The moment he entered, the sewer in the antechamber at the other end of the room had given a signal to one waiting at the head of the stair leading down to the hall, and his lordship was hardly seated, ere—although the kitchen was at the corner of the pitched court diagonally opposite—he bore the first dish into the room, followed by his assistants, laden each with another.
Lady Margaret made Dorothy sit down by her. A place on her other side was vacant.
'Where is this truant husband of thine, my lady?' asked the marquis, as soon as Dr. Bayly had said grace. 'Know you whether he eats at all, or when, or where? It is now three days since he has filled his place at thy side, yet is he in the castle. Thou knowest, my lady, I deal not with him, who is so soon to sit in this chair, as with another, but I like it not. Know you what occupies him to day?'
'I do not, my lord,' answered lady Margaret. 'I have had but one glimpse of him since the morning, and if he looks now as he looked then, I fear your lordship would be minded rather to drive him from your table than welcome him to a seat beside you.'
As she spoke, lady Margaret caught a glimpse of a peculiar expression on Scudamore's face, where he stood behind his master's chair.
'Your page, my lord,' she said, 'seems to know something of him: if it pleased you to put him to the question—'
'Hey, Scudamore!' said the marquis without turning his head; 'what have you seen of my lord Herbert?'
'As much as could be seen of him, my lord,' answered Scudamore. 'He was new from the powder-mill, and his face and hands were as he had been blown three times up the hall chimney.'
'I would thou didst pay more heed to what is fitting, thou monkey, and knewest either place or time for thy foolish jests! It will be long ere thou soil one of thy white fingers for king or country,' said the marquis, neither angrily nor merrily. 'Get another flask of claret,' he added, 'and keep thy wit for thy mates, boy.'
Dorothy cast one involuntary glance at her cousin. His face was red as fire, but, as it seemed to her, more with suppressed amusement than shame. She had not been much longer in the castle before she learned that, in the opinion of the household, the marquis did his best, or worst rather, to ruin young Scudamore by indulgence. The judgment, however, was partly the product of jealousy, although doubtless the marquis had in his case a little too much relaxed the bonds of discipline. The youth was bright and ready, and had as yet been found trustworthy; his wit was tolerable, and a certain gay naivete of speech and manner set off to the best advantage what there was of it; but his laughter was sometimes mischievous, and on the present occasion Dorothy could not rid herself of the suspicion that he was laughing in his sleeve at his master, which caused her to redden in her turn. Scudamore saw it, and had his own fancies concerning the phenomenon.
THE TWO MARQUISES.
Dinner over, lady Margaret led Dorothy back to her parlour, and there proceeded to discover what accomplishments and capabilities she might possess. Finding she could embroider, play a little on the spinnet, sing a song, and read aloud both intelligibly and pleasantly, she came to the conclusion that the country-bred girl was an acquisition destined to grow greatly in value, should the day ever arrive—which heaven forbid!—when they would have to settle down to the monotony of a protracted siege. Remarking, at length, that she looked weary, she sent her away to be mistress of her time till supper, at half-past five.
Weary in truth with her journey, but still more weary from the multitude and variety of objects, the talk, and the constant demand of the general strangeness upon her attention and one form or other of suitable response, Dorothy sought her chamber. But she scarcely remembered how to reach it. She knew it lay a floor higher, and easily found the stair up which she had followed her attendant, for it rose from the landing of the straight ascent by which she had entered the house. She could hardly go wrong either as to the passage at the top of it, leading back over the room she had just left below, but she could not tell which was her own door. Fearing to open the wrong one, she passed it and went on to the end of the corridor, which was very dimly lighted. There she came to an open door, through which she saw a small chamber, evidently not meant for habitation. She entered. A little light came in through a crossed loophole, sufficient to show her the bare walls, with the plaster sticking out between the stones, the huge beams above, and in the middle of the floor, opposite the loop-hole, a great arblast or crossbow, with its strange machinery. She had never seen one before, but she knew enough to guess at once what it was. Through the loophole came a sweet breath of spring air, and she saw trees bending in the wind, heard their faint far-off rustle, and saw the green fields shining in the sun.
Partly from having been so much with Richard, her only playmate, who was of an ingenious and practical turn, a certain degree of interest in mechanical forms and modes had been developed in Dorothy, sufficient at least to render her unable to encounter such an implement without feeling a strong impulse to satisfy herself concerning its mechanism, its motion, and its action. Approaching it cautiously and curiously, as if it were a live thing, which might start up and fly from, or perhaps at her, for what she knew, she gazed at it for a few moments with eyes full of unuttered questions, then ventured to lay gentle hold upon what looked like a handle. To her dismay, a wheezy bang followed, which seemed to shake the tower. Whether she had discharged an arrow, or an iron bolt, or a stone, or indeed anything at all, she could not tell, for she had not got so far in her observations as to perceive even that the bow was bent. Her heart gave a scared flutter, and she started back, not merely terrified, but ashamed also that she should initiate her life in the castle with meddling and mischief, when a low gentle laugh behind her startled her yet more, and looking round with her heart in her throat, she perceived in the half-light of the place a man by the wall behind the arblast watching her. Her first impulse was to run, and the door was open; but she thought she owed an apology ere she retreated. What sort of person he was she could not tell, for there was not light enough to show a feature of his face.
'I ask your pardon,' she said; 'I fear I have done mischief.'
'Not the least,' returned the man, in a gentle voice, with a tone of amusement in it.
'I had never seen a great cross-bow,' Dorothy went on, anxious to excuse her meddling. 'I thought this must be one, but I was so stupid as not to perceive it was bent, and that that was the—the handle—or do you call it the trigger?—by which you let it go.'
The man, who had at first taken her for one of the maids, had by this time discovered from her tone and speech that she was a lady.
'It is a clumsy old-fashioned thing,' he returned, 'but I shall not remove it until I can put something better in its place; and it would be a troublesome affair to get even a demiculverin up here, not to mention the bad neighbour it would be to the ladies'chambers. I was just making a small experiment with it on the force of springs. I believe I shall yet prove that much may be done with springs—more perhaps, and certainly at far less expense, than with gunpowder, which costs greatly, is very troublesome to make, occupies much space, and is always like an unstable, half- treacherous friend within the gates—to say nothing of the expense of cannon—ten times that of an engine of timber and springs. See what a strong chain your shot has broken! Shall I show you how the thing works?'
He spoke in a gentle, even rapid voice, a little hesitating now and then, more, through the greater part of this long utterance, as if he were thinking to himself than addressing another. Neither his tone nor manner were those of an underling, but Dorothy's startled nerves had communicated their tremor to her modesty, and with a gentle 'No, sir, I thank you; I must be gone,' she hurried away.
Daring now a little more for fear of worse, the first door she tried proved that of her own room, and it was with a considerable sense of relief, as well as with weariness and tremor, that she nestled herself into the high window-seat, and looked out into the quadrangle. The shadow of the citadel had gone to pay its afternoon visit to the other court, and that of the gateway was thrown upon the chapel, partly shrouding the white horse, whose watery music was now silent, but allowing one red ray, which entered by the iron grating above the solid gates, to fall on his head, and warm its cold whiteness with a tinge of delicate pink. The court was more still and silent than in the morning; only now and then would a figure pass from one door to another, along the side of the buildings, or by one of the tiled paths dividing the turf. A large peacock was slowly crossing the shadowed grass with a stately strut and rhythmic thrust of his green neck. The moment he came out into the sunlight, he spread his wheeled fan aloft, and slowly pirouetting, if the word can be allowed where two legs are needful, in the very acme of vanity, turned on all sides the quivering splendour of its hundred eyes, where blue and green burst in the ecstasy of their union into a vapour of gold, that the circle of the universe might see. And truly the bird's vanity had not misled his judgment: it was a sight to make the hearts of the angels throb out a dainty phrase or two more in the song of their thanksgiving. Some pigeons, white, and blue-grey, with a lovely mingling and interplay of metallic lustres on their feathery throats, but with none of that almost grotesque obtrusion of over-driven individuality of kind, in which the graciousness of common beauty is now sacrificed to the whim of the fashion the vulgar fancier initiates, picked up the crumbs under the windows of lady Margaret's nursery, or flew hither and thither among the roofs with wapping and whiffling wing.
But still from the next court came many and various mingling noises. The sounds of drill had long ceased, but those of clanking hammers were heard the more clearly, now one, now two, now several together. The smaller, clearer one was that of the armourer, the others those of the great smithy, where the horse-shoes were made, the horses shod, the smaller pieces of ordnance repaired, locks and chains mended, bolts forged, and, in brief, every piece of metal about the castle, from the cook's skillet to the winches and chains of the drawbridges, set right, renewed, or replaced. The forges were far from where she sat, outside the farthest of the two courts, across which, and the great hall dividing them, the clink, clink, the clank, and the ringing clang, softened by distance and interposition, came musical to her ear. The armourer's hammer was the keener, the quicker, the less intermittent, and yet had the most variations of time and note, as he shifted the piece on his anvil, or changed breastplate for gorget, or greave for pauldron—or it might be sword for pike-head or halbert. Mingled with it came now and then the creak and squeak of the wooden wheel at the draw-well near the hall-door in the farther court, and the muffled splash of the bucket as it struck the water deep in the shaft. She even thought she could hear the drops dripping back from it as it slowly ascended, but that was fancy. Everywhere arose the auricular vapour, as it were, of action, undefined and indefinable, the hum of the human hive, compounded of all confluent noises—the chatter of the servants' hall and the nursery, the stamping of horses, the ringing of harness, the ripping of the chains of kenneled dogs, the hollow stamping of heavy boots, the lowing of cattle, with sounds besides so strange to the ears of Dorothy that they set her puzzling in vain to account for them; not to mention the chaff of the guard-rooms by the gates, and the scolding and clatter of the kitchen. This last, indeed, was audible only when the doors were open, for the walls of the kitchen, whether it was that the builders of it counted cookery second only to life, or that this had been judged, from the nature of the ground outside, the corner of all the enclosure most likely to be attacked, were far thicker than those of any of the other towers, with the one exception of the keep itself.
As she sat listening to these multitudinous exhalations of life around her, yet with a feeling of loneliness and a dim sense of captivity, from the consciousness that huge surrounding walls rose between her and the green fields, of which, from earliest memory, she had been as free as the birds and beetles, a white rabbit, escaped from the arms of its owner, little Mary Somerset, lady Margaret's only child, a merry but delicate girl not yet three years old, suddenly darted like a flash of snow across the shadowy green, followed in hot haste a moment after by a fine-looking boy of thirteen and two younger girls, after whom toddled tiny Mary. Dorothy sat watching the pursuit, accompanied with sweet outcry and frolic laughter, when in a moment the sounds of their merriment changed to shrieks of terror, and she saw a huge mastiff come bounding she knew not whence, and rush straight at the rabbit, fierce and fast. When the little creature saw him, struck with terror it stopped dead, cowered on the sward, and was stock still. But Henry Somerset, who was but a few paces from it, reached it before the dog, and caught it up in his arms. The rush of the dog threw him down, and they rolled over and over, Henry holding fast the poor rabbit.
By this time Dorothy was half-way down the stair: the moment she caught sight of the dog she had flown to the rescue. When she issued from the porch at the foot of the grand staircase, Henry was up again, and running for the house with the rabbit yet safe in his arms, pursued by the mastiff. Evidently the dog had not harmed him—but he might get angry. The next moment she saw, to her joy and dismay both at once, that it was her own dog.
'Marquis! Marquis!' she cried, calling him by his name.
He abandoned the pursuit at once, and went bounding to her. She took him by the back of the neck, and the displeasure manifest upon the countenance of his mistress made him cower at her feet, and wince from the open hand that threatened him. The same instant a lattice window over the gateway was flung open, and a voice said—
'Here I am. Who called me?'
Dorothy looked up. The children had vanished with their rescued darling. There was not a creature in the court but herself, and there was the marquis, leaning half out of the window, and looking about.
'Who called me?' he repeated—angrily, Dorothy thought.
All at once the meaning of it flashed upon her, and she was confounded—ready to sink with annoyance. But she was not one to hesitate when a thing HAD to be done. Keeping her hold of the dog's neck, for his collar was gone, she dragged him half-way towards the gate, then turning up to the marquis a face like a peony, replied—
'I am the culprit, my lord.'
'By St. George! you are a brave damsel, and there is no culpa that I know of, except on the part of that intruding cur.'
'And the cur's mistress, my lord. But, indeed, he is no cur, but a true mastiff.'
'What! is the animal thy property, fair cousin? He is more than I bargained for.'
'He is mine, my lord, but I left him chained when I set out from Wyfern this morning. That he got loose I confess I am not astonished, neither that he tracked me hither, for he has the eyes of a gaze-hound, and the nose of a bloodhound; but it amazes me to find him in the castle.'
'That must be inquired into,' said the marquis.
'I am very sorry he has carried himself so ill, my lord. He has put me to great shame. But he hath more in him than mere brute, and understands when I beg you to pardon him. He misbehaved himself on purpose to be taken to me, for at home no one ever dares punish him but myself.'
The marquis laughed.
'If you are so completely his mistress then, why did you call on me for help?'
'Pardon me, my lord; I did not so.'
'Why, I heard thee call me two or three times!'
'Alas, my lord! I called him Marquis when he was a pup. Everybody about Redware knows Marquis.'
The animal cocked his ears and started each time his name was uttered, and yet seemed to understand well enough that ALL the talk was about him and his misdeeds.
'Ah! ha!' said his lordship, with a twinkle in his eye, 'that begets complications. Two marquises in Raglan? Two kings in England! The thing cannot be. What is to be done?'
'I must take him back, my lord! I cannot send him, for he would not go. I dread they will not be able to hold him chained; in which evil case I fear me I shall have to go, my lord, and take the perils of the time as they come.'
'Not of necessity so, cousin, while you can choose between us;—although I freely grant that a marquis with four legs is to be preferred before a marquis with only two.—But what if you changed his name?'
'I fear it could not be done, my lord. He has been Marquis all his life.'
'And I have been marquis only six months! Clearly he hath the better right—. But there would be constant mistakes between us, for I cannot bring myself to lay aside the honour his majesty hath conferred upon me, "which would be worn now in its newest gloss, not cast aside so soon," as master Shakspere says. Besides, it would be a slight to his majesty, and that must not be thought of—not for all the dogs in parliament or out of it. No—it would breed factions in the castle too. No; one of us two must die.'
'Then, indeed, I must go,' said Dorothy, her voice trembling as she spoke; for although the words of the marquis were merry, she yet feared for her friend.
'Tut! tut! let the older marquis die: he has enjoyed the title; I have not. Give him to Tom Fool: he will drown him in the moat. He shall be buried with honour—under his rival's favourite apple-tree in the orchard. What more could dog desire?'
'No, my lord,' answered Dorothy. 'Will you allow me to take my leave? If I only knew where to find my horse!'
'What! would you saddle him yourself, cousin Vaughan?'
'As well as e'er a knave in your lordship's stables. I am very sorry to displease you, but to my dog's death I cannot and will not consent. Pardon me, my lord.'
The last words brought with them a stifled sob, for she scarcely doubted any more that he was in earnest.
'It is assuredly not gratifying to a marquis of the king's making to have one of a damsel's dubbing take the precedence of him. I fear you are a roundhead and hold by the parliament. But no—that cannot be, for you are willing to forsake your new cousin for your old dog. Nay, alas! it is your old cousin for your young dog. Puritan! puritan! Well, it cannot be helped. But what! you would ride home alone! Evil men are swarming, child. This sultry weather brings them out like flies.'
'I shall not be alone, my lord. Marquis will take good care of me.'
'Indeed, my lord marquis will pledge himself to nothing outside his own walls.'
'I meant the dog, my lord.'
'Ah! you see how awkward it is. However, as you will not choose between us—and to tell the truth, I am not yet quite prepared to die—we must needs encounter what is inevitable. I will send for one of the keepers to take him to the smithy, and get him a proper collar—one he can't slip like that he left at home—and a chain.'
'I must go with him myself, my lord. They will never manage him else.'
'What a demon you have brought into my peaceable house! Go with him, by all means. And mind you choose him a kennel yourself.—You do not desire him in your chamber, do you, mistress?'
Dorothy secretly thought it would be the best place for him, but she was only too glad to have his life spared.
'No, my lord, I thank you,' she said. '—I thank your lordship with all my heart.'
The marquis disappeared from the window. Presently young Scudamore came into the court from the staircase by the gate, and crossed to the hall—in a few minutes returning with the keeper. The man would have taken the dog by the neck to lead him away, but a certain form of canine curse, not loud but deep, and a warning word from Dorothy, made him withdraw his hand.
'Take care, Mr. Keeper,' she said, 'he is dangerous. I will go with him myself, if thou wilt show me whither.'
'As it please you, mistress,' answered the keeper, and led the way across the court.
'Have you not a word to throw at a poor cousin, mistress Dorothy?' said Rowland, when the man was a pace or two in advance.
'No, Mr. Scudamore,' answered Dorothy; 'not until we have first spoken in my lord Worcester's or my lady Margaret's presence.'
Scudamore fell behind, followed her a little way, and somewhere vanished.
Dorothy followed the keeper across the hall, the size of which, its height especially, and the splendour of its windows of stained glass, almost awed her; then across the next court to the foot of the Library Tower forming the south-east corner of it, near the two towers flanking the main entrance. Here a stair led down, through the wall, to a lower level outside, where were the carpenters' and all other workshops, the forges, the stables, and the farmyard buildings.
As it happened, when Dorothy entered the smithy, there was her own little horse being shod, and Marquis and he interchanged a whine and a whinny of salutation, while the men stared at the bright apparition of a young lady in their dingy regions. Having heard her business, the head-smith abandoned everything else to alter an iron collar, of which there were several lying about, to fit the mastiff, the presence of whose mistress proved entirely necessary. Dorothy had indeed to put it on him with her own hands, for at the sound of the chain attached to it he began to grow furious, growling fiercely. When the chain had been made fast with a staple driven into a strong kennel-post, and his mistress proceeded to take her leave of him, his growling changed to the most piteous whining; but when she actually left him there, he flew into a rage of indignant affection. After trying the strength of his chain, however, by three or four bounds, each so furious as to lay him sprawling on his back, he yielded to the inevitable, and sullenly crept into his kennel, while Dorothy walked back to the room which had already begun to seem to her a cell.
THE MAGICIAN'S VAULT.
Dorothy went straight to lady Margaret's parlour, and made her humble apology for the trouble and alarm her dog had occasioned. Lady Margaret assured her that the children were nothing the worse, not having been even much terrified, for the dog had not gone a hair's-breadth beyond rough play. Poor bunny was the only one concerned who had not yet recovered his equanimity. He did not seem positively hurt, she said, but as he would not eat the lovely clover under his nose where he lay in Molly's crib, it was clear that the circulation of his animal spirits had been too rudely checked. Thereupon Dorothy begged to be taken to the nursery, for, being familiar with all sorts of tame animals, she knew rabbits well. As she stood with the little creature in her arms, gently stroking its soft whiteness, the children gathered round her, and she bent herself to initiate a friendship with them, while doing her best to comfort and restore their favourite. Success in the latter object she found the readiest way to the former. Under the sweet galvanism of her stroking hand the rabbit was presently so much better that when she offered him a blade of the neglected clover, the equilateral triangle of his queer mouth was immediately set in motion, the trefoil vanished, and when he was once more placed in the crib he went on with his meal as if nothing had happened. The children were in ecstasies, and cousin Dorothy was from that moment popular and on the way to be something better.
When supper time came, lady Margaret took her again to the dining-room, where there was much laughter over the story of the two marquises, lord Worcester driving the joke in twenty different directions, but so kindly that Dorothy, instead of being disconcerted or even discomposed thereby, found herself emboldened to take a share in the merriment. When the company rose, lady Margaret once more led her to her own room, where, working at her embroidery frame, she chatted with her pleasantly for some time. Dorothy would have been glad if she had set her work also, for she could ill brook doing nothing. Notwithstanding her quietness of demeanour, amounting at times to an appearance of immobility, her nature was really an active one, and it was hard for her to sit with her hands in her lap. Lady Margaret at length perceived her discomfort.
'I fear, my child, I am wearying you,' she said.
'It is only that I want something to do, madam,' said Dorothy.
'I have nothing at hand for you to-night,' returned lady Margaret. 'Suppose we go and find my lord;—I mean my own lord Herbert. I have not seen him since we broke fast together, and you have not seen him at all. I am afraid he must think of leaving home again soon, he seems so anxious to get something or other finished.'
As she spoke, she pushed aside her frame, and telling Dorothy to go and fetch herself a cloak, went into the next room, whence she presently returned, wrapped in a hooded mantle. As soon as Dorothy came, she led her along the corridor to a small lobby whence a stair descended to the court, issuing close by the gate.
'I shall never learn my way about,' said Dorothy. 'If it were only the staircases, they are more than my memory will hold.'
Lady Margaret gave a merry little laugh.
'Harry set himself to count them the other day,' she said. 'I do not remember how many he made out altogether, but I know he said there were at least thirty stone ones.'
Dorothy's answer was an exclamation.
But she was not in the mood to dwell upon the mere arithmetic of vastness. Invaded by the vision of the mighty structure, its aspect rendered yet more imposing by the time which now suited with it, she forgot lady Margaret's presence, and stood still to gaze.
The twilight had deepened half-way into night. There was no moon, and in the dusk the huge masses of building rose full of mystery and awe. Above the rest, the great towers on all sides seemed by indwelling might to soar into the regions of air. The pile stood there, the epitome of the story of an ancient race, the precipitate from its vanished life—a hard core that had gathered in the vaporous mass of history—the all of solid that remained to witness of the past.
She came again to herself with a start. Lady Margaret had stood quietly waiting for her mood to change. Dorothy apologised, but her mistress only smiled and said,
'I am in no haste, child. I like to see another impressed as I was when first I stood just where you stand now. Come, then, I will show you something different.'
She led the way along the southern side of the court until they came to the end of the chapel, opposite which an archway pierced the line of building, and revealed the mighty bulk of the citadel, the only portion of the castle, except the kitchen-tower, continuing impregnable to enlarged means of assault: gunpowder itself, as yet far from perfect in composition and make, and conditioned by clumsy, uncertain, and ill-adjustable artillery, was nearly powerless against walls more than ten feet in thickness.
I have already mentioned that one peculiarity of Raglan was a distinct moat surrounding its keep. Immediately from the outer end of the archway, a Gothic bridge of stone led across this thirty-foot moat to a narrow walk which encompassed the tower. The walk was itself encompassed and divided from the moat by a wall with six turrets at equal distances, surmounted by battlements. At one time the sole entrance to the tower had been by a drawbridge dropping across the walk to the end of the stone bridge, from an arched door in the wall, whose threshold was some ten or twelve feet from the ground; but another entrance had since been made on the level of the walk, and by it the two ladies now entered. Passing the foot of a great stone staircase, they came to the door of what had, before the opening of the lower entrance, been a vaulted cellar, probably at one time a dungeon, at a later period a place of storage, but now put to a very different use, and wearing a stranger aspect than it could ever have borne at any past period of its story—a look indeed of mystery inexplicable.
When Dorothy entered she found herself in a large place, the form of which she could ill distinguish in the dull light proceeding from the chinks about the closed doors of a huge furnace. The air was filled with gurglings and strange low groanings, as of some creature in dire pain. Dorothy had as good nerves as ever woman, yet she could not help some fright as she stood alone by the door and stared into the gloomy twilight into which her companion had advanced. As her eyes became used to the ruddy dusk, she could see better, but everywhere they lighted on shapes inexplicable, whose forms to the first questioning thought suggested instruments of torture; but cruel as some of them looked, they were almost too strange, contorted, fantastical for such. Still, the wood-cuts in a certain book she had been familiar with in childhood, commonly called Fox's Book of Martyrs, kept haunting her mind's eye—and were they not Papists into whose hands she had fallen? she said to herself, amused at the vagaries of her own involuntary suggestions.
Among the rest, one thing specially caught her attention, both from its size and its complicated strangeness. It was a huge wheel standing near the wall, supported between two strong uprights—some twelve or fifteen feet in diameter, with about fifty spokes, from every one of which hung a large weight. Its grotesque and threatful character was greatly increased by the mingling of its one substance with its many shadows on the wall behind it. So intent was she upon it that she started when lady Margaret spoke.
'Why, mistress Dorothy!' she said, 'you look as if you had wandered into St. Anthony's cave! Here is my lord Herbert to welcome his cousin.'
Beside her stood a man rather under the middle stature, but as his back was to the furnace this was about all Dorothy could discover of his appearance, save that he was in the garb of a workman, with bare head and arms, and held in his hand a long iron rod ending in a hook.
'Welcome, indeed, cousin Vaughan!' he said heartily, but without offering his hand, which in truth, although an honest, skilful, and well-fashioned hand, was at the present moment far from fit for a lady's touch.
There was something in his voice not altogether strange to Dorothy, but she could not tell of whom or what it reminded her.
'Are you come to take another lesson on the cross-bow?' he asked with a smile.
Then she knew he was the same she had met in the looped chamber beside the arblast. An occasional slight halt, not impediment, in his speech, was what had remained on her memory. Did he always dwell only in the dusky borders of the light?
Dorothy uttered a little 'Oh!' of surprise, but immediately recovering herself, said,
'I am sorry I did not know it was you, my lord. I might by this time have been capable of discharging bolt or arrow with good aim in defence of the castle.'
'It is not yet too late, I hope,' returned the workman-lord. 'I confess I was disappointed to find your curiosity went no further. I hoped I had at last found a lady capable of some interest in pursuits like mine. For my lady Margaret here, she cares not a straw for anything I do, and would rather have me keep my hands clean than discover the mechanism of the primum mobile!
'Yes, in truth, Ned,' said his wife, 'I would rather have thee with fair hands in my sweet parlour, than toiling and moiling in this dirty dungeon, with no companion but that horrible fire-engine of thine, grunting and roaring all night long.'
'Why, what do you make of Caspar Kaltoff, my lady?'
'I make not much of him.'
'You misjudge his goodfellowship then.'
'Truly, I think not well of him: he always hath secrets with thee, and I like it not.'
'That they are secrets is thine own fault, Peggy. How can I teach thee my secrets if thou wilt not open thine ears to hear them?'
'I would your lordship would teach me!' said Dorothy. 'I might not be an apt pupil, but I should be both an eager and a humble one.'
'By St. Patrick! mistress Dorothy, but you go straight to steal my husband's heart from me. "Humble," forsooth! and "eager" too! Nay! nay! If I have no part in his brain, I can the less yield his heart.'
'What would be gladly learned would be gladly taught, cousin,' said lord Herbert.
'There! there!' exclaimed lady Margaret; 'I knew it would be so. You discharge your poor dull apprentice the moment you find a clever one!'
'And why not? I never was able to teach thee anything.'
'Ah, Ned, there you are unkind indeed!' said lady Margaret, with something in her voice that suggested the water-springs were swelling.
'My shamrock of four!' said her husband in the tenderest tone, 'I but jested with thee. How shouldst thou be my pupil in anything I can teach? I am yours in all that is noble and good. I did not mean to vex you, sweet heart.'
''Tis gone again, Ned,' she answered, smiling. 'Give cousin Dorothy her first lesson.'
'It shall be that, then, to which I sought in vain to make thee listen this very morning—a certain great saying of my lord of Verulam, mistress Dorothy. I had learnt it by heart that I might repeat it word for word to my lady, but she would none of it.'
'May I not hear it, madam?' said Dorothy.
'We will both hear it, Herbert, if you will pardon your foolish wife and admit her to grace.' And as she spoke she laid her hand on his sooty arm.
He answered her only with a smile, but such a one as sufficed.
'Listen then, ladies both,' he said. 'My lord of Verulam, having quoted the words of Solomon, "The glory of God is to conceal a thing, but the glory of the king is to find it out," adds thus, of his own thought concerning them,—"as if," says my lord, "according to the innocent play of children, the divine majesty took delight to hide his works, to the end to have them found out, and as if kings could not obtain a greater honour than to be God's playfellows in that game, considering the great commandment of wits and means, whereby nothing needeth to be hidden from them."'
'That was very well for my lord of—what did'st thou call him, Ned?'
'Francis Bacon, lord Verulam,' returned Herbert, with a queer smile.
'Very well for my lord of Veryflam!' resumed lady Margaret, with a mock, yet bewitching affectation of innocence and ignorance; 'but tell me had he?—nay, I am sure he had not a wild Irishwoman sitting breaking her heart in her bower all day long for his company. He could never else have had the heart to say it.—Mistress Dorothy,' she went on, 'take the counsel of a forsaken wife, and lay it to thy heart: never marry a man who loves lathes and pipes and wheels and water and fire, and I know not what. But do come in ere bed-time, Herbert, and I will sing thee the sweetest of English ditties, and make thee such a sack-posset as never could be made out of old Ireland any more than the song.'
But her husband that moment sprang from her side, and shouting 'Caspar! Caspar!' bounded to the furnace, reached up with his iron rod into the darkness over his head, caught something with the hooked end of it, and pulled hard. A man who from somewhere in the gloomy place had responded like a greyhound to his master's call, did the like on the other side. Instantly followed a fierce, protracted, sustained hiss, and in a moment the place was filled with a white cloud, whence issued still the hideous hiss, changing at length to a roar. Lady Margaret turned in terror, ran out of the keep, and fled across the bridge and through the archway before she slackened her pace. Dorothy followed, but more composedly, led by duty, not driven by terror, and indeed reluctantly forsaking a spot where was so much she did not understand.
They had fled from the infant roar of the 'first stock-father' of steam-engines, whose cradle was that feudal keep, eight centuries old.
That night Dorothy lay down weary enough. It seemed a month since she had been in her own bed at Wyfern, so many new and strange things had crowded into her house, hitherto so still. Every now and then the darkness heaved and rippled with some noise of the night. The stamping of horses, and the ringing of their halter chains, seemed very near her. She thought she heard the howl of Marquis from afar, and said to herself, 'The poor fellow cannot sleep! I must get my lord to let me have him in my chamber.' Then she listened a while to the sweet flow of the water from the mouth of the white horse, which in general went on all night long. Suddenly came an awful sound—like a howl also, but such as never left the throat of dog. Again and again at intervals it came, with others like it but not the same, torturing the dark with a dismal fear. Dorothy had never heard the cry of a wild beast, but the suggestion that these might be such cries, and the recollection that she had heard such beasts were in Raglan Castle, came together to her mind. She was so weary, however, that worse noises than these could hardly have kept her awake; not even her weariness could prevent them from following her into her dreams.
Lord Worcester had taken such a liking to Dorothy, partly at first because of the good store of merriment with which she and her mastiff had provided him, that he was disappointed when he found her place was not to be at his table but the housekeeper's. As he said himself, however, he did not meddle with women's matters, and indeed it would not do for lady Margaret to show her so much favour above her other women, of whom at least one was her superior in rank, and all were relatives as well as herself.
Dorothy did not much relish their society, but she had not much of it except at meals, when, however, they always treated her as an interloper. Every day she saw more or less of lady Margaret, and found in her such sweetness, if not quite evenness of temper, as well as gaiety of disposition, that she learned to admire as well as love her. Sometimes she had her to read to her, sometimes to work with her, and almost every day she made her practise a little on the harpsichord. Hence she not only improved rapidly in performance, but grew capable of receiving more and more delight from music. There was a fine little organ in the chapel, on which blind young Delaware, the son of the marquis's master of the horse, used to play delightfully; and although she never entered the place, she would stand outside listening to his music for an hour at a time in the twilight, or sometimes even after dark. For as yet she indulged without question all the habits of her hitherto free life, as far as was possible within the castle walls, and the outermost of these were of great circuit, enclosing lawns, shrubberies, wildernesses, flower and kitchen gardens, orchards, great fish-ponds, little lakes with fountains, islands, and summer-houses—not to mention the farmyard, and indeed a little park, in which were some of the finest trees upon the estate.
The gentlewomen with whom Dorothy was, by her position in the household, associated, were three in number. One was a rather elderly, rather plain, rather pious lady, who did not insist on her pretensions to either of the epithets. The second was a short, plump, round-faced, good-natured, smiling woman of sixty,—excelling in fasts and mortifications, which somehow seemed to agree with her body as well as her soul. The third was only two or three years older than Dorothy, and was pretty, except when she began to speak, and then for a moment there was a strange discord in her features. She took a dislike to Dorothy, as she said herself, the instant she cast her eyes upon her. She could not bear that prim, set face, she said. The country-bred heifer evidently thought herself superior to every one in the castle. She was persuaded the minx was a sly one, and would carry tales. So judged mistress Amanda Serafina Fuller, after her kind. Nor was it wonderful that, being such as she was, she should recoil with antipathy from one whose nature had a tendency to ripen over soon, and stunt its slow orbicular expansion to the premature and false completeness of a narrow and self-sufficing conscientiousness.
Doubtless if Dorothy had shown any marked acknowledgment of the precedency of their rights—any eagerness to conciliate the aborigines of the circle, the ladies would have been more friendly inclined; but while capable of endless love and veneration, there was little of the conciliatory in her nature. Hence Mrs. Doughty looked upon her with a rather stately, indifference, my lady Broughton with a mild wish to save her poor, proud, protestant soul, and mistress Amanda Serafina said she hated her; but then ever since the Fall there has been a disproportion betwixt the feelings of young ladies and the language in which they represent them. Mrs. Doughty neglected her, and Dorothy did not know it; lady Broughton said solemn things to her, and she never saw the point of them; but when mistress Amanda half closed her eyes and looked at her in snake-Geraldine fashion, she met her with a full, wide-orbed, questioning gaze, before which Amanda's eyes dropped, and she sank full fathom five towards the abyss of real hatred.
During the dinner hour, the three generally talked together in an impregnable manner—not that they were by any means bosom-friends, for two of them had never before united in anything except despising good, soft lady Broughton. When they were altogether in their mistress's presence, they behaved to Dorothy and to each other with studious politeness.
The ladies Elizabeth and Anne, had their gentlewomen also, in all only three, however, who also ate at the housekeeper's table, but kept somewhat apart from the rest—yet were, in a distant way, friendly to Dorothy.
But hers, as we have seen, was a nature far more capable of attaching itself to a few than of pleasing many; and her heart went out to lady Margaret, whom she would have come ere long to regard as a mother, had she not behaved to her more like an elder sister. Lady Margaret's own genuine behaviour had indeed little of the matronly in it; when her husband came into the room, she seemed to grow instantly younger, and her manner changed almost to that of a playful girl. It is true, Dorothy had been struck with the dignity of her manner amid all the frankness of her reception, but she soon found that, although her nature was full of all real dignities, that which belonged to her carriage never appeared in the society of those she loved, and was assumed only, like the thin shelter of a veil, in the presence of those whom she either knew or trusted less. Before her ladies, she never appeared without some restraint—manifest in a certain measuredness of movement, slowness of speech, and choice of phrase; but before a month was over, Dorothy was delighted to find that the reserve instantly vanished when she happened to be left alone with her.
She took an early opportunity of informing her mistress of the relationship between herself and Scudamore, stating that she knew little or nothing of him, having seen him only once before she came to the castle. The youth on his part took the first fitting opportunity of addressing her in lady Margaret's presence, and soon they were known to be cousins all over the castle.
With lady Margaret's help, Dorothy came to a tolerable understanding of Scudamore. Indeed her ladyship's judgment seemed but a development of her own feeling concerning him.
'Rowland is not a bad fellow,' she said, 'but I cannot fully understand whence he comes in such grace with my lord Worcester. If it were my husband now, I should not marvel: he is so much occupied with things and engines, that he has as little time as natural inclination to doubt any one who will only speak largely enough to satisfy his idea. But my lord of Worcester knows well enough that seldom are two things more unlike than men and their words. Yet that is not what I mean to say of your cousin: he is no hypocrite—means not to be false, but has no rule of right in him so far as I can find. He is pleasant company; his gaiety, his quips, his readiness of retort, his courtesy and what not, make him a favourite; and my lord hath in a manner reared him, which goes to explain much. He is quick yet indolent, good-natured but selfish, generous but counting enjoyment the first thing,—though, to speak truth of him, I have never known him do a dishonourable action. But, in a word, the star of duty has not yet appeared above his horizon. Pardon me, Dorothy, if I am severe upon him. More or less I may misjudge him, but this is how I read him; and if you wonder that I should be able so to divide him, I have but to tell you that I should be unapt indeed if I had not yet learned of my husband to look into the heart of both men and things.'
'But, madam,' Dorothy ventured to say, 'have you not even now told me that from very goodness my lord is easily betrayed?'
'Well replied, my child! It is true, but only while he has had no reason to mistrust. Let him once perceive ground for dissatisfaction or suspicion, and his eye is keen as light itself to penetrate and unravel.'
Such good qualities as lady Margaret accorded her cousin were of a sort more fitted to please a less sedate and sober-minded damsel than Dorothy, who was fashioned rather after the model of a puritan than a royalist maiden. Pleased with his address and his behaviour to herself as she could hardly fail to be, she yet felt a lingering mistrust of him, which sprang quite as much from the immediate impression as from her mistress's judgment of him, for it always gave her a sense of not coming near the real man in him. There is one thing a hypocrite even can never do, and that is, hide the natural signs of his hypocrisy; and Rowland, who was no hypocrite, only a man not half so honourable as he chose to take himself for, could not conceal his unreality from the eyes of his simple country cousin. Little, however, did Dorothy herself suspect whence she had the idea,—that it was her girlhood's converse with real, sturdy, honest, straight-forward, simple manhood, in the person of the youth of fiery temper, and obstinate, opinionated, sometimes even rude behaviour, whom she had chastised with terms of contemptuous rebuke, which had rendered her so soon capable of distinguishing between a profound and a shallow, a genuine and an unreal nature, even when the latter comprehended a certain power of fascination, active enough to be recognisable by most of the women in the castle.
Concerning this matter, it will suffice to say that lord Worcester—who ruled his household with such authoritative wisdom that honest Dr. Bayly avers he never saw a better-ordered family—never saw a man drunk or heard an oath amongst his servants, all the time he was chaplain in the castle,—would have been scandalized to know the freedoms his favourite indulged himself in, and regarded as privileged familiarities.
There was much coming and going of visitors—more now upon state business than matters of friendship or ceremony; and occasional solemn conferences were held in the marquis's private room, at which sometimes lord John, who was a personal friend of the king's, and sometimes lord Charles, the governor of the castle, with perhaps this or that officer of dignity in the household, would be present; but whoever was or was not present, lord Herbert when at home was always there, sometimes alone with his father and commissioners from the king. His absences, however, had grown frequent now that his majesty had appointed him general of South Wales, and he had considerable forces under his command—mostly raised by himself, and maintained at his own and his father's expense.
It was some time after Dorothy had twice in one day met him darkling, before she saw him in the light, and was able to peruse his countenance, which she did carefully, with the mingled instinct and insight of curious and thoughtful girlhood. He had come home from a journey, changed his clothes, and had some food; and now he appeared in his wife's parlour—to sun himself a little, he said. When he entered, Dorothy, who was seated at her mistress's embroidery frame, while she was herself busy mending some Flanders lace, rose to leave the room. But he prayed her to be seated, saying gayly,
'I would have you see, cousin, that I am no beast of prey that loves the darkness. I can endure the daylight. Come, my lady, have you nothing to amuse your soldier with? No good news to tell him? How is my little Molly?'
During the conjugal talk that followed, his cousin had good opportunity of making her observations. First she saw a fair, well-proportioned forehead, with eyes whose remarkable clearness looked as if it owed itself to the mingling of manly confidence with feminine trustfulness. They were dark, not very large, but rather prominent, and full of light. His nose was a little aquiline, and perfectly formed. A soft obedient moustache, brushed thoroughly aside, revealed right generous lips, about which hovered a certain sweetness ever ready to break into the blossom of a smile. That and a small tuft below was all the hair he wore upon his face. Rare conjunction, the whole of the countenance was remarkable both for symmetry and expression—the latter mainly a bright intelligence; and if, strangely enough, the predominant sweetness and delicacy at first suggested genius unsupported by practical faculty, there was a plentifulness and strength in the chin which helped to correct the suggestion, and with the brightness and prominence of the eyes and the radiance of the whole, to give a brave, almost bold look to a face which could hardly fail to remind those who knew them of the lovely verses of Matthew Raydon, describing that of sir Philip Sidney:
A sweet attractive kinde of grace, A full assurance given by lookes, Continuall comfort in a face, The lineaments of Gospell-bookes; I trowe that countenance cannot lie Whose thoughts are legible in the eie.
Notwithstanding the disadvantages of the fashion, in the mechanical pursuits to which he had hitherto devoted his life, he wore, like Milton's Adam, his wavy hair down to his shoulders. In his youth, it had been thick and curling; now it was thinner and straighter, yet curled where it lay. His hands were small, with the taper fingers that indicate the artist, while his thumb was that of the artizan, square at the tip, with the first joint curved a good deal back. That they were hard and something discoloured was not for Dorothy to wonder at, when she remembered what she had both heard and seen of his occupations.
I may here mention that what aided Dorothy much in the interpretation of lord Herbert's countenance and the understanding of his character—for it was not on this first observation of him that she could discover all I have now set down—and tended largely to the development of the immense reverence she conceived for him, was what she saw of his behaviour to his father one evening not long after, when, having been invited to the marquis's table, she sat nearly opposite him at supper. With a willing ear and ready smile for every one who addressed him, notably courteous where all were courteous, he gave chief observance, amounting to an almost tender homage, to his father. His thoughts seemed to wait upon him with a fearless devotion. He listened intently to all his jokes, and laughed at them heartily, evidently enjoying them even when they were not very good; spoke to him with profound though easy respect; made haste to hand him whatever he seemed to want, preventing Scudamore; and indeed conducted himself like a dutiful youth, rather than a man over forty. Their confident behaviour, wherein the authority of the one and the submission of the other were acknowledged with co-relative love, was beautiful to behold.
When husband and wife had conferred for a while, the former stretched on a settee embroidered by the skilful hands of the latest-vanished countess, his mother, and the latter seated near him on a narrow tall-backed chair, mending her lace, there came a pause in their low-toned conversation, and his lordship looking up seemed anew to become aware of the presence of Dorothy.
'Well, cousin,' he said, 'how have you fared since we half-saw each other a fortnight ago?'
'I have fared well indeed, my lord, I thank you,' said Dorothy, 'as your lordship may judge, knowing whom I serve. In two short weeks my lady loads me with kindness enough to requite the loyalty of a life.'
'Look you, cousin, that I should believe such laudation of any less than an angel?' said his lordship with mock gravity.
'No, my lord,' answered Dorothy.
There was a moment's pause; then lord Herbert laughed aloud.
'Excellent well, mistress Dorothy!' he cried. 'Thank your cousin, my lady, for a compliment worthy of an Irishwoman.'
'I thank you, Dorothy,' said her mistress; 'although, Irishwoman as I am, my lord hath put me out of love with compliments.'
'When they are true and come unbidden, my lady,' said Dorothy.
'What! are there such compliments, cousin?' said lord Herbert.
'There are birds of Paradise, my lord, though rarely encountered.'
'Birds of Paradise indeed! they alight not in this world. Birds of Paradise have no legs, they say.
'They need them not, my lord. Once alighted, they fly no more.'
'How is it then they alight so seldom?'
'Because men shoo them away. One flew now from my heart to seek my lady's, but your lordship frighted it.'
'And so it flew back to Paradise—eh, mistress Dorothy?' said lord Herbert, smiling archly.
The supper bell rang, and instead of replying, Dorothy looked up for her dismissal.
'Go to supper, my lady,' said lord Herbert. 'I have but just dined, and will see what Caspar is about.'
'I want no supper but my Herbert,' returned lady Margaret. 'Thou wilt not go to that hateful workshop?'
'I have so little time at home now—'
'That you must spend it from your lady?—Go to supper, Dorothy.'
HUSBAND AND WIFE
'What an old-fashioned damsel it is!' said lord Herbert when Dorothy had left the room.
'She has led a lonely life,' answered lady Margaret, 'and has read a many old-fashioned books.'
'She seems a right companion for thee, Peggy, and I am glad of it, for I shall be much from thee—more and more, I fear, till this bitter weather be gone by.'
'Alas, Ned! hast thou not been more than much from me already? Thou wilt certainly be killed, though thou hast not yet a scratch on thy blessed body. I would it were over and all well!'
'So would I—and heartily, dear heart! In very truth I love fighting as little as thou. But it is a thing that hath to be done, though small honour will ever be mine therefrom, I greatly fear me. It is one of those affairs in which liking goes farther than goodwill, and as I say, I love it not, only to do my duty. Hence doubtless it comes that no luck attends me. God knows I fear nothing a man ought not to fear—he is my witness—but what good service of arms have I yet rendered my king? It is but thy face, Peggy, that draws the smile from me. My heart is heavy. See how my rascally Welsh yielded before Gloucester, when the rogue Waller stole a march upon them—and I must be from thence! Had I but been there instead of at Oxford, thinkest thou they would have laid down their arms nor struck a single blow? I like not killing, but I can kill, and I can be killed. Thou knowest, sweet wife, thy Ned would not run.'
'Holy mother!' exclaimed lady Margaret.
'But I have no good luck at fighting,' he went on. 'And how again at Monmouth, the hare-hearts with which I had thought to garrison the place fled at the bare advent of that same parliament beagle, Waller! By St. George! it were easier to make an engine that should mow down a thousand brave men with one sweep of a scythe-and I could make it-than to put courage into the heart of one runaway rascal. It makes me mad to think how they have disgraced me!'
'But Monmouth is thine own again, Herbert!'
'Yes-thanks to the love they bear my father, not to my generalship! Thy husband is a poor soldier, Peggy: he cannot make soldiers.'
'Then why not leave the field to others, and labour at thy engines, love? If thou wilt, I tell thee what-I will doff my gown, and in wrapper and petticoat help thee, sweet. I will to it with bare arms like thine own.'
'Thou wouldst like Una make a sunshine in the shady place, Margaret. But no. Poor soldier as I am, I will do my best, even where good fortune fails me, and glory awaits not my coming. Thou knowest that at fourteen days' warning I brought four thousand foot and eight hundred horse again to the siege of Gloucester. It would ill befit my father's son to spare what he can when he is pouring out his wealth like water at the feet of his king. No, wife; the king shall not find me wanting, for in serving my king, I serve my God; and if I should fail, it may hold that an honest failure comes nigh enough a victory to be set down in the chronicles of the high countries. But in truth it presses on me sorely, and I am troubled at heart that I should be so given over to failure.'
'Never heed it, my lord. The sun comes out clear at last maugre all the region fogs.'
'Thanks, sweet heart! Things do look up a little in the main, and if the king had but a dozen more such friends as my lord marquis, they would soon be well. Why, my dove of comfort, wouldst thou believe it?-I did this day, as I rode home to seek thy fair face, I did count up what sums he hath already spent for his liege; and indeed I could not recollect them all, but I summed up, of pounds already spent by him on his majesty's behalf, well towards a hundred and fifty thousand! And thou knowest the good man, that while he giveth generously like the great Giver, he giveth not carelessly, but hath respect to what he spendeth.'
'Thy father, Ned, is loyalty and generosity incarnate. If thou be but half so good a husband as thy father is a subject, I am a happy woman.'
'What! know'st thou not yet thy husband, Peggy?'
'In good soberness, though, Ned, surely the saints in heaven will never let such devotion fail of its end.'
'My father is but one, and the king's foes are many. So are his friends-but they are lukewarm compared to my father-the rich ones of them, I mean. Would to God I had not lost those seven great troop-horses that the pudding-fisted clothiers of Gloucester did rob me of! I need them sorely now. I bought them with mine own-or rather with thine, sweet heart. I had been saving up the money for a carcanet for thy fair neck.'
'So my neck be fair in thine eyes, my lord, it may go bare and be well clad. I should, in sad earnest, be jealous of the pretty stones didst thou give my neck one look the more for their presence. Here! thou may'st sell these the next time thou goest London-wards.'
As she spoke, she put up her hand to unclasp her necklace of large pearls, but he laid his hand upon it, saying,
'Nay, Margaret, there is no need. My father is like the father in the parable: he hath enough and to spare. I did mean to have the money of him again, only as the vaunted horses never came, but were swallowed up of Gloucester, as Jonah of the whale, and have not yet been cast up again, I could not bring my tongue to ask him for it; and so thy neck is bare of emeralds, my dove.'
'Back and sides go bare, go bare,'
sang lady Margaret with a merry laugh;
'Both foot and hand go cold;'
here she paused for a moment, and looked down with a shining thoughtfulness; then sang out clear and loud, with bold alteration of bishop Stills' drinking song,
'But, heart, God send thee love enough, Of the new that will never be old.'
'Amen, my dove!'said lord Herbert.
'Thou art in doleful dumps, Ned. If we had but a masque for thee, or a play, or even some jugglers with their balls!'
'Puh, Peggy! thou art masque and play both in one; and for thy jugglers, I trust I can juggle better at my own hand than any troop of them from furthest India. Sing me a song, sweet heart.'
'I will, my love,' answered lady Margaret.
Rising, she went to the harpsichord, and sang, in sweet unaffected style, one of the songs of her native country, a merry ditty, with a breathing of sadness in the refrain of it, like a twilight wind in a bed of bulrushes.
'Thanks, my love,' said lord Herbert, when she had finished. 'But I would I could tell its hidden purport; for I am one of those who think music none the worse for carrying with it an air of such sound as speaks to the brain as well as the heart.'
Lady Margaret gave a playful sigh.
'Thou hast one fault, my Edward—thou art a stranger to the tongue in which, through my old nurse's tales, I learned the language of love. I cannot call it my mother-tongue, but it is my love-tongue. Why, when thou art from me, I am loving thee in Irish all day long, and thou never knowest what my heart says to thee! It is a sad lack in thy all-completeness, dear heart. But, I bethink me, thy new cousin did sing a fair song in thy own tongue the other day, the which if thou canst understand one straw better than my Irish, I will learn it for thy sake, though truly it is Greek to me. I will send for her. Shall I?'
As she spoke she rose and rang the bell on the table, and a little page, in waiting in the antechamber, appeared, whom she sent to desire the attendance of mistress Dorothy Vaughan.
'Come, child,' said her mistress as she entered, 'I would have thee sing to my lord the song that wandering harper taught thee.'
'Madam, I have learned of no wandering harper: your ladyship means mistress Amanda's Welsh song! shall I call her?' said Dorothy, disappointed.
'I mean thee, and thy song, thou green linnet!' rejoined lady Margaret. 'What song was it of which I said to thee that the singer deserved, for his very song's sake, that whereof he made his moan? Whence thou hadst it, from harper or bagpiper, I care not.'
'Excuse me, madam, but why should I sing that you love not to hear?'
'It is not I would hear it, child, but I would have my lord hear it. I would fain prove to him that there are songs in plain English, as he calls it, that have as little import, even to an English ear, as the plain truth-speaking Irish ditties which he will not understand. I say "WILL not," because our bards tell us that Irish was the language of Adam and Eve while yet in Paradise, and therefore he could by instinct understand it an' he would, even as the chickens understand their mother-tongue.'
'I will sing it at your desire, madam; but I fear the worse fault will lie in the singing.'
She seated herself at the harpsichord, and sang the following song with much feeling and simplicity. The refrain of the song, if it may be so called, instead of closing each stanza, preluded it.
O fair, O sweet, when I do look on thee, In whom all joys so well agree, Heart and soul do sing in me. This you hear is not my tongue, Which once said what I conceived, For it was of use bereaved, With a cruel answer stung. No, though tongue to roof be cleaved, Fearing lest he chastis'd be, Heart and soul do sing in me.
O fair, O sweet, &c. Just accord all music makes: In thee just accord excelleth, Where each part in such peace dwelleth, One of other beauty takes. Since then truth to all minds telleth That in thee lives harmony, Heart and soul do sing in me.
O fair, O sweet, &c. They that heaven have known, do say That whoso that grace obtaineth To see what fair sight there reigneth, Forced is to sing alway; So then, since that heaven remaineth In thy face, I plainly see, Heart and soul do sing in me.
O fair, O sweet, &c. Sweet, think not I am at ease, For because my chief part singeth; This song from death's sorrow springeth, As to Swan in last disease; For no dumbness nor death bringeth Stay to true love's melody: Heart and soul do sing in me.
'There!' cried lady Margaret, with a merry laugh. 'What says the English song to my English husband?'
'It says much, Margaret,' returned lord Herbert, who had been listening intently; 'it tells me to love you for ever.-What poet is he who wrote the song, mistress Dorothy? He is not of our day-that I can tell but too plainly. It is a good song, and saith much.'
'I found it near the end of the book called "The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia,"' replied Dorothy.
'And I knew it not! Methought I had read all that man of men ever wrote,' said lord Herbert. 'But I may have read it, and let it slip. But now that, by the help of the music and thy singing, cousin Dorothy, I am come to understand it, truly I shall forget it no more. Where got'st thou the music, pray?'
'It says in the book it was fitted to a certain Spanish tune, the name of which I knew not, and yet know not how to pronounce; but I had the look of the words in my head, and when I came upon some Spanish songs in an old chest at home, and, turning them over, saw those words, I knew I had found the tune to sir Philip's verses.'
'Tell me then, my lord, why you are pleased with the song,' said lady Margaret, very quietly.
'Come, mistress Dorothy,' said lord Herbert, 'repeat the song to my lady, slowly, line by line, and she will want no exposition thereon.'
When Dorothy had done as he requested, lady Margaret put her arm round her husband's neck, laid her cheek to his, and said,
'I am a goose, Ned. It is a fair and sweet song. I thank you, Dorothy. You shall sing it to me another time when my lord is away, and I shall love to think my lord was ill content with me when I called it a foolish thing. But my Irish was a good song too, my lord.'
'Thy singing of it proves it, sweet heart.—But come, my fair minstrel, thou hast earned a good guerdon: what shall I give thee in return for thy song?'
'A boon, a boon, my lord!' cried Dorothy.
'It is thine ere thou ask it,' returned his lordship, merrily following up the old-fashioned phrase with like formality.
'I must then tell my lord what hath been in my foolish mind ever since my lady took me to the keep, and I saw his marvellous array of engines. I would glady understand them, my lord. Who can fail to delight in such inventions as bring about that which before seemed impossible?'
Here came a little sigh with the thought of her old companion Richard, and the things they had together contrived. Already, on the mist of gathering time, a halo had begun to glimmer about his head, puritan, fanatic, blasphemer even, as she had called him.
Lord Herbert marked the soundless sigh.
'You shall not sigh in vain, mistress Dorothy,' he said, 'for anything I can give you. To one who loves inventions it is easy to explain them. I hoped you had a hankering that way when I saw you look so curiously at the cross-bow ere you discharged it.'
'Was it then charged, my lord?'
'Indeed, as it happened, it was. A great steel-headed arrow lay in the groove. I ought to have taken that away when I bent it. Some passing horseman may have carried it with him in the body of his plunging steed.'
'Oh, my lord!' cried Dorothy, aghast.
'Pray, do not be alarmed, cousin: I but jested. Had anything happened, we should have heard of it. It was not in the least likely. You will not be long in this house before you learn that we do not speak by the card here. We jest not a little. But in truth I was disappointed when I found your curiosity so easily allayed.'
'Indeed, my lord, it was not allayed, and is still unsatisfied. But I had no thought who it was offered me the knowledge I craved. Had I known, I should never have refused the lesson so courteously offered. But I was a stranger in the castle, and I thought-I feared I'
'You did even as prudence required, cousin Dorothy. A young maiden cannot be too chary of unbuckling her enchanted armour so long as the country is unknown to her. But it would be hard if she were to suffer for her modesty. You shall be welcome to my cave. I trust you will not find it as the cave of Trophonius to you. If I am not there-and it is not now as it has been, when you might have found me in it every day, and almost every hour of the day; but if I be not there, do not fear Caspar Kaltoff, who is a worthy man, and as my right hand to do the things my brain deviseth. I will speak to him of thee. He is full of trust and worthiness, and, although not of gentle blood, is sprung from a long race of artificers, the cloak of whose gathered skill seems to have fallen on him. He hath been in my service now for many years, but you will be the first lady, gentle cousin, who has ever in all that time wished us good speed in our endeavours. How few know,' he went on thoughtfully, after a pause, 'what a joy lies in making things obey thoughts! in calling out of the mind, as from the vasty-deep, and setting in visible presence before the bodily eye, that which till then had neither local habitation nor name! Some such marvels I have to show—for marvels I must call them, although it is my voice they have obeyed to come; and I never lose sight of the marvel even while amusing myself with the merest toy of my own invention.'
He paused, and Dorothy ventured to speak.
'I thank you, my lord, with all my heart. When have I leave to visit those marvels?'
'When you please. If I am not there, Caspar will be. If Caspar is not there, you will find the door open, for to enter that chamber without permission would be a breach of law such as not a soul in Raglan would dare be guilty of. And were it not so, there are few indeed in the place who would venture to set foot in it if I were absent, for it is not outside the castle walls only that I am looked upon as a magician. The armourer firmly believes that with a word uttered in my den there, I could make the weakest wall of the castle impregnable, but that it would be at too great a cost. If you come to-morrow morning you will find me almost certainly. But in case you should find neither of us—do not touch anything; be content with looking—for fear of mischance. Engines are as tickle to meddle with as incantations them selves.'
'If I know myself, you may trust me, my lord,' said Dorothy, to which he replied with a smile of confidence.
There was much about the castle itself to interest Dorothy. She had already begun the attempt to gather a clear notion of its many parts and their relations, but the knowledge of the building could not well advance more rapidly than her acquaintance with its inmates, for little was to be done from the outside alone, and she could not bear to be met in strange places by strange people. So that part of her education-I use the word advisedly, for to know all about the parts of an old building may do more for the education of minds of a certain stamp than the severest course of logic-must wait upon time and opportunity.
Every day, often twice, sometimes thrice, she would visit the stable-yard, and have an interview first with the chained Marquis, and then with her little horse. After that she would seldom miss looking in at the armourer's shop, and spending a few minutes in watching him at his work, so that she was soon familiar with all sorts of armour favoured in the castle. The blacksmiths' and the carpenters' shops were also an attraction to her, and it was not long before she knew all the artisans about the place. There were the farm and poultry yards too, with which kinds of place she was familiar—especially with their animals and all their ways. The very wild beasts in their dens in the solid basement of the kitchen tower—a panther, two leopards, an ounce, and a toothless old lion had already begun to know her a little, for she never went near their cages without carrying them something to eat. For all these visits there was plenty of room, lady Margaret never requiring much of her time in the early part of the day, and finding the reports she brought of what was going on always amusing. And now the orchards and gardens would soon be inviting, for the heart of the world was already sending up its blood to dye the apple blossoms.
But all the opportunities she yet had were less than was needful for the development of such a mind as Dorothy's, which, powerful in itself, needed to be roused, and was slow in its movements except when excited by a quick succession of objects, or the contact of a kindred but busier nature. It was lacking not only in generative, but in self-moving energy. Of self-sustaining force she had abundance.
There was a really fine library in the castle, to which she had free access, and whence, now and then, lady Margaret would make her bring a book from which to read aloud, while she and her other ladies were at work; but books were not enough to rouse Dorothy, and when inclined to read she would return too exclusively to what she already knew, making little effort to extend her gleaning-ground.
From this fragment of analysis it will be seen that the new resource thus opened to her might prove of more consequence than, great as were her expectations from it, she was yet able to anticipate. But infinitely greater good than any knowledge of his mechanical triumphs could bring her, was on its way to Dorothy along the path of growing acquaintance with the noble-minded inventor himself.
The next morning, then, she was up before the sun, and, sitting at her window, awaited his arrival. The moment he shone upon the gilded cock of the bell tower, she rose and hastened out, eager to taste of the sweets promised her; stood a moment to gaze on the limpid stream ever flowing from the mouth of the white horse, and wonder whence that and the whale-spouts he so frequently sent aloft from his nostrils came; then passing through the archway and over the bridge, found herself at the magician's door. For a moment she hesitated: from within came such a tumult of hammering, that plainly it was of no use to knock, and she could not at once bring herself to enter unannounced and uninvited. But confidence in lord Herbert soon aroused her courage, and gently she opened the door and peeped in. There he stood, in a linen frock that reached from his neck to his knees, already hard at work at a small anvil on a bench, while Caspar was still harder at work at a huge anvil on the ground in front of a forge. This, with the mighty bellows attached to it, occupied one of the six sides of the room, and the great roaring, hissing thing that had so frightened lady Margaret, now silent and cold, occupied another. Neither of the men saw her. So she entered, closed the door, and approached lord Herbert, but he continued unaware of her presence until she spoke. Then he ceased his hammering, turned, and greeted her with his usual smile of sincerity absolute.
'Are you always as true to your appointments, cousin?' he said, and resumed his hammering.
'It was hardly an appointment, my lord, and yet here I am,' said Dorothy.
'And you mean to infer that——?'
'An appointment is no slight matter, my lord, or one that admits of breaking.'
'Right,' returned his lordship, still hammering at the thin plate of whitish metal growing thinner and thinner under his blows. Dorothy glanced around her for a moment.
'I would not be troublesome, my lord,' she said; 'but would you tell me in a few words what it is you make here?'
'Had I three tongues, and thou three ears,' answered lord Herbert, 'I could not. But look round thee, cousin, and when thou spiest the thing that draws thine eye more than another, ask me concerning that, and I will tell thee.'
Hardly had Dorothy, in obedience, cast her eyes about the place, ere they lighted on the same huge wheel which had before chiefly attracted her notice.
'What is that great wheel for, with such a number of weights hung to it?' she asked.
'For a memorial,' replied lord Herbert, 'of the folly of the man who placeth his hopes in man. That wonderful engine; it is now nearly three years since I showed it to his blessed majesty in the Tower of London, also with him to the dukes of Richmond and Hamilton, and two extraordinary ambassadors besides, but of them all no man hath ever sought to look upon it again. It is a form of the Proteus-like perpetuum mobile-a most incredible thing if not seen.'
He then proceeded to show her how, as every spoke passed the highest point, the weight attached to it immediately hung a foot farther from the centre of the wheel, and as every spoke passed the lowest point, its weight returned a foot nearer to the centre, thus causing the leverage to be greater always on one and the same side of the wheel. Few of my readers will regret so much as myself that I am unable to give them the constructive explanation his lordship gave Dorothy as to the shifting of the weights. Whether she understood it or not, I cannot tell either, but that is of less consequence. Before she left the workshop that morning, she had learned that a thousand knowledges are needed to build up the pyramid on whose top alone will the bird of knowledge lay her new egg.
When he had finished his explanation, lord Herbert returned to his work, leaving Dorothy again to her own observations. And now she would gladly have questioned him about the huge mass of brick and iron, which, now standing silent, cold, and motionless as death, had that night seemed alive with the fierce energy of flame, and yet sorely driven, sighing, and groaning, and furiously hissing; but as it was not now at work, she thought it would be better to wait an opportunity when it should be in the agony of its wrestle with whatever unseen enemy it coped withal. She did not know that, the first of its race, it was not quite equal to the task the magician had imposed upon it, but that its descendants would at length become capable of doing a thousand times as much, with the swinging joy of conscious might, with the pant of the giant, not the groan of the overtasked stripling urging his last effort.
She was standing by a chest, examining the strangely elaborate and mysterious-looking scutcheon of its lock, when his lordship's hammering ceased, and presently she found that he was by her side.
'That escutcheon is the best thing of the kind I have yet made,' he said. 'A humour I have, never to be contented to produce any invention the second time, without appearing refined. The lock and key of this are in themselves a marvel, for the little triangle screwed key weighs no more than a shilling, and yet it bolts and unbolts an hundred bolts through fifty staples round about the chest, and as many more from both sides and ends, and at the self- same time shall fasten it to a place beyond a man's natural strength to take it away. But the best thing is the escutcheon; for the owner of it, though a woman, may with her own delicate hand vary the ways of coming to open the lock ten millions of times, beyond the knowledge of the smith that made it, or of me who invented it. If a stranger open it, it setteth an alarm agoing, which the stranger cannot stop from running out; and besides, though none should .be within hearing, yet it catcheth his hand, as a trap doth a fox; and though far from maiming him, yet it leaveth such a mark behind it, as will discover him if suspected; the escutcheon or lock plainly showing what moneys he hath taken out of the box to a farthing, and how many times opened since the owner hath been at it.'
He then showed her how to set it, left the chest open, and gave her the key off his bunch that she might use it more easily. Ere she returned it, she had made herself mistress of the escutcheon as far as the mere working of it was concerned, as she proved to the satisfaction of the inventor.
Her docility and quickness greatly pleased him. He opened a cabinet, and after a search in its drawers, took from it a little thing, in form and colour like a plum, which he gave her, telling her to eat it. She saw from his smile that there was something at the back of the playful request, and for a moment hesitated, but reading in his countenance that he wished her at least to make the attempt, she put it in her mouth.
She was gagged. She could neither open nor shut her mouth a hair's breadth, could neither laugh, cry out, nor make any noise beyond an ugly one she would not make twice. The tears came into her eyes, for her position was ludicrous, and she imagined that his lordship was making game of her. A girl less serious or more merry would have been moved only to laughter.
But lord Herbert hastened to relieve her. On the application of a tiny key, fixed with a joint in a finger-ring, the little steel bolts it had thrown out in every direction returned within the plum, and he drew it from her mouth.
'You little fool!' he said, with indescribable sweetness, for he saw the tears in her eyes; 'did you think I would hurt you? '
'No, my lord; but I did fear you were going to make game of me. I could not have borne Caspar to see me so.'
'Alas, my poor child!' he rejoined, 'you have come to the wrong house if you cannot put up with a little chafing. There!' he added, putting the plum in her hand, 'it is an untoothsome thing, but the moment may come when you will find it useful enough to repay you for the annoyance of a smile that had in it ten times more friendship than merriment.'
'I ask your pardon, my lord,' said Dorothy, by this time blushing deep with shame of her mistrust and over-sensitiveness, and on the point of crying downright. But his lordship smiled so kindly that she took heart and smiled again.
He then showed her how to raise the key hid in the ring, and how to unlock the plum.
'Do not try it on yourself,' he said, as he put the ring on her finger; 'you might find that awkward.'
'Be sure I shall avoid it, my lord,' returned Dorothy.
'And do not let any one know you have such a thing,' he said, 'or that there is a key in your ring.'
'I will try not, my lord.'
The breakfast bell rang.
'If you will come again after supper,' he said, as he pulled off his linen frock, 'I will show you my fire-engine at work, and tell you all that is needful to the understanding thereof;—only you must not publish it to the world,' he added, 'for I mean to make much gain by my invention.'
Dorothy promised, and they parted—lord Herbert for the marquis's parlour, Dorothy for the housekeeper's room, and Caspar for the third table in the great hall.
After breakfast Dorothy practised with her plum until she could manage it with as much readiness as ease. She found that it was made of steel, and that the bolts it threw out upon the slightest pressure were so rounded and polished that they could not hurt, while nothing but the key would reduce them again within their former sheath.
END OF VOLUME I.
START OF VOLUME II
As soon as supper was over in the housekeeper's room, Dorothy sped to the keep, where she found Caspar at work.
'My lord is not yet from supper, mistress,' he said. 'Will it please you wait while he comes?'
Had it been till midnight, so long as there was a chance of his appearing, Dorothy would have waited. Caspar did his best to amuse her, and succeeded,—showing her one curious thing after another,—amongst the rest a watch that seemed to want no winding after being once set agoing, but was in fact wound up a little by every opening of the case to see the dial. All the while the fire-engine was at work on its mysterious task, with but now and then a moment's attention from Caspar, a billet of wood or a shovelful of sea-coal on the fire, a pull at a cord, or a hint from the hooked rod. The time went rapidly.