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Peveril of the Peak
by Sir Walter Scott
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Her address to them was brief and matronly, yet spoken with so much feeling as found its way to every bosom. She apologised for the lateness of her personal welcome, by reminding them that there were then present in Martindale Castle that day, persons whom recent happy events had converted from enemies into friends, but on whom the latter character was so recently imposed, that she dared not neglect with them any point of ceremonial. But those whom she now addressed, were the best, the dearest the most faithful friends of her husband's house, to whom and to their valour Peveril had not only owed those successes, which had given them and him fame during the late unhappy times, but to whose courage she in particular had owed the preservation of their leader's life, even when it could not avert defeat. A word or two of heartfelt authority, completed all which she had boldness to add, and, bowing gracefully round her, she lifted a cup to her lips as if to welcome her guests.

There still remained, and especially amongst the old Cavaliers of the period, some glimmering of that spirit which inspired Froissart, when he declares that a knight hath double courage at need, when animated by the looks and words of a beautiful and virtuous woman. It was not until the reign which was commencing at the moment we are treating of, that the unbounded licence of the age, introducing a general course of profligacy, degraded the female sex into mere servants of pleasure, and, in so doing, deprived society of that noble tone of feeling towards the sex, which, considered as a spur to "raise the clear spirit," is superior to every other impulse, save those of religion and of patriotism. The beams of the ancient hall of Martindale Castle instantly rang with a shout louder and shriller than that at which they had so lately trembled, and the names of the Knight of the Peak and his lady were proclaimed amid waving of caps and hats, and universal wishes for their health and happiness.

Under these auspices the Lady Peveril glided from the hall, and left free space for the revelry of the evening.

That of the Cavaliers may be easily conceived, since it had the usual accompaniments of singing, jesting, quaffing of healths, and playing of tunes, which have in almost every age and quarter of the world been the accompaniments of festive cheer. The enjoyments of the Puritans were of a different and less noisy character. They neither sung, jested, heard music, nor drank healths; and yet they seemed not the less, in their own phrase, to enjoy the creature-comforts, which the frailty of humanity rendered grateful to their outward man. Old Whitaker even protested, that, though much the smaller party in point of numbers, they discussed nearly as much sack and claret as his own more jovial associates. But those who considered the steward's prejudices, were inclined to think, that, in order to produce such a result, he must have thrown in his own by-drinkings—no inconsiderable item—to the sum total of the Presbyterian potations.

Without adopting such a partial and scandalous report, we shall only say, that on this occasion, as on most others, the rareness of indulgence promoted the sense of enjoyment, and that those who made abstinence, or at least moderation, a point of religious principle, enjoyed their social meeting the better that such opportunities rarely presented themselves. If they did not actually drink each other's healths, they at least showed, by looking and nodding to each other as they raised their glasses, that they all were sharing the same festive gratification of the appetite, and felt it enhanced, because it was at the same time enjoyed by their friends and neighbours. Religion, as it was the principal topic of their thoughts, became also the chief subject of their conversation, and as they sat together in small separate knots, they discussed doctrinal and metaphysical points of belief, balanced the merits of various preachers, compared the creeds of contending sects, and fortified by scriptural quotations those which they favoured. Some contests arose in the course of these debates, which might have proceeded farther than was seemly, but for the cautious interference of Major Bridgenorth. He suppressed also, in the very bud, a dispute betwixt Gaffer Hodgeson of Charnelycot and the Reverend Mr. Solsgrace, upon the tender subject of lay-preaching and lay-ministering; nor did he think it altogether prudent or decent to indulge the wishes of some of the warmer enthusiasts of the party, who felt disposed to make the rest partakers of their gifts in extemporaneous prayer and exposition. These were absurdities that belonged to the time, which, however, the Major had sense enough to perceive were unfitted, whether the offspring of hypocrisy or enthusiasm, for the present time and place.

The Major was also instrumental in breaking up the party at an early and decorous hour, so that they left the Castle long before their rivals, the Cavaliers, had reached the springtide of their merriment; an arrangement which afforded the greatest satisfaction to the lady, who dreaded the consequences which might not improbably have taken place, had both parties met at the same period and point of retreat.

It was near midnight ere the greater part of the Cavaliers, meaning such as were able to effect their departure without assistance, withdrew to the village of Martindale Moultrassie, with the benefit of the broad moon to prevent the chance of accidents. Their shouts, and the burden of their roaring chorus of—

"The King shall enjoy his own again!"

were heard with no small pleasure by the lady, heartily glad that the riot of the day was over without the occurrence of any unpleasing accident. The rejoicing was not, however, entirely ended; for the elevated Cavaliers, finding some of the villagers still on foot around a bonfire on the street, struck merrily in with them—sent to Roger Raine of the Peveril Arms, the loyal publican whom we have already mentioned, for two tubs of merry stingo (as it was termed), and lent their own powerful assistance at the dusting it off to the health of the King and the loyal General Monk. Their shouts for a long time disturbed, and even alarmed, the little village; but no enthusiasm is able to withstand for ever the natural consequences of late hours, and potations pottle-deep. The tumult of the exulting Royalists at last sunk into silence, and the moon and the owl were left in undisturbed sovereignty over the old tower of the village church, which, rising white above a circle of knotty oaks, was tenanted by the bird, and silvered by the planet.



CHAPTER V

'Twas when they raised, 'mid sap and siege, The banners of their rightful liege, At their she-captain's call, Who, miracle of womankind! Lent mettle to the meanest hind That mann'd her castle wall. —WILLIAM S. ROSE.

On the morning succeeding the feast, the Lady Peveril, fatigued with the exertions and the apprehensions of the former day, kept her apartment for two or three hours later than her own active habits, and the matutinal custom of the time, rendered usual. Meanwhile, Mistress Ellesmere, a person of great trust in the family, and who assumed much authority in her mistress's absence, laid her orders upon Deborah, the governante, immediately to carry the children to their airing in the park, and not to let any one enter the gilded chamber, which was usually their sporting-place. Deborah, who often rebelled, and sometimes successfully, against the deputed authority of Ellesmere, privately resolved that it was about to rain, and that the gilded chamber was a more suitable place for the children's exercise than the wet grass of the park on a raw morning.

But a woman's brain is sometimes as inconstant as a popular assembly; and presently after she had voted the morning was like to be rainy, and that the gilded chamber was the fittest play-room for the children, Mistress Deborah came to the somewhat inconsistent resolution, that the park was the fittest place for her own morning walk. It is certain, that during the unrestrained joviality of the preceding evening, she had danced till midnight with Lance Outram the park-keeper; but how far the seeing him just pass the window in his woodland trim, with a feather in his hat, and a crossbow under his arm, influenced the discrepancy of the opinions Mistress Deborah formed concerning the weather, we are far from presuming to guess. It is enough for us, that, so soon as Mistress Ellesmere's back was turned, Mistress Deborah carried the children into the gilded chamber, not without a strict charge (for we must do her justice) to Master Julian to take care of his little wife, Mistress Alice; and then, having taken so satisfactory a precaution, she herself glided into the park by the glass-door of the still-room, which was nearly opposite to the great breach.

The gilded chamber in which the children were, by this arrangement, left to amuse themselves, without better guardianship than what Julian's manhood afforded, was a large apartment, hung with stamped Spanish leather, curiously gilded, representing, in a manner now obsolete, but far from unpleasing, a series of tilts and combats betwixt the Saracens of Grenada, and the Spaniards under the command of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, during that memorable siege, which was terminated by the overthrow of the last fragments of the Moorish empire in Spain.

The little Julian was careering about the room for the amusement of his infant friend, as well as his own, mimicking with a reed the menacing attitude of the Abencerrages and Zegris engaged in the Eastern sport of hurling the JERID, or javelin; and at times sitting down beside her, and caressing her into silence and good humour, when the petulant or timid child chose to become tired of remaining an inactive spectator of his boisterous sport; when, on a sudden, he observed one of the panelled compartments of the leather hangings slide apart, so as to show a fair hand, with its fingers resting upon its edge, prepared, it would seem, to push it still farther back. Julian was much surprised, and somewhat frightened, at what he witnessed, for the tales of the nursery had strongly impressed on his mind the terrors of the invisible world. Yet, naturally bold and high-spirited, the little champion placed himself beside his defenceless sister, continuing to brandish his weapon in her defence, as boldly as he had himself been an Abencerrage of Grenada.

The panel, on which his eye was fixed, gradually continued to slide back, and display more and more the form to which the hand appertained, until, in the dark aperture which was disclosed, the children saw the figure of a lady in a mourning dress, past the meridian of life, but whose countenance still retained traces of great beauty, although the predominant character both of her features and person was an air of almost royal dignity. After pausing a moment on the threshold of the portal which she had thus unexpectedly disclosed, and looking with some surprise at the children, whom she had not probably observed while engaged with the management of the panel, the stranger stepped into the apartment, and the panel, upon a touch of a spring, closed behind her so suddenly, that Julian almost doubted it had ever been open, and began to apprehend that the whole apparition had been a delusion.

The stately lady, however, advanced to him, and said, "Are not you the little Peveril?"

"Yes," said the boy, reddening, not altogether without a juvenile feeling of that rule of chivalry which forbade any one to disown his name, whatever danger might be annexed to the avowal of it.

"Then," said the stately stranger, "go to your mother's room, and tell her to come instantly to speak with me."

"I wo'not," said the little Julian.

"How?" said the lady,—"so young and so disobedient?—but you do but follow the fashion of the time. Why will you not go, my pretty boy, when I ask it of you as a favour?"

"I would go, madam," said the boy, "but"—and he stopped short, still drawing back as the lady advanced on him, but still holding by the hand Alice Bridgenorth, who, too young to understand the nature of the dialogue, clung, trembling, to her companion.

The stranger saw his embarrassment, smiled, and remained standing fast, while she asked the child once more, "What are you afraid of, my brave boy—and why should you not go to your mother on my errand?"

"Because," answered Julian firmly, "if I go, little Alice must stay alone with you."

"You are a gallant fellow," said the lady, "and will not disgrace your blood, which never left the weak without protection."

The boy understood her not, and still gazed with anxious apprehension, first on her who addressed him, and then upon his little companion, whose eyes, with the vacant glance of infancy, wandered from the figure of the lady to that of her companion and protector, and at length, infected by a portion of the fear which the latter's magnanimous efforts could not entirely conceal, she flew into Julian's arms, and, clinging to him, greatly augmented his alarm, and by screaming aloud, rendered it very difficult for him to avoid the sympathetic fear which impelled him to do the same.

There was something in the manner and bearing of this unexpected inmate which might justify awe at least, if not fear, when joined to the singular and mysterious mode in which she had made her appearance. Her dress was not remarkable, being the hood and female riding attire of the time, such as was worn by the inferior class of gentlewomen; but her black hair was very long, and, several locks having escaped from under her hood, hung down dishevelled on her neck and shoulders. Her eyes were deep black, keen, and piercing, and her features had something of a foreign expression. When she spoke, her language was marked by a slight foreign accent, although, in construction, it was pure English. Her slightest tone and gesture had the air of one accustomed to command and to be obeyed; the recollection of which probably suggested to Julian the apology he afterwards made for being frightened, that he took the stranger for an "enchanted queen."

While the stranger lady and the children thus confronted each other, two persons entered almost at the same instant, but from different doors, whose haste showed that they had been alarmed by the screams of the latter.

The first was Major Bridgenorth, whose ears had been alarmed with the cries of his child, as he entered the hall, which corresponded with what was called the gilded chamber. His intention had been to remain in the more public apartment, until the Lady Peveril should make her appearance, with the good-natured purpose of assuring her that the preceding day of tumult had passed in every respect agreeably to his friends, and without any of those alarming consequences which might have been apprehended from a collision betwixt the parties. But when it is considered how severely he had been agitated by apprehensions for his child's safety and health, too well justified by the fate of those who had preceded her, it will not be thought surprising that the infantine screams of Alice induced him to break through the barriers of form, and intrude farther into the interior of the house than a sense of strict propriety might have warranted.

He burst into the gilded chamber, therefore, by a side-door and narrow passage, which communicated betwixt that apartment and the hall, and, snatching the child up in his arms, endeavoured, by a thousand caresses, to stifle the screams which burst yet more violently from the little girl, on beholding herself in the arms of one to whose voice and manner she was, but for one brief interview, an entire stranger.

Of course, Alice's shrieks were redoubled, and seconded by those of Julian Peveril, who, on the appearance of this second intruder, was frightened into resignation of every more manly idea of rescue than that which consisted in invoking assistance at the very top of his lungs.

Alarmed by this noise, which in half a minute became very clamorous, Lady Peveril, with whose apartment the gilded chamber was connected by a private door of communication opening into her wardrobe, entered on the scene. The instant she appeared, the little Alice, extricating herself from the grasp of her father, ran towards her protectress, and when she had once taken hold of her skirts, not only became silent, but turned her large blue eyes, in which the tears were still glistening, with a look of wonder rather than alarm, towards the strange lady. Julian manfully brandished his reed, a weapon which he had never parted with during the whole alarm, and stood prepared to assist his mother if there should be danger in the encounter betwixt her and the stranger.

In fact, it might have puzzled an older person to account for the sudden and confused pause which the Lady Peveril made, as she gazed on her unexpected guest, as if dubious whether she did, or did not recognise, in her still beautiful though wasted and emaciated features, a countenance which she had known well under far different circumstances.

The stranger seemed to understand the cause of hesitation, for she said in that heart-thrilling voice which was peculiarly her own—

"Time and misfortune have changed me much, Margaret—that every mirror tells me—yet methinks, Margaret Stanley might still have known Charlotte de la Tremouille."

The Lady Peveril was little in the custom of giving way to sudden emotion, but in the present case she threw herself on her knees in a rapture of mingled joy and grief, and, half embracing those of the stranger, exclaimed, in broken language—

"My kind, my noble benefactress—the princely Countess of Derby—the royal queen in Man—could I doubt your voice, your features, for a moment—Oh, forgive, forgive me!"

The Countess raised the suppliant kinswoman of her husband's house, with all the grace of one accustomed from early birth to receive homage and to grant protection. She kissed the Lady Peveril's forehead, and passed her hand in a caressing manner over her face as she said—

"You too are changed, my fair cousin, but it is a change becomes you, from a pretty and timid maiden to a sage and comely matron. But my own memory, which I once held a good one, has failed me strangely, if this gentleman be Sir Geoffrey Peveril."

"A kind and good neighbour only, madam," said Lady Peveril; "Sir Geoffrey is at Court."

"I understood so much," said the Countess of Derby, "when I arrived here last night."

"How, madam!" said Lady Peveril—"Did you arrive at Martindale Castle—at the house of Margaret Stanley, where you have such right to command, and did not announce your presence to her?"

"Oh, I know you are a dutiful subject, Margaret," answered the Countess, "though it be in these days a rare character—but it was our pleasure," she added, with a smile, "to travel incognito—and finding you engaged in general hospitality, we desired not to disturb you with our royal presence."

"But how and where were you lodged, madam?" said Lady Peveril; "or why should you have kept secret a visit which would, if made, have augmented tenfold the happiness of every true heart that rejoiced here yesterday?"

"My lodging was well cared for by Ellesmere—your Ellesmere now, as she was formerly mine—she has acted as quartermaster ere now, you know, and on a broader scale; you must excuse her—she had my positive order to lodge me in the most secret part of your Castle"—(here she pointed to the sliding panel)—"she obeyed orders in that, and I suppose also in sending you now hither."

"Indeed I have not yet seen her," said the lady, "and therefore was totally ignorant of a visit so joyful, so surprising."

"And I," said the Countess, "was equally surprised to find none but these beautiful children in the apartment where I thought I heard you moving. Our Ellesmere has become silly—your good-nature has spoiled her—she has forgotten the discipline she learned under me."

"I saw her run through the wood," said the Lady Peveril, after a moment's recollection, "undoubtedly to seek the person who has charge of the children, in order to remove them."

"Your own darlings, I doubt not," said the Countess, looking at the children. "Margaret, Providence has blessed you."

"That is my son," said the Lady Peveril, pointing to Julian, who stood devouring their discourse with greedy ear; "the little girl—I may call mine too." Major Bridgenorth, who had in the meantime again taken up his infant, and was engaged in caressing it, set it down as the Countess of Derby spoke, sighed deeply, and walked towards the oriel window. He was well aware that the ordinary rules of courtesy would have rendered it proper that he should withdraw entirely, or at least offer to do so; but he was not a man of ceremonious politeness, and he had a particular interest in the subjects on which the Countess's discourse was likely to turn, which induced him to dispense with ceremony. The ladies seemed indeed scarce to notice his presence. The Countess had now assumed a chair, and motioned to the Lady Peveril to sit upon a stool which was placed by her side. "We will have old times once more, though there are here no roaring of rebel guns to drive you to take refuge at my side, and almost in my pocket."

"I have a gun, madam," said little Julian, "and the park-keeper is to teach me how to fire it next year."

"I will list you for my soldier, then," said the Countess.

"Ladies have no soldiers," said the boy, looking wistfully at her.

"He has the true masculine contempt of our frail sex, I see," said the Countess; "it is born with the insolent varlets of mankind, and shows itself so soon as they are out of their long clothes.—Did Ellesmere never tell you of Latham House and Charlotte of Derby, my little master?"

"A thousand thousand times," said the boy, colouring; "and how the Queen of Man defended it six weeks against three thousand Roundheads, under Rogue Harrison the butcher."

"It was your mother defended Latham House," said the Countess, "not I, my little soldier—Hadst thou been there, thou hadst been the best captain of the three."

"Do not say so, madam," said the boy, "for mamma would not touch a gun for all the universe."

"Not I, indeed, Julian," said his mother; "there I was for certain, but as useless a part of the garrison——"

"You forget," said the Countess, "you nursed our hospital, and made lint for the soldiers' wounds."

"But did not papa come to help you?" said Julian.

"Papa came at last," said the Countess, "and so did Prince Rupert—but not, I think, till they were both heartily wished for.—Do you remember that morning, Margaret, when the round-headed knaves, that kept us pent up so long, retreated without bag or baggage, at the first glance of the Prince's standards appearing on the hill—and how you took every high-crested captain you saw for Peveril of the Peak, that had been your partner three months before at the Queen's mask? Nay, never blush for the thought of it—it was an honest affection—and though it was the music of trumpets that accompanied you both to the old chapel, which was almost entirely ruined by the enemy's bullets; and though Prince Rupert, when he gave you away at the altar, was clad in buff and bandoleer, with pistols in his belt, yet I trust these warlike signs were no type of future discord?"

"Heaven has been kind to me," said the Lady Peveril, "in blessing me with an affectionate husband."

"And in preserving him to you," said the Countess, with a deep sigh; "while mine, alas! sealed with his blood his devotion to his king[*]—Oh, had he lived to see this day!"

[*] The Earl of Derby and King in Man was beheaded at Bolton-on-the- Moors, after having been made prisoner in a previous skirmish in Wiggan Lane.

"Alas! alas! that he was not permitted!" answered Lady Peveril; "how had that brave and noble Earl rejoiced in the unhoped-for redemption of our captivity!"

The Countess looked on Lady Peveril with an air of surprise.

"Thou hast not then heard, cousin, how it stands with our house?—How indeed had my noble lord wondered, had he been told that the very monarch for whom he had laid down his noble life on the scaffold at Bolton-le-Moor, should make it his first act of restored monarchy to complete the destruction of our property, already well-nigh ruined in the royal cause, and to persecute me his widow!"

"You astonish me, madam!" said the Lady Peveril. "It cannot be, that you—that you, the wife of the gallant, the faithful, the murdered Earl—you, Countess of Derby, and Queen in Man—you, who took on you even the character of a soldier, and seemed a man when so many men proved women—that you should sustain evil from the event which has fulfilled—exceeded—the hopes of every faithful subject—it cannot be!"

"Thou art as simple, I see, in this world's knowledge as ever, my fair cousin," answered the Countess. "This restoration, which has given others security, has placed me in danger—this change which relieved other Royalists, scarce less zealous, I presume to think, than I—has sent me here a fugitive, and in concealment, to beg shelter and assistance from you, fair cousin."

"From me," answered the Lady Peveril—"from me, whose youth your kindness sheltered—from the wife of Peveril, your gallant Lord's companion in arms—you have a right to command everything; but, alas! that you should need such assistance as I can render—forgive me, but it seems like some ill-omened vision of the night—I listen to your words as if I hoped to be relieved from their painful import by awaking."

"It is indeed a dream—a vision," said the Countess of Derby; "but it needs no seer to read it—the explanation hath been long since given—Put not your faith in princes. I can soon remove your surprise.—This gentleman, your friend, is doubtless honest?"

The Lady Peveril well knew that the Cavaliers, like other factions, usurped to themselves the exclusive denomination of the honest party, and she felt some difficulty in explaining that her visitor was not honest in that sense of the word.

"Had we not better retire, madam?" she said to the Countess, rising, as if in order to attend her. But the Countess retained her seat.

"It was but a question of habit," she said; "the gentleman's principles are nothing to me, for what I have to tell you is widely blazed, and I care not who hears my share of it. You remember—you must have heard, for I think Margaret Stanley would not be indifferent to my fate—that after my husband's murder at Bolton, I took up the standard which he never dropped until his death, and displayed it with my own hand in our Sovereignty of Man."

"I did indeed hear so, madam," said the Lady Peveril; "and that you had bidden a bold defiance to the rebel government, even after all other parts of Britain had submitted to them. My husband, Sir Geoffrey, designed at one time to have gone to your assistance with some few followers; but we learned that the island was rendered to the Parliament party, and that you, dearest lady, were thrown into prison."

"But you heard not," said the Countess, "how that disaster befell me.—Margaret, I would have held out that island against the knaves as long as the sea continued to flow around it. Till the shoals which surround it had become safe anchorage—till its precipices had melted beneath the sunshine—till of all its strong abodes and castles not one stone remained upon another,—would I have defended against these villainous hypocritical rebels, my dear husband's hereditary dominion. The little kingdom of Man should have been yielded only when not an arm was left to wield a sword, not a finger to draw a trigger in its defence. But treachery did what force could never have done. When we had foiled various attempts upon the island by open force—treason accomplished what Blake and Lawson, with their floating castles, had found too hazardous an enterprise—a base rebel, whom we had nursed in our own bosoms, betrayed us to the enemy. This wretch was named Christian——"

Major Bridgenorth started and turned towards the speaker, but instantly seemed to recollect himself, and again averted his face. The Countess proceeded, without noticing the interruption, which, however, rather surprised Lady Peveril, who was acquainted with her neighbour's general habits of indifference and apathy, and therefore the more surprised at his testifying such sudden symptoms of interest. She would once again have moved the Countess to retire to another apartment, but Lady Derby proceeded with too much vehemence to endure interruption.

"This Christian," she said, "had eaten of my lord his sovereign's bread, and drunk of his cup, even from childhood—for his fathers had been faithful servants to the House of Man and Derby. He himself had fought bravely by my husband's side, and enjoyed all his confidence; and when my princely Earl was martyred by the rebels, he recommended to me, amongst other instructions communicated in the last message I received from him, to continue my confidence in Christian's fidelity. I obeyed, although I never loved the man. He was cold and phlegmatic, and utterly devoid of that sacred fire which is the incentive to noble deeds, suspected, too, of leaning to the cold metaphysics of Calvinistic subtlety. But he was brave, wise, and experienced, and, as the event proved, possessed but too much interest with the islanders. When these rude people saw themselves without hope of relief, and pressed by a blockade, which brought want and disease into their island, they began to fall off from the faith which they had hitherto shown."

"What!" said the Lady Peveril, "could they forget what was due to the widow of their benefactor—she who had shared with the generous Derby the task of bettering their condition?"

"Do not blame them," said the Countess; "the rude herd acted but according to their kind—in present distress they forgot former benefits, and, nursed in their earthen hovels, with spirits suited to their dwellings, they were incapable of feeling the glory which is attached to constancy in suffering. But that Christian should have headed their revolt—that he, born a gentleman, and bred under my murdered Derby's own care in all that was chivalrous and noble—that he should have forgot a hundred benefits—why do I talk of benefits?—that he should have forgotten that kindly intercourse which binds man to man far more than the reciprocity of obligation—that he should have headed the ruffians who broke suddenly into my apartment—immured me with my infants in one of my own castles, and assumed or usurped the tyranny of the island—that this should have been done by William Christian, my vassal, my servant, my friend, was a deed of ungrateful treachery, which even this age of treason will scarcely parallel!"

"And you were then imprisoned," said the Lady Peveril, "and in your own sovereignty?"

"For more than seven years I have endured strict captivity," said the Countess. "I was indeed offered my liberty, and even some means of support, if I would have consented to leave the island, and pledge my word that I would not endeavour to repossess my son in his father's rights. But they little knew the princely house from which I spring—and as little the royal house of Stanley which I uphold, who hoped to humble Charlotte of Tremouille into so base a composition. I would rather have starved in the darkest and lowest vault of Rushin Castle, than have consented to aught which might diminish in one hair's-breadth the right of my son over his father's sovereignty!"

"And could not your firmness, in a case where hope seemed lost, induce them to be generous and dismiss you without conditions?"

"They knew me better than thou dost, wench," answered the Countess; "once at liberty, I had not been long without the means of disturbing their usurpation, and Christian would have as soon encaged a lioness to combat with, as have given me the slightest power of returning to the struggle with him. But time had liberty and revenge in store—I had still friends and partisans in the island, though they were compelled to give way to the storm. Even among the islanders at large, most had been disappointed in the effects which they expected from the change of power. They were loaded with exactions by their new masters, their privileges were abridged, and their immunities abolished, under the pretext of reducing them to the same condition with the other subjects of the pretended republic. When the news arrived of the changes which were current in Britain, these sentiments were privately communicated to me. Calcott and others acted with great zeal and fidelity; and a rising, effected as suddenly and effectually as that which had made me a captive, placed me at liberty and in possession of the sovereignty of Man, as Regent for my son, the youthful Earl of Derby. Do you think I enjoyed that sovereignty long without doing justice on that traitor Christian?"

"How, madam," said Lady Peveril, who, though she knew the high and ambitious spirit of the Countess, scarce anticipated the extremities to which it was capable of hurrying her—"have you imprisoned Christian?"

"Ay, wench—in that sure prison which felon never breaks from," answered the Countess.

Bridgenorth, who had insensibly approached them, and was listening with an agony of interest which he was unable any longer to suppress, broke in with the stern exclamation—

"Lady, I trust you have not dared——"

The Countess interrupted him in her turn.

"I know not who you are who question—and you know not me when you speak to me of that which I dare, or dare not do. But you seem interested in the fate of this Christian, and you shall hear it.—I was no sooner placed in possession of my rightful power, than I ordered the Dempster of the island to hold upon the traitor a High Court of Justice, with all the formalities of the isle, as prescribed in its oldest records. The Court was held in the open air, before the Dempster and the Keys of the island, assembled under the vaulted cope of heaven, and seated on the terrace of the Zonwald Hill, where of old Druid and Scald held their courts of judgment. The criminal was heard at length in his own defence, which amounted to little more than those specious allegations of public consideration, which are ever used to colour the ugly front of treason. He was fully convicted of his crime, and he received the doom of a traitor."

"But which, I trust, is not yet executed?" said Lady Peveril, not without an involuntary shudder.

"You are a fool, Margaret," said the Countess sharply; "think you I delayed such an act of justice, until some wretched intrigues of the new English Court might have prompted their interference? No, wench—he passed from the judgment-seat to the place of execution, with no farther delay than might be necessary for his soul's sake. He was shot to death by a file of musketeers in the common place of execution called Hango Hill."

Bridgenorth clasped his hands together, wrung them, and groaned bitterly.

"As you seem interested for this criminal," added the Countess, addressing Bridgenorth, "I do him but justice in repeating to you, that his death was firm and manly, becoming the general tenor of his life, which, but for that gross act of traitorous ingratitude, had been fair and honourable. But what of that? The hypocrite is a saint, and the false traitor a man of honour, till opportunity, that faithful touchstone, proves their metal to be base."

"It is false, woman—it is false!" said Bridgenorth, no longer suppressing his indignation.

"What means this bearing, Master Bridgenorth?" said Lady Peveril, much surprised. "What is this Christian to you, that you should insult the Countess of Derby under my roof?"

"Speak not to me of countesses and of ceremonies," said Bridgenorth; "grief and anger leave me no leisure for idle observances to humour the vanity of overgrown children.—O Christian—worthy, well worthy, of the name thou didst bear! My friend—my brother—the brother of my blessed Alice—the only friend of my desolate estate! art thou then cruelly murdered by a female fury, who, but for thee, had deservedly paid with her own blood that of God's saints, which she, as well as her tyrant husband, had spilled like water!—Yes, cruel murderess!" he continued, addressing the Countess, "he whom thou hast butchered in thy insane vengeance, sacrificed for many a year the dictates of his own conscience to the interest of thy family, and did not desert it till thy frantic zeal for royalty had well-nigh brought to utter perdition the little community in which he was born. Even in confining thee, he acted but as the friends of the madman, who bind him with iron for his own preservation; and for thee, as I can bear witness, he was the only barrier between thee and the wrath of the Commons of England; and but for his earnest remonstrances, thou hadst suffered the penalty of thy malignancy, even like the wicked wife of Ahab."

"Master Bridgenorth," said the Lady Peveril, "I will allow for your impatience upon hearing these unpleasing tidings; but there is neither use nor propriety in farther urging this question. If in your grief you forget other restraints, I pray you to remember that the Countess is my guest and kinswoman, and is under such protection as I can afford her. I beseech you, in simple courtesy, to withdraw, as what must needs be the best and most becoming course in these trying circumstances."

"Nay, let him remain," said the Countess, regarding him with composure, not unmingled with triumph; "I would not have it otherwise; I would not that my revenge should be summed up in the stinted gratification which Christian's death hath afforded. This man's rude and clamorous grief only proves that the retribution I have dealt has been more widely felt than by the wretched sufferer himself. I would I knew that it had but made sore as many rebel hearts, as there were loyal breasts afflicted by the death of my princely Derby!"

"So please you, madam," said Lady Peveril, "since Master Bridgenorth hath not the manners to leave us upon my request, we will, if your ladyship lists, leave him, and retire to my apartment.—Farewell, Master Bridgenorth; we will meet hereafter on better terms."

"Pardon me, madam," said the Major, who had been striding hastily through the room, but now stood fast, and drew himself up, as one who has taken a resolution;—"to yourself I have nothing to say but what is respectful; but to this woman I must speak as a magistrate. She has confessed a murder in my presence—the murder too of my brother-in-law—as a man, and as a magistrate, I cannot permit her to pass from hence, excepting under such custody as may prevent her farther flight. She has already confessed that she is a fugitive, and in search of a place of concealment, until she should be able to escape into foreign parts.—Charlotte, Countess of Derby, I attach thee of the crime of which thou hast but now made thy boast."

"I shall not obey your arrest," said the Countess composedly; "I was born to give, but not to receive such orders. What have your English laws to do with my acts of justice and of government, within my son's hereditary kingdom? Am I not Queen in Man, as well as Countess of Derby? A feudatory Sovereign indeed; but yet independent so long as my dues of homage are duly discharged. What right can you assert over me?"

"That given by the precepts of Scripture," answered Bridgenorth—"'Whoso spilleth man's blood, by man shall his blood be spilled.' Think not the barbarous privileges of ancient feudal customs will avail to screen you from the punishment due for an Englishman murdered upon pretexts inconsistent with the act of indemnity."

"Master Bridgenorth," said the Lady Peveril, "if by fair terms you desist not from your present purpose, I tell you that I neither dare, nor will, permit any violence against this honourable lady within the walls of my husband's castle."

"You will find yourself unable to prevent me from executing my duty, madam," said Bridgenorth, whose native obstinacy now came in aid of his grief and desire of revenge; "I am a magistrate, and act by authority."

"I know not that," said Lady Peveril. "That you were a magistrate, Master Bridgenorth, under the late usurping powers, I know well; but till I hear of your having a commission in the name of the King, I now hesitate to obey you as such."

"I shall stand on small ceremony," said Bridgenorth. "Were I no magistrate, every man has title to arrest for murder against the terms of the indemnities held out by the King's proclamations, and I will make my point good."

"What indemnities? What proclamations?" said the Countess of Derby indignantly. "Charles Stuart may, if he pleases (and it doth seem to please him), consort with those whose hands have been red with the blood, and blackened with the plunder, of his father and of his loyal subjects. He may forgive them if he will, and count their deeds good service. What has that to do with this Christian's offence against me and mine? Born a Mankesman—bred and nursed in the island—he broke the laws under which he lived, and died for the breach of them, after the fair trial which they allowed.—Methinks, Margaret, we have enough of this peevish and foolish magistrate—I attend you to your apartment."

Major Bridgenorth placed himself betwixt them and the door, in a manner which showed him determined to interrupt their passage; when the Lady Peveril, who thought she already showed more deference to him in this matter than her husband was likely to approve of, raised her voice, and called loudly on her steward, Whitaker. That alert person, who had heard high talking, and a female voice with which he was unacquainted, had remained for several minutes stationed in the anteroom, much afflicted with the anxiety of his own curiosity. Of course he entered in an instant.

"Let three of the men instantly take arms," said the lady; "bring them into the anteroom, and wait my farther orders."



CHAPTER VI

You shall have no worse prison than my chamber, Nor jailer than myself. —THE CAPTAIN.

The command which Lady Peveril laid on her domestics to arm themselves, was so unlike the usual gentle acquiescence of her manners, that Major Bridgenorth was astonished. "How mean you, madam?" said he; "I thought myself under a friendly roof."

"And you are so, Master Bridgenorth," said the Lady Peveril, without departing from the natural calmness of her voice and manner; "but it is a roof which must not be violated by the outrage of one friend against another."

"It is well, madam," said Bridgenorth, turning to the door of the apartment. "The worthy Master Solsgrace has already foretold, that the time was returned when high houses and proud names should be once more an excuse for the crimes of those who inhabit the one and bear the other. I believed him not, but now see he is wiser than I. Yet think not I will endure this tamely. The blood of my brother—of the friend of my bosom—shall not long call from the altar, 'How long, O Lord, how long!' If there is one spark of justice left in this unhappy England, that proud woman and I shall meet where she can have no partial friend to protect her."

So saying, he was about to leave the apartment, when Lady Peveril said, "You depart not from this place, Master Bridgenorth, unless you give me your word to renounce all purpose against the noble Countess's liberty upon the present occasion."

"I would sooner," answered he, "subscribe to my own dishonour, madam, written down in express words, than to any such composition. If any man offers to interrupt me, his blood be on his own head!" As Major Bridgenorth spoke, Whitaker threw open the door, and showed that, with the alertness of an old soldier, who was not displeased to see things tend once more towards a state of warfare, he had got with him four stout fellows in the Knight of the Peak's livery, well armed with swords and carabines, buff-coats, and pistols at their girdles.

"I will see," said Major Bridgenorth, "if any of these men be so desperate as to stop me, a freeborn Englishman, and a magistrate in the discharge of my duty."

So saying, he advanced upon Whitaker and his armed assistants, with his hand on the hilt of his sword.

"Do not be so desperate, Master Bridgenorth," exclaimed Lady Peveril; and added, in the same moment, "Lay hold upon, and disarm him, Whitaker; but do him no injury."

Her commands were obeyed. Bridgenorth, though a man of moral resolution, was not one of those who undertook to cope in person with odds of a description so formidable. He half drew his sword, and offered such show of resistance as made it necessary to secure him by actual force; but then yielded up his weapon, and declared that, submitting to force which one man was unable to resist, he made those who commanded, and who employed it, responsible for assailing his liberty without a legal warrant.

"Never mind a warrant on a pinch, Master Bridgenorth," said old Whitaker; "sure enough you have often acted upon a worse yourself. My lady's word is as good as a warrant, sure, as Old Noll's commission; and you bore that many a day, Master Bridgenorth, and, moreover, you laid me in the stocks for drinking the King's health, Master Bridgenorth, and never cared a farthing about the laws of England."

"Hold your saucy tongue, Whitaker," said the Lady Peveril; "and do you, Master Bridgenorth, not take it to heart that you are detained prisoner for a few hours, until the Countess of Derby can have nothing to fear from your pursuit. I could easily send an escort with her that might bid defiance to any force you could muster; but I wish, Heaven knows, to bury the remembrance of old civil dissensions, not to awaken new. Once more, will you think better of it—assume your sword again, and forget whom you have now seen at Martindale Castle?"

"Never," said Bridgenorth. "The crime of this cruel woman will be the last of human injuries which I can forget. The last thought of earthly kind which will leave me, will be the desire that justice shall be done on her."

"If such be your sentiments," said Lady Peveril, "though they are more allied to revenge than to justice, I must provide for my friend's safety, by putting restraint upon your person. In this room you will be supplied with every necessary of life, and every convenience; and a message shall relieve your domestics of the anxiety which your absence from the Hall is not unlikely to occasion. When a few hours, at most two days, are over, I will myself relieve you from confinement, and demand your pardon for now acting as your obstinacy compels me to do."

The Major made no answer, but that he was in her hands, and must submit to her pleasure; and then turned sullenly to the window, as if desirous to be rid of their presence.

The Countess and the Lady Peveril left the apartment arm in arm; and the lady issued forth her directions to Whitaker concerning the mode in which she was desirous that Bridgenorth should be guarded and treated during his temporary confinement; at the same time explaining to him, that the safety of the Countess of Derby required that he should be closely watched.

In all proposals for the prisoner's security, such as the regular relief of guards, and the like, Whitaker joyfully acquiesced, and undertook, body for body, that he should be detained in captivity for the necessary period. But the old steward was not half so docile when it came to be considered how the captive's bedding and table should be supplied; and he thought Lady Peveril displayed a very undue degree of attention to her prisoner's comforts. "I warrant," he said, "that the cuckoldly Roundhead ate enough of our fat beef yesterday to serve him for a month; and a little fasting will do his health good. Marry, for drink, he shall have plenty of cold water to cool his hot liver, which I will be bound is still hissing with the strong liquors of yesterday. And as for bedding, there are the fine dry board—more wholesome than the wet straw I lay upon when I was in the stocks, I trow."

"Whitaker," said the lady peremptorily, "I desire you to provide Master Bridgenorth's bedding and food in the way I have signified to you; and to behave yourself towards him in all civility."

"Lack-a-day! yes, my lady," said Whitaker; "you shall have all your directions punctually obeyed; but as an old servant, I cannot but speak my mind."

The ladies retired after this conference with the steward in the antechamber, and were soon seated in another apartment, which was peculiarly dedicated to the use of the mistress of the mansion—having, on the one side, access to the family bedroom; and, on the other, to the still-room which communicated with the garden. There was also a small door which, ascending a few steps, led to that balcony, already mentioned, that overhung the kitchen; and the same passage, by a separate door, admitted to the principal gallery in the chapel; so that the spiritual and temporal affairs of the Castle were placed almost at once within the reach of the same regulating and directing eye.[*]

[*] This peculiar collocation of apartments may be seen at Haddon Hall, Derbyshire, once a seat of the Vernons, where, in the lady's pew in the chapel, there is a sort of scuttle, which opens into the kitchen, so that the good lady could ever and anon, without much interruption of her religious duties, give an eye that the roast-meat was not permitted to burn, and that the turn-broche did his duty.

In the tapestried room, from which issued these various sally-ports, the Countess and Lady Peveril were speedily seated; and the former, smiling upon the latter, said, as she took her hand, "Two things have happened to-day, which might have surprised me, if anything ought to surprise me in such times:—the first is, that yonder roundheaded fellow should have dared to use such insolence in the house of Peveril of the Peak. If your husband is yet the same honest and downright Cavalier whom I once knew, and had chanced to be at home, he would have thrown the knave out of window. But what I wonder at still more, Margaret, is your generalship. I hardly thought you had courage sufficient to have taken such decided measures, after keeping on terms with the man so long. When he spoke of justices and warrants, you looked so overawed that I thought I felt the clutch of the parish-beadles on my shoulder, to drag me to prison as a vagrant."

"We owe Master Bridgenorth some deference, my dearest lady," answered the Lady Peveril; "he has served us often and kindly, in these late times; but neither he, nor any one else, shall insult the Countess of Derby in the house of Margaret Stanley."

"Thou art become a perfect heroine, Margaret," replied the Countess.

"Two sieges, and alarms innumerable," said Lady Peveril, "may have taught me presence of mind. My courage is, I believe, as slender as ever."

"Presence of mind is courage," answered the Countess. "Real valour consists not in being insensible to danger, but in being prompt to confront and disarm it;—and we may have present occasion for all that we possess," she added, with some slight emotion, "for I hear the trampling of horses' steps on the pavement of the court."

In one moment, the boy Julian, breathless with joy, came flying into the room, to say that papa was returned, with Lamington and Sam Brewer; and that he was himself to ride Black Hastings to the stable. In the second the tramp of the honest Knight's heavy jack-boots was heard, as, in his haste to see his lady, he ascended the staircase by two steps at a time. He burst into the room; his manly countenance and disordered dress showing marks that he had been riding fast; and without looking to any one else, caught his good lady in his arms, and kissed her a dozen of times.—Blushing, and with some difficulty, Lady Peveril extricated herself from Sir Geoffrey's arms; and in a voice of bashful and gentle rebuke, bid him, for shame, observe who was in the room.

"One," said the Countess, advancing to him, "who is right glad to see that Sir Geoffrey Peveril, though turned courtier and favourite, still values the treasure which she had some share in bestowing upon him. You cannot have forgot the raising of the leaguer of Latham House!"

"The noble Countess of Derby!" said Sir Geoffrey, doffing his plumed hat with an air of deep deference, and kissing with much reverence the hand which she held out to him; "I am as glad to see your ladyship in my poor house, as I would be to hear that they had found a vein of lead in the Brown Tor. I rode hard, in the hope of being your escort through the country. I feared you might have fallen into bad hands, hearing there was a knave sent out with a warrant from the Council."

"When heard you so? and from whom?"

"It was from Cholmondley of Vale Royal," said Sir Geoffrey; "he is come down to make provision for your safety through Cheshire; and I promised to bring you there in safety. Prince Rupert, Ormond, and other friends, do not doubt the matter will be driven to a fine; but they say the Chancellor, and Harry Bennet, and some others of the over-sea counsellors, are furious at what they call a breach of the King's proclamation. Hang them, say I!—They left us to bear all the beating; and now they are incensed that we should wish to clear scores with those who rode us like nightmares!"

"What did they talk of for my chastisement?" said the Countess.

"I wot not," said Sir Geoffrey; "some friends, as I said, from our kind Cheshire, and others, tried to bring it to a fine; but some, again, spoke of nothing but the Tower, and a long imprisonment."

"I have suffered imprisonment long enough for King Charles's sake," said the Countess; "and have no mind to undergo it at his hand. Besides, if I am removed from the personal superintendence of my son's dominions in Man, I know not what new usurpation may be attempted there. I must be obliged to you, cousin, to contrive that I may get in security to Vale Royal, and from thence I know I shall be guarded safely to Liverpool."

"You may rely on my guidance and protection, noble lady," answered her host, "though you had come here at midnight, and with the rogue's head in your apron, like Judith in the Holy Apocrypha, which I joy to hear once more read in churches."

"Do the gentry resort much to the Court?" said the lady.

"Ay, madam," replied Sir Geoffrey; "and according to our saying, when miners do begin to bore in these parts, it is for the grace of God, and what they there may find."

"Meet the old Cavaliers with much countenance?" continued the Countess.

"Faith, madam, to speak truth," replied the Knight, "the King hath so gracious a manner, that it makes every man's hopes blossom, though we have seen but few that have ripened into fruit."

"You have not, yourself, my cousin," answered the Countess, "had room to complain of ingratitude, I trust? Few have less deserved it at the King's hand."

Sir Geoffrey was unwilling, like most prudent persons, to own the existence of expectations which had proved fallacious, yet had too little art in his character to conceal his disappointment entirely. "Who, I, madam?" he said; "Alas! what should a poor country knight expect from the King, besides the pleasure of seeing him in Whitehall once more, and enjoying his own again? And his Majesty was very gracious when I was presented, and spoke to me of Worcester, and of my horse, Black Hastings—he had forgot his name, though—faith, and mine, too, I believe, had not Prince Rupert whispered it to him. And I saw some old friends, such as his Grace of Ormond, Sir Marmaduke Langdale, Sir Philip Musgrave, and so forth; and had a jolly rouse or two, to the tune of old times."

"I should have thought so many wounds received—so many dangers risked—such considerable losses—merited something more than a few smooth words," said the Countess.

"Nay, my lady, there were other friends of mine who had the same thought," answered Peveril. "Some were of opinion that the loss of so many hundred acres of fair land was worth some reward of honour at least; and there were who thought my descent from William the Conqueror—craving your ladyship's pardon for boasting it in your presence—would not have become a higher rank or title worse than the pedigree of some who have been promoted. But what said the witty Duke of Buckingham, forsooth? (whose grandsire was a Lei'stershire Knight—rather poorer, and scarcely so well-born as myself)—Why, he said, that if all of my degree who deserved well of the King in the late times were to be made peers, the House of Lords must meet upon Salisbury Plain!"

"And that bad jest passed for a good argument!" said the Countess; "and well it might, where good arguments pass for bad jests. But here comes one I must be acquainted with."

This was little Julian, who now re-entered the hall, leading his little sister, as if he had brought her to bear witness to the boastful tale which he told his father, of his having manfully ridden Black Hastings to the stable-yard, alone in the saddle; and that Saunders though he walked by the horse's head, did not once put his hand upon the rein, and Brewer, though he stood beside him, scarce held him by the knee. The father kissed the boy heartily; and the Countess, calling him to her so soon as Sir Geoffrey had set him down, kissed his forehead also, and then surveyed all his features with a keen and penetrating eye.

"He is a true Peveril," said she, "mixed as he should be with some touch of the Stanley. Cousin, you must grant me my boon, and when I am safely established, and have my present affair arranged, you must let me have this little Julian of yours some time hence, to be nurtured in my house, held as my page, and the playfellow of the little Derby. I trust in Heaven, they will be such friends as their fathers have been, and may God send them more fortunate times!"

"Marry, and I thank you for the proposal with all my heart, madam," said the Knight. "There are so many noble houses decayed, and so many more in which the exercise and discipline for the training of noble youths is given up and neglected, that I have often feared I must have kept Gil to be young master at home; and I have had too little nurture myself to teach him much, and so he would have been a mere hunting hawking knight of Derbyshire. But in your ladyship's household, and with the noble young Earl, he will have all, and more than all, the education which I could desire."

"There shall be no distinction betwixt them, cousin," said the Countess; "Margaret Stanley's son shall be as much the object of care to me as my own, since you are kindly disposed to entrust him to my charge.—You look pale, Margaret," she continued, "and the tear stands in your eye? Do not be so foolish, my love—what I ask is better than you can desire for your boy; for the house of my father, the Duke de la Tremouille, was the most famous school of chivalry in France; nor have I degenerated from him, or suffered any relaxation in that noble discipline which trained young gentlemen to do honour to their race. You can promise your Julian no such advantages, if you train him up a mere home-bred youth."

"I acknowledge the importance of the favour, madam," said Lady Peveril, "and must acquiesce in what your ladyship honours us by proposing, and Sir Geoffrey approves of; but Julian is an only child, and——"

"An only son," said the Countess, "but surely not an only child. You pay too high deference to our masters, the male sex, if you allow Julian to engross all your affection, and spare none for this beautiful girl."

So saying, she set down Julian, and, taking Alice Bridgenorth on her lap, began to caress her; and there was, notwithstanding her masculine character, something so sweet in the tone of her voice and in the cast of her features, that the child immediately smiled, and replied to her marks of fondness. This mistake embarrassed Lady Peveril exceedingly. Knowing the blunt impetuosity of her husband's character, his devotion to the memory of the deceased Earl of Derby, and his corresponding veneration for his widow, she was alarmed for the consequences of his hearing the conduct of Bridgenorth that morning, and was particularly desirous that he should not learn it save from herself in private, and after due preparation. But the Countess's error led to a more precipitate disclosure.

"That pretty girl, madam," answered Sir Geoffrey, "is none of ours—I wish she were. She belongs to a neighbour hard by—a good man, and, to say truth, a good neighbour—though he was carried off from his allegiance in the late times by a d—d Presbyterian scoundrel, who calls himself a parson, and whom I hope to fetch down from his perch presently, with a wannion to him! He has been cock of the roost long enough.—There are rods in pickle to switch the Geneva cloak with, I can tell the sour-faced rogues that much. But this child is the daughter of Bridgenorth—neighbour Bridgenorth, of Moultrassie Hall."

"Bridgenorth?" said the Countess; "I thought I had known all the honourable names in Derbyshire—I remember nothing of Bridgenorth.—But stay—was there not a sequestrator and committeeman of that name? Sure, it cannot be he?"

Peveril took some shame to himself, as he replied, "It is the very man whom your ladyship means, and you may conceive the reluctance with which I submitted to receive good offices from one of his kidney; but had I not done so, I should have scarce known how to find a roof to cover Dame Margaret's head."

The Countess, as he spoke, raised the child gently from her lap, and placed it upon the carpet, though little Alice showed a disinclination to the change of place, which the lady of Derby and Man would certainly have indulged in a child of patrician descent and loyal parentage.

"I blame you not," she said; "no one knows what temptation will bring us down to. Yet I did think Peveril of the Peak would have resided in its deepest cavern, sooner than owed an obligation to a regicide."

"Nay, madam," answered the Knight, "my neighbour is bad enough, but not so bad as you would make him; he is but a Presbyterian—that I must confess—but not an Independent."

"A variety of the same monster," said the Countess, "who hallooed while the others hunted, and bound the victim whom the Independents massacred. Betwixt such sects I prefer the Independents. They are at least bold, bare-faced, merciless villains, have more of the tiger in them, and less of the crocodile. I have no doubt it was that worthy gentleman who took it upon him this morning——"

She stopped short, for she saw Lady Peveril was vexed and embarrassed.

"I am," she said, "the most luckless of beings. I have said something, I know not what, to distress you, Margaret—Mystery is a bad thing, and betwixt us there should be none."

"There is none, madam," said Lady Peveril, something impatiently; "I waited but an opportunity to tell my husband what had happened—Sir Geoffrey, Master Bridgenorth was unfortunately here when the Lady Derby and I met; and he thought it part of his duty to speak of——"

"To speak of what?" said the Knight, bending his brows. "You were ever something too fond, dame, of giving way to the usurpation of such people."

"I only mean," said Lady Peveril, "that as the person—he to whom Lord Derby's story related—was the brother of his late lady, he threatened—but I cannot think that he was serious."

"Threaten?—threaten the Lady of Derby and Man in my house!—the widow of my friend—the noble Charlotte of Latham House!—by Heaven, the prick-eared slave shall answer it! How comes it that my knaves threw him not out of the window?"

"Alas! Sir Geoffrey, you forget how much we owe him," said the lady.

"Owe him!" said the Knight, still more indignant; for in his singleness of apprehension he conceived that his wife alluded to pecuniary obligations,—"if I do owe him some money, hath he not security for it? and must he have the right, over and above, to domineer and play the magistrate in Martindale Castle?—Where is he?—what have you made of him? I will—I must speak with him."

"Be patient, Sir Geoffrey," said the Countess, who now discerned the cause of her kinswoman's apprehension; "and be assured I did not need your chivalry to defend me against this discourteous faitour, as Morte d'Arthur would have called him. I promise you my kinswoman hath fully righted my wrong; and I am so pleased to owe my deliverance entirely to her gallantry, that I charge and command you, as a true knight, not to mingle in the adventure of another."

Lady Peveril, who knew her husband's blunt and impatient temper, and perceived that he was becoming angry, now took up the story, and plainly and simply pointed out the cause of Master Bridgenorth's interference.

"I am sorry for it," said the Knight; "I thought he had more sense; and that this happy change might have done some good upon him. But you should have told me this instantly—It consists not with my honour that he should be kept prisoner in this house, as if I feared anything he could do to annoy the noble Countess, while she is under my roof, or within twenty miles of this Castle."

So saying, and bowing to the Countess, he went straight to the gilded chamber, leaving Lady Peveril in great anxiety for the event of an angry meeting between a temper hasty as that of her husband, and stubborn like that of Bridgenorth. Her apprehensions were, however, unnecessary; for the meeting was not fated to take place.

When Sir Geoffrey Peveril, having dismissed Whitaker and his sentinels, entered the gilded chamber, in which he expected to find his captive, the prisoner had escaped, and it was easy to see in what manner. The sliding panel had, in the hurry of the moment, escaped the memory of Lady Peveril, and of Whitaker, the only persons who knew anything of it. It was probable that a chink had remained open, sufficient to indicate its existence to Bridgenorth; who withdrawing it altogether, had found his way into the secret apartment with which it communicated, and from thence to the postern of the Castle by another secret passage, which had been formed in the thickness of the wall, as is not uncommon in ancient mansions; the lords of which were liable to so many mutations of fortune, that they usually contrived to secure some lurking place and secret mode of retreat from their fortresses. That Bridgenorth had discovered and availed himself of this secret mode of retreat was evident; because the private doors communicating with the postern and the sliding panel in the gilded chamber were both left open.

Sir Geoffrey returned to the ladies with looks of perplexity. While he deemed Bridgenorth within his reach, he was apprehensive of nothing he could do; for he felt himself his superior in personal strength, and in that species of courage which induces a man to rush, without hesitation, upon personal danger. But when at a distance, he had been for many years accustomed to consider Bridgenorth's power and influence as something formidable; and notwithstanding the late change of affairs, his ideas so naturally reverted to his neighbour as a powerful friend or dangerous enemy, that he felt more apprehension on the Countess's score, than he was willing to acknowledge even to himself. The Countess observed his downcast and anxious brow, and requested to know if her stay there was likely to involve him in any trouble, or in any danger.

"The trouble should be welcome," said Sir Geoffrey, "and more welcome the danger, which should come on such an account. My plan was, that your ladyship should have honoured Martindale with a few days' residence, which might have been kept private until the search after you was ended. Had I seen this fellow Bridgenorth, I have no doubt I could have compelled him to act discreetly; but he is now at liberty, and will keep out of my reach; and, what is worse, he has the secret of the priest's chamber."

Here the Knight paused, and seemed much embarrassed.

"You can, then, neither conceal nor protect me?" said the Countess.

"Pardon, my honoured lady," answered the Knight, "and let me say out my say. The plain truth is, that this man hath many friends among the Presbyterians here, who are more numerous than I would wish them; and if he falls in with the pursuivant fellow who carries the warrant of the Privy Council, it is likely he will back him with force sufficient to try to execute it. And I doubt whether any of our friends can be summoned together in haste, sufficient to resist such a power as they are like to bring together."

"Nor would I wish any friends to take arms, in my name, against the King's warrant, Sir Geoffrey," said the Countess.

"Nay, for that matter," replied the Knight, "an his Majesty will grant warrants against his best friends, he must look to have them resisted. But the best I can think of in this emergence is—though the proposal be something inhospitable—that your ladyship should take presently to horse, if your fatigue will permit. I will mount also, with some brisk fellows, who will lodge you safe at Vale Royal, though the Sheriff stopped the way with a whole posse comitatus."

The Countess of Derby willingly acquiesced in this proposal. She had enjoyed a night's sound repose in the private chamber, to which Ellesmere had guided her on the preceding evening, and was quite ready to resume her route, or flight—"she scarce knew," she said, "which of the two she should term it."

Lady Peveril wept at the necessity which seemed to hurry her earliest friend and protectress from under her roof, at the instant when the clouds of adversity were gathering around her; but she saw no alternative equally safe. Nay, however strong her attachment to Lady Derby, she could not but be more readily reconciled to her hasty departure, when she considered the inconvenience, and even danger, in which her presence, at such a time, and in such circumstances, was likely to involve a man so bold and hot-tempered as her husband Sir Geoffrey.

While Lady Peveril, therefore, made every arrangement which time permitted and circumstances required, for the Countess prosecuting her journey, her husband, whose spirits always rose with the prospect of action, issued his orders to Whitaker to get together a few stout fellows, with back and breast pieces, and steel-caps. "There are the two lackeys, and Outram and Saunders, besides the other groom fellow, and Roger Raine, and his son; but bid Roger not come drunk again;—thyself, young Dick of the Dale and his servant, and a file or two of the tenants,—we shall be enough for any force they can make. All these are fellows that will strike hard, and ask no question why—their hands are ever readier than their tongues, and their mouths are more made for drinking than speaking."

Whitaker, apprised of the necessity of the case, asked if he should not warn Sir Jasper Cranbourne.

"Not a word to him, as you live," said the Knight; "this may be an outlawry, as they call it, for what I know; and therefore I will bring no lands or tenements into peril, saving mine own. Sir Jasper hath had a troublesome time of it for many a year. By my will, he shall sit quiet for the rest of's days."



CHAPTER VII

Fang.—A rescue! a rescue! Mrs. Quickly.—Good people, bring a rescue or two. —Henry IV. Part I.

The followers of Peveril were so well accustomed to the sound of "Boot and Saddle," that they were soon mounted and in order; and in all the form, and with some of the dignity of danger, proceeded to escort the Countess of Derby through the hilly and desert tract of country which connects the frontier of the shire with the neighbouring county of Cheshire. The cavalcade moved with considerable precaution, which they had been taught by the discipline of the Civil Wars. One wary and well-mounted trooper rode about two hundred yards in advance; followed, at about half that distance, by two more, with their carabines advanced, as if ready for action. About one hundred yards behind the advance, came the main body; where the Countess of Derby, mounted on Lady Peveril's ambling palfrey (for her own had been exhausted by the journey from London to Martindale Castle), accompanied by one groom, of approved fidelity, and one waiting-maid, was attended and guarded by the Knight of the Peak, and three files of good and practised horsemen. In the rear came Whitaker, with Lance Outram, as men of especial trust, to whom the covering the retreat was confided. They rode, as the Spanish proverb expresses it, "with the beard on the shoulder," looking around, that is, from time to time, and using every precaution to have the speediest knowledge of any pursuit which might take place.

But, however wise in discipline, Peveril and his followers were somewhat remiss in civil policy. The Knight had communicated to Whitaker, though without any apparent necessity, the precise nature of their present expedition; and Whitaker was equally communicative to his comrade Lance, the keeper. "It is strange enough, Master Whitaker," said the latter, when he had heard the case, "and I wish you, being a wise man, would expound it;—why, when we have been wishing for the King—and praying for the King—and fighting for the King—and dying for the King, for these twenty years, the first thing we find to do on his return, is to get into harness to resist his warrant?"

"Pooh! you silly fellow," said Whitaker, "that is all you know of the true bottom of our quarrel! Why, man, we fought for the King's person against his warrant, all along from the very beginning; for I remember the rogues' proclamations, and so forth, always ran in the name of the King and Parliament."

"Ay! was it even so?" replied Lance. "Nay, then, if they begin the old game so soon again, and send out warrants in the King's name against his loyal subjects, well fare our stout Knight, say I, who is ready to take them down in their stocking-soles. And if Bridgenorth takes the chase after us, I shall not be sorry to have a knock at him for one."

"Why, the man, bating he is a pestilent Roundhead and Puritan," said Whitaker, "is no bad neighbour. What has he done to thee, man?"

"He has poached on the manor," answered the keeper.

"The devil he has!" replied Whitaker. "Thou must be jesting, Lance. Bridgenorth is neither hunter nor hawker; he hath not so much of honesty in him."

"Ay, but he runs after game you little think of, with his sour, melancholy face, that would scare babes and curdle milk," answered Lance.

"Thou canst not mean the wenches?" said Whitaker; "why, he hath been melancholy mad with moping for the death of his wife. Thou knowest our lady took the child, for fear he should strangle it for putting him in mind of its mother, in some of his tantrums. Under her favour, and among friends, there are many poor Cavaliers' children, that care would be better bestowed upon—But to thy tale."

"Why, thus it runs," said Lance. "I think you may have noticed, Master Whitaker, that a certain Mistress Deborah hath manifested a certain favour for a certain person in a certain household."

"For thyself, to wit," answered Whitaker; "Lance Outram, thou art the vainest coxcomb——"

"Coxcomb?" said Lance; "why, 'twas but last night the whole family saw her, as one would say, fling herself at my head."

"I would she had been a brickbat then, to have broken it, for thy impertinence and conceit," said the steward.

"Well, but do but hearken. The next morning—that is, this very blessed morning—I thought of going to lodge a buck in the park, judging a bit of venison might be wanted in the larder, after yesterday's wassail; and, as I passed under the nursery window, I did but just look up to see what madam governante was about; and so I saw her, through the casement, whip on her hood and scarf as soon as she had a glimpse of me. Immediately after I saw the still-room door open, and made sure she was coming through the garden, and so over the breach and down to the park; and so, thought I, 'Aha, Mistress Deb, if you are so ready to dance after my pipe and tabor, I will give you a couranto before you shall come up with me.' And so I went down Ivy-tod Dingle, where the copse is tangled, and the ground swampy, and round by Haxley-bottom, thinking all the while she was following, and laughing in my sleeve at the round I was giving her."

"You deserved to be ducked for it," said Whitaker, "for a weather-headed puppy; but what is all this Jack-a-lantern story to Bridgenorth?"

"Why, it was all along of he, man," continued Lance, "that is, of Bridgenorth, that she did not follow me—Gad, I first walked slow, and then stopped, and then turned back a little, and then began to wonder what she had made of herself, and to think I had borne myself something like a jackass in the matter."

"That I deny," said Whitaker, "never jackass but would have borne him better—but go on."

"Why, turning my face towards the Castle, I went back as if I had my nose bleeding, when just by the Copely thorn, which stands, you know, a flight-short from the postern-gate, I saw Madam Deb in close conference with the enemy."

"What enemy?" said the steward.

"What enemy! why, who but Bridgenorth? They kept out of sight, and among the copse; but, thought I, it is hard if I cannot stalk you, that have stalked so many bucks. If so, I had better give my shafts to be pudding pins. So I cast round the thicket, to watch their waters; and may I never bend crossbow again, if I did not see him give her gold, and squeeze her by the hand!"

"And was that all you saw pass between them?" said the steward.

"Faith, and it was enough to dismount me from my hobby," said Lance. "What! when I thought I had the prettiest girl in the Castle dancing after my whistle, to find that she gave me the bag to hold, and was smuggling in a corner with a rich old Puritan!"

"Credit me, Lance, it is not as thou thinkest," said Whitaker. "Bridgenorth cares not for these amorous toys, and thou thinkest of nothing else. But it is fitting our Knight should know that he has met with Deborah in secret, and given her gold; for never Puritan gave gold yet, but it was earnest for some devil's work done, or to be done."

"Nay, but," said Lance, "I would not be such a dog-bolt as to go and betray the girl to our master. She hath a right to follow her fancy, as the dame said who kissed her cow—only I do not much approve her choice, that is all. He cannot be six years short of fifty; and a verjuice countenance, under the penthouse of a slouched beaver, and bag of meagre dried bones, swaddled up in a black cloak, is no such temptation, methinks."

"I tell you once more," said Whitaker, "you are mistaken; and that there neither is, nor can be, any matter of love between them, but only some intrigue, concerning, perhaps, this same noble Countess of Derby. I tell thee, it behoves my master to know it, and I will presently tell it to him."

So saying, and in spite of all the remonstrances which Lance continued to make on behalf of Mistress Deborah, the steward rode up to the main body of their little party, and mentioned to the Knight, and the Countess of Derby, what he had just heard from the keeper, adding at the same time his own suspicions, that Master Bridgenorth of Moultrassie Hall was desirous to keep up some system of espial in the Castle of Martindale, either in order to secure his menaced vengeance on the Countess of Derby, as authoress of his brother-in-law's death, or for some unknown, but probably sinister purpose.

The Knight of the Peak was filled with high resentment at Whitaker's communication. According to his prejudices, those of the opposite faction were supposed to make up by wit and intrigue what they wanted in open force; and he now hastily conceived that his neighbour, whose prudence he always respected, and sometimes even dreaded, was maintaining for his private purposes, a clandestine correspondence with a member of his family. If this was for the betrayal of his noble guest, it argued at once treachery and presumption; or, viewing the whole as Lance had done, a criminal intrigue with a woman so near the person of Lady Peveril, was in itself, he deemed, a piece of sovereign impertinence and disrespect on the part of such a person as Bridgenorth, against whom Sir Geoffrey's anger was kindled accordingly.

Whitaker had scarce regained his post in the rear, when he again quitted it, and galloped to the main body with more speed than before, with the unpleasing tidings that they were pursued by half a score of horseman, and better.

"Ride on briskly to Hartley-nick," said the Knight, "and there, with God to help, we will bide the knaves.—Countess of Derby—one word and a short one—Farewell!—you must ride forward with Whitaker and another careful fellow, and let me alone to see that no one treads on your skirts."

"I will abide with you and stand them," said the Countess; "you know of old, I fear not to look on man's work."

"You must ride on, madam," said the Knight, "for the sake of the young Earl, and the rest of my noble friends' family. There is no manly work which can be worth your looking upon; it is but child's play that these fellows bring with them."

As she yielded a reluctant consent to continue her flight, they reached the bottom of Hartley-nick, a pass very steep and craggy, and where the road, or rather path, which had hitherto passed over more open ground, became pent up and confined betwixt copsewood on the one side, and, on the other, the precipitous bank of a mountain stream.

The Countess of Derby, after an affectionate adieu to Sir Geoffrey, and having requested him to convey her kind commendations to her little page-elect and his mother, proceeded up the pass at a round pace, and with her attendants and escort, was soon out of sight. Immediately after she had disappeared, the pursuers came up with Sir Geoffrey Peveril, who had divided and drawn up his party so as completely to occupy the road at three different points.

The opposite party was led, as Sir Geoffrey had expected, by Major Bridgenorth. At his side was a person in black, with a silver greyhound on his arm; and he was followed by about eight or ten inhabitants of the village of Martindale Moultrassie, two or three of whom were officers of the peace, and others were personally known to Sir Geoffrey as favourers of the subverted government.

As the party rode briskly up, Sir Geoffrey called to them to halt; and as they continued advancing, he ordered his own people to present their pistols and carabines; and after assuming that menacing attitude, he repeated, with a voice of thunder, "Halt, or we fire!"

The other party halted accordingly, and Major Bridgenorth advanced, as if to parley.

"Why, how now, neighbour," said Sir Geoffrey, as if he had at that moment recognised him for the first time,—"what makes you ride so sharp this morning? Are you not afraid to harm your horse, or spoil your spurs?"

"Sir Geoffrey," said the Major, "I have not time for jesting—I'm on the King's affairs."

"Are you sure it is not upon Old Noll's, neighbour? You used to hold his the better errand," said the Knight, with a smile which gave occasion to a horse-laugh among his followers.

"Show him your warrant," said Bridgenorth to the man in black formerly mentioned, who was a pursuivant. Then taking the warrant from the officer, he gave it to Sir Geoffrey—"To this, at least, you will pay regard."

"The same regard which you would have paid to it a month back or so," said the Knight, tearing the warrant to shreds.—"What a plague do you stare at? Do you think you have a monopoly of rebellion, and that we have not a right to show a trick of disobedience in our turn?"

"Make way, Sir Geoffrey Peveril," said Bridgenorth, "or you will compel me to do that I may be sorry for. I am in this matter the avenger of the blood of one of the Lord's saints, and I will follow the chase while Heaven grants me an arm to make my way."

"You shall make no way here but at your peril," said Sir Geoffrey; "this is my ground—I have been harassed enough for these twenty years by saints, as you call yourselves. I tell you, master, you shall neither violate the security of my house, nor pursue my friends over the grounds, nor tamper, as you have done, amongst my servants, with impunity. I have had you in respect for certain kind doings, which I will not either forget or deny, and you will find it difficult to make me draw a sword or bend a pistol against you; but offer any hostile movement, or presume to advance a foot, and I will make sure of you presently. And for those rascals, who come hither to annoy a noble lady on my bounds, unless you draw them off, I will presently send some of them to the devil before their time."

"Make room at your proper peril," said Major Bridgenorth; and he put his right hand on his holster-pistol. Sir Geoffrey closed with him instantly, seized him by the collar, and spurred Black Hastings, checking him at the same time, so that the horse made a courbette, and brought the full weight of his chest against the counter of the other. A ready soldier might, in Bridgenorth's situation, have rid himself of his adversary with a bullet. But Bridgenorth's courage, notwithstanding his having served some time with the Parliament army, was rather of a civil than a military character; and he was inferior to his adversary, not only in strength and horsemanship, but also and especially in the daring and decisive resolution which made Sir Geoffrey thrust himself readily into personal contest. While, therefore, they tugged and grappled together upon terms which bore such little accordance with their long acquaintance and close neighbourhood, it was no wonder that Bridgenorth should be unhorsed with much violence. While Sir Geoffrey sprung from the saddle, the party of Bridgenorth advanced to rescue their leader, and that of the Knight to oppose them. Swords were unsheathed, and pistols presented; but Sir Geoffrey, with the voice of a herald, commanded both parties to stand back, and to keep the peace.

The pursuivant took the hint, and easily found a reason for not prosecuting a dangerous duty. "The warrant," he said, "was destroyed. They that did it must be answerable to the Council; for his part, he could proceed no farther without his commission."

"Well said, and like a peaceable fellow!" said Sir Geoffrey.—"Let him have refreshment at the Castle—his nag is sorely out of condition.—Come, neighbour Bridgenorth, get up, man—I trust you have had no hurt in this mad affray? I was loath to lay hand on you, man, till you plucked out your petronel."

As he spoke thus, he aided the Major to rise. The pursuivant, meanwhile, drew aside; and with him the constable and head-borough, who were not without some tacit suspicion, that though Peveril was interrupting the direct course of law in this matter, yet he was likely to have his offence considered by favourable judges; and therefore it might be as much for their interest and safety to give way as to oppose him. But the rest of the party, friends of Bridgenorth, and of his principles, kept their ground notwithstanding this defection, and seemed, from their looks, sternly determined to rule their conduct by that of their leader, whatever it might be.

But it was evident that Bridgenorth did not intend to renew the struggle. He shook himself rather roughly free from the hands of Sir Geoffrey Peveril; but it was not to draw his sword. On the contrary, he mounted his horse with a sullen and dejected air; and, making a sign to his followers, turned back the same road which he had come. Sir Geoffrey looked after him for some minutes. "Now, there goes a man," said he, "who would have been a right honest fellow had he not been a Presbyterian. But there is no heartiness about them—they can never forgive a fair fall upon the sod—they bear malice, and that I hate as I do a black cloak, or a Geneva skull-cap, and a pair of long ears rising on each side on't, like two chimneys at the gable ends of a thatched cottage. They are as sly as the devil to boot; and, therefore, Lance Outram, take two with you, and keep after them, that they may not turn our flank, and get on the track of the Countess again after all."

"I had as soon they should course my lady's white tame doe," answered Lance, in the spirit of his calling. He proceeded to execute his master's orders by dogging Major Bridgenorth at a distance, and observing his course from such heights as commanded the country. But it was soon evident that no manoeuvre was intended, and that the Major was taking the direct road homeward. When this was ascertained, Sir Geoffrey dismissed most of his followers; and retaining only his own domestics, rode hastily forward to overtake the Countess.

It is only necessary to say farther, that he completed his purpose of escorting the Countess of Derby to Vale Royal, without meeting any further hindrance by the way. The lord of the mansion readily undertook to conduct the high-minded lady to Liverpool, and the task of seeing her safely embarked for her son's hereditary dominions, where there was no doubt of her remaining in personal safety until the accusation against her for breach of the Royal Indemnity, by the execution of Christian, could be brought to some compromise.

For a length of time this was no easy matter. Clarendon, then at the head of Charles's administration, considered her rash action, though dictated by motives which the human breast must, in some respects, sympathise with, as calculated to shake the restored tranquillity of England, by exciting the doubts and jealousies of those who had to apprehend the consequences of what is called, in our own time, a reaction. At the same time, the high services of this distinguished family—the merits of the Countess herself—the memory of her gallant husband—and the very peculiar circumstances of jurisdiction which took the case out of all common rules, pleaded strongly in her favour; and the death of Christian was at length only punished by the imposition of a heavy fine, amounting, we believe, to many thousand pounds; which was levied, with great difficulty, out of the shattered estates of the young Earl of Derby.



CHAPTER VIII

My native land, good night! —BYRON.

Lady Peveril remained in no small anxiety for several hours after her husband and the Countess had departed from Martindale Castle; more especially when she learned that Major Bridgenorth, concerning whose motions she made private inquiry, had taken horse with a party, and was gone to the westward in the same direction with Sir Geoffrey.

At length her immediate uneasiness in regard to the safety of her husband and the Countess was removed, by the arrival of Whitaker, with her husband's commendations, and an account of the scuffle betwixt himself and Major Bridgenorth.

Lady Peveril shuddered to see how nearly they had approached to renewal of the scenes of civil discord; and while she was thankful to Heaven for her husband's immediate preservation, she could not help feeling both regret and apprehension for the consequences of his quarrel with Major Bridgenorth. They had now lost an old friend, who had showed himself such under those circumstances of adversity by which friendship is most severely tried; and she could not disguise from herself that Bridgenorth, thus irritated, might be a troublesome, if not a dangerous enemy. His rights as a creditor, he had hitherto used with gentleness; but if he should employ rigour, Lady Peveril, whose attention to domestic economy had made her much better acquainted with her husband's affairs than he was himself, foresaw considerable inconvenience from the measures which the law put in his power. She comforted herself with the recollection, however, that she had still a strong hold on Bridgenorth, through his paternal affection, and from the fixed opinion which he had hitherto manifested, that his daughter's health could only flourish while under her charge. But any expectations of reconciliation which Lady Peveril might probably have founded on this circumstance, were frustrated by an incident which took place in the course of the following morning.

The governante, Mistress Deborah, who has been already mentioned, went forth, as usual, with the children, to take their morning exercise in the Park, attended by Rachael, a girl who acted occasionally as her assistant in attending upon them. But not as usual did she return. It was near the hour of breakfast, when Ellesmere, with an unwonted degree of primness in her mouth and manner, came to acquaint her lady that Mistress Deborah had not thought proper to come back from the Park, though the breakfast hour approached so near.

"She will come, then, presently," said Lady Peveril with indifference.

Ellesmere gave a short and doubtful cough, and then proceeded to say, that Rachael had been sent home with little Master Julian, and that Mistress Deborah had been pleased to say, she would walk on with Miss Bridgenorth as far as Moultrassie Holt; which was a point at which the property of the Major, as matters now stood, bounded that of Sir Geoffrey Peveril.

"Is the wench turned silly," exclaimed the lady, something angrily, "that she does not obey my orders, and return at regular hours?"

"She may be turning silly," said Ellesmere mysteriously; "or she may be turning too sly; and I think it were as well your ladyship looked to it."

"Looked to what, Ellesmere?" said the lady impatiently. "You are strangely oracular this morning. If you know anything to the prejudice of this young woman, I pray you speak it out."

"I prejudice!" said Ellesmere; "I scorn to prejudice man, woman, or child, in the way of a fellow-servant; only I wish your ladyship to look about you, and use your own eyes—that is all."

"You bid me use my own eyes, Ellesmere; but I suspect," answered the lady, "you would be better pleased were I contented to see through your spectacles. I charge you—and you know I will be obeyed—I charge you to tell me what you know or suspect about this girl, Deborah Debbitch."

"I see through spectacles!" exclaimed the indignant Abigail; "your ladyship will pardon me in that, for I never use them, unless a pair that belonged to my poor mother, which I put on when your ladyship wants your pinners curiously wrought. No woman above sixteen ever did white-seam without barnacles. And then as to suspecting, I suspect nothing; for as your ladyship hath taken Mistress Deborah Debbitch from under my hand, to be sure it is neither bread nor butter of mine. Only" (here she began to speak with her lips shut, so as scarce to permit a sound to issue, and mincing her words as if she pinched off the ends of them before she suffered them to escape),—"only, madam, if Mistress Deborah goes so often of a morning to Moultrassie Holt, why, I should not be surprised if she should never find the way back again."

"Once more, what do you mean, Ellesmere? You were wont to have some sense—let me know distinctly what the matter is."

"Only, madam," pursued the Abigail, "that since Bridgenorth came back from Chesterfield, and saw you at the Castle Hall, Mistress Deborah has been pleased to carry the children every morning to that place; and it has so happened that she has often met the Major, as they call him, there in his walks; for he can walk about now like other folks; and I warrant you she hath not been the worse of the meeting—one way at least, for she hath bought a new hood might serve yourself, madam; but whether she hath had anything in hand besides a piece of money, no doubt your ladyship is best judge."

Lady Peveril, who readily adopted the more good-natured construction of the governante's motives, could not help laughing at the idea of a man of Bridgenorth's precise appearance, strict principles, and reserved habits, being suspected of a design of gallantry; and readily concluded, that Mistress Deborah had found her advantage in gratifying his parental affection by a frequent sight of his daughter during the few days which intervened betwixt his first seeing little Alice at the Castle, and the events which had followed. But she was somewhat surprised, when, an hour after the usual breakfast hour, during which neither the child nor Mistress Deborah appeared, Major Bridgenorth's only man-servant arrived at the Castle on horseback, dressed as for a journey; and having delivered a letter addressed to herself, and another to Mistress Ellesmere, rode away without waiting any answer.

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