. Whene'er I did approach that matter, she alway deterred me from the same. But if she hath told you, Sir, that she gave me no encouragement to love and serve her, nor no hope of wedding with her in due time,—why, then, she hath played you false as well as me."
It was manifest that Arthur was not only much distressed, but also very angry.
"And thou never spakest word to me, my son!" came in gentle tones of rebuke from his mother.
"Ah, the young folks make not the confessor of the father nor the mother," said Mrs Rose smiling, and shaking her head. "It were the better that they did it, Arthur."
"Mother, it was not my fault," pleaded Arthur earnestly. "I would have spoken both to you and to Sir Thomas here, if she had suffered me. Only the very last time I urged it on her—and that no further back than this last week—she threatened me to have no further dealing with me, an' I spake to either of you."
"Often-times," observed Mrs Rose thoughtfully, "the maidens love not like the mothers, mon cheri."
"God have mercy!" groaned poor Sir Thomas, who was not least to be pitied of the group. "I am afeared Rachel hath the right. Lucrece hath not been true in this matter."
"There is no truth in her!" cried Arthur bitterly. "And for the matter of that, there is none in woman!"
"Le beau compliment!" said his grandmother, laughing.
His mother looked reproachfully at him, but did not speak.
"And Rachel saith there is none in man," returned Sir Thomas with grim humour. "Well-a-day! what will the world come to?"
These little pebbles in her path did not seem to trouble the easy smoothness of Lucrece's way. She prepared her trousseau with her customary placidity; debated measures and trimmings with her aunt as if entirely deaf to that lady's frequent interpolations of wrath; consulted Blanche on the style of her jewellery, and Clare on the embroidery of her ruffs, as calmly as if there were not a shadow on her conscience nor her heart. Perhaps there was not.
Sir Piers took Jack down to London, and settled him in his post of deputy gentleman usher to the Queen; and at the end of six months, he returned to Enville Court for his marriage. Everything went off with the most absolute propriety. Lucrece's costume was irreproachable; her manners, ditto. The festivities were prolonged over a week, and on their close, Sir Piers and Lady Feversham set out, for their home in Norfolk. No sign of annoyance was shown from the parsonage, except that Arthur was not at home when the wedding took place; and that Lysken, whom Lucrece graciously requested to be one of her bridesmaids, declined, with a quiet keenness of manner which any one but Lucrece would have felt.
"If it should like thee to have me for thy bridesmaid, Lucrece," she said, looking her calmly in the face, "it should not like me." [In modern phraseology,—I should not like it.]
The bride accepted the rebuke with unruffled suavity.
Of course there were the ceremonies then usual at weddings, and a shower of old slippers greeted bride and bridegroom as they rode away.
"Aunt Rachel, you hit her on the head!" cried Blanche, looking astonished.
"I took metely good aim," assented Rachel, with grim satisfaction. "A good riddance of—Blanche, child, if thou wouldst have those flowers to live, thou wert best put them in water."
A GLIMPSE OF THE HOT GOSPELLER.
"In service which Thy love appoints There are no bonds for me; My secret heart has learned the truth Which makes Thy children free: A life of self-renouncing love Is a life of liberty."
Anna L. Waring.
"I hold not with you there, Parson!"
The suddenness of this appeal would have startled any one less calm and self-controlled than the Reverend Robert Tremayne, who was taking off his surplice in the vestry after morning prayers one Wednesday, when this unexpected announcement reached him through the partially open door. But it was not the Rector's habit to show much emotion of any kind, whatever he might feel.
"Pray you, come forward," he said quietly, in answer to the challenge.
The door, pushed wide open by the person without, revealed a handsome old man, lithe and upright still,—whose hair was pure white, and his brown eyes quick and radiant. He marched in and seated himself upon the settle, grasping a stout oaken stick in both hands, and gazing up into the Rector's face. His dress, no less than his manners, showed that notwithstanding the blunt and eccentric nature of his greeting, he was by birth a gentleman.
"And wherein hold you not with me, Sir, I pray you?" inquired Mr Tremayne with some amusement.
"In your tolerating of evil opinion."
"I cry you mercy. What evil opinion have I tolerated?"
"If you will tolerate men which hold evil opinions, you must needs tolerate evil opinion."
"I scantly see that."
"Maybe you see this?" demanded the stranger, pulling a well-worn Bible from a capacious pocket.
"My sight is sharp enough for so much," returned Mr Tremayne good-naturedly.
"Well, and I tell you," said the stranger, poising the open Bible between his hands, "there is no such word as toleration betwixt the two backs of this book!"
The two backs of the book were brought together, by way of emphasising the assertion, with a bang which might almost have been heard to the parsonage.
"There is no such word, I grant you."
"No, Sir!—and there is no such thing."
"That hangeth, I take it, on what the word is held to signify."
"Shall I tell you what it signifieth?"
"Pray you, so do."
"Faint-heartedness, Sir!—weakness—recreancy—cowardliness—shamedness of the truth!"
"An ill-sounding list of names," said Mr Tremayne quietly. "And one of none whereof I would by my good-will be guilty.—Pray you, whom have I the honour to discourse withal?"
"A very pestilent heretic, that Queen Mary should have burned, and forgat."
"She did not that with many," was the significant answer.
"She did rare like to it with a lad that I knew in King Edward's days, whose name was Robin Tremayne."
"Master Underhill, my dear old friend!" cried the Rector, grasping his visitor's hand warmly. "I began these two minutes back to think I should know those brown eyes, but I might not set a name thereto all at once."
"Ha! the 'pestilent heretic' helped thee to it, I reckon!" replied the guest laughing. "Ay, Robin, this is he thou knewest of old time. We will fight out our duello another time, lad. I am rare glad to see thee so well-looking."
"From what star dropped you, Master Underhill? or what fair wind blew you hither?"
"I am dropped out of Warwickshire, lad, if that be a star; and I came hither of a galloway's back (but if he were the wind, 'twas on the stillest night of the year!) And how goes it with Mrs Thekla? I saw her last in her bride's gear."
"She will be rarely glad to see you, old friend; and so, I warrant you, will our mother, Mistress Rose. Will you take the pain to go with me to mine house?—where I will ensure you of a good bed and a rare welcome."
"Wilt thou ensure me of twain, lad?" asked the old man, with a comic twinkle in his eyes.
"Twain! What, which of all my small ancient friends be with you?—Ay, and that as hearty as to yourself.—Is it Hal or Ned?"
"Thou art an ill guesser, Robin: 'tis neither Ned nor Hal. Thy small friends, old lad, be every man and woman of them higher than their father. Come, let us seek the child. I left her a-poring and posing over one of the tombs in the church.—What, Eunice!—I might as well have left my staff behind as leave her."
It was plainly to be perceived, by the loud call which resounded through the sacred edifice, that Mr Underhill was not fettered by any superstitious reverence for places. A comely woman answered the call,— in years about thirty-seven, in face particularly bright and pleasant. The last time that Mr Tremayne had seen her, Eunice Underhill was about as high as the table.
"And doth Mistress Rose yet live?" said her father, as they went towards the parsonage. "She must be a mighty old grandame now. And all else be gone, as I have heard, that were of old time in the Lamb?"
"All else, saving Barbara Polwhele,—you mind Barbara, the chamber— maiden?—and Walter's daughter, Clare, which is now a maid of twenty years."
"Ah, I would fain see yon lass of little Walter's. What manner of wife did the lad wed?"
"See her—ask not me," said the Rector smiling.
"Now, how read I that? Which of the Seven Sciences hath she lost her way in?"
"In no one of them all."
"Come, I will ask Mrs Thekla."
Mr Tremayne laughed.
"You were best see her for yourself, as I cast no doubt you soon will. How long time may we hope to keep you?"
"Shall you weary of us under a month?"
Mr Underhill was warmly enough assured that there was no fear of any such calamity.
Most prominent of his party—which was Puritan of the Puritans—was Edward Underhill of Honyngham, the Hot Gospeller. His history was a singular one. Left an heir and an orphan at a very early age, he had begun life as a riotous reveller. Soon after he reached manhood, God touched his heart—by what agency is not recorded. Then he "fell to reading the Scriptures and following the preachers,"—throwing his whole soul into the service of Christ, as he had done before into that of Satan. Had any person acquainted with the religious world of that day been asked, on the outbreak of Queen Mary's persecution, to name the first ten men who would suffer, it is not improbable that Edward Underhill's name would have been found somewhere on the list. But, to the astonishment of all who knew his decided views, and equally decided character, he had survived the persecution, with no worse suffering than a month spent in Newgate, and a tedious illness as the result. Nor was this because he had either hidden his colours, or had struck them. Rather he kept his standard flying to the breeze, and defied the foe. No reason can be given for his safety, save that still the God of Daniel could send His angel and shut the lions' mouths, that they should do His prophets no hurt.
On the accession of Elizabeth, Underhill returned for a short time to his London home in Wood Street, Cheapside; but die soon went back to the family seat in Warwickshire, where he had since lived as a country squire. [Note 1.]
"Yet these last few months gone have I spent in London," said he, "for my Hal [name true, character imaginary] would needs have me. Now, Robin, do thou guess what yon lad hath gat in his head. I will give thee ten shots."
"No easy task, seeing I ne'er had the good fortune to behold him. What manner of lad is he?"
"Eunice?" said her father, referring the question to her.
Eunice laughed. "Hal is mighty like his father, Master Tremayne. He hath a stout will of his own, nor should you quickly turn him thence."
"Lo you, now, what conditions doth this jade give me!" laughed Underhill. "A stubborn old brute, that will hear no reason!"
"Hal will not hear o'ermuch, when he is set on aught," said Eunice.
"Well," said Mr Tremayne thoughtfully, "so being, I would guess that he had set his heart, to be Archbishop of Canterbury, or else Lord Privy Seal."
"Ma foi!" interposed Mrs Rose, "but I would guess that no son of Mr Underhill should tarry short of a king. Mind you not, hermano, that I did once hear you to say that you would not trust your own self, had you the chance to make your Annette a queen?"
"Dear heart, Mistress Rose! I would the lad had stayed him at nought worser. Nay, he is not for going up the ladder, but down. Conceive you, nought will serve him but a journey o'er seas, and to set him up a home in the Queen's Majesty's country of Virginia—yea, away in the plantations, amongst all the savages and wild beasts, and men worser than either, that have been of late carried thither from this land, for to be rid of them. 'Come, lad,' said I to him, 'content thee with eating of batatas [the Spanish word of which potato is a corruption] and drinking of tobacco [smoking tobacco was originally termed drinking it], and leave alone this mad fantasy.' But not he, in good sooth! Verily, for to go thither as a preacher and teacher, with hope to reform the ill men,—that had been matter of sore peril, and well to be thought on; yet would I not have said him nay, had the Lord called him to it;—but to make his home!"
And Mr Underhill stopped short, as if words were too weak adequately to convey his feelings.
"Maybe the Lord hath called him to that, old friend," said the Rector. "His eyes be on Virginia, no less than England."
"God forbid I should deny it! Yet there is such gear as tempting the Lord. For my part,—but la! I am an old man, and the old be less venturesome than the young,—yet for me, I see not what should move a man to dwell any whither out of his own country, without he must needs fly to save his life."
"Had all men been of your mind," observed Mr Tremayne with a smile, "there had ne'er been any country inhabited save one, until men were fairly pushed thence by lack of room."
"Well!—and wherefore should any quit home until he be pushed out?"
"Ask at Hal," said the Rector laughing.
"No have I so? Yea, twenty times twice told: but all I may win from the young ne'er-do-well is wise saws that the world must be peopled (why so, I marvel?),—and that there is pleasure in aventure (a deal more, I reckon, in keeping of one's carcase safe and sound!)—and that some men must needs dwell in strange lands, and the like. Well-a-day! wherefore should they so? Tell me that, Robin Tremayne."
"I will, old friend, when mine amaze is o'er at hearing of such words from one Ned Underhill."
"Amaze!—what need, trow?"
"But little need, when one doth call to mind that the most uncommon of all things is consistency. Only when one hath been used for forty years and more to see a man (I name him not) ever foremost in all perilous aventure, and thrusting him forward into whatsoever danger there were as into a bath of rosewater, 'tis some little surprise that taketh one to hear from the self-same party that 'tis never so much sweeter to keep safe and sound at home."
Mr Underhill threw his head back, and indulged in a hearty peal of laughter.
"On my word, Robin, thou ticklest me sore! But what, lad!—may a man not grow prudent in his old age?"
"By all manner of means, or in his youth no less; but this will I say, that the last prudent man I looked to set eyes on should bear the name of Underhill."
"Well-a-day! Here is Eunice made up of prudence."
"She taketh after her mother, trow," replied the Rector dryly.
"Come, I'll give o'er, while I have some bones left whole.—And what thinkest, lad, of the outlook of matters public at this time?"
"Nay, what think you, that have been of late in London?"
"Robin," said Mr Underhill gravely, "dost mind, long years gone, when King Edward his reign was well-nigh o'er, the ferment men's minds gat in touching the succession?"
"Eh, la belle journee!" said Mrs Rose waggishly. "I do well mind the ferment you were in, Mr Underhill, and how you did push your Queen Mary down all the throats of your friends: likewise how sweetly she did repay you, bidding you for a month's visit to her palace of Newgate! Pray you, shall it be the same again, hermano?"
"Dear heart! What a memory have you, Mistress Rose!" said Mr Underhill, with another hearty laugh. "It shall scantly be Newgate again, metrusteth: the rather, since there is no Queen Mary to thrust adown your throats—thank the Lord for that and all other His mercies. He that we may speak of is no Papist, whatso else; but I mistake greatly, Robin, if somewhat the same matter shall not come o'er again, should it please God to do a certain thing."
Mr Underhill spoke thus vaguely, having no wish to finish his days on the gallows; as men had done ere now, for little more than a hint that the reigning Sovereign might not live for ever.
"And when the ferment come, under what flag must we look for you, Mr Underhill?" asked. Mrs Tremayne.
"Well," said he, "Harry Eighth left a lad and two lasses, and we have had them all. But Harry Seventh left likewise a lad and two lasses; and we have had the lad, but ne'er a one of the lasses."
"Both these lasses be dead," responded the Rector.
"They be so. But the first left a lad and a lass; and that lad left a lass, and that lass left a lad—which is alive and jolly."
This meant, that Queen Margaret of Scotland, elder sister of Henry the Eighth, had issue King James the Fifth, whose daughter was Mary Queen of Scots, and her son was James the Sixth, then living.
"You count the right lieth there?" queried Mr Tremayne.
Mr Underhill nodded his head decidedly.
"And is—yonder party—well or ill affected unto the Gospellers?—how hear you?"
"Lutheran to the back-bone—with no love for Puritans, as men do now begin to call us Hot Gospellers."
"Thus is the Queen, mecounteth: and we have thriven well under her, and have full good cause to thank God for her."
"Fifty years gone, Robin—when she was but a smatchet [a very young person]—I said that lass would do well. There is a touch of old Hal in her—not too much, but enough to put life and will into her."
"There shall scantly be that in him."
"Nay, I'll not say so much. Meg had a touch of Hal, too. 'Twas ill turning her down one road an' she took the bit betwixt her teeth, and had a mind to go the other. There was less of it in Mall, I grant you. And as to yon poor luckless loon, Mall's heir,—if he wit his own mind, I reckon 'tis as much as a man may bargain for. England ne'er loveth such at her helm—mark you that, Robin. She may bear with them, but she layeth no affiance in them."
Mr Underhill's hearers knew that by the poor luckless loon, he meant Edward Seymour, Lord Beauchamp, the representative of the Princess Mary, younger sister of Henry the Eighth. He was heir of England under Henry's will, and might, if he had chosen it, have been a very formidable opponent of King James.
"There was trial made, in King Harry's days," said the Rector thoughtfully, "to join the two Crowns of England and Scotland, by marrying of King Edward, that then was Prince, with their young Queen Mary."
"Well-a-day!—what changes had been, had that matter come to perfection!"
"It were a mighty great book, friend, that should be writ, were all set down that might have happened if things had run other than they have done. But I pray you, what outlook is now for the Gospellers—or Puritans, if they be so called—these next few years? Apart from the Court—be they in good odour in London, or how?"
"Be they in good odour in Heaven, you were better to ask. What is any great town but a sink of wickedness? And when did ill men hold good men in esteem?"
"Ah, Mr Underhill, but there is difficulty beside that," said Mrs Rose, shaking her head. "Wherefore, will you tell me, cannot the good men be content to think all the same thing, and not go quarrel, quarrel, like the little boys at play?"
"So they should, Mistress Rose!—so they should!" said Mr Underhill uncompromisingly. "What with these fantasies and sectaries and follies—well-a-day! were I at the helm, there should be ne'er an opinion save one."
"That is the very thing Queen Mary thought," said Mr Tremayne, looking amused.
"Dear heart! what will the lad say next?" demanded Mr Underhill in a surprised tone.
"'Tis truth, old friend. See you not that to keep men of one opinion, the only way is to slay them that be of the contrary? Living men must differ. Only the dead ne'er wrangle touching aught."
"Eh, Robin, man! 'Live peaceably with all men.'"
"'As much as lieth in you.' Paul was wiser than you, saving your presence."
"But, Robin, my son," said Mrs Rose, "I would not say only, for such matters as men may differ in good reason. They cannot agree on the greater things, mon cheri,—nay, nor on the little, littles no more.— Look you, Mr Underhill, we have in this parish a man that call himself a Brownist—I count he think the brown the only colour that is right; if he had made the world, all the flowers should be brown, and the leaves black: eh, ma foi! what of a beautiful world to live in!—Bien! this last May Day, Sir Thomas Enville set up the maypole on the green. 'Come, Master,' he said to the Brownist, 'you dance round the maypole?'—'Nay, nay,' saith he, 'it savoureth of Popery.' 'Well,' quoth he, 'then you come to prayer in the church! There is nothing against that, I trow?'—'Good lack, nay!' saith he, ''tis an idle form. I cannot pray without the Spirit aid me; and the Spirit will not be bounden down unto dead forms.' And so, Mr Underhill, they fall to wrangling. Now, is it not sad? Not only they will not take their pleasure together, but they will not say their prayers together no more. Yet they all look to meet in Heaven. They will not wrangle and quarrel there, I trow? Then why can they not be at peace these few days the sooner?"
This was a long speech for Mrs Rose.
"Well, to speak truth," said Mr Underhill, "I could find in mine heart to cry 'Hail, fellow!' to your Brownist over the maypole: though I see not wherein it savoureth of Popery, but rather of Paganism. Howbeit, as I well know, Popery and Paganism be sisters, and dwell but over the way the one from the other. But as to the Common Prayer being but a form, and that dead,—why, I pray you, what maketh it a dead form save the dead heart of him that useth the same? The very Word of God is but a dead thing, if the soul of him that readeth it be dead."
A certain section of the laity are earnestly petitioning the clergy for "a hearty service." Could they make a more absurd request? The heart is in the worshipper, not in the service. And who can bring his heart to it but himself?
"Ma foi!" said Mrs Rose, with a comical little grimace, "but indeed I did think, when we were set at rest from the Queen Mary and her burnings, that we could have lived at peace the ones with the others."
"Then which counted you to be rid of, Mistress Rose—the childre of God or the childre of the devil?. So long as both be in the world, I reckon there'll not be o'er much peace," bluntly replied Underhill.
"Mind you what my dear father was used to say," asked Mr Tremayne,—"'Afore the kingdom must come the King'? Ah, dear friends, we have all too little of Christ. 'We shall be satisfied,' and we shall be of one mind in all things, only when we wake up 'after His likeness.'"
Clare Avery and Eunice Underhill struck up a warm friendship. Eunice [name and dates true, character imaginary] was one of the few women who keep "the dew of their youth," and in freshness, innocence, and ignorance of this evil world, she was younger than many girls not half her age. Her simplicity put Clare at ease, while her experience of life awoke respect. Clare seized her opportunity one day, while taking a long walk with Eunice, to obtain the opinion of the latter on the point which still interested her, and compare it with that of Mrs Tremayne. Why it was easier to talk to Eunice than to those at home, Clare could not decide. Perhaps, had she discovered the reason, she might not have found it very flattering to her self-love.
"Mistress Eunice, think you it easy to be content with small gear?"
"You would say with lack of goods?" asked Eunice.
"Nay; but with the having to deal with petty, passing matter, in the stead of some noble deed that should be worthy the doing."
"I take you now, Mistress Clare. And I can feel for your perplexity, seeing I have known the same myself."
"Oh, you have so?" responded Clare eagerly.
"Ay, I have felt as though the work set me to do were sheer waste of such power and knowledge as God had given unto me; and have marvelled (I would speak it with reverence) what the Lord would be at, that He thus dealt with me. Petty things—mean things—little passing matter, as you said, that none shall be the better for to-morrow; wherefore must I do these? I have made a pudding, maybe; I have shaken up a bed; I have cut an old gown into a kirtle. And to-morrow the pudding shall be eaten, and the bed shall lack fresh straw, and ere long the gown shall be worn to rags. But I shall live for ever. Wherefore should a soul be set to such work which shall live for ever?"
"Ay,—you know!" said Clare, drawing a deep breath of satisfaction. "Now tell me, Mistress Eunice, what answer find you to this question? Shall it be with you, as with other, that these be my tasks at school?"
"That is verily sooth, Mistress Clare; yet there is another light wherein I love the better to look thereat. And it is this: that in this world be no little things."
"What would you say, Mistress Eunice? In good sooth, it seemeth me the rather, there be few great."
"I cry you mercy," said Eunice, with her bright smile. "Lo' you,—'tis after this fashion. The pudding I have made a man shall eat, and thereby be kept alive. This man shall drop a word to another, which one passing by shall o'erhear,—on the goodness and desirableness of learning, I will say. Well, this last shall turn it o'er in his mind, and shall determine to send his lad to school, and have him well learned. Time being gone, this lad shall write a book, or shall preach a sermon, whereby, through the working of God's Spirit, many men's hearts shall be touched, and led to consider the things that belong unto their peace. Look you, here is a chain; and in this great chain one little link is the pudding which I made, twenty years gone."
"But the man could have eaten somewhat else."
"Soothly; but he did not, you see."
"Or another than you could have made the pudding."
"Soothly, again: but I was to make it."
Clare considered this view of the case.
"All things in this world, Mistress Clare, be links in some chain. In Dutchland [Germany], many years gone now, a young man that studied in an university there was caught in an heavy thunderstorm. He grew sore affrighted; all his sins came to his mind: and he prayed Saint Anne to dispel the storm, promising that he would straightway become a monk. The storm rolled away, and he suffered no harm. But he was mindful of his vow, and he became a monk. Well, some time after, having a spare half-hour, he went to the library to get him a book. As God would have it, he reached down a Latin Bible, the like whereof he had ne'er seen aforetime. Through the reading of this book—for I am well assured you know that I speak of Luther—came about the full Reformation of religion which, thanks be to God! is now spread abroad. And all this cometh—to speak after the manner of men—in that one Martin was at one time affrighted with the thunder; and, at another time, reached him down a book. Nay, Mistress Clare—in God's world be no little things!"
"Mistress Eunice, in so saying, you make life to look a mighty terrible thing, and full of care."
"And is life not a most terrible thing to them that use it not aright? But for them that do trust them unto God's guidance, and search His Word to see what He would have them do, and seek alway and above all things but to do His will,—it may be life is matter for meditation, yea, and watchfulness; but methinks none for care. God will see to the chain: 'tis He, not we, that is weaver thereof. We need but to be careful, each of his little link."
"My links be wearyful ones!" said Clare with a little sigh. "'Tis to cut, and snip, and fit, and sew, and guard, and mend. My cousin Lysken dealeth with men and women, I with linen and woollen. Think you it strange that her work should seem to me not only the nobler, but the sweeter belike?"
"Methinks I have seen Mistress Lysken to deal pretty closely with linen and woollen, sithence Father and I came hither," said Eunice smiling. "But in very deed, Mistress Clare, 'tis but nature that it so should seem unto you. Yet did it ever come into your mind, I pray you, that we be poor judges of that which is high and noble? I marvel if any save Christ and Gabriel e'er called John Baptist a great man. Yet he was great in the sight of the Lord. Yea, that word, 'more than a prophet' was the very accolade of the King of the whole world. You know, Mistress Clare, that if the Queen's Majesty should call a man 'Sir Robert,' though it were but a mistake, and he no knight, that very word from her should make him one. And the King of Heaven can make no mistake; His great men be great men indeed. Now whether would you rather, to be great with men, or with God?"
"Oh, with God, undoubtedly!" said Clare shyly.
"It seemeth me," said Eunice, knitting her brows a little, "there be three questions the which your heart may ask himself touching your work. Wherefore do I this? You will very like say, Because you be bidden. Good. But then—How do I this?—is it in the most excellent way I can? And yet again, For whom do I this? That last lieth deepest of all."
"Why, I do it for my mother and Aunt Rachel," said Clare innocently.
"Good. But wherefore not, henceforward, do it for God?"
"For God, Mistress Eunice!"
"'Tis the true touchstone of greatness. Nought can be little that a man doth for God; like as nought can be great that a man doth but for himself."
"Lysken can work for God," said Clare thoughtfully; "but I, who do but draw needles in and out—"
"Cannot draw them for God? Nay, but Paul thought not so. He biddeth you 'whether ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.' But mind you, only the very best work is to His glory: that is to say, only your very best. He measures not Mall's work by Jane's, but he looketh at the power of both, and judgeth if they have wrought their best or no. Jane may have finished the better piece of work, but if Mall have wrought to her utmost, and Jane not so, then Mall's work shall take first rank, and Jane's must fall behind."
"That is a new thought unto me, Mistress Eunice—that I can do such work for God. I did indeed account that I could be patient under the same, for to please Him: and I could have thought that the saving of a child from drowning, or the leading of a ship to battle, and so forth, might be done as unto God: but to cut and sew and measure!"
"I would 'twere not a new thought to many another," answered Eunice. "But I guess we can sew well or ill; and we can cut carefully or carelessly; and we can measure truly or untruly. Truth is no little matter, Mistress Clare; neither is diligence; nor yet a real, honest, hearty endeavouring of one's self to please the Lord, who hath given us our work, in every little thing. Moreover, give me leave to tell you,— you may be set a great work, and you may fail to see the greatness thereof. I mind me, when I was something younger than you be, and my brother Hal was but a little child, he fell into sore danger, and should belike have been killed, had none stretched out hand to save him. Well, as the Lord in His mercy would have it, I saw his peril, and I ran and snatched up the child in the very nick of time. There was but an half-minute to do it. And at afterward, men praised me, and said I had done a great thing. But think you it bare the face of a great thing to me, as I was in the doing thereof? Never a whit. I ne'er tarried to think if it were a great thing or a small: I thought neither of me nor of my doing, but alonely of our Hal, and how to set him in safety. They said it was a great matter, sith I had risked mine own life. But, dear heart! I knew not that I risked aught—I ne'er thought once thereon. Had I known it, I would have done the same, God helping me: but I knew it not. Now, whether was this a great thing or a small?"
"I have no doubt to say, a great."
"Maybe, Mistress Clare, when you and I shall stand—as I pray God we may!—among the sheep at the right hand of Christ our Saviour,—when the books be opened, and the dead judged according to that which is written of them,—He may pick out some little petty deed (to our eyes), and may say thereof, This was a great thing in My sight. And it may be, too, that the deeds we counted great He shall pass by without any mention. Dear heart, let us do the small deeds to our utmost, and the great are sure to follow. 'He that is faithful in that which is least, is faithful also in much.' And you know what He saith touching that poor cup of cold water, which assuredly is but a right small thing to give. Think you, if the Queen's Highness were passing here but now, and should drop her glove, and you picked up the same and offered it to Her Grace,—should you e'er forget it? I trow not. Yet what a petty matter—to pick up a dropped glove! 'Ah, but,' say you, 'It was the Queen's glove—that wrought the difference.' Verily so. Then set the like gilding upon your petty deeds. It is the King's work. You have wrought for the King. Your guerdon is His smile—is it not enough?—and your home shall be within His house for ever."
"Ay!" said Clare, drawing a long sigh—not of care: "it is enough, Mistress Eunice."
"And He hath no lack of our work," added Eunice softly. "It is given to us to do, like as it was given unto Peter and John to suffer. Methinks he were neither a good child nor a thankful, that should refuse to stretch forth hand for his Father's gift."
Note 1. I have not been able to ascertain the true date of Underhill's death, but he was living on the 6th of March 1568. (Rot. Pat., 10 Elizabeth, Part Two.)
"He is transformed, And grown a gallant of the last edition."
Jack's letters from London were exuberant. He was delighted with his new phase of existence. He had made some most advantageous friendships, and was in hopes of obtaining a monopoly, which would bring him in about a hundred a year. In the meantime, he begged that his father would remember that life at Court was a very costly affair; and perhaps he would be so good as to send him a little more money. Half-a-dozen letters of this description passed, and Jack was liberally supplied with such an amount as his father anticipated that he might reasonably want. But at the end of about two years came a much more urgent epistle. Jack was sorry to say that he had been unavoidably compelled to go into debt. No blame was to be attached to him in the matter. He had not incurred the obligation of a penny for anything beyond the barest necessaries; he hoped his father would not imagine that he had been living extravagantly. But he wished Sir Thomas to understand that he really had not a suspicion of the inevitable expenses of Court life. The sums which he had been so good as to remit were a mere drop in the ocean of Jack's necessities.
Sir Thomas replied, without any expression of displeasure, that if his son could get leave of absence sufficient to pay a visit to Lancashire, he would be glad to see him at home, and he desired that he would bring all his bills with him.
The answer to this letter was Jack himself, who came home on an autumn evening, most elaborately attired, and brimful of news.
A fresh punishment had been devised for felony—transportation to the colonies among the savages. The Spaniards were finally and completely expelled from the Dutch provinces. A Dutchman had made the extraordinary discovery that by an ingenious arrangement of pieces of glass, of certain shapes, at particular distances, objects far off could be made to seem nearer and larger. The Queen was about to send out a commercial expedition to India—the first—from which great things were expected. There was a new proclamation against Jesuits and "seminary priests." All these matters naturally enough, with Jack's personal adventures, occupied the first evening.
The next morning, Sir Thomas asked to see the bills. Jack brought out a tolerably large package of documents, which he presented to his father with a graceful reverence.
"I do ensure you, Sir, that I have involved me for nought beyond the barest necessities of a gentleman."
His father opened and perused the first bill.
"'One dozen of shirts at four pound the piece.' Be those, my lad, among the barest necessities?"
"Of a gentleman, Sir," said Jack.
"Four pound, Brother! Thou must mean four shillings," cried Rachel.
"'Tis writ four pound," calmly returned Sir Thomas.
"Good lack Jack!" said Rachel, turning to her nephew. "Were there angels for buttons all the way down?"
"The broidery, Aunt—the broidery!" returned Jack. "Four pound is a reasonable charge enough. Marry, I do ensure you, my sometime Lord of Leicester was wont to pay ten pound the piece for his shirts."
"I would I had been his shirt-maker!" said Rachel. "'Twould have built up my fortune."
"What wist thou touching broidery, Jack?" demanded Lady Enville, with her silvery laugh.
"Go to!" said Sir Thomas, taking up the next bill. "'Five score of silk stockings, broidered, with golden clocks [Note 1], twenty-six and eight-pence the pair.'—Those be necessaries, belike, Jack?"
"Assuredly, Sir. White, look you—a pair the day, or maybe two."
"Ha!" said his father. "'Item, one short coat, guarded with budge [lambskin], and broidered in gold thread, 45 pounds.—Item, one long gown of tawny velvet, furred with pampilion [an unknown species of fur], and guarded with white lace, 66 pounds, 13 shillings, 4 pence.'— Necessaries, Jack?"