They sat silent for a while, and the younger said:
'I fear you are fatigued, my lord. It is late for you to be out of bed; nature is mortal.'
'Thou sayest well; nature is mortal, my son. But therein lies the comfort—it cannot last. It were hard to say whether of the two houses stands the more in need of the hand of the maker.'
'Were it not for villanous saltpetre, my lord, the castle would hold out well enough.'
'And were it not for villanous gout, which is a traitor within it, I see not why this other should not hold out as long. Be sure, Herbert, I shall not render the keep for the taking of the outworks.'
'I fear,' said his son, wishing to change the subject, 'this part where we now are is the most liable to hurt from artillery.'
'Yes, but the ground in front is not such as they would readiest plant it upon,' said the earl. 'Do not let us forecast evil, only prepare for it.'
'We shall do our best, my lord—with your lordship's good counsel to guide us.'
'You shall lack nothing, Herbert, that either counsel or purse of mine may reach unto.'
'I thank your lordship, for much depends upon both. And so I fear will his majesty find—if it conies to the worst.'
A brief pause followed.
'Thinkest thou not, Herbert,' said the earl, slowly and thoughtfully, 'it ill suits that a subject should have and to spare, and his liege go begging?'
'My father is pleased to say so.'
'I am but evil pleased to say so. Bethink thee, son—what man can be pleased to part with his money? And while my king is poor, I must be rich for him. Thou wilt not accuse me, Herbert, after I am gone to the rest, that I wasted thy substance, lad?'
'So long as you still keep wherewithal to give, I shall be content, my lord.'
'Well, time will show. I but tell thee what runneth in my mind, for thou and I, Herbert, have bosomed no secrets. I will to bed. We must go the round again to-morrow—with the sun to hold as a candle.'
The next day the same party made a similar circuit three times—in the morning, at noon, and in the evening—that the full light might uncover what the shadows had hid, and that the shadows might show what a perpendicular light could not reveal. There is all the difference as to discovery whether a thing is lying under the shadow of another, or casting one of its own.
After this came a review of the outer fortifications—if, indeed, they were worthy of the name—enclosing the gardens, the old tilting yard, now used as a bowling-green, the home-farmyard, and other such outlying portions under the stewardship of sir Ralph Blackstone and the governorship of Charles Somerset, the earl's youngest son. It was here that the most was wanted; and the next few days were chiefly spent in surveying these works, and drawing plans for their extension, strengthening, and connection—especially about the stables, armourer's shop, and smithy, where the building of new defences was almost immediately set on foot.
A thorough examination of the machinery of the various portcullises and drawbridges followed; next an overhauling of the bolts, chains, and other defences of the gates. Then came an inspection of the ordnance, from cannons down to drakes, through a gradation of names as uncouth to our ears, and as unknown to the artillery descended from them, as many of the Christian names of the puritans are to their descendants of the present day. At length, to conclude the inspection, lord Herbert and the master of the armoury held consultation with the head armourer, and the mighty accumulation of weapons of all sorts was passed under the most rigid scrutiny; many of them were sent to the forge, and others carried to the ground-floor of the keep.
Presently, things began to look busy in a quiet way about the place. Men were at work blasting the rocks in a quarry not far off, whence laden carts went creeping to the castle; but this was oftener in the night. Some of them drove into the paved court, for here and there a buttress was wanted inside, and of the battlements not a few were weather-beaten and out of repair. These the earl would have let alone, on the ground that they were no longer more than ornamental, and therefore had better be repaired AFTER the siege, if such should befall, for the big guns would knock them about like cards; but Caspar reminded him that every time the ball from a cannon, culvering, or saker missed the parapet, it remained a sufficient bar to the bullet that might equally avail to carry off the defenceless gunner. The earl, however, although he yielded, maintained that the flying of the wall when struck was a more than counterbalancing danger.
The stock of provisions began to increase. The dry larder, which lay under the court, between the kitchen and buttery, was by degrees filled with gammons and flitches of bacon, well dried and smoked. Wheat, barley, oats, and pease were stored in the granary, and potatoes in a pit dug in the orchard.
Strange faces in the guard-room caused wonderings and questions amongst the women. The stables began to fill with horses, and 'more man' to go about the farmyard and outhouses.
Left alone with Lady, his mare, Richard could not help brooding—rather than pondering—over what the old woman had said. Not that for a moment he contemplated as a possibility the acceptance of the witch's offer. To come himself into any such close relations with her as that would imply, was in repulsiveness second only to the idea of subjecting Dorothy to her influences. For something to occupy his hands, that his mind might be restless at will, he gave his mare a careful currying, then an extra feed of oats, and then a gallop; after which it was time to go to bed.
I doubt if anything but the consciousness of crime will keep healthy youth awake, and as such consciousness is generally far from it, youth seldom counts the watches of the night. Richard soon fell fast asleep, and dreamed that his patron saint—alas for his protestantism!—appeared to him, handed him a lance headed with a single flashing diamond, and told him to go and therewith kill the dragon. But just as he was asking the way to the dragon's den, that he might perform his behest, the saint vanished, and feeling the lance melting away in his grasp, he gradually woke to find it gone.
After a long talk with his father in the study, he was left to his own resources for the remainder of the day; and as it passed and the night drew on, the offer of the witch kept growing upon his imagination, and his longing to see Dorothy became stronger and stronger, until at last it was almost too intense to be borne. He had never before known such a possession, and was more than half inclined to attribute it to the arts of mother Rees.
His father was busy in his study below, writing letters—an employment which now occupied much of his time; and Richard sat alone in a chamber in the upper part of one of the many gables of the house, which he had occupied longer than he could remember. Its one small projecting lozenge-paned window looked towards Dorothy's home. Some years ago he had been able to see her window, from it through a gap in the trees, by favour of which, indeed, they had indulged in a system of communications by means of coloured flags—so satisfactory that Dorothy not only pressed into the service all the old frocks she could find, but got into trouble by cutting up one almost new for the enlargement of the somewhat limited scope of their telegraphy. In this window he now sat, sending his soul through the darkness, milky with the clouded light of half an old moon, towards the ancient sun-dial, where Time stood so still that sometimes Richard had known an hour there pass in a moment.
Never until now had he felt enmity in space: it had been hitherto rather as a bridge to bear him to Dorothy than a gulf to divide him from her presence; but now, through the interpenetrative power of feeling, their alienation had affected all around as well as within him, and space appeared as a solid enemy, and darkness as an unfriendly enchantress, each doing what it could to separate betwixt him and the being to whom his soul was drawn as—no, there was no AS for such drawing. No opposition of mere circumstances could have created the feeling; it was the sense of an inward separation taking form outwardly. For Richard was now but too well convinced that he had no power of persuasion equal to the task of making Dorothy see things as he saw them. The dividing influence of imperfect opposing goods is potent as that of warring good and evil, with this important difference, that the former is but for a season, and will one day bind as strongly as it parted, while the latter is essential, absolute, impassible, eternal.
To Dorothy, Richard seemed guilty of overweening arrogance and its attendant, presumption; she could not see the form ethereal to which he bowed. To Richard, Dorothy appeared the dupe of superstition; he could not see the god that dwelt within the idol. To Dorothy, Richard seemed to be one who gave the holy name of truth to nothing but the offspring of his own vain fancy. To Richard, Dorothy appeared one who so little loved the truth that she was ready to accept anything presented to her as such, by those who themselves loved the word more than the spirit, and the chrysalis of safety better than the wings of power. But it is only for a time that any good can to the good appear evil, and at this very moment, Nature, who in her blindness is stronger to bind than the farthest-seeing intellect to loose, was urging him into her presence; and the heart of Dorothy, notwithstanding her initiative in the separation, was leaning as lovingly, as sadly after the youth she had left alone with the defaced sun-dial, the symbol of Time's weariness. Had they, however, been permitted to meet as they would, the natural result of ever-renewed dissension would have been a thorough separation in heart, no heavenly twilights of loneliness giving time for the love which grows like the grass to recover from the scorching heat of intellectual jar and friction.
The waning moon at length peered warily from behind a bank of cloud, and her dim light melting through the darkness filled the night with a dream of the day. Richard was no more of a poet or dreamer of dreams than is any honest youth so long as love holds the bandage of custom away from his eyes. The poets are they who all their life long contrive to see over or through the bandage; but they would, I doubt, have but few readers, had not nature decreed that all youths and maidens shall, for a period, be it long or short, become aware that they too are of the race of the singers—shall, in the journey of their life, at least pass through the zone of song: some of them recognise it as the region of truth, and continue to believe in it still when it seems to have vanished from around them; others scoff as it disappears, and curse themselves for dupes. Through this zone Richard was now passing. Hence the moon wore to him a sorrowful face, and he felt a vague sympathy in her regard, that of one who was herself in trouble, half the light of her lord's countenance withdrawn. For science had not for him interfered with the shows of things by a partial revelation of their realities. He had not learned that the face of the moon is the face of a corpse-world; that the sadness upon it is the sadness of utter loss; that her light has in it no dissolved smile, is but the reflex from a lifeless mirror; that of all the orbs we know best she can have least to do with lovers' longings and losses, she alone having no love left in her—the cold cinder of a quenched world. Not an out-burnt cinder, though! she needs but to be cast again into the furnace of the sun.
As it was, Richard had gazed at her hardly for a minute when he found the tears running down his face, and starting up, ashamed of the unmanly weakness, hardly knew what he was doing before he found himself in the open air. From the hall clock came the first stroke of twelve as he closed the door behind him. It was the hour at which mother Rees had offered him a meeting with Dorothy; but it was assuredly with no expectation of seeing her that he turned his steps towards her dwelling.
When he reached the spot at which he usually turned off by a gap in the hedge to NEEDLE his way through the unpathed wood, he yielded to the impulses of memory and habit, and sought the yew-circle, where for some moments he stood by the dumb, disfeatured stone, which seemed to slumber in the moonlight, a monument slowly vanishing from above a vanished grave. Indeed it might well have been the grave of buried Time, for what fitter monument could he have than a mutilated sun-dial, what better enclosure than such a hedge of yews, and more suitable light than that of the dying moon? Or was it but that the heart of the youth, receiving these things as into a concave mirror, reprojected them into space, all shadowy with its own ghostliness and gloom? Close by the dial, like the dark way into regions where time is not, yawned the mouth of the pleached alley. Beyond that was her window, on which the moon must now be shining. He entered the alley, and walked softly towards the house. Suddenly, down the dark tunnel came rushing upon him Dorothy's mastiff, with a noise as of twenty soft feet, and a growl as if his throat had been full of teeth—changing to a boisterous welcome when he discovered who the stranger was. Fearful of disturbing the household, Richard soon quieted the dog, which was in the habit of obeying him almost as readily as his mistress, and, fearful of disturbing sleepers or watchers, approached the house like a thief. To gain a sight of Dorothy's window he had to pass that of the parlour, and then the porch, which he did on the grass, that his steps might be noiseless. But here the dog started from his heel, and bounded into the porch, leading after him the eyes of Richard, who thereupon saw what would have else remained undiscovered—two figures, namely, standing in its deep shadow. Judging it his part, as a friend of the family, to see who, at so late an hour, and so near the house, seemed thus to avoid discovery, Richard drew nearer, and the next moment saw that the door was open behind them, and that they were Dorothy and a young man.
'The gates will be shut,' said Dorothy.
'It is no matter; old Eccles will open to me at any hour,' was the answer.
'Still it were well you went without delay,' said Dorothy; and her voice trembled a little, for she had caught sight of Richard.
Now not only are anger and stupidity near of kin, but when a man whose mental movements are naturally deliberate, is suddenly spurred, he is in great danger of acting like a fool, and Richard did act like a fool. He strode up to the entrance of the porch, and said,
'Do you not hear the lady, sir? She tells you to go.'
A voice as cool and self-possessed as the other was hasty and perturbed, replied,
'I am much in the wrong, sir, if the lady do not turn the command upon yourself. Until you have obeyed it, she may perhaps see reason for withdrawing it in respect of me.'
Richard stepped into the porch, but Dorothy glided between them, and gently pushed him out.
'Richard Heywood!' she said.
'Whew!' interjected the stranger, softly.
'You can claim no right,' she went on, 'to be here at this hour. Pray go; you will disturb my mother.'
'Who is this man, then, whose right seems acknowledged?' asked Richard, in ill-suppressed fury.
'When you address me like a gentleman, such as I used to believe you—'
'May I presume to ask when you ceased to regard me as a gentleman, mistress Dorothy?'
'As soon as I found that you had learned to despise law and religion,' answered the girl. 'Such a one will hardly succeed in acting the part of a gentleman, even had he the blood of the Somersets in his veins.'
'I thank you, mistress Dorothy,' said the stranger, 'and will profit by the plain hint. Once more tell me to go, and I will obey.'
'He must go first,' returned Dorothy.
Richard had been standing as if stunned, but now with an effort recovered himself.
'I will wait for you,' he said, and turned away.
'For whom, sir?' asked Dorothy, indignantly.
'You have refused me the gentleman's name,' answered Richard: 'perhaps I may have the good fortune to persuade himself to be more obliging.'
'I shall not keep you waiting long,' said the young man significantly, as Richard walked away.
To do Richard justice, and greatly he needs it, I must make the remark that such had been the intimacy betwixt him and Dorothy, that he might well imagine himself acquainted with all the friends of her house. But the intimacy had been confined to the children; the heads of the two houses, although good neighbours, had not been drawn towards each other, and their mutual respect had not ripened into friendship. Hence many of the family and social relations of each were unknown to the other; and indeed both families led such a retired life that the children knew little of their own relatives even, and seldom spoke of any.
Lady Scudamore, the mother of the stranger, was first cousin to lady Vaughan. They had been very intimate as girls, but had not met for years—hardly since the former married sir John, the son of one of King James's carpet-knights. Hearing of her cousin's illness, she had come to visit her at last, under the escort of her son. Taken with his new cousin, the youth had lingered and lingered; and in fact Dorothy had been unable to get rid of him before an hour strange for leave-taking in such a quiet and yet hospitable neighbourhood.
Richard took his stand on the side of the public road opposite the gate; but just ere Scudamore came, which was hardly a minute after, a cloud crept over the moon, and, as he happened to stand in a line with the bole of a tree, Scudamore did not catch sight of him. When he turned to walk along the road, Richard thought he avoided him, and, making a great stride or two after him, called aloud—
'Stop, sir, stop. You forget your appointments over easily, I think.'
'Oh, you ARE there!' said the youth, turning.
'I am glad you acknowledge my presence,' said Richard, not the better pleased with his new acquaintance that his speech and behaviour had an easy tone of superiority, which, if indefinably felt by the home-bred lad, was not therefore to be willingly accorded. His easy carriage, his light step, his still shoulders and lithe spine, indicated both birth and training.
'Just the night for a serenade,' he went on, heedless of Richard's remark, '—bright, but not too bright; cloudy, but not too cloudy.'
'Sir!' said Richard, amazed at his coolness.
'Oh, you want to quarrel with me!' returned the youth. 'But it takes two to fight as well as to kiss, and I will not make one to-night. I know who you are well enough, and have no quarrel with you, except indeed it be true—as indeed it must, for Dorothy tells me so—that you have turned roundhead as well as your father.'
'What right have you to speak so familiarly of mistress Dorothy?' said Richard.
'It occurs to me,' replied Scudamore, airily, 'that I had better ask you by what right you haunt her house at midnight. But I would not willingly cross you in cold blood. I wish you good a night, and better luck next time you go courting.'
The moon swam from behind a cloud, and her over ripe and fading light seemed to the eyes of Richard to gather upon the figure before him and there revive. The youth had on a doublet of some reddish colour, ill brought out by the moonlight, but its silver lace and the rapier hilt inlaid with silver shone the keener against it. A short cloak hung from his left shoulder, trimmed also with silver lace, and a little cataract of silver fringe fell from the edges of his short trousers into the wide tops of his boots, which were adorned with ruffles. He wore a large collar of lace, and cuffs of the same were folded back from his bare hands. A broad-brimmed beaver hat, its silver band fastened with a jewel holding a plume of willowy feathers, completed his attire, which he wore with just the slightest of a jaunty air. It was hardly the dress for a walk at midnight, but he had come in his mother's carriage, and had to go home without it.
Alas now for Richard's share in the freedom to which he had of late imagined himself devoted! No sooner had the words last spoken entered his ears than he was but a driven slave ready to rush into any quarrel with the man who spoke them. Ere he had gone three paces he had stepped in front of him.
'Whatever rights mistress Dorothy may have given you,' he said, 'she had none to transfer in respect of my father. What do you mean by calling him a roundhead?'
'Why, is he not one?' asked the youth, simply, keeping his ground, in spite of the unpleasant proximity of Richard's person. 'I am sorry to have wronged him, but I mistook him for a ringleader of the same name. I heartily beg your pardon.'
'You did not mistake,' said Richard stupidly.
'Then I did him no wrong,' rejoined the youth, and once more would have gone his way.
But Richard, angrier than ever at finding he had given him such an easy advantage, moved with his movement, and kept rudely in front of him, provoking a quarrel—in clownish fashion, it must be confessed.
'By heaven,' said Scudamore, 'if Dorothy had not begged me not to fight with you—,' and as he spoke he slipped suddenly past his antagonist, and walked swiftly away. Richard plunged after him, and seized him roughly by the shoulder. Instantaneously he wheeled on the very foot whence he was taking the next stride, and as he turned his rapier gleamed in the moonlight. The same moment it left his hand, he scarce knew how, and flew across the hedge. Richard, who was unarmed, had seized the blade, and, almost by one and the same movement of his wrist, wrenched the hilt from the grasp of his adversary, and flung the thing from him. Then closing with the cavalier, slighter and less skilled in such encounters, the roundhead almost instantly threw him upon the turf that bordered the road.
'Take that for drawing on an unarmed man,' he said.
No reply came. The youth lay stunned.
Then compassion woke in the heart of the angry Richard, and he hastened to his help. Ere he reached him, however, he made an attempt to rise, but only to stagger and fall again.
'Curse you for a roundhead!' he cried; 'you've twisted some of my tackle. I can't stand.'
'I'm sorry,' returned Richard, 'but why did you bare bilbo on a naked man? A right malignant you are !'
'Did I?' returned Scudamore. 'You laid hands on me so suddenly! I ask your pardon.'
Accepting the offered aid of Richard, he rose; but his right knee was so much hurt that he could not walk a step without great pain. Full of regret for the suffering he had caused, Richard lifted him in his arms, and seated him on a low wall of earth, which was all that here inclosed lady Vaughan's shrubbery; then, breaking through the hedge on the opposite side of the way, presently returned with the rapier, and handed it to him. Scudamore accepted it courteously, with difficulty replaced it in its sheath, rose, and once more attempted to walk, but gave a groan, and would have fallen had not Richard caught him.
'The devil is in it!' he cried, with more annoyance than anger. 'If I am not in my place at my lord's breakfast to-morrow, there will be questioning. That I had leave to accompany my mother makes the mischief. If I had stole away, it would be another matter. It will be hard to bear rebuke, and no frolic.'
'Come home with me,' said Richard. 'My father will do his best to atone for the wrong done by his son.'
'Set foot across the threshold of a roundhead fanatic! In the way of hospitality! Not if the choice lay betwixt that and my coffin!' cried the cavalier.
'Then let me carry you back to lady Vaughan's,' said Richard, with a torturing pang of jealousy, which only his sense of right, now thoroughly roused, enabled him to defy.
'I dare not. I should terrify my mother, and perhaps kill my cousin.'
'Your mother! your cousin!' cried Richard.
'Yes,' returned Scudamore; 'my mother is there, on a visit to her cousin lady Vaughan.'
'Alas, I am more to blame than I knew!' said Richard.
'No,' Scudamore went on, heedless of Richard's lamentation. 'I must crawl back to Raglan as I may. If I get there before the morning, I shall be able to show reason why I should not wait upon my lord at his breakfast.'
'You belong to the earl's household, then?' said Richard.
'Yes; and I fear I shall be grey-headed before I belong to anything else. He makes much of the ancient customs of the country: I would he would follow them. In the good old times I should have been a squire at least by now, if, indeed, I had not earned my spurs; but his lordship will never be content without me to hand him his buttered egg at breakfast, and fill his cup at dinner with his favourite claret. And so I am neither more nor less than a page, which rhymes with my age better than suits it. But the earl has a will of his own. He is a master worth serving though. And there is my lady Elizabeth and my lady Mary—not to mention my lord Herbert!—But,' he concluded, rubbing his injured knee with both hands, 'why do I prate of them to a roundhead?'
'Why indeed?' returned Richard. 'Are they not, the earl and all his people, traitors, and that of the worst? Are they not the enemies of the truth—worshippers of idols, bowing the knee to a woman, and kissing the very toes of an old man so in love with ignorance, that he tortures the philosopher who tells him the truth about the world and its motions?'
'Go on, master Roundhead! I can chastise you, and that you know. This cursed knee—'
'I will stand unarmed within your thrust, and never budge a foot,' said Richard. 'But no,' he added, 'I dare not, lest I should further injure one I have wronged already. Let there be a truce between us.'
'I am no papist,' returned Scudamore. 'I speak only as one of the earl's household—true men all. For them I cast the word in your teeth, you roundhead traitor! For myself I am of the English church.'
'It is but the wolf and the wolf's cub,' said. Richard. 'Prelatical episcopacy is but the old harlot veiled, or rather, forsooth, her bloody scarlet blackened in the sulphur fumes of her coming desolation.'
'Curse on, roundhead,' sighed the youth; 'I must crawl home.'
Once more he rose and made an effort to walk. But it was of no use: walk he could not.
'I must wait till the morning,' he said, 'when some Christian waggoner may be passing. Leave me in peace.'
'Nay, I am no such boor!' said Richard. 'Do you think you could ride?'
'I could try.'
'I will bring you the best mare in Gwent. But tell me your name, that I may know with whom I have the honour of a feud.'
'My name is Roland Scudamore,' answered the youth. 'Yours I know already, and round-head as you are, you have some smatch of honour in you.'
With an air of condescension he held out his hand, which his adversary, oppressed with a sense of the injury he had done him, did not refuse.
Richard hurried home, and to the stable, where he saddled his mare. But his father, who was still in his study, heard the sound of her hoofs in the paved yard, and met him as he led her out on the road, with an inquiry as to his destination at such an hour. Richard told him that he had had a quarrel with a certain young fellow of the name of Scudamore, a page of the earl of Worcester, whom he had met at lady Vaughan's: and recounted the result.
'Was your quarrel a just one, my son?'
'No sir. I was in the wrong.'
'Then you are so far in the right now. And you are going to help him home?'
'Have you confessed yourself in the wrong?'
'Then go, my son, but beware of private quarrel in such a season of strife. This youth and thyself may meet some day in mortal conflict on the battle-field; and for my part—I know not how it may be with another—in such a case I would rather slay my friend than my enemy.'
Enlightened by the inward experience of the moment, Richard was able to understand and respond to the feeling. How different a sudden action flashed off the surface of a man's nature may be from that which, had time been given, would have unfolded itself from its depths!
Bare-headed, Roger Heywood walked beside his son as he led the mare to the spot where Scudamore perforce awaited his return. They found him stretched on the roadside, plucking handfuls of grass, and digging up the turf with his fingers, thus, and thus alone, betraying that he suffered. Mr. Heywood at first refrained from any offer of hospitality, believing he would be more inclined to accept it after he had proved the difficulty of riding, in which case a previous refusal might stand in the way. But although a slight groan escaped as they lifted him to the saddle, he gathered up the reins at once, and sat erect while they shortened the stirrup-leathers. Lady seemed to know what was required of her, and stood as still as a vaulting horse until Richard took the bridle to lead her away.
'I see!' said Scudamore; 'you can't trust me with your horse!'
'Not so, sir,' answered Mr. Heywood. 'We cannot trust the horse with you. It is quite impossible for you to ride so far alone. If you will go, you must submit to the attendance of my son, on which I am sorry to think you have so good a claim. But will you not yet change your mind and be our guest—for the night at least? We will send a messenger to the castle at earliest dawn.'
Scudamore declined the invitation, but with perfect courtesy, for there was that about Roger Heywood which rendered it impossible for any man who was himself a gentleman, whatever his judgment of him might be, to show him disrespect. And the moment the mare began to move, he felt no further inclination to object to Richard's company at her head, for he perceived that, should she prove in the least troublesome, it would be impossible for him to keep his seat. He did not suffer so much, however, as to lose all his good spirits, or fail in his part of a conversation composed chiefly of what we now call chaff, both of them for a time avoiding all such topics as might lead to dispute, the one from a sense of wrong already done, the other from a vague feeling that he was under the protection of the foregone injury.
'Have you known my cousin Dorothy long?' asked Scudamore.
'Longer than I can remember,' answered Richard.
'Then you must be more like brother and sister than lovers.'
'That, I fear, is her feeling,' replied Richard, honestly.
'You need not think of me as a rival,' said Scudamore. 'I never saw the young woman in my life before, and although anything of yours, being a roundhead's, is fair game—'
'Your humble servant, sir Cavalier!' interjected Richard. 'Pray use your pleasure.'
'I tell you plainly,' Scudamore went on, without heeding the interruption, 'though I admire my cousin, as I do any young woman, if she be but a shade beyond the passable—'
'The ape! The coxcomb!' said Richard to himself.
'I am not, therefore, dying for her love; and I give you this one honest warning that, though I would rather see mistress Dorothy in her winding-sheet than dame to a roundhead, I should be—yes, I MAY be a more dangerous rival in respect of your mare, than of any lady YOU are likely to set eyes upon.'
'What do you mean?' said Richard gruffly.
'I mean that, the king having at length resolved to be more of a monarch and less of a saint—'
'A saint!' echoed Richard, but the echo was rather a loud one, for it startled his mare and shook her rider.
'Don't shout like that!' cried the cavalier, with an oath. 'Saint or sinner, I care not. He is my king, and I am his soldier. But with this knee you have given me, I shall be fitter for garrison than field-duty—damn it.'
'You do not mean that his majesty has declared open war against the parliament?' exclaimed Richard.
'Faithless puritan, I do,' answered Scudamore. 'His majesty has at length—with reluctance, I am sorry to hear—taken up arms against his rebellious subjects. Land will be cheap by-and-by.'
'Many such rumours have reached us,' returned Richard, quietly. 'The king spares no threats; but for blows—well!'
'Insolent fanatic!' shouted Vaughan, 'I tell you his majesty is on his way from Scotland with an army of savages; and London has declared for the king.'
Richard and his mare simultaneously quickened their pace.
'Then it is time you were in bed, Mr Scudamore, for my mare and I will be wanted,' he cried. 'God be praised! I thank you for the good news. It makes me young again to hear it.'
'What the devil do you mean by jerking this cursed knee of mine so?' shouted Scudamore. 'Faith, you were young enough in all conscience already, you fool! You want to keep me in bed, as well as send me there! Well out of the way, you think! But I give you honest warning to look after your mare, for I vow I have fallen in love with her. She's worth three, at least, of your mistress Dorothies.'
'You talk like a Dutch boor,' said Richard.
'Saith an English lout,' retorted Scudamore. 'But, all things being lawful in love and war, not to mention hate and rebellion, this mare, if I am blessed with a chance, shall be—well, shall be translated.'
'You mean from Redware to Raglan.'
'Where she shall be entertained in a manner worthy of her, which is saying no little, if all her paces and points be equal to her walk and her crest.'
'I trust you will be more pitiful to my poor Lady,' said Richard, quietly. 'If all they say be true, Raglan stables are no place for a mare of her breeding.'
'What do you mean, roundhead?'
'Folk say your stables at Raglan are like other some Raglan matters—of the infernal sort.'
Scudamore was silent for a moment.
'Whether the stables be under the pavement or over the leads,' he returned at last, 'there are not a few in them as good as she—of which I hope to satisfy my Lady some day,' he added, patting the mare's neck.
'Wert thou not hurt already, I would pitch thee out of the saddle,' said Richard.
'Were I not hurt in the knee, thou couldst not,' said Scudamore.
'I need not lay hand upon thee. Wert thou as sound in limb as thou art in wind, thou wouldst feel thyself on the road ere thou knewest thou hadst taken leave of the saddle—did I but give the mare the sign she knows.'
'By God's grace,' said the cavalier, 'she shall be mine, and teach me the trick of it.'
Richard answered only with a grim laugh, and again, but more gently this time, quickened the mare's pace. Little more had passed between them when the six-sided towers of Raglan rose on their view.
Richard had, from childhood, been familiar with their aspect, especially that of the huge one called the Yellow Tower, but he had never yet been within the walls that encircled them. At any time during his life, almost up to the present hour, he might have entered without question, for the gates were seldom closed and never locked, the portcullises, sheathed in the wall above, hung moveless in their rusty chains, and the drawbridges spanned the moat from scarp to counterscarp, as if from the first their beams had rested there in solid masonry. And still, during the day, there was little sign of change, beyond an indefinable presence of busier life, even in the hush of the hot autumnal noon. But at night the drawbridges rose and the portcullises descended—each with its own peculiar creak, and jar, and scrape, setting the young rooks cawing in reply from every pinnacle and tree-top—never later than the last moment when the warder could see anything larger than a cat on the brow of the road this side the village. For who could tell when, or with what force at their command, the parliament might claim possession? And now another of the frequent reports had arrived, that the king had at length resorted to arms. It was altogether necessary for such as occupied a stronghold, unless willing to yield it to the first who demanded entrance, to keep watch and ward.
Admitted at the great brick gate, the outermost of all, and turning aside from the steps leading up to the white stone gate and main entrance beyond, with its drawbridge and double portcullis, Richard, by his companion's directions, led his mare to the left, and, rounding the moat of the citadel, sought the western gate of the castle, which seemed to shelter itself under the great bulk of the Yellow Tower, the cannon upon more than one of whose bastions closely commanded it, and made up for its inferiority in defence of its own.
Scudamore had scarcely called, ere the warder, who had been waked by the sound of the horse's feet, began to set the machinery of the portcullis in motion.
'What! wounded already, master Scudamore!' he cried, as they rode under the archway.
'Yes, Eccles,' answered Scudamore, '—wounded and taken prisoner, and brought home for ransom!'
As they spoke, Richard made use of his eyes, with a vague notion that some knowledge of the place might one day or other be of service, but it was little he could see. The moon was almost down, and her low light, prolific of shadows, shone straight in through the lifted portcullis, but in the gateway where they stood, there was nothing for her to show but the groined vault, the massy walls, and the huge iron-studded gate beyond.
'Curse you for a roundhead!' cried Scudamore, in the wrath engendered of a fierce twinge, as Heywood sought to help his lamed leg over the saddle.
'Dismount on this side then,' said Richard, regardless of the insult.
But the warder had caught the word.
'Roundhead!' he exclaimed.
Scudamore did not answer until he found himself safe on his feet, and by that time he had recovered his good manners.
'This is young Mr. Heywood of Redware,' he said, and moved towards the wicket, leaning on Richard's arm.
But the old warder stepped in front, and stood between them and the gate.
'Not a damned roundhead of the pack shall set foot across this door-sill, so long as I hold the gate,' he cried, with a fierce gesture of the right arm. And therewith he set his back to the wicket.
'Tut, tut, Eccles !' returned Scudamore impatiently. 'Good words are worth much, and cost little.'
'If the old dog bark, he gives counsel,' rejoined Eccles, immovable.
Heywood was amused, and stood silent, waiting the result. He had no particular wish to enter, and yet would have liked to see what could be seen of the court.
'Where the doorkeeper is a churl, what will folk say of the master of the house?' said Scudamore.
'They may say as they list; it will neither hurt him nor me,' said Eccles.
'Make haste, my good fellow, and let us through,' pleaded Scudamore. 'By Saint George! but my leg is in great pain. I fear the knee-cap is broken, in which case I shall not trouble thee much for a week of months.'
As he spoke, he stood leaning on Richard's arm, and behind them stood Lady, still as a horse of bronze.
'I will but drop the portcullis,' said the warder, 'and then I will carry thee to thy room in my arms. But not a cursed roundhead shall enter here, I swear.'
'Let us through at once,' said Scudamore, trying the imperative.
'Not if the earl himself gave the order,' persisted the man.
'Ho! ho! what is that you say? Let the gentlemen through,' cried a voice from somewhere.
The warder opened the wicket immediately, stepped inside, and held it open while they entered, nor uttered another word. But as soon as Richard had got Scudamore clear of the threshold, to which he lent not a helping finger, he stepped quietly out again, closed the wicket behind him, and taking Lady by the bridle, led her back over the bridge towards the bowling-green.
Scudamore had just time to whisper to Heywood, 'It is my master, the earl himself,' when the voice came again.
'What! wounded, Rowland? How is this? And who have you there?'
But that moment Richard heard the sound of his mare's hoofs on the bridge, and leaving Scudamore to answer for them both, bounded back to the wicket, darted through, and called her by name. Instantly she stood stock still, notwithstanding a vicious kick in the ribs from Eccles, not unseen of Heywood. Enraged at the fellow's insolence, he dealt him a sudden blow that stretched him at the mare's feet, vaulted into the saddle, and had reached the outer gate before he had recovered himself. The sleepy porter had just let him through, when the warder's signal to let no one out reached him. Richard turned with a laugh.
'When next you catch a roundhead,' he said, 'keep him;' and giving Lady the rein, galloped off, leaving the porter staring after him through the bars like a half-roused wild beast.
Not doubting the rumour of open hostilities, the warder's design had been to secure the mare, and pretend she had run away, for a good horse was now more precious than ever.
The earl's study was over the gate, and as he suffered much from gout and slept ill, he not unfrequently sought refuge in the night-watches with his friends Chaucer, Gower, and Shakspere.
Richard drew rein at the last point whence the castle would have been visible in the daytime. All he saw was a moving light. The walls whence it shone were one day to be as the shell around the kernel of his destiny.
LOVE AND WAR.
When Richard reached home and recounted the escape he had had, an imprecation, the first he had ever heard him utter, broke from his father's lips. With the indiscrimination of party spirit, he looked upon the warder's insolence and attempted robbery as the spirit and behaviour of his master, the earl being in fact as little capable of such conduct as Mr. Heywood himself.
Immediately after their early breakfast the next morning, he led his son to a chamber in the roof, of the very existence of which he had been ignorant, and there discovered to him good store of such armour of both kinds as was then in use, which for some years past he had been quietly collecting in view of the time—which, in the light of the last rumour, seemed to have at length arrived—when strength would have to decide the antagonism of opposed claims. Probably also it was in view of this time, seen from afar in silent approach, that, from the very moment when he took his education into his own hands, he had paid thorough attention to Richard's bodily as well as mental accomplishment, encouraging him in all manly sports, such as wrestling, boxing, and riding to hounds, with the more martial training of sword-exercises, with and without the target, and shooting with the carbine and the new-fashioned flint-lock pistols.
The rest of the morning Richard spent in choosing a headpiece, and mail plates for breast, back, neck, shoulders, arms, and thighs. The next thing was to set the village tailor at work upon a coat of that thick strong leather, dressed soft and pliant, which they called buff, to wear under his armour. After that came the proper equipment of Lady, and that of the twenty men whom his father expected to provide from amongst his own tenants, and for whom he had already a full provision of clothing and armour; they had to be determined on, conferred with, and fitted, one by one, so as to avoid drawing attention to the proceeding. Hence both Mr. Heywood and Richard had enough to do, and the more that Faithful Stopchase, on whom was their chief dependence, had not yet recovered sufficiently from the effects of his fall to be equal to the same exertion as formerly—of which he was the more impatient that he firmly believed he had been a special object of Satanic assault, because of the present value of his counsels, and the coming weight of his deeds on the side of the well-affected. Thus occupied, the weeks passed into months.
During this time Richard called again and again upon Dorothy, ostensibly to inquire after her mother. Only once, however, did she appear, when she gave him to understand she was so fully occupied, that, although obliged by his attention, he must not expect to see her again.
'But I will be honest, Richard,' she added, 'and let you know plainly that, were it otherwise in respect of my mother, I yet should not see you, for you and I have parted company, and are already so far asunder on different roads that I must bid you farewell at once while yet we can hear each other speak.'
There was no anger, only a cold sadness in her tone and manner, while her bearing was stately as towards one with whom she had never had intimacy. Even her sadness seemed to Richard to have respect to the hopeless condition of her mother's health, and not at all to the changed relation between him and her.
'I trust, at least, mistress Dorothy,' he said, with some bitterness, 'you will grant me the justice that what I do, I do with a good conscience. After all that has been betwixt us I ask for no more.'
'What more could the best of men ask for?'
'I, who am far from making any claim to rank with such—'
'I am glad to know it,' interjected Dorothy.
'—am yet capable of hoping that an eye at once keener and kinder than yours may see conscience at the very root of the actions which you, Dorothy, will doubtless most condemn.'
Was this the boy she had despised for indifference?
'Was it conscience drove you to sprain my cousin Rowland's knee?' she asked.
Richard was silent for a moment. The sting was too cruel.
'Pray hesitate not to say so, if such be your conviction,' added Dorothy.
'No,' replied Richard, recovering himself. 'I trust it is not such a serious matter as you say; but any how it was not conscience but jealousy and anger that drove me to that wrong.'
'Did you see the action such at the time?'
'No, surely; else I would not have been guilty of that for which I am truly sorry now.'
'Then, perhaps, the day will come when, looking back on what you do now, you will regard it with the like disapprobation.—God grant it may!' she added, with a deep sigh.
'That can hardly be, mistress Dorothy. I am, in the matters to which you refer, under the influence of no passion, no jealousy, no self- seeking, no—'
'Perhaps a deeper search might discover in you each and all of the bosom-sins you so stoutly abjure,' interrupted Dorothy. 'But it is needless for you to defend yourself to me; I am not your judge.'
'So much the better for me!' returned Richard; 'I should else have an unjust as well as severe one. I, on my part, hope the day may come when you will find something to repent of in such harshness towards an old friend whom you choose to think in the wrong.'
'Richard Heywood, God is my witness it is no choice of mine. I have no choice: what else is there to think? I know well enough what you and your father are about. But there is nothing save my own conscience and my mother's love I would not part with to be able to believe you honourably right in your own eyes—not in mine—God forbid! That can never be—not until fair is foul and foul is fair.'
So saying, she held out her hand.
'God be between thee and me, Dorothy!' said Richard, with solemnity, as he took it in his.
He spoke with a voice that seemed to him far away and not his own. Until now he had never realized the idea of a final separation between him and Dorothy; and even now, he could hardly believe she was in earnest, but felt, rather, like a child whose nurse threatens to forsake him on the dark road, and who begins to weep only from the pitiful imagination of the thing, and not any actual fear of her carrying the threat into execution. The idea of retaining her love by ceasing to act on his convictions—the very possibility of it—had never crossed the horizon of his thoughts. Had it come to him as the merest intellectual notion, he would have perceived at once, of such a loyal stock did he come, and so loyal had he himself been to truth all his days, that to act upon her convictions instead of his own would have been to widen a gulf at least measurable, to one infinite and impassable.
She withdrew the hand which had solemnly pressed his, and left the room. For a moment he stood gazing after her. Even in that moment, the vague fear that she would not come again grew to a plain conviction, and forcibly repressing the misery that rose in bodily presence from his heart to his throat, he left the house, hurried down the pleached alley to the old sun-dial, threw himself on the grass under the yews, and wept and longed for war.
But war was not to be just yet. Autumn withered and sank into winter. The rain came down on the stubble, and the red cattle waded through red mire to and from their pasture; the skies grew pale above, and the earth grew bare beneath; the winds grew sharp and seemed unfriendly; the brooks ran foaming to the rivers, and the rivers ran roaring to the ocean. Then the earth dried a little, and the frost came, and swelled and hardened it; the snow fell and lay, vanished and came again. But even out of the depth of winter, quivered airs and hints of spring, until at last the mighty weakling was born. And all this time rumour beat the alarum of war, and men were growing harder and more determined on both sides—some from self-opinion, some from party spirit, some from prejudice, antipathy, animosity, some from sense of duty, mingled more and less with the alloys of impulse and advantage. But he who was most earnest on the one side was least aware that he who was most earnest on the other was honest as himself. To confess uprightness in one of the opposite party, seemed to most men to involve treachery to their own; or if they were driven to the confession, it was too often followed with an attempt at discrediting the noblest of human qualities.
The hearts of the two young people fared very much as the earth under the altered skies of winter, and behaved much as the divided nation. A sense of wrong endured kept both from feeling at first the full sorrow of their separation; and by the time that the tide of memory had flowed back and covered the rock of offence, they had got a little used to the dulness of a day from which its brightest hour had been blotted. Dorothy learned very soon to think of Richard as a prodigal brother beyond seas, and when they chanced to meet, which was but seldom, he was to her as a sad ghost in a dream. To Richard, on the other hand, she looked a lovely but scarce worshipful celestial, with merely might enough to hold his heart, swelling with a sense of wrong, in her hand, and squeeze it very hard. His consolation was that he suffered for the truth's sake, for to decline action upon such insight as he had had, was a thing as impossible as to alter the relations between the parts of a sphere. Dorothy longed for peace, and the return of the wandering chickens of the church to the shelter of her wings, to be led by her about the paled yard of obedience, picking up the barley of righteousness; Richard longed for the trumpet-blast of Liberty to call her sons together—to a war whose battles should never cease until men were free to worship God after the light he had lighted within them, and the dragon of priestly authority should breathe out his last fiery breath, no more to drive the feebler brethren to seek refuge in the house of hypocrisy.
At home Dorothy was under few influences except those of her mother, and, through his letters, of Mr. Matthew Herbert. Upon the former a lovely spiritual repose had long since descended. Her anxieties were only for her daughter, her hopes only for the world beyond the grave. The latter was a man of peace, who, having found in the ordinances of his church everything to aid and nothing to retard his spiritual development, had no conception of the nature of the puritanical opposition to its government and rites. Through neither could Dorothy come to any true idea of the questions which agitated the politics of both church and state. To her, the king was a kind of demigod, and every priest a fountain of truth. Her religion was the sedate and dutiful acceptance of obedient innocence, a thing of small account indeed where it is rooted only in sentiment and customary preference, but of inestimable value in such cases as hers, where action followed upon acceptance.
Richard, again, was under the quickening masterdom of a well-stored, active mind, a strong will, a judgment that sought to keep its balance even, and whose descended scale never rebounded, a conscience which, through all the mists of human judgment, eyed ever the blotted glimmer of some light beyond; and all these elements of power were gathered in his own father, in whom the customary sternness of the puritan parent had at length blossomed in confidence, a phase of love which, to such a mind as Richard's, was even more enchanting than tenderness. To be trusted by such a father, to feel his mind and soul present with him, acknowledging him a fit associate in great hopes and noble aims, was surely and ought to be, whatever the sentimentalist may say, some comfort for any sorrow a youth is capable of, such being in general only too lightly remediable. I wonder if any mere youth ever suffered, from a disappointment in love, half the sense of cureless pain which, with one protracted pang, gnaws at the heart of the avaricious old man who has dropt a sovereign into his draw-well.
But the relation of Dorothy and Richard, although ordinary in outward appearance, was of no common kind; and while these two thus fell apart from each other in their outer life, each judging the other insensible to the call of highest rectitude, neither of them knew how much his or her heart was confident of the other's integrity. In respect of them, the lovely simile, in Christabel, of the parted cliffs, may be carried a little farther, for, under the dreary sea flowing between them, the rock was one still. Such a faith may sometimes, perhaps often does, lie in the heart like a seed buried beyond the reach of the sun, thoroughly alive though giving no sign: to grow too soon might be to die. Things had indeed gone farther with Dorothy and Richard, but the lobes of their loves had never been fairly exposed to the sun and wind ere the swollen clods of winter again covered them.
Once, in the cold noon of a lovely day of frost, when the lightest step crackled with the breaking of multitudinous crystals, when the trees were fringed with furry white, and the old spider-webs glimmered like filigrane of fairy silver, they met on a lonely country-road. The sun shone red through depths of half-frozen vapour, and tinged the whiteness of death with a faint warmth of feeling and hope. Along the rough lane Richard walked reading what looked like a letter, but was a copy his father had procured of a poem still only in manuscript—the Lycidas of Milton. In the glow to which the alternating hot and cold winds of enthusiasm and bereavement had fanned the fiery particle within him, Richard was not only able to understand and enjoy the thought of which the poem was built, but was borne aloft on its sad yet hopeful melodies as upon wings of an upsoaring seraph. The flow of his feeling suddenly broken by an almost fierce desire to share with Dorothy the tenderness of the magic music of the stately monody, and then, ere the answering waves of her emotion had subsided, to whisper to her that the marvellous spell came from the heart of the same wonderful man from whose brain had issued, like Pallas from Jove's,— what?—Animadversions upon the Remonstrants Defence against Smectymnus, the pamphlet which had so roused all the abhorrence her nature was capable of—he lifted his head and saw her but a few paces from him. Dorothy caught a glimpse of a countenance radiant with feeling, and eyes flashing through a watery film of delight; her own eyes fell; she said, 'Good morning, Richard!' and passed him without deflecting an inch. The bird of song folded its wings and called in its shining; the sun lost half his red beams; the sprinkled seed pearls vanished, and ashes covered the earth; he folded the paper, laid it in the breast of his doublet, and walked home through the glittering meadows with a fresh hurt in his heart.
Dorothy's time and thoughts were all but occupied with the nursing of her mother, who, contrary to the expectation of her friends, outlived the winter, and revived as the spring drew on. She read much to her. Some of the best books had drifted into the house and settled there, but, although English printing was now nearly two centuries old, they were not many. We must not therefore imagine, however, that the two ladies were ill supplied with spiritual pabulum. There are few houses of the present day in which, though there be ten times as many books, there is so much strong food; if there was any lack, it was rather of diluents. Amongst those she read were Queen Elizabeth's Homilies, Hooker's Politie, Donne's Sermons, and George Herbert's Temple, to the dying lady only less dear than her New Testament.
But even with this last, it was only through sympathy with her mother that Dorothy could come into any contact. The gems of the mind, which alone could catch and reflect such light, lay as yet under the soil, and much ploughing and breaking of the clods was needful ere they could come largely to the surface. But happily for Dorothy, there were amongst the books a few of those precious little quartos of Shakspere, the first three books of the Faerie Queene, and the Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia, then much read, if we may judge from the fact that, although it was not published till after the death of Sidney, the eighth edition of it had now been nearly ten years in lady Vaughan's possession.
Then there was in the drawing-room an old spinnet, sadly out of tune, on which she would yet, in spite of the occasional jar and shudder of respondent nerves, now and then play at a sitting all the little music she had learned, and with whose help she had sometimes even tried to find out an air for words that had taken her fancy.
Also, she had the house to look after, the live stock to see to, her dog to play with and teach, a few sad thoughts and memories to discipline, a call now and then from a neighbour, or a longer visit from some old friend of her mother's to receive, and the few cottagers on all that was left of the estate of Wyfern to care for; so that her time was tolerably filled up, and she felt little need of anything more to occupy at least her hours and days.
Meanwhile, through all nature's changes, through calm and tempest, rain and snow, through dull refusing winter, and the first passing visits of open-handed spring, the hearts of men were awaiting the outburst of the thunder, the blue peaks of whose cloud-built cells had long been visible on the horizon of the future. Every now and then they would start and listen, and ask each other was it the first growl of the storm, or but the rumbling of the wheels of the government. To the dwellers in Raglan Castle it seemed at least a stormy sign—of which the news reached them in the dull November weather—that the parliament had set a guard upon Worcester House in the Strand, and searched it for persons suspected of high treason—lord Herbert, doubtless, first of all, the direction and strength of whose political drift, suspicious from the first because of his religious persuasion, could hardly be any longer doubtful to the most liberal of its members.
The news of the terrible insurrection of the catholics in Ireland followed.
Richard kept his armour bright, his mare in good fettle, himself and his men in thorough exercise, read and talked with his father, and waited, sometimes with patience, sometimes without.
At length, in the early spring, the king withdrew to York, and a body-guard of the gentlemen of the neighbourhood gathered around him. Richard renewed the flints of his carbine and pistols.
In April, the king, refused entrance into the town of Hull, proclaimed the governor a traitor. The parliament declared the proclamation a breach of its privileges. Richard got new girths.
The summer passed in various disputes. Towards its close the governor of Portsmouth declined to act upon a commission to organize the new levies of the parliament, and administered instead thereof an oath of allegiance to the garrison and inhabitants. Thereupon the place was besieged by Essex; the king proclaimed him a traitor, and the parliament retorted by declaring the royal proclamation a libel. Richard had his mare new-shod.
On a certain day in August, the royal standard, with the motto, 'Give to Caesar his due,' was set up at Nottingham. Richard mounted his mare, and taking leave of his father, led Stopchase and nineteen men more, all fairly mounted, to offer his services to the parliament, as represented by the earl of Essex.
With the decay of summer, lady Vaughan began again to sink, and became at length so weak that Dorothy rarely left her room. The departure of Richard Heywood to join the rebels affected her deeply. The report of the utter rout of the parliamentary forces at Edgehill, lighted up her face for the last time with a glimmer of earthly gladness, which the very different news that followed speedily extinguished; and after that she declined more rapidly. Mrs. Rees told Dorothy that she would yield to the first frost. But she lingered many weeks. One morning she signed to her daughter to come nearer that she might speak to her.
'Dorothy,' she whispered, 'I wish much to see good Mr. Herbert. Prithee send for him. I know it is an evil time for him to travel, being an old man and feeble, but he will do his endeavour to come to me, I know, if but for my husband's sake, whom he loved like a brother. I cannot die in peace without first taking counsel with him how best to provide for the safety of my little ewe-lamb until these storms are overblown. Alas! alas! I did look to Richard Heywood—'
She could say no more.
'Do not take thought about the morrow for me any more than you would for yourself, madam,' said Dorothy. 'You know master Herbert says the one is as the other.'
She kissed her mother's hand as she spoke, then hastened from the room, and despatched a messenger to Llangattock.
Before the worthy man arrived, lady Vaughan was speechless. By signs and looks, definite enough, and more eloquent than words, she committed Dorothy to his protection, and died.
Dorothy behaved with much calmness. She would not, in her mother's absence, act so as would have grieved her presence. Little passed between her and Mr. Herbert until the funeral was over. Then they talked of the future. Her guardian wished much to leave everything in charge of the old bailiff, and take her with him to Llangattock; but he hesitated a little because of the bad state of the roads in winter, much because of their danger in the troubled condition of affairs, and most of all because of the uncertain, indeed perilous position of the Episcopalian clergy, who might soon find themselves without a roof to shelter them. Fearing nothing for himself, he must yet, in arranging for Dorothy, contemplate the worst of threatening possibilities; and one thing was pretty certain, that matters must grow far worse before they could even begin to mend.
But they had more time for deliberation given them than they would willingly have taken. Mr. Herbert had caught cold while reading the funeral service, and was compelled to delay his return. The cold settled into a sort of low fever, and for many weeks he lay helpless. During this time the sudden affair at Brentford took place, after which the king, having lost by it far more than he had gained, withdrew to Oxford, anxious to re-open the treaty which the battle had closed.
The country was now in a sad state. Whichever party was uppermost in any district, sought to ruin all of the opposite faction. Robbery and plunder became common, and that not only on the track of armies or the route of smaller bodies of soldiers, for bands of mere marauders, taking up the cry of the faction that happened in any neighbourhood to have the ascendancy, plundered houses, robbed travellers, and were guilty of all sorts of violence. Hence it had become as perilous to stay at home in an unfortified house as to travel; and many were the terrors which during the winter tried the courage of the girl, and checked the recovery of the old man. At length one morning, after a midnight alarm, Mr. Herbert thus addressed Dorothy, as she waited upon him with his breakfast:
'It fears me much, my dear Dorothy, that the time will be long ere any but fortified places will be safe abodes. It is a question in my mind whether it would not be better to seek refuge for you—. But stay; let me suggest my proposal, rather than startle you with it in sudden form complete. You are related to the Somersets, are you not?'
'Is the relationship recognized by them?'
'I cannot tell, sir. I do not even distinctly know what the relationship is. And assuredly, sir, you mean not to propose that I should seek safety from bodily peril with a household which is, to say the least, so unfriendly to the doctrines you and my blessed mother have always taught me! You cannot, or indeed, must you not have forgotten that they are papists?'
Dorothy had been educated in such a fear of the catholics, and such a profound disapproval of those of their doctrines rejected by the reformers of the church of England, as was only surpassed in intensity by her absolute abhorrence of the assumptions and negations of the puritans. These indeed roused in her a certain sense of disgust which she had never felt in respect of what were considered by her teachers the most erroneous doctrines of the catholics. But Mr. Herbert, although his prejudices were nearly as strong, and his opinions, if not more indigenous at least far better acclimatised than hers, had yet reaped this advantage of a longer life, that he was better able to atone his dislike of certain opinions with personal regard for those who held them, and therefore did not, like Dorothy, recoil from the idea of obligation to one of a different creed—provided always that creed was catholicism and not puritanism. For to the church of England, the catholics, in the presence of her more rampant foes, appeared harmless enough now.
He believed that the honourable feelings of lord Worcester and his family would be hostile to any attempt to proselytize his ward. But as far as she was herself concerned, he trusted more to the strength of her prejudices than the rectitude of her convictions, honest as the girl was, to prevent her from being over-influenced by the change of spiritual atmosphere; for in proportion to the simplicity of her goodness must be her capacity for recognizing the goodness of others, catholics or not, and for being wrought upon by the virtue that went out from them. His hope was, that England would have again become the abode of peace, long ere any risk to her spiritual well-being should have been incurred by this mode of securing her bodily safety and comfort.
But there was another fact, in the absence of which he would have had far more hesitation in seeking for his ewe-lamb the protection of sheep, the guardians of whose spiritual fold had but too often proved wolves in sheep-dogs' clothing: within the last few days the news had reached him that an old friend named Bayly, a true man, a priest of the English church and a doctor of divinity, had taken up his abode in Raglan castle as one of the household—chaplain indeed, as report would have it, though that was hard of belief, save indeed it were for the sake of the protestants within its walls. However that might be, there was a true shepherd to whose care to entrust his lamb; and it was mainly on the strength of this consideration that he had concluded to make his proposal to Dorothy—namely, that she should seek shelter within the walls of Raglan castle until the storm should be so far over-blown, as to admit either of her going to Llangattock or returning to her own home. He now discussed the matter with her in full, and, notwithstanding her very natural repugnance to the scheme, such was Dorothy's confidence in her friend that she was easily persuaded of its wisdom. What the more inclined her to yield was, that Mr. Heywood had written her a letter, hardly the less unwelcome for the kindness of its tone, in which he offered her the shelter and hospitality of Redware 'until better days.'
'Better days!' exclaimed Dorothy with contempt. 'If such days as he would count better should ever arrive, his house is the last place where I would have them find me!'
She wrote a polite but cold refusal, and rejoiced in the hope that he would soon hear of her having sought and found refuge in Raglan with the friends of the king.
Meanwhile Mr. Herbert had opened communication with Dr. Bayly, had satisfied himself that he was still a true son of the church, and had solicited his friendly mediation towards the receiving of mistress Dorothy Vaughan into the family of the marquis of Worcester, to the dignity of which title the earl had now been raised—the parliament, to be sure, declining to acknowledge the patent conferred by his majesty, but that was of no consequence in the estimation of those chiefly concerned.
On a certain spring morning, then, the snow still lying in the hollows of the hills, Thomas Bayly came to Wyfern to see his old friend Matthew Herbert. He was a courteous little man, with a courtesy librating on a knife-edge of deflection towards obsequiousness on the one hand and condescension on the other, for neither of which, however, was his friend Herbert an object. His eye was keen, and his forehead good, but his carriage inclined to the pompous, and his speech to the formal, ornate, and prolix. The shape of his mouth was honest, but the closure of the lips indicated self-importance. The greeting between them was simple and genuine, and ere they parted, Bayly had promised to do his best in representing the matter to the marquis, his daughter-in-law, lady Margaret, the wife of lord Herbert, and his daughter, lady Anne, who, although the most rigid catholic in the house, was already the doctor's special friend.
It would have been greatly unlike the marquis or any of his family to refuse such a prayer. Had not their house been for centuries the abode of hospitality, the embodiment of shelter? On the mere representation of Dr. Bayly, and the fact of the relationship, which, although distant, was well enough known, within two days mistress Dorothy Vaughan received an invitation to enter the family of the marquis, as one of the gentlewomen of lady Margaret's suite. It was of course gratefully accepted, and as soon as Mr. Herbert thought himself sufficiently recovered to encounter the fatigues of travelling, he urged on the somewhat laggard preparations of Dorothy, that he might himself see her safely housed on his way to Llangattock, whither he was most anxious to return.
It was a lovely spring morning when they set out together on horseback for Raglan. The sun looked down like a young father upon his earth-mothered children, peeping out of their beds to greet him after the long winter night. The rooks were too busy to caw, dibbling deep in the soft red earth with their great beaks. The red cattle, flaked with white, spotted the clear fresh green of the meadows. The bare trees had a kind of glory about them, like old men waiting for their youth, which might come suddenly. A few slow clouds were drifting across the pale sky. A gentle wind was blowing over the wet fields, but when a cloud swept before the sun, it blew cold. The roads were bad, but their horses were used to such, and picked their way with the easy carefulness of experience. The winter might yet return for a season, but this day was of the spring and its promises. Earth and air, field and sky were full of peace. But the heart of England was troubled—troubled with passions both good and evil—with righteous indignation and unholy scorn, with the love of liberty and the joy of license, with ambition and aspiration.
No honest heart could yield long to the comforting of the fair world, knowing that some of her fairest fields would soon be crimsoned afresh with the blood of her children. But Dorothy's sadness was not all for her country in general. Had she put the question honestly to her heart, she must have confessed that even the loss of her mother had less to do with a certain weight upon it, which the loveliness of the spring day seemed to render heavier, than the rarely absent feeling rather than thought, that the playmate of her childhood, and the offered lover of her youth, had thrown himself with all the energy of dawning manhood into the quarrel of the lawless and self-glorifying. Nor was she altogether free from a sense of blame in the matter. Had she been less imperative in her mood and bearing, more ready to give than to require sympathy,—but ah! she could not change the past, and the present was calling upon her.
At length the towers of Raglan appeared, and a pang of apprehension shot through her bosom. She was approaching the unknown. Like one on the verge of a second-sight, her history seemed for a moment about to reveal itself—where it lay, like a bird in its egg, within those massive walls, warded by those huge ascending towers. Brought up in a retirement that some would have counted loneliness, and although used to all gentle and refined ways, yet familiar with homeliness and simplicity of mode and ministration, she could not help feeling awed at the prospect of entering such a zone of rank and stateliness and observance as the household of the marquis, who lived like a prince in expenditure, attendance, and ceremony. She knew little of the fashions of the day, and, like many modest young people, was afraid she might be guilty of some solecism which would make her appear ill-bred, or at least awkward. Since her mother left her, she had become aware of a timidity to which she had hitherto been a stranger. 'Ah!' she said to herself, 'if only my mother were with me!'
At length they reached the brick gate, were admitted within the outer wall, and following the course taken by Scudamore and Heywood, skirted the moat which enringed the huge blind citadel or keep, and arrived at the western gate. The portcullis rose to admit them, and they rode into the echoes of the vaulted gateway. Turning to congratulate Dorothy on their safe arrival, Mr. Herbert saw that she was pale and agitated.
'What ails my child?' he said in a low voice, for the warder was near.
'I feel as if entering a prison,' she replied, with a shiver.
'Is thy God the God of the grange and not of the castle?' returned the old man.
'But, sir,' said Dorothy, 'I have been accustomed to a liberty such as few have enjoyed, and these walls and towers—'
'Heed not the look of things,' interrupted her guardian. 'Believe in the Will that with a thought can turn the shadow of death into the morning, give gladness for weeping, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.'
While he yet spoke, their horses, of their own accord, passed through the gate which Eccles had thrown wide to admit them, and carried them into the Fountain court. Here, indeed, was a change of aspect! All that Dorothy had hitherto contemplated was the side of the fortress which faced the world—frowning and defiant, although here and there on the point of breaking into a half smile, for the grim, suspicious, altogether repellent look of the old feudal castle had been gradually vanishing in the additions and alterations of more civilised times. But now they were in the heart of the building, and saw the face which the house of strength turned upon its own people. The spring sunshine filled half the court; over the rest lay the shadow of the huge keep, towering massive above the three-storied line of building which formed the side next it. Here was the true face of the Janus-building, full of eyes and mouths; for many bright windows looked down into the court, in some of which shone the smiling faces of children and ladies peeping out to see the visitors, whose arrival had been announced by the creaking chains of the portcullis; and by the doors issued and entered, here a lady in rich attire, there a gentlemen half in armour, and here again a serving man or maid. Nearly in the centre of the quadrangle, just outside the shadow of the keep, stood the giant horse, rearing in white marble, almost dazzling in the sunshine, from whose nostrils spouted the jets of water which gave its name to the court. Opposite the gate by which they entered was the little chapel, with its triple lancet windows, over which lay the picture-gallery with its large oriel lights. Far above their roof, ascended from behind that of the great hall, with its fine lantern window seated on the ridge. From the other court beyond the hall, that upon which the main entrance opened, came the sounds of heavy feet in intermittent but measured tread, the clanking of arms, and a returning voice of loud command: the troops of the garrison were being exercised on the slabs of the pitched court.
From each of the many doors opening into the court they had entered, a path, paved with coloured tiles, led straight through the finest of turf to the marble fountain in the centre, into whose shadowed basin the falling water seemed to carry captive as into a prison the sunlight it caught above. Its music as it fell made a lovely but strange and sad contrast with the martial sounds from beyond.
It was but a moment they had to note these things; eyes and ears gathered them all at once. Two of the warder's men already held their horses, while two other men, responsive to the warder's whistle, came running from the hall and helped them to dismount. Hardly had they reached the ground ere a man-servant came, who led the way to the left towards a porch of carved stone on the same side of the court. The door stood open, revealing a flight of stairs, rather steep, but wide and stately, going right up between two straight walls. At the top stood lady Margaret's gentleman usher, Mr. Harcourt by name, who received them with much courtesy, and conducting them to a small room on the left of the landing, went to announce their arrival to lady Margaret, to whose private parlour this was the antechamber. Returning in a moment, he led them into her presence.
She received them with a frankness which almost belied the stateliness of her demeanour. Through the haze of that reserve which a consciousness of dignity, whether true or false, so often generates, the genial courtesy of her Irish nature, for she was an O'Brien, daughter of the earl of Thomond, shone clear, and justified her Celtic origin.
'Welcome, cousin!' she said, holding out her hand while yet distant half the length of the room, across which, upborne on slow firm foot, she advanced with even, stately motion, 'And you also, reverend sir,' she went on, turning to Mr. Herbert. 'I am told we are indebted to you for this welcome addition to our family—how welcome none can tell but ladies shut up like ourselves.'
Dorothy was already almost at her ease, and the old clergyman soon found lady Margaret so sensible and as well as courteous—prejudiced yet further in her favour, it must be confessed, by the pleasant pretence she made of claiming cousinship on the ground of the identity of her husband's title with his surname—that, ere he left the castle, liberal as he had believed himself, he was nevertheless astonished to find how much of friendship had in that brief space been engendered in his bosom towards a catholic lady whom he had never before seen.
Since the time of Elizabeth, when the fear and repugnance of the nation had been so greatly and justly excited by the apparent probability of a marriage betwixt their queen and the detested Philip of Spain, a considerable alteration had been gradually wrought in the feelings of a large portion of it in respect of their catholic countrymen—a fact which gave strength to the position of the puritans in asserting the essential identity of episcopalian with catholic politics. Almost forty years had elapsed since the Gunpowder Plot; the queen was a catholic; the episcopalian party was itself at length endangered by the extension and development of the very principles on which they had themselves broken away from the church of Rome; and the catholics were friendly to the government of the king, under which their condition was one of comfort if not influence, while under that of the parliament they had every reason to anticipate a revival of persecution. Not a few of them doubtless cherished the hope that this revelation of the true spirit of dissent would result in driving the king and his party back into the bosom of the church.
The king, on the other hand, while only too glad to receive what aid he might from the loyal families of the old religion, yet saw that much caution was necessary lest he should alienate the most earnest of his protestant friends by giving ground for the suspicion that he was inclined to purchase their co-operation by a return to the creed of his Scottish grand-mother, Mary Stuart, and his English great-great-grand-mother, Margaret Tudor.
On the part of the clergy there had been for some time a considerable tendency, chiefly from the influence of Laud, to cultivate the same spirit which actuated the larger portion of the catholic priesthood; and although this had never led to retrograde movement in regard to their politics, the fact that both were accounted by a third party, and that far the most dangerous to either of the other two, as in spirit and object one and the same, naturally tended to produce a more indulgent regard of each other than had hitherto prevailed. And hence, in part, it was that it had become possible for episcopalian Dr. Bayly to be an inmate of Raglan Castle, and for good, protestant Matthew Herbert to seek refuge for his ward with good catholic lady Margaret.
Eager to return to the duties of his parish, through his illness so long neglected, Mr. Herbert declined her ladyship's invitation to dinner, which, she assured him, consulting a watch that she wore in a ring on her little finger, must be all but ready, seeing it was now a quarter to eleven, and took his leave, accompanied by Dorothy's servant to bring back the horse—if indeed they should be fortunate enough to escape the requisition of both horses by one party or the other. At present, however, the king's affairs continued rather on the ascendant, and the name of the marquis in that country was as yet a tower of strength. Dorothy's horse was included in the hospitality shown his mistress, and taken to the stables—under the mid-day shadow of the Library Tower.
As soon as the parson was gone, lady Margaret touched a small silver bell which hung in a stand on the table beside her.
'Conduct mistress Dorothy Vaughan to her room, wait upon her there, and then attend her hither,' she said to the maid who answered it. 'I would request a little not unneedful haste, cousin,' she went on, 'for my lord of Worcester is very precise in all matters of household order, and likes ill to see any one enter the dining-room after he is seated. It is his desire that you should dine at his table to-day. After this I must place you with the rest of my ladies, who dine in the housekeeper's room.'
'As you think proper, madam,' returned Dorothy, a little disappointed, but a little relieved also.
'The bell will ring presently,' said lady Margaret, 'and a quarter of an hour thereafter we shall all be seated.'
She was herself already dressed—in a pale-blue satin, with full skirt and close-fitting, long-peaked boddice, fastened in front by several double clasps set with rubies; her shoulders were bare, and her sleeves looped up with large round star-like studs, set with diamonds, so that her arms also were bare to the elbows. Round her neck was a short string of large pearls.
'You take no long time to attire yourself, cousin,' said her ladyship, kindly, when Dorothy returned.
'Little time was needed, madam,' answered Dorothy; 'for me there is but one colour. I fear I shall show but a dull bird amidst the gay plumage of Raglan. But I could have better adorned myself had not I heard the bell ere I had begun, and feared to lose your ladyship's company, and in very deed make my first appearance before my lord as a transgressor of the laws of his household.'
'You did well, cousin Dorothy; for everything goes by law and order here. All is reason and rhyme too in this house. My lord's father, although one of the best and kindest of men, is, as I said, somewhat precise, and will, as he says himself, be king in his own kingdom— thinking doubtless of one who is not such. I should not talk thus with you, cousin, were you like some young ladies I know; but there is that about you which pleases me greatly, and which I take to indicate discretion. When first I came to the house, not having been accustomed to so severe a punctuality, I gave my lord no little annoyance; for, oftener than once or twice, I walked into his dining-room not only after grace had been said, but after the first course had been sent down to the hall-tables. My lord took his revenge in calling me the wild Irish-woman.'
Here she laughed very sweetly.
'The only one,' she resumed, 'who does here as he will, is my husband. Even lord Charles, who is governor of the castle, must be in his place to the moment; but for my husband—.'
The bell rang a second time. Lady Margaret rose, and taking Dorothy's arm, led her from the room into a long dim-lighted corridor. Arrived at the end of it, where a second passage met it at right angles, she stopped at a door facing them.
'I think we shall find my lord of Worcester here,' she said in a whisper, as she knocked and waited a response. 'He is not here,' she said. 'He expects me to call on him as I pass. We must make haste.'
The second passage, in which were several curves and sharp turns, led them to a large room, nearly square, in which were two tables covered for about thirty. By the door and along the sides of the room were a good many gentlemen, some of them very plainly dressed, and others in gayer attire, amongst whom Dorothy, as they passed through, recognised her cousin Scudamore. Whether he saw and knew her she could not tell. Crossing a small antechamber they entered the drawing-room, where stood and sat talking a number of ladies and gentlemen, to some of whom lady Margaret spoke and presented her cousin, greeting others with a familiar nod or smile, and yet others with a stately courtesy. Then she said,
'Ladies, I will lead the way to the dining-room. My lord marquis would the less willingly have us late that something detains himself.'
Those who dined in the marquis's room followed her. Scarcely had she reached the upper end of the table when the marquis entered, followed by all his gentlemen, some of whom withdrew, their service over for the time, while others proceeded to wait upon him and his family, with any of the nobility who happened to be his guests at the first table.
'I am the laggard to-day, my lady,' he said, cheerily, as he bore his heavy person up the room towards her. 'Ah!' he went on, as lady Margaret stepped forward to meet him, leading Dorothy by the hand, 'who is this sober young damsel under my wild Irishwoman's wing? Our young cousin Vaughan, doubtless, whose praises my worthy Dr. Bayly has been sounding in my ears?'
He held out his hand to Dorothy, and bade her welcome to Raglan.
The marquis was a man of noble countenance, of the type we are ready to imagine peculiar to the great men of the time of queen Elizabeth. To this his unwieldy person did not correspond, although his movements were still far from being despoiled of that charm which naturally belonged to all that was his. Nor did his presence owe anything to his dress, which was of that long-haired coarse woollen stuff they called frieze, worn, probably, by not another nobleman in the country, and regarded as fitter for a yeoman. His eyes, though he was yet but sixty-five or so, were already hazy, and his voice was husky and a little broken—results of the constantly poor health and frequent suffering he had had for many years; but he carried it all 'with'—to quote the prince of courtesy, sir Philip Sydney—'with a right old man's grace, that will seem livelier than his age will afford him.'