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Rookwood
by William Harrison Ainsworth
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"Odsbodikins!" exclaimed Titus, "a noble reward! I should like to lay hands upon Turpin," added he, slapping Palmer's shoulder: "I wish he were in your place at this moment, Jack."

"Thank you!" replied Palmer, shifting his chair.

"'Turpin,'" continued Coates, "'was born at Thacksted, in Essex; is about thirty'—you, sir, I believe, are about thirty?" added he, addressing Palmer.

"Thereabouts," said Jack, bluffly. "But what has my age to do with that of Turpin?"

"Nothing—nothing at all," answered Coates; "suffer me, however, to proceed:—'Is by trade a butcher,'—you, sir, I believe, never had any dealings in that line?"

"I have some notion how to dispose of a troublesome calf," returned Jack. "But Turpin, though described as a butcher, is, I understand, a lineal descendant of a great French archbishop of the same name."

"Who wrote the chronicles of that royal robber Charlemagne; I know him," replied Coates—"a terrible liar!—The modern Turpin 'is about five feet nine inches high'—exactly your height, sir—exactly!"

"I am five feet ten," answered Jack, standing bolt upright.

"You have an inch, then, in your favor," returned the unperturbed attorney, deliberately proceeding with his examination—"'he has a brown complexion, marked with the smallpox.'"

"My complexion is florid—my face without a seam," quoth Jack.

"Those whiskers would conceal anything," replied Coates, with a grin. "Nobody wears whiskers nowadays, except a highwayman."

"Sir!" said Jack, sternly. "You are personal."

"I don't mean to be so," replied Coates; "but you must allow the description tallies with your own in a remarkable manner. Hear me out, however—'his cheek bones are broad—his face is thinner towards the bottom—his visage short—pretty upright—and broad about the shoulders.' Now I appeal to Mr. Tyrconnel if all this does not sound like a portrait of yourself."

"Don't appeal to me," said Titus, hastily, "upon such a delicate point. I can't say that I approve of a gentleman being likened to a highwayman. But if ever there was a highwayman I'd wish to resemble, it's either Redmond O'Hanlon or Richard Turpin; and may the devil burn me if I know which of the two is the greater rascal!"

"Well, Mr. Palmer," said Coates, "I repeat, I mean no offence. Likenesses are unaccountable. I am said to be like my Lord North; whether I am or not, the Lord knows. But if ever I meet with Turpin I shall bear you in mind—he—he! Ah! if ever I should have the good luck to stumble upon him, I've a plan for his capture which couldn't fail. Only let me get a glimpse of him, that's all. You shall see how I'll dispose of him."

"Well, sir, we shall see," observed Palmer. "And for your own sake, I wish you may never be nearer to him than you are at this moment. With his friends, they say Dick Turpin can be as gentle as a lamb; with his foes, especially with a limb of the law like yourself, he's been found but an ugly customer. I once saw him at Newmarket, where he was collared by two constable culls, one on each side. Shaking off one, and dealing the other a blow in the face with his heavy-handled whip, he stuck spurs into his mare, and though the whole field gave chase, he distanced them all, easily."

"And how came you not to try your pace with him, if you were there, as you boasted a short time ago?" asked Coates.

"So I did, and stuck closer to him than any one else. We were neck and neck. I was the only person who could have delivered him to the hands of justice, if I'd felt inclined."

"Zounds!" cried Coates; "If I had a similar opportunity, it should be neck or nothing. Either he or I should reach the scragging-post first. I'd take him, dead or alive."

"You take Turpin?" cried Jack, with a sneer.

"I'd engage to do it," replied Coates. "I'll bet you a hundred guineas I take him, if I ever have the same chance."

"Done!" exclaimed Jack, rapping the table at the same time, so that the glasses danced upon it.

"That's right," cried Titus. "I'll go you halves."

"What's the matter—what's the matter?" exclaimed Small, awakened from his doze.

"Only a trifling bet about a highwayman," replied Titus.

"A highwayman!" echoed Small. "Eh! what? there are none in the house, I hope."

"I hope not," answered Coates. "But this gentleman has taken up the defence of the notorious Dick Turpin in so singular a manner, that——"

"Quod factu f[oe]dum est, idem est et Dictu Turpe," returned Small. "The less said about that rascal the better."

"So I think," replied Jack. "The fact is as you say, sir—were Dick here, he would, I am sure, take the freedom to hide 'em."

Further discourse was cut short by the sudden opening of the door, followed by the abrupt entrance of a tall, slender young man, who hastily advanced towards the table, around which the company were seated. His appearance excited the utmost astonishment in the whole group: curiosity was exhibited in every countenance—the magnum remained poised midway in the hand of Palmer—Dr. Small scorched his thumb in the bowl of his pipe; and Mr. Coates was almost choked, by swallowing an inordinate whiff of vapor.

"Young Sir Ranulph!" ejaculated he, as soon as the syncope would permit him.

"Sir Ranulph here?" echoed Palmer, rising.

"Angels and ministers!" exclaimed Small.

"Odsbodikins!" cried Titus, with a theatrical start; "this is more than I expected."

"Gentlemen," said Ranulph, "do not let my unexpected arrival here discompose you. Dr. Small, you will excuse the manner of my greeting; and you, Mr. Coates. One of the present party, I believe, was my father's medical attendant, Dr. Tyrconnel."

"I had that honor," replied the Irishman, bowing profoundly—"I am Dr. Tyrconnel, Sir Ranulph, at your service."

"When, and at what hour, did my father breathe his last, sir?" inquired Ranulph.

"Poor Sir Piers," answered Titus, again bowing, "departed this life on Thursday last."

"The hour?—the precise minute?" asked Ranulph, eagerly.

"Troth, Sir Ranulph, as nearly as I can recollect, it might be a few minutes before midnight."

"The very hour!" exclaimed Ranulph, striding towards the window. His steps were arrested as his eye fell upon the attire of his father, which, as we have before noticed, hung at that end of the room. A slight shudder passed over his frame. There was a momentary pause, during which Ranulph continued gazing intently at the apparel. "The very dress, too!" muttered he; then turning to the assembly, who were watching his movements with surprise; "Doctor," said he, addressing Small, "I have something for your private ear. Gentlemen, will you spare us the room for a few minutes?"

"On my conscience," said Tyrconnel to Jack Palmer, as they quitted the sanctum, "a mighty fine boy is this young Sir Ranulph!—and a chip of the ould block!—he'll be as good a fellow as his father."

"No doubt," replied Palmer, shutting the door. "But what the devil brought him back, just in the nick of it?"



CHAPTER X

RANULPH ROOKWOOD

Fer. Yes, Francisco, He hath left his curse upon me.

Fran. How?

Fer. His curse I dost comprehend what that word carries? Shot from a father's angry breath? Unless I tear poor Felisarda from my heart, He hath pronounced me heir to all his curses.

SHIRLEY: The Brothers.

"There is nothing, I trust, my dear young friend, and quondam pupil," said Dr. Small, as the door was closed, "that weighs upon your mind, beyond the sorrow naturally incident to an affliction, severe as the present. Forgive my apprehensions if I am wrong. You know the affectionate interest I have ever felt for you—an interest which, I assure you, is nowise diminished, and which will excuse my urging you to unburden your mind to me; assuring yourself, that whatever may be your disclosure, you will have my sincere sympathy and commiseration. I may be better able to advise with you, should counsel be necessary, than others, from my knowledge of your character and temperament. I would not anticipate evil, and am, perhaps, unnecessarily apprehensive. But I own, I am startled at the incoherence of your expressions, coupled with your sudden and almost mysterious appearance at this distressing conjuncture. Answer me: has your return been the result of mere accident? is it to be considered one of those singular circumstances which almost look like fate, and baffle our comprehension? or were you nearer home than we expected, and received the news of your father's demise through some channel unknown to us? Satisfy my curiosity, I beg of you, upon this point."

"Your curiosity, my dear sir," replied Ranulph, gravely and sadly, "will not be decreased, when I tell you, that my return has neither been the work of chance,—for I came, fully anticipating the dread event, which I find realized,—nor has it been occasioned by any intelligence derived from yourself, or others. It was only, indeed, upon my arrival here that I received full confirmation of my apprehensions. I had another, a more terrible summons to return."

"What summons? you perplex me!" exclaimed Small, gazing with some misgiving into the face of his young friend.

"I am myself perplexed—sorely perplexed," returned Ranulph. "I have much to relate; but I pray you bear with me to the end. I have that on my mind which, like guilt, must be revealed."

"Speak, then, fearlessly to me," said Small, affectionately pressing Ranulph's hand, "and assure yourself, beforehand, of my sympathy."

"It will be necessary," said Ranulph, "to preface my narrative by some slight allusion to certain painful events—and yet I know not why I should call them painful, excepting in their consequences—which influenced my conduct in my final interview between my father and myself—an interview which occasioned my departure for the Continent—and which was of a character so dreadful, that I would not even revert to it, were it not a necessary preliminary to the circumstance I am about to detail.

"When I left Oxford, I passed a few weeks alone, in London. A college friend, whom I accidentally met, introduced me, during a promenade in St. James's Park, to some acquaintances of his own, who were taking an airing in the Mall at the same time—a family whose name was Mowbray, consisting of a widow lady, her son, and daughter. This introduction was made in compliance with my own request. I had been struck by the singular beauty of the younger lady, whose countenance had a peculiar and inexpressible charm to me, from its marked resemblance to the portrait of the Lady Eleanor Rookwood, whose charms and unhappy fate I have so often dwelt upon and deplored. The picture is there," continued Ranulph, pointing to it: "look at it, and you have the fair creature I speak of before you; the color of the hair—the tenderness of the eyes. No—the expression is not so sad, except when——but no matter! I recognized her features at once.

"It struck me, that upon the mention of my name, the party betrayed some surprise, especially the elder lady. For my own part, I was so attracted by the beauty of the daughter, the effect of which upon me seemed rather the fulfilment of a predestined event, originating in the strange fascination which the family portrait had wrought in my heart, than the operation of what is called 'love at first sight,' that I was insensible to the agitation of the mother. In vain I endeavored to rally myself; my efforts at conversation were fruitless; I could not talk—all I could do was silently to yield to the soft witchery of those tender eyes; my admiration increasing each instant that I gazed upon them.

"I accompanied them home. Attracted as by some irresistible spell, I could not tear myself away; so that, although I fancied I could perceive symptoms of displeasure in the looks of both the mother and the son, yet, regardless of consequences, I ventured, uninvited, to enter the house. In order to shake off the restraint which I felt my society imposed, I found it absolutely necessary to divest myself of bashfulness, and to exert such conversational powers as I possessed. I succeeded so well that the discourse soon became lively and animated; and what chiefly delighted me was, that she, for whose sake I had committed my present rudeness, became radiant with smiles. I had been all eagerness to seek for some explanation of the resemblance to which I have just alluded, and the fitting moment had, I conceived, arrived. I called attention to a peculiar expression in the features of Miss Mowbray, and then instanced the likeness that subsisted between her and my ancestress. 'It is the more singular,' I said, turning to her mother, 'because there could have been no affinity, that I am aware of, between them, and yet the likeness is really surprising.'—'It is not so singular as you imagine,' answered Mrs. Mowbray; 'there is a close affinity. That Lady Rookwood was my mother. Eleanor Mowbray does resemble her ill-fated ancestress.'

"Words cannot paint my astonishment. I gazed at Mrs. Mowbray, considering whether I had not misconstrued her speech—whether I had not so shaped the sounds as to suit my own quick and passionate conceptions. But no! I read in her calm, collected countenance—in the downcast glance, and sudden sadness of Eleanor, as well as in the changed and haughty demeanor of the brother, that I had heard her rightly. Eleanor Mowbray was my cousin—the descendant of that hapless creature whose image I had almost worshipped.

"Recovering from my surprise, I addressed Mrs. Mowbray, endeavoring to excuse my ignorance of our relationship, on the plea that I had not been given to understand that such had been the name of the gentleman she had espoused. 'Nor was it,' answered she, 'the name he bore at Rookwood; circumstances forbade it then. From the hour I quitted that house until this moment, excepting one interview with my—with Sir Reginald Rookwood—I have seen none of my family—have held no communication with them. My brothers have been strangers to me; the very name of Rookwood has been unheard, unknown; nor would you have been admitted here, had not accident occasioned it.' I ventured now to interrupt her, and to express a hope that she would suffer an acquaintance to be kept up, which had so fortunately commenced, and which might most probably bring about an entire reconciliation between the families. I was so earnest in my expostulations, my whole soul being in them, that she inclined a more friendly ear to me. Eleanor, too, smiled encouragement. Love lent me eloquence; and at length, as a token of my success, and her own relenting, Mrs. Mowbray held forth her hand: I clasped it eagerly. It was the happiest moment of my life.

"I will not trouble you with any lengthened description of Eleanor Mowbray. I hope, at some period or other, you may still be enabled to see her, and judge for yourself; for though adverse circumstances have hitherto conspired to separate us, the time for a renewal of our acquaintance is approaching, I trust, for I am not yet altogether without hope. But this much I may be allowed to say, that her rare endowments of person were only equalled by the graces of her mind.

"Educated abroad, she had all the vivacity of our livelier neighbors, combined with every solid qualification which we claim as more essentially our own. Her light and frolic manner was French, certainly; but her gentle, sincere heart was as surely English. The foreign accent that dwelt upon her tongue communicated an inexpressible charm, even to the language which she spoke.

"I will not dwell too long upon this theme. I feel ashamed of my own prolixity. And yet I am sure you will pardon it. Ah, those bright brief days! too quickly were they fled! I could expatiate upon each minute—recall each word—revive each look. It may not be. I must hasten on. Darker themes await me.

"My love made rapid progress—I became each hour more enamored of my new-found cousin. My whole time was passed near her; indeed, I could scarcely exist in absence from her side. Short, however, was destined to be my indulgence in this blissful state. One happy week was its extent. I received a peremptory summons from my father to return home.

"Immediately upon commencing this acquaintance, I had written to my father, explaining every particular attending it. This I should have done of my own free will, but I was urged to it by Mrs. Mowbray. Unaccustomed to disguise, I had expatiated upon the beauty of Eleanor, and in such terms, I fear, that I excited some uneasiness in his breast. His letter was laconic. He made no allusion to the subject upon which I had expatiated when writing to him. He commanded me to return.

"The bitter hour was at hand. I could not hesitate to comply. Without my father's sanction, I was assured Mrs. Mowbray would not permit any continuance of my acquaintance. Of Eleanor's inclinations I fancied I had some assurance; but without her mother's consent, to whose will she was devoted, I felt, had I even been inclined to urge it, that my suit was hopeless. The letter which I had received from my father made me more than doubt whether I should not find him utterly adverse to my wishes. Agonized, therefore, with a thousand apprehensions, I presented myself on the morning of my departure. It was then I made the declaration of my passion to Eleanor; it was then that every hope was confirmed, every apprehension realized. I received from her lips a confirmation of my fondest wishes; yet were those hopes blighted in the bud, when I heard, at the same time, that their consummation was dependent on the will of two others, whose assenting voices, she feared, could never be obtained. From Mrs. Mowbray I received a more decided reply. All her haughtiness was aroused. Her farewell words assured me, that it was indifferent to her whether we met again as relatives or as strangers. Then was it that the native tenderness of Eleanor displayed itself, in an outbreak of feeling peculiar to a heart keenly sympathetic as hers. She saw my suffering—the reserve natural to her sex gave way—she flung herself into my arms—and so we parted.

"With a heavy foreboding I returned to Rookwood, and, oppressed with the gloomiest anticipations, endeavored to prepare myself for the worst. I arrived. My reception was such as I had calculated upon; and, to increase my distress, my parents had been at variance. I will not pain you and myself with any recital of their disagreement. My mother had espoused my cause, chiefly, I fear, with the view of thwarting my poor father's inclinations. He was in a terrible mood, exasperated by the fiery stimulants he had swallowed, which had not indeed, drowned his reason, but roused and inflamed every dormant emotion to violence. He was as one insane. It was evening when I arrived. I would willingly have postponed the interview till the morrow. It could not be. He insisted upon seeing me.

"My mother was present. You know the restraint she usually had over my father, and how she maintained it. On this occasion she had none. He questioned me as to every particular; probed my secret soul; dragged forth every latent feeling, and then thundered out his own determination that Eleanor never should be bride of mine; nor would he receive, under his roof, her mother, the discountenanced daughter of his father. I endeavored to remonstrate with him. He was deaf to my entreaties. My mother added sharp and stinging words to my expostulations. 'I had her consent,' she said; 'what more was needed? The lands were entailed. I should at no distant period be their master, and might then please myself.' This I mention in order to give you my father's strange answer.

"'Have a care, madam,' replied he, 'and bridle your tongue; they are entailed, 'tis true, but I need not ask his consent to cut off that entail. Let him dare to disobey me in this particular, and I will so divert the channel of my wealth, that no drop shall reach him. I will—but why threaten?—let him do it, and approve the consequences.'

"On the morrow I renewed my importunities, with no better success. We were alone.

"'Ranulph,' said he, 'you waste time in seeking to change my resolution. It is unalterable. I have many motives which influence me; they are inexplicable, but imperative. Eleanor Mowbray never can be yours. Forget her as speedily as may be, and I pledge myself, upon whomsoever else your choice may fix, I will offer no obstacle.'

"'But why,' exclaimed I, with vehemence, 'do you object to one whom you have never beheld? At least, consent to see her.'

"'Never!' he replied, 'The tie is sundered, and cannot be reunited; my father bound me by an oath never to meet in friendship with my sister; I will not break my vow, I will not violate its conditions, even in the second degree. We never can meet again. An idle prophecy which I have heard has said "that when a Rookwood shall marry a Rookwood the end of the house draweth nigh." That I regard not. It may have no meaning, or it may have much. To me it imports nothing further, than that, if you wed Eleanor, every acre I possess shall depart from you. And assure yourself this is no idle threat. I can, and will do it. My curse shall be your sole inheritance.'

"I could not avoid making some reply, representing to him how unjustifiable such a procedure was to me, in a case where the happiness of my life was at stake; and how inconsistent it was with the charitable precepts of our faith, to allow feelings of resentment to influence his conduct. My remonstrances, as in the preceding meeting, were ineffectual. The more I spoke, the more intemperate he grew. I therefore desisted, but not before he had ordered me to quit the house. I did not leave the neighborhood, but saw him again on the same evening.

"Our last interview took place in the garden. I then told him that I had determined to go abroad for two years, at the expiration of which period I proposed returning to England; trusting that his resolution might then be changed, and that he would listen to my request, for the fulfilment of which I could never cease to hope. Time, I hoped, might befriend me. He approved of my plan of travelling, requesting me not to see Eleanor before I set out; adding, in a melancholy tone—'We may never meet again, Ranulph, in this life; in that case, farewell forever. Indulge no vain hopes. Eleanor never can be yours, but upon one condition, and to that you would never consent!'—'Propose it!' I cried; 'there is no condition I could not accede to.'—'Rash boy!' he replied, 'you know not what you say; that pledge you would never fulfil, were I to propose it to you; but no—should I survive till you return, you shall learn it then—and now, farewell.'—'Speak now, I beseech you!' I exclaimed; 'anything, everything—what you will!'—'Say no more,' replied he, walking towards the house; 'when you return we will renew this subject; farewell—perhaps forever!' His words were prophetic—that parting was forever. I remained in the garden till nightfall. I saw my mother, but he came not again. I quitted England without beholding Eleanor."

"Did you not acquaint her by letter with what had occurred, and your consequent intentions?" asked Small.

"I did," replied Ranulph; "but I received no reply. My earliest inquiries will be directed to ascertain whether the family are still in London. It will be a question for our consideration, whether I am not justified in departing from my father's expressed wishes, or whether I should violate his commands in so doing."

"We will discuss that point hereafter," replied Small; adding, as he noticed the growing paleness of his companion, "you are too much exhausted to proceed—you had better defer the remainder of your story to a future period."

"No," replied Ranulph, swallowing a glass of water; "I am exhausted, yet I cannot rest—my blood is in a fever, which nothing will allay. I shall feel more easy when I have made the present communication. I am approaching the sequel of my narrative. You are now in possession of the story of my love—of the motive of my departure. You shall learn what was the occasion of my return.

"I had wandered from city to city during my term of exile—consumed by hopeless passion—with little that could amuse me, though surrounded by a thousand objects of interest to others, and only rendering life endurable by severest study or most active exertion. My steps conducted me to Bordeaux;—there I made a long halt, enchanted by the beauty of the neighboring scenery. My fancy was smitten by the situation of a villa on the banks of the Garonne, within a few leagues of the city. It was an old chateau, with fine gardens bordering the blue waters of the river, and commanding a multitude of enchanting prospects. The house, which had in part gone to decay, was inhabited by an aged couple, who had formerly been servants to an English family, the members of which had thus provided for them on their return to their own country. I inquired the name. Conceive my astonishment to find that this chateau had been the residence of the Mowbrays. This intelligence decided me at once—I took up my abode in the house; and a new and unexpected source of solace and delight was opened to me, I traced the paths she had traced; occupied the room she had occupied; tended the flowers she had tended; and, on the golden summer evenings, would watch the rapid waters, tinged with all the glorious hues of sunset, sweeping past my feet, and think how she had watched them. Her presence seemed to pervade the place. I was now comparatively happy, and, anxious to remain unmolested, wrote home that I was leaving Bordeaux for the Pyrenees, on my way to Spain."

"That account arrived," observed Small.

"One night," continued Ranulph—"'tis now the sixth since the occurrence I am about to relate—I was seated in a bower that overlooked the river. It had been a lovely evening—so lovely, that I lingered there, wrapped in the heavenly contemplation of its beauties. I watched each rosy tint reflected upon the surface of the rapid stream—now fading into yellow—now shining silvery white. I noticed the mystic mingling of twilight with darkness—of night with day, till the bright current on a sudden became a black mass of waters. I could scarcely discern a leaf—all was darkness—when lo! another change! The moon was up—a flood of light deluged all around—the stream was dancing again in reflected radiance, and I still lingering at its brink.

"I had been musing for some moments, with my head resting upon my hand, when, happening to raise my eyes, I beheld a figure immediately before me. I was astonished at the sight, for I had perceived no one approach—had heard no footstep advance towards me, and was satisfied that no one besides myself could be in the garden. The presence of the figure inspired me with an undefinable awe! and, I can scarce tell why, but a thrilling presentiment convinced me that it was a supernatural visitant. Without motion—without life—without substance, it seemed; yet still the outward character of life was there. I started to my feet. God! what did I behold? The face was turned to me—my father's face! And what an aspect, what a look! Time can never efface that terrible expression; it is graven upon my memory—I cannot describe it. It was not anger—it was not pain: it was as if an eternity of woe were stamped upon its features. It was too dreadful to behold, I would fain have averted my gaze—my eyes were fascinated—fixed—I could not withdraw them from the ghastly countenance. I shrank from it, yet stirred not—I could not move a limb. Noiselessly gliding towards me, the apparition approached. I could not retreat. It stood obstinately beside me. I became as one half-dead. The phantom shook its head with the deepest despair; and as the word 'Return!' sounded hollowly in my ears, it gradually melted from my view. I cannot tell how I recovered from the swoon into which I fell, but daybreak saw me on my way to England. I am here. On that night—at that same hour, my father died."

"It was, after all, then, a supernatural summons that you received?" said Small.

"Undoubtedly," replied Ranulph.

"Humph!—the coincidence, I own, is sufficiently curious," returned Small, musingly; "but it would not be difficult, I think, to discover a satisfactory explanation of the delusion."

"There was no delusion," replied Ranulph, coldly; "the figure was as palpable as your own. Can I doubt, when I behold this result? Could any deceit have been practised upon me, at that distance?—the precise time, moreover, agreeing. Did not the phantom bid me return?—I have returned—he is dead. I have gazed upon a being of another world. To doubt were impious, after that look."

"Whatever my opinions may be, my dear young friend," returned Small, gravely, "I will suspend them for the present. You are still greatly excited. Let me advise you to seek some repose."

"I am easier," replied Ranulph; "but you are right, I will endeavor to snatch a little rest. Something within tells me all is not yet accomplished. What remains?—I shudder to think of it. I will rejoin you at midnight. I shall myself attend the solemnity. Adieu!"

Ranulph quitted the room. Small sighingly shook his head, and having lighted his pipe, was presently buried in a profundity of smoke and metaphysical speculation.



CHAPTER XI

LADY ROOKWOOD

Fran. de Med. Your unhappy husband Is dead.

Vit. Cor. Oh, he's a happy husband! Now he owes nature nothing.

Mon. And look upon this creature as his wife. She comes not like a widow—she comes armed With scorn and impudence. Is this a mourning habit?

The White Devil.

The progress of our narrative demands our presence in another apartment of the hall—a large, lonesome chamber, situate in the eastern wing of the house, already described as the most ancient part of the building—the sombre appearance of which was greatly increased by the dingy, discolored tapestry that clothed its walls; the record of the patience and industry of a certain Dame Dorothy Rookwood, who flourished some centuries ago, and whose skilful needle had illustrated the slaughter of the Innocents, with a severity of gusto, and sanguinary minuteness of detail, truly surprising in a lady so amiable as she was represented to have been. Grim-visaged Herod glared from the ghostly woof, with his shadowy legions, executing their murderous purposes, grouped like a troop of Sabbath-dancing witches around him. Mysterious twilight, admitted through the deep, dark, mullioned windows, revealed the antique furniture of the room, which still boasted a sort of mildewed splendor, more imposing, perhaps, than its original gaudy magnificence; and showed the lofty hangings, and tall, hearse-like canopy of a bedstead, once a couch of state, but now destined for the repose of Lady Rookwood. The stiff crimson hangings were embroidered in gold, with the arms and cipher of Elizabeth, from whom the apartment, having once been occupied by that sovereign, obtained the name of the "Queen's Room."

The sole tenant of this chamber was a female, in whose countenance, if time and strong emotion had written strange defeatures, they had not obliterated its striking beauty and classical grandeur of expression. It was a face majestical and severe. Pride was stamped in all its lines; and though each passion was, by turns, developed, it was evident that all were subordinate to the sin by which the angels fell. The contour of her face was formed in the purest Grecian mould, and might have been a model for Medea; so well did the gloomy grandeur of the brow, the severe chiselling of the lip, the rounded beauty of the throat, and the faultless symmetry of her full form, accord with the beau ideal of antique perfection. Shaded by smooth folds of raven hair, which still maintained its jetty dye, her lofty forehead would have been displayed to the greatest advantage, had it not been at this moment knit and deformed by excess of passion, if that passion can be said to deform which only calls forth strong and vehement expression. Her figure, which wanted only height to give it dignity, was arrayed in the garb of widowhood; and if she exhibited none of the desolation of heart which such a bereavement might have been expected to awaken, she was evidently a prey to feelings scarcely less harrowing. At the particular time of which we speak, Lady Rookwood, for she it was, was occupied in the investigation of the contents of an escritoire. Examining the papers which it contained with great deliberation, she threw each aside, as soon as she had satisfied herself of its purport, until she arrived at a little package, carefully tied up with black ribbon, and sealed. This, Lady Rookwood hastily broke open, and drew forth a small miniature. It was that of a female, young and beautiful, rudely, yet faithfully, executed—faithfully, we say, for there was an air of sweetness and simplicity—and, in short, a look of reality and nature about the picture (it is seldom, indeed, that we mistake a likeness, even if we are unacquainted with the original) that attested the artist's fidelity. The face was as radiant with smiles as a bright day with sunbeams. The portrait was set in gold, and behind it was looped a lock of the darkest and finest hair. Underneath the miniature was written, in Sir Piers's hand, the words "Lady Rookwood." A slip of folded paper was also attached to it.

Lady Rookwood scornfully scrutinized the features for a few moments, and then unfolded the paper, at the sight of which she started, and turned pale. "Thank God!" she cried, "this is in my possession—while I hold this, we are safe. Were it not better to destroy this evidence at once? No, no, not now—it shall not part from me. I will abide Ranulph's return. This document will give me a power over him such as I could never otherwise obtain." Placing the marriage certificate, for such it was, within her breast, and laying the miniature upon the table, she next proceeded, deliberately, to arrange the disordered contents of the box.

All outward traces of emotion had, ere this, become so subdued in Lady Rookwood, that although she had, only a few moments previously, exhibited the extremity of passionate indignation, she now, apparently without effort, resumed entire composure, and might have been supposed to be engaged in a matter of little interest to herself. It was a dread calm, which they who knew her would have trembled to behold. "From these letters I gather," exclaimed she, "that their wretched offspring knows not of his fortune. So far, well. There is no channel whence he can derive information, and my first care shall be to prevent his obtaining any clue to the secret of his birth. I am directed to provide for him—ha! ha! I will provide—a grave! There will I bury him and his secret. My son's security and my own wrong demand it. I must choose surer hands—the work must not be half-done, as heretofore. And now, I bethink me, he is in the neighborhood, connected with a gang of poachers—'tis as I could wish it."

At this moment a knock at the chamber-door broke upon her meditations. "Agnes, is it you?" demanded Lady Rookwood.

Thus summoned, the old attendant entered the room.

"Why are my orders disobeyed?" asked the lady, in a severe tone of voice. "Did I not say, when you delivered me this package from Mr. Coates, which he himself wished to present, that I would not be disturbed?"

"You did, my lady, but——"

"Speak out," said Lady Rookwood, somewhat more mildly, perceiving, from Agnes's manner, that she had something of importance to communicate. "What is it brings you hither?"

"I am sorry," returned Agnes, "to disturb your ladyship, but—but——"

"But what?" interrupted Lady Rookwood, impatiently.

"I could not help it, my lady—he would have me come; he said he was resolved to see your ladyship, whether you would or not."

"Would see me, ha! is it so? I guess his errand, and its object—he has some suspicion. No, that cannot be; he would not dare to tamper with these seals. Agnes, I will not see him."

"But he swears, my lady, that he will not leave the house without seeing you—he would have forced his way into your presence, if I had not consented to announce him."

"Insolent!" exclaimed Lady Rookwood, with a glance of indignation; "force his way! I promise you he shall not display an equal anxiety to repeat the visit. Tell Mr. Coates I will see him."

"Mr. Coates! Mercy on us, my lady, it's not he. He'd never have intruded upon you unasked. No such thing. He knows his place too well. No, no; it's not Mr. Coates——"

"If not he, who is it?"

"Luke Bradley; your ladyship knows whom I mean."

"He here—now?——"

"Yes, my lady; and looking so fierce and strange, I was quite frightened to see him. He looked so like his—his——"

"His father, you would say. Speak out."

"No, my lady, his grandfather—old Sir Reginald. He's the very image of him. But had not your ladyship better ring the alarm-bell? and when he comes in, I'll run and fetch the servants—he's dangerous, I'm sure."

"I have no fears of him. He will see me, you say——"

"Ay, will!" exclaimed Luke, as he threw open the door, and shut it forcibly after him, striding towards Lady Rookwood, "nor abide longer delay."

It was an instant or two ere Lady Rookwood, thus taken by surprise, could command speech. She fixed her eyes with a look of keen and angry inquiry upon the bold intruder, who, nothing daunted, confronted her glances with a gaze as stern and steadfast as her own.

"Who are you, and what seek you?" exclaimed Lady Rookwood, after a brief pause, and, in spite of herself, her voice sounded tremulously. "What would you have, that you venture to appear before me at this season and in this fashion?"

"I might have chosen a fitter opportunity," returned Luke, "were it needed. My business will not brook delay—you must be pleased to overlook this intrusion on your privacy, at a season of sorrow like the present. As to the fashion of my visit, you must be content to excuse it. I cannot help myself. I may amend hereafter. Who I am, you are able, I doubt not, to divine. What I seek, you shall hear, when this old woman has left the room, unless you would have a witness to a declaration that concerns you as nearly as myself."

An indefinite feeling of apprehension had, from the first instant of Luke's entrance crossed Lady Rookwood's mind. She, however, answered, with some calmness:

"What you can have to say is of small moment to me—nor does it signify who may hear it. It shall not, however, be said that Lady Rookwood feared to be alone, even though she endangered her life."

"I am no assassin," replied Luke, "nor have sought the destruction of my deadliest foe—though 'twere but retributive justice to have done so."

Lady Rookwood started.

"Nay, you need not fear me," replied Luke; "my revenge will be otherwise accomplished."

"Go," said Lady Rookwood to Agnes; "yet—stay without, in the antechamber."

"My lady," said Agnes, scarcely able to articulate, "shall I——"

"Hear me, Lady Rookwood," interrupted Luke. "I repeat, I intend you no injury. My object here is solely to obtain a private conference. You can have no reason for denying me this request. I will not abuse your patience. Mine is no idle mission. Say you refuse me, and I will at once depart. I will find other means of communicating with you—less direct, and therefore less desirable. Make your election. But we must be alone—undisturbed. Summon your household—let them lay hands upon me, and I will proclaim aloud what you would gladly hide, even from yourself."

"Leave us, Agnes," said Lady Rookwood. "I have no fear of this man. I can deal with him myself, should I see occasion."

"Agnes," said Luke, in a stern, deep whisper, arresting the ancient handmaiden as she passed him, "stir not from the door till I come forth. Have you forgotten your former mistress!—my mother? Have you forgotten Barbara Lovel, and that night?"

"In Heaven's name, hush!" replied Agnes, with a shudder.

"Let that be fresh in your memory. Move not a footstep, whatever you may hear," added he, in the same tone as before.

"I will not—I will not." And Agnes departed.

Luke felt some wavering in his resolution when he found himself alone with the lady, whose calm, collected, yet haughty demeanor, as she resumed her seat, prepared for his communication, could not fail to inspire him with a certain degree of awe. Not unconscious of her advantage, nor slow to profit by it, Lady Rookwood remained perfectly silent, with her eyes steadily fixed upon his face, while his embarrassment momentarily increased. Summoning, at length, courage sufficient to address her, and ashamed of his want of nerve, he thus broke forth:

"When I entered this room, you asked my name and object. As to the first, I answer to the same designation as your ladyship. I have long borne my mother's name. I now claim my father's. My object is, the restitution of my rights."

"Soh!—it is as I suspected," thought Lady Rookwood, involuntarily casting her large eyes down. "Do I hear you rightly?" exclaimed she, aloud; "your name is——"

"Sir Luke Rookwood. As my father's elder born; by right of his right to that title."

If a glance could have slain him, Luke had fallen lifeless at the lady's feet. With a smile of ineffable disdain, she replied, "I know not why I hesitate to resent this indignity, even for an instant. But I would see how far your audacity will carry you. The name you bear is Bradley?"

"In ignorance I have done so," replied Luke. "I am the son of her whose maiden name was Bradley. She was——"

"'Tis false—I will not hear it—she was not," cried Lady Rookwood, her vehemence getting the master of her prudence.

"Your ladyship anticipates my meaning," returned Luke. "Susan Bradley was the first wife of Sir Piers Rookwood."

"His minion—his mistress if you will; nought else. Is it new to you, that a village wench, who lends herself to shame, should be beguiled by such shallow pretences? That she was so duped, I doubt not. But it is too late now to complain, and I would counsel you not to repeat your idle boast. It will serve no other purpose, trust me, than to blazon forth your own—your mother's dishonor."

"Lady Rookwood," sternly answered Luke, "my mother's fame is as free from dishonor as your own. I repeat, she was the first wife of Sir Piers; and that I, her child, am first in the inheritance; nay, sole heir to the estates and title of Rookwood, to the exclusion of your son. Ponder upon that intelligence. Men say they fear you, as a thing of ill. I fear you not. There have been days when the Rookwoods held their dames in subjection. Discern you nought of that in me?"

Once or twice during this speech Lady Rookwood's glances had wandered towards the bell-cord, as if about to summon aid; but the intention was abandoned almost as soon as formed, probably from apprehension of the consequences of any such attempt. She was not without alarm as to the result of the interview, and was considering how she could bring it to a termination without endangering herself, and, if possible, secure the person of Luke, when the latter, turning sharply round upon her, and drawing a pistol, exclaimed,—

"Follow me!"

"Whither?" asked she, in alarm.

"To the chamber of death!"

"Why there? what would you do? Villain! I will not trust my life with you. I will not follow you."

"Hesitate not, as you value your life. Do aught to alarm the house, and I fire. Your safety depends upon yourself. I would see my father's body ere it be laid in the grave. I will not leave you here."

"Go," said Lady Rookwood; "if that be all, I pledge myself you shall not be interrupted."

"I will not take your pledge; your presence shall be my surety. By my mother's unavenged memory, if you play me false, though all your satellites stand around you, you die upon the spot! Obey me, and you are safe. Our way leads to the room by the private staircase—we shall pass unobserved—you see I know the road. The room, by your own command, is vacant—save of the dead. We shall, therefore, be alone. This done, I depart. You will then be free to act. Disobey me, and your blood be upon your own head."

"Lead on!" said Lady Rookwood, pressing towards the antechamber.

"The door I mean is there," pointing to another part of the room—"that panel,—"

"Ha! how know you that?"

"No matter; follow."

Luke touched a spring, and the panel flying open, disclosed a dim recess, into which he entered; and, seizing Lady Rookwood's hand, dragged her after him.



CHAPTER XII

THE CHAMBER OF DEATH

It is the body—I have orders given That here it should be laid.

De Montfort.

The recess upon which the panel opened had been a small oratory, and, though entirely disused, still retained its cushions and its crucifix. There were two other entrances to this place of prayer, the one communicating with a further bedchamber, the other leading to the gallery. Through the latter, after closing the aperture, without relinquishing his grasp, Luke passed.

It was growing rapidly dark, and at the brightest seasons this gloomy corridor was but imperfectly lighted from narrow, painted, and wire-protected windows that looked into the old quadrangular courtyard below; and as they issued from the oratory a dazzling flash of lightning—a storm having suddenly arisen—momentarily illumined the whole length of the passage, disclosing the retreating figure of a man, wrapped in a large sable cloak, at the other extremity of the gallery. Lady Rookwood uttered an outcry for assistance; but the man, whoever he might be, disappeared in the instantaneously succeeding gloom, leaving her in doubt whether or not her situation had been perceived. Luke had seen this dark figure at the same instant; and, not without apprehensions lest his plans should be defeated, he griped Lady Rookwood's arm still more strictly, and placing the muzzle of the pistol to her breast, hurried her rapidly forwards.

All was now in total obscurity; the countenance of neither could be perceived as they trod the dark passage; but Luke's unrelaxed grasp indicated no change in his purposes, nor did the slow, dignified march of the lady betray any apprehension on her part. Descending a spiral staircase, which led from the gallery to a lower story, their way now lay beneath the entrance-hall, a means of communication little used. Their tread sounded hollowly on the flagged floor; no other sound was heard. Mounting a staircase, similar to the one they had just descended, they arrived at another passage. A few paces brought them to the door. Luke turned the handle, and they stood within the chamber of the dead.

The room which contained the remains of poor Sir Piers was arrayed in all that mockery of state which, vainly attempting to deride death, is itself a bitter derision of the living. It was the one devoted to the principal meals of the day; a strange choice, but convenience had dictated its adoption by those with whom this part of the ceremonial had originated, and long custom had rendered its usage, for this purpose, almost prescriptive. This room, which was of some size, had originally formed part of the great hall, from which it was divided by a thick screen of black, lustrously varnished oak, enriched with fanciful figures carved in bold relief. The walls were panelled with the same embrowned material, and sustained sundry portraits of the members of the family, in every possible costume, from the steely gear of Sir Ranulph, down to the flowing attire of Sir Reginald. Most of the race were ranged around the room; and, seen in the yellow light shed upon their features by the flambeaux, they looked like an array of stern and silent witnesses, gazing upon their departed descendant. The sides of the chamber were hung with black cloth, and upon a bier in the middle of the room rested the body. Broad escutcheons, decked out in glowing colors pompously set forth the heraldic honors of the departed. Tall lights burned at the head and feet, and fragrant perfumes diffused their odors from silver censers.

The entrance of Luke and his unwilling companion had been abrupt. The transition from darkness to the glare of light was almost blinding, and they had advanced far into the room ere Lady Rookwood perceived a man, whom she took to be one of the mutes, leaning over the bier. The coffin-lid was entirely removed, and the person, whose back was towards them appeared to be wrapped in mournful contemplation of the sad spectacle before him. Suddenly bursting from Luke's hold, Lady Rookwood rushed forward with a scream, and touched the man's shoulder. He started at the summons, and disclosed the features of her son!

Rapidly as her own act, Luke followed. He levelled a pistol at her head, but his hand dropped to his side as he encountered the glance of Ranulph. All three seemed paralyzed by surprise. Ranulph, in astonishment, extended his arm to his mother, who, placing one arm over his shoulder, pointed with the other to Luke; the latter stared sternly and inquiringly at both—yet none spoke.



CHAPTER XIII

THE BROTHERS

We're sorry His violent act has e'en drawn blood of honor, And stained our honors; Thrown ink upon the forehead of our fame, Which envious spirits will dip their pens into After our death, and blot us in our tombs; For that which would seem treason in our lives, Is laughter when we're dead. Who dares now whisper, That dares not then speak out; and even proclaim, With loud words, and broad pens, our closest shame?

The Revenger's Tragedy.

With that quickness of perception which at once supplies information on such an emergency, Luke instantly conjectured who was before him. Startled as he was, he yet retained his composure, abiding the result with his arms folded upon his breast.

"Seize him!" cried Lady Rookwood, as soon as she could command her speech.

"He rushes on his death if he stirs," exclaimed Luke, pointing his pistol.

"Bethink you where you are, villain!" cried Ranulph; "you are entrapped in your own toils. Submit yourself to our mercy—resistance is vain, and will not secure your safety, while it will aggravate your offence. Surrender yourself——"

"Never!" answered Luke. "Know you whom you ask to yield?"

"How should I?" answered Ranulph.

"By that instinct which tells me who you are. Ask Lady Rookwood—she can inform you, if she will."

"Parley not with him—seize him!" cried Lady Rookwood. "He is a robber, a murderer, who has assailed my life."

"Beware!" said Luke to Ranulph, who was preparing to obey his mother's commands; "I am no robber—no murderer. Do not you make me a fratricide."

"Fratricide!" echoed Ranulph.

"Heed him not," ejaculated Lady Rookwood. "It is false—he dares not harm thee, for his soul. I will call assistance."

"Hold, mother!" exclaimed Ranulph, detaining Lady Rookwood; "this man may be what he represents himself. Before we proceed to extremities, I would question him. I would not have mentioned it in your hearing could it have been avoided, but my father had another son."

Lady Rookwood frowned. She would have checked him, but Luke rejoined—

"You have spoken the truth; he had a son—I am he. I——"

"Be silent, I command you!" said Lady Rookwood.

"Death!" cried Luke, in a loud voice. "Why should I be silent at your bidding—at yours—who regard no laws, human or divine; who pursue your own fell purposes, without fear of God or man? Waste not your frowns on me—I heed them not. Do you think I am like a tame hound, to be cowed to silence? I will speak. Ranulph Rookwood, the name you bear is mine, and by a right as good as is your own. From his loins, who lies a corpse before us, I sprang. No brand of shame is on my birth. I am your father's son—his first-born—your elder brother. Hear me!" cried he, rushing to the bier. "By this body, I swear that I have avouched the truth—and though to me the dead Sir Piers Rookwood hath never been what a father should be to a son—though I have never known his smile, felt his caresses, or received his blessing, yet now be all forgiven, all forgotten." And he cast himself with frantic violence upon the coffin.

It is difficult to describe the feelings with which Ranulph heard Luke's avowal. Amazement and dread predominated. Unable to stir, he stood gazing on in silence. Not so Lady Rookwood. The moment for action was arrived. Addressing her son in a low tone, she said, "Your prey is within your power. Secure him."

"Wherefore?" rejoined Ranulph; "if he be my brother, shall I raise my hand against him?"

"Wherefore not?" returned Lady Rookwood.

"'Twere an accursed deed," replied Ranulph. "The mystery is resolved. 'Twas for this that I was summoned home."

"Ha! what say you? summoned! by whom?"

"My father!"

"Your father?" echoed Lady Rookwood, in great surprise.

"Ay, my dead father! He has appeared to me since his decease."

"Ranulph, you rave—you are distracted with grief—with astonishment."

"No, mother; but I will not struggle against my destiny."

"Pshaw! your destiny is Rookwood, its manors, its lands, its rent-roll, and its title; nor shall you yield it to a base-born churl like this. Let him prove his rights. Let the law adjudge them to him, and we will yield—but not till then. I tell thee he has not the right, nor can he maintain it. He is a deluded dreamer, who, having heard some idle tale of his birth, believes it, because it chimes with his wishes. I treated him with the scorn he deserved. I would have driven him from my presence, but he was armed, as you see, and forced me hither, perhaps to murder me; a deed he might have accomplished had it not been for your intervention. His life is already forfeit, for an attempt of the same sort last night. Why else came he hither? for what else did he drag me to this spot? Let him answer that!"

"I will answer it," replied Luke, raising himself from the bier.

His face was ghastly as the corpse over which he leaned. "I had a deed to do, which I wished you to witness. It was a wild conception. But the means by which I have acquired the information of my rights were wild. Ranulph, we are both the slaves of fate. You have received your summons hither—I have had mine. Your father's ghost called you; my mother's spectral hand beckoned me. Both are arrived. One thing more remains, and my mission is completed." Saying which, he drew forth the skeleton hand; and having first taken the wedding-ring from the finger, he placed the withered limb upon the left breast of his father's body. "Rest there," he cried, "for ever."

"Will you suffer that?" said Lady Rookwood, tauntingly, to her son.

"No," replied Ranulph; "such profanation of the dead shall not be endured, were he ten times my brother. Stand aside," added he, advancing towards the bier, and motioning Luke away. "Withdraw your hand from my father's body, and remove what you have placed upon it."

"I will neither remove it nor suffer it to be removed," returned Luke. "'Twas for that purpose I came hither. 'Twas to that hand he was united in life, in death he shall not be divided from it."

"Such irreverence shall not be!" exclaimed Ranulph, seizing Luke with one hand, and snatching at the cereclothes with the other. "Remove it, or by Heaven——"

"Leave go your hold," said Luke, in a voice of thunder; "you strive in vain."

Ranulph ineffectually attempted to push him backwards; and, shaking away the grasp that was fixed upon his collar, seized his brother's wrist, so as to prevent the accomplishment of his purpose. In this unnatural and indecorous strife the corpse of their father was reft of its covering and the hand discovered lying upon the pallid breast.

And as if the wanton impiety of their conduct called forth an immediate rebuke, even from the dead, a frown seemed to pass over Sir Piers's features, as their angry glances fell in that direction. This startling effect was occasioned by the approach of Lady Rookwood, whose shadow, falling over the brow and visage of the deceased, produced the appearance we have described. Simultaneously quitting each other, with a deep sense of shame, mingled with remorse, both remained, their eyes fixed upon the dead, whose repose they had violated.

Folding the graveclothes decently over the body, Luke prepared to depart.

"Hold!" cried Lady Rookwood; "you go not hence."

"My brother Ranulph will not oppose my departure," returned Luke; "who else shall prevent it?"

"That will I!" cried a sharp voice behind him; and, ere he could turn to ascertain from whom the exclamation proceeded, Luke felt himself grappled by two nervous assailants, who, snatching the pistol from his hold, fast pinioned his arms.

This was scarcely the work of a moment, and he was a prisoner before he could offer any resistance. A strong smile of exultation evinced Lady Rookwood's satisfaction.

"Bravo, my lads, bravo!" cried Coates, stepping forward, for he it was under whose skilful superintendence the seizure had been effected: "famously managed; my father the thief-taker's runners couldn't have done it better—hand me that pistol—loaded, I see—slugs, no doubt—oh, he's a precious rascal—search him—turn his pockets inside out, while I speak to her ladyship." Saying which, the brisk attorney, enchanted with the feat he had performed, approached Lady Rookwood with a profound bow, and an amazing smirk of self-satisfaction. "Just in time to prevent mischief," said he; "hope your ladyship does not suffer any inconvenience from the alarm—beg pardon, annoyance I meant to say—which this horrible outrage must have occasioned; excessively disagreeable this sort of thing to a lady at any time, but at a period like this more than usually provoking. However, we have the villain safe enough. Very lucky I happened to be in the way. Perhaps your ladyship would like to know how I discovered——"

"Not now," replied Lady Rookwood, checking the volubility of the man of law. "I thank you, Mr. Coates, for the service you have rendered me; you will now add materially to the obligation by removing the prisoner with all convenient despatch."

"Certainly, if your ladyship wishes it. Shall I detain him a close prisoner in the hall for the night, or remove him at once to the lock-up house in the village?"

"Where you please, so you do it quickly," replied Lady Rookwood, noticing, with great uneasiness, the agitated manner of her son, and apprehensive lest, in the presence of so many witnesses, he might say or do something prejudicial to their interests. Nor were her fears groundless. As Coates was about to return to the prisoner, he was arrested by the voice of Ranulph, commanding him to stay.

"Mr. Coates," said he, "however appearances may be against this man, he is no robber—you must, therefore, release him."

"Eh day, what's that? release him, Sir Ranulph?"

"Yes, sir; I tell you he came here neither with the intent to rob nor to offer violence."

"That is false, Ranulph," replied Lady Rookwood. "I was dragged hither by him at the peril of my life. He is Mr. Coates's prisoner on another charge."

"Unquestionably, your ladyship is perfectly right; I have a warrant against him for assaulting Hugh Badger, the keeper, and for other misdemeanors."

"I will myself be responsible for his appearance to that charge," replied Ranulph. "Now, sir, at once release him."

"At your peril!" exclaimed Lady Rookwood.

"Well, really," muttered the astonished attorney, "this is the most perplexing proceeding I ever witnessed."

"Ranulph," said Lady Rookwood, sternly, to her son, "beware how you thwart me!"

"Yes, Sir Ranulph, let me venture to advise you, as a friend, not to thwart her ladyship," whispered the attorney; "indeed, she is in the right." But seeing his advice unheeded, Coates withdrew to a little distance.

"I will not see injustice done to my father's son," replied Ranulph, in a low tone. "Why would you detain him?"

"Why?" returned she, "our safety demands it—our honor."

"Our honor demands his instant liberation; each moment he remains in those bonds sullies its purity. I will free him myself from his fetters."

"And brave my curse, foolish boy? You incurred your miserable father's anathema for a lighter cause than this. Our honor cries aloud for his destruction. Have I not been injured in the nicest point a woman can be injured? Shall I lend my name to mockery and scorn, by base acknowledgment of such deceit, or will you? Where would be my honor, then, stripped of my fair estates—my son—myself—beggars—dependent on the bounty of an upstart? Does honor ask you to bear this? It is a phantom sense of honor, unsubstantial as your father's shade, of which you just now spoke, that would prompt you to do otherwise."

"Do not evoke his awful spirit, mother," cried Ranulph, with a shudder; "do not arouse his wrath."

"Do not arouse my wrath," returned Lady Rookwood. "I am the more to be feared. Think of Eleanor Mowbray; the bar between your nuptials is removed. Would you raise up a greater impediment?"

"Enough, mother; more than enough. You have decided, though not convinced me. Detain him within the house, if you will, until the morrow; in the meantime, I will consider over my line of conduct."

"Is this, then, your resolve?"

"It is. Mr. Coates," said Ranulph, calling the attorney, who had been an inquisitive spectator, though, luckily, not an auditor of this interview, "unbind the prisoner, and bring him hither."

"Is it your ladyship's pleasure?" asked Mr. Coates, who regretted exceedingly that he could not please both parties.

Lady Rookwood signified her assent by a slight gesture in the affirmative.

"Your bidding shall be done, Sir Ranulph," said Coates, bowing and departing.

"Sir Ranulph!" echoed Lady Rookwood, with strong emphasis; "marked you that?"

"Body o' me," muttered the attorney, "this is the most extraordinary family, to be sure. Make way, gentlemen, if you please," added he, pushing through the crowd, towards the prisoner.

Having described what took place between Lady Rookwood and her son in one part of the room, we must now briefly narrate some incidental occurrences in the other. The alarm of a robber having been taken spread with great celerity through the house, and almost all its inmates rushed into the room, including Dr. Small, Titus Tyrconnel, and Jack Palmer.

"Odsbodikins! are you there, honey?" said Titus, who discovered his ally; "the bird's caught, you see."

"Caught be d—d," replied Jack, bluffly; "so I see; all his own fault; infernal folly to come here, at such a time as this. However, it can't be helped now; he must make the best of it. And as to that sneaking, gimlet-eyed, parchment-skinned quill-driver, if I don't serve him out for his officiousness one of these days, my name's not Jack Palmer."

"Och! cushlamacree! did I ever? why, what's the boy to you, Jack? Fair play's a jewel, and surely Mr. Coates only did his duty. I'm sorry he's captured, for his relationship to Sir Piers, and because I think he'll be tucked up for his pains; and, moreover, I could forgive the poaching; but as to the breaking into a house on such an occasion as this, och! It's a plaguy bad look. I'm afraid he's worse than I thought him."

A group of the tenantry, many of whom were in a state of intoxication, had, in the meantime, formed themselves round the prisoner. Whatever might be the nature of his thoughts, no apprehension was visible in Luke's countenance. He stood erect amidst the assemblage, his tall form towering above them all, and his eyes fixed upon the movements of Lady Rookwood and her son. He had perceived the anguish of the latter, and the vehemence of the former, attributing both to their real causes. The taunts and jeers, threats and insolent inquiries, of the hinds who thronged around him, passed unheeded; yet one voice in his ear, sharp as the sting of a serpent, made him start. It was that of the sexton.

"You have done well," said Peter, "have you not? Your fetters are, I hope, to your liking. Well! a wilful man must have his own way, and perhaps the next time you will be content to follow my advice. You must now free yourself, the best way you can, from these Moabites, and I promise you it will be no easy matter. Ha, ha!"

Peter withdrew into the crowd; and Luke, vainly endeavoring to discover his retreating figure, caught the eye of Jack Palmer fixed upon himself, with a peculiar and very significant expression.

At this moment Mr. Coates made his appearance.

"Bring forward the prisoner," said the man of law to his two assistants; and Luke was accordingly hurried along, Mr. Coates using his best efforts to keep back the crowd. It was during the pressure that Luke heard a voice whisper in his ear, "Never fear; all's right!" and turning his head, he became aware of the propinquity of Jack Palmer. The latter elevated his eyebrows with a gesture of silence, and Luke passed on as if nothing had occurred. He was presently confronted with Lady Rookwood and her son; and, notwithstanding the efforts of Mr. Coates, seconded by some few others, the crowd grew dense around them.

"Remove his fetters," said Ranulph. And his manacles were removed.

"You will consent to remain here a prisoner till to-morrow?"

"I consent to nothing," replied Luke; "I am in your hands."

"He does not deserve your clemency, Sir Ranulph," interposed Coates.

"Let him take his own course," said Lady Rookwood; "he will reap the benefit of it anon."

"Will you pledge yourself not to depart?" asked Ranulph.

"Of course," cried the attorney; "to be sure he will. Ha, ha!"

"No," returned Luke, haughtily, "I will not—and you will detain me at your proper peril."

"Better and better," exclaimed the attorney. "This is the highest joke I ever heard."

"I shall detain, you, then, in custody, until proper inquiries can be made," said Ranulph. "To your care, Mr. Coates, and to that of Mr. Tyrconnel, whom I must request to lend you his assistance, I commit the charge; and I must further request, that you will show him every attention which his situation will permit. Remove him. We have a sacred duty to the dead to fulfil, to which even justice to the living must give way. Disperse this crowd, and let instant preparations be made for the completion of the ceremonial. You understand me, sir."

"Ranulph Rookwood," said Luke, sternly, as he departed, "you have another—a more sacred office to perform. Fulfil your duty to your father's son."

"Away with him!" cried Lady Rookwood. "I am out of all patience with this trilling. Follow me to my chamber," added she to her son, passing towards the door. The concourse of spectators, who had listened to this extraordinary scene in astonishment, made way for her instantly, and she left the room, accompanied by Ranulph. The prisoner was led out by the other door.

"Botheration!" cried Titus to Mr. Coates, as they followed in the wake, "why did he choose out me? I'll lose the funeral entirely by his arrangement."

"That you will," replied Palmer. "Shall I be your deputy?"

"No, no," returned Coates. "I will have no other than Mr. Tyrconnel. It was Sir Ranulph's express wish."

"That's the devil of it," returned Titus; "and I, who was to have been chief mourner, and have made all the preparations, am to be omitted. I wish Sir Ranulph had stayed till to-morrow—what could bring him here, to spoil all?—it's cursedly provoking!"

"Cursed provoking!" echoed Jack.

"But then there's no help, so I must make the best of it," returned the good-humored Irishman.

"Body o' me," said Coates, "there's something in all this that I can't fathom. As to keeping the prisoner here, that's all moonshine. But I suppose we shall know the whole drift of it to-morrow."

"Ay," replied Jack, with a meaning smile, "to-morrow!"



BOOK II

THE SEXTON

Duchess. Thou art very plain.

Bosola. My trade is to flatter the dead—not the living—I am a tomb-maker.

WEBSTER.



CHAPTER I

THE STORM

Come, list, and hark! the bell doth towle, For some but now departing sowle; And was not that some ominous fowle? The bat, the night-crow, or screech-owle? To these I hear the wild wolf howle, In this dark night that seems to scowle;— All these my blacke-booke shall enrowle, For hark! still hark! the bell doth towle For some but new-departed sowle!

HAYWOOD: Rape of Lucrece.

The night was wild and stormy. The day had been sultry, with a lurid, metallic-looking sky, hanging like a vast galvanic plate over the face of nature. As evening drew on, everything betokened the coming tempest. Unerring indications of its approach were noted by the weatherwise at the hall. The swallow was seen to skim the surface of the pool so closely that he ruffled its placid mirror as he passed; and then, sharply darting round and round, with twittering scream, he winged his rapid flight to his clay-built home, beneath the barn eaves. The kine that had herded to the margin of the water, and sought, by splashing, to relieve themselves from the keen persecution of their myriad insect tormentors, wended stallwards, undriven, and deeply lowing. The deer, that at twilight had trooped thither also for refreshment, suddenly, "with expanded nostrils, snuffed the air," and bounded off to their coverts, amidst the sheltering fernbrake. The rooks "obstreperous of wing, in crowds combined," cawed in a way that, as plainly as words could have done, bespoke their apprehension; and were seen, some hovering and beating the air with flapping pinion, others shooting upwards in mid space, as if to reconnoitre the weather; while others, again, were croaking to their mates, in loud discordant tone, from the highest branches of the lime-trees; all, seemingly, as anxious and as busy as mariners before a gale of wind. At sunset, the hazy vapors, which had obscured the horizon throughout the day, rose up in spiral volumes, like smoke from a burning forest, and, becoming gradually condensed, assumed the form of huge, billowy masses, which, reflecting the sun's light, changed, as the sinking orb declined, from purple to flame-color, and thence to ashy, angry gray. Night rushed onwards, like a sable steed. There was a dead calm. The stillness was undisturbed, save by an intermittent, sighing wind, which, hollow as a murmur from the grave, died as it rose. At once the gray clouds turned to an inky blackness. A single, sharp, intensely vivid flash, shot from the bosom of the rack, sheer downwards, and struck the earth with a report like that of a piece of ordnance. In ten minutes it was dunnest night, and a rattling thunder-storm.

The progress of the storm was watched with infinite apprehension by the crowd of tenantry assembled in the great hall; and loud and frequent were the ejaculations uttered, as each succeeding peal burst over their heads. There was, however, one amongst the assemblage who seemed to enjoy the uproar. A kindred excitement appeared to blaze in his glances, as he looked upon the storm without. This was Peter Bradley. He stood close by the window, and shaded not his eyes, even before the fiercest flashes. A grin of unnatural exhilaration played upon his features, and he seemed to exult in, and to court, the tempestuous horrors, which affected the most hardy amongst his companions with consternation, and made all shrink, trembling, into the recesses of the room. Peter's conduct was not unobserved, nor his reputation for unholy dealing forgotten. To some he was almost as much an object of dread as the storm itself.

"Didst ever see the like o' that?" said Farmer Burtenshaw—one of the guests, whose round, honest face good wine had recently empurpled, but fear had now mottled white,—addressing a neighbor. "Didst ever hear of any man that were a Christian laughing in the very face o' a thunder-storm, with the lightnin' fit to put out his eyes, and the rattle above ready to break the drums o' his ears? I always thought Peter Bradley was not exactly what he ought to be, and now I am sure on it."

"For my part, I think, Neighbor Burtenshaw," returned the other, "that this great burst of weather's all of his raising, for in all my born days I never see'd such a hurly-burly, and hope never to see the like of it again. I've heard my grandfather tell of folk as could command wind and rain; and, mayhap, Peter may have the power—we all know he can do more nor any other man."

"We know, at all events," replied Burtenshaw, "that he lives like no other man; that he spends night after night by himself in that dreary churchyard; that he keeps no living thing, except an old terrier dog, in his crazy cottage; and that he never asks a body into his house from one year's end to another. I've never crossed his threshold these twenty years. But," continued he mysteriously, "I happened to pass the house one dark, dismal night, and there what dost think I see'd through the window?"

"What—what didst see?"

"Peter Bradley sitting with a great book open on his knees; it were a Bible, I think, and he crying like a child."

"Art sure o' that?"

"The tears were falling fast upon the leaves," returned Burtenshaw; "but when I knocked at the door, he hastily shut up the book, and ordered me to be gone, in a surly tone, as if he were ashamed of being caught in the fact."

"I thought no tear had ever dropped from his eye," said the other. "Why, he laughed when his daughter Susan went off at the hall; and, when she died, folks said he received hush-money to say nought about it. That were a bad business, anyhow; and now that his grandson Luke be taken in the fact of housebreaking, he minds it no more, not he, than if nothing had happened."

"Don't be too sure of that," replied Burtenshaw; "he may be scheming summat all this time. Well, I've known Peter Bradley now these two-and-fifty years, and, excepting that one night, I never saw any good about him, and never heard of nobody who could tell who he be, or where he do come from."

"One thing's certain, at least," replied the other farmer—"he were never born at Rookwood. How he came here the devil only knows. Save us! what a crash!—this storm be all of his raising, I tell 'ee."

"He be—what he certainly will be," interposed another speaker, in a louder tone, and with less of apprehension in his manner than his comrade, probably from his nerves being better fortified with strong liquor. "Dost thou think, Samuel Plant, as how Providence would entrust the like o' him with the command of the elements? No—no, it's rank blasphemy to suppose such a thing, and I've too much of the true Catholic and apostate church about me, to stand by and hear that said."

"Maybe, then, he gets his power from the Prince of Darkness," replied Plant; "no man else could go on as he does—only look at him. He seems to be watching for the thunderbowt."

"I wish he may catch it, then," returned the other.

"That's an evil wish, Simon Toft, and thou mayst repent it."

"Not I," replied Toft; "it would be a good clearance to the neighborhood to get rid o' th' old croaking curmudgeon."

Whether or not Peter overheard the conversation, we pretend not to say, but at that moment a blaze of lightning showed him staring fiercely at the group.

"As I live, he's overheard you, Simon," exclaimed Plant. "I wouldn't be in your skin for a trifle."

"Nor I," added Burtenshaw.

"Let him overhear me," answered Toft; "who cares? he shall hear summat worth listening to. I'm not afraid o' him or his arts, were they as black as Beelzebuth's own; and to show you I'm not, I'll go and have a crack with him on the spot."

"Thou'rt a fool for thy pains, if thou dost, Friend Toft," returned Plant, "that's all I can say."

"Be advised by me, and stay here," seconded Burtenshaw, endeavoring to hold him back.

But Toft would not be advised—

Kings may be blest, but he was glorious, O'er all the ills of life victorious.

Staggering up to Peter, he laid a hard grasp upon his shoulder, and, thus forcibly soliciting his attention, burst into a loud horse-laugh.

But Peter was, or affected to be, too much occupied to look at him.

"What dost see, man, that thou starest so?"

"It comes, it comes—the rain—the rain—a torrent—a deluge—ha, ha! Blessed is the corpse the rain rains on. Sir Piers may be drenched through his leaden covering by such a downfall as that—splash, splash—fire and water and thunder, all together—is not that fine?—ha, ha! The heavens will weep for him, though friends shed not a tear. When did a great man's heir feel sympathy for his sire's decease? When did his widow mourn? When doth any man regret his fellow? Never! He rejoiceth—he maketh glad in his inmost heart—he cannot help it—it is nature. We all pray for—we all delight in each other's destruction. We were created to do so; or why else should we act thus? I never wept for any man's death, but I have often laughed. Natural sympathy!—out on the phrase! The distant heavens—the senseless trees—the impenetrable stones—shall regret you more than man shall bewail your death with more sincerity. Ay, 'tis well—rain on—splash, splash: it will cool the hell-fever. Down, down—buckets and pails, ha, ha!"

There was a pause, during which the sexton, almost exhausted by the frenzy in which he had suffered himself to be involved, seemed insensible to all around him.

"I tell you what," said Burtenshaw to Plant, "I have always thought there was more in Peter Bradley nor appears on the outside. He is not what he seems to be, take my word on it. Lord love you! do you think a man such as he pretends to be could talk in that sort of way—about nat'ral simpering?—no such thing."

When Peter recovered, his insane merriment broke out afresh, having only acquired fury by the pause.

"Look out, look out!" cried he; "hark to the thunder—list to the rain! Marked ye that flash—marked ye the clock-house—and the bird upon the roof? 'tis the rook—the great bird of the house, that hath borne away the soul of the departed. There, there—can you not see it? it sits and croaks through storm and rain, and never heeds at all—and wherefore should it heed? See, it flaps its broad black wings—it croaks—ha, ha! It comes—it comes."

And driven, it might be by the terror of the storm, from more secure quarters, a bird, at this instant, was dashed against the window, and fell to the ground.

"That's a call," continued Peter; "it will be over soon, and we must set out. The dead will not need to tarry. Look at that trail of fire along the avenue; dost see yon line of sparkles, like a rocket's tail? That's the path the corpse will take. St. Hermes's flickering fire, Robin Goodfellow's dancing light, or the blue flame of the corpse-candle, which I saw flitting to the churchyard last week, was not so pretty a sight—ha, ha! You asked me for a song a moment ago—you shall have one now without asking."

And without waiting to consult the inclinations of his comrades, Peter broke into the following wild strain with all the fervor of a half-crazed improvisatore:

THE CORPSE-CANDLE

Lambere flamma {taphos} et circum funera pasci.

Through the midnight gloom did a pale blue light To the churchyard mirk wing its lonesome flight:— Thrice it floated those old walls round— Thrice it paused—till the grave it found. Over the grass-green sod it glanced, Over the fresh-turned earth it danced, Like a torch in the night-breeze quivering— Never was seen so gay a thing! Never was seen so blithe a sight As the midnight dance of that blue light!

Now what of that pale blue flame dost know? Canst tell where it comes from, or where it will go? Is it the soul, released from clay, Over the earth that takes its way, And tarries a moment in mirth and glee Where the corse it hath quitted interred shall be? Or is it the trick of some fanciful sprite, That taketh in mortal mischance delight, And marketh the road the coffin shall go, And the spot where the dead shall be soon laid low? Ask him who can answer these questions aright; I know not the cause of that pale blue light!

"I can't say I like thy song, Master Peter," said Toft, as the sexton finished his stave, "but if thou didst see a corpse-candle, as thou call'st thy pale blue flame, whose death doth it betoken?—eh!"

"Thine own," returned Peter, sharply.

"Mine! thou lying old cheat—dost dare to say that to my face? Why, I'm as hale and hearty as ever a man in the house. Dost think there's no life and vigor in this arm, thou drivelling old dotard?"

Upon which, Toft seized Peter by the throat with an energy that, but for the timely intervention of the company, who rushed to his assistance, the prophet might himself have anticipated the doom he prognosticated.

Released from the grasp of Toft, who was held back by the bystanders, Peter again broke forth into his eldritch laugh; and staring right into the face of his adversary, with eyes glistening, and hands uplifted, as if in the act of calling down an imprecation on his head, he screamed, in a shrill and discordant voice, "Soh! you will not take my warning? you revile me—you flout me! 'Tis well! your fate shall prove a warning to all unbelievers—they shall remember this night, though you will not. Fool! fool!—your doom has long been sealed! I saw your wraith choose out its last lodgment on Halloween; I know the spot. Your grave is dug already—ha, ha!" And, with renewed laughter, Peter rushed out of the room.

"Did I not caution thee not to provoke him, friend Toft?" said Plant; "it's ill playing with edge-tools; but don't let him fly off in that tantrum—one of ye go after him."

"That will I," replied Burtenshaw; and he departed in search of the sexton.

"I'd advise thee to make it up with Peter so soon as thou canst, neighbor," continued Plant; "he's a bad friend, but a worse enemy."

"Why, what harm can he do me?" returned Toft, who, however, was not without some misgivings. "If I must die, I can't help it—I shall go none the sooner for him, even if he speak the truth, which I don't think he do; and if I must, I sha'n't go unprepared—only I think as how, if it pleased Providence, I could have wished to keep my old missus company some few years longer, and see those bits of lasses of mine grow up into women, and respectably provided for. But His will be done. I sha'n't leave 'em quite penniless, and there's one eye at least, I'm sure, won't be dry at my departure." Here the stout heart of Toft gave way, and he shed some few "natural tears," which, however, he speedily brushed away. "I'll tell you what, neighbors," continued he, "I think we may all as well be thinking of going to our own homes, for, to my mind, we shall never reach the churchyard to-night."

"That you never will," exclaimed a voice behind him; and Toft, turning round, again met the glance of Peter.

"Come, come, Master Peter," cried the good-natured farmer, "this be ugly jesting—ax pardon for my share of it—sorry for what I did—so give us thy hand, man, and think no more about it."

Peter extended his claw, and the parties were, apparently, once more upon terms of friendship.



CHAPTER II

THE FUNERAL ORATION

In northern customs duty was exprest To friends departed by their funeral feast; Though I've consulted Hollingshed and Stow, I find it very difficult to know, Who, to refresh the attendants to the grave, Burnt claret first, or Naples' biscuit gave.

KING: Art of Cookery.

Ceterum priusquam corpus humo injecta contegatur, defunctus oratione funebri laudabatur.—DURAND.

A supply of spirits was here introduced; lights were brought at the same time, and placed upon a long oak table. The party gathering round it, ill-humor was speedily dissipated, and even the storm disregarded, in the copious libations that ensued. At this juncture, a loiterer appeared in the hall. His movements were unnoticed by all excepting the sexton, who watched his proceedings with some curiosity. The person walked to the window, appearing, so far as could be discovered, to eye the storm with great impatience. He then paced the hall rapidly backwards and forwards, and Peter fancied he could detect sounds of disappointment in his muttered exclamations. Again he returned to the window, as if to ascertain the probable duration of the shower. It was a hopeless endeavor; all was pitch-dark without; the lightning was now only seen at long intervals, but the rain still audibly descended in torrents. Apparently seeing the impossibility of controlling the elements, the person approached the table.

"What think you of the night, Mr. Palmer?" asked the sexton of Jack, for he was the anxious investigator of the weather.

"Don't know—can't say—set in, I think—cursed unlucky—for the funeral, I mean—we shall be drowned if we go."

"And drunk if we stay," rejoined Peter. "But never fear, it will hold up, depend upon it, long before we can start. Where have they put the prisoner?" asked he, with a sudden change of manner.

"I know the room, but can't describe it; it's two or three doors down the lower corridor of the eastern gallery."

"Good. Who are on guard?"

"Titus Tyrconnel and that swivel-eyed quill-driver, Coates."

"Enough."

"Come, come, Master Peter," roared Toft, "let's have another stave. Give us one of your odd snatches. No more corpse-candles, or that sort of thing. Something lively—something jolly—ha, ha!"

"A good move," shouted Jack. "A lively song from you—lillibullero from a death's-head—ha, ha!"

"My songs are all of a sort," returned Peter; "I am seldom asked to sing a second time. However, you are welcome to the merriest I have." And preparing himself, like certain other accomplished vocalists, with a few preliminary hems and haws, he struck forth the following doleful ditty:

THE OLD OAK COFFIN

Sic ego componi versus in ossa velim.—TIBULLUS.

In a churchyard, upon the sward, a coffin there was laid, And leaning stood, beside the wood, a sexton on his spade. A coffin old and black it was, and fashioned curiously, With quaint device of carved oak, in hideous fantasie.

For here was wrought the sculptured thought of a tormented face, With serpents lithe that round it writhe, in folded strict embrace. Grim visages of grinning fiends were at each corner set, And emblematic scrolls, mort-heads, and bones together met.

"Ah, welladay!" that sexton gray unto himself did cry, "Beneath that lid much lieth hid—much awful mysterie. It is an ancient coffin from the abbey that stood here; Perchance it holds an abbot's bones, perchance those of a frere.

"In digging deep, where monks do sleep, beneath yon cloister shrined, That coffin old, within the mould, it was my chance to find; The costly carvings of the lid I scraped full carefully, In hope to get at name or date, yet nothing could I see.

"With pick and spade I've plied my trade for sixty years and more, Yet never found, beneath the ground, shell strange as that before; Full many coffins have I seen—have seen them deep or flat, Fantastical in fashion—none fantastical as that."

And saying so, with heavy blow, the lid he shattered wide, And, pale with fright, a ghastly sight that sexton gray espied; A miserable sight it was, that loathsome corpse to see, The last, last, dreary, darksome stage of fall'n humanity.

Though all was gone, save reeky bone, a green and grisly heap, With scarce a trace of fleshly face, strange posture did it keep. The hands were clenched, the teeth were wrenched, as if the wretch had risen, E'en after death had ta'en his breath, to strive and burst his prison.

The neck was bent, the nails were rent, no limb or joint was straight; Together glued, with blood imbued, black and coagulate. And, as the sexton stooped him down to lift the coffin plank, His fingers were defiled all o'er with slimy substance dank.

"Ah, welladay!" that sexton gray unto himself did cry, "Full well I see how Fate's decree foredoomed this wretch to die; A living man, a breathing man, within the coffin thrust, Alack! alack! the agony ere he returned to dust!"

A vision drear did then appear unto that sexton's eyes; Like that poor wight before him straight he in a coffin lies. He lieth in a trance within that coffin close and fast; Yet though he sleepeth now, he feels he shall awake at last.

The coffin, then, by reverend men, is borne with footsteps slow, Where tapers shine before the shrine, where breathes the requiem low; And for the dead the prayer is said, for the soul that is not flown— Then all is drowned in hollow sound, the earth is o'er him thrown!

He draweth breath—he wakes from death to life more horrible; To agony! such agony! no living tongue may tell. Die! die he must, that wretched one! he struggles—strives in vain; No more Heaven's light, nor sunshine bright, shall he behold again.

"Gramercy, Lord!" the sexton roared, awakening suddenly, "If this be dream, yet doth it seem most dreadful so to die. Oh, cast my body in the sea! or hurl it on the shore! But nail me not in coffin fast—no grave will I dig more."

It was not difficult to discover the effect produced by this song, in the lengthened faces of the greater part of the audience. Jack Palmer, however, laughed loud and long.

"Bravo, bravo!" cried he; "that suits my humor exactly. I can't abide the thoughts of a coffin. No deal box for me."

"A gibbet might, perhaps, serve your turn as well," muttered the sexton; adding aloud, "I am now entitled to call upon you;—a song!—a song!"

"Ay, a song, Mr. Palmer, a song!" reiterated the hinds. "Yours will be the right kind of thing."

"Say no more," replied Jack. "I'll give you a chant composed upon Dick Turpin, the highwayman. It's no great shakes, to be sure, but it's the best I have." And, with a knowing wink at the sexton, he commenced, in the true nasal whine, the following strain:

ONE FOOT IN THE STIRRUP

OR TURPIN'S FIRST FLING

Cum esset proposita fuga Turpi(n)s.—CICERO.

"One foot in the stirrup, one hand in the rein, And the noose be my portion, or freedom I'll gain! Oh! give me a seat in my saddle once more, And these bloodhounds shall find that the chase is not o'er!" Thus muttered Dick Turpin, who found, while he slept, That the Philistines old on his slumbers had crept; Had entrapped him as puss on her form you'd ensnare, And that gone were his snappers—and gone was his mare. Hilloah!

How Dick had been captured is readily told, The pursuit had been hot, though the night had been cold, So at daybreak, exhausted, he sought brief repose Mid the thick of a corn-field, away from his foes. But in vain was his caution—in vain did his steed, Ever watchful and wakeful in moments of need, With lip and with hoof on her master's cheek press— He slept on, nor heeded the warning of Bess. Hilloah!

"Zounds! gem'men!" cried Turpin, "you've found me at fault, And the highflying highwayman's come to a halt; You have turned up a trump—for I weigh well my weight,— And the forty is yours, though the halter's my fate. Well, come on't what will, you shall own when all's past, That Dick Turpin, the Dauntless, was game to the last. But, before we go further, I'll hold you a bet, That one foot in my stirrup you won't let me set. Hilloah!

"A hundred to one is the odds I will stand, A hundred to one is the odds you command; Here's a handful of goldfinches ready to fly! May I venture a foot in my stirrup to try?" As he carelessly spoke, Dick directed a glance At his courser, and motioned her slyly askance:— You might tell by the singular toss of her head, And the prick of her ears, that his meaning she read. Hilloah!

With derision at first was Dick's wager received, And his error at starting as yet unretrieved; But when from his pocket the shiners he drew, And offered to "make up the hundred to two," There were havers in plenty, and each whispered each, The same thing, though varied in figure of speech, "Let the fool act his folly—the stirrup of Bess! He has put his foot in it already, we guess!" Hilloah!

Bess was brought to her master—Dick steadfastly gazed At the eye of his mare, then his foot quick upraised; His toe touched the stirrup, his hand grasped the rein— He was safe on the back of his courser again! As the clarion, fray-sounding and shrill, was the neigh Of Black Bess, as she answered his cry "Hark-away!" "Beset me, ye bloodhounds! in rear and in van; My foot's in the stirrup and catch me who can!" Hilloah!

There was riding and gibing mid rabble and rout, And the old woods re-echoed the Philistines' shout! There was hurling and whirling o'er brake and o'er brier, But the course of Dick Turpin was swift as Heaven's fire. Whipping, spurring, and straining would nothing avail, Dick laughed at their curses, and scoffed at their wail; "My foot's in the stirrup!"—thus rang his last cry; "Bess has answered my call; now her mettle we'll try!" Hilloah!

Uproarious applause followed Jack's song, when the joviality of the mourners was interrupted by a summons to attend in the state-room. Silence was at once completely restored; and, in the best order they could assume, they followed their leader, Peter Bradley. Jack Palmer was amongst the last to enter, and remained a not incurious spectator of a by no means common scene.

Preparations had been made to give due solemnity to the ceremonial. The leaden coffin was fastened down, and enclosed in an outer case of oak, upon the lid of which stood a richly-chased massive silver flagon, filled with burnt claret, called the grace-cup. All the lights were removed, save two lofty wax flambeaux, which were placed to the back, and threw a lurid glare upon the group immediately about the body, consisting of Ranulph Rookwood and some other friends of the deceased. Dr. Small stood in front of the bier; and, under the directions of Peter Bradley, the tenantry and household were formed into a wide half-moon across the chamber. There was a hush of expectation, as Dr. Small looked gravely round; and even Jack Palmer, who was as little likely as any man to yield to an impression of the kind, felt himself moved by the scene.

The very orthodox Small, as is well known to our readers, held everything savoring of the superstitions of the Scarlet Woman in supreme abomination; and, entertaining such opinions, it can scarcely be supposed that a funeral oration would find much favor in his eyes, accompanied, as it was, with the accessories of censer, candle, and cup; all evidently derived from that period when, under the three-crowned pontiff's sway, the shaven priest pronounced his benediction o'er the dead, and released the penitent's soul from purgatorial flames, while he heavily mulcted the price of his redemption from the possessions of his successor. Small resented the idea of treading in such steps, as an insult to himself and his cloth. Was he, the intolerant of Papistry, to tolerate this? Was he, who could not endure the odor of Catholicism, to have his nostrils thus polluted—his garments thus defiled by actual contact with it? It was not to be thought of: and he had formally signified his declination to Mr. Coates, when a little conversation with that gentleman, and certain weighty considerations therein held forth—the advowson of the church of Rookwood residing with the family—and represented by him, as well as the placing in juxtaposition of penalties to be incurred by refusal, that the scruples of Small gave way; and, with the best grace he could muster, very reluctantly promised compliance.

With these feelings, it will be readily conceived that the doctor was not in the best possible frame of mind for the delivery of his exhortation. His spirit had been ruffled by a variety of petty annoyances, amongst the greatest of which was the condition to which the good cheer had reduced his clerk, Zachariah Trundletext, whose reeling eye, pendulous position, and open mouth proclaimed him absolutely incapable of office. Zachariah was, in consequence, dismissed, and Small commenced his discourse unsupported. But as our recording it would not probably conduce to the amusement of our readers, whatever it might to their edification, we shall pass it over with very brief mention. Suffice it to say, that the oration was so thickly interstrewn with lengthy quotations from the fathers,—Chrysostomus, Hieronymus, Ambrosius, Basilius, Bernardus, and the rest, with whose recondite Latinity, notwithstanding the clashing of their opinions with his own, the doctor was intimately acquainted, and which he moreover delighted to quote,—that his auditors were absolutely mystified and perplexed, and probably not without design. Countenances of such amazement were turned towards him, that Small, who had a keen sense of the ludicrous, could scarcely forbear smiling as he proceeded; and if we could suspect so grave a personage of waggery, we should almost think that, by way of retaliation, he had palmed some abstruse, monkish epicedium upon his astounded auditors.

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