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Rookwood
by William Harrison Ainsworth
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"So help me Salamon!" repeated Turpin, with emphasis.

"Zoroaster," said the patrico to the upright man, "do thy part of this ceremonial."

Zoroaster obeyed; and, taking Excalibur from the knight of Malta, bestowed a hearty thwack with the blade upon the shoulders of the kneeling highwayman, assisting him afterwards to arise.

The inauguration was complete.

"Well," exclaimed Dick, "I'm glad it's all over. My leg feels a little stiffish. I'm not much given to kneeling. I must dance it off;" saying which, he began to shuffle upon the boards. "I tell you what," continued he, "most reverend patrico, that same 'salmon' of yours has a cursed long tail. I could scarce swallow it all, and it's strange if it don't give me an indigestion. As to you, sage Zory, from the dexterity with which you flourish your sword, I should say you had practised at court. His majesty could scarce do the thing better, when, slapping some fat alderman upon the shoulder, he bids him arise Sir Richard. And now, pals," added he, glancing round, "as I am one of you, let's have a booze together ere I depart, for I don't think my stay will be long in the land of Egypt."

This suggestion of Turpin was so entirely consonant to the wishes of the assemblage, that it met with universal approbation; and upon a sign from Zoroaster, some of his followers departed in search of supplies for the carousal. Zoroaster leaped from the table, and his example was followed by Turpin, and more leisurely by the patrico.

It was rather early in the day for a drinking bout. But the Canting Crew were not remarkably particular. The chairs were removed, and the jingling of glasses announced the arrival of the preliminaries of the matutine symposion. Poles, canvas, and cords were next brought; and in almost as short a space of time as one scene is substituted for another in a theatrical representation, a tent was erected. Benches, stools, and chairs appeared with equal celerity, and the interior soon presented an appearance like that of a booth at a fair. A keg of brandy was broached, and the health of the new brother quaffed in brimmers.

Our highwayman returned thanks. Zoroaster was in the chair, the knight of Malta acting as croupier. A second toast was proposed—the tawny queen. This was drunk with a like enthusiasm, and with a like allowance of the potent spirit; but as bumpers of brandy are not to be repeated with impunity, it became evident to the president of the board that he must not repeat his toasts quite so expeditiously. To create a temporary diversion, therefore, he called for a song.

The dulcet notes of the fiddle now broke through the clamor; and, in answer to the call, Jerry Juniper volunteered the following:

JERRY JUNIPER'S CHANT

In a box[37] of the stone jug[38] I was born, Of a hempen widow[39] the kid forlorn. Fake away, And my father, as I've heard say, Fake away. Was a merchant of capers[40] gay, Who cut his last fling with great applause, Nix my doll pals, fake away.[41]

Who cut his last fling with great applause,[42] To the tune of a "hearty choke with caper sauce." Fake away. The knucks in quod[43] did my schoolmen play, Fake away, And put me up to the time of day; Until at last there was none so knowing, Nix my doll pals, fake away.

Until at last there was none so knowing, No such sneaksman[44] or buzgloak[45] going. Fake away. Fogles[46] and fawnies[47] soon went their way, Fake away, To the spout[48] with the sneezers[49] in grand array. No dummy hunter[50] had forks[51] so fly; Nix my doll pals, fake away.

No dummy hunter had forks so fly, No knuckler[52] so deftly could fake a cly,[53] Fake away. No slour'd hoxter[54] my snipes[55] could stay, Fake away. None knap a reader[56] like me in the lay. Soon then I mounted in swell-street high. Nix my doll pals, fake away.

Soon then I mounted in swell-street high, And sported my flashiest toggery[57], Fake away. Firmly resolved I would make my hay, Fake away, While Mercury's star shed a single ray; And ne'er was there seen such a dashing prig,[58] Nix my doll pals, fake away.

And ne'er was there seen such a dashing prig, With my strummel faked in the newest twig.[59] Fake away. With my fawnied famms,[60] and my onions gay,[61] Fake away; My thimble of ridge[62], and my driz kemesa[63]; All my togs were so niblike[64] and splash, Nix my doll pals, fake away.

All my togs were so niblike and splash, Readily the queer screens I then could smash;[65] Fake away. But my nuttiest blowen,[66] one fine day, Fake away, To the beaks[67] did her fancy man betray, And thus was I bowled out at last[68] Nix my doll pals, fake away.

And thus was I bowled out at last, And into the jug for a lag was cast;[69] Fake away. But I slipped my darbies[70] one morn in May, Fake away, And gave to the dubsman[71] a holiday. And here I am, pals, merry and free, A regular rollicking romany.[72] Nix my doll pals, fake away.

Much laughter and applause rewarded Jerry's attempt to please; and though the meaning of his chant, even with the aid of the numerous notes appended to it, may not be quite obvious to our readers, we can assure them that it was perfectly intelligible to the Canting Crew. Jerry was now entitled to a call; and happening, at the moment, to meet the fine dark eyes of a sentimental gipsy, one of that better class of mendicants who wandered about the country with a guitar at his back, his election fell upon him. The youth, without prelude, struck up a

GIPSY SERENADE

Merry maid, merry maid, wilt thou wander with me? We will roam through the forest, the meadow, and lea; We will haunt the sunny bowers, and when day begins to flee, Our couch shall be the ferny brake, our canopy the tree. Merry maid, merry maid, come and wander with me! No life like the gipsy's, so joyous and free!

Merry maid, merry maid, though a roving life be ours, We will laugh away the laughing and quickly fleeting hours; Our hearts are free, as is the free and open sky above, And we know what tamer souls know not, how lovers ought to love. Merry maid, merry maid, come and wander with me! No life like the gipsy's so joyous and free!

Zoroaster now removed the pipe from his upright lips to intimate his intention of proposing a toast.

A universal knocking of knuckles by the knucklers[73] was followed by profound silence. The sage spoke:

"The city of Canterbury, pals," said he; "and may it never want a knight of Malta."

The toast was pledged with much laughter, and in many bumpers.

The knight, upon whom all eyes were turned, rose, "with stately bearing and majestic motion," to return thanks.

"I return you an infinitude of thanks, brother pals," said he, glancing round the assemblage; and bowing to the president, "and to you, most upright Zory, for the honor you have done me in associating my name with that city. Believe me, I sincerely appreciate the compliment, and echo the sentiment from the bottom of my soul. I trust it never will want a knight of Malta. In return for your consideration, but a poor one you will say, you shall have a ditty, which I composed upon the occasion of my pilgrimage to that city, and which I have thought proper to name after myself."

THE KNIGHT OF MALTA

A Canterbury Tale[74]

Come list to me, and you shall have, without a hem or haw, sirs, A Canterbury pilgrimage, much better than old Chaucer's. 'Tis of a hoax I once played off upon that city clever, The memory of which, I hope, will stick to it for ever. With my coal-black beard, and purple cloak, jack-boots, and broad-brimmed castor, Hey-ho! for the knight of Malta!

To execute my purpose, in the first place, you must know, sirs, My locks I let hang down my neck—my beard and whiskers grow, sirs; A purple cloak I next clapped on, a sword lagged to my side, sirs, And mounted on a charger black, I to the town did ride, sirs. With my coal-black beard, &c.

Two pages were there by my side, upon two little ponies, Decked out in scarlet uniform, as spruce as macaronies; Caparisoned my charger was, as grandly as his master, And o'er my long and curly locks, I wore a broad-brimmed castor. With my coal-black beard, &c.

The people all flocked forth, amazed to see a man so hairy, Oh I such a sight had ne'er before been seen in Canterbury! My flowing robe, my flowing beard, my horse with flowing mane, sirs! They stared—the days of chivalry, they thought, were come again, sirs! With my coal-black beard, &c.

I told them a long rigmarole romance, that did not halt a Jot, that they beheld in me a real knight of Malta! Tom a Becket had I sworn I was, that saint and martyr hallowed, I doubt not just as readily the bait they would have swallowed. With my coal-black beard, &c.

I rode about, and speechified, and everybody gullied, The tavern-keepers diddled, and the magistracy bullied; Like puppets were the townsfolk led in that show they call a raree; The Gotham sages were a joke to those of Canterbury. With my coal-black beard, &c.

The theatre I next engaged, where I addressed the crowd, sirs, And on retrenchment and reform I spouted long and loud, sirs; On tithes and on taxation I enlarged with skill and zeal, sirs, Who so able as a Malta knight, the malt tax to repeal, sirs. With my coal-black beard, &c.

As a candidate I then stepped forth to represent their city, And my non-election to that place was certainly a pity; For surely I the fittest was, and very proper, very, To represent the wisdom and the wit of Canterbury. With my coal-black beard, &c.

At the trial of some smugglers next, one thing I rather queer did, And the justices upon the bench I literally bearded; For I swore that I some casks did see, though proved as clear as day, sirs, That I happened at the time to be some fifty miles away, sirs. With my coal-black beard, &c.

This last assertion, I must own, was somewhat of a blunder, And for perjury indicted they compelled me to knock under; To my prosperous career this slight error put a stop, sirs, And thus crossed, the knight of Malta was at length obliged to hop, sirs. With his coal-black beard, and purple cloak, jack-boots, and broad-brimmed castor, Good-by to the knight of Malta.

The knight sat down amidst the general plaudits of the company.

The party, meanwhile, had been increased by the arrival of Luke and the sexton. The former, who was in no mood for revelry, refused to comply with his grandsire's solicitation to enter, and remained sullenly at the door, with his arms folded, and his eyes fixed upon Turpin, whose movements he commanded through the canvas aperture. The sexton walked up to Dick, who was seated at the post of honor, and, clapping him upon the shoulder, congratulated him upon the comfortable position in which he found him.

"Ha, ha! Are you there, my old death's-head on a mop-stick?" said Turpin, with a laugh. "Ain't we merry mumpers, eh? Keeping it up in style. Sit down, old Noah—make yourself comfortable, Methusalem."

"What say you to a drop of as fine Nantz as you ever tasted in your life, old cove?" said Zoroaster.

"I have no sort of objection to it," returned Peter, "provided you will all pledge my toast."

"That I will, were it old Ruffin himself," shouted Turpin.

"Here's to the three-legged mare," cried Peter. "To the tree that bears fruit all the year round, and yet has neither bark nor branch. You won't refuse that toast, Captain Turpin?"

"Not I," answered Dick; "I owe the gallows no grudge. If, as Jerry's song says, I must have a 'hearty choke and caper sauce' for my breakfast one of these fine mornings, it shall never be said that I fell to my meal without appetite, or neglected saying grace before it. Gentlemen, here's Peter Bradley's toast: 'The scragging post—the three-legged mare,' with three times three."

Appropriate as this sentiment was, it did not appear to be so inviting to the party as might have been anticipated, and the shouts soon died away.

"They like not the thoughts of the gallows," said Turpin to Peter. "More fools they. A mere bugbear to frighten children, believe me; and never yet alarmed a brave man. The gallows, pshaw! One can but die once, and what signifies it how, so that it be over quickly. I think no more of the last leap into eternity than clearing a five-barred gate. A rope's end for it! So let us be merry, and make the most of our time, and that's true philosophy. I know you can throw off a rum chant," added he, turning to Peter. "I heard you sing last night at the hall. Troll us a stave, my antediluvian file, and, in the meantime, tip me a gage of fogus,[75] Jerry; and if that's a bowl of huckle-my-butt[76] you are brewing, Sir William," added he, addressing the knight of Malta, "you may send me a jorum at your convenience."

Jerry handed the highwayman a pipe, together with a tumbler of the beverage which the knight had prepared, which he pronounced excellent; and while the huge bowl was passed round to the company, a prelude of shawms announced that Peter was ready to break into song.

Accordingly, after the symphony was ended, accompanied at intervals by a single instrument, Peter began his melody, in a key so high, that the utmost exertions of the shawm-blower failed to approach its altitudes. The burden of his minstrelsy was

THE MANDRAKE[77]

{Moly de min kaleousi theoi, chalnpon de t' oryssein Andrasi ge thnetoisi theoi, de te panta dynantai.} HOMERUS.

The mandrake grows 'neath the gallows-tree, And rank and green are its leaves to see; Green and rank, as the grass that waves Over the unctuous earth of graves; And though all around it lie bleak and bare, Freely the mandrake flourisheth there. Maranatha—Anathema! Dread is the curse of mandragora! Euthanasy!

At the foot of the gibbet the mandrake springs; Just where the creaking carcase swings; Some have thought it engendered From the fat that drops from the bones of the dead; Some have thought it a human thing; But this is a vain imagining. Maranatha—Anathema! Dread is the curse of mandragora! Euthanasy!

A charnel leaf doth the mandrake wear, A charnel fruit doth the mandrake bear; Yet none like the mandrake hath such great power, Such virtue resides not in herb or flower; Aconite, hemlock, or moonshade, I ween, None hath a poison so subtle and keen. Maranatha—Anathema! Dread is the curse of mandragora! Euthanasy!

And whether the mandrake be create Flesh with the power incorporate, I know not; yet, if from the earth 'tis rent, Shrieks and groans from the root are sent; Shrieks and groans, and a sweat like gore Oozes and drops from the clammy core. Maranatha—Anathema! Dread is the curse of mandragora! Euthanasy!

Whoso gathereth the mandrake shall surely die; Blood for blood is his destiny. Some who have plucked it have died with groans, Like to the mandrake's expiring moans; Some have died raving, and some beside— With penitent prayers—but all have died. Jesu! save us by night and day! From the terrible death of mandragora! Euthanasy!

"A queer chant that," said Zoroaster, coughing loudly, in token of disapprobation.

"Not much to my taste," quoth the knight of Malta. "We like something more sprightly in Canterbury."

"Nor to mine," added Jerry; "don't think it's likely to have an encore. 'Pon my soul, Dick, you must give us something yourself, or we shall never cry Euthanasy at the Triple Tree."

"With all my heart," replied Turpin. "You shall have—but what do I see, my friend Sir Luke? Devil take my tongue, Luke Bradley, I mean. What, ho! Luke—nay, nay, man, no shrinking—stand forward; I've a word or two to say to you. We must have a hob-a-nob glass together for old acquaintance sake. Nay, no airs, man; damme you're not a lord yet, nor a baronet either, though I do hold your title in my pocket; never look glum at me. It won't pay. I'm one of the Canting Crew now; no man shall sneer at me with impunity, eh, Zory? Ha, ha! here's a glass of Nantz; we'll have a bottle of black strap when you are master of your own. Make ready there, you gut-scrapers, you shawm-shavers; I'll put your lungs in play for you presently. In the meantime—charge, pals, charge—a toast, a toast! Health and prosperity to Sir Luke Rookwood! I see you are surprised—this, gemmen, is Sir Luke Rookwood, somewhile Luke Bradley, heir to the house of that name, not ten miles distant from this. Say, shall we not drink a bumper to his health?"

Astonishment prevailed amongst the crew. Luke himself had been taken by surprise. When Turpin discovered him at the door of the tent, and summoned him to appear, he reluctantly complied with the request; but when, in a half-bantering vein, Dick began to rally him upon his pretensions, he would most gladly have retreated, had it been in his power. It was then too late. He felt he must stand the ordeal. Every eye was fixed upon him with a look of inquiry.

Zoroaster took his everlasting pipe from his mouth.

"This ain't true, surely?" asked the perplexed Magus.

"He has said it," replied Luke; "I may not deny it."

This was sufficient. There was a wild hubbub of delight amongst the crew, for Luke was a favorite with all.

"Sir Luke Rookwood!" cried Jerry Juniper, who liked a title as much as Tommy Moore is said to dote upon a lord. "Upon my soul I sincerely congratulate you; devilish fortunate fellow. Always cursed unlucky myself. I could never find out my own father, unless it were one Monsieur des Capriolles, a French dancing-master, and he never left anything behind him that I could hear of, except a broken kit and a hempen widow. Sir Luke Rookwood, we shall do ourselves the pleasure of drinking your health and prosperity."

Fresh bumpers and immense cheering.

Silence being in a measure restored, Zoroaster claimed Turpin's promise of a song.

"True, true," replied Dick; "I have not forgotten it. Stand to your bows, my hearties."

THE GAME OF HIGH TOBY

Now Oliver[78] puts his black nightcap on, And every star its glim[79] is hiding, And forth to the heath is the scampsman[80] gone, His matchless cherry-black[81] prancer riding; Merrily over the common he flies, Fast and free as the rush of rocket, His crape-covered vizard drawn over his eyes, His tol[82] by his side, and his pops[83] in his pocket.

CHORUS

Then who can name So merry a game, As the game of all games—high toby?[84]

The traveller hears him, away! away! Over the wide wide heath he scurries; He heeds not the thunderbolt summons to stay, But ever the faster and faster he hurries. But what daisy-cutter can match that black tit? He is caught—he must "stand and deliver;" Then out with the dummy[85], and off with the bit,[86] Oh! the game of high toby for ever!

CHORUS

Then who can name So merry a game, As the game of all games—high toby?

Believe me, there is not a game, my brave boys, To compare with the game of high toby; No rapture can equal the tobyman's joys, To blue devils, blue plumbs[87] give the go-by; And what if, at length, boys, he come to the crap![88] Even rack punch has some bitter in it, For the mare-with-three-legs[89], boys, I care not a rap, 'Twill be over in less than a minute.

GRAND CHORUS

Then hip, hurrah! Fling care away! Hurrah for the game of high toby!

"And now, pals," said Dick, who began to feel the influence of these morning cups, "I vote that we adjourn. Believe me I shall always bear in mind that I am a brother of your band. Sir Luke and I must have a little chat together ere I take my leave. Adieu!"

And taking Luke by the arm, he walked out of the tent. Peter Bradley rose, and followed them.

At the door they found the dwarfish Grasshopper with Black Bess. Rewarding the urchin for his trouble, and slipping the bridle of his mare over his hand, Turpin continued his walk over the green. For a few minutes he seemed to be lost in rumination.

"I tell you what, Sir Luke," said he; "I should like to do a generous thing, and make you a present of this bit of paper. But one ought not to throw away one's luck, you know—there is a tide in the affairs of thieves, as the player coves say, which must be taken at the flood, or else——no matter! Your old dad, Sir Piers—God help him!—had the gingerbread, that I know; he was, as we say, a regular rhino-cerical cull. You won't feel a few thousands, especially at starting; and besides, there are two others, Rust and Wilder, who row in the same boat with me, and must therefore come in for their share of the reg'lars. All this considered, you can't complain, I think if I ask five thousand for it. That old harridan, Lady Rookwood, offered me nearly as much."

"I will not talk to you of fairness," said Luke; "I will not say that document belongs of right to me. It fell by accident into your hands. Having possessed yourself of it, I blame you not that you dispose of it to the best advantage. I must, perforce, agree to your terms."

"Oh, no," replied Dick, "it's quite optional; Lady Rookwood will give as much, and make no mouths about it. Soho, lass! What makes Bess prick her ears in that fashion?—Ha! carriage-wheels in the distance! that jade knows the sound as well as I do. I'll just see what it's like!—you will have ten minutes for reflection. Who knows if I may not have come in for a good thing here?"

At that instant the carriage passed the angle of a rock some three hundred yards distant, and was seen slowly ascending the hill-side. Eager as a hawk after his quarry, Turpin dashed after it.

In vain the sexton, whom he nearly overthrew in his career, called after him to halt. He sped like a bolt from the bow.

"May the devil break his neck!" cried Peter, as he saw him dash through the brook; "could he not let them alone?"

"This must not be," said Luke; "know you whose carriage it is?"

"It is a shrine that holds the jewel that should be dearest in your eyes," returned Peter; "haste, and arrest the spoiler's hand."

"Whom do you mean?" asked Luke.

"Eleanor Mowbray," replied Peter. "She is there. To the rescue—away."

"Eleanor Mowbray!" echoed Luke—"and Sybil?——"

At this instant a pistol-shot was heard.

"Will you let murder be done, and upon your cousin?" cried Peter, with a bitter look. "You are not what I took you for."

Luke answered not, but, swift as the hound freed from the leash, darted in the direction of the carriage.



CHAPTER VI

ELEANOR MOWBRAY

——Mischiefs Are like the visits of Franciscan friars, They never come to prey upon us single.

Devil's Law Case.

The course of our tale returns now to Eleanor Mowbray. After she had parted from Ranulph Rookwood, and had watched him disappear beneath the arches of the church porch, her heart sank, and, drawing herself back within the carriage, she became a prey to the most poignant affliction. In vain she endeavored to shake off this feeling of desolation. It would not be. Despair had taken possession of her; the magic fabric of delight melted away, or only gleamed to tantalize, at an unreachable distance. A presentiment that Ranulph would never be hers had taken root in her imagination, and overshadowed all the rest.

While Eleanor pursued this train of reflection, the time insensibly wore away, until the sudden stoppage of the carriage aroused the party from their meditation. Major Mowbray perceived that the occasion of the halt was the rapid advance of a horseman, who was nearing them at full speed. The appearance of the rider was somewhat singular, and might have created some uneasiness as to the nature of his approach, had not the major immediately recognized a friend; he was, nevertheless, greatly surprised to see him, and turned to Mrs. Mowbray to inform her that Father Ambrose, to his infinite astonishment, was coming to meet them, and appeared, from his manner, to be the bearer of unwelcome tidings.

Father Ambrose was, perhaps, the only being whom Eleanor disliked. She had felt an unaccountable antipathy towards him, which she could neither extirpate nor control, during their long and close intimacy. It may be necessary to mention that her religious culture had been in accordance with the tenets of the Romish Church, in whose faith—the faith of her ancestry—her mother had continued; and that Father Ambrose, with whom she had first become acquainted during the residence of the family near Bordeaux, was her ghostly adviser and confessor. An Englishman by birth, he had been appointed pastor to the diocese in which they dwelt, and was, consequently, a frequent visitor, almost a constant inmate of the chateau; yet though duty and respect would have prompted her to regard the father with affection, Eleanor could never conquer the feelings of dislike and distrust which she had at first entertained towards him; a dislike which was increased by the strange control in which he seemed to hold her mother, who regarded him with a veneration approaching to infatuation. It was, therefore, with satisfaction that she bade him adieu. He had, however, followed his friends to England under a feigned name as—being a recusant Romish priest, and supposed to have been engaged in certain Jesuitical plots, his return to his own country was attended with considerable risk—, and had now remained domesticated with them for some months. That he had been in some way, in early life, connected with a branch of the house of Rookwood, Eleanor was aware—she fancied he might have been engaged in political intrigue with Sir Reginald, which would have well accorded with his ardent, ambitious temperament—, and the knowledge of this circumstance made her doubly apprehensive lest the nature of his present communication should have reference to her lover, towards whose cause the father had never been favorable, and respecting whose situation he might have made some discovery, which she feared he might use to Ranulph's disadvantage.

Wrapped in a long black cloak, with a broad-brimmed hat drawn closely over his brows, it was impossible to distinguish further of the priest's figure and features beyond the circumstance of his height, which was remarkable, until he had reached the carriage window, when, raising his hat, he disclosed a head that Titian might have painted, and which, arising from the dark drapery, looked not unlike the visage of some grave and saturnine Venetian. There was a venerable expanse of forehead, thinly scattered with hair, towering over black pent-house-like brows, which, in their turn, shadowed keen penetrating eyes; the temples were hollow, and blue veins might be traced beneath the sallow skin; the cheek-bones were high, and there was something in the face that spoke of self-mortification; while the thin livid lips, closely compressed, and the austere and sinister expression of his countenance, showed that his self-abasement, if he had ever practised it, had scarcely prostrated the demon of pride, whose dominion might still be traced in the lines and furrows of his haughty physiognomy. The father looked at Mrs. Mowbray, and then glanced suspiciously at Eleanor. The former appeared to understand him.

"You would say a word to me in private," said Mrs. Mowbray; "shall I descend?"

The priest bowed assent.

"It is not to you alone that my mission extends," said he, gravely; "you are all in part concerned; your son had better alight with you."

"Instantly," replied the major. "If you will give your horse in charge to the postilion, we will attend you at once."

With a feeling of renewed apprehension, connected, she knew not why, with Ranulph, Eleanor beheld her relatives descend from the carriage; and, in the hope of gaining some clue from their gestures to the subject of their conversation, she watched their motions as narrowly as her situation permitted. From the earnest manner of the priest, and the interest his narrative seemed to excite in his hearers, it was evident that his communication was of importance.

Presently, accompanied by Father Ambrose, Mrs. Mowbray returned to the carriage, while the major, mounting the priest's horse, after bidding a hasty adieu to his sister, adding, with a look that belied the consolation intended to be conveyed by his words, that "all was well," but without staying to offer her any explanation of the cause of his sudden departure, rode back the way they had just traversed, and in the direction of Rookwood. Bereft of the only person to whom she could have applied for information, though dying with curiosity and anxiety to know the meaning of this singular interview and of the sudden change of plans which she felt so intimately concerned herself, Eleanor was constrained to preserve silence, as, after their entrance into the carriage, her mother again seemed lost in painful reflection, and heeded her not; and the father, drawing from his pocket a small volume, appeared intently occupied in its perusal.

"Dear mother," said Eleanor, at length, turning to Mrs. Mowbray, "my brother is gone——"

"To Rookwood," said Mrs. Mowbray, in a tone calculated to check further inquiry; but Eleanor was too anxious to notice it.

"And wherefore, mother?" said she. "May I not be informed?"

"Not as yet, my child—not as yet," replied Mrs. Mowbray. "You will learn all sufficiently early."

The priest raised his cat-like eyes from the book to watch the effect of this speech, and dropped them instantly as Eleanor turned towards him. She had been about to appeal to him, but having witnessed this look, she relinquished her scarce-formed purpose, and endeavored to divert her tristful thoughts by gazing through the glimmering medium of her tears upon the soothing aspect of external nature—that aspect which, in sunshine or in storm, has ever relief in store for a heart embittered by the stormy coldness of the world.

The road, meanwhile, led them through a long woody valley, and was now climbing the sides of a steep hill. They were soon in the vicinity of the priory, and of the gipsies' encampment. The priest leaned forward, and whispered something in Mrs. Mowbray's ear, who looked towards the ruined shrine, part of the mouldering walls being visible from the road.

At the moment the clatter of a horse's hoofs, and the sound of a loud voice, commanding the postilion, in a menacing tone, to stop, accompanied by a volley of imprecations, interrupted the conference, and bespoke the approach of an unwelcome intruder, and one whom all, too truly, feared would not be readily dismissed. The postilion did his best to rid them of the assailant. Perceiving a masked horseman behind him, approaching at a furious rate, he had little doubt as to his intentions, and Turpin, for it was our highwayman, soon made his doubts certainties. He hallooed to him to stop; but the fellow paid no attention to his command, and disregarded even the pistol which he saw, in a casual glimpse over his near side, presented at his person. Clapping spurs into his horse's flanks, he sought succor in flight. Turpin was by his side in an instant. As the highwayman endeavored to catch his reins, the lad suddenly wheeled the carriage right upon him, and but for the dexterity of Turpin, and the clever conduct of his mare, would inevitably have crushed him against the roadside. As it was, his left leg was slightly grazed. Irritated at this, Turpin fired over the man's head, and with the butt-end of the pistol felled him from his seat. Startled by the sound, and no longer under the governance of their rider, the horses rushed with frantic violence towards a ditch that bounded the other side of the highway, down which the carriage was precipitated, and at once overturned. Turpin's first act, after he had ascertained that no mischief had been occasioned to those within, beyond the alarm incident to the shock, was to compel the postilion, who had by this time gained his legs, to release the horses from their traces. This done, with the best grace he could assume, and, adjusting his mask, he opened the carriage, and proceeded to liberate the captives.

"Beg pardon, ma'am," said he, as soon as he had released Mrs. Mowbray; "excessively sorry, upon my soul, to have been the cause of so much unnecessary alarm to you—all the fault, I assure you, of that rascal of a postilion; had the fellow only pulled up when I commanded him, this botheration might have been avoided. You will remember that, when you pay him—all his fault, I assure you, ma'am."

Receiving no reply, he proceeded to extricate Eleanor, with whose beauty the inflammable highwayman was instantly smitten. Leaving the father to shift for himself, he turned to address some observation of coarse gallantry to her; but she eluded his grasp, and flew to her mother's side.

"It is useless, sir," said Mrs. Mowbray, as Turpin drew near them, "to affect ignorance of your intentions. You have already occasioned us serious alarm; much delay and inconvenience. I trust, therefore, that beyond our purses, to which, though scantily supplied, you are welcome, we shall sustain no molestation. You seem to have less of the ruffian about you than the rest of your lawless race, and are not, I should hope, destitute of common humanity."

"Common humanity!" replied Turpin: "bless you, ma'am, I'm the most humane creature breathing—would not hurt a fly, much less a lady. Incivility was never laid to my charge. This business may be managed in a few seconds; and as soon as we have settled the matter, I'll lend your stupid jack-boy a hand to put the horses to the carriage again, and get the wheels out of the ditch. You have a banker, ma'am, I suppose, in town—perhaps in the country; but I don't like country bankers; besides, I want a little ready cash in Rumville—beg pardon, ma'am, London I mean. My ears have been so stunned with those Romany patterers, I almost think in flash. Just draw me a check; I've pen and ink always ready: a check for fifty pounds, ma'am—only fifty. What's your banker's name? I've blank checks of all the best houses in my pocket; that and a kiss from the pretty lips of that cherry-cheeked maid," winking to Eleanor, "will fully content me. You see you have neither an exorbitant nor uncivil personage to deal with."

Eleanor shrank closer towards her mother. Exhausted by previous agitation of the night, greatly frightened by the shock which she had just sustained, and still more alarmed by the words and gestures of the highwayman, she felt that she was momentarily in danger of fainting, and with difficulty prevented herself from falling. The priest, who had succeeded in freeing himself from the carriage, now placed himself between Turpin and the ladies.

"Be satisfied, misguided man," said the father, in a stern voice, offering a purse, which Mrs. Mowbray hastily extended towards him, "with the crime you have already committed, and seek not to peril your soul by deeper guilt; be content with the plunder you now obtain, and depart; for, by my holy calling, I affirm to you, that if you advance one footstep towards the further molestation of these ladies, it shall be at the hazard of your life."

"Bravo!" exclaimed Turpin. "Now this is what I like; who would have thought the old autem-bawler had so much pluck in him? Sir, I commend you for your courage, but you are mistaken. I am the quietest man breathing, and never harm a human being; in proof of which, only look at your rascal of a postilion, whom any one of my friends would have sent post-haste to the devil for half the trouble he gave me. Easy as I am, I never choose to be balked in my humors. I must have the fifty and the buss, and then I'm off, as soon as you like; and I may as well have the kiss while the old lady signs the check, and then we shall have the seal as well as the signature. Poh—poh—no nonsense! Many a pretty lass has thought it an honor to be kissed by Turpin."

Eleanor recoiled with deepest disgust, as she saw the highwayman thrust aside the useless opposition of the priest, and approach her. He had removed his mask; his face, flushed with insolent triumph, was turned towards her. Despite the loathing, which curdled the blood within her veins, she could not avert her eyes. He drew near her; she uttered a shrill scream. At that moment a powerful grasp was laid upon Turpin's shoulder; he turned and beheld Luke.

"Save me! save me," cried Eleanor, addressing the new comer.

"Damnation!" said the highwayman, "what has brought you here? one would think you were turned assistant to all distressed damsels. Quit your hold, or, by the God above us, you will repent it."

"Fool!" exclaimed Luke, "talk thus to one who heeds you." And as he spoke he hurled Turpin backwards with so much force that, staggering a few yards, the highwayman fell to the ground.

The priest stood like one stunned with surprise at Luke's sudden appearance and subsequent daring action.

Luke, meanwhile, approached Eleanor. He gazed upon her with curiosity mixed with admiration, for his heart told him she was very fair. A deathlike paleness had spread over her cheeks; yet still, despite the want of color, she looked exquisitely beautiful, and her large blue eyes eloquently thanked her deliverer for her rescue. The words she wanted were supplied by Mrs. Mowbray, who thanked him in appropriate terms, when they were interrupted by Turpin, who had by this time picked himself up, and was drawing near them. His countenance wore a fierce expression.

"I tell you what," said he, "Luke Bradley, or Luke Rookwood, or whatever else you may call yourself, you have taken a damned unfair advantage of me in this matter, and deserve nothing better at my hands than that I should call you to instant account for it—and curse me, if I don't too."

"Luke Bradley!" interrupted Mrs. Mowbray—"are you that individual?"

"I have been so called, madam," replied Luke.

"Father Ambrose, is this the person of whom you spoke?" eagerly asked the lady.

"So I conclude," returned the priest, evasively.

"Did he not call you Luke Rookwood?" eagerly demanded Eleanor. "Is that also your name?"

"Rookwood is my name, fair cousin," replied Luke, "if I may venture to call you so."

"And Ranulph Rookwood is——"

"My brother."

"I never heard he had a brother," rejoined Eleanor, with some agitation. "How can that be?"

"I am his brother, nevertheless," replied Luke, moodily—"his ELDER BROTHER!"

Eleanor turned to her mother and the priest with a look of imploring anguish; she saw a confirmation of the truth of this statement in their glances. No contradiction was offered by either to his statement; both, indeed, appeared in some mysterious manner prepared for it. This, then, was the dreaded secret. This was the cause of her brother's sudden departure. The truth flashed with lightning swiftness across her brain.

Chagrined and mortified, Luke remarked that glance of inquiry. His pride was hurt at the preference thus naturally shown towards his brother. He had been struck, deeply struck, with her beauty. He acknowledged the truth of Peter's words. Eleanor's loveliness was without parallel. He had seen naught so fair, and the instant he beheld her, he felt that for her alone could he cancel his vows to Sybil. The spirit of rivalry and jealousy was instantly aroused by Eleanor's exclamations.

"His elder brother!" echoed Eleanor, dwelling upon his words, and addressing Luke—"then you must be—but no, you are not, you cannot be—it is Ranulph's title—it is not yours—you are not——"

"I am Sir Luke Rookwood," replied Luke, proudly.

Ere the words were uttered Eleanor had fainted.

"Assistance is at hand, madam, if you will accept it, and follow me," said Luke, raising the insensible girl in his arms, and bearing her down the hill towards the encampment, whither he was followed by Mrs. Mowbray and the priest, between whom, during the hurried dialogue we have detailed, very significant glances had been exchanged. Turpin, who, as it may be supposed, had not been an incurious observer of the scene passing, burst into his usual loud laugh on seeing Luke bear away his lovely burden.

"Cousin! Ha, ha!" said he. "So the wench is his cousin. Damme, I half suspect he has fallen in love with his new-found cousin; and if so, Miss Sybil, or I'm mistaken, will look as yellow as a guinea. If that little Spanish devil gets it into her pretty jealous pate that he is about to bring home a new mistress, we shall have a tragedy-scene in the twinkling of a bed-post. However, I shan't lose sight of Sir Luke until I have settled my accounts with him. Hark ye, boy," continued he, addressing the postilion; "remain where you are; you won't be wanted yet awhile, I imagine. There's a guinea for you, to drink Dick Turpin's health."

Upon which he mounted his mare, and walked her easily down the hill.

"And so that be Dick Turpin, folks talk so much about," soliloquized the lad, looking curiously after him; "well, he's as civil-speaking a chap as need be, blow my boots if he ain't! and if I'd had a notion it were he, I'd have pulled up at first call, without more ado. Nothing like experience—I shall know better another time," added he, pocketing the douceur.

Rushing swiftly down the hill, Luke tarried at the river's brink, to sprinkle some of the cool element upon the pale brow of Eleanor. As he held her in his arms, thoughts which he fain would have stifled in their birth took possession of his heart. "Would she were mine!" murmured he. "Yet no! the wish is unworthy." But that wish returned unbidden.

Eleanor opened her eyes. She was still too weak to walk without support, and Luke, raising her once more in his arms, and motioning Mrs. Mowbray to follow, crossed the brook by means of stepping-stones, and conducted his charge along a bypath towards the priory, so as to avoid meeting with the crew assembled upon the green.

They had gained one of the roofless halls, when he encountered Balthazar. Astonished at the sight of the party, the patrico was about to address the priest as an acquaintance, when his more orthodox brother raised his finger to his lips, in token of caution. The action passed unobserved.

"Hie thee to Sybil," said Luke to the patrico. "Bid her haste hither. Say that this maiden—that Miss Mowbray is here, and requires her aid. Fly! I will bear her to the refectory."

As Balthazar passed the priest, he pointed with a significant glance towards a chasm in the wall, which seemed to be an opening to some subterraneous chamber. The father again made a gesture of silence, and Balthazar hastened upon his mission.

Luke led them to the refectory. He brought a chair for Eleanor's support; but so far from reviving, after such attention as could be afforded her, she appeared to become weaker. He was about to issue forth in search of Sybil, when to his surprise he found the door fastened.

"You cannot pass this way," said a voice, which Luke instantly recognized as that of the knight of Malta.

"Not pass!" echoed Luke. "What does this mean?"

"Our orders are from the queen," returned the knight.

At this instant the low tone of a muffled bell was heard.

"Ha!" exclaimed Luke; "some danger is at hand."

His heart smote him as he thought of Sybil, and he looked anxiously towards Eleanor.

Balthazar rushed into the room.

"Where is Sybil?" cried Luke. "Will she not come?"

"She will be here anon," answered the patrico.

"I will seek her myself, then," said Luke. "The door by which you entered is free."

"It is not free," replied Balthazar. "Remain where you are."

"Who will prevent my going forth?" demanded Luke, sternly.

"I will," said Barbara Lovel, as she suddenly appeared in the doorway. "You stir not, excepting at my pleasure. Where is the maiden?" continued she, looking around with a grim smile of satisfaction at the consternation produced by her appearance. "Ha! I see; she faints. Here is a cordial that shall revive her. Mrs. Mowbray, you are welcome to the gipsies' dwelling—you and your daughter. And you, Sir Luke Rookwood, I congratulate you upon your accession of dignity." Turning to the priest, who was evidently overwhelmed with confusion, she exclaimed, "And you too, sir, think you I recognize you not? We have met ere this, at Rookwood. Know you not Barbara Lovel? Ha, ha! It is long since my poor dwelling has been so highly honored. But I must not delay the remedy. Let her drink of this," said she, handing a phial to Mrs. Mowbray. "It will instantly restore her."

"It is poison," cried Luke. "She shall not drink it."

"Poison!" reiterated Barbara. "Behold!" and she drank of the liquid. "I would not poison your bride," added she, turning to Luke.

"My bride!" echoed Luke.

"Ay, your bride," repeated Barbara.

Luke recoiled in amazement. Mrs. Mowbray almost felt inclined to believe she was a dreamer, so visionary did the whole scene appear. A dense crowd of witnesses stood at the entrance. Foremost amongst them was the sexton. Suddenly a shriek was heard, and the crowd opening to allow her passage, Sybil rushed forward.



CHAPTER VII

MRS. MOWBRAY

Well, go thy ways, old Nick Machiavel, there will never be the peer of thee for wholesome policy and good counsel: thou took'st pains to chalk men out the dark paths and hidden plots of murther and deceit, and no man has the grace to follow thee. The age is unthankful, thy principles are quite forsaken, and worn out of memory.

SHAKERLEY MARMION'S Antiquary.

Sybil's sudden entrance filled the group that surrounded Miss Mowbray with new dismay. But she saw them not. Her soul seemed riveted by Eleanor, towards whom she rushed; and while her eye wandered over her beauty, she raised the braided hair from her brow, revealing the clear, polished forehead. Wonder, awe, devotion, pity, usurped the place of hatred. The fierce expression that had lit up her dark orbs was succeeded by tender commiseration. She looked an imploring appeal at Barbara.

"Ay, ay," returned the old gipsy, extending at the same time the phial; "I understand. Here is that will bring the blood once more into her pallid cheeks, and kindle the fire within her eyes. Give her of this."

The effect of the potion was almost instantaneous, amply attesting Barbara's skill in its concoction. Stifled respiration first proclaimed Eleanor's recovery. She opened her large and languid eyes; her bosom heaved almost to bursting; her pulses throbbed quickly and feverishly; and as the stimulant operated, the wild lustre of excitement blazed in her eyes.

Sybil took her hand to chafe it. The eyes of the two maidens met. They gazed upon each other steadfastly and in silence. Eleanor knew not whom she regarded, but she could not mistake that look of sympathy; she could not mistake the tremulous pressure of her hand; she felt the silent trickling tears. She returned the sympathizing glance, and gazed with equal wonder upon the ministering fairy, for such she almost seemed, that knelt before her. As her looks wandered from the kindly glance of Sybil to the withered and inauspicious aspect of the gipsy queen, and shifted thence to the dusky figures of her attendants, filled with renewed apprehension, she exclaimed, "Who are these, and where am I?"

"You are in safety," replied Luke. "This is the ruined priory of St. Francis; and those strange personages are a horde of gipsies. You need fear no injury from them."

"My deliverer!" murmured Eleanor; when all at once the recollection that he had avowed himself a Rookwood, and the elder brother of Ranulph, flashed across her memory. "Gipsies! did you not say these people were gipsies? Your own attire is the same as theirs. You are not, cannot be, the brother of Ranulph."

"I do not boast the same mother," returned Luke, proudly, "but my father was Sir Piers Rookwood, and I am his elder born."

He turned away. Dark thoughts swept across his brain. Maddened by the beauty of Eleanor, stung by her slights, and insensible to the silent agony of Sybil, who sought in vain to catch his eye, he thought of nothing but of revenge, and the accomplishment of his purposes. All within was a wild and fearful turmoil. His better principles were stifled by the promptings of evil. "Methinks," cried he, half aloud, "if the Tempter were near to offer the maiden to me, even at the peril of my soul's welfare, I could not resist it."

The Tempter was at hand. He is seldom absent on occasions like the present. The sexton stood beside his grandson. Luke started. He eyed Peter from head to foot, almost expecting to find the cloven foot, supposed to be proper to the fiend. Peter grinned in ghastly derision.

"Soh! you would summon hell to your aid; and lo! the devil is at your elbow. Well, she is yours."

"Make good your words," cried Luke, impatiently.

"Softly—softly," returned Peter. "Moderate yourself, and your wishes shall be accomplished. Your own desires chime with those of others; nay, with those of Barbara. She would wed you to Miss Mowbray. You stare. But it is so. This is a cover for some deeper plot; no matter. It shall go hard, despite her cunning, if I foil her not at her own weapons. There is more mischief in that old woman's brain than was ever hatched within the crocodile's egg; yet she shall find her match. Do not thwart her; leave all to me. She is about it now," added he, noticing Barbara and Mrs. Mowbray in conference together. "Be patient—I will watch her." And he quitted his grandson for the purpose of scanning more closely the man[oe]uvres of the old gipsy.

Barbara, meanwhile, had not remained inactive.

"You need fear no relapse in your daughter; I will answer for that," said the old gipsy to Mrs. Mowbray; "Sybil will tend her. Quit not the maiden's side," continued she, addressing her grandchild, adding, in a whisper, "Be cautious—alarm her not—mine eye will be upon you—drop not a word."

So saying, she shuffled to a little distance with Mrs. Mowbray, keeping Sybil in view, and watching every motion, as the panther watches the gambols of a fawn.

"Know you who speaks to you?" said the old crone, in the peculiar low and confidential tone assumed by her tribe to strangers. "Have you forgotten the name of Barbara Lovel?"

"I have no distinct remembrance of it," returned Mrs. Mowbray.

"Think again," said Barbara; "and though years are flown, you may perchance recall the black gipsy woman, who, when you were surrounded with gay gallants, with dancing plumes, perused your palm, and whispered in your ear the favored suitor's name. Bide with me a moment, madam," said Barbara, seeing that Mrs. Mowbray shrank from the recollection thus conjured up; "I am old—very old; I have survived the shows of flattery, and being vested with a power over my people, am apt, perchance, to take too much upon myself with others." The old gipsy paused here, and then, assuming a more familiar tone, exclaimed, "The estates of Rookwood are ample——"

"Woman, what mean you?"

"They should have been yours, lady, and would have been, but for that marriage. You would have beseemed them bravely. Sir Reginald was wilful, and erased the daughter's name to substitute that of his son. Pity it is that so fair a creature as Miss Mowbray should lack the dower her beauty and her birth entitle her to expect. Pity that Ranulph Rookwood should lose his title, at the moment when he deemed it was dropping into his possession. Pity that those broad lands should pass away from you and your children, as they will do, if Ranulph and Eleanor are united."

"They never shall be united," replied Mrs. Mowbray, hastily.

"'Twere indeed to wed your child to beggary," said Barbara.

Mrs. Mowbray sighed deeply.

"There is a way," continued the old crone, in a deep whisper, "by which the estates might still be hers and yours."

"Indeed!" said Mrs. Mowbray, eagerly.

"Sir Piers Rookwood had two sons."

"Ha!"

"The elder is here."

"Luke—Sir Luke. He brought us hither."

"He loves your daughter. I saw his gaze of passion just now. I am old now, but I have some skill in lovers' glances. Why not wed her to him? I read hands—read hearts, you know. They were born for each other. Now, madam, do you understand me?"

"But," returned Mrs. Mowbray, with hesitation, "though I might wish for—though I might sanction this, Eleanor is betrothed to Ranulph—she loves him."

"Think not of her, if you are satisfied. She cannot judge so well for herself as you can for her. She is a child, and knows not what she loves. Her affection will soon be Luke's. He is a noble youth—the image of his grandfather, your father, Sir Reginald; and if your daughter be betrothed to any one, 'twas to the heir of Rookwood. That was an essential part of the contract. Why should the marriage not take place at once, and here?"

"Here! How were that possible?"

"You are within sacred walls. I will take you where an altar stands. There is no lack of holy priest to join their hands together. Your companion, Father Ambrose, as you call him, will do the office fittingly. He has essayed his clerkly skill already on others of your house."

"To what do you allude, mysterious woman?" asked Mrs. Mowbray, with anxiety.

"To Sir Piers and Susan Bradley," returned Barbara. "That priest united them."

"Indeed! He never told me this."

"He dared not do so; he had an oath which bound him to concealment. The time is coming when greater mysteries will be revealed."

"'Tis strange I should not have heard of this before," said Mrs. Mowbray, musingly; "and yet I might have guessed as much from his obscure hints respecting Ranulph. I see it all now. I see the gulf into which I might have been plunged; but I am warned in time. Father Ambrose," continued she, to the priest, who was pacing the chamber at some little distance from them, "is it true that my brother was wedded by you to Susan Bradley?"

Ere the priest could reply the sexton presented himself.

"Ha, the very father of the girl!" said Mrs. Mowbray, "whom I met within our family vault, and who was so strangely moved when I spoke to him of Alan Rookwood. Is he here likewise?"

"Alan Rookwood!" echoed Barbara, upon whom a light seemed suddenly to break; "ha! what said he of him?"

"Ill-boding raven," interposed Peter, fiercely, "be content with what thou knowest of the living, and trouble not the repose of the dead. Let them rest in their infamy."

"The dead!" echoed Barbara, with a chuckling laugh; "ha! ha! he is dead, then; and what became of his fair wife—his brother's minion? 'Twas a foul deed, I grant, and yet there was expiation. Blood flowed—blood——"

"Silence, thou night hag!" thundered Peter, "or I will have thee burned at the stake for the sorcery thou practisest. Beware," added he, in a deep tone—"I am thy friend."

Barbara's withered countenance exhibited for an instant the deepest indignation at the sexton's threat. The malediction trembled on her tongue; she raised her staff to smite him, but she checked the action. In the same tone, and with a sharp, suspicious look, she replied, "My friend, sayest thou? See that it prove so, or beware of me."

And, with a malignant scowl, the gipsy queen slowly shuffled towards her satellites, who were stationed at the door.



CHAPTER VIII

THE PARTING

No marriage I esteem it, where the friends Force love upon their children; where the virgin Is not so truly given as betrayed. I would not have betrothed people—for I can by no means call them lovers—make Their rites no wedlock, but a sacrifice.

Combat of Love and Friendship.

Eleanor Mowbray had witnessed her mother's withdrawal from her side with much uneasiness, and was with difficulty prevented by Sybil from breaking upon her conference with the gipsy queen. Barbara's dark eye was fixed upon them during the whole of the interview, and communicated an indefinite sense of dread to Eleanor.

"Who—who is that old woman?" asked Eleanor, under her breath. "Never, even in my wildest dreams, have I seen aught so terrible. Why does she look so at us? She terrifies me; and yet she cannot mean me ill, or my mother—we have never injured her?"

"Alas!" sighed Sybil.

"You sigh!" exclaimed Eleanor, in alarm. "Is there any real danger, then? Help us to avoid it. Quick, warn my mother; she seems agitated. Oh, let me go to her."

"Hush!" whispered Sybil, maintaining an unmoved demeanor under the lynx-like gaze of Barbara. "Stir not, as you value your life; you know not where you are, or what may befall you. Your safety depends upon your composure. Your life is not in danger; but what is dearer than life, your love, is threatened with a fatal blow. There is a dark design to wed you to another."

"Heavens!" ejaculated Eleanor, "and to whom?"

"To Sir Luke Rookwood."

"I would die sooner! Marry him? They shall kill me ere they force me to it!"

"Could you not love him?"

"Love him! I have only seen him within this hour. I knew not of his existence. He rescued me from peril. I would thank him. I would love him, if I could, for Ranulph's sake; and yet for Ranulph's sake I hate him."

"Speak not of him thus to me," said Sybil, angrily. "If you love him not, I love him. Oh! forgive me, lady; pardon my impatience—my heart is breaking, yet it has not ceased to beat for him. You say you will die sooner than consent to this forced union. Your faith shall not be so cruelly attested. If there must be a victim, I will be the sacrifice. God grant I may be the only one. Be happy! as happy as I am wretched. You shall see what the love of a gipsy can do."

As she spoke, Sybil burst into a flood of passionate tears. Eleanor regarded her with the deepest commiseration; but the feeling was transient; for Barbara, now advancing, exclaimed: "Hence to your mother. The bridegroom is waiting: to your mother, girl!" And she motioned Eleanor fiercely away. "What means this?" continued the old gipsy. "What have you said to that girl? Did I not caution you against speech with her? and you have dared to disobey me. You, my grandchild—the daughter of my Agatha, with whom my slightest wish was law. I abandon you! I curse you!"

"Oh, curse me not!" cried Sybil. "Add not to my despair."

"Then follow my advice implicitly. Cast off this weakness; all is in readiness. Luke shall descend into the vaulted chapel, the ceremony shall there take place—there also shall Eleanor die—and there again shall you be wedded. Take this phial, place it within the folds of your girdle. When all is over, I will tell you how to use it. Are you prepared? Shall we set out?"

"I am prepared," replied Sybil, in accents hollow as despair; "but let me speak with Luke before we go."

"Be brief, then—each moment is precious. Keep a guard upon your tongue. I will to Mrs. Mowbray. You have placed the phial in safety. A drop will free you from your troubles."

"'Tis in that hope I guard it," replied Sybil, as she departed in the direction of Luke. Barbara watched her join him, and then turned shortly towards Mrs. Mowbray and her daughter.

"You are ill, dear Luke," said Sybil, who had silently approached her faithless lover; "very ill."

"Ill!" echoed Luke, breaking into frantic laughter. "Ill! Ha, ha!—upon my wedding-day. No, I am well—well. Your eyes are jaundiced by jealousy."

"Luke, dear Luke, laugh not thus. It terrifies me. I shall think you insane. There, you are calmer—you are more like yourself—more human. You looked just now—oh God! that I should say it of you—as if you were possessed by demons."

"And if I were possessed, what then?"

"Horrible! hint not at it. You almost make me credit the dreadful tales I have heard, that on their wedding-day the Rookwoods are subject to the power of the 'Evil One.'"

"Upon their wedding-day—and I look thus?"

"You do—you do. Oh! cast this frenzy from you."

"She is mine—she is mine! I care not though fiends possess me, if it is my wedding-day, and Eleanor is my bride. And you say I look like a Rookwood. Ha, ha!"

"That wild laughter again. Luke, I implore you, hear me one word—my last——"

"I will not bear reproaches."

"I mean not to reproach you. I come to bless you—to forgive you—to bid you farewell. Will you not say farewell?"

"Farewell."

"Not so—not so. Mercy! my God! compassionate him and me! My heart will break with agony. Luke, if you would not kill me, recall that word. Let not the guilt of my death be yours. 'Tis to save you from that remorse that I die!"

"Sybil, you have said rightly, I am not myself. I know not what demons have possession of my soul, that I can behold your agonies without remorse; that your matchless affection should awaken no return. Yet so it is. Since the fatal moment when I beheld yon maid, I have loved her."

"No more. Now I can part with you. Farewell!"

"Stay, stay! wretch that I am. Stay, Sybil! If we must part—and that it must be so I feel—let me receive your pardon, if you can bestow it. Let me clasp you once more within my arms. May you live to happier days—may you——"

"Oh, to die thus!" sobbed Sybil, disengaging herself from his embrace. "Live to happier days, said you? When have I given you reason to doubt, for an instant, the sincerity of my love, that you should insult me thus?"

"Then live with me—live for me."

"If you can love me still, I will live as your slave, your minion, your wife; aught you will have me be. You have raised me from wretchedness. Oh!" continued she in an altered tone, "have I mistaken your meaning? Did you utter those words in false compassion for my sufferings?—Speak, it is not yet too late—all may be well. My fate—my life is in your hands. If you love me yet—if you can forsake Eleanor, speak—if not, be silent."

Luke averted his head.

"Enough!" continued Sybil, in a voice of agony; "I understand. May God forgive you! Fare you well! We shall meet no more."

"Do we part for ever?" asked Luke, without daring to regard her.

"FOR EVER!" answered Sybil.

Before her lover could reply, she shot from his side, and plunging amidst the dark and dense assemblage near the door, disappeared from view. An instant after, she emerged into the open air. She stood within the roofless hall. It was filled with sunshine—with the fresh breath of morn. The ivied ruins, the grassy floor, the blue vault of heaven, seemed to greet her with a benignant smile. All was riant and rejoicing—all, save her heart. Amid such brightness, her sorrow seemed harsh and unnatural; as she felt the glad influence of day, she was scarcely able to refrain from tears. It was terrible to leave this beautiful world, that blue sky, that sunshine, and all she loved—so young, so soon.

Entering a low arch that yawned within the wall, she vanished like a ghost at the approach of morn.



CHAPTER IX

THE PHILTER

Thou hast practised on her with foul charms— Abused her delicate youth with drugs and minerals.

SHAKSPEARE: Othello.

To return to Eleanor Mowbray. In a state of mind bordering upon distraction, she rushed to her mother, and, flinging her arms wildly round her neck, besought her to protect her. Mrs. Mowbray gazed anxiously upon the altered countenance of her daughter, but a few moments relieved her from much of her uneasiness.—The expression of pain gradually subsided, and the look of vacuity was succeeded by one of frenzied excitement. A film had, for an instant or two, dimmed her eyes; they now gleamed with unnatural lustre. She smiled—the smile was singular; it was not the playful, pleasurable lighting up of the face that it used to be; but it was a smile, and the mother's heart was satisfied.

Mrs. Mowbray knew not to what circumstance she could attribute this wondrous change. She looked at the priest. He was more apt in divining the probable cause of the sudden alteration in Eleanor's manner.

"What if she has swallowed a love-powder?" said he, approaching Mrs. Mowbray, and speaking in a whisper. "I have heard of such abominable mixtures; indeed, the holy St. Jerome himself relates an instance of similar sorcery, in his life of Hilarius; and these people are said to compound them."

"It may be so," replied Mrs. Mowbray, in the same tone. "I think that the peculiar softness in the eye is more than natural."

"I will at least hazard an experiment, to attest the truth or fallacy of my supposition," returned the father. "Do you see your destined bridegroom yonder?" continued he, addressing Eleanor.

She followed with her eyes in the direction which Father Ambrose pointed. She beheld Luke. We know not how to describe the sensations which now possessed her. She thought not of Ranulph; or, if she did, it was with vague indifference. Wrapped in a kind of mental trance, she yielded to the pleasurable impulse that directed her unsettled fancies towards Luke. For some moments she did not take her eyes from him. The priest and Mrs. Mowbray watched her in silence.

Nothing passed between the party till Luke joined them. Eleanor continued gazing at him, and the seeming tenderness of her glance emboldened Luke to advance towards her. The soft fire that dwelt in those orbs was, however, cold as the shining wing of the luciola.

Luke approached her; he took her hand—she withdrew it not. He kissed it. Still she withdrew it not, but gazed at him with gently-glimmering eyes.

"My daughter is yours, Sir Luke Rookwood," exclaimed Mrs. Mowbray.

"What says the maid herself?" asked Luke.

Eleanor answered not. Her eyes were still fixed on him.

"She will not refuse me her hand," said Luke.

The victim resisted not.

"To the subterranean shrine," cried Barbara. And she gave the preconcerted signal to the band.

The signal was repeated by the gipsy crew. We may here casually note, that the crew had been by no means uninterested or silent spectators of passing events, but had, on the contrary, indulged themselves in a variety of conjectures as to their probable issue. Several bets were pending as to whether it would be a match or not after all. Zoroaster took long odds that the match was off—offering a bean to half-a-quid—in other words, a guinea to a half-guinea—that Sybil would be the bride. His offer was taken at once by Jerry Juniper, and backed by the knight of Malta.

"Ha! there's the signal," cried the knight; "I'll trouble you for the bean."

"And I," added Jerry Juniper, "for another."

"See 'em fairly spliced first," replied the Magus; "that's vot I betted."

"Vell, vell, a few minutes will settle that. Come, pals, to the autem ken. Avay. Mind and obey orders."

"Ay, ay," answered the crew.

"Here's a torch for the altar of Hymen," said the knight, flashing his torch in the eyes of the patrico as he passed him.

"For the halter of Haman, you might say," returned Balthazar, sulkily. "It's well if some of us don't swing for it."

"You don't say," rejoined the perplexed Magus, "swing! Egad I fear it's a ticklish business. But there's no fighting shy, I fear, with Barbara present; and then there's that infernal autem-bawler; it will be so cursedly regular. If you had done the job, Balty, it would not have signified a brass farden. Luckily there will be no vitnesses to snitch upon us. There will be no one in the vault besides ourselves."

"There will be a silent and a solemn witness," returned Balthazar, "and one whom you expect not."

"Eh! Vot's that you say? a spy?"

But the patrico was gone.

"Make way there—make way, pals, for the bride and bridegroom," cried the knight of Malta, drawing Excalibur, and preparing to lead the way to the vault.

The train began to move. Eleanor leaned upon the arm of her mother. Beside them stalked Barbara, with an aspect of triumph. Luke followed with the priest. One by one the assemblage quitted the apartment.

The sexton alone lingered. "The moment is at hand," said he, musingly, "when all shall be consummated."

A few steps brought him into the court. The crowd was there still. A brief delay had taken place. The knight of Malta then entered the mouth of the vault. He held his torch so as to reveal a broken flight of steps, conducting, it would seem, to regions of perpetual night. So thought Eleanor, as she shudderingly gazed into the abyss. She hesitated; she trembled; she refused. But her mother's entreaties, and Barbara's threatening looks, induced, in the end, reluctant compliance. At length the place was empty. Peter was about to follow, when the sound of a horse's hoofs broke upon his ear. He tarried for an instant, and the mounted figure of the highwayman burst within the limits of the court.

"Ha, ha! old earthworm," cried Dick, "my Nestor of the churchyard, alone! Where the devil are all the folks gone? Where's Sir Luke and his new-found cousin, eh?"

Peter hastily explained.

"A wedding under ground? famous! the thing of all others I should like to see. I'll hang Bess to this ivy tod, and grub my way with you thither, old mole."

"You must stay here, and keep guard," returned Peter.

"May I be hanged if I do, when such fun is going on."

"Hanged, in all probability, you will be," returned Peter; "but I should not, were I you, desire to anticipate my destiny. Stay here you must, and shall—that's peremptory. You will be the gainer by it. Sir Luke will reward you nobly. I will answer for him. You can serve him most effectually. Ranulph Rookwood and Major Mowbray are expected here."

"The devil they are. But how, or why——"

"I have not time to explain. In case of a surprise, discharge a pistol; they must not enter the vault. Have you a whistle? for you must play a double part, and we may need your assistance below."

"Sir Luke may command me. Here's a pipe as shrill as the devil's own cat-call."

"If it will summon you to our assistance below, 'tis all I need. May we rely on you?"

"When did Dick Turpin desert his friends? Anywhere on this side the Styx the sound of that whistle will reach me. I'll ride about the court, and stand sentry."

"Enough," replied the sexton, as he dived under ground.

"Take care of your shins," shouted Dick. "That's a cursed ugly turn, but he's used to the dark. A surprise, eh! I'll just give a look to my snappers—flints all safe. Now I'm ready for them, come when they like." And, having made the circuit of the place, he halted near the mouth of the subterranean chapel, to be within hearing of Peter's whistle, and, throwing his right leg lazily over his saddle, proceeded coolly to light a short pipe—the luxury of the cigar being then unknown,—humming the while snatches of a ballad, the theme of which was his own calling.

THE SCAMPSMAN

Quis vere rex? SENECA.

There is not a king, should you search the world round, So blithe as the king of the road to be found; His pistol's his sceptre, his saddle's his throne, Whence he levies supplies, or enforces a loan. Derry down.

To this monarch the highway presents a wide field, Where each passing subject a tribute must yield; His palace—the tavern!—receives him at night, Where sweet lips and sound liquor crown all with delight. Derry down.

The soldier and sailor, both robbers by trade, Full soon on the shelf, if disabled, are laid; The one gets a patch, and the other a peg, But, while luck lasts, the highwayman shakes a loose leg! Derry down.

Most fowl rise at dawn, but the owl wakes at e'en, And a jollier bird can there nowhere be seen; Like the owl, our snug scampsman his snooze takes by day, And, when night draws her curtain, scuds after his prey! Derry down.

As the highwayman's life is the fullest of zest, So the highwayman's death is the briefest and best; He dies not as other men die, by degrees! But AT ONCE! without wincing, and quite at his ease! Derry down.

And thus, for the present, we leave him. O rare Dick Turpin!



CHAPTER X

SAINT CYPRIAN'S CELL

Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch' entrate.

DANTE.

Cyprian de Mulverton, fifth prior of the monastery of Saint Francis, a prelate of singular sanctity, being afflicted, in his latter days, with a despondency so deep that neither penance nor fasting could remove it, vowed never again to behold, with earthly eyes, the blessed light of heaven, nor to dwell longer with his fellowmen; but, relinquishing his spiritual dignity, "the world forgetting, by the world forgot," to immure himself, while living, within the tomb.

He kept his vow. Out of the living rock that sustained the saintly structure, beneath the chapel of the monastery, was another chapel wrought, and thither, after bidding an eternal farewell to the world, and bestowing his benediction upon his flock, whom he committed to the care of his successor, the holy man retired.

Never, save at midnight, and then only during the performance of masses for his soul's repose, did he ascend from his cell: and as the sole light allowed within the dismal dungeon of his choice was that of a sepulchral lamp, as none spoke with him when in his retreat, save in muttered syllables, what effect must the lustre emanating from a thousand tapers, the warm and pungent odors of the incense-breathing shrine, contrasted with the earthy vapors of his prison-house, and the solemn swell of the Sanctus, have had upon his excited senses? Surely they must have seemed like a foretaste of the heaven he sought to gain!

Ascetic to the severest point to which nature's endurance could be stretched, Cyprian even denied himself repose. He sought not sleep, and knew it only when it stole on him unawares. His couch was the flinty rock; and long afterwards, when the zealous resorted to the sainted prior's cell, and were shown those sharp and jagged stones, they marvelled how one like unto themselves could rest, or even recline upon their points without anguish, until it was explained to them that, doubtless, He who tempereth the wind to the shorn lamb had made that flinty couch soft to the holy sufferer as a bed of down. His limbs were clothed in a garb of horsehair of the coarsest fabric; his drink was the dank drops that oozed from the porous walls of his cell; and his sustenance, such morsels as were bestowed upon him by the poor—the only strangers permitted to approach him. No fire was suffered, where perpetual winter reigned. None were admitted to his nightly vigils; none witnessed any act of penance; nor were any groans heard to issue from that dreary cave; but the knotted, blood-stained thong, discovered near his couch, too plainly betrayed in what manner those long lone nights were spent. Thus did a year roll on. Traces of his sufferings were visible in his failing strength. He could scarcely crawl; but he meekly declined assistance. He appeared not, as had been his wont, at the midnight mass; the door of his cell was thrown open at that hour; the light streamed down like a glory upon his reverend head; he heard the distant reverberations of the deep Miserere; and breathed odors as if wafted from Paradise.

One morn it chanced that they who sought his cell found him with his head upon his bosom, kneeling before the image of the virgin patroness of his shrine. Fearing to disturb his devotions, they stood reverently looking on; and thus silently did they tarry for an hour; but, as in that space he had shown no signs of motion, fearing the worst, they ventured to approach him. He was cold as the marble before which he knelt. In the act of humblest intercession—it may be, in the hope of grace—had Cyprian's spirit fled.

"Blessed are they who die in the Lord," exclaimed his brethren, regarding his remains with deepest awe. On being touched, the body fell to the ground. It was little more than a skeleton.

Under the cloisters of the holy pile were his bones interred, with a degree of pomp and ostentation that little accorded with the lowliness and self-abasement of this man of many sorrows.

This chapel, at the time of which we treat, was pretty much in the same condition as it existed in the days of its holy inmate. Hewn out of the entrails of the rock, the roof, the vaults, the floor, were of solid granite. Three huge cylindrical pillars, carved out of the native rock, rough as the stems of gnarled oak-trees, lent support to the ceiling. Support, however, was unneeded; an earthquake would scarce have shaken down those solid rafters. Only in one corner, where the water welled through a crevice of the rock, in drops that fell like tears, was decay manifest. Here the stone, worn by the constant dripping, had, in some places, given way. In shape, the vault was circular. The integral between each massive pillar formed a pointed arch. Again, from each pillar sprang other arches, which, crossed by diagonal, ogive branches, weaving one into the other, and radiating from the centre, formed those beautifully intricate combinations upon which the eye of the architectural enthusiast loves to linger. Within the ring formed by these triple columns, in which again the pillars had their own web of arches, was placed an altar of stone, and beside it a crucifix of the same rude material. Here also stood the sainted image of her who had filled the prior with holy aspirations, now a shapeless stone. The dim lamp, that, like a star struggling with the thick gloom of a wintry cell, had shed its slender radiance over the brow of the Virgin Thecla, was gone. But around the keystone of the central arches, whence a chain had once depended, might be traced in ancient characters, half effaced by time, the inscription:

STA. THECLA ORA PRO NOBIS.

One outlet only was there from the chapel—that which led by winding steps to the monastery; one only recess—the prior's cell. The former faced the altar; the latter yawned like the mouth of a tomb at its back. Altogether it was a dreary place. Dumb were its walls as when they refused to return the murmured orisons of the anchorite. One uniform sad coloring prevailed throughout. The gray granite was grown hoar with age, and had a ghostly look; the columns were ponderous, and projected heavy shadows. Sorrow and superstition had their tale, and a moral gloom deepened the darkness of the spot. Despair, which had inspired its construction, seemed to brood therein. Hope shunned its inexorable recesses.

Alone, within this dismal sanctuary, with hands outstretched towards the desecrated image of its tutelar saint, knelt Sybil. All was darkness. Neither the heavy vapors that surrounded her, nor the shrine before which she bent, were visible; but, familiar with the dreary spot, she knew that she had placed herself aright. Her touch had satisfied her that she bowed before the altar of stone; that her benighted vision was turned towards the broken image of the saint, though now involved in gloom the most profound; and with clasped hands and streaming eyes, in low and mournful tones, she addressed herself in the following hymn to the tutelar saint of the spot:

HYMN TO SAINT THECLA

In my trouble, in my anguish, In the depths of my despair, As in grief and pain I languish, Unto thee I raise my prayer. Sainted virgin! martyr'd maiden! Let thy countenance incline Upon one with woes o'erladen, Kneeling lowly at thy shrine; That in agony, in terror, In her blind perplexity, Wandering weak in doubt and error, Calleth feebly upon thee. Sinful thoughts, sweet saint, oppress me, Thoughts that will not be dismissed; Temptations dark possess me, Which my strength may not resist. I am full of pain, and weary Of my life; I fain would die: Unto me the world is dreary; To the grave for rest I fly. For rest!—oh! could I borrow Thy bright wings, celestial dove! They should waft me from my sorrow, Where peace dwells in bowers above. Upon one with woes o'erladen, Kneeling lowly at thy shrine; Sainted virgin! martyr'd maiden! Let thy countenance incline! Mei miserere Virgo, Requiem aeternam dona!

By thy loveliness, thy purity, Unpolluted, undefiled, That in serene security Upon earth's temptations smiled;— By the fetters that constrain'd thee, By thy flame-attested faith, By the fervor that sustain'd thee, By thine angel-ushered death;— By thy soul's divine elation, 'Mid thine agonies assuring Of thy sanctified translation To beatitude enduring;— By the mystic interfusion Of thy spirit with the rays, That in ever bright profusion Round the Throne Eternal blaze;— By thy portion now partaken, With the pain-perfected just; Look on one of hope forsaken, From the gates, of mercy thrust. Upon one with woes o'erladen, Kneeling lowly at thy shrine, Sainted virgin! martyr'd maiden! Let thy countenance incline! Ora pro me mortis hora! Sancta Virgo, oro te! Kyrie Eleison!

The sweet, sad voice of the singer died faintly away. The sharpness of her sorrow was assuaged. Seldom, indeed, is it that fervent supplication fails to call down solace to the afflicted. Sybil became more composed. She still, however, trembled at the thoughts of what remained to be done.

"They will be here ere my prayer is finished," murmured she—"ere the end is accomplished for which I came hither alone. Let me, oh! let me make my peace with my Creator, ere I surrender my being to His hands, and then let them deal with me as they will." And she bowed her head in lowly prayer.

Again raising her hands, and casting her eyes towards the black ceiling, she implored, in song, the intercession of the saintly man who had bequeathed his name to the cell.

HYMN TO SAINT CYPRIAN

Hear! oh! hear me, sufferer holy, Who didst make thine habitation 'Mid these rocks, devoting wholly Life to one long expiation Of thy guiltiness, and solely By severe mortification Didst deliver thee. Oh! hear me! In my dying moments cheer me. By thy penance, self-denial, Aid me in the hour of trial.

May, through thee, my prayers prevailing On the Majesty of Heaven, O'er the hosts of hell, assailing My soul, in this dark hour be driven! So my spirit, when exhaling, May of sinfulness be shriven, And His gift unto the Giver May be rendered pure as ever! By thy own dark, dread possession, Aid me with thine intercession!

Scarcely had she concluded this hymn, when the torch of the knight of Malta in part dissipated the gloom that hung around the chapel.



CHAPTER XI

THE BRIDAL

Cari. I will not die; I must not. I am contracted To a young gentleman.

Executioner. Here's your wedding-ring.

Duchess of Malfy.

Slowly did the train descend; solemnly and in silence, as if the rites at which they were about to assist had been those of funereal, and not of nuptial, solemnization. Indeed, to look upon those wild and fierce faces by the ruddily-flashing torchlight, which lent to each a stern and savage expression; to see those scowling visages surrounding a bride from whose pallid cheeks every vestige of color, and almost of animation, had fled; and a bridegroom, with a countenance yet more haggard, and demeanor yet more distracted—the beholder must have imagined that the spectacle was some horrible ceremonial, practised by demons rather than human beings. The arched vault, the pillars, the torchlight, the deep shadows, and the wild figures, formed a picture worthy of Rembrandt or Salvator.

"Is Sybil within the chapel?" asked Barbara.

"I am here," returned a voice from the altar.

"Why do we tarry?" said the gipsy queen. "We are all assembled. To the altar."

"To the altar!" shrieked Eleanor. "Oh! no—no——"

"Remember my threat, and obey," muttered Barbara. "You are in my power now."

A convulsive sob was all the answer Eleanor could make.

"Our number is not complete," said the priest, who had looked in vain for the sexton. "Peter Bradley is not with us."

"Ha!" exclaimed Barbara. "Let him be sought for instantly."

"Their search need not extend beyond this spot," said Peter, stepping forward.

The knight of Malta advanced towards the altar. The torchlight reddened upon the huge stone pillars. It fell upon the shrine, and upon the ghastly countenance of Sybil, who stood beside it. Suddenly, as the light approached her, an object, hitherto hidden from view, was revealed. Sybil uttered a prolonged and fearful shriek; the knight recoiled likewise in horror; and a simultaneous cry of astonishment burst from the lips of the foremost of the group. All crowded forwards, and universal consternation prevailed amongst the assemblage. Each one gazed at his neighbor, anxious to learn the occasion of this tumult, and vague fears were communicated to those behind, from the terrified glances, which were the only answers returned by their comrades in front.

"Who has dared to bring that body here?" demanded Barbara, in a tone in which anger struggled with apprehension, pointing at the same time to the ghastly corpse of a female, with streaming hair, at the altar's feet. "Who has dared to do this, I say? Quick! remove it. What do you stare at? Cravens! is this the first time you have looked upon a corpse, that you should shrink aghast—that you tremble before it? It is a clod—ay, less than a clod. Away with it! away, I say."

"Touch it not," cried Luke, lifting a cloud of black hair from off the features; "it is my mother's body."

"My daughter!" exclaimed the sexton.

"What!" vociferated Barbara, "is that your daughter—is that the first Lady Rookwood? Are the dead arisen to do honor to these nuptials? Speak! you can, perchance, explain how she came hither."

"I know not," returned Peter, glancing fiercely at Barbara; "I may, anon, demand that question of you. How came this body here?"

"Ask of Richard Checkley," said Barbara, turning to the priest. "He can, perchance, inform you. Priest," added she, in a low voice, "this is your handiwork."

"Checkley!" screamed Peter. "Is that Richard Checkley? is that——"

"Peace!" thundered Barbara; "will none remove the body? Once more I ask you, do you fear the dead?"

A murmur arose. Balthazar alone ventured to approach the corpse.

Luke started to his feet as he advanced, his eyes glaring with tiger fury.

"Back, old man," cried he, "and dare not, any of you, to lay a sacrilegious finger on her corse, or I will stretch him that advances as lowly as lies my mother's head. When or how it came hither matters not. Here, at the altar, has it been placed, and none shall move it hence. The dead shall witness my nuptials. Fate has ordained it—my fate! o'er which the dead preside. Her ring shall link me to my bride. I knew not, when I snatched it from her death-cold finger, to what end I preserved it. I learn it now. It is here." And he held forth a ring.

"'Tis a fatal boon, that twice-used ring," cried Sybil; "such a ring my mother, on her death-bed, said should be mine. Such a ring she said should wed me——"

"Unto whom?" fiercely demanded Luke.

"UNTO DEATH!" she solemnly rejoined.

Luke's countenance fell. He turned aside, deeply abashed, unable further to brook her gaze; while in accents of such wildly touching pathos as sank into the hearts of each who heard her—hearts, few of them framed of penetrable stuff—the despairing maiden burst into the following strain:

THE TWICE-USED RING

"Beware thy bridal day!" On her death-bed sighed my mother; "Beware, beware, I say, Death shall wed thee, and no other. Cold the hand shall grasp thee, Cold the arms shall clasp thee, Colder lips thy kiss shall smother! Beware thy bridal kiss!

"Thy wedding ring shall be From a clay-cold finger taken; From one that, like to thee, Was by her love forsaken. For a twice-used ring Is a fatal thing; Her griefs who wore it are partaken—, Beware that fatal ring!

"The altar and the grave Many steps are not asunder; Bright banners o'er thee wave, Shrouded horror lieth under. Blithe may sound the bell, Yet 'twill toll thy knell; Scathed thy chaplet by the thunder— Beware that blighted wreath!"

Beware my bridal day! Dying lips my doom have spoken; Deep tones call me away; From the grave is sent a token. Cold, cold fingers bring That ill-omen'd ring; Soon will a second heart be broken; This is my bridal day.

There was a deep, profound silence as the last melancholy cadence died away, and many a rugged heart was melted, even to tears. Eleanor, meanwhile, remained in a state of passive stupefaction, vacantly gazing at Sybil, upon whom alone her eyes were fixed, and appearing indistinctly to apprehend the meaning of her song.

"This is my bridal day," murmured she, in a low tone, when Sybil had finished. "Said not that sweet voice so? I know 'tis my bridal day. What a church you have chosen, mother! A tomb—a sepulchre—but 'tis meet for such nuptials as mine—and what wedding guests! Was that pale woman in her shroud-like dress invited here by you? Tell me that, mother."

"My God, her senses are gone!" cried Mrs. Mowbray. "Why did I venture into this horrible place?"

"Ask not why now, madam," rejoined the priest. "The hour for consideration is past. We must act. Let the marriage proceed, at all hazards; we will then take means to extricate ourselves from this accursed place."

"Remove that horrible object," said Mrs. Mowbray; "it fascinates the vision of my child."

"Lend me your hand, Richard Checkley," said Peter, sternly regarding the priest.

"No, no," replied the priest, shuddering; "I will not, cannot touch it. Do you alone remove it."

Peter approached Luke. The latter now offered no further opposition, and the body was taken away. The eyes of Eleanor followed it into the dark recesses of the vault; and when she could no longer distinguish the white flutter of the cereclothes, her laboring bosom seemed torn asunder with the profound sigh that burst from it, and her head declined upon her shoulder.

"Let me see that ring," said the priest, addressing Luke, who still held the wedding-ring between his fingers.

"I am not naturally superstitious," said Mrs. Mowbray; "whether my mind be affected with the horrors of this place, I know not; but I have a dread of that ring. She shall not use it."

"Where no other can be found," said the priest, with a significant and peculiar look at Mrs. Mowbray, "I see no reason why this should be rejected. I should not have suspected you, madam, of such weakness. Grant there were evil spell, or charm, attached to it, which, trust me, there is not—as how should there be, to a harmless piece of gold?—my benediction, and aspersion with holy lymph, will have sufficient power to exorcise and expel it. To remove your fears it shall be done at once."

A cup containing water was brought, together with a plate of salt—which condiment the devil is said to abhor, and which is held to be a symbol of immortality and of eternity; in that, being itself incorruptible, it preserves all else from corruption,—and, with the customary Romish formula of prayer and exorcism, the priest thrice mingled the crystal particles with the pure fluid; after which, taking the ring in his hand with much solemnity, he sprinkled it with a few drops of the water which he had blessed; made the sign of the cross upon the golden circlet; uttered another and more potent exorcism to eradicate and expel every device of Satan, and delivered it back to Luke.

"She may wear it now in safety," said the sexton, with strong contempt. "Were the snake himself coiled round that consecrated bauble, the prayers of the devout Father Checkley would unclasp his lithest folds. But wherefore do we tarry now? Naught lies between us and the altar. The path is clear. The bridegroom grows impatient."

"And the bride?" asked Barbara.

"Is ready," replied the priest. "Madam, delay not longer. Daughter, your hand."

Eleanor gave her hand. It was clammy and cold. Supported by her mother, she moved slowly towards the altar, which was but a few steps from where they stood. She offered no resistance, but did not raise her head. Luke was by her side. Then for the first time did the enormity of the cruel, dishonorable act he was about to commit, strike him with its full force. He saw it in its darkest colors. It was one of those terrible moments when the headlong wheel of passion stands suddenly still.

"There is yet time," groaned he. "Oh! let me not damn myself perpetually! Let me save her; save Sybil; save myself."

They were at the altar—that wild wedding train. High over head the torch was raised. The red light flashed on bridegroom and on bride, giving to the pale features of each an almost livid look; it fell upon the gaunt aspect of the sexton, and lit up the smile of triumphant malice that played upon his face; it fell upon the fantastical habiliments of Barbara, and upon the haughty but perturbed physiognomy of Mrs. Mowbray; it fell upon the salient points of the Gothic arches; upon one molded pillar; upon the marble image of the virgin Thecla; and on the scarcely less marble countenance of Sybil who stood behind the altar, silent, statue-like, immovable. The effect of light and shade on other parts of the scene, upon the wild drapery, and harsh lineaments of many of the group, was also eminently striking.

Just as the priest was about to commence the marriage service, a yelling chorus, which the gipsies were accustomed to sing at the celebration of the nuptials of one of their own tribe, burst forth. Nothing could be more horribly discordant than their song.

WEDDING CHORUS OF GIPSIES

Scrape the catgut! pass the liquor! Let your quick feet move the quicker. Ta-ra-la!

Dance and sing in jolly chorus, Bride and bridegroom are before us, And the patrico stands o'er us. Ta-ra-la!

To unite their hands he's ready; For a moment, pals, be steady; Cease your quaffing, Dancing, laughing; Leave off riot, And be quiet, While 'tis doing. 'Tis begun, All is over! Two are ONE! The patrico has link'd 'em; Daddy Hymen's torch has blink'd 'em. Amen! To 't again! Now for quaffing, Now for laughing, Stocking-throwing, Liquor flowing; For our bridals are no bridles, and our altars never alter; From the flagon never flinch we, in the jig we never falter. No! that's not our way, for we Are staunch lads of Romany. For our wedding, then, hurrah! Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah!

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