Part 2 out of 8
feigning slumber there was no knowing.
Later, she heard sounds that induced her to go and look at him. He
was starting, moaning, and babbling in his sleep. But with morning
all his old nature seemed to have returned.
There was a hedgehog in Anne's bowl of milk, Mrs. Woodford's poultry
were cackling hysterically at an unfortunate kitten suspended from
an apple tree and let down and drawn up among them. The three-
legged stool of the old waiting-woman 'toppled down headlong' as
though by the hands of Puck, and even on Anne's arms certain black
and blue marks of nails were discovered, and when her mother
examined her on them she only cried and begged not to be made to
And while Dr. Woodford was dozing in his chair as usual after the
noonday dinner Mrs. Woodford actually detected a hook suspended from
a horsehair descending in the direction of his big horn spectacles,
and quietly moving across to frustrate the attempt, she unearthed
Peregrine on a chair angling from behind the window curtain.
She did not speak, but fixed her calm eyes on him with a look of
sad, grave disappointment as she wound up the line. In a few
seconds the boy had thrown himself at her feet, rolling as if in
pain, and sobbing out, "'Tis all of no use! Let me alone."
Nevertheless he obeyed the hushing gesture of her hand, and held his
breath, as she led him out to the garden-seat, where they had spent
so many happy quiet hours. Then he flung himself down and repeated
his exclamation, half piteous, half defiant. "Leave me alone!
Leave me alone! It has me! It is all of no use."
"What has you, my poor child?"
"The evil spirit. You will have it that I'm not one of--one of
them--so it must be as my father says, that I am possessed--the evil
spirit. I was at peace with you--so happy--happier than ever I was
before--and now--those boys. It has me again--I could not help it--
I've even hurt her--Mistress Anne. Let me alone--send me home--to
be scorned, and shunned, and brow-beaten--and as bad as ever--then
at least she will be safe from me."
All this came out between sobs such that Mrs. Woodford could not
attempt to speak, but she kept her hand on him, and at last she
said, when he could hear her: "Every one of us has to fight with an
evil spirit, and when we are not on our guard he is but too apt to
take advantage of us."
The boy rather sullenly repeated that it was of no use to fight
"Indeed! Nay. Were you ever so much grieved before at having let
him have the mastery?"
"No--but no one ever was good to me before."
"Yes; all about you lived under a cruel error, and you helped them
in it. But if you had not a better nature in you, my poor child,
you would not be happy here and thankful for what we can do for
"I was like some one else here," said Peregrine, picking a daisy to
pieces, "but they stirred it all up. And at home I shall be just
the same as ever I was."
She longed to tell him that there was hope of a change in his life,
but she durst not till it was more certain, so she said--
"There was One who came to conquer the evil spirit and the evil
nature, and to give each one of us the power to get the victory.
The harder the victory, the more glorious!" and her eyes sparkled at
He caught a moment's glow, then fell back. "For those that are
chosen," he said.
"You are chosen--you were chosen by your baptism. You have the
stirrings of good within you. You can win and beat back the evil
side of you in Christ's strength, if you will ask for it, and go on
in His might."
The boy groaned. Mrs. Woodford knew that the great point with him
would be to teach him to hope and to pray, but the very name of
prayer had been rendered so distasteful to him that she scarce durst
press the subject by name, and her heart sank at the thought of
sending him home again, but she was glad to be interrupted, and said
At night, however, she heard sounds of moaning and stifled babbling
that reminded her of his times of delirium, and going into his room
she found him tossing and groaning so that it was manifestly a
kindness to wake him; but her gentle touch occasioned a scream of
terror, and he started aside with open glassy eyes, crying, "Oh take
"My dear boy! It is I. Perry, do you not know me?"
"Oh, madam!" in infinite relief, "it is you. I thought--I thought I
was in elfland and that they were paying me for the tithe to hell;"
and he still shuddered all over.
"No elf--no elf, dear boy; a christened boy--God's child, and under
His care;" and she began the 121st Psalm.
"Oh, but I am not under His shadow! The Evil One has had me again!
He will have me. Aren't those his claws? He will have me!"
"Never, my child, if you will cry to God for help. Say this with
me, 'Lord, be Thou my keeper.'"
He did so, and grew more quiet, and she began to repeat Dr. Ken's
evening hymn, which had become known in manuscript in Winchester.
It soothed him, and she thought he was dropping off to sleep, but no
sooner did she move than he started with "There it is again--the
black wings--the claws--" then while awake, "Say it again! Oh, say
it again. Fold me in your prayers--you can pray." She went back to
the verse, and he became quiet, but her next attempt to leave him
caused an entreaty that she would remain, nor could she quit him
till the dawn, happily very early, was dispelling the terrors of the
night, and then, when he had himself murmured once--
"Let no ill dreams disturb my rest,
No powers of darkness me molest,"
he fell asleep at last, with a softer look on his pinched face.
Poor boy, would that verse be his first step to prayer and
deliverance from his own too real enemy?
CHAPTER VII: THE ENVOY
"I then did ask of her, her changeling child."
Midsummer Night's Dream.
Mrs. Woodford was too good a housewife to allow herself any extra
rest on account of her vigil, and she had just put her Juneating
apple-tart into the oven when Anne rushed into the kitchen with the
warning that there was a grand gentleman getting off his horse at
the gateway, and speaking to her uncle--she thought it must be
Mrs. Woodford was of the same opinion, and asked where Peregrine
"Fast asleep in the window-seat of the parlour, mother! I did not
waken him, for he looked so tired."
"That was right, my little maiden," said Mrs. Woodford, hastily
washing her hands, taking off her cooking apron, letting down her
black gown from its pocket holes, and arranging her veil-like
widow's coif, after which, in full trim for company, she sallied out
to the front door, to avert, if possible, the wakening of the boy,
whom she wished to appear to the best advantage.
She met in the garden her brother-in-law, and Sir Peregrine
Oakshott, on being presented to her, made such a bow as had seldom
been seen in those parts, as he politely said that he was the bearer
of his brother's thanks for her care of his nephew.
Mrs. Woodford explained that the boy had had so bad a night that it
would be well not to break his present sleep, and invited the guest
to walk in the garden or sit in the Doctor's study or in the shade
of the castle wall.
This last was what he preferred, and there they seated themselves,
with a green slope before them down to the pale gray creek, and the
hill beyond lying in the summer sunshine.
"I have been long in coming hither," said the knight, "partly on
account of letters on affairs of State, and partly likewise because
I desired to come alone, thinking that I might better understand how
it is with the lad without the presence of his father or brothers."
"I am very glad you have so done, sir."
"Then, madam, I entreat of you to speak freely and tell me your
opinion of him without reserve. You need not fear offence by
speaking of the mode in which they have treated him at home. My
poor brother has meant to do his duty, but he has stood so far aloof
from his sons that he has dealt with them in ignorance, and their
mother, between sickliness and timidity, is a mere prey to the folly
of her gossips. So speak plainly, madam, I beg of you."
Mrs. Woodford did speak plainly of the boy's rooted belief in his
own elfish origin, and how when arguing against it she had found the
alternative even sadder and more hopeless, how well he comported
himself as long as he was treated as a human and rational being, but
how the taunts and jests of the young Archfields had renewed all the
mischief, to the poor fellow's own remorse and despair.
Sir Peregrine listened with only a word of comment, or question now
and then, like a man of the world well used to hearing all before he
committed himself, and the description was only just ended when the
clang of the warning dinner-bell sounded and they rose; but as they
were passing the window of the dining-parlour a shriek of Anne's
startled them all, and as they sprang forward, Mrs. Woodford first,
Peregrine's voice was heard, "No, no, Anne, don't be afraid. It is
for me he is come; I knew he would."
Something in a strange language was heard. A black face with round
eyes and gleaming teeth might be seen bending forward. Anne gave
another shriek, but was heard crying, "No, no! Get away, sir. He
is our Lord Christ's! He is! You can't! you shan't have him."
And Anne was seen standing over Peregrine, who had dropped
shuddering and nearly fainting on the floor, while she stood
valiantly up warding off the advance of him whom she took for the
Prince of Darkness, and in her excitement not at first aware of
those who were come to her aid at the window. In one second the
negro was saying something which his master answered, and sent him
off. Mrs. Woodford had called out, "Don't be afraid, dear children.
'Tis Sir Peregrine's black servant"; and the Doctor, "Foolish
children! What is this nonsense?" A moment or two more and they
were in the room, Anne, all trembling, flying up to her mother and
hiding her face against her between fright and shame at not having
thought of the black servant, and the while they lifted up
Peregrine, who, as he met his kind friend's eyes, said faintly, "Is
he gone? Was it the dream again?"
"It was your uncle's blackamoor servant," said Mrs. Woodford. "You
woke up, and no wonder you were startled. Come with me, both of
you, and make you ready for dinner."
Peregrine had rather collapsed than fainted, for he was able to walk
with her hand on his shoulder, and Sir Peregrine understood her sign
and did not attempt to accost either of the children, though as the
Doctor took him to his chamber he expressed his admiration of the
"That's the right woman," he said, "losing herself when there is one
to guard. Nay, sir, she needs no excuse. Such a spirit may well
redeem a child's mistake."
Mrs. Woodford had reassured the children, so that they were more
than half ashamed, though scarce willing to reappear when she had
made Peregrine wash his face and hands, smooth the hair ruffled in
his nap, freshly tying his little cravat and the ribbons on his
shoes and at his knees. To make his hair into anything but elf
locks, or to obliterate the bristly tuft that made him like Riquet,
was impossible, illness had made him additionally lean and sallow,
and his keen eyes, under their black contracted brows and dark
lashes, showed all the more the curious variation in their tints,
and with an obliquity that varied according to the state of the
nerves. There was a satirical mischievous cast in the mould of the
face, though individually the features were not amiss except for
their thinness, and in fact the unpleasantness of the expression had
insensibly been softened during this last month, and there was
nothing repellent, though much that was quaint, in the slight
figure, with the indescribably one-sided air, and stature more
befitting ten than fourteen years. What would the visitor think of
him? The Doctor called to him, "Come, Peregrine, your uncle, Sir
Peregrine Oakshott, has been good enough to come over to see you."
Peregrine had been well trained enough in that bitter school of home
to make a correct bow, though his feelings were betrayed by his
yellow eye going almost out of sight.
"My namesake--your father will not let me say my godson," said Sir
Peregrine smiling. "We ought to be good friends."
The boy looked up. Perhaps he had never been greeted in so human a
manner before, and there was something confiding in the way those
bony fingers of his rested a moment in his uncle's clasp.
"And this is your little daughter, madam, Peregrine's kind playmate?
You may well be proud of her valour," said the knight, while Anne
made her courtesy, which he, in the custom of the day, returned with
a kiss; and she, who had been mortally ashamed of her terror,
marvelled at his praise.
The pair of fowls were by this time on the table, and good manners
required silence on the part of the children, but while Sir
Peregrine explained that he had been appointed by his Majesty as
Envoy to the Elector of Brandenburg, and gave various interesting
particulars of foreign life, Mrs. Woodford saw that he was keeping a
quiet watch over his nephew's habits at table, and she was thankful
that when unmoved by any wayward spirit of mischief they were quite
beyond reproach. Something of the refinement of his poor mother's
tastes must have been inherited by Peregrine, for a certain
daintiness of taste and habit had probably added to his discomforts
in the austere, not to say rude simplicity imposed upon the children
of the family.
When the meal was over the children were dismissed to the garden,
but bidden to keep within call, in case Sir Peregrine should wish to
see his nephew again. The others repaired again to the garden seat,
with wine and fruit, but the knight begged Mrs. Woodford not to
"I am satisfied," he said. "The boy shows gentle blood and
breeding. There was cause enough for fright without cowardice, and
there is not, what I was led to fear, such uncouthness or
ungainliness as should hinder me from having him with me."
"Oh, sir, is that your purpose?" cried the lady, almost as eagerly
as if it had been high preferment for her own child.
"I had thought thereon," said the envoy. "There is reason that he
should be my charge, and my brother is like to give a ready consent,
since he is sorely perplexed what to do with this poor untoward
"He would be less untoward were he happier," said Mrs. Woodford.
"Indeed, sir, I do not think you will repent it, if--" and she
"What would you say, madam?"
"If only all your honour's household are absolutely ignorant of all
"That can well be, madam. I have only one body-servant with me,
this unlucky blackamoor, who speaks nothing save Dutch. I had
already thought of leaving my grooms here, and returning to London
by sea, and this could well be done, and would cut off all channels
of gossiping. The boy is, the chaplain tells me, quick-witted, and
a fair scholar for his years, and I can find good schooling for
"When his head is able to bear it," said Mrs. Woodford.
"Truly, sir," added the Doctor, "you are doing a good work, and I
trust that the boy will requite you worthily."
"I tell your reverence," said Sir Peregrine, "crooked stick though
they term him, I had ten times rather have the dealing with him than
with those comely great lubbers his brothers! The question now is,
shall I tell him what is in store for him?"
"I should say," returned Dr. Woodford, "that provided it is certain
that the intention can be carried out, nothing would be so good for
him as hope. Do you not say so, sister?"
"Indeed I do," she replied. "I believe that he would be a very
different boy if he were relieved from the misery he suffers at home
and requites by mischievous pranks. I do not say he will or can be
a good lad at once, but if your honour can have patience with him, I
do believe there is that in him which can be turned to good. If he
only can believe in the better nature and higher guidings, and pray,
and not give himself up in despair." She had tears in her eyes.
"My good madam, I can believe it all," said Sir Peregrine. "Short
of being supposed an elf, I have gone through the same, and it was
not my good father's fault that I did not loathe the very name of
preaching or prayer. But I had a mother who knew how to deal with
me, whereas this poor child's mother, I am sure, believes in her
secret heart that he is none of hers, though she has enough sense
not to dare to avow it. Alas! I cannot give the boy the woman's
tending by which you have already wrought so much," and Mrs.
Woodford remembered to have heard that his wife had died at
Rotterdam, "but I can treat him like a human being, I hope indeed as
a son; and, at any rate, there will be no one to remind him of these
old wives' tales."
"I can only say that I am heartily rejoiced," said Mrs. Woodford.
So Peregrine was summoned, and shambled up, his eyes showing that he
expected a trying interview, and, moreover, with a certain twinkle
of mischief or perverseness in their corners.
"Soh! my lad, we ought to be better acquainted," said the uncle.
"D'ye know what our name means?"
"Peregrinus, a vagabond," responded the boy.
"Eh! The translation may be correct, but 'tis scarce the most
complimentary. I wonder now if you, like me, were born on a
Wednesday. 'Wednesday's child has far to go.'"
"No. I was born on a Sunday, and if to see goblins and oafs--"
"Nay, I read it, 'Sunday's child is full of grace.'"
Peregrine's mouth twitched ironically, but his uncle continued,
"Look you, my boy, what say you to fulfilling the augury of your
name with me. His Majesty has ordered me off again to represent the
British name to the Elector of Brandenburg, and I have a mind to
carry you with me. What do you say?"
If any one expected Peregrine to be overjoyed his demeanour was
disappointing. He shuffled with his feet, and after two or three
"Ehs?" from his uncle, he mumbled, "I don't care," and then shrank
together, as one prepared for the stripe with the riding-whip which
such a rude answer merited: but his uncle had, as a diplomate,
learnt a good deal of patience, and he said, "Ha! don't care to
leave home and brothers. Eh?"
Peregrine's chin went down, and there was no answer; his hair
dropped over his heavy brow.
"See, boy, this is no jest," said his uncle. "You are too big to be
told that 'I'll put you into my pocket and carry you off.' I am in
Peregrine looked up, and with one sudden flash surveyed his uncle.
His lips trembled, but he did not speak.
"It is sudden," said the knight to the other two. "See, boy, I am
not about to take you away with me now. In a week or ten days' time
I start for London; and there we will fit you out for Konigsberg or
Berlin, and I trust we shall make a man of you, and a good man.
Your tutor tells me you have excellent parts, and I mean that you
shall do me credit."
Dr. Woodford could not help telling the lad that he ought to thank
his uncle, whereat he scowled; but Sir Peregrine said, "He is not
ready for that yet. Wait till he feels he has something to thank me
So Peregrine was dismissed, and his friends exclaimed with some
wonder and annoyance that the boy who had been willing to be
decapitated to put an end to his wretchedness, should be so
reluctant to accept such an offer, but Sir Peregrine only laughed,
"The lad has pith in him! I like him better than if he came like a
spaniel to my foot. But I will say no more till I fully have my
brother's consent. No one knows what crooks there may be in folks'
He took his leave, and presently Mrs. Woodford had a fresh surprise.
She found this strange boy lying flat on the grass, sobbing as if
his heart would break, and when she tried to soothe and comfort him
it was very hard to get a word from him; but at last, as she asked,
"And does it grieve you so much to leave home?" the answer was--
"No, no! not home!"
"What is it, then? What are you sorry to leave?"
"Oh, _you_ don't know! you and Anne--the only ones that ever were
good to me--and drove away--_it_."
"Nay, my dear boy. Your uncle means to be good to you."
"No, no. No one ever will be like you and Anne. Oh, let me stay
with you, or they will have me at last!"
He was too much shaken, in his still half-recovered state, by the
events of these last days, to be reasoned with. Mrs. Woodford was
afraid he would work himself into delirium, and could only soothe
him into a calmer state. She found from Anne that the children had
some vague hopes of his being allowed to remain at Portchester, and
that this was the ground of his disappointment, since he seemed to
be attaching himself to them as the first who had ever touched his
heart or opened to him a gleam of better things.
By the next day, however, he was in a quieter and more reasonable
state, and Mrs. Woodford was able to have a long talk with him. She
represented that the difference of opinions made it almost certain
that his father would never consent to his remaining under her roof,
and that even if this were possible, Portchester was far too much
infected with the folly from which he had suffered so much; and his
uncle would take care that no one he would meet should ever hear of
"There's little good in that," said the boy moodily. "I'm a thing
they'll jibe at and bait any way."
"I do not see that, if you take pains with yourself. Your uncle
said you showed blood and breeding, and when you are better dressed,
and with him, no one will dare to mock his Excellency's nephew.
Depend upon it, Peregrine, this is the fresh start that you need."
"If you were there--"
"My boy, you must not ask for what is impossible. You must learn to
conquer in God's strength, not mine."
All, however, that passed may not here be narrated, and it
apparently left that wayward spirit unconvinced. Nevertheless, when
on the second day Major Oakshott himself came over with his brother,
and informed Peregrine that his uncle was good enough to undertake
the charge of him, and to see that he was bred up in godly ways in a
Protestant land, free from prelacy and superstition, the boy seemed
reconciled to his fate. Major Oakshott spoke more kindly than usual
to him, being free from fresh irritation at his misdemeanours; but
even thus there was a contrast with the gentler, more persuasive
tones of the diplomatist, and no doubt this tended to increase
Peregrine's willingness to be thus handed over.
The next question was whether he should go home first, but both the
uncle and the friends were averse to his remaining there, amid the
unavoidable gossip and chatter of the household, and it was
therefore decided that he should only ride over with Dr. Woodford
for an hour or two to take leave of his mother and brothers.
This settled, Mrs. Woodford found him much easier to deal with. He
had really, through his midnight invocation of the fairies, obtained
an opening into a new world, and he was ready to believe that with
no one to twit him with being a changeling or worse, he could avoid
perpetual disgrace and punishment and live at peace. Nor was he
unwilling to promise Mrs. Woodford to say daily, and especially when
tempted, one or two brief collects and ejaculations which she
selected to teach him, as being as unlike as possible to the long
extempore exercises which had made him hate the very name of prayer.
The Doctor gave him a Greek Testament, as being least connected with
"And," entreated Peregrine humbly, in a low voice to Mrs. Woodford
on his last Sunday evening, "may I not have something of yours, to
lay hold of, and remember you if--when--the evil spirit tries to lay
hold of me again?"
She would fain have given him a prayer-book, but she knew that would
be treason to his father, and with tears in her eyes and something
of a pang, she gave him a tiny miniature of herself, which had been
her husband's companion at sea, and hung it round his neck with the
chain of her own hair that had always held it.
"It will always keep my heart warm," said Peregrine, as he hid it
under his vest. There was a shade of disappointment on Anne's face
when he showed it to her, for she had almost deemed it her own.
"Never mind, Anne," he said; "I am coming back a knight like my
uncle to marry you, and then it will be yours again."
"I--I'm not going to wed you--I have another sweetheart," added Anne
in haste, lest he should think she scorned him.
"Oh, that lubberly Charles Archfield! No fear of him. He is
promised long ago to some little babe of quality in London. You may
whistle for him. So you'd better wait for me."
"It is not true. You only say it to plague me."
"It's as true as Gospel! I heard Sir Philip telling one of the big
black gowns one day in the Close, when I was sitting up in a tree
overhead, how they had fixed a marriage between his son and his old
friend's daughter, who would have ever so many estates. So I'd give
that"--snapping his fingers--"for your chances of being my Lady
Archfield in the salt mud at Fareham."
"I shall ask Lucy. It is not kind of you, Perry, when you are just
"Come, come, don't cry, Anne."
"But I knew Charley ever so long first, and--"
"Oh, yes. Maids always like straight, comely, dull fellows, I know
that. But as you can't have Charles Archfield, I mean to have you,
Anne--for I shall look to you as the only one as can ever make a
good man of me! Ay--your mother--I'd wed her if I could, but as I
can't, I mean to have you, Anne Woodford."
"I don't mean to have you! I shall go to Court, and marry some
noble earl or gentleman! Why do you laugh and make that face,
Peregrine? you know my father was almost a knight--"
"Nobody is long with you without knowing that!" retorted Peregrine;
"but a miss is as good as a mile, and you will find the earls and
the lords will think so, and be fain to take the crooked stick at
Mistress Anne tossed her head--and Peregrine returned a grimace.
Nevertheless they parted with a kiss, and for some time the thought
of Peregrine haunted the little girl with a strange, fateful
feeling, between aversion and attraction, which wore off, as a folly
of her childhood, with her growth in years.
CHAPTER VIII: THE RETURN
"I think he bought his doublet in Italy, his round hose in
France, his bonnet in Germany, and his behaviour everywhere."
Merchant of Venice.
It was autumn, but in the year 1687, when again Lucy Archfield and
Anne Jacobina Woodford were pacing the broad gravel walk along the
south side of the nave of Winchester Cathedral. Lucy, in spite of
her brocade skirt and handsome gown of blue velvet tucked up over
it, was still devoid of any look of distinction, but was a round-
faced, blooming, cheerful maiden, of that ladylike thoroughly
countrified type happily frequent in English girlhood throughout all
Anne, or Jacobina, as she tried to be called, towered above her
head, and had never lost that tincture of courtly grace that early
breeding had given her, and though her skirt was of gray wool, and
the upper gown of cherry tabinet, she wore both with an air that
made them seem more choice and stylish than those of her companion,
while the simple braids and curls of her brown hair set off an
unusually handsome face, pale and clear in complexion, with regular
features, fine arched eyebrows over clear brown eyes, a short chin,
and a mouth of perfect outline, but capable of looking very
Altogether she looked fit for a Court atmosphere, and perhaps she
was not without hopes of it, for Dr. Woodford had become a royal
chaplain under Charles II, and was now continued in the same office;
and though this was a sinecure as regarded the present King, yet
Tory and High Church views were as much in the ascendant as they
could be under a Romanist king, and there were hopes of a canonry at
Windsor or Westminster, or even higher preferment still, if he were
not reckoned too staunch an Anglican. That Mrs. Woodford's health
had been failing for many months past would, her sanguine daughter
thought, be remedied by being nearer the best physicians in London,
which had been quitted with regret. Meantime Lucy's first
experiences of wedding festivities were to be heard. For the
Archfield family had just returned from celebrating the marriage of
the heir. Long ago Anne Jacobina had learnt to reckon Master
Charles's pledges of affection among the sports and follies of
childhood, and the strange sense of disappointment and shame with
which she recollected them had perhaps added to her natural reserve,
and made her feel it due to maidenly dignity to listen with zest to
the account of the bride, who was to be brought to supper at Doctor
Woodford's that eve.
"She is a pretty little thing," said Lucy, "but my mother was much
concerned to find her so mere a child, and would not, if she had
seen her, have consented to the marriage for two years to come,
except for the sake of having her in our own hands."
"I thought she was sixteen."
"Barely fifteen, my dear, and far younger than we were at that age.
She cried because her woman said she must leave her old doll behind
her; and when my brother declared that she should have anything she
liked, she danced about, and kissed him, and made him kiss its
wooden face with half the paint rubbed off."
"Oh, yes! She is like a pretty fresh plaything to him, and they go
about together just like big Towzer and little Frisk at home. He is
very much amused with her, and she thinks him the finest possession
that ever came in her way."
"Well, so he is."
"That is true; but somehow it is scarcely like husband and wife; and
my mother fears that she may be sickly, for she is so small and
slight that it seems as if you could blow her away, and so white
that you would think she had no blood, except when a little heat
brings the purest rose colour to her cheek, and that, my lady says,
betokens weakliness. You know, of course, that she is an orphan;
her father died of a wasting consumption, and her mother not long
after, when she was a yearling babe. It was her grandfather who was
my father's friend in the old cavalier days, and wrote to propose
the contract to my brother not long before his death, when she was
but five years old. The pity was that she was not sent to us at
once, for the old lord, her grand-uncle, never heeded or cared for
her, but left her to servants, who petted her, but understood
nothing of care of her health or her education, so that the only
wonder is that she is alive or so sweet and winning as she is. She
can hardly read without spelling, and I had to make copies for her
of Alice Fitzhubert, to show her how to sign the book. All she knew
she learnt from the old steward, and only when she liked. My father
laughs and is amused, but my lady sighs, and hopes her portion is
not dearly bought."
"Is not she to be a great heiress?"
"Not of the bulk of the lands--they go to heirs male; but there is
much besides, enough to make Charles a richer man than our father.
I wonder what you will think of her. My mother is longing to talk
her over with Mrs Woodford."
"And my mother is longing to see my lady."
"I fear she is still but poorly."
"We think she will be much better when we get home," said Anne. "I
am sure she is stronger, for she walked round the Close yesterday,
and was scarcely tired."
"But tell me, Anne, is it true that poor Master Oliver Oakshott is
dead of smallpox?"
"Quite true. Poor young gentleman, he was to have married that
cousin of his mother's, Mistress Martha Browning, living at
Emsworth. She came on a visit, and they think she brought the
infection, for she sickened at once, and though she had it
favourably, is much disfigured. Master Oliver caught it and died in
three days, and all the house were down with it. They say poor Mrs.
Oakshott forgot her ailments and went to and fro among them all. My
mother would have gone to help in their need if she had been as well
as she used to be."
"How is it with the other son? He was a personable youth enough. I
saw him at the ship launch in the spring, and thought both lads
would fain have staid for the dance on board but for their grim old
"You saw Robert, but he is not the elder."
"What? Is that shocking impish urchin whom we used to call Riquet
with the tuft, older than he?"
"Certainly he is. He writes from time to time to my mother, and
seems to be doing well with his uncle."
"I cannot believe he would come to good. Do you remember his
sending my brother and cousin adrift in the boat?"
"I think that was in great part the fault of your cousin for mocking
and tormenting him."
"Sedley Archfield was a bad boy! There's no denying that. I am
afraid he had good reason for running away from college."
"Have you heard of him since?"
"Yes; he has been serving with the Life-guards in Scotland, and
mayhap he will come home and see us. My father wishes to see
whether he is worthy to have a troop procured by money or favour for
him, and if they are recalled to the camp at November it will be an
opportunity. But see--who is coming through the Slype?"
"My uncle. And who is with him?"
Dr. Woodford advanced, and with him a small slender figure in black.
As the broad hat with sable plume was doffed with a sweep on
approaching the ladies, a dark head and peculiar countenance
appeared, while the Doctor said, "Here is an old acquaintance, young
ladies, whom I met dismounting at the White Hart, and have brought
home with me."
"Mr. Peregrine Oakshott!" exclaimed Anne, feeling bound to offer in
welcome a hand, which he kissed after the custom of the day, while
Lucy dropped a low and formal courtesy, and being already close to
the gate of the house occupied by her family, took her leave till
Even in the few steps before reaching home Anne was able to perceive
that a being very unlike the imp of seven years ago had returned,
though still short in stature and very slight, with long dark hair
hanging straight enough to suggest elf-locks, but his figure was
well proportioned, and had a finished air of high breeding and
training. His riding suit was point device, from the ostrich
feather in his hat, to the toes of his well made boots, and his
sword knew its place, as well as did those of the gentlemen that
Anne remembered at the Duke of York's when she was a little child.
His thin, marked face was the reverse of handsome, but it was keen,
shrewd, perhaps satirical, and the remarkable eyes were very bright
under dark eyebrows and lashes, and the thin lips, devoid of hair,
showed fine white teeth when parted by a smile of gladness--at the
meeting--though he was concerned to hear that Mrs. Woodford had been
very ill all the last spring, and had by no means regained her
former health, and even in the few words that passed it might be
gathered that Anne was far more hopeful than her uncle.
She did indeed look greatly changed, though her countenance was
sweeter than ever, as she rose from her seat by the fire and held
out her arms to receive the newcomer with a motherly embrace, while
the expression of joy and affection was such as could never once
have seemed likely to sit on Peregrine Oakshott's features. They
were left together, for Anne had the final touches to put to the
supper, and Dr. Woodford was sent for to speak to one of the
Peregrine explained that he was on his way home, his father having
recalled him on his brother's death, but he hoped soon to rejoin his
uncle, whose secretary he now was. They had been for the last few
months in London, and were thence to be sent on an embassy to the
young Czar of Muscovy, an expedition to which he looked forward with
eager curiosity. Mrs. Woodford hoped that all danger of infection
at Oakwood was at an end.
"There is none for me, madam," he said, with a curious writhed
smile. "Did you not know that they thought they were rid of me when
I took the disease at seven years old, and lay in the loft over the
hen-house with Molly Owens to tend me? and I believe it was thought
to be fairy work that I came out of it no more unsightly than
"You are seeking for compliments, Peregrine; you are greatly
"Crooked sticks can be pruned and trained," he responded, with a
"You are a travelled man. Let me see, how many countries have you
"A year at Berlin and Konigsberg--strange places enough, specially
the last, two among the scholars and high roofs of Leyden, half a
year at Versailles and Paris, another year at Turin, whence back for
another half year to wait on old King Louis, then to the Hague, and
the last three months at Court. Not much like buying and selling
cows, or growing wheat on the slopes, or lying out on a cold
winter's night to shoot a few wild fowl; and I have you to thank for
it, my first and best friend!"
"Nay, your uncle is surely your best."
"Never would he have picked up the poor crooked stick save for you,
madam. Moreover, you gave me my talisman," and he laid his hand on
his breast; "it is your face that speaks to me and calls me back
when the elf, or whatever it is, has got the mastery of me."
Somewhat startled, Mrs. Woodford would have asked what he meant, but
that intelligence was brought that Mr. Oakshott's man had brought
his mail, so that he had to repair to his room. Mrs. Woodford had
kept up some correspondence with him, for which his uncle's position
as envoy afforded unusual facilities, and she knew that on the whole
he had been a very different being from what he was at home. Once,
indeed, his uncle had written to the Doctor to express his full
satisfaction in the lad, on whom he seemed to look like a son, but
from some subsequent letters she had an impression that he had got
into trouble of some sort while at the University of Leyden, and she
was afraid that she must accept the belief that the wild elfish
spirit, as he called it, was by no means extinct in him, any more,
she said to herself, than temptation is in any human creature. The
question is, What is there to contend therewith?
The guests were, however, about to assemble. The Doctor, in black
velvet cap and stately silken cassock, sash, and gown, sailed down
to receive them, and again greeted Peregrine, who emerged in black
velvet and satin, delicate muslin cravat and cuffs, dainty silk
stockings and rosetted shoes, in a style such as made the far taller
and handsomer Charles Archfield, in spite of gay scarlet coat,
embroidered flowery vest, rich laced cravat, and thick shining brown
curls, look a mere big schoolboy, almost bumpkin-like in contrast.
However, no one did look at anything but the little creature who
could just reach to hang upon that resplendent bridegroom's arm.
She was in glistening white brocade, too stiff and cumbrous for so
tiny a figure, yet together with the diamonds glistening on her head
and breast giving her the likeness of a fairy queen. The whiteness
was almost startling, for the neck and arms were like pearl in tint,
the hair flowing in full curls on her shoulders was like shining
flax or pale silk just unwound from the cocoon, and the only relief
of colour was the deep blue of the eyes, the delicate tint of the
lips, and the tender rosy flush that was called up by her
presentation to her hosts by stout old Sir Philip, in plum-coloured
coat and full-bottomed wig, though she did not blush half as much as
the husband of nineteen in his new character. Indeed, had it not
been for her childish prettiness, her giggle would have been
unpleasing to more than Lady Archfield, who, broad and matronly,
gave a courtesy and critical glance at Peregrine before subsiding
into a seat beside Mrs. Woodford.
Lucy stood among a few other young people from the Close, watching
for Anne, who came in, trim and bright, though still somewhat
reddened in face and arms from her last attentions to the supper--an
elaborate meal on such occasions, though lighter than the mid-day
repast. There were standing pies of game, lobster and oyster
patties, creams, jellies, and other confections, on which Sir Philip
and his lady highly complimented Anne, who had been engaged on them
for at least a couple of days, her mother being no longer able to
assist except by advice.
"See, daughter Alice, you will learn one day to build up a jelly as
well as to eat it," said Sir Philip good-humouredly, whereat the
small lady pouted a little and said--
"Bet lets me make shapes of the dough, but I won't stir the pans and
get to look like a turkey-cock."
"Ah, ha! and you have always done what you liked, my little madam?"
"Of course, sir! and so I shall," she answered, drawing up her
pretty little head, while Lady Archfield gave hers a boding shake.
"Time, and life, and wifehood teach lessons," murmured Mrs. Woodford
in consolation, and the Doctor changed the subject by asking
Peregrine whether the ladies abroad were given to housewifery.
"The German dames make a great ado about their Wirthschaft, as they
call it," was the reply, "but as to the result! Pah! I know not
how we should have fared had not Hans, my uncle's black, been an
excellent cook; but it was in Paris that we were exquisitely
regaled, and our maitre d'hotel would discourse on ragouts and
entremets till one felt as if his were the first of the sciences."
"So it is to a Frenchman," growled Sir Philip. "French and
Frenchifications are all the rage nowadays, but what will your
father say to your science, my young spark?"
The gesture of head and shoulder that replied had certainly been
caught at Paris. Mrs. Woodford rushed into the breach, asking about
the Princess of Orange, whom she had often seen as a child.
"A stately and sightly dame is she, madam," Peregrine answered,
"towering high above her little mynheer, who outwardly excels her in
naught save the length of nose, and has the manners of a boor."
"The Prince of Orange is the hope of the country," said Sir Philip
Peregrine's face wore a queer satirical look, which provoked Sir
Philip into saying, "Speak up, sir! what d'ye mean? We don't
understand French grins here."
"Nor does he, nor French courtesies either," said Peregrine.
"So much the better!" exclaimed the baronet.
Here the little clear voice broke in, "O Mr. Oakshott, if I had but
known you were coming, you might have brought me a French doll in
the latest fashion."
"I should have been most happy, madam," returned Peregrine; "but
unfortunately I am six months from Paris, and besides, his honour
might object lest a French doll should contaminate the Dutch
"But oh, sir, is it true that French dolls have real hair that will
"Don't be foolish," muttered Charles impatiently; and she drew up
her head and made an indescribably droll moue of disgust at him.
Supper ended, the party broke up into old and young, the two elder
gentlemen sadly discussing politics over their tall glasses of wine,
the matrons talking over the wedding and Lady Archfield's stay in
London at the parlour fire, and the young folk in a window, waiting
for the fiddler and a few more of the young people who were to join
them in the dance.
The Archfield ladies had kissed the hand of the Queen, and agreed
with Peregrine in admiration of her beauty and grace, though they
did not go so far as he did, especially when he declared that her
eyes were as soft as Mistress Anne's, and nearly of the same
exquisite brown, which made the damsel blush and experience a
revival of the old feeling of her childhood, as if he put her under
He went on to say that he had had the good fortune to pick up and
restore to Queen Mary Beatrice a gold and coral rosary which she had
dropped on her way to St. James's Palace from Whitehall. She
thanked him graciously, letting him kiss her hand, and asking him if
he were of the true Church. "Imagine my father's feelings," he
added, "when she said, 'Ah! but you will be ere long; I give it you
as a pledge.'"
He produced the rosary, handing it first to Anne, who admired the
beautiful filigree work, but it was almost snatched from her by Mrs.
Archfield, who wound it twice on her tiny wrist, tried to get it
over her head, and did everything but ask for it, till her husband,
turning round, said roughly, "Give it back, madam. We want no
Popish toys here."
Lucy put in a hasty question whether Master Oakshott had seen much
sport, and this led to a spirited description of the homely earnest
of wild boar hunting under the great Elector of Brandenburg, in
contrast with the splendours of la chasse aux sangliers at
Fontainebleau with the green and gold uniforms, the fanfares on the
curled horns, the ladies in their coaches, forced to attend whether
ill or well, the very boars themselves too well bred not to conform
to the sport of the great idol of France. And again, he showed the
diamond sleeve buttons, the trophies of a sort of bazaar held at
Marly, where the stalls were kept by the Dauphin, Monsieur, the Duke
of Maine, Madame de Maintenon, and the rest, where the purchases
were winnings at Ombre, made not with coin but with nominal sums,
and other games at cards, and all was given away that was not
purchased. And again the levees, when the King's wig was handed
through the curtains on a stick. Peregrine's profane mimicry of the
stately march of Louis Quatorze, and the cringing obeisances of his
courtiers, together with their strutting majesty towards their own
inferiors, convulsed all with merriment; and the bride shrieked out,
"Do it again! Oh, I shall die of laughing!"
It was very girlish, with a silvery ring, but the elder ladies
looked round, and the bridegroom muttered 'Mountebank.'
The fiddler arrived at that moment, and the young people paired off,
the young couple naturally together, and Peregrine, to the surprise
and perhaps discomfiture of more than one visitor, securing Anne's
hand. The young lady pupils of Madame knew their steps, and Lucy
danced correctly, Anne with an easy, stately grace, Charles
Archfield performed his devoir seriously, his little wife frisked
with childish glee, evidently quite untaught, but Peregrine's light
narrow feet sprang, pointed themselves, and bounded with trained
agility, set off by the tight blackness of his suit. He was like
one of the grotesque figures shaped in black paper, or as Sir
Philip, looking in from the dining-parlour, observed, "like a light-
heeled French fop."
As a rule partners retained one another all the evening, but little
Mrs. Archfield knew no etiquette, and maybe her husband had pushed
and pulled her into place a little more authoritatively than she
quite approved, for she shook him off, and turning round to
"Now, I will dance with you! You do leap and hop so high and
trippingly! Never mind her; she is only a parson's niece!"
"Madam!" exclaimed Charles, in a tone of surprised displeasure; but
she only nodded archly at him, and said, "I must dance with him; he
can jump so high."
"Let her have her way," whispered Lucy, "she is but a child, and it
will be better not to make a pother."
He yielded, though with visible annoyance, asking Anne if she would
put up with a poor deserted swain, and as he led her off muttering,
"That fellow's friskiness is like to be taken out of him at
Meanwhile the small creature had taken possession of her chosen
partner, who, so far as size went, was far better suited to her than
any of the other men present. They were dancing something original
and unpremeditated, with twirls and springs, sweeps and bends,
bounds and footings, just as the little lady's fancy prompted,
perhaps guided in some degree by her partner's experience of
national dances. White and black, they figured about, she with
floating sheeny hair and glistening robes, he trim and tight and
jetty, like fairy and imp! It was so droll and pretty that talkers
and dancers alike paused to watch them in a strange fascination,
till at last, quite breathless and pink as a moss rosebud, Alice
dropped upon a chair near her husband. He stood grim, stiff, and
vexed, all the more because Peregrine had taken her fan and was
using it so as to make it wave like butterfly's wings, while poor
Charles looked, as the Doctor whispered to his father, far more
inclined to lay it about her ears.
Sir Philip laughed heartily, for both he and the Doctor had been so
much entranced and amused as to be far more diverted at the lad's
discomfiture than scandalised at the bride's escapade, which they
viewed as child's play.
Perhaps, however, he was somewhat comforted by her later
observation, "He is as ugly as Old Nick, and looks like always
laughing at you; but I wish you could dance like him, Mr. Archfield,
only then you wouldn't be my dear old great big husband, or so
beautiful to look at. Oh, yes, to be sure, he is nothing but a
skipjack such as one makes out of a chicken bone!"
And Anne meanwhile was exclaiming to her mother, "Oh, madam! how
could they do such a thing? How could they make poor Charley marry
that foolish ill-mannered little creature?"
"Hush, daughter, you must drop that childish name," said Mrs.
Anne blushed. "I forgot, madam, but I am so sorry for him."
"There is no reason for uneasiness, my dear. She is a mere child,
and under such hands as Lady Archfield she is sure to improve. It
is far better that she should be so young, as it will be the more
easy to mould her."
"I hope there is any stuff in her to be moulded," sighed the maiden.
"My dear child," returned her mother, "I cannot permit you to talk
in this manner. Yes, I know Mr. Archfield has been as a brother to
you, but even his sister ought not to allow herself to discuss or
dwell on what she deems the shortcomings of his wife."
The mother in her prudence had silenced the girl; but none the less
did each fall asleep with a sad and foreboding heart. She knew her
child to be good and well principled, but those early days of notice
and petting from the young Princesses of the House of York had never
faded from the childish mind, and although Anne was dutiful,
cheerful, and outwardly contented, the mother often suspected that
over the spinning-wheel or embroidery frame she indulged in day
dreams of heroism, promotion, and grandeur, which might either fade
away in a happy life of domestic duty or become temptations.
Before going away next morning Peregrine entreated that Mistress
Anne might have the Queen's rosary, but her mother decidedly
refused. "It ought to be an heirloom in your family," said she.
He threw up his hands with one of his strange gestures.
CHAPTER IX: ON HIS TRAVELS
"For Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do."
Peregrine went off in good spirits, promising a visit on his return
to London, of which he seemed to have no doubt; but no more was
heard of him for ten days. At the end of that time the Portsmouth
carrier conveyed the following note to Winchester:--
HONOURED AND REVEREND SIR--Seven years since your arguments and
intercession induced my father to consent to what I hoped had
been the rescue of me, body and soul. I know not whether to ask
of your goodness to make the same endeavour again. My father
declares that nothing shall induce him again to let me go abroad
with my uncle, and persists in declaring that the compact has
been broken by our visits to Papist lands, nor will aught that I
can say persuade him that the Muscovite abhors the Pope quite as
much as he can. He likewise deems that having unfortunately
become his heir, I must needs remain at home to thin the timber
and watch the ploughmen; and when I have besought him to let me
yield my place to Robert he replies that I am playing the part of
Esau. I have written to my uncle, who has been a true father to
me, and would be loth to part from me for his own sake as well as
mine but I know not whether he will be able to prevail; and I
entreat of you, reverend sir, to add your persuasions, for I well
know that it would be my perdition to remain bound where I am.
Commend me to Mrs. Woodford and Mistress Anne. I trust that the
former is in better health.--I remain, reverend sir, Your humble
servant to command, PEREGRINE OAKSHOTT.
Given at Oakwood House,
This 10th of October 1687.
This was very bad news, but Dr. Woodford knew not how to interfere;
moreover, being in course at the Cathedral, he could not absent
himself long enough for an expedition to Oakwood, through wintry
roads in short days. He could only write an encouraging letter to
the poor lad, and likewise one to Mr. Horncastle, who under the
Indulgence had a chapel of his own. The Doctor had kept up the
acquaintance formed by Peregrine's accident, and had come to regard
him with much esteem, and as likely to exercise a wholesome
influence upon his patron. Nothing more was heard for a week, and
then came another visitor to the Doctor's door, Sir Peregrine
himself, on his way down, at considerable inconvenience, to
endeavour to prevail with his brother to allow him to retain his
nephew in his suite.
"Surely," he said, "my brother had enough of camps in his youth to
understand that his son will be none the worse squire for having
gone a little beyond Hampshire bogs, and learnt what the world is
"I cannot tell," said Dr. Woodford; "I have my fears that he thinks
the less known of the world the better."
"That might answer with a heavy clod of a lad such as the poor youth
who is gone, and such as, for his own sake and my brother's, I trust
the younger one is, fruges consumere natus; but as for this boy,
dulness and vacancy are precisely what would be the ruin of him.
Let my brother keep Master Robert at home, and give him Oakwood; I
will provide for Perry as I always promised to do."
"If he is wise he will accept the offer," said Dr. Woodford; "but
'tis hard to be wise for others."
"Nothing harder, sir. I would that I had gone home with Perry, but
mine audience of his Majesty was fixed for the ensuing week, and my
brother's summons was peremptory."
"I trust your honour will prevail," said Mrs. Woodford gently. "You
have effected a mighty change in the poor boy, and I can well
believe that he is as a son to you."
"Well, madam, yes--as sons go," said the knight in a somewhat
She looked at him anxiously, and ventured to murmur a hope so very
like an inquiry, and so full of solicitous hope, that it actually
unlocked the envoy's reserve, and he said, "Ah, madam, you have been
the best mother that the poor youth has ever had! I will speak
freely to you, for should I fail in overcoming my brother's
prejudices, you will be able to do more for him than any one else,
and I know you will be absolutely secret."
Mrs. Woodford sighed, with forebodings of not long being able to aid
any one in this world, but still she listened with earnest interest
"Yes, madam, you implanted in him that which yet may conquer his
strange nature. Your name is as it were a charm to conjure up his
"Of course," she said, "I never durst hope, that he could be tamed
and under control all at once, but--" and she paused.
"He has improved--vastly improved," said the uncle. "Indeed, when
first I took him with me, while he was still weak, and moreover much
overcome by sea-sickness, while all was strange to him, and he was
relieved by not finding himself treated as an outcast, I verily
thought him meeker than other urchins, and that the outcry against
him was unmerited. But no sooner had we got to Berlin, and while I
was as yet too busy to provide either masters or occupations for my
young gentleman, than he did indeed make me feel that I had charge
of a young imp, and that if I did not watch the better, it might be
a case of war with his Spanish Majesty. For would you believe it,
his envoy's gardens joined ours, and what must my young master do,
but sit atop of our wall, making grimaces at the dons and donnas as
they paced the walks, and pelting them from time to time with
walnuts. Well, I was mindful of your counsel, and did not flog him,
nor let my chaplain do so, though I know the good man's fingers
itched to be at him; but I reasoned with him on the harm he was
doing me, and would you believe it, the poor lad burst into tears,
and implored me to give him something to do, to save him from his
own spirit. I set him to write out and translate a long roll of
Latin despatches sent up by that pedant Court in Hungary, and I
declare to you I had no more trouble with him till next he was left
idle. I gave him tutors, and he studied with fervour, and made
progress at which they were amazed. He learnt the High Dutch faster
than any other of my people, and could soon jabber away in it with
the best of the Elector's folk, and I began to think I had a nephew
who would do me no small credit. I sent him to perfect his studies
at Leyden, but shall I confess it to you? it was to find that no
master nor discipline could keep him out of the riotings and
quarrels of the worse sort of students. Nay, I found him laid by
with a rapier thrust in the side from a duel, for no better cause
than biting his thumb at a Scots law student in chapel, his apology
being that to sit through a Dutch sermon drove him crazy. 'Tis not
that he is not trustworthy. Find employment for the restless demon
that is in him, and all is well with him; moreover, he is full of
wit and humour, and beguiles a long journey or tedious evening at an
inn better than any comrade I ever knew, extracting mirth from all
around, even the very discomforts, and searching to the quick all
that is to be seen. But if left to himself, the restless demon that
preys on him is sure to set him to something incalculable. At Turin
it set him to scraping acquaintance with a Capuchin friar, a dirty
rogue whom I would have kept on the opposite side of the street.
That was his graver mood; but what more must he do, but borrow or
steal, I know not how, the ghastly robes of the Confraternity of
Death--the white garb and peaked cap with two holes for the eyes,
wherewith men of all degrees disguise themselves while doing the
pious work of bearing the dead to the grave. None suspected him,
for the disguise is complete, and a duke may walk unknown beside a
water-carrier, bearing the corpse of a cobbler. All would have been
well, but that at the very brink of the grave the boy's fiend--'tis
his own word--impelled him to break forth into his wild "Ho! ho!
ho!" with an eldritch shriek, and slipping out of his cerements,
dash off headlong over the wall of the cemetery. He was not
followed. I believe the poor body belonged to a fellow whose
salvation was more than doubtful in spite of all the priests could
do, and that the bearers really took him for the foul fiend. It was
not till a week or two after that the ring of his voice and laugh
caused him to be recognised by one of the Duke of Savoy's gentlemen,
happily a prudent man, loth to cause a tumult against one of my
suite, and he told me all privately in warning. Ay, and when I
spoke to Peregrine, I found him thoroughly penitent at having
insulted the dead; he had been unhappy ever since, and had actually
bestowed his last pocket-piece on the widow. He made handsome
apologies in good Italian, which he had picked up as fast as the
German, to the gentleman, who promised that it should go no farther,
and kept his word. It was the solemnity, Peregrine assured me, that
brought back all the intolerableness of the preachings at home, and
awoke the same demon."
"How long ago was this, sir?"
"About eighteen months."
"And has all been well since?"
"Fairly well. He has had fuller and more responsible work to do for
me, his turn for languages making him a most valuable secretary; and
in the French Court, really the most perilous of all to a young
man's virtue, he behaved himself well. It is not debauchery that he
has a taste for, but he must be doing something, and if wholesome
occupations do not stay his appetite, he will be doing mischief. He
brought on himself a very serious rebuke from the Prince of Orange,
churlishly and roughly given, I allow, but fully merited, for making
grimaces at his acquaintance among the young officers at a military
inspection. Heaven help the lad if he be left with his father,
whose most lively notion of innocent sport is scratching the heads
of his hogs!"
Nothing could be said in answer save earnest wishes that the knight
might persuade his brother. Mrs. Woodford wished her brother-in-law
to go with him to add force to his remonstrance; but on the whole it
was thought better to leave the family to themselves, Dr. Woodford
only writing to Major Oakshott, as well as to the youth himself.
The result was anxiously watched for, and in another week, earlier
in the day than Mrs. Woodford was able to leave her room, Sir
Peregrine's horses stopped at the door, and as Anne ascertained by a
peep from the window, he was only accompanied by his servants.
"Yes," he said to the Doctor in his vexation, "one would really
think that by force of eating Southdown mutton my poor brother had
acquired the brains of one of his own rams! I declare 'tis a
piteous sight to see a man resolute on ruining his son and breaking
his own heart all for conscience sake!"
"Say you so, sir! I had hoped that the sight of what you have made
of your nephew might have had some effect."
"All the effect it has produced is to make him more determined to
take him from me. The Hampshire mind abhors foreign breeding, and
the old Cromwellian spirit thinks good manners sprung from the
world, and wit from the Evil One!"
"I can quite believe that Peregrine's courtly airs are not welcomed
here; I could see what our good neighbour, Sir Philip Archfield,
thought of them; but whereas no power on earth could make the young
gentleman a steady-going clownish youth after his father's heart,
methought he might prefer his present polish to impishness."
"So I told him, but I might as well have talked to the horse block.
It is his duty, quotha, to breed his heir up in godly simplicity!"
"Simplicity is all very well to begin with, but once flown, it
cannot be restored."
"And that is what my brother cannot see. Well, my poor boy must be
left to his fate. There is no help for it, and all I can hope is
that you, sir, and the ladies, will stand his friend, and do what
may lie in your power to make him patient and render his life less
"Indeed, sir, we will do what we can; I wish that I could hope that
it would be of much service."
"My brother has more respect for your advice than perhaps you
suppose; and to you, madam, the poor lad looks with earnest
gratitude. Nay, even his mother reaps the benefit of the respect
with which you have inspired him. Peregrine treats her with a
gentleness and attention such as she never knew before from her bear
cubs. Poor soul! I think she likes it, though it somewhat
perplexes her, and she thinks it all French manners. There is one
more favour, your reverence, which I scarce dare lay before you.
You have seen my black boy Hans?"
"He was with you at Oakwood seven years ago."
"Even so. I bought the poor fellow when a mere child from a Dutch
skipper who had used him scurvily, and he has grown up as faithful
as a very spaniel, and mightily useful too, not only as body
servant, but he can cook as well as any French maitre d'hotel, froth
chocolate, and make the best coffee I ever tasted; is as honest as
the day, and, I believe, would lay down his life for Peregrine or
me. I shall be cruelly at a loss without him, but a physician I met
in London tells me it would be no better than murder to take the
poor rogue to so cold a country as Muscovy. I would leave him to
wait on Perry, but they will not hear of it at Oakwood. My sister-
in-law wellnigh had a fit every time she looked at him when I was
there before, and I found, moreover, that even when I was at hand,
the servants jeered at the poor blackamoor, gave him his meals
apart, and only the refuse of their own, so that he would fare but
ill if I left him to their mercy. I had thought of offering him to
Mr. Evelyn of Says Court, who would no doubt use him well, but it
was Peregrine who suggested that if you of your goodness would
receive the poor fellow, they could sometimes meet, and that would
cheer his heart, and he really is far from a useless knave, but is
worth two of any serving-men I ever saw."
To take an additional man-servant was by no means such a great
proposal as it would be in most houses at present. Men swarmed in
much larger proportion than maids in all families of condition, and
the Doctor was wealthy enough for one--more or less--to make little
difference, but the question was asked as to what wages Hans should
The knight laughed. "Wages, poor lad, what should he do with them?
He is but a slave, I tell you. Meat, clothes, and fire, that is all
he needs, and I will so deal with him that he will serve you in all
faithfulness and obedience. He can speak English enough to know
what you bid him do, but not enough for chatter with the servants."
So the agreement was made, and poor Hans was to be sent down by the
Portsmouth coach together with Peregrine's luggage.
CHAPTER X: THE MENAGERIE
"The head remains unchanged within,
Nor altered much the face,
It still retains its native grin,
And all its old grimace.
"Men with contempt the brute surveyed,
Nor would a name bestow,
But women liked the motley beast,
And called the thing a beau."
The Monkies, MERRICK.
The Woodford family did not long remain at Winchester. Anne
declared the cold to be harming her mother, and became very anxious
to bring her to the milder sea breezes of Portchester, and though
Mrs. Woodford had little expectation that any place would make much
difference to her, she was willing to return to the quiet and repose
of her home under the castle walls beside the tranquil sea.
Thus they travelled back, as soon as the Doctor's Residence was
ended, plodding through the heavy chalk roads as well as the big
horses could drag the cumbrous coach up and down the hills, only
halting for much needed rest at Sir Philip Archfield's red house,
round three sides of a quadrangle, the fourth with a low wall backed
by a row of poplar trees, looking out on the alternate mud and
sluggish waters of Fareham creek, but with a beautiful garden behind
The welcome was hearty. Lady Archfield at once conducted Mrs.
Woodford to her own bedroom, where she was to rest and be served
apart, and Anne disrobed her of her wraps, covered her upon the bed,
and at her hostess's desire was explaining what refreshment would
best suit her, when there was a shrill voice at the door: "I want
Mistress Anne! I want to show her my clothes and jewels."
"Coming, child, she is coming when she has attended to her mother,"
responded the lady. "White wine, or red, did you say, Anne, and a
"Is she never coming?" was again the call; and Lady Archfield
muttering, "Was there ever such an impatient poppet?" released Anne,
who was instantly pounced upon by young Mrs. Archfield. Linking her
arm into that of her visitor, and thrusting Lucy into the
background, the little heiress proceeded to her own wainscotted
bedroom, bare according to modern views, but very luxurious
according to those of the seventeenth century, and with the toilette
apparatus, scanty indeed, but of solid silver, and with a lavish
amount of perfumery. Her 'own woman' was in waiting to display and
refold the whole wedding wardrobe, brocade, satin, taffetas,
cambric, Valenciennes, and point d'Alencon. Anne had to admire each
in detail, and then to give full meed to the whole casket of jewels,
numerous and dazzling as befitted a constellation of heirlooms upon
one small head. They were beautiful, but it was wearisome to repeat
'Vastly pretty!' 'How exquisite!' 'That becomes you very well,'
almost mechanically, when Lucy was standing about all the time,
longing to exchange the girlish confidences that were burning to
come forth. 'Young Madam,' as every one called her in those times
when Christian names were at a discount, seemed to be jealous of
attention to any one else, and the instant she saw the guest attempt
to converse with her sister-in-law peremptorily interrupted, almost
as if affronted.
Perhaps if Anne had enjoyed freedom of speech with Lucy she would
not have learnt as much as did her mother, for the young are often
more scrupulous as to confidences than their seniors, who view them
as still children, and freely discuss their affairs among
So Lady Archfield poured out her troubles: how her daughter-in-law
refused employment, and disdained instruction in needlework,
housewifery, or any domestic art, how she jangled the spinnet, but
would not learn music, and was unoccupied, fretful, and exacting, a
burthen to herself and every one else, and treating Lucy as the
slave of her whims and humours. As to such discipline as mothers-
in-law were wont to exercise upon young wives, the least restraint
or contradiction provoked such a tempest of passion as to shake the
tiny, delicate frame to a degree that alarmed the good old matron
for the consequences. Her health was a continual difficulty, for
her constitution was very frail, every imprudence cost her
suffering, and yet any check to her impulses as to food, exertion,
or encountering weather was met by a spoilt child's resentment.
Moreover, her young husband, and even his father, always thought the
ladies were hard upon her, and would not have her vexed; and as
their presence always brightened and restrained her, they never
understood the full amount of her petulance and waywardness, and
when they found her out of spirits, or out of temper, they charged
all on her ailments or on want of consideration from her mother and
Poor Lady Archfield, it was trying for her that her husband should
be nearly as blind as his son. The young husband was wonderfully
tender, indulgent, and patient with the little creature, but it
would not be easy to say whether the affection were not a good deal
like that for his dog or his horse, as something absolutely his own,
with which no one else had a right to interfere. It was a relief to
the family that she always wanted to be out of doors with him
whenever the weather permitted, nay, often when it was far from
suitable to so fragile a being; but if she came home aching and
crying ever so much with chill or fatigue, even if she had to keep
her bed afterwards, she was equally determined to rush out as soon
as she was up again, and as angry as ever at remonstrance.
Charles was gone to try a horse; and as the remains of the effects
of her last imprudence had prevented her accompanying him, the
arrival of the guests had been a welcome diversion to the monotony
of the morning.
He was, however, at home again by the time the dinner-bell summoned
the younger ladies from the inspection of the trinkets and the
gentlemen from the live stock, all to sit round the heavy oaken
table draped with the whitest of napery, spun by Lady Archfield in
her maiden days, and loaded with substantial joints, succeeded by
delicacies manufactured by herself and Lucy.
As to the horse, Charles was fairly satisfied, but 'that fellow,
young Oakshott, had been after him, and had the refusal.'
"Don't you be outbid, Mr. Archfield," exclaimed the wife. "What is
the matter of a few guineas to us?"
"Little fear," replied Charles. "The old Major is scarcely like to
pay down twenty gold caroluses, but if he should, the bay is his."
"Oh, but why not offer thirty?" she cried.
Charles laughed. "That would be a scurvy trick, sweetheart, and if
Peregrine be a crooked stick, we need not be crooked too."
"I was about to ask," said the Doctor, "whether you had heard aught
of that same young gentleman."
"I have seen him where I never desire to see him again," said Sir
Philip, "riding as though he would be the death of the poor hounds."
"Nick Huntsman swears that he bewitches them," said Charles, "for
they always lose the scent when he is in the field, but I believe
'tis the wry looks of him that throw them all out."
"And I say," cried the inconsistent bride, "that 'tis all jealousy
that puts the gentlemen beside themselves, because none of them can
dance, nor make a bow, nor hand a cup of chocolate, nor open a gate
on horseback like him."
"What does a man on horseback want with opening gates?" exclaimed
"That's your manners, sir," said young Madam with a laugh. "What's
the poor lady to do while her cavalier flies over and leaves her in
Her husband did not like the general laugh, and muttered, "You know
what I mean well enough."
"Yes, so do I! To fumble at the fastening till your poor beast can
bear it no longer and swerves aside, and I sit waiting a good half
hour before you bring down your pride enough to alight and open it."
"All because you _would_ send Will home for your mask."
"You would like to have had my poor little face one blister with the
glare of sun and sea."
"Blisters don't come at this time of the year."
"No, nor to those who have no complexion to lose," she cried, with a
triumphant look at the two maidens, who certainly had not the lilies
nor the roses that she believed herself to have, though, in truth,
her imprudences had left her paler and less pretty than at
If this were the style of the matrimonial conversations, Anne again
grieved for her old playfellow, and she perceived that Lucy looked
uncomfortable; but there was no getting a moment's private
conversation with her before the coach was brought round again for
the completion of the journey. All that neighbourhood had a very
bad reputation as the haunt of lawless characters, prone to
violence; and though among mere smugglers there was little danger of
an attack on persons well known like the Woodford family, they were
often joined by far more desperate men from the seaport, so that it
was never desirable to be out of doors after dark.
The journey proved to have been too much for Mrs. Woodford's
strength, and for some days she was so ill that Anne never left the
house; but she rallied again, and on coming downstairs became very
anxious that her daughter should not be more confined by attendance
than was wholesome, and insisted on every opportunity of change or
amusement being taken.
One day as Anne was in the garden she was surprised by Peregrine
dashing up on horseback.
"You would not take the Queen's rosary before," he said. "You must
now, to save it. My father has smelt it out. He says it is
teraphim! Micah--Rachel, what not, are quoted against it. He would
have smashed it into fragments, but that Martha Browning said it
would be a pretty bracelet. I'd sooner see it smashed than on her
red fist. To think of her giving in to such vanities! But he said
she might have it, only to be new strung. When he was gone she
said, 'I don't really want the thing, but it was hard you should
lose the Queen's keepsake. Can you bestow it safely?' I said I
could, and brought it hither. Keep it, Anne, I pray."
Anne hesitated, and referred it to her mother upstairs.
"Tell him," she said, "that we will keep it in trust for him as a
Peregrine was disappointed, but had to be content.
A Dutch vessel from the East Indies had brought home sundry strange
animals, which were exhibited at the Jolly Mariner at Portsmouth,
and thus announced on a bill printed on execrable paper, brought out
to Portchester by some of the market people:--
"An Ellefante twice the Bignesse of an Ocks, the Trunke or Probosces
whereof can pick up a Needle or roote up an Ellum Tree. Also the
Royale Tyger, the same as has slaine and devoured seven yonge Gentoo
babes, three men, and two women at the township at Chuttergong, nie
to Bombay, in the Eastern Indies. Also the sacred Ape, worshipped
by the heathen of the Indies, the Dancing Serpent which weareth
Spectacles, and whose Bite is instantly mortal, with other rare
Fish, Fowle, Idols and the like. All to be seene at the Charge of
one Groat per head."
Mrs. Woodford declared herself to be extremely desirous that her
daughter should see and bring home an account of all these marvels,
and though Anne had no great inclination to face the tiger with the
formidable appetite, she could not refuse to accompany her uncle.
The Jolly Mariner stood in one of the foulest and narrowest of the
streets of the unsavoury seaport, and Dr. Woodford sighed, and
fumed, and wished for a good pipe of tobacco more than once as he
hesitated to try to force a way for his niece through the throng
round the entrance to the stable-yard of the Jolly Mariner,
apparently too rough to pay respect to gown and cassock. Anne clung
to his arm, ready to give up the struggle, but a voice said, "Allow
me, sir. Mistress Anne, deign to take my arm."
It was Peregrine Oakshott with his brother Robert, and she could
hardly tell how in a few seconds she had been squeezed through the
crowd, and stood in the inn-yard, in a comparatively free space, for
a groat was a prohibitory charge to the vulgar.
"Peregrine! Master Oakshott!" They heard an exclamation of
pleasure, at which Peregrine shrugged his shoulders and looked
expressively at Anne, before turning to receive the salutations of
an elderly gentleman and a tall young woman, very plainly but
handsomely clad in mourning deeper than his own. She was of a tall,
gaunt, angular figure, and a face that never could have been
handsome, and now bore evident traces of smallpox in redness and
Dr. Woodford knew the guardian Mr. Browning, and his ward Mistress
Martha and Mistress Anne Jacobina were presented to one another.
The former gave a good-humoured smile, as if perfectly unconscious
of her own want of beauty, and declared she had hoped to meet all
the rest here, especially Mistress Anne Woodford, of whom she had
heard so much. There was just a little patronage about the tone
which repelled the proud spirit that was in Anne, and in spite of
the ordinary dread and repulsion she felt for Peregrine, she was
naughty enough to have the feeling of a successful beauty when
Peregrine most manifestly turned away from the heiress in her silk
and velvet to do the honours of the exhibition to the parson's
The elephant was fastened by the leg to a post, which perhaps he
could have pulled up, had he thought it worth his while, but he was
well contented to wave his trunk about and extend its clever finger
to receive contributions of cakes and apples, and he was too well
amused to resort to any strong measures. The tiger, to Anne's
relief, proved to be only a stuffed specimen. Peregrine, who had
seen a good many foreign animals in Holland, where the Dutch
captains were in the habit of bringing curiosities home for the
delectation of their families in their Lusthausen, was a very
amusing companion, having much to tell about bird and beast, while
Robert stood staring with open mouth. The long-legged secretary and
the beautiful doves were, however, only stuffed, but Anne was much
entertained at second hand with the relation of the numerous
objects, which on the word of a Leyden merchant had been known to
disappear in the former bird's capacious crop, and with stories of
the graceful dancing of the cobra, though she was not sorry that the
present specimen was only visible in a bottle of arrack, where his
spectacled hood was scarcely apparent. Presently a well known
shrill young voice was heard. "Yes, yes, I know I shall swoon at
that terrible tiger! Oh, don't! I can't come any farther."
"Why, you would come, madam," said Charles.
"Yes, yes! but--oh, there's a two-tailed monster! I know it is the
tiger! It is moving! I shall die if you take me any farther."
"Plague upon your folly, madam! It is only the elephant," said a
gruffer, rude voice.
"Oh, it is dreadful! 'Tis like a mountain! I can't! Oh no, I
"Come, madam, you have brought us thus far, you must come on, and
not make fools of us all," said Charles's voice. "There's nothing
to hurt you."
Anne, understanding the distress and perplexity, here turned back to
the passage into the court, and began persuasively to explain to
little Mrs. Archfield that the tiger was dead, and only a skin, and
that the elephant was the mildest of beasts, till she coaxed forward
that small personage, who had of course never really intended to
turn back, supported and guarded as she was by her husband, and
likewise by a tall, glittering figure in big boots and a handsome
scarlet uniform and white feather who claimed her attention as he
strode into the court. "Ha! Mistress Anne and the Doctor on my
life. What, don't you know me?"
"Master Sedley Archfield!" said the Doctor; "welcome home, sir!
'Tis a meeting of old acquaintance. You and this gentleman are both
so much altered that it is no wonder if you do not recognise one
another at once."
"No fear of Mr. Perry Oakshott not being recognised," said Sedley
Archfield, holding out his hand, but with a certain sneer in his
rough voice that brought Peregrine's eyebrows together. "Kenspeckle
enough, as the fools of Whigs say in Scotland."
"Are you long from Scotland, sir?" asked Dr. Woodford, by way of
"Oh ay, sir; these six months and more. There's not much more sport
to be had since the fools of Cameronians have been pretty well got
under, and 'tis no loss to be at Hounslow."
"And oh, what a fright!" exclaimed Mrs. Archfield, catching sight of
the heiress. "Keep her away! She makes me ill."
They were glad to divert her attention to feeding the elephant, and
she was coquetting a little about making up her mind to approach
even the defunct tiger, while she insisted on having the number of
his victims counted over to her. Anne asked for Lucy, to whom she
wanted to show the pigeons, but was answered that, "my lady wanted
Lucy at home over some matter of jellies and blancmanges."
Charles shrugged his shoulders a little and Sedley grumbled to Anne.
"The little vixen sets her heart on cates that she won't lay a
finger to make, and poor Lucy is like to be no better than a cook-
maid, while they won't cross her, for fear of her tantrums."
At that instant piercing screams, shriek upon shriek, rang through
the court, and turning hastily round, Anne beheld a little monkey
perched on Mrs. Archfield's head, having apparently leapt thither
from the pole to which it was chained.
The keeper was not in sight, being in fact employed over a sale of
some commodities within. There was a general springing to the
rescue. Charles tried to take the creature off, Sedley tugged at
the chain fastened to a belt round its body, but the monkey held
tight by the curls on the lady's forehead with its hands, and
crossed its legs round her neck, clasping the hands so that the
effect of the attempts of her husband and his cousin was only to
throttle her, so that she could no longer scream and was almost in a
fit, when on Peregrine holding out a nut and speaking coaxingly in
Dutch, the monkey unloosed its hold, and with another bound was on
his arm. He stood caressing and feeding it, talking to it in the
same tongue, while it made little squeaks and chatterings, evidently
delighted, though its mournful old man's visage still had the same
piteous expression. There was something most grotesque and almost
weird in the sight of Peregrine's queer figure toying with its odd
hands which seemed to be in black gloves, and the strange language
he talked to it added to the uncanny effect. Even the Doctor felt
it as he stood watching, and would have muttered 'Birds of a
feather,' but that the words were spoken more gruffly and plainly by
Sedley Archfield, who said something about the Devil and his dam,
which the good Doctor did not choose to hear, and only said to
Peregrine, "You know how to deal with the jackanapes."
"I have seen some at Leyden, sir. This is a pretty little beast."
Pretty! There was a recoil in horror, for the creature looked to
the crowd demoniacal. Something the same was the sensation of
Charles, who, assisted by Anne and Martha, had been rather carrying
than leading his wife into the inn parlour, where she immediately
had a fit of hysterics--vapours, as they called it--bringing all the
women of the inn about her, while Martha and Anne soothed her as
best they could, and he was reduced to helplessly leaning out at the
When the sobs and cries subsided, under cold water and essences
without and strong waters within, and the little lady in Martha's
strong arms, between the matronly coaxing of the fat hostess and the
kind soothings of the two young ladies, had been restored to
something of equanimity, Mistress Martha laid her down and said with
the utmost good humour and placidity to the young husband, "Now I'll
go, sir. She is better now, but the sight of my face might set her
"Oh, do not say so, madam. We are infinitely obliged. Let her
But Martha shook her hand and laughed, turning to leave the room, so
that he was fain to give her his arm and escort her back to her
Then ensued a scream. "Where's he going? Mr. Archfield, don't
"He is only taking Mistress Browning back to her guardian," said
"Eh? oh, how can he? A hideous fright!" she cried.
To say the truth, she was rather pleased to have had such a dreadful
adventure, and to have made such a commotion, though she protested
that she must go home directly, and could never bear the sight of
those dreadful monsters again, or she should die on the spot.
"But," said she, when the coach was at the door, and Anne had
restored her dress to its dainty gaiety, "I must thank Master
Peregrine for taking off that horrible jackanapes."
"Small thanks to him," said Charles crossly. "I wager it was all
his doing out of mere spite."
"He is too good a beau ever to spite _me_," said Mrs. Alice, her
head a little on one side.
"Then to show off what he could do with the beast--Satan's imp, like
"No, no, Mr. Archfield," pleaded Anne, "that was impossible; I saw
him myself. He was with that sailor-looking man measuring the
height of the secretary bird."
"I believe you are always looking after him," grumbled Charles. "I
can't guess what all the women see in him to be always gazing after
"Because he is so charmingly ugly," laughed the young wife, tripping
out in utter forgetfulness that she was to die if she went near the
beasts again. She met Peregrine half way across the yard with
outstretched hands, exclaiming--
"O Mr. Oakshott! it was so good in you to take away that nasty
"I am glad, madam, to have been of use," said Peregrine, bowing and
smiling, a smile that might explain something of his fascination.
"The poor brute was only drawn, as all of our kind are. He wanted
to see so sweet a lady nearer. He is quite harmless. Will you
stroke him? See, there he sits, gazing after you. Will you give
him a cake and make friends?"
"No, no, madam, it cannot be; it is too much," grumbled Charles; and
though Alice had backed at first, perhaps for the pleasure of
teasing him, or for that of being the centre of observation,
actually, with all manner of pretty airs and graces, she let herself
be led forward, lay a timid hand on the monkey's head, and put a
cake in its black fingers, while all the time Peregrine held it fast
and talked Dutch to it; and Charles Archfield hardly contained his
rage, though Anne endeavoured to argue the impossibility of
Peregrine's having incited the attack; and Sedley blustered that
they ought to interfere and make the fellow know the reason why.
However, Charles had sense enough to know that though he might
exhale his vexation in grumbling, he had no valid cause for
quarrelling with young Oakshott, so he contented himself with black
looks and grudging thanks, as he was obliged to let Peregrine hand
his wife into her carriage amid her nods and becks and wreathed
They would have taken Dr. Woodford and his niece home in the coach,
but Anne had an errand in the town, and preferred to return by boat.
She wanted some oranges and Turkey figs to allay her mother's
constant thirst, and Peregrine begged permission to accompany them,
saying that he knew where to find the best and cheapest.
Accordingly he took them to a tiny cellar, in an alley by the boat
camber, where the Portugal oranges certainly looked riper and were
cheaper than any that Anne had found before; but there seemed to be
an odd sort of understanding between Peregrine and the withered old
weather-beaten sailor who sold them, such as rather puzzled the
"I hope these are not contraband," he said to Peregrine, when the
oranges had been packed in the basket of the servant who followed
Peregrine shrugged his shoulders.
"Living is hard, sir. Ask no questions."
The Doctor looked tempted to turn back with the fruit, but such
doubts were viewed as ultra scruples, and would hardly have been
entertained even by a magistrate such as Sir Philip Archfield.
It was not a time for questions, and Peregrine remained with them
till they embarked at the point, asking to be commended to Mrs.
Woodford, and hoping soon to come and see both her and poor Hans, he
CHAPTER XI: PROPOSALS
"Hear me, ye venerable core,
As counsel for poor mortals,
That frequent pass douce Wisdom's door
For glaikit Folly's portals;
I for their thoughtless, careless sakes
Would here propose defences,
Their doucie tricks, their black mistakes,
Their failings and mischances."
For seven years Anne Woodford had kept Lucy Archfield's birthday
with her, and there was no refusing now, though there was more and
more unwillingness to leave Mrs. Woodford, whose declining state
became so increasingly apparent that even the loving daughter could
no longer be blind to it.
The coach was sent over to fetch Mistress Anne to Fareham, and the
invalid was left, comfortably installed in her easy-chair by the
parlour fire, with a little table by her side, holding a hand-bell,
a divided orange, a glass of toast and water, and the Bible and
Prayer-book, wherein lay her chief studies, together with a little
needlework, which still amused her feeble hands. The Doctor,
divided between his parish, his study, and his garden, had promised
to look in from time to time.
Presently, however, the door was gently tapped, and on her call
"Come in," Hans, all one grin, admitted Peregrine Oakshott, bowing
low in his foreign, courteous manner, and entreating her to excuse
his intrusion, "For truly, madam, in your goodness is my only hope."
Then he knelt on one knee and kissed the hand she held out to him,
while desiring him to speak freely to her.
"Nay, madam, I fear I shall startle you, when I lay before you the
only chance that can aid me to overcome the demon that is in me."
"Call me your boy, as when I was here seven years ago. Let me sit
at your feet as then and listen to me."
"Indeed I will, my dear boy," and she laid her hand on his dark
head. "Tell me all that is in your heart."
"Ah, dear lady, that is not soon done! You and Mistress Anne, as
you well know, first awoke me from my firm belief that I was none
other than an elf, and yet there have since been times when I have
doubted whether it were not indeed the truth."
"Nay, Peregrine, at years of discretion you should have outgrown old
"Better be an elf at once--a soulless creature of the elements--than
the sport of an evil spirit doomed to perdition," he bitterly
"Hush, hush! You know not what you are saying!"
"I know it too well, madam! There are times when I long and wish
after goodness--nay, when Heaven seems open to me--and I resolve and
strive after a perfect life; but again comes the wild, passionate
dragging, as it were, into all that at other moments I most loathe
and abhor, and I become no more my own master. Ah!"
There was misery in his voice, and he clutched the long hair on each
side of his face with his hands.
"St. Paul felt the same," said Mrs. Woodford gently.
"'Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?' Ay, ay! how
many times have I not groaned that forth! And so, if that Father at
Turin were right, I am but as Paul was when he was Saul. Madam, is
it not possible that I was never truly baptized?" he cried eagerly.
"Impossible, Peregrine. Was not Mr. Horncastle chaplain when you
were born? Yes; and I have heard my brother say that both he and
your father held the same views as the Church upon baptism."
"So I thought; but Father Geronimo says that at the best it was but
heretical baptism, and belike hastily and ineffectually performed."
"Put that aside, Peregrine. It is only a temptation and
"It is an allurement you know not how strong," said the poor youth.
"Could I only bring myself to believe all that Father Geronimo does,
and fall down before his Madonnas and saints, then could I hope for
a new nature, and scourge away the old"--he set his teeth as he
spoke--"till naught remains of the elf or demon, be it what it
"Ah, Peregrine, scourging will not do it, but grace will, and that
grace is indeed yours, as is proved by these higher aspirations."
"I tell you, madam, that if I live on as I am doing now, grace will
be utterly stifled, if it ever abode in me at all. Every hour that
I live, pent in by intolerable forms and immeasurable dulness, the
maddening temper gains on me! Nay, I have had to rush out at night
and swear a dozen round oaths before I could compose myself to sit
down to the endless supper. Ah, I shock you, madam! but that's not
the worst I am driven to do."
"Nor the way to bring the better spirit, my poor youth. Oh, that
you would pray instead of swearing!"
"I cannot pray at Oakwood. My father and Mr. Horncastle drive away
all the prayers that ever were in me, and I mean nothing, even
though I keep my word to you."
"I am glad you do that. While I know you are doing so, I shall
still believe the better angel will triumph."
"How can aught triumph but hatred and disgust where I am pinned
down? Listen, madam, and hear if good spirits have any chance. We
break our fast, ere the sun is up, on chunks of yesterday's half-
dressed beef and mutton. If I am seen seeking for a morsel not half
raw, I am rated for dainty French tastes; and the same with the sour
smallest of beer. I know now what always made me ill-tempered as a
child, and I avoid it, but at the expense of sneers on my French
breeding, even though my drink be fair water; for wine, look you, is
a sinful expense, save for after dinner, and frothed chocolate for a
man is an invention of Satan. The meal is sauced either with blame
of me, messages from the farm-folk, or Bob's exploits in the chase.
Then my father goes his rounds on the farm, and would fain have me
with him to stand knee-deep in mire watching the plough, or feeling
each greasy and odorous old sheep in turn to see if it be ready for
the knife, or gloating over the bullocks or swine, or exchanging
auguries with Thomas Vokes on this or that crop. Faugh! And I am
told I shall never be good for a country gentleman if I contemn such
matters! I say I have no mind to be a country gentleman, whereby I
am told of Esau till I am sick of his very name."
"But surely you have not always to follow on this round?"
"Oh no! I may go out birding with Bob, who is about as lively as an
old jackass, or meet the country boobies for a hunt, and be pointed
at as the Frenchman, and left to ride alone; or there's mine own
chamber, when the maids do not see fit to turn me out with their
pails and besoms, as they do at least twice a week--I sit there in
my cloak and furs (by the way, I am chidden for an effeminate fop if
ever I am seen in them). I would give myself to books, as my uncle
counselled, but what think you? By ill hap Bob, coming in to ask
some question, found me studying the Divina Commedia of Dante
Alighieri, and hit upon one of the engravings representing the
torments of purgatory. What must he do but report it, and
immediately a hue and cry arises that I am being corrupted with
Popish books. In vain do I tell them that their admirable John
Milton, the only poet save Sternhold and Hopkins that my father