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Peveril of the Peak
by Sir Walter Scott
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With much circumspection, Julian Peveril approached the low Gothic porch, which defended the entrance of the mansion from the tempests incident to its situation, and was, like the buttresses, overrun with ivy and other creeping plants. An iron ring, contrived so as when drawn up and down to rattle against the bar of notched iron through which it was suspended, served the purpose of a knocker; and to this he applied himself, though with the greatest precaution.

He received no answer for some time, and indeed it seemed as if the house was totally uninhabited; when, at length, his impatience getting the upper hand, he tried to open the door, and, as it was only upon the latch, very easily succeeded. He passed through a little low-arched hall, the upper end of which was occupied by a staircase, and turning to the left, opened the door of a summer parlour, wainscoted with black oak, and very simply furnished with chairs and tables of the same materials; the former cushioned with the leather. The apartment was gloomy—one of those stone-shafted windows which we have mentioned, with its small latticed panes, and thick garland of foliage, admitting but an imperfect light.

Over the chimneypiece (which was of the same massive materials with the panelling of the apartment) was the only ornament of the room; a painting, namely, representing an officer in the military dress of the Civil Wars. It was a green jerkin, then the national and peculiar wear of the Manxmen; his short band which hung down on the cuirass—the orange-coloured scarf, but, above all, the shortness of his close-cut hair, showing evidently to which of the great parties he had belonged. His right hand rested on the hilt of his sword; and in the left he held a small Bible, bearing the inscription, "In hoc signo." The countenance was of a light complexion, with fair and almost effeminate blue eyes, and an oval form of face—one of those physiognomies, to which, though not otherwise unpleasing, we naturally attach the idea of melancholy and of misfortune.[*] Apparently it was well known to Julian Peveril; for after having looked at it for a long time, he could not forbear muttering aloud, "What would I give that that man had never been born, or that he still lived!"

[*] I am told that a portrait of the unfortunate William Christian is still preserved in the family of Waterson of Ballnabow of Kirk Church, Rushin. William Dhone is dressed in a green coat without collar or cape, after the fashion of those puritanic times, with the head in a close cropt wig, resembling the bishop's peruke of the present day. The countenance is youthful and well-looking, very unlike the expression of foreboding melancholy. I have so far taken advantage of this criticism, as to bring my ideal portrait in the present edition, nearer to the complexion at least of the fair-haired William Dhone.

"How now—how is this?" said a female, who entered the room as he uttered this reflection. "You here, Master Peveril, in spite of all the warnings you have had! You here in the possession of folk's house when they are abroad, and talking to yourself, as I shall warrant!"

"Yes, Mistress Deborah," said Peveril, "I am here once more, as you see, against every prohibition, and in defiance of all danger.—Where is Alice?"

"Where you will never see her, Master Julian—you may satisfy yourself of that," answered Mistress Deborah, for it was that respectable governante; and sinking down at the same time upon one of the large leathern chairs, she began to fan herself with her handkerchief, and complain of the heat in a most ladylike fashion.

In fact, Mistress Debbitch, while her exterior intimated a considerable change of condition for the better, and her countenance showed the less favourable effects of the twenty years which had passed over her head, was in mind and manners very much what she had been when she battled the opinions of Madam Ellesmere at Martindale Castle. In a word, she was self-willed, obstinate, and coquettish as ever, otherwise no ill-disposed person. Her present appearance was that of a woman of the better rank. From the sobriety of the fashion of her dress, and the uniformity of its colours, it was plain she belonged to some sect which condemned superfluous gaiety in attire; but no rules, not those of a nunnery or of a quaker's society, can prevent a little coquetry in that particular, where a woman is desirous of being supposed to retain some claim to personal attention. All Mistress Deborah's garments were so arranged as might best set off a good-looking woman, whose countenance indicated ease and good cheer—who called herself five-and-thirty, and was well entitled, if she had a mind, to call herself twelve or fifteen years older.

Julian was under the necessity of enduring all her tiresome and fantastic airs, and awaiting with patience till she had "prinked herself and pinned herself"—flung her hoods back, and drawn them forward—snuffed at a little bottle of essences—closed her eyes like a dying fowl—turned them up like duck in a thunderstorm; when at length, having exhausted her round of minauderies, she condescended to open the conversation.

"These walks will be the death of me," she said, "and all on your account, Master Julian Peveril; for if Dame Christian should learn that you have chosen to make your visits to her niece, I promise you Mistress Alice would be soon obliged to find other quarters, and so should I."

"Come now, Mistress Deborah, be good-humoured," said Julian; "consider, was not all this intimacy of ours of your own making? Did you not make yourself known to me the very first time I strolled up this glen with my fishing-rod, and tell me that you were my former keeper, and that Alice had been my little playfellow? And what could there be more natural, than that I should come back and see two such agreeable persons as often as I could?"

"Yes," said Dame Deborah; "but I did not bid you fall in love with us, though, or propose such a matter as marriage either to Alice or myself."

"To do you justice, you never did, Deborah," answered the youth; "but what of that? Such things will come out before one is aware. I am sure you must have heard such proposals fifty times when you least expected them."

"Fie, fie, fie, Master Julian Peveril," said the governante; "I would have you to know that I have always so behaved myself, that the best of the land would have thought twice of it, and have very well considered both what he was going to say, and how he was going to say it, before he came out with such proposals to me."

"True, true, Mistress Deborah," continued Julian; "but all the world hath not your discretion. Then Alice Bridgenorth is a child—a mere child; and one always asks a baby to be one's little wife, you know. Come, I know you will forgive me. Thou wert ever the best-natured, kindest woman in the world; and you know you have said twenty times we were made for each other."

"Oh no, Master Julian Peveril; no, no, no!" ejaculated Deborah. "I may indeed have said your estates were born to be united; and to be sure it is natural for me, that come of the old stock of the yeomanry of Peveril of the Peak's estate, to wish that it was all within the ring fence again; which sure enough it might be, were you to marry Alice Bridgenorth. But then there is the knight your father, and my lady your mother; and there is her father, that is half crazy with his religion; and her aunt that wears eternal black grogram for that unlucky Colonel Christian; and there is the Countess of Derby, that would serve us all with the same sauce if we were thinking of anything that would displease her. And besides all that, you have broke your word with Mistress Alice, and everything is over between you; and I am of opinion it is quite right it should be all over. And perhaps it may be, Master Julian, that I should have thought so a long time ago, before a child like Alice put it into my head; but I am so good-natured."

No flatterer like a lover, who wishes to carry his point.

"You are the best-natured, kindest creature in the world, Deborah.—But you have never seen the ring I bought for you at Paris. Nay, I will put it on your finger myself;—what! your foster-son, whom you loved so well, and took such care of?"

He easily succeeded in putting a pretty ring of gold, with a humorous affectation of gallantry, on the fat finger of Mistress Deborah Debbitch. Hers was a soul of a kind often to be met with, both among the lower and higher vulgar, who, without being, on a broad scale, accessible to bribes or corruption, are nevertheless much attached to perquisites, and considerably biassed in their line of duty, though perhaps insensibly, by the love of petty observances, petty presents, and trivial compliments. Mistress Debbitch turned the ring round, and round, and round, and at length said, in a whisper, "Well, Master Julian Peveril, it signifies nothing denying anything to such a young gentleman as you, for young gentlemen are always so obstinate! and so I may as well tell you, that Mistress Alice walked back from the Kirk-Truagh along with me, just now, and entered the house at the same time with myself."

"Why did you not tell me so before?" said Julian, starting up; "where—where is she?"

"You had better ask why I tell you so now, Master Julian," said Dame Deborah; "for, I promise you, it is against her express commands; and I would not have told you, had you not looked so pitiful;—but as for seeing you, that she will not—and she is in her own bedroom, with a good oak door shut and bolted upon her—that is one comfort.—And so, as for any breach of trust on my part—I promise you the little saucy minx gives it no less name—it is quite impossible."

"Do not say so, Deborah—only go—only try—tell her to hear me—tell her I have a hundred excuses for disobeying her commands—tell her I have no doubt to get over all obstacles at Martindale Castle."

"Nay, I tell you it is all in vain," replied the Dame. "When I saw your cap and rod lying in the hall, I did but say, 'There he is again,' and she ran up the stairs like a young deer; and I heard key turned, and bolt shot, ere I could say a single word to stop her—I marvel you heard her not."

"It was because I am, as I ever was, an owl—a dreaming fool, who let all those golden minutes pass, which my luckless life holds out to me so rarely.—Well—tell her I go—go for ever—go where she will hear no more of me—where no one shall hear more of me!"

"Oh, the Father!" said the dame, "hear how he talks!—What will become of Sir Geoffrey, and your mother, and of me, and of the Countess, if you were to go so far as you talk of? And what would become of poor Alice too? for I will be sworn she likes you better than she says, and I know she used to sit and look the way that you used to come up the stream, and now and then ask me if the morning were good for fishing. And all the while you were on the continent, as they call it, she scarcely smiled once, unless it was when she got two beautiful long letters about foreign parts."

"Friendship, Dame Deborah—only friendship—cold and calm remembrance of one who, by your kind permission, stole in on your solitude now and then, with news from the living world without—Once, indeed, I thought—but it is all over—farewell."

So saying, he covered his face with one hand, and extended the other, in the act of bidding adieu to Dame Debbitch, whose kind heart became unable to withstand the sight of his affliction.

"Now, do not be in such haste," she said; "I will go up again, and tell her how it stands with you, and bring her down, if it is in woman's power to do it."

And so saying, she left the apartment, and ran upstairs.

Julian Peveril, meanwhile, paced the apartment in great agitation, waiting the success of Deborah's intercession; and she remained long enough absent to give us time to explain, in a short retrospect, the circumstances which had led to his present situation.



CHAPTER XII

Ah me! for aught that ever I could read, Could ever hear by tale or history, The course of true love never did run smooth! —Midsummer Night's Dream.

The celebrated passage which we have prefixed to this chapter has, like most observations of the same author, its foundation in real experience. The period at which love is formed for the first time, and felt most strongly, is seldom that at which there is much prospect of its being brought to a happy issue. The state of artificial society opposes many complicated obstructions to early marriages; and the chance is very great, that such obstacles prove insurmountable. In fine, there are few men who do not look back in secret to some period of their youth, at which a sincere and early affection was repulsed, or betrayed, or become abortive from opposing circumstances. It is these little passages of secret history, which leave a tinge of romance in every bosom, scarce permitting us, even in the most busy or the most advanced period of life, to listen with total indifference to a tale of true love.

Julian Peveril had so fixed his affections, as to insure the fullest share of that opposition which early attachments are so apt to encounter. Yet nothing so natural as that he should have done so. In early youth, Dame Debbitch had accidentally met with the son of her first patroness, and who had himself been her earliest charge, fishing in the little brook already noticed, which watered the valley in which she resided with Alice Bridgenorth. The dame's curiosity easily discovered who he was; and besides the interest which persons in her condition usually take in the young people who have been under their charge, she was delighted with the opportunity to talk about former times—about Martindale Castle, and friends there—about Sir Geoffrey and his good lady—and, now and then, about Lance Outram the park-keeper.

The mere pleasure of gratifying her inquiries, would scarce have had power enough to induce Julian to repeat his visits to the lonely glen; but Deborah had a companion—a lovely girl—bred in solitude, and in the quiet and unpretending tastes which solitude encourages—spirited, also, and inquisitive, and listening, with laughing cheek, and an eager eye, to every tale which the young angler brought from the town and castle.

The visits of Julian to the Black Fort were only occasional—so far Dame Deborah showed common-sense—which was, perhaps, inspired by the apprehension of losing her place, in case of discovery. She had, indeed, great confidence in the strong and rooted belief—amounting almost to superstition—which Major Bridgenorth entertained, that his daughter's continued health could only be insured by her continuing under the charge of one who had acquired Lady Peveril's supposed skill in treating those subject to such ailments. This belief Dame Deborah had improved to the utmost of her simple cunning,—always speaking in something of an oracular tone, upon the subject of her charge's health, and hinting at certain mysterious rules necessary to maintain it in the present favourable state. She had availed herself of this artifice, to procure for herself and Alice a separate establishment at the Black Fort; for it was originally Major Bridgenorth's resolution, that his daughter and her governante should remain under the same roof with the sister-in-law of his deceased wife, the widow of the unfortunate Colonel Christian. But this lady was broken down with premature age, brought on by sorrow; and, in a short visit which Major Bridgenorth made to the island, he was easily prevailed on to consider her house at Kirk-Truagh, as a very cheerless residence for his daughter. Dame Deborah, who longed for domestic independence, was careful to increase this impression by alarming her patron's fears on account of Alice's health. The mansion of Kirk-Truagh stood, she said, much exposed to the Scottish winds, which could not but be cold, as they came from a country where, as she was assured, there was ice and snow at midsummer. In short, she prevailed, and was put into full possession of the Black Fort, a house which, as well as Kirk-Truagh, belonged formerly to Christian, and now to his widow.

Still, however, it was enjoined on the governante and her charge, to visit Kirk-Truagh from time to time, and to consider themselves as under the management and guardianship of Mistress Christian—a state of subjection, the sense of which Deborah endeavoured to lessen, by assuming as much freedom of conduct as she possibly dared, under the influence, doubtless, of the same feelings of independence, which induced her, at Martindale Hall, to spurn the advice of Mistress Ellesmere.

It was this generous disposition to defy control which induced her to procure for Alice, secretly, some means of education, which the stern genius of puritanism would have proscribed. She ventured to have her charge taught music—nay, even dancing; and the picture of the stern Colonel Christian trembled on the wainscot where it was suspended, while the sylph-like form of Alice, and the substantial person of Dame Deborah, executed French chaussees and borrees, to the sound of a small kit, which screamed under the bow of Monsieur De Pigal, half smuggler, half dancing-master. This abomination reached the ears of the Colonel's widow, and by her was communicated to Bridgenorth, whose sudden appearance in the island showed the importance he attached to the communication. Had she been faithless to her own cause, that had been the latest hour of Mrs. Deborah's administration. But she retreated into her stronghold.

"Dancing," she said, "was exercise, regulated and timed by music; and it stood to reason, that it must be the best of all exercise for a delicate person, especially as it could be taken within doors, and in all states of the weather."

Bridgenorth listened, with a clouded and thoughtful brow, when, in exemplification of her doctrine, Mistress Deborah, who was no contemptible performer on the viol, began to jangle Sellenger's Round, and desired Alice to dance an old English measure to the tune. As the half-bashful, half-smiling girl, about fourteen—for such was her age—moved gracefully to the music, the father's eye unavoidably followed the light spring of her step, and marked with joy the rising colour in her cheek. When the dance was over, he folded her in his arms, smoothed her somewhat disordered locks with a father's affectionate hand, smiled, kissed her brow, and took his leave, without one single word farther interdicting the exercise of dancing. He did not himself communicate the result of his visit at the Black Fort to Mrs. Christian, but she was not long of learning it, by the triumph of Dame Deborah on her next visit.

"It is well," said the stern old lady; "my brother Bridgenorth hath permitted you to make a Herodias of Alice, and teach her dancing. You have only now to find her a partner for life—I shall neither meddle nor make more in their affairs."

In fact, the triumph of Dame Deborah, or rather of Dame Nature, on this occasion, had more important effects than the former had ventured to anticipate; for Mrs. Christian, though she received with all formality the formal visits of the governante and her charge, seemed thenceforth so pettish with the issue of her remonstrance, upon the enormity of her niece dancing to a little fiddle, that she appeared to give up interference in her affairs, and left Dame Debbitch and Alice to manage both education and housekeeping—in which she had hitherto greatly concerned herself—much after their own pleasure.

It was in this independent state that they lived, when Julian first visited their habitation; and he was the rather encouraged to do so by Dame Deborah, that she believed him to be one of the last persons in the world with whom Mistress Christian would have desired her niece to be acquainted—the happy spirit of contradiction superseding, with Dame Deborah, on this, as on other occasions, all consideration of the fitness of things. She did not act altogether without precaution neither. She was aware she had to guard not only against any reviving interest or curiosity on the part of Mistress Christian, but against the sudden arrival of Major Bridgenorth, who never failed once in the year to make his appearance at the Black Fort when least expected, and to remain there for a few days. Dame Debbitch, therefore, exacted of Julian, that his visits should be few and far between; that he should condescend to pass for a relation of her own, in the eyes of two ignorant Manx girls and a lad, who formed her establishment; and that he should always appear in his angler's dress made of the simple Loughtan, or buff-coloured wool of the island, which is not subjected to dyeing. By these cautions, she thought his intimacy at the Black Fort would be entirely unnoticed, or considered as immaterial, while, in the meantime, it furnished much amusement to her charge and herself.

This was accordingly the case during the earlier part of their intercourse, while Julian was a lad, and Alice a girl two or three years younger. But as the lad shot up to youth, and the girl to womanhood, even Dame Deborah Debbitch's judgment saw danger in their continued intimacy. She took an opportunity to communicate to Julian who Miss Bridgenorth actually was, and the peculiar circumstances which placed discord between their fathers. He heard the story of their quarrel with interest and surprise, for he had only resided occasionally at Martindale Castle, and the subject of Bridgenorth's quarrel with his father had never been mentioned in his presence. His imagination caught fire at the sparks afforded by this singular story; and, far from complying with the prudent remonstrance of Dame Deborah, and gradually estranging himself from the Black Fort and its fair inmate, he frankly declared, he considered his intimacy there, so casually commenced, as intimating the will of Heaven, that Alice and he were designed for each other, in spite of every obstacle which passion or prejudice could raise up betwixt them. They had been companions in infancy; and a little exertion of memory enabled him to recall his childish grief for the unexpected and sudden disappearance of his little companion, whom he was destined again to meet with in the early bloom of opening beauty, in a country which was foreign to them both.

Dame Deborah was confounded at the consequences of her communication, which had thus blown into a flame the passion which she hoped it would have either prevented or extinguished. She had not the sort of head which resists the masculine and energetic remonstrances of passionate attachment, whether addressed to her on her own account, or on behalf of another. She lamented, and wondered, and ended her feeble opposition, by weeping, and sympathising, and consenting to allow the continuance of Julian's visits, provided he should only address himself to Alice as a friend; to gain the world, she would consent to nothing more. She was not, however, so simple, but that she also had her forebodings of the designs of Providence on this youthful couple; for certainly they could not be more formed to be united than the good estates of Martindale and Moultrassie.

Then came a long sequence of reflections. Martindale Castle wanted but some repairs to be almost equal to Chatsworth. The Hall might be allowed to go to ruin; or, what would be better, when Sir Geoffrey's time came (for the good knight had seen service, and must be breaking now), the Hall would be a good dowery-house, to which my lady and Ellesmere might retreat; while (empress of the still-room, and queen of the pantry) Mistress Deborah Debbitch should reign housekeeper at the Castle, and extend, perhaps, the crown-matrimonial to Lance Outram, provided he was not become too old, too fat, or too fond of ale.

Such were the soothing visions under the influence of which the dame connived at an attachment, which lulled also to pleasing dreams, though of a character so different, her charge and her visitant.

The visits of the young angler became more and more frequent; and the embarrassed Deborah, though foreseeing all the dangers of discovery, and the additional risk of an explanation betwixt Alice and Julian, which must necessarily render their relative situation so much more delicate, felt completely overborne by the enthusiasm of the young lover, and was compelled to let matters take their course.

The departure of Julian for the continent interrupted the course of his intimacy at the Black Fort, and while it relieved the elder of its inmates from much internal apprehension, spread an air of languor and dejection over the countenance of the younger, which, at Bridgenorth's next visit to the Isle of Man, renewed all his terrors for his daughter's constitutional malady.

Deborah promised faithfully she should look better the next morning, and she kept her word. She had retained in her possession for some time a letter which Julian had, by some private conveyance, sent to her charge, for his youthful friend. Deborah had dreaded the consequences of delivering it as a billet-doux, but, as in the case of the dance, she thought there could be no harm in administering it as a remedy.

It had complete effect; and next day the cheeks of the maiden had a tinge of the rose, which so much delighted her father, that, as he mounted his horse, he flung his purse into Deborah's hand, with the desire she should spare nothing that could make herself and his daughter happy, and the assurance that she had his full confidence.

This expression of liberality and confidence from a man of Major Bridgenorth's reserved and cautious disposition, gave full plumage to Mistress Deborah's hopes; and emboldened her not only to deliver another letter of Julian's to the young lady, but to encourage more boldly and freely than formerly the intercourse of the lovers when Peveril returned from abroad.

At length, in spite of all Julian's precaution, the young Earl became suspicious of his frequent solitary fishing parties; and he himself, now better acquainted with the world than formerly, became aware that his repeated visits and solitary walks with a person so young and beautiful as Alice, might not only betray prematurely the secret of his attachment, but be of essential prejudice to her who was its object.

Under the influence of this conviction, he abstained, for an unusual period, from visiting the Black Fort. But when he next indulged himself with spending an hour in the place where he would gladly have abode for ever, the altered manner of Alice—the tone in which she seemed to upbraid his neglect, penetrated his heart, and deprived him of that power of self-command, which he had hitherto exercised in their interviews. It required but a few energetic words to explain to Alice at once his feelings, and to make her sensible of the real nature of her own. She wept plentifully, but her tears were not all of bitterness. She sat passively still, and without reply, while he explained to her, with many an interjection, the circumstances which had placed discord between their families; for hitherto, all that she had known was, that Master Peveril, belonging to the household of the great Countess or Lady of Man, must observe some precautions in visiting a relative of the unhappy Colonel Christian. But, when Julian concluded his tale with the warmest protestations of eternal love, "My poor father!" she burst forth, "and was this to be the end of all thy precautions?—This, that the son of him that disgraced and banished thee, should hold such language to your daughter?"

"You err, Alice, you err," cried Julian eagerly. "That I hold this language—that the son of Peveril addresses thus the daughter of your father—that he thus kneels to you for forgiveness of injuries which passed when we were both infants, shows the will of Heaven, that in our affection should be quenched the discord of our parents. What else could lead those who parted infants on the hills of Derbyshire, to meet thus in the valleys of Man?"

Alice, however new such a scene, and, above all, her own emotions, might be, was highly endowed with that exquisite delicacy which is imprinted in the female heart, to give warning of the slightest approach to impropriety in a situation like hers.

"Rise, rise, Master Peveril," she said; "do not do yourself and me this injustice—we have done both wrong—very wrong; but my fault was done in ignorance. O God! my poor father, who needs comfort so much—is it for me to add to his misfortunes? Rise!" she added more firmly; "if you retain this unbecoming posture any longer, I will leave the room and you shall never see me more."

The commanding tone of Alice overawed the impetuosity of her lover, who took in silence a seat removed to some distance from hers, and was again about to speak. "Julian," said she in a milder tone, "you have spoken enough, and more than enough. Would you had left me in the pleasing dream in which I could have listened to you for ever! but the hour of wakening is arrived." Peveril waited the prosecution of her speech as a criminal while he waits his doom; for he was sufficiently sensible that an answer, delivered not certainly without emotion, but with firmness and resolution, was not to be interrupted. "We have done wrong," she repeated, "very wrong; and if we now separate for ever, the pain we may feel will be but a just penalty for our error. We should never have met: meeting, we should part as soon as possible. Our farther intercourse can but double our pain at parting. Farewell, Julian; and forget we ever have seen each other!"

"Forget!" said Julian; "never, never. To you, it is easy to speak the word—to think the thought. To me, an approach to either can only be by utter destruction. Why should you doubt that the feud of our fathers, like so many of which we have heard, might be appeased by our friendship? You are my only friend. I am the only one whom Heaven has assigned to you. Why should we separate for the fault of others, which befell when we were but children?"

"You speak in vain, Julian," said Alice; "I pity you—perhaps I pity myself—indeed, I should pity myself, perhaps, the most of the two; for you will go forth to new scenes and new faces, and will soon forget me; but, I, remaining in this solitude, how shall I forget?—that, however, is not now the question—I can bear my lot, and it commands us to part."

"Hear me yet a moment," said Peveril; "this evil is not, cannot be remediless. I will go to my father,—I will use the intercession of my mother, to whom he can refuse nothing—I will gain their consent—they have no other child—and they must consent, or lose him for ever. Say, Alice, if I come to you with my parents' consent to my suit, will you again say, with that tone so touching and so sad, yet so incredibly determined—Julian, we must part?" Alice was silent. "Cruel girl, will you not even deign to answer me?" said her lover.

"I would refer you to my father," said Alice, blushing and casting her eyes down; but instantly raising them again, she repeated, in a firmer and a sadder tone, "Yes, Julian, I would refer you to my father; and you would find that your pilot, Hope, had deceived you; and that you had but escaped the quicksands to fall upon the rocks."

"I would that could be tried!" said Julian. "Methinks I could persuade your father that in ordinary eyes our alliance is not undesirable. My family have fortune, rank, long descent—all that fathers look for when they bestow a daughter's hand."

"All this would avail you nothing," said Alice. "The spirit of my father is bent upon the things of another world; and if he listened to hear you out, it would be but to tell you that he spurned your offers."

"You know not—you know not, Alice," said Julian. "Fire can soften iron—thy father's heart cannot be so hard, or his prejudices so strong, but I shall find some means to melt him. Forbid me not—Oh, forbid me not at least the experiment!"

"I can but advise," said Alice; "I can forbid you nothing; for, to forbid, implies power to command obedience. But if you will be wise, and listen to me—Here, and on this spot, we part for ever!"

"Not so, by Heaven!" said Julian, whose bold and sanguine temper scarce saw difficulty in attaining aught which he desired. "We now part, indeed, but it is that I may return armed with my parents' consent. They desire that I should marry—in their last letters they pressed it more openly—they shall have their desire; and such a bride as I will present to them has not graced their house since the Conqueror gave it origin. Farewell, Alice! Farewell, for a brief space!"

She replied, "Farewell, Julian! Farewell for ever!"

Julian, within a week of this interview, was at Martindale Castle, with the view of communicating his purpose. But the task which seems easy at a distance, proves as difficult, upon a nearer approach, as the fording of a river, which from afar appeared only a brook. There lacked not opportunities of entering upon the subject; for in the first ride which he took with his father, the Knight resumed the subject of his son's marriage, and liberally left the lady to his choice; but under the strict proviso, that she was of a loyal and an honourable family;—if she had fortune, it was good and well, or rather, it was better than well; but if she was poor, why, "there is still some picking," said Sir Geoffrey, "on the bones of the old estate; and Dame Margaret and I will be content with the less, that you young folks may have your share of it. I am turned frugal already, Julian. You see what a north-country shambling bit of a Galloway nag I ride upon—a different beast, I wot, from my own old Black Hastings, who had but one fault, and that was his wish to turn down Moultrassie avenue."

"Was that so great a fault?" said Julian, affecting indifference, while his heart was trembling, as it seemed to him, almost in his very throat.

"It used to remind me of that base, dishonourable Presbyterian fellow, Bridgenorth," said Sir Geoffrey; "and I would as lief think of a toad:—they say he has turned Independent, to accomplish the full degree of rascality.—I tell you, Gill, I turned off the cow-boy, for gathering nuts in his woods—I would hang a dog that would so much as kill a hare there.—But what is the matter with you? You look pale."

Julian made some indifferent answer, but too well understood, from the language and tone which his father used, that his prejudices against Alice's father were both deep and envenomed, as those of country gentlemen often become, who, having little to do or think of, are but too apt to spend their time in nursing and cherishing petty causes of wrath against their next neighbours.

In the course of the same day, he mentioned the Bridgenorth to his mother, as if in a casual manner. But the Lady Peveril instantly conjured him never to mention the name, especially in his father's presence.

"Was that Major Bridgenorth, of whom I have heard the name mentioned," said Julian, "so very bad a neighbour?"

"I do not say so," said Lady Peveril; "nay, we were more than once obliged to him, in the former unhappy times; but your father and he took some passages so ill at each other's hands, that the least allusion to him disturbs Sir Geoffrey's temper, in a manner quite unusual, and which, now that his health is somewhat impaired, is sometimes alarming to me. For Heaven's sake, then, my dear Julian, avoid upon all occasions the slightest allusion to Moultrassie, or any of its inhabitants."

This warning was so seriously given, that Julian himself saw that mentioning his secret purpose would be the sure way to render it abortive, and therefore he returned disconsolate to the Isle.

Peveril had the boldness, however, to make the best he could of what had happened, by requesting an interview with Alice, in order to inform her what had passed betwixt his parents and him on her account. It was with great difficulty that this boon was obtained; and Alice Bridgenorth showed no slight degree of displeasure, when she discovered, after much circumlocution, and many efforts to give an air of importance to what he had to communicate, that all amounted but to this, that Lady Peveril continued to retain a favourable opinion of her father, Major Bridgenorth, which Julian would fain have represented as an omen of their future more perfect reconciliation.

"I did not think you would thus have trifled with me, Master Peveril," said Alice, assuming an air of dignity; "but I will take care to avoid such intrusion in future—I request you will not again visit the Black Fort; and I entreat of you, good Mistress Debbitch, that you will no longer either encourage or permit this gentleman's visits, as the result of such persecution will be to compel me to appeal to my aunt and father for another place of residence, and perhaps also for another and more prudent companion."

This last hint struck Mistress Deborah with so much terror, that she joined her ward in requiring and demanding Julian's instant absence, and he was obliged to comply with their request. But the courage of a youthful lover is not easily subdued; and Julian, after having gone through the usual round of trying to forget his ungrateful mistress, and entertaining his passion with augmented violence, ended by the visit to the Black Fort, the beginning of which we narrated in the last chapter.

We then left him anxious for, yet almost fearful of, an interview with Alice, which he prevailed upon Deborah to solicit; and such was the tumult of his mind, that, while he traversed the parlour, it seemed to him that the dark melancholy eyes of the slaughtered Christian's portrait followed him wherever he went, with the fixed, chill, and ominous glance, which announced to the enemy of his race mishap and misfortune.

The door of the apartment opened at length, and these visions were dissipated.



CHAPTER XIII

Parents have flinty hearts! No tears can move them. —OTWAY.

When Alice Bridgenorth at length entered the parlour where her anxious lover had so long expected her, it was with a slow step, and a composed manner. Her dress was arranged with an accurate attention to form, which at once enhanced the appearance of its puritanic simplicity, and struck Julian as a bad omen; for although the time bestowed upon the toilet may, in many cases, intimate the wish to appear advantageously at such an interview, yet a ceremonious arrangement of attire is very much allied with formality, and a preconceived determination to treat a lover with cold politeness.

The sad-coloured gown—the pinched and plaited cap, which carefully obscured the profusion of long dark-brown hair—the small ruff, and the long sleeves, would have appeared to great disadvantage on a shape less graceful than Alice Bridgenorth's; but an exquisite form, though not, as yet, sufficiently rounded in the outlines to produce the perfection of female beauty, was able to sustain and give grace even to this unbecoming dress. Her countenance, fair and delicate, with eyes of hazel, and a brow of alabaster, had, notwithstanding, less regular beauty than her form, and might have been justly subjected to criticism. There was, however, a life and spirit in her gaiety, and a depth of sentiment in her gravity, which made Alice, in conversation with the very few persons with whom she associated, so fascinating in her manners and expression, whether of language or countenance—so touching, also, in her simplicity and purity of thought, that brighter beauties might have been overlooked in her company. It was no wonder, therefore, that an ardent character like Julian, influenced by these charms, as well as by the secrecy and mystery attending his intercourse with Alice, should prefer the recluse of the Black Fort to all others with whom he had become acquainted in general society.

His heart beat high as she came into the apartment, and it was almost without an attempt to speak that his profound obeisance acknowledged her entrance.

"This is a mockery, Master Peveril," said Alice, with an effort to speak firmly, which yet was disconcerted by a slightly tremulous inflection of voice—"a mockery, and a cruel one. You come to this lone place, inhabited only by two women, too simple to command your absence—too weak to enforce it—you come, in spite of my earnest request—to the neglect of your own time—to the prejudice, I may fear, of my character—you abuse the influence you possess over the simple person to whom I am entrusted—All this you do, and think to make up by low reverences and constrained courtesy! Is this honourable, or is it fair?—Is it," she added, after a moment's hesitation—"is it kind?"

The tremulous accent fell especially on the last word she uttered, and it was spoken in a low tone of gentle reproach, which went to Julian's heart.

"If," said he, "there was a mode by which, at the peril of my life, Alice, I could show my regard—my respect—my devoted tenderness—the danger would be dearer to me than ever was pleasure."

"You have said such things often," said Alice, "and they are such as I ought not to hear, and do not desire to hear. I have no tasks to impose on you—no enemies to be destroyed—no need or desire of protection—no wish, Heaven knows, to expose you to danger—It is your visits here alone to which danger attaches. You have but to rule your own wilful temper—to turn your thoughts and your cares elsewhere, and I can have nothing to ask—nothing to wish for. Use your own reason—consider the injury you do yourself—the injustice you do us—and let me, once more, in fair terms, entreat you to absent yourself from this place—till—till——"

She paused, and Julian eagerly interrupted her.—"Till when, Alice?—till when?—impose on me any length of absence which your severity can inflict, short of a final separation—Say, Begone for years, but return when these years are over; and, slow and wearily as they must pass away, still the thought that they must at length have their period, will enable me to live through them. Let me, then, conjure thee, Alice, to name a date—to fix a term—to say till when!"

"Till you can bear to think of me only as a friend and sister."

"That is a sentence of eternal banishment indeed!" said Julian; "it is seeming, no doubt, to fix a term of exile, but attaching to it an impossible condition."

"And why impossible, Julian?" said Alice, in a tone of persuasion; "were we not happier ere you threw the mask from your own countenance, and tore the veil from my foolish eyes? Did we not meet with joy, spend our time happily, and part cheerily, because we transgressed no duty, and incurred no self-reproach? Bring back that state of happy ignorance, and you shall have no reason to call me unkind. But while you form schemes which I know to be visionary, and use language of such violence and passion, you shall excuse me if I now, and once for all, declare, that since Deborah shows herself unfit for the trust reposed in her, and must needs expose me to persecutions of this nature, I will write to my father, that he may fix me another place of residence; and in the meanwhile I will take shelter with my aunt at Kirk-Truagh."

"Hear me, unpitying girl," said Peveril, "hear me, and you shall see how devoted I am to obedience, in all that I can do to oblige you! You say you were happy when we spoke not on such topics—well—at all expense of my own suppressed feelings, that happy period shall return. I will meet you—walk with you—read with you—but only as a brother would with his sister, or a friend with his friend; the thoughts I may nourish, be they of hope or of despair, my tongue shall not give birth to, and therefore I cannot offend; Deborah shall be ever by your side, and her presence shall prevent my even hinting at what might displease you—only do not make a crime to me of those thoughts which are the dearest part of my existence; for believe me it were better and kinder to rob me of existence itself."

"This is the mere ecstasy of passion, Julian," answered Alice Bridgenorth; "that which is unpleasant, our selfish and stubborn will represents as impossible. I have no confidence in the plan you propose—no confidence in your resolution, and less than none in the protection of Deborah. Till you can renounce, honestly and explicitly, the wishes you have lately expressed, we must be strangers;—and could you renounce them even at this moment, it were better that we should part for a long time; and, for Heaven's sake, let it be as soon as possible—perhaps it is even now too late to prevent some unpleasant accident—I thought I heard a noise."

"It was Deborah," answered Julian. "Be not afraid, Alice; we are secure against surprise."

"I know not," said Alice, "what you mean by such security—I have nothing to hide. I sought not this interview; on the contrary, averted it as long as I could—and am now most desirous to break it off."

"And wherefore, Alice, since you say it must be our last? Why should you shake the sand which is passing so fast? the very executioner hurries not the prayers of the wretches upon the scaffold.—And see you not—I will argue as coldly as you can desire—see you not that you are breaking your own word, and recalling the hope which yourself held out to me?"

"What hope have I suggested? What word have I given, Julian?" answered Alice. "You yourself build wild hopes in the air, and accuse me of destroying what had never any earthly foundation. Spare yourself, Julian—spare me—and in mercy to us both depart, and return not again till you can be more reasonable."

"Reasonable?" replied Julian; "it is you, Alice, who will deprive me altogether of reason. Did you not say, that if our parents could be brought to consent to our union, you would no longer oppose my suit?"

"No—no—no," said Alice eagerly, and blushing deeply,—"I did not say so, Julian—it was your own wild imagination which put construction on my silence and my confusion."

"You do not say so, then?" answered Julian; "and if all other obstacles were removed, I should find one in the cold flinty bosom of her who repays the most devoted and sincere affection with contempt and dislike?—Is that," he added, in a deep tone of feeling—"is that what Alice Bridgenorth says to Julian Peveril?"

"Indeed—indeed, Julian," said the almost weeping girl, "I do not say so—I say nothing, and I ought not to say anything concerning what I might do, in a state of things which can never take place. Indeed, Julian, you ought not thus to press me. Unprotected as I am—wishing you well—very well—why should you urge me to say or do what would lessen me in my own eyes? to own affection for one from whom fate has separated me for ever? It is ungenerous—it is cruel—it is seeking a momentary and selfish gratification to yourself, at the expense of every feeling which I ought to entertain."

"You have said enough, Alice," said Julian, with sparkling eyes; "you have said enough in deprecating my urgency, and I will press you no farther. But you overrate the impediments which lie betwixt us—they must and shall give way."

"So you said before," answered Alice, "and with what probability, your own account may show. You dared not to mention the subject to your own father—how should you venture to mention it to mine?"

"That I will soon enable you to decide upon. Major Bridgenorth, by my mother's account, is a worthy and an estimable man. I will remind him, that to my mother's care he owes the dearest treasure and comfort of his life; and I will ask him if it is a just retribution to make that mother childless. Let me but know where to find him, Alice, and you shall soon hear if I have feared to plead my cause with him."

"Alas!" answered Alice, "you well know my uncertainty as to my dear father's residence. How often has it been my earnest request to him that he would let me share his solitary abode, or his obscure wanderings! But the short and infrequent visits which he makes to this house are all that he permits me of his society. Something I might surely do, however little, to alleviate the melancholy by which he is oppressed."

"Something we might both do," said Peveril. "How willingly would I aid you in so pleasing a task! All old griefs should be forgotten—all old friendships revived. My father's prejudices are those of an Englishman—strong, indeed, but not insurmountable by reason. Tell me, then, where Major Bridgenorth is, and leave the rest to me; or let me but know by what address your letters reach him, and I will forthwith essay to discover his dwelling."

"Do not attempt it, I charge you," said Alice. "He is already a man of sorrows; and what would he think were I capable of entertaining a suit so likely to add to them? Besides, I could not tell you, if I would, where he is now to be found. My letters reach him from time to time, by means of my aunt Christian; but of his address I am entirely ignorant."

"Then, by Heaven," answered Julian, "I will watch his arrival in this island, and in this house; and ere he has locked thee in his arms, he shall answer to me on the subject of my suit."

"Then demand that answer now," said a voice from without the door, which was at the same time slowly opened—"Demand that answer now, for here stands Ralph Bridgenorth."

As he spoke, he entered the apartment with his usual slow and sedate step—raised his flapp'd and steeple-crowned hat from his brows, and, standing in the midst of the room, eyed alternately his daughter and Julian Peveril with a fixed and penetrating glance.

"Father!" said Alice, utterly astonished, and terrified besides, by his sudden appearance at such a conjuncture,—"Father, I am not to blame."

"Of that anon, Alice," said Bridgenorth; "meantime retire to your apartment—I have that to say to this youth which will not endure your presence."

"Indeed—indeed, father," said Alice, alarmed at what she supposed these words indicated, "Julian is as little to be blamed as I! It was chance, it was fortune, which caused our meeting together." Then suddenly rushing forward, she threw her arms around her father, saying, "Oh, do him no injury—he meant no wrong! Father, you were wont to be a man of reason and religious peace."

"And wherefore should I not be so now, Alice?" said Bridgenorth, raising his daughter from the ground, on which she had almost sunk in the earnestness of her supplication. "Dost thou know aught, maiden, which should inflame my anger against this young man, more than reason or religion may bridle? Go—go to thy chamber. Compose thine own passions—learn to rule these—and leave it to me to deal with this stubborn young man."

Alice arose, and, with her eyes fixed on the ground, retired slowly from the apartment. Julian followed her steps with his eyes till the last wave of her garment was visible at the closing door; then turned his looks to Major Bridgenorth, and then sunk them on the ground. The Major continued to regard him in profound silence; his looks were melancholy and even austere; but there was nothing which indicated either agitation or keen resentment. He motioned to Julian to take a seat, and assumed one himself. After which he opened the conversation in the following manner:—

"You seemed but now, young gentleman, anxious to learn where I was to be found. Such I at least conjectured, from the few expressions which I chanced to overhear; for I made bold, though it may be contrary to the code of modern courtesy, to listen a moment or two, in order to gather upon what subject so young a man as you entertained so young a woman as Alice, in a private interview."

"I trust, sir," said Julian, rallying spirits in what he felt to be a case of extremity, "you have heard nothing on my part which has given offence to a gentleman, whom, though unknown, I am bound to respect so highly."

"On the contrary," said Bridgenorth, with the same formal gravity, "I am pleased to find that your business is, or appears to be, with me, rather than with my daughter. I only think you had done better to have entrusted it to me in the first instance, as my sole concern."

The utmost sharpness of attention which Julian applied, could not discover if Bridgenorth spoke seriously or ironically to the above purpose. He was, however, quick-witted beyond his experience, and was internally determined to endeavour to discover something of the character and the temper of him with whom he spoke. For that purpose, regulating his reply in the same tone with Bridgenorth's observation, he said, that not having the advantage to know his place of residence, he had applied for information to his daughter.

"Who is now known to you for the first time?" said Bridgenorth. "Am I so to understand you?"

"By no means," answered Julian, looking down; "I have been known to your daughter for many years; and what I wished to say, respects both her happiness and my own."

"I must understand you," said Bridgenorth, "even as carnal men understand each other on the matters of this world. You are attached to my daughter by the cords of love; I have long known this."

"You, Master Bridgenorth?" exclaimed Peveril—"You have long known it?"

"Yes, young man. Think you, that as the father of an only child, I could have suffered Alice Bridgenorth—the only living pledge of her who is now an angel in heaven—to have remained in this seclusion without the surest knowledge of all her material actions? I have, in person, seen more, both of her and of you, than you could be aware of; and when absent in the body, I had the means of maintaining the same superintendence. Young man, they say that such love as you entertain for my daughter teaches much subtilty; but believe not that it can overreach the affection which a widowed father bears to an only child."

"If," said Julian, his heart beating thick and joyfully, "if you have known this intercourse so long, may I not hope that it has not met your disapprobation?"

The Major paused for an instant, and then answered, "In some respects, certainly not. Had it done so—had there seemed aught on your side, or on my daughter's, to have rendered your visits here dangerous to her, or displeasing to me, she had not been long the inhabitant of this solitude, or of this island. But be not so hasty as to presume, that all which you may desire in this matter can be either easily or speedily accomplished."

"I foresee, indeed, difficulties," answered Julian; "but with your kind acquiescence, they are such as I trust to remove. My father is generous—my mother is candid and liberal. They loved you once; I trust they will love you again. I will be the mediator betwixt you—peace and harmony shall once more inhabit our neighbourhood, and——"

Bridgenorth interrupted him with a grim smile; for such it seemed, as it passed over a face of deep melancholy. "My daughter well said, but short while past, that you were a dreamer of dreams—an architect of plans and hopes fantastic as the visions of the night. It is a great thing you ask of me;—the hand of my only child—the sum of my worldly substance, though that is but dross in comparison. You ask the key of the only fountain from which I may yet hope to drink one pleasant draught; you ask to be the sole and absolute keeper of my earthly happiness—and what have you offered, or what have you to offer in return, for the surrender you require of me?"

"I am but too sensible," said Peveril, abashed at his own hasty conclusions, "how difficult it may be."

"Nay, but interrupt me not," replied Bridgenorth, "till I show you the amount of what you offer me in exchange for a boon, which, whatever may be its intrinsic value, is earnestly desired by you, and comprehends all that is valuable on earth which I have it in my power to bestow. You may have heard that in the late times I was the antagonist of your father's principles and his profane faction, but not the enemy of his person."

"I have ever heard," replied Julian, "much the contrary; and it was but now that I reminded you that you had been his friend."

"Ay. When he was in affliction and I in prosperity, I was neither unwilling, nor altogether unable, to show myself such. Well, the tables are turned—the times are changed. A peaceful and unoffending man might have expected from a neighbour, now powerful in his turn, such protection, when walking in the paths of the law, as all men, subjects of the same realm, have a right to expect even from perfect strangers. What chances? I pursue, with the warrant of the King and law, a murderess, bearing on her hand the blood of my near connection, and I had, in such a case, a right to call on every liege subject to render assistance to the execution. My late friendly neighbour, bound, as a man and a magistrate, to give ready assistance to a legal action—bound, as a grateful and obliged friend, to respect my rights and my person—thrusts himself betwixt me—me, the avenger of blood—and my lawful captive; beats me to the earth, at once endangering my life, and, in mere human eyes, sullying mine honour; and under his protection, the Midianitish woman reaches, like a sea-eagle, the nest which she hath made in the wave-surrounded rocks, and remains there till gold, duly administered at Court, wipes out all memory of her crime, and baffles the vengeance due to the memory of the best and bravest of men.—But," he added, apostrophising the portrait of Christian, "thou art not yet forgotten, my fair-haired William! The vengeance which dogs thy murderess is slow,—but it is sure!"

There was a pause of some moments, which Julian Peveril, willing to hear to what conclusion Major Bridgenorth was finally to arrive, did not care to interrupt. Accordingly, in a few minutes, the latter proceeded.—"These things," he said, "I recall not in bitterness, so far as they are personal to me—I recall them not in spite of heart, though they have been the means of banishing me from my place of residence, where my fathers dwelt, and where my earthly comforts lie interred. But the public cause sets further strife betwixt your father and me. Who so active as he to execute the fatal edict of black St. Bartholomew's day, when so many hundreds of gospel-preachers were expelled from house and home—from hearth and altar—from church and parish, to make room for belly-gods and thieves? Who, when a devoted few of the Lord's people were united to lift the fallen standard, and once more advance the good cause, was the readiest to break their purpose—to search for, persecute, and apprehend them? Whose breath did I feel warm on my neck—whose naked sword was thrust within a foot of my body, whilst I lurked darkling, like a thief in concealment, in the house of my fathers?—It was Geoffrey Peveril's—it was your father's!—What can you answer to all this, or how can you reconcile it with your present wishes?

"These things I point out to you, Julian, that I may show you how impossible, in the eyes of a merely worldly man, would be the union which you are desirous of. But Heaven hath at times opened a door, where man beholds no means of issue. Julian, your mother, for one to whom the truth is unknown, is, after the fashion of the world, one of the best, and one of the wisest of women; and Providence, which gave her so fair a form, and tenanted that form with a mind as pure as the original frailty of our vile nature will permit, means not, I trust, that she shall continue to the end to be a vessel of wrath and perdition. Of your father I say nothing—he is what the times and example of others, and the counsels of his lordly priest, have made him; and of him, once more, I say nothing, save that I have power over him, which ere now he might have felt, but that there is one within his chambers, who might have suffered in his suffering. Nor do I wish to root up your ancient family. If I prize not your boast of family honours and pedigree, I would not willingly destroy them; more than I would pull down a moss-grown tower, or hew to the ground an ancient oak, save for the straightening of the common path, and advantage of the public. I have, therefore, no resentment against the humbled House of Peveril—nay, I have regard to it in its depression."

He here made a second pause, as if he expected Julian to say something. But notwithstanding the ardour with which the young man had pressed his suit, he was too much trained in ideas of the importance of his family, and in the better habit of respect for his parents, to hear, without displeasure, some part of Bridgenorth's discourse.

"The House of Peveril," he replied, "was never humbled."

"Had you said the sons of that House had never been humble," answered Bridgenorth, "you would have come nearer the truth.—Are you not humbled? Live you not here, the lackey of a haughty woman, the play-companion of an empty youth? If you leave this Isle, and go to the Court of England, see what regard will there be paid to the old pedigree that deduces your descent from kings and conquerors. A scurril or obscene jest, an impudent carriage, a laced cloak, a handful of gold, and the readiness to wager it on a card, or a die, will better advance you at the Court of Charles, than your father's ancient name, and slavish devotion of blood and fortune to the cause of his father."

"That is, indeed, but too probable," said Peveril; "but the Court shall be no element of mine. I will live like my fathers, among my people, care for their comforts, decide their differences——"

"Build Maypoles, and dance around them," said Bridgenorth, with another of those grim smiles which passed over his features like the light of a sexton's torch, as it glares and is reflected by the window of the church, when he comes from locking a funeral vault. "No, Julian, these are not times in which, by the dreaming drudgery of a country magistrate, and the petty cares of a country proprietor, a man can serve his unhappy country. There are mighty designs afloat, and men are called to make their choice betwixt God and Baal. The ancient superstition—the abomination of our fathers—is raising its head, and flinging abroad its snares, under the protection of the princes of the earth; but she raises not her head unmarked or unwatched; the true English hearts are as thousands, which wait but a signal to arise as one man, and show the kings of the earth that they have combined in vain! We will cast their cords from us—the cup of their abominations we will not taste."

"You speak in darkness, Master Bridgenorth," said Peveril. "Knowing so much of me, you may, perhaps, also be aware, that I at least have seen too much of the delusions of Rome, to desire that they should be propagated at home."

"Else, wherefore do I speak to thee friendly and so free?" said Bridgenorth. "Do I not know, with what readiness of early wit you baffled the wily attempts of the woman's priest, to seduce thee from the Protestant faith? Do I not know, how thou wast beset when abroad, and that thou didst both hold thine own faith, and secure the wavering belief of thy friend? Said I not, this was done like the son of Margaret Peveril? Said I not, he holdeth, as yet, but the dead letter—but the seed which is sown shall one day sprout and quicken?—Enough, however, of this. For to-day this is thy habitation. I will see in thee neither the servant of the daughter of Eshbaal, nor the son of him who pursued my life, and blemished my honours; but thou shalt be to me, for this day, as the child of her, without whom my house had been extinct."

So saying, he stretched out his thin, bony hand, and grasped that of Julian Peveril; but there was such a look of mourning in his welcome, that whatever delight the youth anticipated, spending so long a time in the neighbourhood of Alice Bridgenorth, perhaps in her society, or however strongly he felt the prudence of conciliating her father's good-will, he could not help feeling as if his heart was chilled in his company.



CHAPTER XIV

This day at least is friendship's—on the morrow Let strife come an she will. —OTWAY.

Deborah Debbitch, summoned by her master, now made her appearance, with her handkerchief at her eyes, and an appearance of great mental trouble. "It was not my fault, Major Bridgenorth," she said; "how could I help it? like will to like—the boy would come—the girl would see him."

"Peace, foolish woman," said Bridgenorth, "and hear what I have got to say."

"I know what your honour has to say well enough," said Deborah. "Service, I wot, is no inheritance nowadays—some are wiser than other some—if I had not been wheedled away from Martindale, I might have had a house of mine own by this time."

"Peace, idiot!" said Bridgenorth; but so intent was Deborah on her vindication, that he could but thrust the interjection, as it were edgewise, between her exclamations, which followed as thick as is usual in cases, where folks endeavour to avert deserved censure by a clamorous justification ere the charge be brought.

"No wonder she was cheated," she said, "out of sight of her own interest, when it was to wait on pretty Miss Alice. All your honour's gold should never have tempted me, but that I knew she was but a dead castaway, poor innocent, if she were taken away from my lady or me.—And so this is the end on't!—up early, and down late—and this is all my thanks!—But your honour had better take care what you do—she has the short cough yet sometimes—and should take physic, spring and fall."

"Peace, chattering fool!" said her master, so soon as her failing breath gave him an opportunity to strike in, "thinkest thou I knew not of this young gentleman's visits to the Black Fort, and that, if they had displeased me, I would not have known how to stop them?"

"Did I know that your honour knew of his visits!" exclaimed Deborah, in a triumphant tone,—for, like most of her condition, she never sought farther for her defence than a lie, however inconsistent and improbable—"Did I know that your honour knew of it!—Why, how should I have permitted his visits else? I wonder what your honour takes me for! Had I not been sure it was the thing in this world that your honour most desired would I have presumed to lend it a hand forward? I trust I know my duty better. Hear if I ever asked another youngster into the house, save himself—for I knew your honour was wise, and quarrels cannot last for ever, and love begins where hatred ends; and, to be sure, they love as if they were born one for the other—and then, the estates of Moultrassie and Martindale suit each other like sheath and knife."

"Parrot of a woman, hold your tongue!" said Bridgenorth, his patience almost completely exhausted; "or, if you will prate, let it be to your playfellows in the kitchen, and bid them get ready some dinner presently, for Master Peveril is far from home."

"That I will, and with all my heart," said Deborah; "and if there are a pair of fatter fowls in Man than shall clap their wings on the table presently, your honour shall call me goose as well as parrot." She then left the apartment.

"It is to such a woman as that," said Bridgenorth, looking after her significantly, "that you conceived me to have abandoned the charge of my only child! But enough of this subject—we will walk abroad, if you will, while she is engaged in a province fitter for her understanding."

So saying, he left the house, accompanied by Julian Peveril, and they were soon walking side by side, as if they had been old acquaintances.

It may have happened to many of our readers, as it has done to ourselves, to be thrown by accident into society with some individual whose claims to what is called a serious character stand considerably higher than our own, and with whom, therefore, we have conceived ourselves likely to spend our time in a very stiff and constrained manner; while, on the other hand, our destined companion may have apprehended some disgust from the supposed levity and thoughtless gaiety of a disposition that when we, with that urbanity and good-humour which is our principal characteristic, have accommodated ourself to our companion, by throwing as much seriousness into our conversation as our habits will admit, he, on the other hand, moved by our liberal example, hath divested his manners of part of their austerity; and our conversation has, in consequence, been of that pleasant texture, betwixt the useful and agreeable, which best resembles "the fairy-web of night and day," usually called in prose the twilight. It is probable both parties may, on such occasions, have been the better for their encounter, even if it went no farther than to establish for the time a community of feeling between men, who, separated more perhaps by temper than by principle, are too apt to charge each other with profane frivolity on the one hand, or fanaticism on the other.

It fared thus in Peveril's walk with Bridgenorth, and in the conversation which he held with him.

Carefully avoiding the subject on which he had already spoken, Major Bridgenorth turned his conversation chiefly on foreign travel, and on the wonders he had seen in distant countries, and which he appeared to have marked with a curious and observant eye. This discourse made the time fly light away; for although the anecdotes and observations thus communicated were all tinged with the serious and almost gloomy spirit of the narrator, they yet contained traits of interest and of wonder, such as are usually interesting to a youthful ear, and were particularly so to Julian, who had, in his disposition, some cast of the romantic and adventurous.

It appeared that Bridgenorth knew the south of France, and could tell many stories of the French Huguenots, who already began to sustain those vexations which a few years afterwards were summed up by the revocation of the Edict of Nantz. He had even been in Hungary, for he spoke as from personal knowledge of the character of several of the heads of the great Protestant insurrection, which at this time had taken place under the celebrated Tekeli; and laid down solid reasons why they were entitled to make common cause with the Great Turk, rather than submit to the Pope of Rome. He talked also of Savoy, where those of the reformed religion still suffered a cruel persecution; and he mentioned with a swelling spirit, the protection which Oliver had afforded to the oppressed Protestant Churches; "therein showing himself," he added, "more fit to wield the supreme power, than those who, claiming it by right of inheritance, use it only for their own vain and voluptuous pursuits."

"I did not expect," said Peveril modestly, "to have heard Oliver's panegyric from you, Master Bridgenorth."

"I do not panegyrise him," answered Bridgenorth; "I speak but truth of that extraordinary man, now being dead, whom, when alive, I feared not to withstand to his face. It is the fault of the present unhappy King, if he make us look back with regret to the days when the nation was respected abroad, and when devotion and sobriety were practised at home.—But I mean not to vex your spirit by controversy. You have lived amongst those who find it more easy and more pleasant to be the pensioners of France than her controllers—to spend the money which she doles out to themselves, than to check the tyranny with which she oppresses our poor brethren of the religion. When the scales shall fall from thine eyes, all this thou shalt see; and seeing, shalt learn to detest and despise it."

By this time they had completed their walk, and were returned to the Black Fort, by a different path from that which had led them up the valley. The exercise and the general tone of conversation had removed, in some degree, the shyness and embarrassment which Peveril originally felt in Bridgenorth's presence and which the tenor of his first remarks had rather increased than diminished. Deborah's promised banquet was soon on the board; and in simplicity as well as neatness and good order, answered the character she had claimed for it. In one respect alone, there seemed some inconsistency, perhaps a little affectation. Most of the dishes were of silver, and the plates were of the same metal; instead of the trenchers and pewter which Peveril had usually seen employed on similar occasions at the Black Fort.

Presently, with the feeling of one who walks in a pleasant dream from which he fears to awake, and whose delight is mingled with wonder and with uncertainty, Julian Peveril found himself seated between Alice Bridgenorth and her father—the being he most loved on earth, and the person whom he had ever considered as the great obstacle to their intercourse. The confusion of his mind was such, that he could scarcely reply to the importunate civilities of Dame Deborah; who, seated with them at table in her quality of governante, now dispensed the good things which had been prepared under her own eye.

As for Alice she seemed to have found a resolution to play the mute; for she answered not, excepting briefly, to the questions of Dame Debbitch; nay, even when her father, which happened once or twice, attempted to bring her forward in the conversation, she made no further reply than respect for him rendered absolutely necessary.

Upon Bridgenorth himself, then, devolved the task of entertaining the company; and contrary to his ordinary habits, he did not seem to shrink from it. His discourse was not only easy, but almost cheerful, though ever and anon crossed by some expressions indicative of natural and habitual melancholy, or prophetic of future misfortune and woe. Flashes of enthusiasm, too, shot along his conversation, gleaming like the sheet-lightening of an autumn eve, which throws a strong, though momentary illumination, across the sober twilight, and all the surrounding objects, which, touched by it, assume a wilder and more striking character. In general, however, Bridgenorth's remarks were plain and sensible; and as he aimed at no graces of language, any ornament which they received arose out of the interest with which they were impressed on his hearers. For example, when Deborah, in the pride and vulgarity of her heart, called Julian's attention to the plate from which they had been eating, Bridgenorth seemed to think an apology necessary for such superfluous expense.

"It was a symptom," he said, "of approaching danger, when such men, as were not usually influenced by the vanities of life employed much money in ornaments composed of the precious metals. It was a sign that the merchant could not obtain a profit for the capital, which, for the sake of security, he invested in this inert form. It was a proof that the noblemen or gentlemen feared the rapacity of power, when they put their wealth into forms the most portable and the most capable of being hidden; and it showed the uncertainty of credit, when a man of judgment preferred the actual possession of a mass of a silver to the convenience of a goldsmith's or a banker's receipt. While a shadow of liberty remained," he said, "domestic rights were last invaded; and, therefore, men disposed upon their cupboards and tables the wealth which in these places would remain longest, though not perhaps finally, sacred from the grasp of a tyrannical government. But let there be a demand for capital to support a profitable commerce, and the mass is at once consigned to the furnace, and, ceasing to be a vain and cumbrous ornament of the banquet, becomes a potent and active agent for furthering the prosperity of the country."

"In war, too," said Peveril, "plate has been found a ready resource."

"But too much so," answered Bridgenorth. "In the late times, the plate of the nobles and gentry, with that of the colleges, and the sale of the crown-jewels, enabled the King to make his unhappy stand, which prevented matters returning to a state of peace and good order, until the sword had attained an undue superiority both over King and Parliament."

He looked at Julian as he spoke, much as he who proves a horse offers some object suddenly to his eyes, then watches to see if he starts or blenches from it. But Julian's thoughts were too much bent on other topics to manifest any alarm. His answer referred to a previous part of Bridgenorth's discourse, and was not returned till after a brief pause. "War, then," he said, "war, the grand impoverisher, is also a creator of wealth which it wastes and devours?"

"Yes," replied Bridgenorth, "even as the sluice brings into action the sleeping waters of the lake, which it finally drains. Necessity invents arts and discovers means; and what necessity is sterner than that of civil war? Therefore, even war is not in itself unmixed evil, being the creator of impulses and energies which could not otherwise have existed in society."

"Men should go to war, then," said Peveril, "that they may send their silver plate to the mint, and eat from pewter dishes and wooden plates?"

"Not so, my son," said Bridgenorth. Then checking himself as he observed the deep crimson in Julian's cheek and brow, he added, "I crave your pardon for such familiarity; but I meant not to limit what I said even now to such trifling consequences, although it may be something salutary to tear men from their pomps and luxuries, and teach those to be Romans who would otherwise be Sybarites. But I would say, that times of public danger, as they call into circulation the miser's hoard and the proud man's bullion, and so add to the circulating wealth of the country, do also call into action many a brave and noble spirit, which would otherwise lie torpid, give no example to the living, and bequeath no name to future ages. Society knows not, and cannot know, the mental treasures which slumber in her bosom, till necessity and opportunity call forth the statesman and the soldier from the shades of lowly life to the parts they are designed by Providence to perform, and the stations which nature had qualified them to hold. So rose Oliver—so rose Milton—so rose many another name which cannot be forgotten—even as the tempest summons forth and displays the address of the mariner."

"You speak," said Peveril, "as if national calamity might be, in some sort, an advantage."

"And if it were not so," replied Bridgenorth, "it had not existed in this state of trial, where all temporal evil is alleviated by something good in its progress or result, and where all that is good is close coupled with that which is in itself evil."

"It must be a noble sight," said Julian, "to behold the slumbering energies of a great mind awakened into energy, and to see it assume the authority which is its due over spirits more meanly endowed."

"I once witnessed," said Bridgenorth, "something to the same effect; and as the tale is brief, I will tell it you, if you will:—Amongst my wanderings, the Transatlantic settlements have not escaped me; more especially the country of New England, into which our native land has shaken from her lap, as a drunkard flings from him his treasures, so much that is precious in the eyes of God and of His children. There thousands of our best and most godly men—such whose righteousness might come of cities—are content to be the inhabitants of the desert, rather encountering the unenlightened savages, than stooping to extinguish, under the oppression practised in Britain, the light that is within their own minds. There I remained for a time, during the wars which the colony maintained with Philip, a great Indian Chief, or Sachem, as they were called, who seemed a messenger sent from Satan to buffet them. His cruelty was great—his dissimulation profound; and the skill and promptitude with which he maintained a destructive and desultory warfare, inflicted many dreadful calamities on the settlement. I was, by chance, at a small village in the woods, more than thirty miles from Boston, and in its situation exceedingly lonely, and surrounded with thickets. Nevertheless, there was no idea of any danger from the Indians at that time, for men trusted to the protection of a considerable body of troops who had taken the field for protection of the frontiers, and who lay, or were supposed to lie, betwixt the hamlet and the enemy's country. But they had to do with a foe, whom the devil himself had inspired at once with cunning and cruelty. It was on a Sabbath morning, when we had assembled to take sweet counsel together in the Lord's house. Our temple was but constructed of wooden logs; but when shall the chant of trained hirelings, or the sounding of tin and brass tubes amid the aisles of a minster, arise so sweetly to Heaven, as did the psalm in which we united at once our voices and our hearts! An excellent worthy, who now sleeps in the Lord, Nehemia Solsgrace, long the companion of my pilgrimage, had just begun to wrestle in prayer, when a woman, with disordered looks and dishevelled hair, entered our chapel in a distracted manner, screaming incessantly, 'The Indians! The Indians!'—In that land no man dares separate himself from his means of defence; and whether in the city or in the field, in the ploughed land or the forest, men keep beside them their weapons, as did the Jews at the rebuilding of the Temple. So we sallied forth with our guns and pikes, and heard the whoop of these incarnate devils, already in possession of a part of the town, and exercising their cruelty on the few whom weighty causes or indisposition had withheld from public worship; and it was remarked as a judgment, that, upon that bloody Sabbath, Adrian Hanson, a Dutchman, a man well enough disposed towards man, but whose mind was altogether given to worldly gain, was shot and scalped as he was summing his weekly gains in his warehouse. In fine, there was much damage done; and although our arrival and entrance into combat did in some sort put them back, yet being surprised and confused, and having no appointed leader of our band, the devilish enemy shot hard at us and had some advantage. It was pitiful to hear the screams of women and children amid the report of guns and the whistling of bullets, mixed with the ferocious yells of these savages, which they term their war-whoop. Several houses in the upper part of the village were soon on fire; and the roaring of the flames, and crackling of the great beams as they blazed, added to the horrible confusion; while the smoke which the wind drove against us gave farther advantage to the enemy, who fought as it were, invisible, and under cover, whilst we fell fast by their unerring fire. In this state of confusion, and while we were about to adopt the desperate project of evacuating the village, and, placing the women and children in the centre, of attempting a retreat to the nearest settlement, it pleased Heaven to send us unexpected assistance. A tall man, of a reverend appearance, whom no one of us had ever seen before, suddenly was in the midst of us, as we hastily agitated the resolution of retreating. His garments were of the skin of the elk, and he wore sword and carried gun; I never saw anything more august than his features, overshadowed by locks of grey hair, which mingled with a long beard of the same colour. 'Men and brethren,' he said, in a voice like that which turns back the flight, 'why sink your hearts? and why are you thus disquieted? Fear ye that the God we serve will give you up to yonder heathen dogs? Follow me, and you shall see this day that there is a captain in Israel!' He uttered a few brief but distinct orders, in a tone of one who was accustomed to command; and such was the influence of his appearance, his mien, his language, and his presence of mind, that he was implicitly obeyed by men who had never seen him until that moment. We were hastily divided, by his orders, into two bodies; one of which maintained the defence of the village with more courage than ever, convinced that the Unknown was sent by God to our rescue. At his command they assumed the best and most sheltered positions for exchanging their deadly fire with the Indians; while, under cover of the smoke, the stranger sallied from the town, at the head of the other division of the New England men, and, fetching a circuit, attacked the Red Warriors in the rear. The surprise, as is usual amongst savages, had complete effect; for they doubted not that they were assailed in their turn, and placed betwixt two hostile parties by the return of a detachment from the provincial army. The heathens fled in confusion, abandoning the half-won village, and leaving behind them such a number of their warriors, that the tribe hath never recovered its loss. Never shall I forget the figure of our venerable leader, when our men, and not they only, but the women and children of the village, rescued from the tomahawk and scalping-knife, stood crowded around him, yet scarce venturing to approach his person, and more minded, perhaps, to worship him as a descended angel, than to thank him as a fellow-mortal. 'Not unto me be the glory,' he said; 'I am but an implement, frail as yourselves, in the hand of Him who is strong to deliver. Bring me a cup of water, that I may allay my parched throat, ere I essay the task of offering thanks where they are most due.' I was nearest to him as he spoke, and I gave into his hand the water he requested. At that moment we exchanged glances, and it seemed to me that I recognised a noble friend whom I had long since deemed in glory; but he gave me no time to speak, had speech been prudent. Sinking on his knees, and signing us to obey him, he poured forth a strong and energetic thanksgiving for the turning back of the battle, which, pronounced with a voice loud and clear as a war-trumpet, thrilled through the joints and marrow of the hearers. I have heard many an act of devotion in my life, had Heaven vouchsafed me grace to profit by them; but such a prayer as this, uttered amid the dead and the dying, with a rich tone of mingled triumph and adoration, was beyond them all—it was like the song of the inspired prophetess who dwelt beneath the palm-tree between Ramah and Bethel. He was silent; and for a brief space we remained with our faces bent to the earth—no man daring to lift his head. At length we looked up, but our deliverer was no longer amongst us; nor was he ever again seen in the land which he had rescued."

Here Bridgenorth, who had told this singular story with an eloquence and vivacity of detail very contrary to the usual dryness of his conversation, paused for an instant, and then resumed—"Thou seest, young man, that men of valour and of discretion are called forth to command in circumstances of national exigence, though their very existence is unknown in the land which they are predestined to deliver."

"But what thought the people of the mysterious stranger?" said Julian, who had listened with eagerness, for the story was of a kind interesting to the youthful and the brave.

"Many things," answered Bridgenorth, "and, as usual, little to the purpose. The prevailing opinion was, notwithstanding his own disclamation, that the stranger was really a supernatural being; others believed him an inspired champion, transported in the body from some distant climate, to show us the way to safety; others, again, concluded that he was a recluse, who, either from motives of piety, or other cogent reasons, had become a dweller in the wilderness, and shunned the face of man."

"And, if I may presume to ask," said Julian, "to which of these opinions were you disposed to adhere?"

"The last suited best with the transient though close view with which I had perused the stranger's features," replied Bridgenorth; "for although I dispute not that it may please Heaven, on high occasions, even to raise one from the dead in defence of his country, yet I doubted not then, as I doubt not now, that I looked on the living form of one, who had indeed powerful reasons to conceal him in the cleft of the rock."

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